The Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute for Graduates, TELI-G, was a weekend-long workshop aimed at enhancing graduate students’ environmental literacy. TELI-G was the new generation of the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) which focused on the graduate student population of Tufts. The ultimate goal of TELI-G was to increase the exposure and knowledge of participants to enable them to effectively engage with environmental issues that will shape new generations. The priority has been to ensure diversity and multifaceted participation, since the selected students will have to use online tools to share their experiences.
The first TELI-G was hosted in January of 2014, following a similar structure to its predecessor, TELI. The workshop was based on interactive presentations by a variety of environmental experts, a negotiation simulation, and collaborative exercises with peers. In addition, TELI-G provided access to a range of resources for conducting research. This combination was intended to facilitate discussion in order to promote creative teaching and sharing experiences among participants.
Past TELI-G workshops included:
Interview with TELI-G 2015 participant, Caitlin Matthews, a graduate student in the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Program:
What attracted you to the TELI-G workshop?
After hearing about TELI-G through the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Program, and the Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program, three main ideas jumped out at me: systems thinking, sustainable development, and environmental justice. Systems thinking was the newest of those three to me, and that’s what sold me on applying. Systems thinking was on my mind because in my Fundamentals of US Agriculture class, we recently had a guest speaker, Kate Clancy, an independent consultant on food systems work.
Were your expectations met throughout the course of the workshop?
TELI-G exceeded my expectations, even though my expectations were vague. I feel it was a great blend of speakers, people with real expertise in the field, time to collaborate and work with students from across the university, and then time to really sort through and think about a problem in a systems thinking manner that we were curious about or interested in pursuing research about.
Do you feel your work has been influenced by participating in the TELI-G workshop, and do you have a specific example?
I didn’t see how influential it would be, but the problem I decided to explore through systems thinking was a curiosity I had which happened to be around food security, agriculture, nutritional outcomes, and sustainability in Bolivia.
I was interested in how the rising popularity of quinoa in the global market was affecting Bolivians, and Bolivian producers. In the year before I came to Tufts, I was working at a non-profit, in Oregon doing sustainable agriculture work with Latino farmers and I had the opportunity to attend the Oregon Small Farms Conference. There was a presentation by a seed breeder in the Northwest who was trying to breed a regionally- appropriate quinoa variety. Another person presenting with him was from Washington State University also has a quinoa breeding program within their crop science. So, I had this idea of ‘what was happening with quinoa in the US trying to develop crop varieties that were appropriate for our climate?’ And also, the idea that perhaps there were some negative impacts of the popularity of quinoa, and the idea of food gentrification, cultural or appropriation of food that was making it so that quinoa was no longer an affordable food. And, so we drew these huge systems maps about whatever problem we were thinking about. At that time I thought this was just an exploration. But about a month after attending TELI-G, I was interviewing for a summer internship at the Harvard Food, Law, and Policy Clinic. They have a lot of different partnerships mostly in the US, and they have one partnership with a non-profit in Bolivia. Knowing that, I began talking, in the interview, about the work I had done at TELI-G about food security in Bolivia, and I ended up getting the internship, and being paired with that Bolivian non-profit. I did legal research for the Bolivian non-profit, and now I’m applying for a TIE fellowship to continue doing research with them.
I didn’t have the foresight to know it would be so influential on my path, but in retrospect I can see there was a real turning point at TELI-G.
What was your favorite aspect of the weekend?
The critical conversations that came out of the weekend. Sivan Kartha presented about who is responsible for global greenhouse emissions, who is most impacted by the effects of climate change, and what is equitable responsibility for paying for sustainable solutions. I really enjoyed his presentation and the conversations that came out of that presentation, and the way he engaged students in discussion and questions. It left me with a real impact.