TELI History

The Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) started in 1990 by then-Dean of Environmental Programs Tony Cortese. From its inception, TELI has been a workshop for all faculty who want to incorporate environmental themes into their teaching. This objective typified the Tufts approach to environmental literacy for its students, from designated courses to constant exposure to environmental issues ranging across disciplines.

The concept of investing in faculty literacy on environmental issues was pioneered at Tufts. Specifically, in 1990, TELI was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and grants from corporations. In part because of the corporate role, the program received an award from President George H.W. Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. In subsequent years, more US universities followed the TELI example and launched programs to develop faculty literacy on environment and sustainability.


TELI initially had a five-year run, and was revived in 2008 by Jonathan Kenny, professor of Chemistry, and Ann Rappaport of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, with funding and support from the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE). The primary impetus for reviving TELI in 2008 was the urgency of climate change and related issues, and the fact that colleges and universities are ideally positioned to lead the development of solutions.

One of the main TELI priorities is interdisciplinary collaboration. TELI Alumni actively enrich their coursework with environmental principles and continue the dialogue with faculty from different departments. Aiming to promote environmental dialogue beyond Tufts, for the first time in May 2013, TIE in collaboration with RESPOND USAID brought together faculty from 10 countries to elaborate on the concept of One Health. TELI constantly evolves to effectively address environmental issues whilst creating a strong network of informed individuals within and beyond academia.