Longtime IGL director Sherman Teichman to leave Tufts

Sherman Teichman, director of the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL), is finishing up his last year at the university after working on the Hill for more than three decades.

Teichman, who will be honored with a university Emeritus title, said he will use his time away from Tufts to travel and nurture programs like the IGL globally. He hopes to develop a mentorship program for current students at Tufts and to travel to major universities in London and Beijing looking to establish their own IGL programs.

According to Heather Barry, the IGL’s associate director, Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris will lead efforts to find Teichman’s successor. Possible candidates for the position could include speakers and officials who have become involved with the IGL and offshoot programs. 

“I think [Teichman’s departure] is a little unexpected,” Barry said. “It’s a surprise because [Teichman has] really driven [the IGL] forward and he has such a strong passion for this….I think everyone is waiting to see what will happen next.”

Teichman began his career at Tufts in 1978 as a lecturer in the political science department. He said he started the IGL in 1985 in response to a plane hijacking that garnered international attention and sparked campus-wide buzz. He hoped to help students better comprehend the nuances of and nature of terrorism and political violence.

“I felt we were in danger of doing two things with education: infantilizing students and disregarding the wisdom of older generations,” Teichman said. “I wanted to create a serious multidisciplinary framework emphasizing immersive experimental education and I wanted to prepare students for ethical challenges…and avoid…ideological sensibilities…that I felt endangered intelligent discourse.”

Barry said the IGL program initially included a one-day event to discuss international terrorism. The following year it became a six-week-long program culminating in a day-long symposium.

She explained that in subsequent years, the program became a single-credit fall semester course, until 1991 when the symposium project morphed into today’s Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) program. The year-long course, which this year will focus on “The Future of Europe,” allows students to study an international political theme as part of a rigorous, multidisciplinary program.

Barry said that the IGL has become a greater umbrella organization to house and foster the growth of smaller programs. These organizations include the Building Understanding through International Learning and Development (BUILD) program, which focuses on sustainable development, and the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES) program.

“It grew to a point where we had 32 programs; some have gone off independently now or interests have changed,” Barry said. “It’s an ebb and flow…that’s the whole purpose of them.”

According to Barry, Teichman, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor, has played an indispensible role in the IGL’s history as a dedicated mentor devoted to helping navigate contentious international issues. In his role, he has helped students conduct field research, pursue projects and hold intern positions. Barry said 75 to 100 students have the chance to  conduct personal research annually through funds awarded from the Carnegie Corporation to the IGL.

Barry emphasized Teichman’s hands-on leadership approach as the driving factor for the program’s success.

[Teichman] is very much about saying ‘yes,'” she said. “It’s about finding ways [to] help students get prepared. This is a place to engage in that discussion and struggle with your preconceptions and confront things you may not agree with but need to understand…He is a whirlwind.”

Over the years, however, there has been some controversy over Tiechman and his work with the IGL, especially concerning a student blog entitled “Tufts IGL Students Speak Out.” The authors of the blog list numerous grievances collected anonymously from students that detail problematic parts of the IGL’s nature. Some accused the institute of exploiting foreign cultures and being unsympathetic to the experiences of marginalized groups. Others claimed the program was male-dominated and discriminatory. The university responded to these complaints with a survey-based inquiry into the IGL’s inner functions, according to the blog.

Senior Bruna Gaspar, however, said Teichman acted as a personal guide with a vested interest in her well-being even prior to her enrolling at Tufts.

“I came back just for a special meeting with [Teichman],” Gaspar said. “That is when I really fell in love with Tufts [and saw its] different sides and different nuances. I eventually did EPIIC and through EPIIC I got an internship from the World Bank. I guess from now on it’s hard to separate what happened to me [from] EPIIC.

Tiechman said he has a personal stake in the well-being of students.

“When I look back at 30 years, it is the story of hundreds of students,” he said. “We have a community that is so powerful and so meaningful and it is utterly exciting to…be in their midst,” he explained. “This is what invigorates me.”

Teichman said he views his departure as the natural bookend to three-decade run at the university. Thinking about his career, he said he felt remarkably fulfilled, yet hardly sated.

“I am going to turn 72 at the end of October…and I know I am not immortal, but I feel tremendously alive and excited for the next chapters of my life,” Teichman said.

He wanted to thank Barry and the external advisory board for helping him bring the program to life. He emphasized his gratitude for the collective, collaborative community he found at Tufts — the one forged by his constant teachers: the students.

“[There are] thousands of students I have felt honored and fortunate to have touched and to have been touched by,” he said. “That’s important to me. This was never a solitary work.”