Telluride Association

Telluride Association

The Telluride Association is a non-profit organization in the United States that provides young people with free educational programs emphasizing intellectual curiosity, democratic self-governance, and social responsibility. Students are invited to apply based on academic criteria, such as high standardized test scores. The Association's principal programs are summer seminars for high school students, called TASSes and TASPs, and scholarship houses, called Telluride Houses, for college students. These residential programs are offered at no cost to the students, who are encouraged to pay for their education through service to society. The Association is run largely by its recent alumni, Deep Springs College alumni, and current Branch students.


Lucien L. Nunn founded the Association in 1911 after building the first Telluride House at Cornell University in 1910. The first President of the Telluride Association was Charles Walcott, the famous paleontologist and fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The house originally provided room and board for young men who had worked for Nunn and were studying engineering at Cornell. It has since expanded to encompass a variety of summer programs, scholarships, and additional houses, all coeducational. The association is named after the town of Telluride, Colorado where L.L. Nunn resided for much of his adult life.


Telluride Association seeks out young people with the desire and the ability to contribute to society, and helps them develop intellectually and as community members. Telluride Association promotes no particular political or religious viewpoint.

Telluride Houses, or Branches, have operated at Cornell University since 1911 and at the University of Michigan since 1999. Each house is populated by a diverse group of graduate students and undergraduates who share an interest in self-governance and intellectual community. Students participate in a year-round public speaking program and plan academic seminars. The houses are largely self-governed, with somewhat different focuses: residents of Cornell Branch take on such responsibilities such as hiring employees and maintaining and renovating the house, while residents of Michigan Branch plan and execute an annual project linking practical work in the community with theoretical and academic inquiry. Distinguished alumni of the Cornell Branch include Eve Sedgwick, Francis Fukuyama, Jan Svejnar, and Gayatri Spivak. A handful of faculty also live at the houses for limited terms. Distinguished faculty guests of the Cornell Branch have included Michel Foucault, Richard Feynman, Frances Perkins, Linus Pauling, and Allan Bloom.

Telluride Houses have formerly existed in Pasadena, California, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago.

Telluride Association Summer Programs, or TASPs, are six-week educational experiences for rising high school seniors offering intellectual challenges rarely found in secondary school or even in college. They are designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. The participants, or TASPers, attend an intensive seminar led by college and university faculty members and participate in many educational and social activities outside the classroom. Like the Telluride houses, each TASP receives a discretionary budget, whose use is democratically distributed via weekly house meetings.

Admission to TASP is based on an application that includes six essay prompts and for some, an interview. This year, out of approximately 725 applicants, over 140 were given an interview with members or associates of the Telluride Association as well as TASP alumni, and a total of 68 students were eventually admitted to the four TASPs. In recent years, the number of applicants has ranged as high as 950. Admission is very competitive: in recent years, fewer than 10 percent of TASP applicants have been admitted. Many students are invited to apply based on strong standardized test scores or the nomination of educators who are familiar with TASP. However, any high school junior may request an application, and acceptance largely ignores standardized test scores and graded academic performance. Like other Telluride programs, TASPs are free.

TASPS also advocate a self-contained community of learning among the TASPers at any one of the four TASP seminars. TASPers are encouraged to engage in activities together outside of seminars. Often, TASPers form intense bonds over six weeks as a result of the self-contained community that forms.

Since the first TASP was held in 1954, TASPs have been held at college and university campuses across the United States, including Cornell, University of Texas at Austin, Deep Springs College, Johns Hopkins University, Williams College, University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis, Kenyon College, and St. John's College. Nationally known faculty who have taught TASP include: John Schaar (UC Santa Cruz), Hanna Pitkin (UC Berkeley), Donald Kagan (Yale), Kurt Heinzelman and Sue Heinzelman (University of Texas), Herbert Storing (University of Chicago), Robert Nozick (Harvard), Leon Kass (University of Chicago), and Thomas Palaima (University of Texas). Alumni of TASPs and Telluride Houses include political economist Francis Fukuyama, literary critic Gayatri Spivak, political theorist William Galston, former Stanford Law dean Kathleen Sullivan, Nobel laureate in physics Steven Weinberg, literary critic Paul Wang, and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz.

Telluride Association Sophomore Seminars, or TASSes, are also six-week summer programs. TASSes, which are offered to high school sophomores, have an academic focus on African American studies and related fields. Their basic structure is similar to that of the TASPs, and some TASS alumni choose to attend a TASP the following summer.

TASSes have been held at Indiana University since 1993 and at the University of Michigan since 2002.


Telluride Association Awards are awarded to members of the Telluride community by the Association.

The Mansfield-Wefald Senior Thesis Prize is awarded annually for the best scholarly thesis written by a Telluride associate who will have completed his or her final year of undergraduate education that year.

The Mike Yarrow Adventurous Education Award is given annually to a returning member of a Branch of Telluride Association, or a Deep Springs student who will be entering a Branch the following year. The award funds non-paying, public service activity during the summer that is outside of an academic institution.

The Nunn Archive Fellowship is awarded to help associates study and preserve the legacy of Lucien L. Nunn.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the Telluride House at Cornell operated a two-year postgraduate exchange scholarship program with Lincoln College, Oxford, welcoming a Sidgwick Scholar to stay at Telluride House and to study at Cornell, usually for an M.A., and sending a Housemember to study for an Oxford M.Phil while resident at Lincoln College. Despite the best efforts of both sides, the program was ended in 2002.


Telluride Association consists of about 100 volunteer members. Members are elected to membership, usually while in their early twenties, on the basis of demonstrated leadership and commitment to Telluride's educational goals. The Association’s membership is comprised mainly of current and former participants of its programs and alumni of Deep Springs College, a separate two-year college founded by Nunn in 1917.

ee also

*Deep Springs College

External links

* [ Telluride Association] , official website
* [ Michigan Branch of the Telluride Association] , official website
* [ Cornell Branch of the Telluride Association] , official website

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