The roots of the TCD program go back over thirty years of evolving interdisciplinary initiatives at the University of Florida. Gradually becoming more formalized, the program has maintained its focus on experimenting with new courses and learning approaches.
- During the 1970s and 1980s, several very active precursor programs that focused on the Amazon, and on tropical conservation, fed into the current TCD Program. These early efforts set a tone for the program that resonates until today: involvement by faculty and grad students across the UF campus; support for student research; development of team-taught core courses; and strong interactions with a network of researchers and practitioners around the world.
- In the late 1980s, major new grants provided fellowships for students from Latin America and the Caribbean through an integrated TCD program that included students in both social and biological sciences. Substantial field-based research and training programs were established in Latin America, and the program developed unique skills courses and other student-centered learning activities, while consolidating a strong network with partners overseas.
- In 1999–2000, the TCD program entered a new formal phase with an endowment fund, faculty appointed to TCD, and an established interdisciplinary curriculum. The endowment and the addition of core faculty allowed TCD to consistently fund student research and graduate training, and provided modest student support for innovative activities that complement traditional academic training, such as returning research results, practitioner experiences, student-led workshops, annual retreats, and orientations. Significantly, the endowment also served to leverage additional complementary funding to support new research and training initiatives on- and off-campus.
In the new millennium, TCD continues to play a central role in convening UF students and faculty interested in the theoretical and practical advancement of tropical conservation and development. TCD is recognized internationally as a key university program training leaders in this field. In collaboration with the Center for African Studies, TCD is building the African component of its programs and beginning a new Master’s program as part of a global network in Development Practice. Strategic activities to be carried out during 2008–013 include: expand our cutting-edge curriculum and skills-training program; strengthen our network of TCD students, faculty, alumni, and partners; diversify and strengthen TCD administration; and promote collaborative and team research on priority emerging themes. Changing contexts and changing strategies was the focus of an international conference sponsored by TCD in January 2010.