Telluride Association has evolved significantly over the past century, but it continues to reflect the personality and ideals of its founder, Lucien L. Nunn.

Mr. Nunn was an idealistic entrepreneur dedicated to educating those young men who worked for him. After going into business in the mineral-rich High Rockies around Telluride, Colorado, he realized that the mines had an enormous and urgent need for electrical power which existing direct-current techniques could not transmit over long distances. Persuading George Westinghouse to part with experimental equipment, Nunn applied the latest electrical advances to the mining industry and disproved the widespread belief that alternating current was too dangerous to handle. Nunn’s Telluride Power Company, now known as Utah Power and Light, then began the first commercial high-voltage transmission of alternating current.

This success allowed Mr. Nunn to turn his attention to his continuing interest in educating young people. In 1890 he began a program of combined work and technical study for promising young men in the employ of his power company. This evolved into the Telluride Institute, through which Nunn introduced a broader and more formal curriculum and gradually established branches at his power stations throughout the West.

As the academic program changed, more and more responsibility for the management of Telluride’s property and funds was entrusted to the student-employees in its branches. This reflected Mr. Nunn’s broad vision of education as a force which should enable young people to pursue their ideals with practical and responsible action. In 1911, this belief found its most complete expression when Mr. Nunn entrusted much of his fortune, in perpetuity, to the members of what became the Telluride Association.

This development coincided with a shift in Telluride’s programs. The growing technical and financial complexity of the power industry made it less compatible with student labor, and Telluride’s power-station branches were gradually closed. By 1915 the Association’s focus had shifted to more academic settings. Yet throughout this evolution, Telluride has continued to be guided by a belief that practical work and accomplishments as well as abstract study and intellectual growth are important to the development of character and judgment.


A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a free six-week educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college.

Each program is designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Telluride students, or TASPers, attend a seminar led by college and university scholars and participate in many other educational and social activities outside the classroom.

Students attend TASPs because they want a personal and intellectual challenge. Telluride Association seeks students from all kinds of educational backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and motivation, rather than prior knowledge of the seminar’s subject matter. TASPers participate solely for the pleasure and rewards of learning with other intelligent, highly motivated students of diverse backgrounds. The TASP offers no grades or college credit.

TASP centers on an academic seminar that meets every weekday morning for three hours. Each seminar is led by a team of two faculty members, who are selected for the distinction of their scholarship and the excellence of their teaching. Classes emphasize group discussions rather than lectures. Participants can expect to spend several hours on assigned readings or other preparation for each class, and will complete a number of writing assignments over the six-week seminar. The discussions and essays allow the faculty and students to engage the material in detail and to form a close community of scholars. Students receive written and oral feedback from the faculty, but no grades.

In addition to the seminar, students participate in a public-speaking program, attend lectures by guest speakers, and hold other social and intellectual activities as a community. Through the guest lectures, the students learn about a range of ideas and academic disciplines, encouraging them to develop broad interests. Recent guest speakers have included a Nobel laureate physicist, a DNA researcher, a lawyer who worked at Guantanamo Bay, a prominent poet, a college president, and an anthropologist.

Life at TASP extends well beyond academic exploration. One of the program’s remarkable features is that the students are responsible for organizing most of their out-of-classroom time through weekly group meetings and on smaller committees. This element of self-government is an essential part of the TASP experience. Students plan all kinds of activities, including group-wide discussions, field games, community service projects, music and theater events, reading groups, and excursions to state parks and art museums. Participants also share responsibility for keeping their environment clean and safe. Between all of the formal events, TASP students always find time for impromptu discussions and parties, movie-going, and pickup sports.

The students at TASP organize and execute their summer with the help of two college-age students, called factotums (a Latin term for “those who do everything”). The factotums live with the students and serve as counselors, administrators, and teaching assistants. They attend seminars and other TASP activities and are available to help the students in every way possible. The factotums also present and enforce the rules and policies of the program.


This summer, 56 intellectually curious high school sophomores (“rising juniors”) will participate in one of four challenging six-week college-level seminars on topics related to critical Black and ethnic studies. The seminars will be held at Cornell University and the University of Michigan.

Telluride works with university faculty to create exciting courses designed to inspire young people to explore the histories, politics and cultural experiences of people of African descent and a variety of other topics. Because we believe that students should have the opportunity to pursue their ideals, we cover all the program costs, including tuition, books, room and board, field trips, and facilities fees.

If you participate in TASS, you will attend a three-hour seminar each day, which will typically include discussions, small-group work, lectures by faculty, and other activities. You will be expected to prepare for class and write several papers during the summer. Outside seminar, you will present a topic of your choice in the public speaking program and hear lectures from guest professors visiting the TASS house. Writing workshops, field trips, and frequent cultural activities round out the summer. You will also enjoy the company and intellectual stimulation of other talented students.

Two accomplished university scholars, frequently from the host institutions (Cornell University or the University of Michigan), lead each seminar. All of our faculty are very enthusiastic about the program and the opportunity it gives them to work with talented high school students; indeed, many rank the TASS as one of their most rewarding experiences.

In addition to the faculty, there will be two factotums assigned to each program; they are college students, many of whom attended TASS themselves. The factotums live with the students, working with them on their critical reading and writing skills and helping them create a tightly knit intellectual and social community in which the students aid each other in their academic work.

At the TASS, you will develop the skills you’ll need to thrive in a college-level environment. You will improve your reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills as you explore your interests in and out of the seminar. There are no grades assigned by the program, and no college credits are given.

Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar Overview on TASS