Tigers for Tigers (T4T) is an innovative idea. Until its inception in 2013, there was nothing like it: a conservation collective, by students and for students, spanning college campuses across the country unified by the desire to ensure the survival of our shared identity – the tiger.
Before the formation of the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, T4T clubs were present on several campuses, including Clemson University and the University of Missouri. Despite sharing a common mascot and goal, these clubs existed in isolation from one another. Attempts to unify the student groups in the past had proved unsuccessful. Establishing a national, coordinated organization is impossible to accomplish at bi-monthly club meetings, and with college students working harder than ever before, dedicating the students’ minimal downtime to developing a national movement simply was not practical.
Then in 2011 a group of Clemson students decided they would be the latest visionaries to attempt uniting students from tiger mascot schools across the country in an effort to save their mascot from extinction. This time the students would be successful, thanks to the Creative Inquiry (CI) program.
The Creative Inquiry program engages Clemson students in undergraduate research projects in a small-group environment supervised by a faculty mentor. A CI project functions like a normal class in that it is part of a student’s weekly schedule, and their grade affects their GPA. As Sean Carnell, National Coordinator of T4T and founding member of the CI class, explains:
“The Creative Inquiry platform provided us with an empowering opportunity to turn the ideas of students into a reality while obtaining class credit. We were able to apply a variety of skill sets derived from the classroom to solve real world problems. Through the Creative Inquiry class, we were able to develop long-term relationships with administrators and staff who have continued to show their support as the Coalition grows. We were also provided with seed funding to host the first National T4T Summit at Clemson University in April 2013.”
The National Summit at Clemson brought together students from tiger mascot schools across the country, several of which did not yet have a T4T club on their campus. In addition to these emerging T4T leaders, tiger conservation experts from both the U.S. and India traveled to Clemson to educate the students and provide advice on forming this Coalition. One of the most important outcomes of the Summit was the partnership T4T developed with the National Wildlife Refuge Association. The Refuge Association’s continued support and guidance has allowed T4T to prosper into an internationally recognized authority on tiger conservation, while providing T4T students internship and career opportunities in the conservation field.
Today, the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition has grown from an idea at Clemson University to an independent organization based in Washington, D.C., with eight member universities. An innovative idea requires an innovative development process. For Tigers for Tigers, this process was the Creative Inquiry program at Clemson University.
Clemson University’s Creative Inquiry program has proven that students can achieve amazing things when they are given the time and resources to pursue their goals. Tigers for Tigers aims to provide a similar environment so that students can continue to develop innovative approaches to save our mascot.