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Toni (Tonya) Lefton

Teaching Professor, Humanities, Arts & Sciences
Director, University Honors and Scholars Programs
Faculty Adviser, High Grade

Toni LeftonToni Lefton is the Director of the University Honors and Scholars Programs and a Teaching Professor of Creative Writing, Literature, and Honors. She joined the Mines faculty in 1999 where she has worked on ethics across the curriculum, integrating arts and humanities in the STEM classroom, and developing creative writing and comparative literature courses that incorporate environmental and professional ethics, multidisciplinary lenses, and creative expression as a modality for empathy and civic engagement. In her scholarship, Professor Lefton investigates the work of dissident writers and the development of cultural and social revolutions recounted in the literary histories of “poetry of witness.”  Through this lens, she examines the counter-culture movements which attempt to shift the status quo towards race, class, and gender equity, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the extension of human rights. Currently, much of Professor Lefton’s attention is devoted to interdisciplinary pedagogy, collaborative teaching, developing signature programs for Mines students, and best practices in honors education.

Professor Lefton has been the advisor for High Grade, Mines award-winning literary and arts journal since 2000, and it is a labor of love to work with students to bring this publication to fruition every year. She has served as a coach for the Mines Ethics Bowl team, faculty friend for the Visual and Performing Arts Themed Learning Community, advised the Creative Arts Club, the Mines Dance Team, Philosophy Club, Creative Writing Club, and Anonymous Right Brains.

In 2016-2017, Professor Lefton received a Daniels Fund Fellowship, in collaboration with Professor Sarah Hitt, to integrate ethics in the first-year honors curriculum. She was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) workshop on “Overcoming Challenges to Infusing Ethics.” The results of this collaboration are part of NAE’s Online Ethics Center. Professor Lefton is also an active member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) and the NCHC Faculty Institute which develops experiential programs for students and educators. In addition, Professor Lefton is involved in national STEM to STEAM initiatives with the NEA and NSF and writes about integrating arts and humanities for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In her other life, Toni is a published poet and writer. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Narrative, The Crab Orchard Review, Kalliope, The Sun Dog, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Kudzu, Thin Air, Ellipses, on National Public Radio and Ms. Magazine, among others. Her first book, Everyday Crimes won the Anhinga Prize and she has been a finalist for a Pushcart and the Emily Dickinson Prize in Poetry.

Courses Taught

  • LAIS 100 Nature and Human Values
  • HNRS 105: Innovation and Discovery in Engineering, Art, And Science (IDEAS)
  • LAIS 205: Nature and Human Values Short Form Ethics
  • LAIS 300 Creative Writing: Intermediate Fiction Workshop
  • LAIS 301 Creative Writing: Intermediate Poetry Workshop
  • LAIS 305: African-American Literature: Talk that Talk:  Folklore, Performance, and Poetry
  • LAIS 307: Explorations in Comparative Literature: Post Modern American Poetry
  • LAIS 400: Creative Writing: Advanced Fiction Workshop
  • LAIS 401 Creative Writing: Advanced Poetry Workshop
  • LAIS 407 Science and Literature
  • LAIS 412 Literature and the Environment
  • LAIS 498: Great Women Writers
  • HNRS 445A: Explorations in Science, Technology, and Society: From the Lab to the Page: Revolutions in Science and Literature
  • HNRS 435: Explorations in Culture, Society, and Creative Arts: Cognition, Creativity, and Catharsis: Global Paradigms and Modes of Thought


Stratton Hall 413