Beginning in 2006, for almost two years, a group of faculty at Emory University met regularly to develop a plan, which was presented to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his approval when he visited Emory in Fall, 2007. To facilitate the planning efforts, in addition to the science education experts at Emory, a number of scholars with expertise in the intersection of science and Tibetan Buddhism, including Dr. Georges Dreyfus, Dr. Thupten Jinpa, Dr. Alan Wallace, and Geshe Lhakdor were invited to consult on the project. This constituted the "planning phase," of ETSI, the outcome of which was an initial curricular plan.
With the approval of the plans, a pilot program was started, in collaboration with the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) in the summer of 2008 in Dharamsala, India where a select group of monastic students were provided science education based on the newly developed pilot curriculum. Science faculty from Emory and other institutions traveled to College of Higher Tibetan Studies (popularly known as Sarah College) in Dharamsala each summer, from 2008 to 2013, to offer month-long intensive sessions to ninety-one Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns that comprised two cohorts, one year apart. The monastic students were drawn from twenty-two monastic institutions representing all the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism–Gelug, Sakya, Nyingma, and Kagyu–as well as Bon. The first cohort completed the five-year curriculum and graduated from the program in the summer of 2012, and the second cohort graduated in the summer of 2013.