In 1997, the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning (CETaL) was established under the $22.5 million NSF Model Institutions for Excellence (MIE) grant to provide support and faculty development for UTEP faculty (especially STEM faculty) as they incorporated active, cooperative and collaborative learning into their curricula.  During the rest of the decade, the center was directed by Gregory Lush (UTEP faculty member in Electrical Engineering), then Gail Goodyear, and then James Salvador (UTEP faculty member in Chemistry), and the center gained a physical home in the Undergraduate Learning Center (UGLC) building.

In 2000, the mission of CETaL was broadened to serve the entire campus in areas of teaching effectiveness and effective pedagogy and Tine Reimers and Bill Roberson were brought in to co-direct CETaL.  Recognizing the lack of a regular teaching conference in the vicinity, Reimers and Roberson launched the Sun Conference on Teaching and Learning (now called the Sun International Conference on Teaching and Learning), which has been held every spring (except 2007 and 2008) since 2002, has attracted presenters from several states and countries, and has sometimes published online proceedings.  Reimers and Roberson also initiated the Fall Faculty Retreat (an annual professional development event to kick off each school year) and the CETaL Council of Fellows (a group of experienced faculty from all colleges to serve as campus leaders and models as well as assist with CETaL events. In 2003, Instructional Support Services was founded as a separate center (which would be rebranded in 2013 as Academic Technologies) headed by Roberson, as Reimers continued directing CETaL.

After Reimers and Roberson left UTEP in 2006, Judy Reinhartz briefly served as CETaL’s Interim Director. The next long-term director of CETaL was kinesiology faculty member Harry Meeuwsen, who is CETaL’s longest serving director to date, serving from fall 2007 through December 2013. During Meeuwsen’s tenure, the name of CETaL was changed to stand for “Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning” to reinforce UTEP’s access and excellence model. Meeuwsen resumed the excellent innovations of Reimers and Roberson, instituted several awards, and initiated additional resources such as the Teaching Toolkit video series. Since 2011, CETaL has had faculty associates appointed by the Provost’s Office to assist the director, including Ivonne Santiago (Civil Engineering), Larry Lesser (Mathematical Sciences), and Peter Golding (Metallurgical and Materials Engineering).  

On January 1, 2014, Lesser began directing CETaL, initiating resources for faculty formative feedback, peer observation, UTEP’s internal ROTA process, a pedagogical expertise database, and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL, a form of scholarship recognized as legitimate in UTEP’s current promotion and tenure guidelines and supporting UTEP’s identity as the first national research university with a 21st-century student demographic).  

In September 2016, it was announced that CETaL was being replaced by a much larger structure (with a new name and several additional foci) led by outgoing UTEP Faculty Senate president Marc Cox (Biological Sciences).