By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a national educational organization headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, recently selected Patrick Henry College students Rachel Blum and Robert Gingerich as two of 50 Honors Fellows selected for the 2008-2009 academic year. Each year, ISI’s prestigious Honors Program selects the nation’s most talented undergraduates to participate in a yearlong program of educational enrichment.
Blum and Gingerich, both studying Political Theory at PHC, kicked off their fellowship with a conference in Quebec City, Canada. Along with 48 students from top colleges and universities across America, Blum, named a Marion G. Wells Honors Fellow, and Gingerich examined how Western Civilization relates to, and differs from, other civilizations as they pondered some of the most fundamental and urgent questions of this age. This week-long conference kicked off a year of mentoring, free books, and ongoing small seminars and online discussions intended to prepare all the Honors Fellows for lives well-lived and possibly careers spent explaining to their fellow citizens the purpose of and need for traditional conservative values.
Says John Joseph Shanley, director of the ISI Honors Program, “The ISI Honors Program is a unique mentoring program offering our most talented undergraduates opportunity to engage in high-level, one-on-one debate with elite university faculty. Such mentoring opportunities are rare in the modern academy.”
Gingerich first heard of the ISI through the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, Patrick Henry’s campus ISI chapter. Political Theory professor Dr. Mark Mitchell, who is on sabbatical with a research fellowship at Princeton University this year, has also been extensively involved with ISI, both through lectures and through published work. He gave Gingerich a more thorough introduction to the organization.
“ISI is undertaking an exceptionally difficult but extraordinarily important mission within the ruins of [modern civilization],” says Gingerich. “It is seeking to encourage students to reexamine the roots of their civilization and to understand how to live as humans ought in an inhumane world, specifically in a political context.”
In general, the ISI seeks to make contact with students on campuses all across the United States and Canada, providing materials and support for them to establish chapters of the organization on campus. It organizes conferences, lectures, and debates across the continent, and offers prestigious graduate fellowships to a select handful of applicants. The Honors Fellowships, which include an invitation to ISI’s Career Development Seminar, provide undergraduates an unparalleled opportunity to interact with likeminded students from Ivy Leagues, small private schools, and state colleges.
Gingerich feels that Patrick Henry’s emphasis on classical education and the insistence on learning a strong core of authors and subjects prepared him well for the rigorous intellectual exercise of an ISI conference. Addressing his comments to his fellow PHC classmates, he shares: “The environment [at Patrick Henry] will, if you take advantage of it, prepare you not merely for academic lectures at an ISI conference, but for human life as well—far more than any technical manual or pop culture reference could. I was fully prepared to engage students and professors from other colleges because of my educational background at PHC, which is grounded in the formative texts of Western civilization.”
In previous years, alumni Samantha Clark (’08) and Sarah Pride (’07) have also profited from ISI Honors Fellowships. The College hopes to maintain similarly beneficial relations with the ISI in the future.