An Inside Look: ISI's conference for students craving deep discussion, strong academics, and like-minded conservative thought

Posted by Trinity Klomparens on 12/14/23 9:17 AM

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A personal motivation to delve deeply into subjects that they care about is a hallmark of a Patrick Henry College student. This past month, four students spent their weekend at a seminar hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, learning about how literature can help individuals navigate social change. 

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Junior Eleanor Henry has kept up with ISI conferences and seminars since she first got involved with PHC’s ISI chapter during her freshman year. She attended the Institute’s seminar last year in Pittsburgh and decided to go again this fall.

“I went in saying, ‘I want to immerse myself in something that I don’t really understand and come away with a better understanding and appreciation for the subject,' and I think I did that,” Henry said.

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On November 16, the four students, Henry, junior Isaac Rits, senior Finneas Buck, and senior Reagan Van Belle, drove five hours to the conference. An estimated 20 students attended the event, composed of a mixture of undergraduate, graduate, and law school students. 

“It was great to be able to travel and be with like-minded academics,” Henry said.

The conference was discussion-based rather than lecture-based. “Most of the time was spent around a common table discussing the readings—The Education of Henry Adams and The Leopard. Dr. Patrick Deneen and Dr. Luke Foster helped facilitate the discussion,” Buck noted. 

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Students attending the event had the opportunity to meet some of the authors whom PHC professors assign readings from. Van Belle attended the event partly “to see what other undergrads [were] reading and learning in their programs and to meet Patrick Deneen, a political theorist that was assigned by Dr. Mitchell for his Democracy class.” 

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ISI’s round-table discussion was made stronger by the participation of members of the Institute itself. “I was especially impressed by the ISI staff, who all participated in the round table discussion along with the students. Their comments were the most intelligent of the group, which spoke to the caliber of ISI as an organization,” Buck said.

Every PHC student who attended said that they would recommend it to their peers. “You meet other smart students, you get exposure to two great authors,” Van Belle said.

“The conference was incredibly beneficial. I really enjoyed the topics, despite having a bit of a hard time with the books beforehand. The insight from the academics was lovely,” Rits said. “I love that ISI makes quality education accessible to young college students. They bring in stellar faculty to teach us about important topics, especially within the liberal arts.”

ISI holds regular conferences, so students craving deep discussion, strong academics, and like-minded conservative thought should keep their eyes peeled for dates to register.

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 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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