A new student may not know it, but a plethora of organizations exist outside the Hilltop to assist in one’s intellectual development and advance on-campus the causes of individual liberty, limited government, free market economics, and traditional values.
At TGA, we’re most familiar with those of a libertarian or conservative nature, but there are others, including several of a Catholic or objectivist bent, that our members have been associated with over the years. Below you’ll find a list of these institutions, along with commentary about what they do and how you can most benefit from engaging with them.
The majority of opportunities offered are free, if not greatly subsidized, meaning you might have to pay for your own travel, though housing, meals, and attendance fees are usually gratis. Many our members have, at one time or another, taken advantage of them.
The key thing to know when you apply is all of these institutions are looking to advance their own ideals, which are more or less in line with TGA’s own. The application process can be competitive, and while being a libertarian or conservative (or objectivist) on-campus is great, being active, through a student publication or club that puts on events meant to inform and spark discussion on campus, is even better.
Joining up with TGA will help make you a better candidate.
We encourage you to spend some serious time reviewing the websites of these organizations as there are a ton of opportunities offered, many more than the highlights we mention here.
Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI)
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute is America’s premier institution dedicated to the intellectual development of conservative and libertarian university students.
ISI’s mission of “educating for liberty” is accomplished through hosting seminars and conferences where like-minded students and professors are brought together to hear speeches, take part in discussions, and develop life-long friendships. There is also a year-long Honors program for a select group of undergraduates that begins with a seven-day summer conference, and continues with weekend conferences each semester. Honors Fellows are also assigned an academic mentor “who guides them through reading projects and advises on intellectual questions and career options.” You also get a ton of free books. But the best part about these opportunities is they are all-expenses-paid.
TGA has a long history with ISI. Not only have several of TGA’s members been Honors Fellows, with many more having attended the numerous events put on by the organization, but we’ve also hosted ISI speakers on-campus. In fact, our recently deceased and long-time faculty advisor, Professor George Carey, who was a widely-respected thought leader in conservative intellectual circles, served on ISI’s Board of Trustees. Professor Carey was a great resource for optimizing for Georgetown students all the opportunities ISI has to offer, including the graduate fellowships. Sadly, it doesn’t seem anyone in the Government Department has filled the immense void he left with his passing, though we’re glad to note one or two Georgetown students continue to join the Honors Fellows program each year.
Spend time exploring ISI’s website, then send them an email asking to be put on their mailing list. They’ll send you a free subscription to some pretty good conservative intellectual journals and probably a few books while they’re at it (the ISI “Student Guides,” are highly recommend).
Collegiate Network (CN)
The Collegiate Network is part of the ISI family, though its focus is right-leaning student publications. Not only have they been a primary funder of TGA since the mid-1990s, but they’ve also helped out other Hilltop publications that have come and gone over the years, including Utraque Unum, the now defunct Georgetown Federalist, and The Independent back in its early days when it was conservative. And they’re great friends in a crisis: in 1998 when nearly all of the copies of an issue TGA published were stolen and destroyed by some left-wing students who didn’t think our views should be permitted on campus, an act The Hoya applauded in an editorial in which they thanked the individuals responsible for the destruction, it was the CN who stepped in with a check so we could immediately republish.
Like its parent organization, CN puts on numerous conferences throughout the year, though they focus on campus journalism training. TGA editors have been attending them for over two decades and have been able to network and develop friendships with like-minded students, some of who have gone on to become well-known writers and editors at mainstream news organizations or within the conservative and libertarian movement at places like The American Conservative, National Review, and Reason Magazine.
The only way to get into a CN conference is if you’re a student journalist, with preference going to those who edit or write for affiliated publications like TGA. If you’re unsure whether or not you want to link up with us, check out our About and Arguments & Ideas pages for more info to help you decide. If you do, you’ll be locked on to attend one of these free conferences in no time.
Liberty Fund & Students for Liberty (SFL)
The Liberty Fund is similar to ISI in that it is also an education foundation, but one concentrating solely on the idea of human liberty, and not exclusively geared toward university students. Not long ago they began partnering with Students for Liberty, and together the organizations host several events for college students each year. The foundation has an endowment of over $300 million, so these events, if you are invited to attend one, end up being entirely free, if not highly subsidized.
Liberty Fund/Students for Liberty conferences are Socratic in nature. They consist of a small group of individuals who go through a set of readings beforehand and then gather around a large table for a series of conversations led by a discussion leader, usually a professor or liberty-friendly intellectual. Professor Carey occasionally played this role and made sure that every year some Hoyas ended up with an invite, whether or not he himself was attending.
Liberty Fund and SFL have separate missions, however, and different ways of doing business. Liberty Fund is more intellectual and under-the-radar. Also, in addition to their small conferences, Liberty Fund publishes a great many interesting books on liberty and the American Founding, many of which are quite old and would otherwise be out of print. Students for Liberty, on the other hand, is an explicitly libertarian organization that promotes student activism through campus clubs and events. SFL also hosts training seminars and an annual conference in D.C. that’s worth attending.
Young America’s Foundation (YAF)
YAF is the politically-oriented younger brother to ISI and the Liberty Fund. Their tag line is “The Conservative Movement Start Here.” In addition to hosting conferences, training seminars, and sponsoring lectures, (all free, btw), YAF makes a serious effort to encourage its student members to engage in campus activism, providing a large number of resources for those who are interested. There is also an incentive program that includes free books and all-expenses-paid trips to conferences for students who organize rallies, bring speakers to campus, and hold other events promoting the conservative cause.
YAF has been around since 1969 and was a co-founder of the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference (CPAC), which is held in D.C. each February and is America’s most important annual gathering of libertarian and conservative activists, (CPAC also free for college students; go if you haven’t yet, all it’ll cost you is metro fare).
There are about a hundred or so YAF-affiliated campus clubs across the country, though none at Georgetown. Even so, TGA members and other Hoyas have participated in YAF events, from attendance at the National Conservative Student Conference (held in D.C. each year and geared toward college students and summer interns), to a post-graduation journalism fellowship with YAF’s National Journalism Center, a fully-funded, 12-week internship and training program for aspiring journalists.
As with the other organizations mentioned on this list, there’s a lot of literature available and even more opportunities than what’s been listed here, so it’s important to thoroughly review their website to get a sense of what they have to offer and when events occur.
Also, they have a really excellent Reading List for the budding conservative.
The Fund for American Studies (TFAS)
Are you interested in a partially or fully-funded summer internship in D.C., one in which you get to stay in town and intern on someone else’s dime? Then consider the TFAS program. Several TGA alumni are graduates.
Here are the basics: you sign up for one of six different summer institutes, each of which involves interning during the day while taking a couple of night classes each week in your area of interest. The classes in the D.C. program are held at George Mason, but you live in student apartments either on Capitol Hill or the George Washington University campus, depending upon which program you choose. Students from colleges across the country take part, and at the end of the summer your courses count as college credits. The available programs range from politics and economics, economics and international affairs, business and government, journalism, philanthropy, and legal studies. And if D.C. doesn’t suit you, they also have institutes in Prague, Hong Kong, and Santiago, Chile.
One of the best things about this program is you get to meet a lot of young people your age who are highly interested in politics and government and have made a special effort to spend a summer working in our nation’s capital. They’re full of energy, great conversations, and you end up developing some life-long friendships as a result. You also make special visits to public sector institutions and get insider briefings on what happens there. If you don’t have plans for next summer, check TFAS out.
The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS)
IHS is located across the river at George Mason University and hosts week-long summer conferences at various campuses across the country, all of which center around the concept of liberty. The conferences are free to attend, and if you go you’re given free room and board, but you do have to pay for your own travel. IHS also gives out a million dollars in graduate scholarships each year. While they do have programs for undergrads, a large part of their mission is furthering libertarian ideas in a university setting by developing freedom-loving professors who will go on to impart their ideas to generations of college students. So if you’re a libertarian or conservative who wants a career in academia, then you need to check them out. In addition to the money, they also have seminars on applying to graduate programs, making the most out of your experience, and finding work once you're finished.
Philadelphia Society (Philly Soc)
Founded in 1967 with a $100 check from William F. Buckley Jr., (who would later go on to say it was the biggest bang for his buck he ever had), the Philadelphia Society does one thing and one thing only: they hold meetings. These occur twice a year at various locations across the country and last just 2-3 days. That’s it. There is no wide range of programming like all the other institutions listed, and they do nothing special for college students, except for letting them attend.
That said, since its inception the Philly Soc’s membership roster, and those who are invited to attend its meetings, read like a “Who’s Who” of the conservative and libertarian intellectual movement in America. It’s CPAC for the smart set, without all the booths and rhetoric. Numerous conservative intellectuals, (not the celebrities or talking heads, but the true thought leaders of the movement), are present at each meeting and they give speeches and take part in discussions with similarly like-minded individuals. In order to attend meetings you either need to be a member or invited by one. That said, through ISI and other organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation and IHS, you can receive an invite and some funds to help get you there. It’s a great way to connect with past libertarian and conservative intellectual giants as well as up and coming thought leaders.
Ayn Rand Institute (ARI)
For a publication like ours with a conservative background and which is very much pro-Catholic, it may seem odd to have the Ayn Rand Institute listed here. But the fact is Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, with its emphasis on human freedom and personal responsibility, is in many ways compatible with the principles TGA stands for, not to mention the philosophical beliefs of many in our magazine’s diverse membership and audience. In fact, past senior editors have been committed objectivists. We find the rationalism and logical thinking of objectivists to be a welcome counterpoint to the emotionalism and "my feelings are facts" attitude of the left, so even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, we still highly value our Randian brothers and sisters.
As for ARI, they don’t have a well-developed student programming arm in the way ISI or YAF does, but there’s still some great opportunities for interested students, especially the numerous and free online training courses which cover a variety of topics, including how to write well. They also host an annual conference you can receive an all-expenses-paid and partial scholarships for, or attend at a steeply discounted student rate. Then there are the student programs, where you receive assistance on managing a campus club promoting Ayn Rand’s ideas, if that’s your thing. There’s are also essay contests and a funded summer “internship” where you can go to California and spend three weeks immersed in discussions about objectivist philosophy while learning a thing or two about the non-profit world. If you’re an objectivist student on campus or just interested in delving further into the philosophy, this is the place for you.
As you can see there’s a lot offered to students interested in furthering their knowledge of conservative and libertarian principles while advancing them on campus. As we said in the introduction, seriously review each of the websites. There's so much more available than the highlights we've mentioned.
As a Hoya you’ll have a leg up on most of the competition when applying to any of these opportunities because the Georgetown brand signals to the rest of the world you’re likely a pretty bright and hard-working guy or gal with a great future ahead of you. Even so, these organizations primarily look at one's activist background when determining who gets accepted into their programs.
If you fit the bill by being active on-campus spreading libertarian and/or conservative ideas, you'll soon find that you’ll be able to attend multiple conferences each year that are either entirely paid for, or just require you to cover travel, and at which you’ll get to hobnob with well-known writers and intellectuals, have interesting discussions that last late into the night, and meet like-minded students with whom you’ll become life-long friends, and some of whom will one day be libertarian and/or conservative leaders themselves. If you’re looking to make a career in the movement, then this is something you need to get on started now.
Lastly, in addition to the above opportunities don’t forget those in your own backyard. Just check out the events calendars of libertarian and conservative think tanks for events and opportunities. The most well-known are the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and American Enterprise Institute, but there are others in town worth learning about and which may cater to your specific interest. And don’t just limit yourself to those of a conservative or libertarian nature. It’s always important to understand the opposition, so take time to explore what the other side has to offer and attend their events as well so you can learn more of what they’re about. After all, thoroughly knowing your enemy is the best way to defeat him.