The Summer Honors Program connects college students with AEI and the broader DC policy community

Each year, AEI’s Summer Honors Program offers current undergraduates and recent graduates the opportunity to spend a week studying some of today’s most pressing public policy issues alongside AEI scholars and a cohort of students from around the country and across the ideological spectrum. The program coordinates a series of weeklong courses on topics ranging from K-12 education to US-China strategic competition, so no matter what your policy interests, there’s a good chance you’ll find multiple courses that interest you.

We can’t say enough great things about the Summer Honors
Program — it’s how we learned about AEI in the first place.

We both participated in the Summer Honors Program in the summer of 2017. One of us took Michael Strain’s course on “Democratic Capitalism: Principles & Practices”; the other took Charles Murray’s “The Building Blocks of Human Flourishing.” Although our seminar experiences were distinct from each other’s and our peers’, our time in the program shared a few important characteristics.

Students part of the AEI Summer Honors Program standing in front of the Supreme Court
Students part of the AEI Summer Honors Program standing in front of the Supreme Court

First, the seminars led by AEI scholars were incredibly refreshing. The instructor are renowned researchers and practitioners, spanning careers at the White House, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and one of the country’s largest state social services department, to name just a few of their experiences. Classes have 16-20 students, which allows students to interact closely with instructors over the course of the week. Moreover, the Summer Honors Program not only gathers talented and curious students to participate; it also brings together students who don’t shy away from political disagreement and are excited about discussing and debating important ideas with people who disagree with them.

This ethos carried over to other programming. Students in the Summer Honors Program participate in a series of lunch and dinner lectures and panel discussions throughout the week. While the seminar focuses on a single topic that students are familiar with, additional lectures and panels exposed us to new topics, giving us a better sense of the breadth of AEI scholarship. Students also hear from experts throughout the DC public policy scene, including other think tanks, prominent magazines and newspapers, and congressional offices.

Perhaps most of all, we’ve seen the program become a
foundation not only for future professional connections, but also ongoing
friendships. We know past participants who have gone on to start careers at congressional
offices, national magazines and newspapers, the private sector, and more, and
who are eager to give back to our growing alumni network. Many even came back
to intern or work at AEI — that’s the path we took, as we help organize the
same program that first brought us to the institute. However, perhaps the most
meaningful aspect of the program has been keeping up with classmates,
developing friendships that grew out of a mutual excitement about open debate,
public policy, and service to our nation. We’ve both stayed in touch with
friends we made that summer of 2017 — even rehashing debates about UBI or free
speech on college campuses a few years later!

In many ways, the national political climate has been transformed since we participated in the program. A global pandemic, a contentious general election, and increased polarization have all altered the way college students think about and approach political discussion. And while we’re designing this year’s program with those challenges in mind, the core benefits of the AEI Summer Honors Program remain the same: an opportunity for students to learn from people they disagree with in good faith, a chance to learn alongside people who care deeply about policy and our republic, and a preview of what a career in Washington, DC might look like.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. We encourage interested applicants to apply by our early decision deadline, which is January 4, 2021. The regular decision deadline is March 1, 2021. For more information about how to apply for this year’s Summer Honors Program, visit the program website.

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