Intercollegiate Studies Institute

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Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Intercollegiate Studies Institute logo.png
Abbreviation ISI
Motto Educating for Liberty
Formation 22 June 1953
Type Nonprofit Educational Organization
Headquarters Wilmington, Delaware
President Christopher G. Long
Board Chairman Alfred S. Regnery

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc. (or ISI), is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1953 as the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. Its members, over 40,000 college students and faculty in the United States, use programs intended to supplement a collegiate education and provide access to resources that help achieve an education based primarily on works of influential men and women in the European and Christian traditions. The group supports limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, free market economy, and traditional values (specifically, those of the Judeo-Christian tradition).[1]

ISI's flagship journal, The Intercollegiate Review, is sent to students and teachers free of charge. ISI also publishes two other scholarly journals, the quarterly Modern Age, and the annual The Political Science Reviewer, as well as a web journal, First Principles.

Core values[edit]

Personification of Faculty of Arts. A liberal education aims at granting an understanding of human nature and perennial values – concepts the ISI claims are questioned in modern curricula.

Although ISI does not have any official partisan or religious affiliation, the Institute tends towards paleoconservative and traditionalist conservative positions. The influence of several important twentieth-century Roman Catholic thinkers is also apparent at ISI. In fact, the very reason given for the existence of ISI is that education in the modern university is insufficiently liberal (in the traditional sense, i.e., classical liberalism) to meet the needs of a classical education.[2] Further, the organization fights what it perceives as political correctness and liberal (in the modern sense) bias among campus professors.

In a 1989 speech to the Heritage Foundation, then-President, T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., stated:

We must...provide resources and guidance to an elite which can take up anew the task of enculturation. Through its journals, lectures, seminars, books and fellowships, this is what ISI has done successfully for 36 years. The coming of age of such elites has provided the current leadership of the conservative revival. But we should add a major new component to our strategy: the conservative movement is now mature enough to sustain a counteroffensive on that last Leftist redoubt, the college campus...We are now strong enough to establish a contemporary presence for conservatism on campus, and contest the Left on its own turf. We plan to do this by greatly expanding the ISI field effort, its network of campus-based programming.[3]


In 1953, Frank Chodorov founded ISI as the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, with a young Yale University graduate William F. Buckley, Jr. as president.[4] E. Victor Milione, ISI's next and longest-serving president, was the enterprising individual whose efforts realized Chodorov's plan through publications, a membership network, a lecture and conference program, and a graduate fellowship program.

Over the years, ISI has established itself as a leading conservative educational organisation. In its own words, it "is today the educational pillar of the conservative movement and the leading source of information about a free society for the many students and teachers who reject the post-modernist zeitgeist."[5] President Reagan has expressed himself in the same direction:

By the time the Reagan Revolution marched into Washington, I had the troops I needed—thanks in no small measure to the work with American youth ISI had been doing since 1953. I am proud to count many ISI products among the workhorses of my two terms as President.

Past ISI president and former Reagan administration official T. Kenneth Cribb led the institute from 1989 until 2011, when current president Christopher G. Long took over. Cribb is credited with expanding ISI's revenue from one million dollars that year to $13,636,005 in 2005.[6][7] Charity Navigator gives ISI an overall rating of 61,51, which is in the range of "excellent." They note that 84.4% of expenses go to program expenses.[8] In 2010, they gave ISI a 4-star rating for the 7th consecutive year, which is a result only one percent of charities accomplish.[9]

One of the principal intellectual fathers of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute was Russell Kirk, who secured a place for the eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke in American conservative thought, with an emphasis on the role of prescription in political and social life, and an opposition to utopianism. The history of ISI during its first fifty years (1953–2003) is narrated by Lee Edwards in Educating for Liberty.


ISI runs a number of programs organized to fight alleged political correctness and liberal bias on collegiate campuses. First, it organizes campus conservative groups under ISI and maintains contact with the groups. Second, it holds the yearly "Polly Awards" which sheds media scrutiny on questionable campus events across the nation.[10]

ISI introduces the major disciplines through a series of Student's Guides.

In providing what ISI calls a "classically liberal education" to its member students, ISI runs other programs as well. It publishes a number of "Student's Guide to..." books, for example A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning, providing a classical introduction into several disciplines.[11] It also holds other events, such as conferences, that feature prominent conservative speakers and academics, and provides funding for students to attend these conferences. In this funding capacity ISI is affiliated with the Liberty Fund.

Every spring, ISI invites applications for its Honors Program. Open to undergraduates in all disciplines, the Honors Program offers blue-chip students the opportunity to study the roots of Western Civilization with the best and brightest faculty and students. ISI has offered over 500 Honors Program fellowships to students from across the United States since the program’s inception in 1995.

ISI Honors Fellows receive an invitation to a week-long all-expenses-paid summer conference, personal intellectual mentoring, a library of ISI books, and invites to weekend colloquia throughout the academic year. The 2007–2008 ISI Honors Program Summer Conferences were held in Québec City, Canada on the theme of “Law in the Western Tradition: Common, Constitutional, Natural, and Divine.”[1].

In the summer of 2005, ISI Books, the imprint of ISI, published It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, by Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, which premiered at #13 on the New York Times best sellers list. The controversial book gained the focus of state and national attention during the unsuccessful 2006 reelection campaign of Senator Santorum.

One of ISI's stated goals is placement of conservative and libertarian student newspapers on major college campuses in America. ISI administers the Collegiate Network (CN), and each year, the CN provides financial and technical assistance to a network of member publications.

In the fall of 2006, ISI published the findings of its survey of the teaching of America's history and institutions in higher education. The Institute reported, as the title suggests, that there is a "coming crisis in citizenship."

ISI Books[edit]

Intercollegiate Studies Institute operates ISI Books, which publishes books on conservative issues and distributes a number of books from other publishers.[12] The rate of publication is about 20 books per year. Focus is largely on the humanities and the foundations of Western culture and its challenge by political correctness. The Founding Fathers have been highlighted in a series of books, as have a number of modern thinkers. Publishing also includes material about intelligent design.[13]

ISI Books Readers Club logo

ISI's book club offers a selection of some 200 books.

Fifty Worst (and Best) Books of the Century[edit]

ISI published in 1999 a list of the fifty books that they consider the worst and the fifty that they consider the best, among the nonfiction books of the 20th century originally published in English.[14] ISI defined the "worst" books as those that were "widely celebrated in their day", but on reflection are "foolish, wrong-headed, or even pernicious." The list of worst books has several books in common with the list of harmful books published by the conservative magazine Human Events.

The top five "very worst":

  1. Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)
  2. Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (1935)
  3. Alfred Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)
  4. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (1964)
  5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916)

ISI defined "best" as "volumes of extraordinary reflection and creativity in a traditional form, which heartens us with the knowledge that fine writing and clear-mindedness are perennially possible."

The top five "very best":

  1. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  2. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1947)
  3. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952)
  4. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917–1932 (1932, 1950)
  5. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (1934–1961)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Principles of a Free Society Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
  2. ^ Mission Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
  3. ^ Kenneth Cribb: Conservatism and the American Academy: Prospects for the 1990 's Heritage lectures #226, December 7, 1989.
  4. ^ Gillian Peele, 'American Conservatism in Historical Perspective', in Crisis of Conservatism? The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, & American Politics After Bush, Gillian Peele, Joel D. Aberbach (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 29
  5. ^ What They're Saying... ISI presentation of Edwards: Educating for Liberty.
  6. ^ Intercollegiate Institute, Inc.
  7. ^ Edwin J. Feulner: Introduction to T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr. Introductory speech at ISI 50th Anniversary.
  8. ^ Intercollegiate Studies Institute Charity Navigator.
  9. ^ Charity Navigator Awards ISI Its Seventh Consecutive 4-Star Rating Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  10. ^ Campus outrage awards Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
  11. ^ Student's Guide to the major disciplines Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
  12. ^ "ISI Books". Intercollegiate Studies Institute. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  13. ^ "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing". ISI Books. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  14. ^ The Fifty Worst (and Best) Books of the Century Intercollegiate Review, Fall 1999.


  • Lee Edwards: Educating for Liberty. The first Half-century of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Washington, DC 2003, Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-093-X

External links[edit]