Discussion Colloquia

IHS discussion colloquia center around authentic conversation and bring a small group of students together in an open forum to discuss ideas. These invitation-only programs are ideal for professors who seek to engage their most intellectually curious students in a unique educational experience outside the normal classroom setting.

How we Partner with Faculty and Students for a Successful Event

Faculty Partner Involvement
Faculty partners handle key aspects of planning for the discussion colloquium, including:

  • Selecting an event date
  • Choosing a discussion topic
  • Developing a program proposal and selecting a discussion leader, in consultation with IHS
  • Procuring a reserved venue

Students’ Involvement
Students invited to the discussion colloquium are expected to do the following:

  • Read the 150-pages of selected readings on the designated topic which will be provided a month prior to the event
  • Attend all sessions of the day-long event, including meals and discussion groups

IHS’s Involvement
The Institute for Humane Studies offers faculty logistical and event support for discussion colloquia, including the following:

  • Providing catering and meals
  • Offering honoraria and stipends
  • Reader creation, including acquiring copyrights, printing, production, and shipment of the readers
  • Staffing the event and providing on-site assistance and resources
  • All other logistical work as needed

Thoughts from Past Participants

This colloquium gave me the kind of opportunities I’ve wanted but have been unable to find on campus, a chance to have a frank dialogue with my peers about the future of the nation we are inheriting.
– Ross Taylor, Student Participant, Christopher Newport University

IHS gave me the opportunity to peruse the very complicated yet important topic of free speech with a number of politically diverse yet highly intellectual individuals. It was an incredible experience and definitely a highlight of my education so far.
Tobias Hoonhout, Student Participant, University of Notre Dame

“As a Professor, coming in as an observer, I was very impressed with the quality and complexity of the student dialogue. I can tell that many of the students’ understanding grew through this colloquium.”
Nicholas Nicholletti, Professor, Missouri Southern State University

Discussion Colloquium Readers

To prepare for the discussion, students complete a roughly 150-page set of readings on a specific topic in advance, which helps facilitate an in-depth exploration of the questions and challenges by said readings.

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Toleration in a Free Society

This reader discusses thoughts surrounding free speech through arguments in favor of tolerating speech seen as “wrong,” counter-arguments challenging absolute free speech, and more contemporary perspectives.

Reading List

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Markets and Morality

The general theme of this reader asks if markets help facilitate a virtuous and more cooperative society or incentivize corruption and greed. The final session suggests ways markets may elevate the well-being of the global poor.

Reading List

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Public Choice and Government Failure

This reader offers students a cursory overview of Public Choice theory and then applies some basic concepts to common government problems.

Reading List


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Economics and a Free People

Point-counter-point readings regarding capitalism. Foundational writings from classic works referencing the ideas of division of labor, individualism and collectivism, protectionism, and general laissez-faire philosophy.

Reading List

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What Adam Smith Knew

This reader offers point-counter-point readings arguing for and against capitalism while focusing on foundational writings dealing with the basic economic, philosophical, and political perspectives.

Reading List

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Political Thought of Frederick Douglass

This reader moves chronologically through Frederick Douglass’ life and thought process, with reference to the events taking place in the United States at the time of the given writing.

Reading List


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Sacred Rights

This reader focuses on religious freedom within the context of early American history and discusses interpretations of the First Amendment in several early American historical periods.

Reading List

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Hayek on Liberty

This reader focusses Hayek’s “knowledge problem” and the phenomenon of “spontaneous order”—the latter being Hayek’s approach to best deal with the former.

Reading List

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Morality and Law

Explore the relationship between the law and society’s views on morality. Topics range from Mill’s thoughts on individuality, the tension between “sin” and criminality, to laws regarding consensual sex.

Reading List


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New Perspectives on Political Problems

This reader presents three different ethical philosophies–utilitarianism, fairness, and non-aggression–and presents different political problems to be examined in the light of these philosophies.

Reading List

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Economics of Foreign Aid

This reader builds off of the Jeffery Sachs–William Easterly debate regarding foreign aid. Coupled with additional authors with complementary arguments.

Reading List

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Democracy in America–Political Theory

This reader is designed to introduce students to the political ideas of Alexis de Tocqueville. The readings cover the many facets of democracy.

Reading List


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Democracy in America–Civil Society

This reader selects excerpts from Democracy in America that relate to four major themes: the matter of equality and freedom, culture, social relations, and the tension between honor and ambition. The focus is on the people and culture in a democratic society.

Reading List

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Anarchism and Its Challenges–Politics

This reader serves two general purposes. First, to introduce students to the concept and theories of anarchism as a political or ethical ideology. Second, to encourage students to think critically about the role of the state and the challenges of social organization.

Reading List

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Anarchism and Its Challenges–Economics

This reader serves two general purposes. First, to introduce students to the concept and theories of anarchism as a political or ethical ideology. Second, to encourage students to think critically about the role of the state and the challenges of social organization.

Reading List


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History of Policing & Alternate Models

This reader confronts the history of policing in the United States and explores questions surrounding the role of policing in modern society. In addition, alternative models prompt discussion around the ways in which policing may be improved.

Reading List

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English Enlightenment and the State of Nature

This reader explores several of the English Enlightenment’s great thinkers—Hobbes, Locke, Butler, and Pope. These authors reflect upon human nature, the role of government, and the role of the individual.

Reading List

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Entrepreneurship

This reader discusses how entrepreneurs contribute to the economy and greater society alongside attempting to situate entrepreneurship into the larger field of economics. In addition, this reader reflects on topics such as the intersections of entrepreneurship, sustainability, and public policy.

Reading List

View our guidelines for on-campus speakers.

IHS Discussion Colloquia Staff 

Angel Lauver
Angel Lauver
Student Programs Manager

For more information about our discussion colloquia or our application process, please contact CampusEvents@TheIHS.org.