What Makes IHS Summer Seminars a Favorite Among Students and Faculty?

As a graduate student, Christopher Freiman entered his academic career journey certain of a few things: his passion for philosophy, his belief in classical liberal ideas, and his desire to study with renowned philosopher David Schmidtz. What he didn’t realize was where this journey would take him and what small, but impactful, skills would assist him in getting there.

Like many young scholars before him at the University of

Christopher FreimanWilliam & Mary

Arizona, Freiman’s first introduction to the Institute for Humane Studies came through Schmidtz. An alumnus of IHS programming himself, Schmidtz often recommended IHS events and career services to his students, and he suggested a graduate research workshop as a chance for Freiman to hone his skills.

Freiman, now an associate professor of philosophy at William & Mary, recalls how the workshop focused not only on his presentation and writing skills but also his stance and the art of how to carry yourself as a professional, lessons that proved vital in a young scholar making the transition from student to faculty. 

“I still remember those tiny little details about how to give an effective presentation,” Freiman recalls.

While these lessons on preparing for the academic job market served a more foundational purpose, it was the IHS Summer Seminars program that truly resonated with Freiman.

“It really is just this kind of non-stop intellectual experience. It’s exhausting, but it’s exhilarating. It’s easily my favorite IHS program.

– Christopher Freiman

Freiman describes the inspiring whirlwind that is Summer Seminars, including the immersive, daylong discussions on politics, philosophy, and economics that both students and faculty alike partake in. Summer Seminar participants are from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and are gathered for a weeklong civil discussion debating and exploring the ideas of a free society.

As a graduate student, Freiman formed lifelong friendships and connections with other scholars at Summer Seminars, many of whom he’s collaborated with professionally on different projects.

“I probably have 20 or 30 friends that I’m still in contact with, that I met at a Summer Seminar. And one sort of nice feature of the Summer Seminar is it enables you to break out of your disciplinary box a little bit. If you’re a philosophy graduate student, you’ll probably meet other philosophy graduate students from other sorts of occasions, maybe you will go to a conference or something like that. But if it weren’t for IHS, as a graduate student, I wouldn’t have known nearly as many economists, or political scientists, or historians.

– Christopher Freiman

The allure of the program has stuck with Freiman as he has frequently returned to the seminars in a faculty capacity. “That’s the sort of thing that makes that experience so unique and so worthwhile as a faculty member,” Freiman says. “It is really rewarding to kind of flip sides when you move from student to professor, and I think it’s great to interact with students who are kind of just like me at the time.”

Freiman goes on to describe how rewarding the Summer Seminar program is, both for students and faculty alike, as everyone in attendance is enthusiastic about exploring new ideas, and riveted by the intellectual discussion. He notes leaving the program each year with renewed vigor and passion for the subjects discussed.

He also sees the seminars as an opportunity to reconnect with scholars and friends from his days as a graduate student.

For me, it’s always a highlight of my year being able to do these Summer Seminars; it’s cool because often other faculty members are people that I was a student with 10 years ago. So it’s nice to be able to see them and reconnect.

– Christopher Freiman

Helping to invigorate students’ passion for classical liberal ideas at Summer Seminars is just one of several ways in which Freiman has served as a mentor. He has had the opportunity to serve as a discussion leader at several IHS discussion colloquia, and has also authored two books, Unequivocal Justice (Routledge, 2017) and Why It’s OK to Ignore Politics (Routledge 2020).

For more information and to register for this year’s live-stream of Summer Seminars, visit our website.

The Institute for Humane Studies is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021 with spotlights on scholars, video interviews, photo galleries, and in-depth conversations on classical liberal ideas. For more stories like this one, visit TheIHS.org/60.

IHS 60th Anniversary

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