2020 Summer Honors Program

The American Enterprise Institute’s Summer Honors Program is an intensive, fully-funded educational and professional development opportunity in Washington, DC, for top undergraduate students. Participants in the program have the chance to connect with the ideas, research, and network of AEI, one of America’s preeminent policy think tanks.

The program gathers students from diverse ideological backgrounds for substantive dialogue and debate about the most pressing issues facing the country and world. The core feature of the program is a series of discussion-based seminars that offer participants forums to delve deeply into policy areas of their choice. Outside of the seminars, students participate in policy briefings with distinguished guests, high-level networking opportunities, and site visits in Washington.

The program aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of contemporary public policy challenges, a greater appreciation for substantive dialogue across ideological divides, and the knowledge and networks to pursue a future career in the policy world.

What opportunities can I apply for?

Most students accepted to the Summer Honors Program will participate in an intensive one-week seminar, studying a particular area of public policy alongside an AEI scholar or partner instructor. Available subjects, scholars, and dates are described below. Students may apply for multiple courses and then rank their preferences, but will only be admitted for one. Admitted participants will receive a $250 stipend, as well as housing, most lunches and dinners during the week, and reimbursement for travel expenses.

Applicants may also choose to be considered for a prestigious five-week opportunity, called the Summer Honors Academy. Through this program, ten students will be chosen to participate in five different courses from May 27 – June 26, 2020. As a cohort, they will take a foundational course entitled “The Great Debate: The Roots of Right & Left” on May 28–29, and then they will participate in courses of their choosing during each of the following four weeks. Summer Honors Academy participants will receive a $1,250 stipend, as well as housing, most lunches and dinners during class days, and reimbursement for travel expenses.

How do I apply?

Eligibility: Current undergraduates and recent graduates (winter 2019 or later). International students are eligible to apply. Previous Summer Honors Program participants are not eligible.

Location: Washington, DC

Duration: Most students will participate in a single one-week course at the beginning of Summer 2020. A select group of students will participate in a five-week opportunity from May 27 – June 26, 2020.

Funding: This is a fully-funded program. Participants will receive: reimbursement for travel to DC, housing, a stipend, and lunch and dinner on most class days.

Deadline: The final application deadline is February 24, 2020. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so we strongly encourage students to apply early.

2020 Summer Honors Program Courses

Sixteen week-long courses are being offered as part of the 2020 Summer Honors Program. Six of those courses are offered through AEI’s Initiative on Faith & Public Life and will address issues of economics, public policy, and society from a perspective of Christian faith, theology, and ethics. These courses are marked below.

June 1-5

The Constitution: Original Meanings and Modern Times
with John Yoo

Understanding the Middle East Challenge
with Michael Rubin

Christianity, National Identity, and America’s Role in the World: Rival Interpretations
with Paul Miller | Initiative on Faith & Public Life 

Renewing America’s Social Fabric: Faith, Community, and Public Policy
with Ryan Streeter | Initiative on Faith & Public Life 


June 8-12

War & Decision-Making
with Frederick Kagan

The Building Blocks of Human Flourishing
with Charles Murray

Liberal Education in an Age of Distraction
 with Elizabeth Corey & David Corey | Initiative on Faith & Public Life

International Economic Development: Why Institutions Matter
 with Stephen Smith | Initiative on Faith & Public Life


June 15-19

China’s Military and the Balance of Power in Asia
with Oriana Skylar Mastro

K-12 Education: The Foundation of American Society, Economy, and Democracy
with Michael McShane

Health Care in America: Balancing Coverage, Quality, and Affordability
with James Capretta

Freedom, Progress, and Tradition
with Yuval Levin


June 22-26

Democratic Capitalism: Principles & Practices
with Michael Strain

A Poverty and Welfare Policy Agenda for the 21st Century
with Brent Orrell

Are Markets Moral? In Search of a Humane Economy
 with Mary Hirschfeld | Initiative on Faith & Public Life

Visions of Christianity in Public Life: Retreat, Assimilation, or Transformation?
with Kevin den Dulk | Initiative on Faith & Public Life

Past participants, in their own words...

Kavya Bana

University of Rochester
2019 Summer Honors Academy Participant

“…I learned how critical an ideologically diverse society is to democracy.”

James Hitchcock

Williams College
2015 Summer Honors Program Participant

“…an exciting, intellectually engaging transition from college to the professional world.”

Marquell Williams

Carthage College
2019 Summer Honors Program Participant

“…a refreshing taste of how truthful, transparent, and civil discussion can restore our nation.”