Strengthening the university

The Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education is dedicated to strengthening universities to fulfill their highest aspirations. Through our grantees, we offer undergraduate, graduate, and professional students the opportunity to pursue their studies with a vision of what higher education should contribute to human flourishing.


Established in 2012 as an independent, non-partisan, grant-making organization, the Foundation supports pre-selected programs at some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the world.

Our grantees include both official university programs and independent institutes with fellows drawn from their home universities. They work across the full range of disciplines—the humanities, medicine, law, economics, sociology, international relations—and have become centers of influence at their universities and in their fields of study.

During the 2018-19 academic year alone, they hosted 682 seminars, lectures, and conferences; sponsored 138 faculty and graduate fellows; and, published 47 articles in peer-reviewed and popular journals.

Our grantees share these fundamental commitments

Education for a Good Life

They view education as reflection on living a good life, not simply as a way to promote economic advancement, social justice, or civic participation.

Rigorous Engagement

They bring classical intellectual traditions into sustained, open, and rigorous engagement with contemporary thought.

Interdisciplinary Scholarship

They seek to broaden their fields for the benefit of specialists and the public alike.

Intellectual Friendship

They model free and fair inquiry through teaching and debate which build genuine intellectual friendship.

Truth and Generosity

They challenge their universities to pursue the truth more vigorously, while maintaining a spirit of generosity toward colleagues and the leaders of their institutions.

Columbia University

Center for Clinical Medical Ethics MedSchool

Founded in 2017 and housed within the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics aims to foster flourishing relationships between patients, doctors, and other medical professionals by supporting the ethical formation of medical trainees, encouraging true intellectual friendship across difference, and facilitating public engagement on diverse ethical issues.

Lydia Dugdale, M.D., M.A.R. (ethics), Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Clinical Ethics, directs the program. She formerly served as Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of the Program for Biomedical Ethics at Yale School of Medicine. She is the editor of Dying in the Twenty-First Century (MIT Press) and author of the forthcoming book The Lost Art of Dying (HarperOne, 2020).




The Morningside Institute

Located next to Columbia University, The Morningside Institute helps students and professors in New York consider life’s deepest questions through engagement with the liberal arts and the life of the City. In our lectures and conferences, we assist scholars and students in contributing to academic disciplines and understanding them in light of the rich traditions that lie at their origin. Our seminars and reading groups offer a place where students, guided by and in conversation with faculty, can consider the arguments of great thinkers as serious possibilities for ordering human life and knowledge. These include Living the Core, a seminar series that explores authors and themes in Columbia’s Core Curriculum, and ongoing programming on religion in the modern age. Morningside’s cultural outings also give students guidance and structured opportunities for discussion and reflection to help them mine the rich cultural opportunities in New York City.



Duke University

Arete Initiative

Housed in Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, The Arete Initiative sponsors scholarship and programs focused on recovering and sustaining the virtues in contemporary life, especially in the workplace, the university, and the public square. The Initiative’s focus on the intellectual virtues fosters a productive exchange of ideas between parties who disagree. Its focus on human agency and vocation encourages participants to identify and engage in practices that make human flourishing possible, while offering the conceptual tools to help people make better life choices, an issue of particular importance for university students. The Initiative is directed by Farr Curlin, M.D., Josiah Trent Professor of Medical Humanities.

Harvard University

The Human Flourishing Program

Founded in 2016 and housed in Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Human Flourishing Program publishes interdisciplinary research and sponsors courses, seminars, and conferences at Harvard University. Recently, the Program joined with Aetna Insurance to conduct a five-year, $2.5 million study of human health and flourishing.

Tyler VanderWeele, Loeb Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard, is the Program’s founder and director. He received the 2017 Presidents’ Award from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies, and his recent publications include “On the Promotion of Human Flourishing” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and “Health and Spirituality” in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


The Abigail Adams Institute

Founded in 2014, the Abigail Adams Institute is committed to building intellectual community and cultivating scholarly habits within the Harvard community. We provide a range of programming including reading and discussion groups, weekend and summer seminars, workshops, lectures, and conversations with faculty. Our main intellectual initiatives are designed to foster and promote humanistic learning across disciplines and schools. These include our flagship reading group How Should We Live, the year-long Medical Humanities Fellowship, annual Humanism in Business and Management conference, biweekly Fridays with Faculty table talks, weekly lunch Workshops for faculty and graduate students, and much more. The name of the Institute honors the Massachusetts native Abigail Adams, whose wise counsel shaped the early development of the American nation.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

The Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing


In the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, The Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing sponsors interdisciplinary research and teaching on the well-being of the human person in all its dimensions. Its mission is to inform healthcare providers and trainees of the scientific evidence concerning key pathways to human health and flourishing.

Launched in July 2015, the program has supported monthly seminars, presentations at academic medical centers and professional association meetings, and peer-reviewed and mainstream media publications. Its current projects include the development of a humanities-based curriculum for medical students around the topic of human flourishing, as well as Bedside Education in the Art of Medicine (BEAM), which enhances the teaching and practice of humanistic medicine.

Oxford University

OxfordProgramme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government

The Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government supports scholarship on the nature of law and its social, political and moral foundations, as well as the challenges in establishing the rule of law and constitutional government. Part of the Oxford Faculty of Law, the Programme convenes seminars, workshops, and conferences examining questions in constitutional law and theory, and in legal and political thought more broadly. The Programme also hosts doctoral students and visiting scholars whose work contributes to our understanding of the nature and value of human flourishing and the rule of law.





The Canterbury Institute

The Canterbury Institute promotes the pursuit of the truth by supporting scholars in Oxford to discover anew their academic vocation. Canterbury builds academic communities through research streams and graduate scholarships, emphasizing at every juncture that universities exist for the investigation and appreciation of truth, and that the discovery of truth may sometimes require us to change our most deeply held convictions.

Dominic Burbridge, Lecturer in Politics in Oxford, is the Director of the Canterbury Institute.



Princeton University

The James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions

The James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions in the Department of Politics at Princeton University is dedicated to exploring enduring questions of American constitutional law and Western political thought. The Program awards visiting fellowships and postdoctoral appointments each year to support scholars conducting research in the fields of constitutional law and political thought. The Program supports the James Madison Society, an international community of scholars, and promotes civic education by its sponsorship of conferences, lectures, seminars, and colloquia. The Program’s Undergraduate Fellows Forum provides opportunities for Princeton undergraduates to interact with Madison Program Visiting Fellows and speakers.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, is Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.



The Witherspoon Institute

The Witherspoon Institute promotes the application of fundamental principles of republican government and ordered liberty to contemporary problems through a variety of academic and other educational ventures.

The Institute carries out its educational mission by providing seminars and similar opportunities to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to examine the moral foundations of political, philosophical, and social thought. Its online journal, Public Discourse, publishes daily articles to foster constructive public discussions about what the Institute believes to be the five pillars of every decent and dynamic society: the individual, the family, the university, the market economy, and the state. Finally, the Institute sponsors grass-roots efforts to educate the general public about the nature and importance of marriage and family life through its CanaVox initiative.

Rice University

The Houston Institute

The mission of the Houston Institute is to help the people of Rice University think deeply about the best way to live. At the Institute we: (i) consider enduring works of thought and art through the study of the humanities, especially philosophy and literature; (ii) seek to help students think about some of the most pressing modern-day issues as raised by emerging technologies; (iii) have a special interest in classical accounts of human flourishing: in questions of virtue and vice, and in the natural law tradition.

Through targeted reading groups, public lectures, and other events, we foster a community of honest and rigorous intellectual exchange that explores what it means to live a good life. Students from all backgrounds and perspectives are welcome.

Stanford University

The Program in Neuroscience and Ethics Stanford

The Program in Neuroscience and Ethics seeks to understand and defend human flourishing in the face of advancing biotechnology, concentrating on two interconnected projects related to advances in bio- and information technology and consequent challenges to society’s understanding of the human person. The first, centered at the University of California’s Innovative Genomics Institute, convenes high-level discussions on the ethics of gene editing technologies. The second, The Boundaries of Humanity, is an interdisciplinary faculty seminar at Stanford, which considers the advances across a broad front in the social, natural, and technological science that are challenging our traditional notions of human nature. The Program also sponsors a for-credit course at Stanford medical school entitled Social and Ethical Issues in the Neurosciences, taught by Program director Dr. William Hurlbut, covering a broad range of ethical issues.




The Zephyr Institute

The Zephyr Institute is a community of scholars, students and professionals committed to gaining a fuller understanding of the human person and the common good. Though independent of Stanford, it conducts many of its programs on campus and in cooperation with University faculty.

The Institute studies the perennial questions about the nature of the good life in order to help scholars evaluate the effects of emerging social, technological and cultural trends. The Institute provides a wide range of programming for the Stanford and Silicon Valley communities throughout the year.


University of California, Berkeley
The Berkeley Institute

Based near the University of California, Berkeley, the Berkeley Institute was founded in 2013 to explore the enduring principles of reason and order that underlie intellectual inquiry. Led by senior faculty of the University, the Institute maintains an extensive schedule of multi-week seminars, lectures, and conferences, covering a wide range of subjects, from Flannery O’Connor to the Big Bang. Though independent of the University, the Institute’s fellows come from ten U.C. Berkeley departments.

The Institute’s programs introduce undergraduates and graduate students to the great works of the classical and Christian traditions, while also offering a sustained, open, and rigorous encounter with contemporary thought. The Institute is particularly committed to preparing students for positions of academic leadership.

University of Chicago

The Chicago Moral Philosophy Project Chicago

The Chicago Moral Philosophy Project enhances the curriculum in moral philosophy for graduates and undergraduates to foster productive discussion about character and living well. The project sponsors for-credit courses in theoretical and applied ethics in addition to hosting an esteemed moral philosophy scholar in the University’s Department of Philosophy each spring. This scholar teaches a graduate-undergraduate for-credit course, leads a faculty-doctoral student-reading group, and provides special advising to students.

Candace Vogler, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago and Chair of Virtue Theory for the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, is the Project’s founder.




Hyde Park Institute

The Hyde Park Institute sponsors research and programming that advance the study, teaching, and practice of living well. The Institute supports research on questions of character and value, conduct and policy, practical wisdom, leadership, and moral education. Working with senior faculty, the Institute seeks to cultivate future generations of scholars and to help students integrate thoughtful concern about how one should live into their study, their lives, and their work. From a core focus in philosophy, the Hyde Park Institute works to strengthen and inform current and future leaders in business, medicine, law, and other fields.






University of Pennsylvania

The Penn Initiative for the Study of Markets
Website Forthcoming

The Penn Initiative for the Study of Markets is hosted by the Department of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and is dedicated to teaching and researching the role and foundations of markets in contemporary society. The program sponsors three undergraduate courses at the University: The Foundations of Market Economies, The Political Economy of Early America, and History of Economic Thought. 

Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, directs the Initiative. He has received the Kravis Prize for outstanding undergraduate teaching in recognition of his contributions to the economics curriculum at Penn over the last two years.




Collegium Institute

The Collegium Institute is an independent, scholarly foundation established in 2013 by faculty, alumni, students, and friends of the University of Pennsylvania. Its programs draw current academic learning into conversation with the Catholic intellectual tradition, as well as with the tradition of classical thought more broadly. In so doing, it cultivates reflection on the catholic (universal) questions that cut across research specializations and on the unity of knowledge across the disciplines. In addition to a series of weekly seminars for undergraduates and graduate students, workshops in classical languages, and regular events, Collegium is devoted to several special programming initiatives: Medical Humanities, Philosophy of Finance, the Genealogies of Modernity Research Initiative, the Magi Project in Science, Faith, and Philosophy, and the Elizabeth Anscombe Archive & Legacy Project. 






University of Texas, Austin

The 21st Century Family Initiative UT
Website Forthcoming

Established in late 2018, the 21st Century Family Initiative, operating in the University of Texas’s College of Liberal Arts and directed by Professor Mark Regnerus, focuses on research and publication on sexual relationship behavior, marriage, and family flourishing. The Initiative also examines the conduct of social science in these areas, which is prone to exaggerations, falsifications, and anti-family perspectives out of step with the data.







Austin Institute

The Austin Institute strives to stay at the forefront of Texas’s vibrant intellectual life, exploring perennial questions of the good life, the importance of the family in society, and the larger context of human flourishing. Dedicated to serving the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Texas, as well as the larger Austin community, the Institute is also a national source for rigorous social science research, with a special emphasis on questions of family, sexuality, social structures and human relationships. From sponsoring debates to hosting regular reading groups, from publishing new studies to highlighting thoughtful research for the public, The Austin Institute’s vision is to create a better-informed, more intelligent public discourse.






Yale University
Elm Institute

The Elm Institute is dedicated to examining and cultivating the ideas, values, and practices that sustain flourishing societies. The Institute explores questions of deep human concern which cut across academic disciplines, with a particular focus on the place of liberal education in contemporary society and the relationship between ethics and economics. Throughout the year, Elm provides a range of programming for Yale students and New Haven professionals, while its summer seminars attract students and scholars from around the world. Senior faculty from Yale and five other top universities serve as fellows of Elm, and the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat as its writer-in-residence.


The Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education supports only pre-selected programs. For more information, please contact us.