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Clemson Great Books program looks to expand as it reaches 10 years

Other universities want to replicate the program, director says

A Clemson University program that “studies liberty, capitalism, the American founding, and moral character,” is reaching its 10-year-anniversary after starting in 2014.

C. Bradley Thompson, executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, called the Lyceum Program a “stunning success” that “exceeded all of my expectations.”

The program is housed within the capitalism institute.

“When we started the program nine years ago, 10 years ago, I had no idea what it was gonna turn into,” Thompson (pictured) told The College Fix during an in-person interview. Anticipating “30 to 50 applications” without a “marketing program” he said he was “shocked and delighted” to receive “192 applications.” The number has increased every year.

The Lyceum Scholars Program offers a $10,000 scholarship to incoming freshmen, “disbursed over their four years at Clemson University,” according to its website.

Students who complete the eight courses obtain a “Political and Legal Theory” minor.

The scholars and other students who choose to participate read Aristotle, Plato, Lincoln, John Locke, Karl Marx, and a host of other influential political thinkers over the past centuries.

Thompson said the interest in the program, “over a thousand applications for next school year,” shows the value students and parents place on a quality education.

The future includes not just growing the program at Clemson, but potentially spreading to other universities.

“My hope and expectation is that in the next five years, we’re gonna double the size of both the scholars and the fellows program. And then, hopefully, you know, down the road, triple the size of the program,” Thompson said. “My hope is that the Lyceum program will eventually one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, become not just a program, but maybe even a department or a college within the university.”

“Beyond Clemson, my hope is that, that the Lyceum idea, the Lyceum experience, the Lyceum model is going to spread around the country,” he said.

“There are now several universities, major universities, that are trying to implement Lyceum-like programs,” he said.

“Just [recently] I took a phone call from an administrator at a university in Indiana wanting to know about Lyceum,” he said.

He mentioned the University of Tennessee and Arizona State University as two other universities that are moving toward creating a similar program.

“My hope is that ultimately there’ll be a Lyceum-like program at most major universities in the United States.”

‘I’ve devoured timeless classics like Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’ Leviathan’

Several students shared their thoughts on the program during in person interviews.

“Being in the Lyceum program has allowed me to explore a variety of thinkers and worldviews that I would not otherwise have been exposed to,” Emma Culberson, a senior and scholarship winner, told The Fix. “It is nice to be surrounded by peers who are also asking themselves the Big Questions,” the chemical engineering student said.

Charlotte Cross, a junior scholar within the program, explained why she chose to participate in the program.

“I chose Clemson because of its Lyceum Program, which I had yearned to participate in for years. My time in the program has surpassed my wildest dreams.” Cross told The Fix. “I’ve devoured timeless classics like Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’ Leviathan and discussed them with other highly motivated students (some of whom are my best friends) in and out of class,” the junior said.

Professor Thompson shared that the Lyceum Program boasts multiple success stories from amongst its students.

“[T]he quality of students, I mean, it was always great, from the very first year the students have been fantastic,” he said. “We’ve had some genuine accomplishments with our students the last few years.”

This success includes “two Fulbright Scholars and a Rhodes Scholar,” alongside other students who have continued to pursue advanced degrees after leaving the program at multiple prestigious universities, Thompson said.

“So, you know, it’s just been by every standard of measurement an extraordinary success.”

Editor’s note: Raleigh Adams is a fellow in the Lyceum Program.

MORE: College founded on Great Books and Montessori slated to open

IMAGES: Clemson University; Stocksnap/Pixabay

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Raleigh Adams is a student at Clemson University Honors College where she is studying political science and philosophy with an emphasis in the great books. She recently founded the Clemson Review, as well as the university's Thomistic Institute chapter. She was a 2022 Hudson Institute Political Studies fellow.