The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is delighted to welcome the Institute for Advancing American Values at Boise State University, the Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship at Florida Southern College, the Humanities Center at Miami University, and the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at the University of Oklahoma into the Oases of Excellence network.
Oases of Excellence are outstanding programs at colleges and universities across the country that are dedicated to educating students for informed citizenship in a free society by maintaining the highest academic standards, introducing students to the best of the foundational arts and sciences, teaching American heritage, and ensuring free inquiry into a range of intellectual viewpoints. ACTA’s Oases of Excellence network now includes over 80 programs at a wide range of institutions. The network is a forum for sharing ideas and best practices for running an independent liberal arts program and serves as a valuable resource for donors who are committed to supporting academic excellence.
The Institute for Advancing American Values at Boise State University promotes open dialogue from multiple viewpoints about fundamental issues that have shaped America. The institute hosts Idaho Listens, a podcast for students and members of the public, as well as panel discussions and the Distinguished Lecture Series. Director Andrew Finstuen described the institute’s mission, saying, “The Institute for Advancing American Values is dedicated to a fundamental appreciation of people and their values to spur engagement, understanding, and human connection even as we may disagree with each other. This commitment energizes Boise State as a place of open inquiry and critical thought, and it reflects ACTA’s pledge to ‘safeguard the free exchange of ideas’ on campuses across the country.”
The Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship aims to “instill an entrepreneurial mindset and reinforce free enterprise principles” at Florida Southern College and in the surrounding community. The center offers academic programming, experiential learning, and mentorship. Justin Heacock, director of the center, remarked, “ACTA has a strong mission to promote academic excellence, academic freedom, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities, values that align greatly with Florida Southern College. We are proud to be recognized as an Oasis of Excellence as we continue to instill free enterprise principles and an entrepreneurial mindset to prepare the great entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”
Miami University’s Humanities Center promotes the study of the humanities campuswide through cross-disciplinary research groups, Humanities Labs, support for young faculty, and the Altman Program, described below. Director Timothy Melley commented, “It is an honor to have ACTA recognize the Humanities Center for our work on collaborative inquiry into grand challenges. Each year, we bring together teams of faculty, students, and visiting experts to lead our community in the study of problems like pandemic, climate change, and distrust in democratic institutions. These efforts demonstrate the enduring value of the humanities and the true purpose of higher education—which is to gain a deeper understanding of how we can work together toward a better society.”
The Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at the University of Oklahoma offers a concentration and a minor in Constitutional Studies, produces curricular resources for civic education, and supports a Society of Fellows. According to Director Jeremy D. Bailey, “The Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage (IACH) is a civic space for the public and offers constitutional studies for students. Our faculty value both teaching and scholarship, but, more importantly, they model how to read, write, and think about the most important texts in the American constitutional tradition, going all the way back to Greece and Rome. Most of all, like our fellow Oases of Excellence, the IACH offers an intellectual community to those who seek it.”
ACTA is proud of the work of these programs and is grateful to the faculty who make Oases of Excellence possible. ACTA President Michael Poliakoff remarked, “At a time when surveys reveal with chilling clarity how little college students understand about America’s free institutions and their history, these centers’ efforts to equip students for informed and engaged life are urgently needed. They model the vigorous, free discourse and intellectual diversity that are the lifeblood of our free society. They also encourage the rich life of the mind through deep engagement in the liberal arts.”
A complete list of ACTA’s Oases of Excellence can be found here.