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Christendom’s political science and economics department will offer the James Madison Fellowship in political theory and practice this summer, during which student fellows will simulate the work of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Christendom’s political science and economics department will offer the James Madison Fellowship in political theory and practice this summer, during which student fellows will simulate the work of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by debating and constructing the nation’s fundamental law. This marks the second year of the summer fellowship, following the highly successful inaugural fellowship last year.

The fellowship, which takes place over the course of three weeks, is hosted by the political science department’s Tocqueville Forum, which offers lectures, seminars, reading groups, and more each year to interested students. During the fellowship, students will gain experience in formal and impromptu debates as they take on the roles of individual Founding Fathers during the Constitutional Convention, broadening and deepening their understanding and appreciation of the principles and ideals of the American Founding.

Political science professors Dr. Kevin Burns and Dr. Joseph Brutto were inspired to create the fellowship after students expressed the desire to go deeper into American history and American politics at the college. Burns and Brutto decided to create an opportunity outside of the regular semester, where students would have more time and be able to engage with the content in a way that is not as possible during a regular, 18 credit hour semester.

“If our students are supposed to work toward restoring all things in Christ, including the temporal order, they need to have a familiarity with their own regime and how it works so they can improve it,” says Burns. “The question we have to face in 2022 isn’t what we wished we had. The political question we face as faithful Catholics and faithful citizens is what we can do with what we have, today, in 2022. That’s Aristotle’s approach from Politics book IV: you don’t really need to philosophize to discover the best theoretical regime, you need to work out the best version of your own regimethat is, the best regime possible under the circumstances.”

During the fellowship, students will gain experience in formal and impromptu debates as they take on the roles of individual Founding Fathers, broadening and deepening their understanding and appreciation of the principles and ideals of the American Founding.

During the fellowship, students will gain experience in formal and impromptu debates as they take on the roles of individual Founding Fathers during the Constitutional Convention, broadening and deepening their understanding and appreciation of the principles and ideals of the American Founding.

The James Madison Fellowship was offered for the first-time last year, with 18 students enrolled in the fellowship last summer. Over the course of three weeks, they learned about the Founders’ political theory, federalism and state powers, republican theory and representation, natural rights and government power, and more. For Burns, Brutto, and the students involved, it was an enjoyable experience that was unlike anything they had previously taken at Christendom.

“Since they take on the roles of individual founders, they have to approach class differently,” says Burns. “They come in, having tried to amass a lot of information about what their founder thinks, but they have to present that material as an argument, hopefully persuade people, and be able to respond to counter arguments. It’s a very different approach to teaching a class from a lecture, or even a seminar. It really does make students think through questions from multiple angles and work out the strong points and weak spots of various arguments. And having made the arguments themselves, they do tend to retain the information really well. It’s a winner, as far as I’m concerned.”

For rising senior Caroline McDermott, who took the fellowship last summer, the experience was enlightening and gave her a greater understanding and appreciation for the Constitution.

“Upon taking the Madison Fellowship Summer Program, I learned a great deal of how nuanced and tedious forming the constitution was, therefore giving me a greater appreciation of what went into the constructing this new constitution,” says McDermott. This course was enlightening, and it helped me develop the skill of negotiating and diplomacy, and overall an intriguing course.”

Fifteen students are currently enrolled in this year’s fellowship, which will take place on campus from August 1-19, giving them the opportunity grow in their knowledge of American history and politics as well, better preparing them to make an impact on society for the better after college.

For more information on the James Madison Fellowship, visit here.

Christendom’s political science and economics department will offer the James Madison Fellowship in political theory and practice this summer, during which student fellows will simulate the work of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
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