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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The 2018 FEE Summer Seminar Season Was Our Biggest Yet

Over a thousand young people attended a FEE summer seminar this year, a 24 percent increase from 2017.

FEE’s programs team recently concluded our largest and most ambitious summer seminar season to date. Attracting over 120 students to Emory University in Atlanta, the “Leadership in Action” seminar marked the end of two full months of nearly non-stop action for FEE after traveling across the country to host ten life-changing seminars for 774 high school and 356 college students.

Our fastest growth ever continues to come from the high school student audience, with a 24 percent increase in attendance over 2017. These seminars were a resounding success, embodying FEE’s core mission by opening up young people everywhere to free-market ideas, the virtues of entrepreneurship and the absolute necessity of strong personal character.

Here’s What We Did

The programs season kicked off in May with the “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” seminar, hosted at Clemson University in partnership with the Clemson Institute of the Study of Capitalism. This dynamic seminar attracted college students and young professionals from multiple countries and across the United States, all coming together for three days of engaging discussions and activities exploring from the nature of rights to the history and moral foundations of capitalism. Even with the Clemson seminar concluding less than two weeks before FEECon 2018 in Atlanta, fifteen Clemson attendees were inspired to join over 300 fellow students at the conference.

The busiest stretch of the seminar season began in mid-June, starting with FEE’s first-ever visit to Nashville.

Following Clemson, FEE journeyed to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, for a seminar in partnership with the American Studies Institute’s National Leadership Forum. The event’s theme was “Real Heroes,” in honor of Lawrence Reed’s book with the same title. Mr. Reed joined Burt Folsom and five other faculty members for a week of engaging talks and group activities for FEE’s largest three-day seminar of the summer with over 130 high school students in attendance.

The busiest stretch of the seminar season began in mid-June, starting with FEE’s first-ever visit to Nashville where we hosted a three-day seminar at Vanderbilt University. The new location drew in 89 high school students from across the United States, including dozens of local students who had not yet been exposed to a FEE seminar and were new to the “freedom philosophy.” Student-favorite speakers Jared Meyer, Jeff Proctor, and Michael Clark led several intellectually-stimulating lectures and discussions with the students on how economic education provides indispensable skills for young people entering a rapidly-changing economy.

Following Nashville, FEE returned to beautiful Chapman University in Orange, California—now the fifth seminar we’ve hosted here!—for an entrepreneurship-themed program that drew nearly 100 high school students. In between inspiring talks from FEE’s new Director of Entrepreneurial Education T.K. Coleman, students were challenged by Brian Brenberg and FEE’s popular Out of Frame video to reconsider the nefarious image of business leaders as they are represented in popular culture.

After a Fourth of July break, FEE was all hands on deck to put on simultaneous seminars.

At the end of June, FEE experimented with a different seminar model, holding a day camp that provided four days of content to an exclusively local audience at Ronald Reagan Public High School in San Antonio, Texas. Many of the attendees were high schoolers who are aspiring to become first-generation college students. This FEE seminar was their first exposure to economic education and its value for their future careers.

After a Fourth of July break, FEE was all hands on deck to put on simultaneous seminars at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, and Lindenwood University in St. Louis, Missouri. Cedarville faculty, joined by FEE lecturers Brian Brenberg and Lawrence Reed, made connections between capitalism and faith as the foundation for a moral and just society. In addition to stimulating conversation with faculty members, the 85 high school students in attendance were treated to a full tour of the Cedarville campus. At Lindenwood, FEE Faculty members Bruce Rottman, T.K. Coleman, and Antony Davies challenged 62 high schoolers to use their unique abilities and interests to create value and make a positive difference in the world without waiting for permission from an external power or authority figure.

We concluded the summer with a three-day high school seminar at Emory University in FEE’s own backyard.

FEE’s next seminar brought 112 high school students—including 57 from the state of Colorado—to the University of Denver, another first-time destination for FEE. The audience was treated to talks from Jeff Proctor, Jared Meyer, and Kathleen Sheehan, who offered real-life examples of entrepreneurs who successfully apply economic thinking in the face of state-imposed obstacles.

Finally, we concluded the summer with a three-day high school seminar at Emory University in FEE’s own backyard. With many other FEE staff on hand to witness this local seminar experience, 121 students were given countless real-world examples of how leaders thrive in the world of business using economic thinking, including a screening of FEE’s “How We Thrive” film on Magatte Wade, a female entrepreneur in Senegal.

Why Our Seminars Are So Important

Across all ten seminars this summer, 1,110 high school and college students were not only exposed to the legal, economic, and ethical principles of a free society but also participated in hands-on activities to see how these ideas are realized in practice and how they can be applied to their lives. The trading game, for example, was a student-favorite at every seminar. With goods as small as bouncy balls and gummy bears, students experienced first-hand the increase in happiness when barriers to trade are eased or eliminated altogether.

All seminar attendees from this summer were inducted into the ever-growing FEE Alumni Network, which now numbers over 20,000.

With the trading game as a primer, seminar students were also tasked with collaborating to find a market-oriented solution to whatever social problem they deemed most important. With only two hours of prep and three minutes to present, students put together innovative and entrepreneurial business plans to tackle problems large and small, from global poverty to protecting consumers with food allergies. As part of every proposal, students employed their new skills in economic thinking to consider the short- and long-term effects of their solution.

All seminar attendees from this summer were inducted into the ever-growing FEE Alumni Network (FAN), which now numbers over 20,000. Through FAN, students remain connected to FEE, receiving invitations to events near them and information about career or educational opportunities with partner organizations. FAN also serves as a permanent network of like-minded individuals—young people passionate about free-market ideas and the freedom philosophy.

FEE’s summer seminars also provided students with an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones—traveling across the country on their own (most for the first time), staying in a college dorm room, meeting new people, and grappling with new ideas. Whether it was through crafting a business plan to help young students safely walk home from school after a late-night soccer game or from discovering the beauty of the “freedom philosophy,” lifelong friendships were forged and thousands of minds were forever changed—once again demonstrating why FEE seminars are a once-in-a-lifetime chance for young people to learn, grow, and flourish.

According to Robert Levy, Chairman of the Cato Institute,

Reaching high school and college students—especially those hearing it for the first time—with an inspiring message of liberty, character, and economics, is critical to our country’s future. FEE has done a superb job of enlisting “newcomers” in the crusade for free minds and free markets. Someday, when the right people in the right places change policy for the better, they may well have been spurred on by a FEE seminar or online course, a FEE book or article, or the FEE website.

And we couldn’t do it without you and your generous support. 

  • The Foundation for Economic Education, founded 1946, works for a free and prosperous world.