New Grad School for DC Professionals Opens Classes Today

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WASHINGTON, DC – Classes open today at the Steve and Amy Van Andel School of Government, a new graduate school of Hillsdale College. Based out of Hillsdale’s Washington, D.C. campus on Capitol Hill, the Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, the school is aimed at working professionals in government, law, think tanks, media, and non-profits. It will confer a Master of Arts in Government.

Hillsdale College is notable among institutions of higher education for its emphasis on the American Founding and political philosophy. This approach of bringing historical wisdom and principles to contemporary life will carry over to the new graduate school. Matthew Spalding, dean of the Van Andel School of Government, feels that bringing Hillsdale’s special focus on the American political tradition to the DC professional class has the potential to improve the quality of American governance. “The political world of today is dominated by ideologues, bureaucrats, and unprincipled politicians,” said Spalding. “What we need are more statesmen, so we will teach future leaders about politics and statecraft guided by principles and prudence.”

The inaugural class is made up of fifteen students drawn from congressional staff, federal agencies, media, and the legal profession. This semester, they will take The Art of Governing, the cornerstone course for the program, which will be taught by Hillsdale’s president, Larry P. Arnn. Typical of Hillsdale’s approach, the readings will range from Aristotle to Abraham Lincoln.

Arnn drew a direct connection between the school and the mission of the Founding Fathers who will be studied there. "The purpose of our School of Government is taken from the example of the founders of our nation,” said Arnn. “George Washington led several of them in an unsuccessful effort to build a school of statesmanship. It would teach the principles of the nation and what Jefferson called in another context ‘the elemental books of public right’ in which those principles are best explained. Beginning with the classics, our school of government will pursue that same task."

David Azerrad, an Assistant Professor and Research Fellow, elaborated on what will distinguish the course of study at this new school. "The Kirby Center is in the swamp, but not of the swamp," said David Azerrad. "We study and teach politics as it is practiced, but we draw from the great works of political theory — Aristotle, Locke, the Founders, Lincoln — and the not so great works — Wilson, Marcuse, Rawls — to illuminate contemporary debates."

Matthew Mehan, Hillsdale College’s D.C. director of academic programs, stressed that not only will students study the philosophical basis of governance, they will also sharpen their practical skills. “Our actively engaged, professional graduate students also examine the practical use of principle and power in a variety of courses ranging from Grand Strategy, to Politicking and Electioneering, to Legislative Prudence,” said Mehan. “These last kinds of courses are often taught by high level practitioners in the art of government — another advantage of offering the degree here in D.C."

Courses will be taught by Hillsdale College’s D.C. faculty including Azerrad, former director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics and AWC Family Foundation Fellow at the Heritage Foundation; Michael Anton, a former George W. Bush and Donald Trump national security staffer; Arnn; Mehan; and Spalding. Additionally, courses will be taught by members of Hillsdale’s main campus faculty, including Ronald J. Pestritto and Paul Rahe, as well as by guest practitioners.

Anton, the former presidential staffer, placed high standing upon his work at Hillsdale. "Apart from my family, without a doubt the greatest blessing I have ever received was my education. I am grateful to Hillsdale College for allowing me to share what I have learned. To be entrusted to transmit the most important truths to future generations is at once humbling and a great honor. I can think of no more important work."

The 36-credit hour program is made up of classes in three core areas: political thought and culture, American politics, and statecraft. Classes will be held on evenings and weekends during the fall, spring, and summer semesters to accommodate the schedules of professionals.

More information about the Van Andel School of Government can be found at

Bill Zeiser is editor of RealClearPolicy.

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