Expecting high school students to adopt a “Great Books” approach to learning about leadership and political greatness, may be asking a lot.

Classroom image of summer scholars in leadership class

High school students learn about leadership and political greatness in a Summer Scholars Program class.
Image Credit: College of Business

That was the task for 17 high school students enrolled in “Leadership and the Case for Greatness,” a Clemson University Summer Scholars class. And according to professors Michael Hoffpauir, assistant professor of political science and Marjorie Jeffrey of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, it was mission accomplished for the students, many of whom plan to become future Tigers.

“We didn’t know what to expect with students this age, given this was a seminar class that required a lot of reading and active participation from the students,” said Hoffpauir, who is associate director of the Lyceum Scholars Program in Clemson University’s Institute for the Study of Capitalism. “But students hit the ground running on the first day, and the topic was prudence in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. These were intelligent, engaged students who took learning about politics and leadership very seriously.”

The College of Business’ Clemson University Institute for the Study of Capitalism is the first and only university-based teaching and research center dedicated to examining the moral foundations of capitalism. Each year, 10 Lyceum Scholars receive scholarships to study the moral, political and economic conditions of a free way of life.

Summer Scholars logoClemson’s Summer Scholars program has existed in some form for more than 40 years. This summer, more than 500 seventh-grade to high school seniors are registered for more than 25 courses over an eight-week period.

Hoffpauir said his and Jeffrey’s students had required reading prior to their week-long class beginning, and the class met five hours each day, tantamount to a half-semester being “crammed into a week.”

“For us to have effective, serious conversations on complex political issues, sustained attention and respectful discourse were required,” he said. “During all of our discussions, students addressed each other formally as Mr. and Ms. and conducted themselves in a mature and responsible manner. If these students are any indication of what the future holds for Clemson, we’re in good shape.”

Michael Hoffpauir leads a summer scholars leadership class.
Image Credit: College of Business

The class required students to engage with each other in a Socratic-style seminar environment with an emphasis on developing civil discourse. They studied history, political science, ethics, rhetoric and philosophy through various eras of leadership, including those of Aristotle, William Shakespeare, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.

Camille Swanson ’17 graduate in economics and director of the Summer Scholars program said she enjoyed partnering with the Clemson University Institute for the Study of Capitalism and the Lyceum program in bringing “Leadership and the Case for Greatness” to the summer program.

“As a College of Business graduate, I benefited from some of the curriculum offered through the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. These courses introduced new ideas to me in a thought-provoking format, and I thought “Leadership and the Case for Greatness” could offer some similar experiences to the bright high school students we serve. It was a pleasure working with professors Hoffpauir and Jeffrey in introducing this enlightening curriculum to Summer Scholars.”

Two current business students served as counselors for the leadership class. Carly Bouts, an economics major and Zachary Turpin, a business management major, mentored students on the Clemson experience and served as tour guides throughout the week.

“In order for there to be active and thoughtful participation in a seminar structure like this, students need to come prepared to advance the discussions,” Hoffpauir said. “I can say unequivocally that the students were mature, informed and respectful of one another. The result was a great learning experience by a group of students who clearly want to make a difference in this world.”

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