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We are an interdisciplinary program that seeks to foster understanding of the institutions, ideas and aspirations that have played an important role in American society and public life. Using methodologies from different disciplines, we study the origin and evolution of political, legal, economic and cultural institutions, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, the common law system, the National Parks System, the mass media, corporations, agricultural cooperatives, and public schools. We also examine how political ideals and beliefs about human flourishing have shaped American institutions. Particular emphasis is placed on the American Founding. 

There are many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in our program. Each year, we sponsor several courses that focus on American ideas and institutions, as well as the Visions of Freedom and American Experience Focus Programs. Undergraduates are also welcome to attend the Humor and Politics Working Group. Finally, we work with students involved in the Visions of Freedom Living Learning Community to plan speakers, trips and other events. Click here to learn more about the Living Learning Community.

AVI also sponsors numerous conferences, film screenings and lectures by distinguished scholars and public figures. Past speakers include founding editor of The Onion Scott Dikkers, the political philosopher Charles Taylor, former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, and the historian Gordon Wood. Click here to see the list of speakers who have presented in the AVI Lecture Series.

The Gerst Program was the predecessor to the Program in American Values and Institutions. It aimed at fostering an understanding of the central importance of freedom for democratic government, moral responsibility, and economic and cultural life. Click here to learn more about the history of American Values and Institutions.