Focus Programs are interdisciplinary clusters of courses designed for students in their first semester at Duke. AVI currently sponsors two Focus programs. The American Experience Focus Program examines the making and remaking of the United States from a variety of perspectives–historical, political, philosophical, religious, legal and literary. Meanwhile, the Visions of Freedom Focus Program explores competing conceptions of freedom and of their historical origins. Both programs should be of interest to students who are interested in American ideas, institutions, and politics. More information—including instructions about how to apply is available at the FOCUS website.
AVI Undergraduate Course Offerings
Political Science 206: American Values, Culture and Institutions
In this overview of early American political theory and development, we examine the competing political ideologies that influenced American political life from the colonial period to the Progressive Era. We also explore the origins and evolution of key political institutions—including congress, federalism, the presidency, and the Supreme Court, paying special attention to the ways in which these institutions shaped political outcomes.
We begin by examining several different ideologies—liberalism, republicanism and puritanism—that shaped colonial America. Then we explore the Revolution and Founding in considerable depth. Next, we analyze how institutions and ideologies influenced the emergence of the two party system, and the ongoing conflict about slavery that eventually resulted in the Civil War. The final unit covers Progressive Era reforms, including the creation of the National Parks system and the beginnings of the welfare state.
This course is offered every year, usually in the spring.
Other Opportunities for Students
AVI offers numerous co-curricular opportunities that allow students to develop a deeper understanding of the themes and issues covered in our courses. These opportunities are available to all students, regardless of whether they have taken one of our courses.
All students are welcome to attend our lectures and workshops, including our annual Constitution Day Lecture. 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. We also organize several dinners for undergraduates and political theory faculty each year, and offer a limited number of undergraduate research assistantships. Finally, we support the Visions of Freedom Living Learning Community. In addition to providing a living opportunity for students who are passionate about politics, philosophy and economics, the Living Learning Community regularly hosts events that are open to the whole student body.