The success of the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) at Kenyon was first driven by a major startup grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that the College has now amplified with matching donor contributions.
The 2007 NEH We the People Challenge grant of $710,000 has been matched, as required, by $2,130,000 in donations to Kenyon. CSAD’s endowment now stands at $2.8 million and is expected to grow. This endowment and additional operating gifts provide nonpartisan campus programming and civil discourse on important and controversial issues of the day.
“The center has been a huge success with first-rate conferences and speakers on cutting-edge issues of national importance,” said Brackett Denniston ’69, vice chair of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees and supporter of CSAD. “It is a model of what we desperately need in this country — civil discourse on issues with a view to addressing our toughest challenges. We are fortunate to have the center at Kenyon, which enhances the Kenyon learning experience.”
President Sean Decatur helped host the 2014 CSAD conference on “The Politics of Economic Inequality.” “The conference this spring was a wonderful example of lively debate informed by the nation’s leading economists engaging with Kenyon students in both formal and informal settings,” Decatur said. “Our community benefits greatly from the people and programs that the Center for the Study of American Democracy brings to our campus.”
The NEH grant provided seed money for the endowment and the growth of the center, which formally launched in 2008. "This is a moment to acknowledge the NEH for its leadership and express our gratitude to the many donors who contributed to this match," said Thomas Karako, CSAD director and assistant professor of political science. "We would also like to especially thank the Thomas W. Smith Foundation for its support," he added. "While Kenyon was raising endowment gifts for the NEH match, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation stepped forward to provide the basis for robust CSAD operations. Without it, we would not have been able to operate at the tempo we have achieved in recent years."
The center organizes conferences, lectures and seminars with the goal of stimulating nonpartisan civic and political discourse. A biennial conference at Kenyon has been a programming highlight and has tackled issues including economic inequality, the future of political parties and the promotion of democracy abroad. The center has organized an on-campus debate between candidates for the U.S. Congress; hosted media, political and academic speakers from across the political spectrum; and provided a lecture series on topics such as cultural and socioeconomic divisions in the U.S., issues of economic growth, and the constitutionality of national security surveillance.
The center also provides teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students, including the summer CSAD Democracy Scholars Program, and promotes student internships and programs in Washington, D.C.
The NEH supports research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities by funding top-rated competitive, peer-reviewed proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. The endowment was created by the U.S. Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 and has generated more than $1.6 billion in support for the humanities.