Morgan Brownfield is originally from York, South Carolina, and just finished her junior year studying Politics and Classical Education at Hillsdale College. While at Hillsdale, she has participated in various Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) book clubs, the George Washington Fellowship Program, the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, and the Collegiate Scholars Program. After she graduates, Morgan hopes either to go to graduate school to study theology, political theory, or classical education, or spend a few years gaining experience before heading to graduate school.
- How did you find out about ISI? What drew you to get involved in ISI's programming?
I found out about ISI through friends who had participated in various seminars as well as the ISI Honors Program. They spoke so highly of the culture and hospitality. What truly convinced me to become involved with the Institute, though, was the way that my friends described how ISI students and professors alike possessed a respect for, desire for, and slavish submission to the knowledge and diffusion of the light of truth. Once accepted into the Honors Program, I was delighted to discover a network of professors and students, cultivated and fostered by ISI, that exceeded my expectations.
- If you had to choose one highlight of your undergraduate experience, what would it be?
The highlight of my undergraduate career has been the meals. Now, Hillsdale did get a new (and much better) meal service provider recently, but this has nothing to do with it. The dining hall has facilitated the best conversations that I've had in my entire life. In The Idea of a University, Newman captures this sentiment well: “When a multitude of young men—keen, open-hearted, sympathetic, and observant, as young men are—come together and freely mix with each other, they are sure to learn from one another, even if there be no one to teach them; the conversation of all is a series of lectures to each, and they gain for themselves new ideas and views, fresh matter of thought, and distinct principles for judging and acting, day by day.” Those casual conversations, as well as the ones on porches, in office hours, and on walks, have been the most formative and favorite and influential, each one ordering the world a bit more in our minds and hearts.
- What have you valued most about your ISI experience?
I value ISI's commitment to facilitating great conversations. If we are to preserve and conserve that which is great about Western civilization, that is the way it must be done. ISI makes this possible by structuring its programming to organically produce this continual conversation about ourselves, our past, and the ideas that informed both. ISI's programming does this through hospitality and socratic style discussions, as well as encouraging professors to spend time mentoring and interacting with students over shared meals, hospitality, and free time. In addition to all this, ISI provides forums to continue this conversation through mentorship programs, intercollegiate review, and follow-up seminars. These conversations are the best way, and perhaps the only way, to preserve the essential elements of the cultural and idealogical tradition that influenced so much of what we take for granted today.
- How have you spent your summers while in college?
After my first summer, I gained experience interning in DC through the the Charles Koch Institute. By the summer after, I had figured out my interests a bit more and was able to pursue those through the ISI Honors Program and an intensive leadership training program taking place in New York and the Middle East. This summer, I'll be keeping traveling around Greece with the Collegiate Scholars Program at my college, the Traditions of Freedom seminar at the Hertog Foundation, and a seminar on the Theologicopolitical question at the Witherspoon Institute.
- Whom do you admire most, and why?
I have such great admiration for my parents. They have dedicated their lives to giving my brother and I as many opportunities as possible, whether it be teaching the seventh grade, showing us iconic wonders around the world, teaching us common-sense farming skills, or passing on their lived experience and spirituality. As I encounter new ideas, they are so thrilled to participate in the process of discovering, understanding, and incorporating them with me. They are submissive to truth and virtue, often instinctively understanding what is right in each situation, having the wisdom of past generations, a knowledge of the natural world, and the grace of God to guide their decision making process. They have shown a diligence and devotion in their love toward me that I hope to parallel one day.
- What advice would you give to other students who want to preserve the principles of liberty?
Students who want to preserve the principles of liberty should start conversations about those things that we all share in common and the goods at which they aim. If we do not communicate, we will become barbarous to one another. After all, to be "barbarian" one must merely be incomprehensible to or incommunicable with those around him. This can happen on a civilizational level, too. That is why it is so important to facilitate and participate in a "conversatio civilis," a continual dialogue among citizens, to establish continuity amongst each other, the natural world around us, and between citizens past, present, and future. Find places—dining halls, porches, ISI conferences, book clubs—to do this important and inherently worthwhile work.