As an active conservative college student, Zachary Freeman recognized that something was missing from political discourse: a national forum for young conservative voices. So in 2011 he founded TheCollegeConservative.com, a website where young conservatives from across the country address topics ranging from the college experience to national issues affecting young people.
TheCollegeConservative.com soon became a member of ISI’s Collegiate Network of independent student publications, and in 2012 it received the Collegiate Network’s Best New Media Award. It has reached some two million readers since its founding. Zachary has appeared several times as a commentator on Fox News and worked at Glenn Beck’s Blaze television network.
Recognizing the limits of the modern university education, Zachary has also immersed himself in ISI’s educational content and leadership programs, including the CN Editor’s Conference. He recently spoke with ISI about his experiences as a young conservative leader and what he is planning next.
- How did you get involved with ISI?
I first learned of ISI during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2012. ISI provided some wonderful programs with outstanding speakers that I was fortunate enough to hear. Shortly thereafter, a representative from ISI’s Collegiate Network followed up with me to discuss how the website I helped found, TheCollegeConservative.com, might partner with the CN. It turned into a great brainstorming session that resulted in an extended partnership between TCC and the Collegiate Network, which to this day provides an outlet for conservative expression and thought to college students around the world.
- What has been the highlight of your undergraduate experience?
Sadly, America’s universities are failing my generation. I began my college career at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga but have done my education primarily online (I now study at Fort Hays State University in Kansas). This has enabled me to free up more time to educate myself and make use of the great educational resources that ISI provides. There aren’t many highlights in public university education anymore, nor are the majority of graduates able to fulfill the needs of the job market. This is yet another reason why the mission, network, and materials of ISI are so crucial for college students.
- What have you valued most about your ISI experience?
Whenever I need anything, whether it is books, speakers, advice, or moral support, ISI has always stepped up to provide. I know ISI does that for all its students, but the level of personal involvement from an organization as large as ISI is unmatched. It is a huge bonus for a student who, at times, feels overwhelmed by leftist activism and educational politics.
- How have you spent your summers while in college?
I’ve been hugely blessed to be able to travel and work in some pretty cool places while in college. I had the opportunity to produce and film a documentary in Alaska last year, which opened the door for some ministry opportunities. I’ve also had the chance to attend a number of events and conferences, many hosted by ISI. Aside from the great intellectual value, they’re wonderful for networking as well.
- Whom do you admire most, and why?
German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Writing in a time when Christian truth was being trampled by citizens, governments, and even the church itself, Bonhoeffer became a martyr with a message he knew would be unpopular. Of course, he ended up being killed by the Nazis, but Bonhoeffer always delivered his speeches and words with power and gentleness, which is an incredibly rare skill. He faced his imminent death with courage and conviction, and never faltered in his commitment to truth.
- What advice would you give to other students who want to preserve the principles of liberty?
My advice would be this: be OK with being the black sheep. In all likelihood, you will be in the minority on your campus, and you need to study great men and women who have stood strong through adversity. Pray for strength and wisdom, and share your message as calmly and rationally as possible, not letting emotion and passion control the delivery of your message. Join an ISI group on campus, if there is one, and if not, start one. Give your campus the gift of intellectual growth.
- What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan to pursue an MBA or master’s of public administration. Once through that phase of life, I’ll wait to see what sphere of life God moves me into, whether it is public service, policy, or business.