About the Program

The McConnell Scholars are provided with the following programmatic opportunities:

Academic Enrichment

Liberal Arts Education: Lectures & Seminars

Scholars regularly take part in liberal arts seminars and "great book" discussions. Topics vary considerably and have included sessions on "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter" as well as "Augustine's Confessions" and "Plato's Republic." Outside of the Program, Scholars excel in a variety of disciplines including the arts, engineering, music, pre-medicine, pre-law and political science, among others.

Seminar leaders include authors, professors, visiting guests, McConnell Center Senior Fellows, McConnell Center alumni and current scholars. Often, seminars require supplemental readings, including online articles and excerpts from books and novels.

Each Fall and Spring, the McConnell Center hosts a series of public lectures.  In the past, series topics have included "reTHINKing Big Ideas" and "Remembering America."

Though open to the public, the lectures often coincide with the McConnell Scholar seminars and further supplement the in-class instruction that scholars receive.

Leadership Enrichment

A Distinguished Legacy: Connecting Leaders of Today with Kentucky's Leaders of Tomorrow

For the past 20 years, the McConnell Center has welcomed numerous political leaders and public servants to the University of Louisville. These leaders represent all levels and branches of government and run the full political spectrum. McConnell Scholars meet privately with these leaders, asking hard-hitting policy questions and gaining insight into Washington politics and advice about internship and career paths.

Former speakers have included the U.S. President and Vice President, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, heads of state, foreign ambassadors and U.S. cabinet members.

Service: Giving Back

Scholars participate in about 400 hours of community service each semester. Projects vary annually, but recurring favorites include Halloween at the Zoo, Project Warm, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Habitat for Humanity. Scholars are required to submit at least 35 hours of community service per semester, and will often exceed the minimum due to the volunteer opportunities offered to them through the McConnell Center and the University of Louisville.

See the World: Travel as a Scholar

Washington, D.C.

Every two years, the freshmen and sophomore McConnell Scholars travel to Washington, D.C., meeting with politicians and their staffs, policy analysts and experts. Visits to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol and Mt. Vernon are part of the traditional itinerary.


McConnell Scholars also venture to the People's Republic of China for an extended summer study abroad program after their junior year. In addition to studying Chinese politics and government at a Chinese university, McConnell Scholars travel to Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai.

Harvard University's Institute of Politics: National Campaign

The McConnell Center is one of 25 member institutions participating in Harvard University’s Institute of Politics’ National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement. This consortium works to promote voting and civic engagement on college campuses throughout the U.S.

Each fall, the National Campaign hosts a conference on Harvard’s campus, bringing student representatives to attend skills workshops, share the work they have done in the past year to promote civic engagement at their schools and brainstorm ways to encourage students all over the country to become more politically and civically engaged.

Two McConnell Scholars are selected, based on program performance, to become National Campaign Ambassadors each academic year. These students are selected because of their outstanding dedication to their communities and commitment to fostering a civically minded campus. Responsibilities for National Campaign Ambassadors include collaborating with other school Ambassadors on shared project or awareness campaigns, participating in the annual conference, contributing to the IOP blog and participating in consortium-wide virtual events.

Past McConnell Scholar National Campaign Ambassadors have included: