Collegium Institute Student Fellows Program

The Collegium Institute Student Fellows form an undergraduate intellectual community at the University of Pennsylvania committed to exploring the past, present, and future of academic learning as a whole.  Student fellows show varying degrees of interest in the meaning of the liberal arts, the promise of the research university, and the study of the intellectual tradition of Catholicism or other religions in both contexts.  All, however, seek to reflect together upon the inter-relation of knowledge across the university.  They pursue the questions that transcend the disciplines, while striving to draw wisdom from each one.  

Student Fellows of the Collegium Institute are granted a number of academic opportunities, including:

  • Special Access to the Institute’s Guest Speakers and Faculty Senior Fellows, which includes invitations each semester to join the speakers’ dinners and private receptions after Collegium Institute events.  Past lecturers have included Michael Lewis, Ann Matter, John Haldane, Christy Wampole, Wilson Goode, Robert Wuthnow, Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Brad Gregory and other leading intellectuals from the United States and abroad.
  • Priority Admission to the Institute’s evening non-credit seminar, Coffee with the Classics, and the gift of the classical texts that accompany it.  Student Fellows are granted the privilege of opting into the seminar without having to submit a separate application.
  • Board Membership in the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn, which includes participation in event plotting and design, strategizing, and the direction and execution of publicity campaigns.
  • Invitation to lead the monthly Fellows’ ColloquiaThese colloquia are monthly luncheons that provide Student Fellows with leadership experience in directing the intellectual community of the Collegium Institute at Penn.  Each month a different fellow, in consultation with the Graduate Service Fellow, will have the option of (a) inviting a guest faculty member to lead a conversation on some topic relevant to the Fellows’ collective interests or (b) personally preparing and leading that conversation, or (c) workshopping some of his or her own writing or a planned research project on a theme likely to engage the other fellows (religion and the university, unity of knowledge, the liberal arts, etc.).

The Fellows Program is open to Penn students of all faiths and of none.

Undergraduates interested in applying should compose a brief essay of 300-500 words on one of the following topics:

(1) Should we have faith in the secular research university?  Explain why or why not according to one or more of the multiple senses of the question.

(2) Synthesize any thinker’s account of the relationship between faith and reason and then articulate your own understanding within the context of your studies at Penn.

(3) Why the liberal arts?

(4) How might the Catholic intellectual tradition fit in here?  Discuss proposals and expectations.

Essays will be reviewed by committee and also may be nominated for one of the $250 essay prizes.

Applications should be sent to Daniel Cheely  at  The subject should be labeled as CI Student Fellow Application.  The review process is rolling, but admission is capped, and priority will be given to applications received by Friday, September 5th.

Coffee with the Classics

Collegium Institute Undergraduate Reading Group

Ever wonder whether universities make us better people? Can virtue be taught?  If so, are we obliged to practice it? In what sense are we moral beings?  Is it legitimate to impose morality on others?  How can a society be “free”?  What is Justice and how does that relate to my own happiness?

Ever wish you had a chance to step back and consider the big questions, the ones incredibly smart people have been struggling with for millennia, outside the pressures of grades and papers?  Did you think college would give you a chance to read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, and Nietzsche altogether, and to develop a sustained, coherent conversation about them?

Coffee with the Classics provides an opportunity to consider some foundational questions about education, morality, and politics in a laid back extracurricular forum. Students will read some of the most influential and provocative texts of the Western tradition and discuss them twice a month with some of Penn’s most exciting professors.  The seminar generally meets every other Wednesday evening for an hour and a half in Houston Hall.  Texts will be provided to admitted applicants free of charge.  Refreshments will be served.

To apply, please write a short letter of 150-250 words explaining why you would like to join our biweekly evening conversation.  Make the subject of the letter “Coffee with the Classics Application” and send it to Daniel Cheely of the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn at  The first session is Wednesday, September 17, 7-8:30pm.  Space is limited.  To receive the texts in time, apply soon.  Deadline for Session 1 is September 8th.


Breakdown by Session:

I: Plato’s Dialogues and Republic
– Sept 17 (W): Plato’s Republic with Prof. Anne Hall (English)
– Oct 1 (W): Plato’s Laws with Prof. Susan Sauvé Meyer (Philosophy) and Prof. Anne Hall
– Oct 7 (T): Plato’s Apology and Meno with Prof. Hall
II: Cicero on Rhetoric, Politics, and Moral Education
– October 22 (W): Cicero’s De Officiis with Prof. Rita Copeland (Classics and Comparative Literature) and Prof. Hall
III. Aristotle and Aquinas on Ethics
– Nov 5 (W): Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics with Prof. Hall
– Nov 19 (W)**: Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics with Prof. John Mulhern (Classics, Government) and Prof. Anne Hall
All sessions meet at 7pm in Houston Hall 313 (Morris-Seitz Seminar Room).  Texts will be provided.  Coffee and Refreshments will be Served.
** Nov 19th Special Meeting Time: 6pm.

This Friday: Joy of the Gospel

Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium and Modern Catholic Social Thought

A Lunch Colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania
When: Friday, May 23rd, 2014; 12 noon – 2pm
Where: Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall 218 (3417 Spruce Street)
Dr. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and Visiting Professor at Princeton University.  Dr. Fernandez-Villaverde is also Research Associate at Penn’s Population Studies Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Centre For Economic Policy Research.  He is Vice-President of the Catholic Research Economists Discussion Organization (CREDO) and a Senior Fellow of the Collegium Institute.
Dr. Matthew O’Brien, Chairman of the Collegium Institute.  Dr. O’Brien completed an A.B. in Philosophy at Princeton University, a Classics Certificate at the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.  His articles have appeared in venues such as The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Public Discourse, The British Journal of American Legal Studies, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly and as an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.  He has taught as a Lecturer at Rutgers University and Post-Doctoral Fellow at Villanova University and now works as an equity research analyst for O’Brien Greene & Co., an investment management firm in Media, PA.
Space is limited.  To RSVP, please contact Dan Cheely at

This Sunday: CI’s Penn Alumni Weekend Reception

When: Sunday, May 18th, 2014; 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Where: Houston Hall 223 (Golkin Room): 3417 Spruce Street

The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture will host a breakfast reception immediately following the 9:30 a.m. Penn Alumni Mass at St. Agatha-St. James at Houston Hall in celebration of its first year of activities at Penn. We warmly welcome all alumni, family, and friends to join us. Advance registration is not required. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Dan Cheely,, or visit 

Perelman Quadrangle Photo by Scott Spitzer, University of Pennsylvania Public Stock Images

The Meaning of Beauty? Tuesday, 3/25, 7 PM

The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture presents
The Meaning of Beauty?
Dr. Michael Lewis
Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College
Tuesday, March 25th, 7:00 PM
Meyerson Hall B3, School of Design
  Professor Lewis completed his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989.  He is the author of Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (2001), The Gothic Revival (2002), American Art and Architecture (2006), and the prize-winning August Reichensperger: The Politics of the German Gothic Revival (1993), among other publications.  His research interests include architectural theory, utopian and communal societies, and the nature of creativity.  In 2008 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the completion of City of Refuge: the Other Utopia, a study of millennial town planning.  Lewis is a Senior Fellow of the Collegium  Institute.
Cosponsored by the Department of the History of Art and
the Program for Historic Preservation at Penn
Sponsored by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute
For more information please contact Daniel Cheely at
or visit


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Mill and Newman on Liberty and Conscience

A Lunch Colloquy
Part of “Dictating Conscience: Law as a Cultural Weapon”

When: Monday, March 31, 2014; 1:30 p.m.
Where: Fitts Auditorium

The Collegium Institute is proud to cosponsor this lunch Colloquy with Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.

The lunch will take place at 1:30 and is the first in a series of presentations sponsored by the Penn Federalist Society.
For more information about “Dictating Conscience: Law as a Cultural Weapon,” please see the Penn Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies Eventbrite page here.

The Meaning of Beauty

When: Tuesday, March 25, 2014; 7:00 p.m.
Where: Meyerson Hall B3, School of Design (210 South 34th Street)


Dr. Michael Lewis, Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art History at Williams College

Sponsored by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. Cosponsored by the Department of the History of Art and the Program of Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Please find a PDF of our event poster here.

Acting Well: The Philosophy and Psychology of Virtue

Inaugural Anscombe Lecture in Ethics

When: Wednesday, March 19, 2014; 5:00 p.m.
Where: Stitler B21 (208 S. 37th Street)

Dr. John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St. Andrews, Chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy

Cosponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Please find a PDF of our event poster here.

Silent Music: St. Cecilia as Model of Contemplation

A Penn Year of Sound Panel
  • Date and time: Thursday February 27th, 5:00 pm
  • Location:  102 Music Building (201 S. 34th St)


Thomas Connolly, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Mourning into Joy: Music, Raphael, and St. Cecilia (Yale, 1995)


Ann Moyer, Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Musica Scientia: Musical Scholarship in the Italian Renaissance (Cornell, 1992)

Cosponsors: Department of Music, Department of History, Medievalists @ Penn, and a Penn Year of Sound (YoS) grant

Please find a PDF of our event poster here.