In addition to providing an honors program with small class sizes, exceptional professors, travel experiences, and academic enrichment, University Fellows also strives to provide learning opportunities for high school students and faculty from other colleges and universities.  See below for more information about Great Ideas Institutes for high school students and university faculty.

Great Ideas Summer Institute

The University Fellows Great Ideas Summer Institute (GISI) is a unique week-long academic experience for high school students hosted on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. This institute offers an opportunity for intellectually ambitious students to enjoy the energy of a college classroom, engage ideas that form the essence of the Western Intellectual Tradition, and develop friendships with exceptional high school students from around the country. Students must be current sophomores or juniors in high school to apply. The application will open on November 1 and will remain open until spots are filled.

The institute traces the theme of “Greece, Rome, and the Roots of the American Republic.” On the first day, students discuss the Greek origins of Western politics through works by Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle. Next, students move to Roman political theory with selections from Livy, Plutarch, and Cicero on the growth of the Republic and the rise of Imperial Rome. Day three examines the case for the American Revolution, utilizing ideas from ancient history and philosophy. On day four, students engage the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist debates surrounding constitutionalism. Finally, students look at different conceptions of republicanism through the works of Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall.

All classes are discussion oriented and are led by full-time Samford faculty. Three daily sessions (two in the morning and one in the afternoon) are complemented by speakers, films, and other activities.

Students stay in campus housing, have their meals in the university cafeteria, and live in much the same way that Samford University students do during the regular academic year. In addition to campus activities, students also explore Birmingham, including trips to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Alabama Theater, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and a Birmingham Barons baseball game. Students are assisted in their stay by student representatives from Samford’s prestigious University Fellows honors program.

University Fellows is hosting the next Great Ideas Summer Institute from June 21 to June 26, 2020. Applications for the 2020 institute are now open and will remain open until all of the spots are full. Please apply by clicking on the "Register Today" icon to the right of the page or the "Apply Online" link under "High School Programs FAQ".


Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition Summer Seminar

Samford University

Led by Dr. Chris Metress (University Professor), Dr. Bryan Johnson (Director, University Fellows), and Dr. Shannon Flynt (Assistant Professor of Classics)

Designed for non-specialists from across the disciplines, University Fellows hosted the inaugural Summer Seminar focusing on Dante’s Divine Comedy in June of 2015. Faculty in Great Books or core courses often teach sections of the Divine Comedy, but a sustained discussion of the entire poem is a rare opportunity that this seminar provided. Hosted by faculty from Samford’s University Fellows honors program, the seminar moved between discussions of the poem and strategies for teaching it, with a special interest in the often-neglected cantos in Purgatorio and Paradiso.

In July of 2017, University Fellows offered its second Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition Summer Institute, Virgil and the Modern Christian Imagination. This institute provided faculty from across disciplines the opportunity to explore the influence of Virgil on twentieth century Christian poets and intellectuals while also providing a space to  discuss strategies for teaching today's undergraduate. 

If you have any questions regarding future seminars, please contact Bryan Johnson at or 205-726-4036.


High School Programs FAQ

The University Fellows Great Ideas Summer Institute is a unique week-long academic experience hosted on the campus of Samford University.

What will I learn?

The Great Ideas Summer Institute (GISI) traces the theme of “Greece, Rome, and the American Republic.” Throughout the week, you will learn how Greek and Roman philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Livy, and Plutarch form the foundation of western politics. You will also gain insight into the American Revolution and subsequent Federalist and Anti-Federalist debates surrounding constitutionalism. Finally, you will explore later iterations of these ideas through the works Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall.

What makes GISI unique?

Most high schools teach using secondary texts (traditional textbooks written about key events or summaries of important documents). At GISI, you will read the original texts - not someone else's - and you'll discuss them in a community of intellectually curious students. Instead of lecturing, our professors will ask probing questions that challenge you to think about the material on a deeper level. This experience will make you a better student in high school and later in college.

When is GISI?

The Great Ideas Summer Institute will take place from June 21 to June 26, 2020. Check-in will be from 4pm to 5pm on June 21st and checkout will be from 3pm to 4pm on June 26, 2020. 

Where will I stay on campus?

You will stay in dorm rooms on campus. Buildings are separated by gender and each will have at least 2 Resident Advisors of the same gender living there as well. Each bedroom will house two students, meaning that these two students will share a room and a bathroom. If you have specific concerns or need certain accommodations, please contact Caroline Janeway (205) 726-2841 at the time of acceptance into the institute.

Am I eligible to apply?

If you will have completed your sophomore or junior year of high school by the summer of 2020 (rising junior or senior), you are eligible to apply. Although we do ask for your GPA and other academic information on our application, we do not have a specific academic requirements to apply.

How do I apply?

The application for the 2020 is now available through the "Apply Online" button below. The application will remain open until all of the spots for the institute are filled.

Apply Online

What does it cost to attend?

The registration cost of GISI is $695. The cost will cover reading materials, housing, meals, and organized activities on and off campus.

For additional information:

Email Caroline Janeway at or call her at 205-726-2841.