Joshua Freed - Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free.

Joshua Freed


Things to know about Joshua

Joshua is a senior at the Honors College at the University of Houston, where he studies Political Science and Economics with minors in Chinese Studies, Classics, and Phronesis (a program in politics and ethics). Aside from being the captain of the UH Speech Team, a Resident Assistant, and the 2016-2017 Student Regent for the University of Houston System, Joshua has been active in student government and undergraduate research. He is currently applying for PhD programs in Political Science, where he hopes to continue his interdisciplinary research in Political Theory.

“ISI was extremely attractive to me not only because of how accessible it is to become a part of, but also because of how rich and rewarding each program experience is.”

How did you find out about ISI?

As I was closing in on the end of my freshman year I was looking for something challenging, engaging, and relevant to political theory. One of my professors directed me to ISI, and I’ve loved every conference since the Rhetoric & Debate Symposium. ISI was extremely attractive to me not only because of how accessible it is to become a part of, but also because of how rich and rewarding each program experience is.

What was the highlight of your undergraduate experience?

I have been competing in collegiate speech and debate since I started at the University of Houston, which has allowed me to travel around the nation competing against the best writers, speakers, and presenters from the best universities. Through the Lafayette Debates hosted by George Washington University, I became a part of their Young Ambassadors Program, which includes a study tour to Paris coordinated by the French Embassy. We met with French members of parliament in a committee room under the Assemblée Nationale, generals in Napoleon’s office at the École Militaire, and even visited the Palais de l’Élysée right as President Hollande drove off in his motorcade in front of us. It was an exhausting whirlwind of different experiences, but was hands-down the best hands-on lesson of diplomacy an undergraduate could ask for!

What have you valued most about your ISI experience?

ISI attracts well-read students who are hungry for intellectual stimulation and lively conversation, so each program is a unique mixture of guaranteed brilliance. The students at ISI’s programs really are the brightest students I’ve come into contact with over the course of my undergraduate career, and having the opportunity to pick the brains of my peers has been unbelievable. In the lectures, discussion groups, and casual conversations, students and faculty alike are humble enough to let you be wrong—in my case, wrong often, I’m sure—but are always willing to suggest new material to explore and read so you have more to debate over later. I’ve had the opportunity to become a part of a community passionate about knowledge and the Truth, and that’s what I value most about my ISI experience.

How have you spent your summers while in college?

Most summers I have balanced work and undergraduate research. After my sophomore year, I was awarded two scholarships for research: one to research Stoic political thought and its transformation as it spread through first and second century Rome, and the other to study Thomas Jefferson’s definition of natural law and right. This summer I had a three-week internship at the Smithsonian researching the untold story of the female scholar-artists in fifteenth and sixteenth century China. I am now looking at Roman governmental structures as described in Chinese historical accounts between the third and sixth centuries A.D. I’ll be a part of the Hertog Program’s Literature and Politics course later this summer, all the while preparing for a Senior Honors Thesis on political theology, the Church, and the Roman Empire. For anyone confused about how erratic my research interests might seem to be: I promise there is a connection between the Stoics, Thomas Jefferson, and the Chinese, but I’ll leave that for another day!

Whom do you admire most, and why?

My grandparents. It’s easy to cast aside personal relationships for questions like these because there are centuries of bright writers and thinkers to choose from, but I can’t think of a single one who reaches the rightfully high standard demanded by the word admiration. My grandparents have taught me more about curiosity, compassion, faith, family, and virtue than any book could, and for that I will always be thankful.

What advice would you give to other students who want to preserve the principles of liberty?

Read like your life depended on it—in part, because it does. A lot of conservative students talk about the difficulties of finding a “conservative underground” on campus. Those are certainly nice to find, and can lead to a great many worthwhile friendships, but not all universities have them. It’s more worthwhile to find the intellectual underground—the students who aren’t solely focused on output, those who actually question the material presented and are willing to challenge what they read and engage with it. Make friends with the curious Marxist. Introduce them to that one Randian that we all know. Ultimately, we control what we get out of our undergraduate education if we are willing to read more and sacrifice more to engage with the Great Books in the company of fellow students who seek to do the same. ISI is a great springboard for getting into the Great Books, and they provide countless resources to foster the creation and growth of intellectual communities at any campus. Use them, and read!