Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
By Patrick Ryan
Through the establishment of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, the University is working to preserve fundamental notions of liberty and republicanism both on campus and in the region.
Matthew Ryan, a graduate of Villanova University and Villanova Law School, served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 40 years and as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. To encourage first-rate political participation among Villanova students, Colleen Sheehan, Ph.D., a Villanova political science professor, founded the Center.
?Our goal is for students to learn more about the rights and the responsibilities of citizens in a free country,? Dr. Sheehan said. The Center?s mission statement includes the promotion of the ?inalienable rights of all humanity,? ?the principles of popular sovereignty and constitutionalism,? and ?the role of the representative in democratic government.?
The organization strives to communicate and inform Villanova and its surrounding communities through different disciplines and methods. The Center is comprised of the original Ryan Center, but also has expanded to include the Ryan Undergraduate Fellows and the Ryan Law Fellows.
The Ryan Center has several Villanova fellows and currently hosts three post-doctoral students, including the Jack Miller Center Fellow, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation Visiting Professor, and a Visiting Senior Scholar.
Along with post-doctorate work, the Ryan Center hosts conferences on American political philosophy; its first was the "Benjamin Franklin and the Invention of America Conference" held in the summer of 2006. For this week-long conference, 40 professors from around the country attended seminars on Benjamin Franklin.
Following in this tradition, the Ryan Center also hosts a Constitution Day symposium every fall and organizes the Ethics and Politics Forum series.
The organization also is setting up its first scholarship, the Matei Radu Scholarship, and plans to raise more funds to reward superior academic study.
The Ryan Center remains committed to engaging the undergraduate student population and established the Undergraduate Fellows in 2009. Currently, along with operating the Pursuit of Excellence Leadership Community, the Undergraduate Fellows facilitate the Franklin Reading Group and organize field trips for its 25 members.
?We aim to promote a forum for the discussion of Western ideals of citizenship, statesmanship, and political theory,? said Brenda Hafera, student coordinator for the Undergraduate Fellows. ?We have done this on-campus with the reading group and off-campus. For example, we viewed Plato?s Apology at the Sedgwick Theater last semester, along with attending the Dinner for Western Civilization, where Edwin Meese spoke.?
The Undergraduate Fellows currently are reading Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky every Thursday at 6 p.m. in Old Falvey 304.
With the Ryan Center expanding, it will continue to define and focus American political theory and citizenship in the republican tradition.
Patrick Ryan is a senior political science major and philosophy minor. He is originally from San Francisco, California. He is a co-editor-in-chief of The Villanova Times and is a brother of Sigma Nu Fraternity.
Matthew Ryan, a graduate of Villanova University and Villanova Law School, served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 40 years and as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003.
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