American universities conduct more research and teach more students than ever before. They increase knowledge in many branches of study, but they lack a coherent framework for holding that knowledge together. At the same time, they too often encourage students to see religious and moral commitments as insignificant or relative and disconnected from their studies. Most students lack rigorous formation in the religious and classically rational accounts of the human person and human ends that gave rise to academic inquiry. Even when they are exposed to the great thinkers of history, students are not always encouraged to consider their arguments as serious possibilities for ordering human life and knowledge.
In addition, certain aspects of the modern university stifle students’ experience of a robust, communal intellectual life. They face many pressures from grading and the expectations of peers in the classroom, and have few opportunities to interact meaningfully with professors outside the classroom. They can benefit from opportunities for discussion that are more relaxed and intimate than their classes, but more formal than what can be found in social life on campus: places where students, guided by and in conversation with faculty, are more easily able to seek truth for its own sake. Likewise, students can profit from guidance and structured opportunities for discussion and reflection to help them mine the rich cultural opportunities in New York City.