University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to expand constitutional studies program

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will use two new grants to expand its Center for Constitutional Studies and enhance students’ opportunities to engage in research, coursework, and programming about First Amendment rights. 

Founded in 2016, the center routinely brings renowned speakers to campus. The center also operates as the university’s point of access for media and the public regarding issues related to the U.S. Constitution. 

A $3 million grant from the John Menard family and a $747,000 Charles Koch Foundation grant will support the expansion. Menard, a 1963 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, founded his namesake home improvement stores when he still was a student at the university. 

The grants also will allow the center to create new programming that specifically relates to the First Amendment; hire two new faculty members; expand course offerings; create speaker forums and series that provide audiences with multiple points of view; offer research symposiums; and support faculty. 

“This new support provides an incredible opportunity for our students and faculty to lead and engage in critical research and programming around First Amendment issues, topics that are crucial to every American,” says UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. 

The center will work closely with the university’s Political Research Institute to produce The Civil Liberties Scorecard, a report that will be generated from national survey research that measures how much Americans know about their civil liberties. Students will participate in conducting these surveys, providing them with educational and employment opportunities. The center has planned additional programs and outreach as well, including special trainings for middle- and high-school teachers and students on First Amendment-related topics.

“We are excited to partner with the Menard family to support UW-Eau Claire,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “The freedom to openly challenge and discuss ideas is essential for progress. This new program will offer more students the opportunity to explore freedom of speech and expression as the foundations for our ability to openly and civilly discuss society’s most pressing challenges.”  

Click here to read the school’s announcement. Click here to read the grant agreement between the university and the Charles Koch Foundation. 

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