The Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy is an interdisciplinary, signature academic center on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, jointly operated by faculty from the Political Science and History Departments, in cooperation with other scholars across campus. It is dedicated to excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement on the subject of American political thought, history, and institutions, with a particular emphasis on the ideas and events of the American Founding and their continued global impact and relevance today. It was created in 2015 by a generous gift from the Kinder Foundation, a family philanthropic foundation started by Rich and Nancy Kinder. The Institute advances its core mission while serving the following four constituent groups:


Beginning with the Society of Fellows summer seminar, first held in August 2014 when we were just a pilot program, the Kinder Institute has demonstrated a commitment to implementing programs that foster the growth of an intellectual community of undergraduates at the University of Missouri who are devoted to the study of American constitutional democracy. Along with the Society of Fellows program, which, in addition to the summer seminar, meets quarterly throughout the school year for lectures and dinner debates, the Kinder Institute offers a Minor and Certificate in American Constitutional Democracy, an academic summer program in Washington, D.C., a course series with the MU Honors College, a student-run scholarly journal, and faculty-led study abroad courses, which allow students to explore the theory and practice of constitutional democracy from a global perspective.


Another pillar of the Institute’s core mission is advancing the work of faculty and graduate students at the University of Missouri whose scholarship and teaching focus on the philosophical foundations, historical development, and contemporary practice of American constitutional democracy. To this end, the Institute has developed numerous initiatives to support the ongoing academic projects of MU professors and doctoral candidates, and to make the University of Missouri a regional and national hub for the study of American political thought and history. We have created the Missouri Regional Seminar on Early American History and the Shawnee Trail Regional Conference on American Politics and Constitutionalism, both of which provide scholars throughout the Midwest with opportunities to exchange ideas and research with colleagues from across multiple disciplines and institutions. The Institute also sponsors graduate and postdoctoral fellowships in the Departments of Political Science and History, a biannual cycle of research and travel grants, and course development awards for faculty members interested in adding new dimensions to the curriculum for our Minor and Certificate in American Constitutional Democracy.


The Kinder Institute’s educational mission extends beyond the University as well. Our various community seminars engage individuals in and around Columbia in dialogue about the nation’s political traditions, and through our public lecture series, we bring innovative scholars of American constitutional democracy to the University of Missouri campus to exchange ideas and research with citizens, students, and faculty. We also seek to advance the critical cause of civic education around the state by participating in teacher training programs and community forums in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council.


The Kinder Institute is quickly establishing itself as a global leader in the study of U.S. constitutional democracy. The research generated by our faculty, graduate and postdoctoral fellows, book series through the University of Missouri Press, and online journal, Starting Points, is blazing new trails in the understanding of the founding of the United States and its global legacy. The Institute’s research and community programming is notable for its cross-discipline and non-partisan, inter-ideological approach.

Our inclusive and ambitious research agenda derives not only from the broad horizons of our researchers but also from our physical location. Housed in historic Jesse Hall, the Kinder Institute is anchored in the heart of the United States in the oldest public university west of Mississippi River, and in a diverse state that has a rich history at the crossroads of migration, empire, and commerce.