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 subjects 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 of Houston, Texas. The Institute advances its core mission while serving the following four constituent groups:


Beginning with our first Society of Fellows summer seminar, held in August 2014 when we were just a pilot program, the Kinder Institute has demonstrated a commitment to developing programs that foster the growth of an intellectual community of undergraduates at the University of Missouri who are devoted both to exploring the rise of democratic government and culture in America and to tracing connections between the past and present of democracy in the U.S. and abroad. Along with the Society of Fellows program, the Kinder Institute offers: an interdisciplinary Minor and Certificate in American Constitutional Democracy; an academic internship program in Washington, D.C., that sends twenty students east each summer to study and work in the nation’s capital; a four-course series with the MU Honors College; a student-run scholarly journal; and week-, semester-, and yearlong study abroad opportunities at University of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College, which allow MU students to immerse themselves in the unique pedagogy and rich traditions of one of the globe’s most storied institutions.


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, postdocs, and doctoral candidates, and to make the University of Missouri a regional 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 discuss their current research with colleagues from across multiple disciplines and institutions. The Institute also sponsors graduate and postdoctoral fellowships in History and Political Science, 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 mission extends beyond the University of Missouri as well. Our various community seminars provide an avenue for individuals in and around Columbia to study and discuss the thinkers, texts, and events that have shaped democratic life in the United States and around the globe, and through our public lecture series, we bring innovative scholars of the nation’s history and intellectual and political traditions to the MU campus to share their work 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 students, and postdoctoral fellows, as well as by contributors to our book series with University of Missouri Press and our online journal, Starting Points, is blazing new trails in the understanding of the founding of the United States and its global legacy. More than a research leader, the Kinder Institute is likewise becoming an international destination for the exchange of ideas about the origins and global relevance of American constitutional democracy. Notable for its cross-discipline and non-partisan, inter-ideological approach to programming, the Institute will host the May 2018 conference/workshop for Volume 2 of Cambridge University Press’ five-volume Cambridge History of America and the World as well as a February 2019 conference aimed at re-imagining academic study of the Missouri Crisis of 1818-1821.

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.