Who is a conservative and what do they believe? Is President Donald Trump a conservative? Is our current experience changing what it means to be conservative, going forward?

Jay P. Greene, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Education Reform in the College of Education and Health Professions, will grapple with these questions in a public lecture, “Conservatism,” which will be offered via Zoom at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. If you are interested, please fill out this online form to gain access to the lecture.

Greene’s lecture will preview his Spring 2021 Honors College Signature Seminar on conservatism, which will be especially timely in the wake of the 2020 election.

“Conservatives are woefully underrepresented in faculty and staff, and this is true at every university,” he said. This is a disservice to students, who tend to be fairly mixed in their political beliefs.

“Liberal students don’t understand what they’re critiquing, so their arguments are less sharp. Conservative students are also poorly served. They come to a very crude understanding of what it means to be conservative, defined merely in opposition to liberals. They don’t have a coherent vision of what they stand for,” Green said.

The course will not focus on adjudicating whether conservative views are right or wrong, according to Greene. Instead, it will attempt to understand how conservatives think and how that thinking has evolved over time.

“This class offers the opportunity,” Greene said, “and also the challenge, to have a civil conversation.”

Edmund Burke portrait

Portrait of Edmund Burke (1730-97), Heritage Image Partnership Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo.

While the course will focus on post-World War II American conservatism, it will begin by tracing the history of conservative thought, studying political figures such as 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke and, closer to home, American statesman and founding father Alexander Hamilton.

“Conservatives have latched on to Alexander Hamilton as their own, but thanks to the musical, liberals have identified with him as well,” Greene said. “The deeper truth is that these are not fixed ways of thinking; the thinking is ever-evolving.”

Greene’s current areas of research interest include school choice, culturally enriching field trips, and the effect of schools on non-cognitive and civic values.

His work has been published in journals from a diverse set of disciplines, including education (Educational Researcher), sociology (Sociology of Education), public policy (Education Finance and Policy), psychology (Psychology of Music), political science (British Journal of Political Science), and economics (Economics of Education Review). He has also written or edited four books, the latest of which explores the issue of religious liberty in education. His research on school choice was cited four times in the Supreme Court’s opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case.

Greene has been a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. He received his B.A. in history from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University.


Greene’s Conservatism is one of three Honors College Signature Seminars scheduled for spring 2021. Other topics will include:

  • Food Matters, taught by Margaret Sova McCabe, dean of the School of Law; Jennie Popp, associate dean of the Honors College and co-chair of the university’s Service Learning Initiative; and Curt Rom, associate dean for international education within the Graduate School and International Education.
  • Global Social Change, taught by Rogelio Garcia Contreras, clinical faculty member in social innovation and social entrepreneurship at the Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Venture Innovation in the Sam M. Walton College of Business; Laurence Hare, associate professor of history and director of the International and Global Studies Program in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; and Jared Phillips, teaching assistant professor of International Studies in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Deans of each college may nominate professors to participate in this program, and those who are selected to teach will become Dean’s Fellows in the Honors College.

The Honors College brings in leading scholars from other institutions to teach some of these courses, including Timothy Landry, professor of anthropology and religious studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, who will lead a fourth Signature Seminar, Witchcraft, during the January 2021 intersession.

Honors students must apply to participate, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Scholars. The course application is posted online on the Signature Seminars web page. The deadline to apply is Friday, Oct. 30.

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and brings together high-achieving undergraduate students and the university’s top professors to share transformative learning experiences. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $72,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad and 100 percent of them have engaged in mentored research.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.