The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) congratulates Undergraduate Fellows Sarah Larson of West Des Moines, Iowa, and Sarah Scalet of Rockville, Maryland on their accomplishments this summer as interns for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

AHI Undergraduate Fellow Sarah Larson

Since its inception in 1995, ACTA has played an increasingly prominent role in exposing to the public deficiencies in higher education.  ACTA “works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives a philosophically rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.”  This summer two AHI Undergraduate Fellows, Sarah Larson and Sarah Scalet were awarded summer internships to work on various projects related to ACTA’s stated mission of educational reform.  Sarah Larson also received an award sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.

“I cannot thank the AHI enough for all it did in helping make it possible,” said Sarah Larson. “Interning at ACTA taught me about college curricula in a way only reading several course catalogs a day can. The problem is clear. Liberal Arts colleges and universities, in general, are not delivering on promises to educate students. Instead, many are watering down courses to elementary levels, replacing traditional courses with niche courses, (and students are missing out on relevant knowledge as a result), and eliminating core curricula in favor of overall broad ‘requirements’ that can be filled by basically any course in the book. It’s a shame. Meanwhile, students are paying more and more for education.”

AHI Undergraduate Fellow Sarah Scalet


“Working with the Koch Foundation was also a great experience,” Larson added. “I was even awarded a special monetary bonus for my ‘exceptional value creation’ during our projects. I’ll recommend the program to AHI students, and of course young Republicans, looking to learn management skills, about the importance of liberty, and how to spend a summer in D.C.”

Sarah Scalet spent the “summer working on the  What Will They Learn? (TM)” (WWTL) Project. It is based on the belief that a core curriculum is essential for a student’s success in today’s world. “My role along with that of other interns,” Scalet observed, “was to evaluate every college and university in America. Over the course of the summer, I reviewed hundreds of schools.”

“The internship proved valuable on a number of counts, she noted. “Most directly, I improved upon my research skills during the process of quantitatively measuring an academic standard. I spent countless hours searching the web for specific details regarding college curricula; more specifically, whether schools require students to take a college-level class in seven different core subjects. Schools received a number, based in large part on the information I uncovered, and those numbers equal a letter grade.”

“Working with ACTA also exposed me to the inner-workings of a well-organized not-for-profit.  . . .  ACTA also organized some experiences outside of work that I truly enjoyed. First, the internship included lectures. Each spanned a specific focus, and each proved thought provoking in its individual way. My favorite lecturer was the editor of the New Atlantis journal; he provided a brief history of think tanks in D.C. . . . The ACTA staff organized a memorable field trip for the interns. We received a tour of the capitol dome, something that was exhilarating even as a D.C. native. Standing on top of the capitol, and having a 360 view of D.C., is something I will never forget.  Additionally, the internship emphasized the importance of a liberal education in today’s world. A liberal education essentially means that students are exposed to a wide range of disciplines that in turn allows them to be more active citizens and participants in our ever-changing world. . . . From lunchtime readings of Shakespeare to lunches filled with Latin translations, the other interns kept me on my toes. Some students take a mental break over the summer by completing internships that offer tedious work, but that was not the case at ACTA. I was constantly challenged to think critically, work harder, and question the current situation—whether it was for my research on a particular school or by the other interns. As a result of this summer internship, I believe I am more ready for the challenges I may face in college and in the future.”

In commenting on the work of the two Sarahs, Dr. Michael Poliakoff, Vice President of Policy at ACTA, said the following:  “The AHI has been a friend and ally to ACTA in many ways, but I am most deeply touched by the extraordinary students that have come from the AHI program to help ACTA in its work.  There is something they all have in common, which is penetrating intellect and passionate commitment to the highest levels of academic excellence.  In the past, we benefited from the fine work of Max Brindle and Marta Johnson.  This year, we had the benefit of AHI’s two Sarahs.” 

“Both Sarah Larson and Sarah Scalet distinguished themselves this summer by their meticulous work in ACTA’s review of core curriculum requirements at nearly 1100 colleges and universities around the nation.  The success of ACTA’s high profile What Will They Learn? (TM) project depends in large measure on the rapid, but exacting, work that the two Sarahs and their fellow interns from around the nation did for us.  The high quality of Sarah Scalet and Sarah Larson’s work was matched by the cheerfulness and energy that they brought to the office each day.”

“As you know,” Dr. Poliakoff pointed out, “Hamilton College as a whole does very badly in our ratings of core curricula.  Of the seven core subjects that comprise the requirements in What Will They Learn? (TM), Hamilton College does not fulfill a single one.  It earns a clear “F” for its general education program.  It is testimony to the standards of excellence that AHI instills in the students fortunate enough to find their way to it, that the two Sarahs first stood out among the many applicants we have each year to be ACTA interns and then so distinguished themselves by their outstanding service to the our core curriculum project.”

“Sarah Larson and Sarah Scalet have distinguished the AHI by their work,” said AHI Charter Fellow Robert Paquette, who recommended them to ACTA, “and we are honored by Dr. Poliakoff’s words.”