The Koch Leaders Program: Integration of Economics and Faith

The Kochs Leaders Program, funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, provides a rich, collaborative learning environment where college students of all different ages and majors can discuss economics and the free-market. At Regent, this program’s primary goal is to aid students in gaining a better understanding of how economic freedom relates to a Christian perspective of politics and public policy.

The fellowship, held in the spring semester, is ten weeks long and features a two-hour session each week. Several works, such as “Why Human Flourishing Happens Best in a Free Market” by Alan Dowd, as well as excerpts from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, are on the program’s reading list. Students are expected to have each week’s readings completed before sessions. A roundtable, socratic-type discussion will be held each week pertaining to the assigned readings, with Dr. Robert Schwarzwalder acting as mediator and lecturer. Notable guest speakers from past years include Dan Forest, who was, at the time, the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, and Bill Wichterman, former special assistant to President Bush.

This program has a highly competitive selection process, and a strong interest in how biblical truth and economic freedom intersect is paramount for success. The program welcomes a diverse range of views on this issue, and discussion and debate are encouraged. Dr. Schwarzwalder, the faculty advisor for the program at Regent, says that in sessions, “People are free to disagree, but our hope is that by the time the course is done they recognize how blessed we are to live in a country where hope, opportunity, and the prospect of flourishing are very real.” 

Why apply if you have no background in economics? “You can learn about economics by reading a few good books and articles but the integration of the principles of the free market with the teachings of Scripture is a unique aspect of this program,” states Dr. Schwarzwalder. Students pursuing other career paths may not initially believe they need to study the free-market system. Still, everyone, from public service to law, should have an understanding of economic life. Emily Polson, ‘graduate’ from last year’s group of students, says that while it was challenging, she was able to glean from peers whom she would have otherwise never interacted with. She states that she gained a better understanding and renewed confidence in the American free market. 

The fellowship is also offered in an online format for distance-learning students. These sessions are held through Zoom, and the hope is that students would learn just as much in a virtual context as they would in attending in-person sessions. 

If you are interested in applying for either the on-campus or online format of this program, keep an eye out leading up to next year’s spring term for any updates. Click here for more information regarding this esteemed program. 


Katelyn Condrey

Katelyn Condrey is a department head for The Daily Runner.