A core priority for AEI is to shape and build relationships with emerging and established leaders around the country to defend the values of free enterprise, earned success, and the moral foundations of capitalism. AEI serves as a hub for thousands of future leaders through our Academic Programs, internships, Alumni Network, and Leadership Network. In turn, these leaders are contributing to the AEI community by disseminating our scholars' work in communities and on campuses across the country; supporting AEI scholars in their research and outreach; and carrying the values they learn at AEI through their careers in policy, media, politics, business, nonprofits, and academia.


Interns selected from 5,400 unique applicants. Eight former interns were hired as full-time employees


Leadership Network members across 13 cohorts


Summer Honors Program participants selected from nearly 850 applicants. 12 percent of program participants were first-generation college students.


Students reached through 298 virtual or in-person events


Executive Council leaders on 111 campuses


Alumni of AEI Academic Programs

AEI Academic Programs

AEI Academic Programs provides thousands of college students across the country with AEI's research, equipping them to promote free enterprise principles to their peers and discern fact from fiction in academic narratives. Academic Programs holds hundreds of campus events with AEI scholars that attract thousands of students each year.

AEI Summer Honors Program
AEI hosted our 11th annual Summer Honors Program in June, selecting 273 top undergraduates representing 152 colleges and universities from among nearly 900 applicants. This year's virtual program offered 16 weeklong virtual seminars with AEI scholars and visiting experts over four weeks and 49 lectures and breakout sessions.

Executive Councils, Campus Events, and Leadership Training
Academic Programs partnered with more than 466 Executive Council student leaders to bring AEI scholars to campuses across the country both in person and virtually, attracting more than 15,400 student attendees to 298 campus events in the 2019–20 academic year.

Virtual Programming
AEI Academic Programs offered a wide array of virtual programming, including a “Summer Lecture Series” featuring weekly virtual lectures from AEI scholars that were widely promoted to our network and viewed by hundreds of students, and a series of virtual web events featuring speakers on topics such as the 2020 election, local civic engagement, and the economy after COVID-19.

“The way that the Academic Programs team handled the COVID-19 crisis allowed me to remain engaged in the political and social conversations still happening during this strange time.”

— AEI Executive Council member

AEI Internship Program

The AEI internship program's reputation for substantive research opportunities and professional development attracts the nation's finest young minds. AEI's Talent Development team maintains official partnerships with the Columbia University Employer Partnership Program, Harvard University Impact Fellows, Princeton HireTigers Career Advocate Program, University of Chicago Kimpton Fellows Program, and the University of Virginia Batten School of Public Policy.

AEI's Talent Development team received more than 5,400 applicants for 174 intern positions across cohorts in the spring, summer, and fall. Interns attended weekly meetings and career development seminars with AEI scholars and staff, participated in networking events, and received resume advice and interview training.

The work was interesting and substantial. I loved feeling like I was really contributing. I learned a lot from my supervisor, both in terms of economic and technical knowledge and in professionalism and good communication.” —Ngan Tran (Mount Holyoake College '21)

My team had trust in me from day one. I felt supported and appreciated. . . . I worked on a team directly involved in the workforce implications of COVID-19 and got to study a lot of information on police reform, criminal justice reform, and responses to racial injustice. I got to work on projects that everyone was talking about. How cool is that?” —Hunter Dixon (Furman University '20)

AEI Alumni Network

AEI is growing the AEI Alumni Network to position the Institute to serve as a social, professional, and educational network as our alumni advance their careers in policy, business, politics, and academia. This year, the AEI Alumni Network:

  • Hosted three multi-week reading groups for competitively selected, DC-based alumni, led by Yuval Levin with Matthew Continetti on conservative thought, Timothy P. Carney on social alienation, and Adam J. White on the Electoral College as a constitutional institution;

  • Launched a mentorship program that connects senior AEI alumni with younger alumni to offer professional development advice at the start of their careers;

  • Launched a virtual book club for alumni to provide connection and intellectual engagement in the midst of the pandemic; and

  • Created an Alumni Network Virtual Spotlight Series, highlighting impressive AEI alumni in 30–45 minute webinars on how AEI influenced their lives and careers.

AEI Research Assistants
AEI research assistants work closely with AEI scholars, gaining firsthand experience in policy research and benefiting from mentorship and professional development. Research assistant positions at AEI are a launchpad for careers in policy, academia, and law, for example, with alumni going on to positions in government, media, business, and the nonprofit sector.

Brendan Bell is a former education research assistant and program manager at AEI. He is currently a JD candidate on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. Bell managed the influential May 2020 AEI report "A Blueprint for Back to School." His writings have appeared in the Hill, Bloomberg Opinion, and US News & World Report.

“Throughout my time at AEI, I was challenged to become a clearer thinker, sharper writer, and better listener. Embracing the mission of AEI has shaped how I approach my professional life and career. I believe that bringing different perspectives together, and engaging in a respectful and serious exchange of ideas, is the best path for better public policy and for society as a whole.”
—Brendan Bell

AEI Leadership Network

As AEI's signature outreach program, the Leadership Network, reaches a diverse group of mid-career professionals interested in advancing free enterprise in their communities. Having begun in 2014 as a small, pilot project with 47 participants, the Leadership Network welcomed its 1,000th member this fall and now includes leaders in 46 states.

AEI's External Affairs team hosts biannual Leadership Network summits to equip these leaders with policy ideas and leadership training, which they can apply and build on in their daily work. These summits also serve as the basis for a personal and ongoing partnership with AEI. This year we held two summits that broke new ground for the Leadership Network.

In early March, we welcomed our inaugural Millennial Leadership Network Cohort of 96 young leaders from 28 states to AEI’s headquarters, all of them nominated by a member of the AEI community.

AEI’s Leadership Network is a phenomenal opportunity for anyone eager to hear about solutions from top thought leaders. I was blown away by the quality of the program as each policy session was more insightful than the other. I left the summit intellectually refreshed and ready to use my learnings for the benefit of my community.

—Millennial Leadership Network Cohort participant

This fall, we hosted our 13th Leadership Network Summit on an innovative virtual platform, Swapcard. In addition to the 174 participants in this new fall cohort, we welcomed more than 250 existing members of the Leadership Network to join us to learn from AEI scholars and network with other cohorts.

AEI Scholar Develops Adam Smith Curriculum for Young Leaders
Brent Orrell developed an 11-module self-guided curriculum to bring the work of 18th-century moral philosopher Adam Smith to contemporary audiences. The program guides participants through a discussion of the philosophical roots of capitalism, free-market economics, and the social and moral foundations of a free society.