The Objectivist Academic Center is one of ARI’s most vital programs. It is a distance-learning program designed for ambitious individuals pursuing careers in business, academia and public policy.

“The aim of the program,” said Aaron Smith, ARI philosopher and OAC instructor, “is to educate, train and support aspiring intellectuals – the ones who want to bring Objectivism into their careers and into the public eye.”

And this year the OAC has really put the “distance” in distance learning. “We receive applications from all over the world,” said Smith. “This year’s class, for example, includes students from England, Germany, Finland, South Africa, Argentina, Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore, Brazil, China and Mexico.”

What is interesting and inspiring to Smith is not just that the applications come from all over, but that the quality of the students and the level of their engagement with Rand’s works is quite high.

“It’s actually a very selective program,” Smith said of the OAC. “Students need to have read a good amount of Rand’s work and have the motivation to work hard toward deeper understanding. We’re getting very good students from everywhere and they’re pursuing a wide variety of careers — from physics to patent law, from business ethics to education, and more — and I think that’s really inspiring.”

It also says something about ARI’s role in spreading awareness of Rand and Objectivism beyond the United States. “Increasingly,” said Smith, “we’re seeing international applicants list their first contact with Rand as a video on ARI’s YouTube channel, or a talk by one of ARI’s intellectuals, or ARI’s webpage.”

Since OAC courses are conducted by Internet videoconference, geographical location is no longer a barrier. Moreover, Smith noted, students stay in touch on social media and even have the opportunity to meet each other face to face through donor-funded scholarships for events like the annual Objectivist Summer Conference — scheduled for June 10 – 15 in Pittsburgh this year — and the Ayn Rand Student Conference, which is held in the fall.

“The fight for a better future is tough,” said Smith, “but meeting, teaching and interacting with these exceptional students gives me a lot of inspiration.”