Sam Weaver, a student at Davidson College in North Carolina and current intern at ARI, recently completed the first year of ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center three-year program. He shares his thoughts on the value of the intellectual training program.

In just eight short months, the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) has already given me what seems like several years’ worth of intellectual training — and I’m only one-third of the way through the program.

Last summer, I applied to the OAC not knowing exactly what to expect. I knew I wanted to cement my understanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and prepare for a potential career in an intellectual field, and I knew that the OAC was designed for people in my situation. But I did not anticipate the invigorating intellectual experience that was to come.

In Year One of the OAC, students already familiar with Objectivism are immersed in the larger philosophic sea of the perspectives and arguments of major thinkers. I was relatively unfamiliar with most of these thinkers, so simply from reading and discussing their works, I wound up learning a lot. I found myself coming to appreciate the complexities and nuances of “mixed” philosophers, which enabled me to go a step deeper than I previously would have in evaluating their ideas.

But what was surprising to me was how my comprehension of Objectivism deepened as we discussed its relation to the ideas of these other thinkers. By guiding us to view Objectivism as one system of ideas among many, the OAC instructors showed me a brand-new perspective that I had never considered when I was studying Ayn Rand’s work alone. And this viewpoint actually made me appreciate Rand that much more, because I learned about many places where she broke important new ground — often on issues I hadn’t even thought of before.

When I’ve spoken to fans of Ayn Rand about the OAC, the top concern I hear about is time commitment. It seems to me that a lot of people are interested in the program, but they’re worried that they won’t be able to fit it into their busy schedules. Obviously, not everyone has the time to take on an in-depth intellectual program. But my experience has been that OAC scheduling is extremely flexible. The twice-weekly classes are great to attend live if you can make them, but everyone always has the option to listen to the class recordings online at their convenience. The weekly readings are not always easy, but they can be managed by spreading them out over the course of several days, and the genius of the weekly writing assignments is that they don’t take very long while being great practice in concise writing.

My experience has been that the heaviest OAC weeks require about 7–8 hours of work across the whole week — that includes classes, reading and writing. Many weeks require less time than this. Anyone deeply interested in Objectivism who can spend an hour or so per day on focused philosophic study would find the OAC to be a great value, in my estimation. Especially, thanks to the support of ARI donors, because students do not have to pay to be a part of the OAC.

If all goes well, my OAC experience has only just begun. I’m eagerly waiting to learn if I will be accepted into the next year of the program, because I can’t wait to dive even deeper into what the OAC has to offer. My career aspirations involve teaching, so the OAC’s instruction in communicating ideas will be perfect for my long-term goals.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend the OAC to anyone interested in the serious study of Objectivism. The instruction is excellent and even just the first year will do wonders for your ability to think and speak about crucial ideas.

To learn more about ARI’s OAC and to apply click here.