The Riley Institute

Named for former U.S. Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Dick Riley, the Riley Institute advances social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond by building leadership for a diverse society, broadening student and community perspectives on critical issues, hosting expert speakers, supporting public education, and creating knowledge through community solutions-focused research. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change.

Centers of Work


The Riley Institute was founded in 1999 at Furman University with the dual objectives of advancing social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond and providing unmatched opportunities for Furman students.

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Broadening perspectives around pressing contemporary policy issues, the Riley Institute hosts expert speakers and scholars on the university’s campus as well as across South Carolina. Hundreds of expert speakers have spoken at Riley Institute events since its founding in 1999.

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The Riley Institute’s Center for Diversity Strategies recognizes excellence in diversity leadership and equips leaders and community stakeholders with the tools needed to harness the power of diversity in their organizations and communities, drive positive change, and enhance the economic and civic vitality of South Carolina.

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The Institute’s research consultancy promotes evidence-informed practices and policies and supports entities that serve children and families across the state. It provides external research and evaluation services, serves as an evaluation partner, and helps organizations build strategic learning skills.

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The Riley Institute’s Center for Education Policy and Leadership supports and recognizes highly effective and innovative approaches to public education, from afterschool and summer learning to public school Montessori, that drive better and more equitable outcomes for all the people of South Carolina and beyond.

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For students wanting to become thought leaders, learning from one of the 20th Century’s top presidential cabinet members is not a bad place to start. The Riley Institute cultivates leaders among students and broadens perspectives about issues critical to progress in South Carolina and beyond.

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Public Education Blog

Evidence Matters: Data, Cherry Picking, and the Challenges of Confirmation Bias

In our last post, we highlighted the debate around the term “evidence-based practices” and how we think about the data behind them. Today, we look at the benefits and challenges of using data to support...

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Evidence Matters: Facts and Findings in the Pursuit of Effectiveness

Scroll through the latest hot topics in education research, and it is likely that you will find most experts recommending the utilization of “evidence-based” practices. A frequently-used adjective in the field of education reform, it...

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Evidence Matters: Could the Montessori Method Make Us Happier?

According to a January 2023 survey administered by the South Carolina Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, many school districts in the state continue to report record numbers of vacancies in positions for social...

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Latest Riley Institute News

International African American Museum to Receive Riley Institute Award Recognizing Landmark Collaborative Achievement in SC

Furman University’s Riley Institute has announced that the International African American Museum will be honored with the 2023 OneSouthCarolina Partners in Progress Award, which recognizes a landmark collaborative achievement contributing significantly to social and economic...

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Riley Fellows in the News: March 30, 2023

Charles Davis (Upstate, Spring 2015), first gentleman of and adjunct professor at Furman University and professor at the Hankamer School of Business of Baylor, was named Southern Living's cook of the month. Read more Jean Cecil Frick (Midlands, Spring...

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Riley Fellows in the News: March 7, 2023

Bryant Caldwell (Midlands, Spring 2020) of Womble Bond Dickinson is now a commissioner on the South Carolina State Ethics Commission. Read more.   Pamela Christopher (Upstate, Fall 2015), president and CEO of the Anderson Area...

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