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

Why Evidence Matters: A New Blog Series Highlighting Important Topics in Public Education

If you asked 100 people what the word evidence means to them, you might receive 100 different answers. In a society increasingly overloaded with information—and plagued by doubts about what is “real”— we can find...

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A Penny for Your Thoughts: How a One Cent Sales Tax Transformed Education in South Carolina

On a recent sunny October afternoon in Columbia, Dick Riley made his way out of the Riley Institute’s WhatWorksSC celebration and headed toward his car. As he passed the concierge’s desk, a quiet voice called...

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From the Ground Up: How a Grassroots Movement Became a Blueprint for Getting Things Done

In our current political climate, it feels rare that both sides of the aisle come together to address community challenges, but that is what happened during Dick Riley’s second term as South Carolina governor with...

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Latest Riley Institute News

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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The Riley Institute Selects 21 Fellows for Statewide Afterschool Leadership Initiative

FOR INFORMATION: Katie Quine Marketing and Communications Manager The Riley Institute at Furman University 864.294.3368; February 15, 2023 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THE RILEY INSTITUTE SELECTS 21 FELLOWS FOR STATEWIDE AFTERSCHOOL LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE South...

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41 Midlands leaders selected to become Riley Fellows

Forty-one leaders from across the Midlands will have new tools and perspectives to leverage diversity to improve organizational outcomes and drive social and economic progress in South Carolina, gained through their participation in the Riley...

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