About the Riley Institute

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. Through the work of its Center for Diversity Strategies, Center for Education Policy and Leadership, Center for Critical Issues, and community solutions-focused research group, the Institute builds informed leadership for a diverse and equitable society, supports innovative and relevant approaches to public education, hosts expert speakers to broaden student and community perspectives on critical issues, and undertakes research to support evidence-based practices to improve lives in our communities.

Our History

The Riley Institute is named for Furman alumnus Richard W. Riley, former two-term South Carolina governor and former United States Secretary of Education. Still actively engaged with the Institute’s work, Dick Riley inspires the staff and leadership of the Riley Institute to remain true to its founding beliefs that building an informed leadership body, supporting high-quality public education, and maximizing the contributions of diverse people are key levers for progress in our state, and that a commitment to nonpartisanship is essential to success.

Our Programs

The Riley Institute is affiliated with Furman’s Department of Politics and International Affairs and works with its faculty and students and with others from departments across campus. The Riley Institute is a vital component of The Furman Advantage and works closely with hundreds of students annually to provide unique opportunities that help to make real the promises of The Furman Advantage.

Seeking to broaden perspectives and dialogue on pressing contemporary policy issues, the Riley Institute hosts expert speakers and scholars on the university’s campus, inviting students and community members in small and large groups to listen, learn, and ask questions. Often attracting a thousand or more students and community members to such events, the Riley Institute has hosted hundreds of expert speakers so disparate as former president Bill Clinton, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, astronaut John Glenn, and prominent journalists Judy Woodruff and Chuck Todd.

The Riley Institute brings a strong focus to developing and recognizing leadership among elected officials and corporate, civic, education, nonprofit and faith leaders. It has engaged deeply with 2,300 leaders — and counting — from multiple sectors and across the state, helping them understand how to leverage diversity to maximize outcomes in their enterprises and communities. Since 2005, the Institute has recognized the importance of legislative, civic, educational, and diversity leadership through a number of highly-regarded awards events.

The Riley Institute has undertaken the definitive study of public education in South Carolina, is home to one of the nation’s foremost Montessori education researchers, has helped launch a network of schools with project-based learning programs across the state, and teaches professionals from across the nation how to advance out-of-school time learning programs in their states through public policy.

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.

Leadership. Knowledge. Impact.

Across all of its work, the Riley Institute fosters and connects leadership, creates and shares knowledge, and makes an impact. We invite you to explore a few of our programs, below.


Leadership (Student)