Published on: December 1st, 2021

Graduate School Class Profile: “Special Topics in Statesmanship: Ronald Reagan”

By Allison Schuster

President Ronald Reagan managed to revive the Republican Party, beat the inflation that had plagued the U.S. economy, and checked the Soviet Union’s drive for global dominance during his time in office.  To understand his accomplishments, adjunct lecturer Henry Olsen examines Reagan’s political skills in building a new voter base and making key decisions in economic and foreign policy in his class for the Van Andel Graduate School of Government. 

As many of the courses in the graduate program focus on the statesmanship of particular political figures, this class examines the presidency and statesmanship of Ronald Reagan, and his influence on American politics.

Olsen, who received his law degree from the University of Chicago, also works as an elections analyst and American political commentator, Washington Post columnist, and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. 

Graduate student Christiana Reasor said she appreciates Olsen’s approach in outlining Reagan’s more abstract qualities of statesmanship, as well as how students can apply them in their work.  

"Professor Olsen's class is centered on case studies from Reagan's time in politics, offering not only a way to identify attributes of a statesman, but also the opportunity to learn the practical application of those attributes,” Reasor said. “With historical context and insightful questions, Professor Olsen humanizes a conservative legend and in doing so, gives students tangible skills to pursue in order to become statesmen."

In analyzing the major challenges Reagan addressed during his time as president, the decisions he made, and the political circumstances he had to navigate during those times, students learn to determine what elements are essential to successful political statesmanship.

About Hillsdale in D.C.

Hillsdale in D.C. is an extension of the teaching mission of Hillsdale College to Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to teach the Constitution and the principles that give it meaning. Through the study of original source documents from American history—and of older books that formed the education of America’s founders—it seeks to inspire students, teachers, citizens, and policymakers to return the America’s principles to their central place in the political life of the nation.

About Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college located in southern Michigan. Founded in 1844, the College has built a national reputation through its classical liberal arts core curriculum and its principled refusal to accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies, even indirectly in the form of student grants or loans. It also conducts an outreach effort promoting civil and religious liberty, including a free monthly speech digest, Imprimis, with a circulation of more than 5.7 million. For more information, visit