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Profile: 'CAFE' Program Provides Free-Enterprise Perspective to University Students

April 28, 2020
By Matthew L. Kelly

The Colloquium for the Advancement of Free-Enterprise Education at the University of Texas-Dallas teaches students about the foundations and history of the nation's economic system

Peter Lewin and Stan Liebowitz, economics professors at the University of Texas at Dallas, founded the Colloquium for the Advancement of Free-Enterprise Education (CAFE) in 2017. The professors were concerned the school’s business students were graduating with the technical training they needed but without much knowledge of the foundations and history of free-market capitalism and competing economic philosophies. They started CAFE to advance an accurate and objective understanding of free-enterprise principles through a variety of complementary activities.

CAFE employs creative ways to communicate the value and importance of freedom of trade, investment, and innovation. CAFE carefully and objectively investigates the costs and benefits of alternative economic policies through teaching, invited speakers, workshops, and community- and university-wide events. A major focus of the colloquium is to clarify the working of unfettered markets to students who will be able to rely on this grounded knowledge and share it with others throughout the rest of their lives and careers.

‘Unique Opportunity’

The privately funded program is open to graduate and undergraduate students in the Naveen Jindal School of Management who are majoring in such fields as accounting, supply-chain management, and energy management.

Students must be in good academic standing with at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average in order to participate in the program. Those who are accepted participate in a year-long program that includes two required economics courses. In return, they receive stipend payments at the end of each semester.

Smaller class sizes and a year-long commitment allow students to connect with each other, openly share their ideas, and express their thoughts confidently, says CAFE Academic Director Peter Lewin.

“The CAFE courses are a unique opportunity to engage in smaller groups with students about the major issues of the day that affect the economy in the United States and economies in the world,” Lewin said.

Students ‘Investigate and Question

The CAFE program is changing hearts and minds, says Associate Director Pam Villarreal.

“Students are taught not just how to think but to really investigate and question today’s claims about economic and public policy issues,” Villarreal said. “And through this thought and self-examination of what they thought was true, many of our students have come to a greater understanding and fuller appreciation of free-enterprise economic systems and classical liberal philosophies.”

Two years ago, the program had a humble beginning of two classes and 17 students. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the program will encompass three classes totaling 46 students.

“CAFE will continue to grow as long as there are willing supporters out there who care about academic freedom and the foundations of capitalism and classical liberal thought,” said Villarreal.

Individuals interested in supporting or applying for the CAFE program should contact Villarreal at pav019000@utdallas.edu.

Matthew L. Kelly (Matthew.Kelly1@utdallas.edu) is a CAFE research fellow and doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Dallas, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.