The mission of the Institute for the Study of Democracy and Liberalism is to promote a non-ideological inquiry into both ancient and modern forms of democracy and liberalism. In order for a civil society to remain healthy, its members must continually review and engage societal principles. Given that both democracy and liberalism have become the commonly accepted forms of healthy society in much of the world, one of our most pressing dangers is that while praising their strengths, we fail to consider and address their possible weaknesses. The Institute thus exists to assist the larger LIU Post community in the all-important, and always urgent, civic engagement with democracy and liberalism.

Under the guidance of the LIU Post College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Institute also aims to further the following core curriculum goals for our students: (1) fostering critical and analytical skills, (2) increasing the understanding and appreciation of areas of human knowledge, (3) developing an understanding of diverse modes of inquiry, (4), increasing the ability to examine problems and issues from multiple perspectives, and–most of all–(5) promoting the understanding of ethical and moral issues, while (6) fostering lifelong learning.

Director – Dr. Shawn Welnak


  • Ph.D., Tulane University
  • M.A. (Greek), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • B.A., M.A. (Philosophy), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Shawn Welnak earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He continued his studies there, working first on an M.A. in philosophy and then an M.A. in classical Greek. His philosophy master’s thesis “Priority, Nature, and Political Animals in Aristotle’s Politics,” published by Peter Lang, focuses on Aristotle’s social and political philosophies, as well as their metaphysical grounds.

He received his doctorate of philosophy at Tulane University. His dissertation, “Philosophy and the Cave of Opinion: the Graeco-Arabic Tradition,” examines the medieval Arabic philosopher Alfarabi and his debt to Aristotle regarding the relation between philosophy and politics. The dissertation takes its bearings from Plato’s allegory of the cave, which highlights the twofold character of philosophy as ascent out of and descent back into the cave of generally accepted opinion. This work will be the grounds for a new translation into English from the medieval Latin of Alfarabi’s discussion of the allegory, as well as a future book.

Shawn is also working on Immanuel Kant’s understanding of “belief” or “faith” as it relates to his social and political philosophy, with respect to both the epistemic form and content of belief. This work will underline the similarity Kant has to medieval Islamic theories of faith and religious hermeneutics and, in doing so, aim to correct major misunderstandings that have arisen owing to Kant’s enigmatic claim that he “found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith [Glaube].”

Assistant Director – Pooja Bachani

2016 headshot

  • M.A., Adolescent Education in English, Long Island University, expected 2017
  • M.A., English Literature & Literary Theory, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, 2014
  • B.A., English & Philosophy, Boston University, 2012

Pooja successfully completed both the CKI fellowship and internship program before coming on as the Assistant Director. She is actively involved with other partner organizations and is an advocate for free speech and academic freedom. Pooja’s research interests lie in the connections between Mill and classical Pragmatism, and Donald Davidson and modern Pragmatism. Currently, she is developing a categorical lens for her research in pragmatism’s conception of truth, answering the question: To what extent do individuals have active agency in making ideas true under the pragmatist maxim?

While her wanderlust makes her difficult to find, an artisanal coffee shop is always a good bet. She will usually be tucked away in a corner with a newspaper or book, blissfully drinking what a professor of hers once called, “the elixir of life.”

Senior Fellow – Thomas Murphy


  • B.A., Foreign Languages (French), Classical Language & International Studies minors, Austin Peay State University, expected 2017

In addition to French, Greek, and Latin, Thomas has strong interests in political theory and political philosophy, especially pertaining to language issues. For the Institute, he has spent time researching the political philosophy of Plato, particularly in his Apology of Socrates. Last year, Thomas received a research grant from his university to conduct research in Paris and is currently working on projects related to the politics of 18th-century French theatre and its reinterpretation of classical myths. He is particularly interested in the ways in which Voltaire’s view of the ancient world is reflected in the politics of his theatre.

Outside of school and research, Thomas frequents Nashville coffee shops and writes book, theatre, and music reviews for a local publication.

Senior Fellow – Christian Tegge


  • B.S., Business Administration, Economics minor, The King’s College New York, expected 2017

Christian’s interests regard the moral aspects of business and the economy. Currently, he is studying the rise of automation in the economy and the moral implications that it has for humans. Inquiring into such questions as: What are the moral and practical implications of increasing automation in the economy? Is value creation by human hands a required component of human flourishing? How does society purse ethical business without government regulation?

Although Christian likes to be constantly involved with many groups and activities, you can find him taking a break and enjoying life’s pleasures of human comradery at one of NYC’s local eats with friends.


Past Fellows

Ali Ahmed


  • B.A., Economics, Alma College

Ali is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Omicron Delta Epsilon economics honorary. His main research interests relate to the Austrian school of economics, along with the Virginia and Bloomington schools of political economy. Prior to joining the institute he would participate in his college’s Honors Day and present a paper entitled “Political Economy: Can the State Do Better?”; asking if state involvement truly ameliorates market failures. While working for the institute, he would aid in a project to understand how liberal arts students conceptualize happiness. He currently researches welfare policy at the Cato Institute and hopes to achieve an advanced degree in the future.

When not involved in research and hoping to direct public policy, he loves to teach and spread his love of economics. Moreover, he enjoys helping others achieve personal and professional success.

Christopher Condon


  • B.A., Political Science, Art History minor, Gettysburg College, expected 2019

Academically, Chris’ interests lie mainly in the realm of American governmental history, specifically in Presidential power and the relationship of the executive branch with the U.S. Congress during the Coolidge administration. Constitutional Law is also something Chris deals with on a regular basis, primarily pertaining to civil liberties anywhere from the freedom of speech to the right to privacy. Active in nearly all of the political organizations on Gettysburg’s campus, he is perhaps most involved with the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, a non-partisan public policy education and research institute. Art history is also a passion of Chris’, which precipitates inquiries into the culture, politics, and social structures of the Renaissance and beyond.

Outside of the academic sphere, Chris enjoys visiting art museums, historical museums, and national parks. Among his favorite places to visit are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

Joseph Whitley


  • B.A. Economics, Philosophy Minor, Spanish Languages Minor, expected 2018

Although primarily a student of Economics and Philosophy, Joseph’s interest span throughout most other fields of academic inquiry. His research includes contemporary medical ethics as well as the interaction between legal institutions and economic development. During his time as a fellow at ISDL, Joseph assembled research materials related to the ISDL’s philosophical inquiry into conceptions of happiness among university students.

When taking a break from academic pursuits, Joseph enjoys the rewarding activity of playing the piano.