"Rocky Top, Rocky Road, Solid Rock: Thirty Years of Intellectual History at the Federal Executive Institute"

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Virginia Tech

The Federal Executive Institute (FEI) was created in 1968 by Executive Order from President Johnson, stating the need for establishing "a center for advanced study for executives in the upper echelons of the Civil Service." It was common in the early years for FEI to provide life changing, "rocky top" experiences. Since that time, the FEI has traveled down a rocky road, through efforts to disband, attempts to privatize, and flurries of criticism. It has emerged with a "back to basics curriculum" and a mission founded on what is seen as the solid rock of the Constitution and an emphasis of each executive's role within that Constitutional system. The intellectual history of FEI, including its creation, curriculum, and leadership and how they have developed and changed over time, suggests this key question: how does FEI decide to teach what (and how) it teaches? This answer has varied; at times, the institution was shaped by strong directors; at other times, key political actors and faculty members. There were times of great environmental turbulence and threat, when the very existence of the FEI was in jeopardy. Although the intellectual streams may have diverged, the FEI community rallied to ensure survival. They have indeed survived, and while not the same institution founded in 1968, still maintain their niche for educating "the best of the best."

intellectual history, Federal Executive Institute, executive development