The University of Texas at Austin - Civitas Institute


What is the Civitas Institute?

The Civitas Institute is a community of scholars committed to exploring the ideas and institutions that sustain a free society and enable individuals to flourish. We value independent thought, civil discourse, free speech, reasoned deliberation and intellectual curiosity. Our programs facilitate inquiry into the foundational principles of a free and enduring society: individual rights and civic virtue, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and free enterprise and markets.

Our Spring 2023 Newsletter is now available

Why “Civitas”?

Civitas takes its name from The University of Texas at Austin motto, Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis, a condensed Latin rendering of Mirabeau Lamar’s famous phrase that a “cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”

The seal of The University of Texas at Austin sets this motto against a blue background, emphasizing the importance of sincerity to the academic enterprise. An open book in the top field of its heraldic shield symbolizes the study of the past — its accumulated wisdom and lessons — which is the discipline necessary to sustain free and flourishing societies in the future.

After he designed this seal, Professor William Battle described the motto as “at once the justification of the University’s existence and the ideal of its future.”

About the Director

Justin Dyer

Justin Dyer is the executive director of the Civitas Institute, professor of government, and Jack G. Taylor Regents Professor at The University of Texas at Austin. He also is professor (by courtesy) of business, government, and society in the McCombs School of Business.

Dyer writes and teaches in the fields of American political thought, jurisprudence and constitutionalism, with an emphasis on the perennial philosophical tradition of natural law. He is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles, essays and book reviews. His most recent book, with Kody Cooper, is The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics: Political Theology, Natural Law, and the American Founding, published recently with Cambridge University Press. His previous books with Cambridge University Press include C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law; Slavery, Abortion, and the Politics of Constitutional Meaning; and Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition. He also is co-editor of the two-volume constitutional law casebook American Constitutional Law (4th edition, West Academic), which has been adopted at leading universities across the country.

Previously, he was a professor of political science at the University of Missouri, where he served as the founding director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy, a signature academic center for the study of American political thought and history. An award-winning teacher, Dyer is a frequent speaker for business, civic and university groups. After attending the University of Oklahoma on a wrestling scholarship, he completed his M.A. and Ph.D. in Government at The University of Texas at Austin.

Contact Dyer at