About the Institute

About our Educational Programs | About our Institute Concept, Design and Production | About our Innovative Building Design 

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate (the EMK Institute) is dedicated to educating the public about our government, invigorating public discourse, encouraging participatory democracy, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders. The Institute will be a non-partisan and dynamic center of learning and engagement that uses innovative technology to provide each visitor with an information-rich, personalized experience that will bring important historical and current debates to life.

The Institute intends to be one of the leading organizations working to turn the tide on civic education, providing a portal into the legislative process and a training ground for active, responsible participation in democracy, community and country.

Through innovative, participatory educational programs, the EMK Institute will engage the public in important debates, bringing them inside the legislative process. The EMK Institute will use many of the issues Senator Kennedy cared deeply about to focus attention on how the Senate shapes public policy and the nation. The Institute will be a dynamic laboratory for democracy. Our programs will serve the general public, students at all levels of their education, teachers, scholars, senators, senate staff, international visitors and others in public service.

The EMK Institute’s Columbia Point facility is a 68,000 square foot building located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) and adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. This proximity will encourage visitors to explore both facilities. The two institutions will partner closely to build the Institute and a variety of programs. The Institute is also across the street from the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum which houses the Commonwealth’s original copy of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence among many other relevant archival and educational resources. This too creates opportunities for collaboration and added value for visitors to Columbia Point.

The education, research and other programs offered by the EMK Institute will attract students, faculty and visitors to the UMass Boston campus and will complement those currently offered at the university.

The EMK Institute will house:

  • Ceremonial/reception/lobby space
  • Museum space for exhibits
  • A full-scale representation of the Senate chamber for forums and educational programs
  • Three classrooms for visiting groups and other training programs
  • Office space
  • Cafe offering a small daytime menu for visitors
  • Warming kitchen and staging capacity to host large catered dinner events
  • Conference facilities
  • Gift/Book Shop

 A distinguished board of advisors, scholars, teachers, practitioners and researchers will oversee, advise and guide the Institute's program development.

About our Educational Programs

The educational programs inside the building will breathe life into the Institute, making it a dynamic laboratory of democracy. Our programs will serve the general public, students at all levels of their education, teachers, new Senators, Senate staff, and others in public service.

To fulfill our educational mission, the EMK Institute will serve as a unique resource engaging visitors in every dimension of our participatory democracy.

The Institute will emphasize civic education, providing educational programs in history and public policy issues, current and past, as well as in-depth information about the Senate, its history, rules, customs and personalities. These programs will emphasize the value of critical skills such as teamwork, leadership, negotiation, compromise, debating, and persuasion.

A distinguished board of advisors, scholars, teachers, and researchers will oversee, advise and guide the Institute's program development.

  • For Students — Students will engage in immersive activities and experiential learning, drafting bills, debating historical and contemporary issues, and voting on legislation. Students will also view dramatic re-creations of significant moments in the U.S. Senate’s history, allowing them to gain insight into the struggles of the legislative process, and inspiring them to become active participants in public affairs. The Institute’s website will supply rich materials for students to prepare for their visit, and offer post-visit opportunities to stay engaged and continue learning.

    The Institute plans to host a Summer Senate program, where 100 students, two from each state, will come to the Institute to hold mock hearings and draft legislation.

    Offered in conjunction with UMass Boston and a consortium of other universities, the Institute’s college programs will emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to the study of government, drawing on faculty and guest speakers from such diverse fields as Political Science, Economics, International Relations, History, Law, and Urban Planning.

  • For Teachers — Teachers will work closely with the Institute to create courses and programs that add a new dimension to the study of history and government. Teacher-development programs, in conjunction with leading colleges and universities, will advance their abilities to teach civics, and also fulfill eligibility requirements for in-service or college credits.

    To sign up for our fist professional development program offered in February 2015, click here.

  • For Government Officials — Programs designed specifically for public officials, incoming Senators, and their staff, will provide in-depth training sessions to prepare public servants to communicate effectively in Washington D.C., and with the citizens they serve.

  • For the General Public and Life-Long Learners — Programs for the general public will be designed to develop and support a well-informed electorate. These programs will enable participation on a local and national level, through seminars, lectures, and symposia.

    Programs for history enthusiasts and retired citizens will enrich the Institute experience by connecting generations of knowledge and public service.

  • Digital Library — The Edward M. Kennedy Institute will partner with the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and others, to digitize materials, and create a comprehensive digital library of US Senate archives and related materials. The Institute’s website will provide a public portal into this rich, interactive content, including historical documents, photographs, oral histories, film and more.

About our Institute Concept, Design and Production

Ed Schlossberg

Ed Schlossberg

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute’s concept, design and production are the result of a remarkable collaboration among the Senator, his wife Vicki Reggie Kennedy, and Ed Schlossberg of ESIDesign. There would be no Institute without the thought-leadership at the beginning and continued hands-on leadership of Ed Schlossberg and ESIDesign.

This is perhaps best described in Ed’s own words.

"Several years ago, for Senator Kennedy’s birthday, I decided to do a drawing which depicted an institute dedicated to the United States Senate from which he could work should he decide not to seek re-election. I did it because Senator Kennedy loved the Senate so much and I thought he would love to continue sharing his love and respect for it."

It was based on creating a participatory experience where people could see what it was like to be a Senator and act in the best interests of their State and the United States.  Both the Senator and Vicki Kennedy loved the idea and over several years proceeded to take steps to make it happen.   I evolved the concept and when Senator Kennedy became ill we all accelerated the process to get it done.

The design evolved to have two main parts- a gallery experience that enabled people to learn about the Senate and a Simulation experience that invited visitors to become senators and work together to pass the bills of a particular day in history.  We developed this Simulation so that high school and college students could create scripts for it.

The Institute is a new kind of institution where the experience is designed in collaboration with its audience.

A Board of Directors was formed and I developed the Program document with my firm ESIDesign. We sought help from designers (Pentagram was chosen in a competition and did the first early work), and an architect (Rafael Vinoly was selected in a competition).  ESIDesign took over the development of the concept design and worked to create all the bid documents and worked with Vinoly’s firm to tune the building.

During the production process, which ESIDesign managed with EMK Institute staff, we brought on Control Group for software development, Richard Lewis for media elements, and Gigantic Mechanic for game mechanics.

Although always challenging, it was and is an astonishing project, which will become realized as visitors begin to participate in the experience.”

About our Innovative Building Design

Rafael Viñoly

The Institute's building was designed by world-renowned architect, Rafael Viñoly.

Rafael Viñoly has been practicing architecture for over forty-five years. As principal of Rafael Viñoly Architects, he has completed many critically and publicly praised buildings around the world. He is known as an architect of imagination and rigor with a proven capacity to create beloved civic, cultural and institutional spaces. Mr. Viñoly’s projects include the Tokyo International Forum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Abu Dhabi Campus for New York University.

The Institute is located on the UMass Boston Campus, adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The overall site plan has been designed to work in harmony with the UMass Boston campus, the JFK Library, and the Columbia Point waterfront. The facility has been designed and will be operated with sustainable practices, and is on track for LEED certification.

View the renderings »