A brand new interdisciplinary major, set to debut this fall, pulls experts from four of the University of Richmond’s five schools to create a curriculum with a focus on the moral assessment of law and public policy. The Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL) program is a collaborative effort between the School of Arts & Sciences, the Robins School of Business, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the School of Law.
“The program will allow us to work with students to talk about what types of public policy or legal institutions we should adopt, drawing from work in disparate fields,” said Professor David Lefkowitz, the program’s coordinator.
Lefkowitz says that one of the most novel aspects of the program is a series of classes that will allow students to examine a single public policy issue through approaches from each of the disciplines.
“Our view is that for many students the best approach to thinking about public policy and the laws is actually going to be an approach that crosses these disciplinary boundaries,” he said. “We feel this to be a worthy alternative to a class that probes deeply but with a narrower focus, or that is taught from only one disciplinary perspective.”
Lefkowitz said discussion about creating a PPEL program began when professors noticed many students would major in one of the disciplines, and minor in one or more of the others.
“We could see that students were looking for an overall course of study that allowed them to take the different disciplines,” he said.
Joshua Flanders, ‘12, was one of the first students to express interest in the major. For him, the program’s appeal lay in the curriculum’s broad academic scope.
“I was having trouble narrowing down my interests into just one major,” Flanders said. “I feel that the PPEL major will give me a broad foundation of knowledge for anything I choose to do after graduation, be it business school, law school, or any number of careers.”
Lefkowitz says the program is an excellent addition to Richmond, as it “fulfills the historic mission of a liberal arts education.”
“I think the PPEL program is a modern instantiation of the original purpose of the liberal arts college, which is to educate students to become virtuous citizens and active participants in a democratic political society,” Lefkowitz said. “I fully expect PPEL majors to play a prominent role in shaping the local, national, and global communities to which they belong.”