Triple-Discipline Minor Gets $3.4 Million Gift

The commitment from the Charles Koch Foundation will support the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program in the College of Arts & Sciences. (UNC photo)

The University has received a $3.4 million gift commitment from the Charles Koch Foundation to support the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, one of the most popular and fastest-growing minors in the College of Arts & Sciences.

PPE is a minor established in 2005 that uses the three disciplines to address questions of efficiency, institutional design and political structures as well as justice, rights and liberty.

About $1.8 million of the gift will fund two new tenure-track faculty positions for six years. The remaining $1.6 million represents continued support for existing programs in PPE that the Koch Foundation has funded with previous gifts, including visiting assistant professorships, a staff position and support for the PPE Society, an international scholarly society that was founded at Carolina.

“Many of society’s most pressing challenges don’t fit neatly within a single discipline,” said Koch Foundation Executive Vice President Ryan Stowers. “Carolina shows how a PPE program expands opportunity for students to learn and refine their critical thinking skills in an open environment not limited by disciplinary boundaries.”

The foundation supports educational programs that enhance students’ ability to develop their talents to engage in a rapidly developing world and funds research in areas such as criminal justice and policing reform, free expression, foreign policy, economic opportunity and innovation.

Carolina’s PPE program is one of the largest in the U.S. and has become a model for other programs across the nation and in Europe and Australia. It aims to prepare students for careers in a variety of fields in the public and private sectors, including law, government, nonprofits, public policy and finance. The program draws on the tradition of philosophers and political economists, including John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman and John Rawls. Oxford University established the first PPE Program in 1920.

“The PPE Program has tripled in size over the past six years,” said Morehead-Cain Alumni Distinguished Professor Geoff Sayre-McCord, who directs the program. “We have over 350 students currently enrolled, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.”

Students in PPE take a gateway course, one course each in the three core disciplines and a capstone seminar. An extracurricular program includes reading groups, conferences, workshops, weekend seminars and a speaker series, exposing students to a range of disciplines and intellectual perspectives.

The new commitment from the Koch Foundation brings its total support for the PPE Program to $4.37 million since 2010. The foundation also has given $336,000 to the department of psychology and neuroscience and $15,000 to the political science department.

The PPE program is a joint offering of UNC and Duke University, although the Koch Foundation gift is earmarked for UNC. At Carolina, students can minor in PPE; Duke offers a certificate. Courses can be taken at either school to fulfill requirements. Students must take a course that introduces them to key ideas, methods and tools from philosophy, political science and economics, plus one course each in the three core disciplines. A required capstone seminar challenges them to engage with contemporary issues using the resources they have developed in the program.


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