In response to increasing competition for entrance to the
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program at Claremont McKenna College,
the college is interviewing philosophy professors to support a second track of
the major. The second track will be launched as early as spring 2015, according to philosophy professor Paul Hurley, who teaches the philosophy segment of the program to the current track of students.
“It’s quite possible that if this person can come in next year, we’ll be launching the second track next year,” Hurley said.
The new professor will teach
two PPE courses every year as well as two regular philosophy courses that are open to students outside the PPE major, Hurley said.
Narrowed down from a list of
roughly 100 applicants, four candidates are visiting CMC to attend PPE seminars, interact with PPE and philosophy students and faculty members, and meet with CMC President Hiram Chodosh and other administrators.
“The selection process has been exhaustive and exhausting,” Hurley said.
The expansion of the program also requires another
set of professors to teach politics and economics. The college is looking to its current faculty members to fill those positions, Hurley said.
The PPE program, which is modeled after the tutorial
system at Oxford University, accepts a small number of students who take
seminars together beginning in the spring of their sophomore years and participate
in one-on-one intensive discussion sessions with professors.
The program, which was established in 1986, was intended
to comprise about a dozen students and three professors, according to Ward
Elliott, who teaches the politics portion. In recent years, the program has been
capped at 14. Although Elliott said that the small number of students accepted
into the program creates a “very tight-knit community,” it also means that
there is high competition for each of the spots.
Launching a second track of the program will allow
twice the number of students to participate.
“In my year, there were people who really deserved to get
it and didn’t get admitted to the program,” Clay Spence CM ’16 said. “So it’s probably a good thing if there are
two sections so people who do deserve it can get in.”
“I think the expansion of the program a year earlier might
have helped my own chances, but then again, the applicants for the program are
always very highly qualified,” Ben Turner CM ’16, who was not admitted to the program, wrote in an email to TSL.
However, Turner expressed concern that the
“expansion of the program could likely dilute the caliber of students
graduating with PPE on their diploma.”
Hurley said that he could see a possible risk involved
in the expansion of the program.
“It’s like trying to franchise your favorite
restaurant,” Hurley said. “Is what works something that you can do a second
time with equal success?”
Despite these uncertainties, Hurley remains confident
that if both the faculty and the students are completely committed to the
program, it will work out in the favor of all students accepted to it.
PPE major Sean Sakaguchi CM ’16 agrees.
“There have been fears of dilution that
people have mentioned, which I think is a legitimate concern,” Sakaguchi
said. “But there are ways around
The hiring of the new philosophy professor is being financially supported by a family that includes a CMC graduate and someone who studied PPE at Oxford, according to Hurley.
“It’s safe to say he’s a big believer in PPE and that it
was a great experience for him,” Hurley said. “I think part of the interest was
in making it more broadly available to students in Claremont.”