Second PPE Track Gears for Launch

The faculty team for the second track of Claremont McKenna College’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) program is two-thirds complete. Eric Helland, Claremont McKenna College’s William F. Podlich
Professor of Economics and George R. Roberts Fellow, will join recently hired associate philosophy professor Adrienne Martin to teach the new track of the popular but selective major.

In its expanded form, the program will accept 28 students from this year’s sophomore class, double the 14 students accepted last year. With the expansion of the program, much will stay the same: Beginning the spring of their sophomore year, students in each track will participate in a seminar and a tutorial in each of the three subjects. But differences will emerge in light of the professors’ research interests.

“I think there will be a lot of differences in content, but I don’t think there will be a lot of differences in approach,” Helland said. “I think the program works. I think it works less because of the content and more because of the approach.”

Helland has been teaching economics at CMC since
1998, while Martin taught at the University of Pennsylvania since 2006. After CMC’s
decision last winter to expand the PPE program, Martin was the first professor to
be appointed to the program. The politics professor position is currently vacant.

Martin, who began teaching at CMC this fall, hopes to fuse her own interests—which include moral psychology, normative ethics and
applied ethics—with the content of her
courses. 

“My own research interests center
on interpersonal emotions and attitudes and how they structure
relationships,” Martin wrote in an email to TSL. “I’d love to find a way to relate these
topics to the other P and E [politics and economics] so that students emerge from the program with the
ability to adjust their moral focus from personal concerns to public interest
and back again.”

Martin wrote that she is looking
forward to working with the CMC faculty and the overall community in the reshaping of the PPE major.

“I’m pretty open and flexible, to
be honest,” Martin wrote. “There are a lot of cooks in this kitchen.” 

According to the current plan for the expanded PPE program, students will not apply directly to either track, but rather apply to the program in general, wrote PPE and philosophy professor Paul Hurley in an email to TSL

The PPE faculty members “will then undertake the arduous, complex, but extremely important process of shaping two equally outstanding groups from amongst the applicants,” he wrote. 

Although each group of students will take a different set of classes, the expanded program offers the possibility of academic interaction between the two groups. Hurley wrote that he and Martin are considering bringing in speakers to address both groups, and “instituting the PPE equivalent of inter league play in baseball, with tutorials pairings across the two groups at certain points.”

He added, “This will allow students in each group, with its own intensive intellectual conversation, not only to engage with other members of their group, but to engage with members of another group that is having a different but related and intersecting conversation.”

PPE major Zachariah Oquenda
CM ’16 said that while he is excited by the expansion of the program, he could
see why some students already in the PPE program might be concerned.

“There is a negative to it, but it’s
a very superficial one,” Oquenda said. “Getting into the program came with some
sort of pride that you had worked hard and demonstrated some capacity … I could
see some potential arguments being that it lowers the prestige of the program,
lowers the competition and it might not grant the same sort of opportunities afterwards.”

However, Oquenda said that he is happy to see the overall
expansion of the program, including the addition of Helland and Martin.

“It’s a benefit to expand the program because
you’re getting more students in an environment where they can practice and
engage with all sorts of skills and material on a deeper level,” Oquenda
said.

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