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New major offers interdisciplinary course of study

Professor Piers Turner meets with a student about majoring in philosophy, politics and economics Oct. 24. Credit: Sam Raudins | Social Media Editor

Students at Ohio State will now be able to pursue the same degree as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron.

Starting this semester, the College of Arts and Sciences is offering a major in philosophy, politics and economics, or PPE, which seeks to provide students with the skills to interpret modern institutions from multiple perspectives.

“The idea of the major is that any social and political problem that is of any significance is probably going to require more than one set of tools,” Eric MacGilvray, associate professor of political science and chair of the PPE steering committee, said.

The foundational prerequisite coursework incorporates content from the three areas that constitute the major and includes courses like moral and political philosophy, statistics, economics, and political economy, according to the College of Arts and Sciences website.

After completing the prerequisites, the skills learned are applied in the two core discussion-based classes, MacGilvray said. The courses are economy; polity and community; and tradition, progress and utopia.

“The only dedicated PPE courses are the two core courses that are at the heart of the major,” MacGilvray said. “Otherwise, the major is primarily composed of existing courses from philosophy, economics and politics.”

Piers Turner, associate professor of philosophy and PPE philosophy coordinator, said PPE is meant to prepare students who plan for careers in public life, such as law, public policy, public service, business, finance, education and journalism.

“Anybody in those fields is going to really benefit from having the combination of expertise that this major can offer,” Turner said.

The major trades “depth for breadth” and doesn’t offer a deep dive into one of its specific components, MacGilvray said.

“We’ve designed PPE very carefully that we think you’re going to get kind of the crucial pieces of those three majors,” MacGilvray said.

Turner said the major provides critical thinking skills on the practical knowledge of economics and politics as it incorporates a focus on values.

The major also provides the foundation for informed citizenship, for it centers on the way society works in the world today and how it can be changed, Turner said.

“It would be really good if citizens in general had some understanding of that so we didn’t just throw our hands up in the air and say, ‘Well, we don’t really get the dynamics of what’s going on,’” Turner said.

The bachelor of arts degree allows students to concentrate in certain areas of the major or design their own discipline, MacGilvray said.

“We’ve put together suites of courses that cut across three main departments that go into certain themes we’ve chosen,” MacGilvray said.

The preselected concentrations are choice and behavior; global cooperation and conflict; justice and moral reasoning; and law, policy and governance.

The idea for PPE was founded at Oxford University in the 1920s and has since spread to more than 100 universities worldwide, Turner said.

“If you want to change the world in any way, you’ve got to understand how it works, and you’ve got to understand what’s actually feasible,” Turner said.

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