University News

UNC-Chapel Hill receives $3.4 million commitment to advance its signature Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program

About $1.8 million of the gift will fund two new tenure-track faculty positions for six years. The remaining $1.6 million is for continued support for existing programs in PPE.

Old Well with fall leaves.
Campus scenes from November 2, 2018, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 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.

Philosophy, Politics and Economics, popularly known as PPE, is an innovative minor established on campus in 2005 that brings the three disciplines together—using them to inform one another 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 is 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.

“We are grateful to the Charles Koch Foundation for this generous new gift, as well as its support since 2010 of our increasingly popular PPE minor,” said Kevin M. Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Expanding interdisciplinary opportunities is one of my key strategic priorities so that we remove the academic silos that can limit innovative teaching, learning and research. PPE, with its emphasis on the connections between three pivotal disciplines, is the very definition of this approach.”

“Many of society’s most pressing challenges don’t fit neatly within a single discipline,” said Charles 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 United States and has become an internationally recognized model for other programs across the nation and in Europe and Australia. The rigorous minor prepares 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 such as 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. This generous gift will play a crucial role in helping us meet the tremendous demand for the PPE Program.”

Students in PPE take a gateway course, one course each in the three core disciplines, and a capstone seminar. A robust extracurricular program includes semester-long reading groups, conferences, workshops, weekend seminars and speaker series. Together these activities expose students to a broad range of disciplines and intellectual perspectives.

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

The gift supports For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the University’s history. With a goal to raise $4.25 billion by Dec. 31, 2022, the Campaign for Carolina is inspired by the Blueprint for Next, the University’s overall strategic plan built on two core strategies: “of the public, for the public” and “innovation made fundamental.”

The PPE program is a joint offering of UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University, although the Koch Foundation gift is earmarked for UNC-Chapel Hill. 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.