ALEXANDRU ROTARU ’22| STAFF WRITER • Next Fall, Wabash College will be adding a
new major into its selection: PPE.The abbreviation stands for Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics. PPE was first offered at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and later expanded to Liberal Arts colleges across the United States.
At Wabash, this new major will be built on a large number of existing courses, with the addition of an introductory 200-level course and a senior capstone. While there will be no PPE minor, the major will not be as structured or as demanding as the Physics or Chemistry majors, “which are very hierarchical majors, where you have to take things in exactly one path,” Howell Professor of Chemistry and Dean of the College Scott Feller said. “So it will not be as structured as those […], [and] the steps in-between [the introductory course and the capstone] will have flexibility.”
There are multiple opportunities for those who choose a PPE major, particularly in Policy, Private Enterprise, and Law. The main focus of this major, according to Feller,
is answering three questions: Is it politically viable? Is it economically sustainable? And is it ethically just? In this sense, “[PPE] will be a major that will require close reading, and clear writing and analytical thinking,” Feller said. “So, I think that will prepare people for many different futures.” As with the Computer Science major, approved last semester, it was the Wabash community excitement that started the process of adding this brand new program. The main difference in the approval processes of these majors was that, in the case of PPE, the faculty were less familiar with what exactly it represented. “We’ve learned a lot about PPE,” Feller said. “I think, for me, the most important lesson was when people pointed out that if we went back in time far enough, the study of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics wasn’t separated into three disciplines. In the past, it was studied in a more unified way. Through specialization, we separated them into different fields of study. And so, the idea of PPE is really to reunite these three disciplines around the study of common questions.”
The major crosses the boundaries of fields of study, as well as academic divisions, concentrating on parts of each major. The main takeaway is that it is less quantitative than the Economics major – PPE does not require a student to take Econometrics, according to Feller. Rather, the major focuses on the historical and philosophical aspects. “I hope that [PPE crossing division boundaries] reflects how we do our teaching and learning,” Feller said. “Even though we are organized into departments and divisions, in the end, everyone here is involved in the project that is liberal arts education.”
While PPE is somewhere between Divisions II and III, this major has incredible applications in Division I. For instance, when talking about the study of the greenhouse effect and of climate change, “I think […] we’re at that point where [they] can no longer be limited only to the scientific, [they] clearly [have] important policy implications at this point,” Feller said. These policies will, in turn, need to answer the questions that are central to PPE.
Therefore, if you are interested in policy or law, if you are passionate about how the economical, the political, and the ethical come together in everyday life, or if you would like to further your reading, writing, and analytical thinking skills through a highly applicable and interdisciplinary program, the PPE major at Wabash College is for you.