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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PPEL major?

The major in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL) provides a course of study in normative theory. Normative claims are claims about what we ought to do, and normative theories provide general frameworks for answering such questions. The PPEL program focuses on normative questions relating to public policy and law. For example, how ought we to respond to climate change? What sort of healthcare system should we adopt? How ought we to conceive of property rights in ideas? What sort of international law should we put in place to regulate cross-border trade? In order to address questions like these, PPEL majors draw on normative theories developed by economists, philosophers, political scientists, and legal theorists, theories such as cost-benefit analysis, utilitarianism, justice as fairness, and theories of natural or human rights. Students also explore and subject to critical analysis key normative concepts such as rationality, efficiency, justice, welfare, and virtue. In sum, the PPEL major prepares students to offer carefully argued analyses of the ends at which law and public policy ought to aim, as well as the appropriate means to those ends.

What kind of career can I pursue with a PPEL major?

The PPEL major provides excellent preparation for careers in law, public policy, politics, and business. Though the program is still quite new, the post-graduate success of our majors is quite impressive. For example, one student received a full scholarship to study intellectual property law at Indiana University Law School, while another was admitted to the University of Richmond’s Law School under a highly competitive program that grants early admission to the very best UR undergraduates. Another graduate, who as a student at Richmond interned in Bangladesh with the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, received a Fulbright Award to spend a year teaching English in Malaysia. Other PPEL graduates are now working for Deloitte Consulting, the Inter-American Development Bank, and Yelp, or pursuing graduate degrees in fields such as Hospital Administration. Like all of the majors at the University of Richmond, however, the ultimate aim of the PPEL program is to provide students with a strong foundation of skills and knowledge on which they can build for the rest of their lives, not only as employers and employees but as community leaders and democratic citizens.

What courses must I complete to major in PPEL? How many units does the PPEL major require?

All PPEL majors must complete ECON 101, PPEL 261, PPEL 262, PPEL 363, and PPEL 401, area courses in ethics, political theory, and law, and a concentration in Philosophy, Politics, or Economics. The PPEL major requires fifteen units; however, students may double-count one of the five courses they take in their primary concentration field toward one of their three area requirements. For a detailed description, please see the major requirements.

May I double-major in PPEL and some other field?

Absolutely. PPEL graduates have pursued a second major in Leadership Studies, History, French, and several other fields. The PPEL program does limit the number of courses that students may double-count for both the PPEL major and a major in one of its cognate disciplines (that is, in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Leadership Studies). For more information on this restriction, please see the major requirements.

May I study abroad if I major in PPEL?

Yes! In fact, the PPEL faculty strongly encourages you to do so. PPEL majors have studied abroad in Argentina, Australia, England, France, Nepal, and many other countries. PPEL students may earn credit toward the major while studying abroad. For additional information, including a list of foreign universities with which the University of Richmond has a relationship and that are especially well suited to PPEL majors, please see study abroad.

May I earn credit toward the PPEL major for an internship?

The PPEL program does offer students an opportunity to earn up to one unit toward the major by completing an internship. For details regarding the requirements for earning credit toward the PPEL major by completing an internship, including the individual internship contract, please contact the PPEL Coordinator.

Can I start working toward completion of the PPEL major before I officially declare it?

Yes you can. Students interested in PPEL are strongly encouraged to take ECON 101 as soon as they can. (Please note that students must earn a minimum of a C- in ECON 101 in order to count it toward the major). Students may also begin taking courses that count toward an area requirement or a concentration within the major.

May I take classes in the Law School?

No, but you may have the opportunity to take a class with a member of the Law School faculty. Law School accreditation does not permit undergraduates to enroll in courses at the Law School. However, the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Leadership Studies, and Business regularly arrange with the Law School to have some of their faculty teach courses for undergraduates; for example, in Environmental Law and Policy, or in Legal History. Several of the faculty in the undergraduate colleges have graduate degrees in law, and regularly offer courses on civil right and civil liberties, or Constitutional law.

What courses may I take to complete my area requirements within the PPEL major?

Please see area requirements for a list of all the courses in the course catalog approved for the various area requirements, as well as a link to the courses offered next semester approved for one or another area requirement. Please note that some of the courses in the catalog are taught infrequently, and that special topics courses may sometimes be approved for an area requirement.

What courses may I take to complete my concentration?

Students may take any course in the relevant discipline to meet their concentration requirements. For example, students pursuing a concentration in philosophy may take any course offered by the philosophy department; they are not limited to the philosophy courses approved for one or another area requirement. For more information, please see concentrations.

Is there a minimum number of 300-level or higher classes that students must complete to major in PPEL?

All PPEL majors must take PPEL 363. While there is no minimum number of overall 300-level courses, the PPEL faculty strongly advises students to take at least four or five 300 or 400 level classes while completing the major. Students that do not will likely find the later stages of their education at Richmond insufficiently challenging, while prospective employers and graduate school admissions committees may identify a student who takes few upper-level courses as lacking in ambition.

May I complete more than one concentration within the PPEL major?

At this time the PPEL program does not permit students to complete more than one concentration within the major.

May I enroll in upper-level courses that have as a pre-requisite a course I have not taken?

Students must fulfill prerequisites for courses that count towards PPEL requirements. Majoring in PPEL is not a waiver from taking prerequisites. It’s vital to plan ahead.

Are there specific advisors for PPEL majors?

Yes. Once you have officially declared PPEL as your major, the PPEL Coordinator will assign one of the PPEL faculty to serve as your advisor.  The PPEL Coordinator is also available to meet with students who are considering a PPEL major, but who cannot or are not yet ready to declare.

Is there a PPEL minor?

No. Given the interdisciplinary breadth of the PPEL course of study it is not possible for us to offer a PPEL minor.