UC Berkeley launched the politics, philosophy and law, or PPL, minor program, which aims to provide students with close academic support and foster a community dedicated to thinking about questions of justice.
The program, which is offered through undergraduate and interdisciplinary studies in the College of Letters and Science, will connect students with attentive mentoring. These resources are often hard to find at a large university, according to Christopher Kutz, campus C. William Maxeiner distinguished professor of law, who created the minor.
Kutz started developing PPL last year when he realized that many of the undergraduates he taught were passionate about political philosophy but did not have a degree program to support them or adequate training to express their ideas through writing.
“If I can help a student shape what they do in the course of their education, about how their classes will fit together and guide them towards a capstone writing project, then I think they’ll also come out feeling like they really did something,” Kutz said.
Bob Jacobsen, dean of the division of undergraduate studies in the College of Letters and Science, also supported the creation of the minor, noting that it will push students to think and write about the roles of ethics and justice in society.
Over the natural course of people’s lifetimes, they advance from beginners to experts, answering the “how” and later “what” questions, Jacobsen said in an email. However, true experts are defined by their ability to integrate other fields into their own practice and tackle the critical “why” questions, which this minor intends to do, according to Jacobsen.
While students previously could take related courses independently, Kutz said he wanted to make it easier for them to find classes, connect with faculty and demonstrate their learning through a degree.
He noted that it is not intended to be a prelaw program but rather one that would allow all students to explore a wide range of interests regardless of their professional aspirations.
“We’re really eager to have a really wide variety of students,” Kutz said. “Really, any student with an intellectual interest with this material and a desire to have a life that’s engaged with questions of justice.”
Students will have to apply to the minor, and applications are currently open with no set deadline, according to Kutz.
Once accepted, students will take classes offered through the legal studies, philosophy, political economy or political science departments. They are also required to take a writing-intensive seminar or discussion and complete a writing project as their senior thesis.
Kutz said he hopes students take from the program a strong community of like-minded colleagues and alumni.