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Program in Values and Public Life


Melissa S. Lane

Executive Committee

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy, University Center for Human Values

Charles R. Beitz, Politics

Sandra L. Bermann, Comparative Literature

John M. Cooper, Philosophy

Christopher L. Eisgruber, Woodrow Wilson School, University Center for Human Values

Elizabeth Harman, Philosophy, University Center for Human Values

Kim Lane Scheppele, Woodrow Wilson School, Sociology, University Center for Human Values

Melissa S. Lane, Politics

Stephen J. Macedo, Politics, University Center for Human Values

Jan-Werner Müller, Politics

Alan W. Patten, Politics

Philip N. Pettit, Politics, University Center for Human Values

Peter A. Singer, University Center for Human Values

Michael A. Smith, Philosophy

The Program in Values and Public Life, an undergraduate interdisciplinary certificate program offered by the University Center for Human Values, focuses on modes of inquiry into important ethical issues in public life. The program helps students develop competence in pursuing such inquiries generally and supports them in applying these intellectual skills to the advanced analysis of one or more related topics.  Students attaining the certificate will be equipped to bring informed discussion of values into the public sphere and to integrate a critical value perspective into their future studies and pursuits. The program is open to undergraduates of all disciplines. 

Admission to the Program

Students interested in applying to the program are advised to begin to consider their interests and a tentative course of study as early as possible, which they are encouraged to do in consultation with the program director. In 2010-11, as the program is launched, most students will apply in the fall of their junior year; sophomores may also apply. In the future, students normally will apply at the end of their sophomore year.

Students will be considered for admission upon meeting the following prerequisites: submission of an essay describing the rationale for completing the certificate and plans for the junior and senior year; an interview with the program director about this rationale; completion of at least one of the core courses (PHI 202, WWS 301, or POL 307) by the end of sophomore year with a grade of B+ or higher; a minimum GPA of 3.0 overall. A faculty committee of the University Center for Human Values will determine admission.

Program of Study

To qualify for a program certificate, students are required to complete three core courses, two thematic courses, and independent work as described below.

Core Courses (3 courses):
Students must take: (1) PHI 202 Introduction to Moral Philosophy (also CHV 202); (2) either WWS 301 Ethics and Public Policy (also CHV 301, POL 308) or POL 307 The Just Society; (3) a Junior/Senior Seminar in Values and Public Life, or if necessary, another seminar on normative issues approved by the program director.

Thematic Courses (2 courses):
Students must identify an area of focus and take 2 courses with an explicit values component related to it, chosen by the student in consultation with the program director. Some illustrative focus areas (or "themes") are:

    Cognitive psychology, ethics, and public policy
    Democracy in theory and practice
    Global justice and human rights
    Constitutionalism and the rule of law
    History of thought about political justice, human rights, or some other core concept in
          public morality

    Public dilemmas in literature
    Ethics, religion, and theology

Independent Work. Students will write a senior thesis (or, in exceptional circumstances, another substantial piece of independent work) on a normative topic approved by both the director of the program and the student's department of concentration. Students will be expected to participate in a senior thesis colloquium convened by the program.

Note: no more than two of the courses used to satisfy the course requirements for the student's concentration may also be counted toward satisfaction of the course requirements for the values and public life program certificate.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in values and public life studies upon graduation.