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the Philosophy, Politics & the Public honors program at Xavier University.

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Senior Year Reflection: THANK YOU, PPP

One of the reasons that I came to Xavier was for the PPP program. I didn’t totally understand what it was about, but I knew that we would take courses in history, political science, and philosophy, and at the time, that all sounded good to me because it combined many of my interests. When I walked onto campus and met Dr. Colella, I knew there was something special about this interdisciplinary honors program.

But as I attended my first two PPP classes at Xavier: Intro to Ethics and European History, I quite frankly didn’t know if I was in the right program. I struggled through philosophy, reading and rereading the material. Dr. Korros tore through my history papers with her comments, and I began to realize that maybe I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought (little did I know then how much I would appreciate these comments and writing lessons in later semesters). I loved Xavier, but I wasn’t sure if this program was what I wanted.  Second semester helped to alleviate my worries. Dr. Colella had returned from sabbatical, and he brought philosophy to life for me. As we studied Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Habermas, among others, I examined what role reason and passions played in our lives, asked what the public was, and questioned how philosophy related to my life.

The sophomore year of the program with Dr. Fairfield and Dr. Beaupre taught me how to push myself, how to get out of my comfort zone and try things new things. I had been warned about how hard the classes would be, but I couldn’t know how time consuming the coursework would be until I was in the class. Dr. Fairfield had us reading about one hundred pages of reading per class and writing revision upon revision of longer papers. The discussions in class challenged me to read carefully and critically, asking questions like: why are cities important? What is liberalism and what are its strengths and weaknesses? What is our relationship to the public? He encouraged a desire in me to become a good writer, and his constant demand for my best work truly made me a better student and person. Dr. Beaupre had us working in city council campaigns in the fall, writing and presenting our own campaign plan, and analyzing election results on city cable at the Board of Elections. In the spring, he had us working on a legislative issue of our choice, conducting research to have meetings and advance the issue with legislators locally and in DC, as well as think tanks, interest groups, and community councils. Through his class, Dr. Beaupre gave me the confidence and the passion to become more involved in the public around me, and he solidified that PPP was the right major for me.

After coming off an experiential semester filled with practical experience out in the community, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dr. Frankel’s class, besides him being a tough grader. On the very first day of class, he had us all go around in a circle and answer what we thought progress was, which produced an interesting discussion. As we battled through discussions about Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau, I found myself thinking back to my experiences in the political realm and connecting what I was learning about philosophy to those things. In the spring semester, he taught about philosophy and revolutions, specifically the French Revolution and got us excited for the summer trip to Paris, France immediately following final exams. Dr. Frankel got everyone involved in class, always working the comments and questions people had to offer into his overall lesson. In the second semester, many of us also took a course with Dr. Ray in which we discussed the Federalist Papers in contrast to the Anti-Federalist argument, as well as read some of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and throughout the course of the semester, I found my voice and my thesis topic. I ended the semester with a summer abroad in Paris and later Rome, learning about new cultures as well as about America and myself. These experiences and the people I shared them with were some of the most formative of my Xavier career.

This year, as I wrote (and deleted) numerous pages of my thesis with my fellow classmates, I also had the opportunity to help out with the sophomore block and take a class with the junior PPPers, a rare opportunity to spend time with three PPP grades at one time. For the culmination of my Xavier experience, I would have to say this was one of the best things that could have happened because I was reminded of not only how far I had come, but I got to witness how many other students in the programs were growing in similar (and different) ways.

While the academics of this program have challenged me profoundly, I was also lucky enough to be able to experience the PPP program from another side- working for Dr. Beaupre. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but as I settled into a routine with him and Kat Ryder, a fellow PPPer one year my senior, I loved preparing for his class, the PPP retreat, the DC trip, and doing research for the university. Through this job, I saw the talents of the different classes and individuals within them, while at the same time experiencing the hard work of the faculty and staff that make this program possible. We often do not take the time to thank these individuals for what they do, but I have seen how much they care about us students and about helping us to become the best we can be. And Kat- she taught me the true meaning of the word leader. Each time we worked together, she led by example with her organization, energy, kindness, and intelligence. She knew when to seek the opinion of others and ask for help, but she always worked hard herself. When Kat graduated and Ros Erney joined the team, we too developed a good relationship. Ros brought creativity (something I often lack) and a fun spirit to the team. Her research and writing skills constantly taught me new skills and lessons, and she has kept me calm and organized through big events and projects. I have confidence that she will do great things, both for the program and in her future. Finally, over the course of my two years working with Dr. Beaupre, he has become more than a professor or a boss, but also a friend. I would not be the person I am today without him, and I cannot thank him enough for that.

How can I even explain how much this program means to me in one post? Every member of this program has touched my life in a way that they probably don’t even fully know- whether that was on a study abroad trip, in a classroom experience, out in the public, or in the hallways of Xavier. As I look back upon my past four years here and try to pinpoint the moments that have formed me into the person that I am today, so many of them came from being a part of this program…the relationships that I formed with the professors and my peers, the skills that I gained out in the community and in the classroom, the lessons that I learned about myself, and the experiences at home and abroad.  History provided me with the critical thinking skills to develop an understanding of the past that informs my thoughts on current problems. Political science helped me to experience the politic institutions and governing process which I became involved with, and philosophy provided the glue the entire way to always get me to reflect on why. But the people in this program, even more than that, taught me about the person that I want to be and taught me the meaning of community. I am happy to have such great lifelong friends.

Yesterday was my final day at Xavier. As I finished my last exam, I walked out onto the academic mall and sat on the back steps of Bellarmine Chapel, reflecting upon my past four years. A sophomore PPPer whom I respect very much saw me sitting there and stopped to thank me for the work I had done throughout the semester with his class. As we talked a little bit about the upcoming summer and what was next for both of us, I saw just how much this program has given me and how many PPPers have changed my life.

This program was worth every hour I put into it.

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Junior Year Philosophy: Cute or Dangerous? By Mike Hills (2013)

This year PPP has reintroduced philosophy to our tri-pronged specialized major. As someone who has grown up in and around the political world, I found philosophy cute, but otherwise impractical. Especially after focusing sophomore year about campaigns and how to legislate, I felt junior year philosophy served no purpose to me.

Well, I was wrong. Philosophy is essential in politics, and in life in general. In dissecting modern philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and others, I have gained not only a better conception of American democracy but also the mindset and methods of thinking of great thinkers past and present, American and foreign.

Philosophy professors like to tell students the material they wish to convey is “dangerous,” something I did not understand when I was a freshman fulfilling my university core requirements. Now, my conception and analysis of politics will always include philosophy. It is the very thinking behind the seemingly unrelated actions we see going on in the world today.

Somedays, I wonder how I could have been so naive, how I could have dismissed philosophy as impractical and cute. Today, I think my previous thought process was exactly that, impractical and cute.

Perhaps my knowledge has not changed, but rather my way of thinking has expanded. Perhaps this expanded conception of thought and more diverse analytics is precisely what makes PPPers, “dangerous.”

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Washington DC Trip

Unfortunately, this post is coming months too late, but in March the sophomore block class went to DC to learn more about pre-K education and land use issues. Coming on the trip in a more administrative role, I was able to sit in on some classes but I was not able to see the day to day research that each of these students that made them so effective in their meetings with legislators, think tanks, federal agencies, and interest groups. Once in DC, however, it was so cool to be able to see them apply what they had learned.

One day, one of the teams was shorthanded, and due to transportation difficulties, I found myself heading over to the EPA with a student, on a mission to learn more about form-based codes and the connection between land use and sustainability. While I had some background knowledge, I had not been involved in the meeting prep, and I did not know what to expect. The student I was with, however, was so knowledgeable and prepared that I almost wasn’t even needed. The depth of his questions indicated how hard he (and the rest of the students) had worked to really grasp all sides of their policy issue in order to truly discern how he (and they) felt about that issue and what should be done about it.

I was reminded in DC, similarly to how I was reminded the year before, how this trip changes PPP students, how it brings to the surface deep passions in students and demonstrates the confidence they gain throughout the semester. All the students grew throughout this trip as the teams conducted a total of 32 meetings over the course of two days. Throughout those days, they demonstrated agility and knowledge that was really impressive to watch.

As I helped with my final DC trip, however, I also was reminded of how the DC trip and the hard work that these students put into the trip changes not only the students, but also the faculty, staff, and upperclass as well. PPP really is a community- that is why it is successful. We all learn from each other and support each other, and I am so lucky that I was able to be a part of it.

Thanks to all who made this possible:

  • Team FBC: Andrew Fuller, Andy Kaplan, Matt Keyes, Joe Koenig, Emily McLaughlin, Caleb Profitt, Austin Van Dusen
  • Team Education: Laurence Baibak, Alex Cipoletti, Bailey Drexler, Mike Jezewak, Brandon Martin, Trevor McCormick, Pamela Meyerhofer, Nick Putz, Josh Sabo, EJ Swisshelm
  •  Upperclass students: Sean Cahill, Rosalynd Erney, Annie Garnett, Emily Gilbride, Liza Magley, Rahiel Michael, Kelsey Reed, Pat Schlembach
  •  Faculty/staff/alumni:  Dr. Gene Beaupre, Dr. John Fairfield, Dr. Paul Colella, and Dr. Mack Mariani, Bianca Callejas. + David Ben, Jeff Strunk, and the alumni who attended the reception in the Capitol this year.
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PPP Retreat 2012

On January 27th, the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public program held their annual retreat for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. To kick off the event, the students got into small groups and began a discussion of what words describe PPP to them, words like “active, practical, interdisciplinary, engaged, thoughtful, philosophical, political, flexible, and exploratory.” One group described PPP as creating “passionate, principled, public intellectuals,” while another stressed the ability of PPP to develop a set of skills such as critical thinking and effective communication while giving the students the room to take the coursework down different paths that reflect their varying interests. After the students had opened up and started thinking about what the program means to them, Dr. Colella gave a history of the program and how it has developed over the years.

The second speaker of the night, Brendon Cull (Director of Government Affairs and Regulatory Affairs at Kroger), spoke to the students about his experience after leaving Xavier in finding a job and uniting his passions with his career. Through his discussion on the importance of taking risks and being deliberate about one’s career, Brendon encouraged the students to be open to new opportunities and seek out what they are looking for. Small groups allowed each class to have discussions about how to unite one’s passions, skills, and the needs of the community in the midst of a tough economy and student debt.

The second day of the retreat built on the momentum from the first day and continued with a skills assessment from Xavier Career Services for the sophomores and a discernment workshop for the juniors and seniors. PPP alumni Erin McDermott (2007) spoke to the students about her career path since Xavier, and she was later joined by alumni Betsy Hoover (2006), Liz Colombo (2008), Jenny Rulon (2009), Kate Malone (2010), Caroline Solis (2011), Ashley Patrick (2011), Joey Vitale (2011) to speak to the students in panels about their experiences. The retreat also included events such as the senior awards, roast of the seniors by juniors, roast of the faculty by the seniors, and the alumni reception, which all encouraged a sense of community among the attendees.

Thanks to Dr. Beaupre, Dr. Colella, Angela Gray, Karen Weist, Brendon Cull, and PPP alumni Kat Ryder, Erin McDermott, Betsy Hoover, Liz Colombo, Jenny Rulon, Kate Malone, Caroline Solis, Ashley Patrick, Joey Vitale, Kandyce Carter-Flaherty, Heather Chura, Esther Cleary, Andrew Cleves, Carrie Gilbert, Greg Koehler, Alyssa Konermann, Joe Lehnert, Mark Manning, and Caitlin Podbielski for taking the time to be at the retreat and help make it such a great experience for the undergraduates.

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DC Trip

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New Urbanism addressed in USA Today

Form-based codes is a complicated issue. One of the elements within it is New Urbanism, a recent urban design movement that promotes walkable neighborhoods. Here is what USA Today has to say about it.

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Strive recognized in the New York Times

One issue that the sophomore block has decided to tackle this semester is education. Specifically, they are researching ways to improve the education system through “collective impact,” and an article has been written about it in the New York Times.

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Education and Longitudinal Data

As the education group in sophomore block has been preparing for their DC meetings, they have been researching longitudinal data systems.
Here is a resource they’ve found tremendously helpful,

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