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The PPE Program would like to congratulate PPE minor Eleanor Rankin for receiving a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Award for summer 2023!

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program is one of many programs administered through the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) designed to enhance the educational experience of undergraduates by engaging them in research opportunities.

Elenor’s project is titled “A Philosophical Analysis of Lower Court Plea Bargains in the United States Criminal Justice System Using Principles of Game Theory”. The goal of the project is to research how the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) concepts can reveal unique insight into the failings of the United States criminal justice system caused by lower court plea bargains. Her primary research question is this: When PPE principles (information asymmetry, bargaining power, etc.) are applied to the foundational components of lower court guilty pleas, what does it reveal regarding the philosophical justification for lower court plea bargains? Using game theory as the predominate means of PPE principles, Eleanor’s research will engage with and dispute the traditional philosophical and legal reasoning for the use of plea bargains, and consider the reform efforts of apparent disparities and legal avenues away from systemic wrongful convictions.

“I am grateful to both the PPE and SURF programs for the opportunity to research as well as get a better sense of career opportunities as I head into the law school application season this fall,” says Eleanor.

Eleanor will be completing her SURF in conjunction with an internship at the Tennessee General Sessions Criminal Court. This way, she will be able to experience felony and misdemeanor plea deals in real time as well as engage the DA’s office and judge in conversation about modern reform efforts.


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