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National Undergraduate PPE Colloquiums

The National Undergraduate PPE Colloquium is an annual two-day event in which PPE or PPE-adjacent students from twenty universities congregate and hold intensive discussion-based sessions sparked by a collection of important pre-assigned readings. The Colloquium is held jointly with Duke University, which hosts the event in alternating years. This gathering gives students a chance to meet and discuss some core ideas and applications of PPE with other highly motivated students as well as program faculty.  Recent conferences have focused on ‘constitutions,’ ‘equality’, ‘crime and punishment’, and ‘markets on the margin’.

 Over the last decade more than 250 students from 20 different programs have attended, including students from Yale, Penn, Brown, Tulane, Virginia, Michigan and Notre Dame. During the two-day event, faculty from UNC and Duke lead discussions of classic works, and meet with students informally for meals and social hours to allow the conversation to continue.

Learn more about Duke’s PPE Program HERE.


March 24-25, 2023

Discussion Leaders and Contributing Faculty:

Geoff Sayre-McCord, UNC Chapel Hill
Michael Munger, Duke
Kirun Sankaran, UNC Chapel Hill
Erik Zhang, UNC Chapel Hill
Gerard Rothfus, UNC Chapel Hill
Lucia Schwarz, UNC Chapel Hill
Richard Salsman, Duke
Alexandra Oprea, UNC Chapel Hill
Giulia Napolitano, UNC Chapel Hill


    • Aristotle, Book 3. Politics. pp. 51-80.
    • Christiano, Thomas. Chapter 8. The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and Its Limits.
    • Mittal, Sonia, and Barry R. Weingast. “Self-Enforcing Constitutions: With an Application to Democratic Stability In America’s First Century.”
    • Madison, James. “#37: Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper Form of Government.” The Federalist Papers.
    • Albertus, Michael. “Chile’s Constitution Is Too New for Its Own Good.”
    • Familia, Ericka and Kate Bigley.  “The Proposal for a New Constitution in Chile: Key Elements.”
    • Schneider, Cathy and Sofía Williamson-García. “Chile’s New Constitutional Process Shifts to the Right.”
    • Doerfler, Ryan and Samuel Moyn. “The Constitution is Broken and Should Not Be Reclaimed.
    • Hayek, F.A. “Part 2, Chapter 12: The American Contribution: Constitutionalism.” The Constitution of Liberty.  pp. 261-286.

From participating students:

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, formative to my college career. As a senior, I thought I had already experienced all of my definitive undergraduate experiences, but I was mistaken in the best of ways. This experience was an opportunity to communicate with some of the best and brightest students in my area of focus. We were all open to sharing our ideas in a thoughtful and respectful manner. We made progress on the issue of Constitutions, learned a lot from both faculty and professors, and shared some great laughs and stories along the way. It was certainly one of, if not the best academic experience for me during my college career, formative to both my education and my perspective on life.
-University of San Diego


I had little expectations for the colloquium as I had never heard of nor been to a similar experience before. However, it was a great experience in that I was able to meet many others who are well-informed and passionate about PPE. It helped revitalize my love for philosophy and its applications to politics and economics.
-University of Maryland


I really enjoyed my time at the Colloquium. This challenged the way that I view constitutions and made me think about the justifications for government in a meaningful way. The biggest thing that I took away from this weekend was the connections that I made. The people who attended this Colloquium were genuinely some of the kindest, most intelligent people that I’ve met. The respect that we treated each other with made the weekend better.
-University of Richmond


I was not sure what to expect coming into this weekend, but I had an amazing time. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many impressive peers, all of whom were incredibly intelligent and thoughtful both in and outside of our formal sessions. I learned so much, both about constitutions and about the many topics that my fellow attendees are interested in. I feel as though I’ve made connections that I will have for life, and I cannot wait to see where everyone ends up!
-University of Pennsylvania

I was honestly taken aback when my professors reached out to me about attending the colloquium because by no means was I the most intelligent or well-spoken individual in their classes, so I reflected on the reasons why I was chosen. I realized after some time that it wasn’t because I was the best, but because I didn’t take the knowledge that I gained for granted. Because of that, my only expectation was that I would leave with a more expanded framework for viewing the world than when I came in. Additionally, my professor Dr. Turner said the main goal should be “to meet some interesting people, like you”. That’s exactly what happened!
-The Ohio State University


I am the first PPE major at my university, and I came in with the goal of learning about other programs, and seeing what sorts of norms, rituals, texts, and opportunities to carry back to my own university. While I did learn about other national PPE programs, I found that I spent more time chatting about the pet projects and intellectual puzzles of my peers and the attendant faculty. These unstructured conversations were extremely stimulating and will be of longer lasting use to me that programmatic intel. Shop-talk has its place, but that place is behind playful intellectual peregrinations.
-University of Rochester


First off, I expected to meet amazing people at this event, but I didn’t expect to meet lifelong friends. It was such an honor to be invited to critically discuss interesting and relevant topics with such a kind, driven, and intelligent group of people. This experience was one of, if not THE most valuable experience I have had during my time at UNC. All of the topics of discussion related to each other in such a way that we were able to take what we had discovered from previous discussions and apply it to later ones. By the end, I felt that we achieved so much as a group by learning from each other, bringing our individual expertise to the table, listening, and asking questions along the way. The environment of the event as a whole felt cooperative, safe, and revolutionary. I ultimately walked away feeling enlightened from our discussions, supported in my professional and educational pursuits, and invigorated to continue to explore and learn about PPE and how it can be applied to make the world a better place.
-The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


The well-organized discussion sections, carefully curated readings, and kind, considerate, and deeply intellectual peers made this an unforgettable experience. I changed some of my previously held opinions on constitutional and democracy reform, while strengthening and retaining others. I plan to stay in touch with the other participants and faculty going forward.
-Brown University


I had very few expectations. As I’ve never had the opportunity to experience this type of event before. Mostly I was hoping to see UNC’s campus, and have an opportunity to talk political theory with other people interested in the topic. It utterly eclipsed even my highest hopes, as an opportunity to really explore different perspectives in a huge range of issues, and as importantly as an opportunity to forge connections with others interested in big questions and careful analysis.

This colloquium rekindled a long burnt-out passion for academic discourse, and for that truly invaluable service I will be forever grateful.
-Georgia State University