PPE Capstone Projects

Integrating Philosophy, Politics & Economics: PPE Capstone Projects.

All PPE majors and minors are required to take Integrating Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PHI 485), which is the capstone course concluding the program. Students in the class work together in teams on a semester-long project that seeks to make the world better through concrete social impact. In doing so, students discover how to apply the various tools of philosophy, political science, and economics while synthesizing them together in order to confront complex social issues. Then, at the conclusion of the course, students present their results to an audience of various stakeholders.

Contact: David Emmanuel Gray, degray@buffalo.edu

The students from Integrating PPE (PHI 485), spring 2024, stand together in a classroom with their professor.

Spring 2024 Projects

The Buffalo Arrivals Project.

The Buffalo Arrivals Project: Helping Immigrants and Refugees Feel at Home

Team Risin’ Bison sought to promote Buffalo as a “sanctuary city” by assisting local immigrants and refugees. Consulting with local non-profits, the team learned about the need to more effectively connect immigrants and refugees to the services they require. As a result, Team Risin’ Bison created a pilot website and database cataloguing existing local resources already available for immigrants and refugees. The website was met with enthusiasm, with other organizations wanting their services included in the database. In addition, the team was scheduled to host a student “think tank” at UB to brainstorm other ways for connecting local immigrant and refugee services to those who need them. Unfortunately, that event was cancelled due to an increased police presence at UB in response to Pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Undeterred, Team Risin’ Bison has partnered with UB’s Inclusive Immigration and Democratic Revival Project, which promises to promote the continuation and development of the project’s website and database.

UB Parish Partners.

UB Parish Partners: Connecting Recently Arrived Buffalonians with Local Sponsors

UB Parish Partners sought to improve the community integration of migrant families new to Buffalo. The team did so by connecting migrant families with local parishes willing to provide those families with essential material goods and a broad support network. UB Parish Partners worked with two local churches, the St. Joseph University Parish and the Newman Center at UB, to gather donations of food, clothing, school supplies, and hygienic products while also finding parishioners willing to volunteer as sponsors for migrant families. UB Parish Partners then connected the local non-profit Justice for Migrant Families to distribute those donations and match volunteers with families. In the end, this project successfully collected over $900 in donations, distributed five carloads of non-monetary donations, and initiated twelve sponsorships. Looking forward, UB Parish Partners plans to continue expanding their efforts to more churches and additional local organizations.

The students from Integrating PPE (PHI 485), spring 2023, stand together in a classroom with their professor.

Spring 2023 Projects

Buffalo SOUP.

Buffalo SOUP: Collaboratively Crowdfunding to Make Buffalo Better

Team Buffalo SOUP sought to address the need for no-strings-attached funding for projects to make Buffalo better, and the need for a space for connection, critical dialogue, and unprecedented partnerships in the Buffalo area. The team did this by creating Buffalo SOUP: a collaborative crowdfunding meal that brings together a wide range of Buffalonians with the goal of providing seed funding to one of several projects that the audience themselves vote on. The first SOUP was held at Thin Man Brewery in Elmwood Village, and it raised $655 for Project Mona’s House. Furthermore, this was a fun event that facilitated the creation of new partnerships between the many different organizations in attendance while encouraging like-minded people from all walks of life to make a difference together. The team hopes to make Buffalo SOUP a lasting initiative that carries forward the tools from Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) into the Buffalo community. In particular, Team Buffalo SOUP setting up a Board of Directors in order to form a non-profit under BootSector, an organization that supports social entrepreneurs in Western New York.

Books for a Cause: Homelessness.

Books for a Cause: Homelessness

Team Traffic Cones decided to promote literacy amongst those experiencing homelessness in the Buffalo area. To tackle this, the team partnered with the Buffalo City Mission (BCM), a shelter in downtown Buffalo that provides temporary and emergency housing, among other services, for those in need. Team Traffic Cones organized book drives and tabling events across all three UB campuses. Ultimately, the team collected 1,777 books, 309 miscellaneous items (such as board games, puzzles, children's toys, and others), 250 encouragement cards, and funding for five bookcases. Through the successful completion of the project, Team Traffic Cones decreased the barriers between those facing homelessness and their access to reading materials. Beyond that, Team Traffic Cones also worked with UB’s School of Social Work to encourage their students to volunteer their time at the BCM, which will occur over the next year. Lastly, through Team Traffic Cones’ coordination, UB HEALS, a club based out of UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine, is now working with the BCM to bring a series healthcare clinics to BCM facilities.

The Gift of Thrift.

The Gift of Thrift: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Team Gift of Thrift addressed resource waste at UB. The team noticed that every semester, two things happen: (1) upperclassmen throw out reusable goods such as clothes and books while moving out and (2) underclassmen buy new clothes and books while moving in. Often, the items the upperclassmen throw out are exactly the sort of items that the underclassmen need. To address this issue, Team Gift of Thrift organized collection drives where UB students could donate their lightly-used clothing and books. At the end of the semester, the collected items were then sold at a pop-up thrift shop on UB’s North Campus. By all measures, the project was a success. Hundreds of items were collected, allowing underclassmen to purchase needed goods at low cost while leftover items were either donated or properly disposed. All cash proceeds from the pop-up thrift shop were donated to Hearts for the Homeless, a local Buffalo charity.

The students from Integrating PPE (PHI 485), spring 2022, stand together in a classroom with their professor.

Spring 2022 Projects

UB Homework Helpers: Making The World Better - One Child At A Time.

UB Homework Helpers: Tutoring Students in the Buffalo Public Schools System

Team Prosper decided to address education inequality in the United States. Specifically, they wanted to address the fact that students from schools in low-income and inner-city areas have less successful educational outcomes due to underfunding and lack of resources. To combat this issue, Team Prosper established a program at UB where UB students will provide free tutoring services to traditionally under-served students in the Buffalo Public Schools system. This program was in partnership with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Homework Helpers in New York City, who currently plans to train and support UB students as tutors. This was the first expansion of the Homework Helpers outside of New York City, and so the goal of Homework Helpers was to use UB’s chapter as a model for expansion to other universities across the state.

PHI 485 UB Munchies Project Assessment.

UB Munchies: Nutritional Awareness for College Students

Team Aspire was concerned with the lack of nutritional awareness for UB students. The first way they addressed this problem was through their team Instagram account (@ubmunchies), which included various posts on nutritional facts, restaurant highlights, and affordable recipes. Their second approach was holding a UB Day event at the North Tonawanda Farmers Market (NTFM), where Team Aspire collaborated with the NTFM and UB Transportation Services to provide students transportation to the NTFM and give them vouchers to spend at the market. The impact of this was to encourage more students to pursue changes in their lifestyle, have students consider nutritional information, and give them the tools necessary to optimize their budget and time. Team Aspire also initiated further talks between UB Parking and Transportation and the NTFM and about implementing a bus route between UB North Campus and the NTFM.

Composting and Failing Forward. Team ENACT.

Composting & Failing Forward: A Local Composting Facility in Depew

In entering this project, Team ENACT wanted to mitigate the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills. To tackle this, they partnered with Farmer Pirates Composting, a local composting facility, and set out to organize a community compost drop-off in the Village of Depew. This would have served as a test run of composting in Buffalo and would have provided Farmer Pirates with data encouraging government-sponsored composting in Western New York. Ultimately, the team was too ambitious in this endeavor and ran into hurdles they were not expecting, namely the Erie County Department of Health. As a result, Team ENACT was unable to implement this program. Although they may have failed, they also learned a lot about embracing failure and how to anticipate stakeholders (like the Department of Health) that may not be apparent upon first glance.