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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.