2021 PPE Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award Winner

The Kellogg Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics is proud to feature Zeb Dempsey, a Spring 2021 PPE graduate, as the 2021 PPE Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award winner.

Zeb, can you tell us a little about yourself, academically?

I’m double majoring in Philosophy & PPE, and I entered the accelerated BA/MA program in philosophy this year. I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Snegovaya (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow), a GRA for Dr. Hoek (PPE Affiliate), and I tutored students in symbolic logic.

What has your experience with the PPE program been like, and what are some of your favorite aspects of the program?

Going into the PPE program my primary focus was philosophy. I wanted some empirical background, and I thought that the PPE program was a perfect way to do that. I definitely got that from my PPE education, but I think my favorite aspect of the program has been working with people outside of my focus. Even if everyone is studying PPE, some people focus more on economics or political science, and so they tend to approach problems in very different ways than I typically would. I might look at a problem like studying power relations and start asking things like ‘how do we define power in a useful way?’ whereas someone focused on economics might start looking for models they could apply to the situation. Getting the extra perspective often brings out aspects of problems that you might not have ever really noticed otherwise. Directly working with people who are trained to approach problems in ways you aren’t accustomed to was an invaluable tool for learning to creatively deal with problems.

How do you think PPE has set you up for success?

Since PPE encompasses so much material, it was largely up to me how I wanted to go about tying together aspects of the three disciplines. That freedom really requires you to learn to think independently. PPE gave me a wide variety of tools, and it was up to me how to use those tools in my own research. I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of my education if I was not able to think independently about the material, and PPE gave me that opportunity.

If you could give other students in the program advice, what would it be?

Figure out how to relate whatever you are working on to something you are interested in. I always did much better when I thought what I was studying mattered. Not every class you take will be obviously or directly related to something you really care about, but there is usually, if not always, a connection if you look for it.

Do you have any final words or remarks?

I’d like to thank all my professors, especially Dr. Koch, and Dr. MacKenzie (PPE Affiliate).

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