Program in Values and Public Life



  • Sandra L. Bermann

Executive Committee

  • Edward G. Baring, History
  • Charles R. Beitz, Politics
  • Sandra L. Bermann, Comparative Literature
  • Lara M. Buchak, Philosophy
  • Molly J. Crockett, Psychology
  • Eric S. Gregory, Religion
  • Elizabeth Harman, Philosophy
  • Melissa Lane, Politics
  • Tania Lombrozo, Psychology
  • Stephen J. Macedo, Politics
  • Jan-Werner Müller, Politics
  • Alan W. Patten, Politics
  • Philip N. Pettit, Center for Human Values
  • Kim Lane Scheppele, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
  • Peter A. Singer, Center for Human Values
  • Michael Smith, Philosophy
  • Anna B. Stilz, Politics
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in Values and Public Life, an undergraduate interdisciplinary certificate program offered by the University Center for Human Values, focuses on modes of inquiry into important ethical issues in public life. The program helps students develop competence in pursuing such inquiries generally and supports them in applying these intellectual skills to the advanced analysis of one or more related topics. Students who earn the certificate will be equipped to bring informed discussion of values into the public sphere and to integrate a critical value perspective into their future studies and pursuits. The program is open to undergraduates of all disciplines.

Admission to the Program

Admission to the program requires an enrollment essay outlining the student's rationale for completing the certificate, area of interest, and plan for fulfilling the certificate requirements. Students interested in applying to the program are advised to begin to consider their interests and a tentative course of study as early as possible, which they are encouraged to do in consultation with the program director.

Students will be considered for admission upon meeting the following prerequisites: submission of the enrollment essay; submission of the name of an academic referee; and a minimum GPA of 3.0 overall. We strongly recommend completing at least one of the core courses (PHI 202, SPI 370, POL 306, POL 307, POL 312, or POL 313) by the end of sophomore year.

Students are normally accepted in the second semester of their sophomore year to enter the program as juniors, and must apply by a deadline announced each spring. In exceptional cases, juniors may be accepted into the program at the director's discretion. For more information on the Program in Values and Public Life's application process and current deadlines, please visit the program's website.

Program of Study

To qualify for a program certificate, students are required to complete three core courses, two thematic courses, and independent work as described below. No course counted toward the certificate may be taken Pass/D/Fail. No more than two courses used to satisfy the course requirements for the student’s concentration may also be counted toward satisfaction for the VPL course requirements.

Core Courses (3 courses):

Students must take one course out of each of the following three categories: (1) PHI 202 / CHV 202: Introduction to Moral Philosophy; (2) one of the following courses: SPI 370 / CHV 301 / POL 308: Ethics and Public Policy, POL 307 / CHV 307: The Just Society, POL 306 / CHV 306 / PHI 360: Democratic Theory, POL 312: The Ideal of Democracy, or POL 313 / CHV 313: Global Justice; (3) a Junior/Senior Seminar in Values and Public Life (topics change from year to year) or, if necessary, another seminar on normative issues approved by the program director. 

Thematic Courses (2 courses):

Students must identify an area of focus and take two courses with explicit values component related to each of them, chosen by the student in consultation with the program director. Some illustrative focus areas (or "themes") are:

Cognitive psychology, ethics, and public policy
Democracy in theory and practice
Global justice and human rights
Constitutionalism and the rule of law
History of thought about political justice, human rights, or some other core concept in public morality
Public dilemmas in literature
Ethics, religion, and theology

Independent Work

Students will write a senior thesis (or, in exceptional circumstances, another substantial piece of independent work) on a normative topic approved by both the director of the program and the normal procedures of the student's department of concentration. The thesis will be written in and according to the department regulations of the student's concentration. Students will be expected to participate in a non-credit-bearing senior thesis colloquium convened by the program.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in values and public life studies upon graduation.