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NMSU philosophy department to offer new major unique to region

The Department of Philosophy at New Mexico State University will offer a new major attractive to future lawyers starting in fall 2019.


New Mexico State University philosophy department faculty
The New Mexico State University philosophy department faculty, from left to right: Lori Keleher, Mark Walker, Jennifer Noonan, Jean-Paul Vessel, Dana Barksdale, Justin Klocksiem, and Timothy Cleveland. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)

The major, formally titled “Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law,” will explore theories and ideas surrounding the law, and the legal institutions that enforce it. Some of the planned areas of concentration include legal policy, global justice, ethical theory and human rights issues.

“The major will be unique in this region,” said Mark Walker, the acting head of the philosophy department. “To the best of our knowledge, the University of Southern California’s major is geographically the closest school that offers something similar. But ours will be the only program in the region where students can attend at the in-state tuition rate.”

The new major will serve as a stepping-stone for advanced graduate study programs, with an emphasis on those looking to apply for law school post-graduation. But even for those not preparing for a future in graduate studies, the major will teach students skills necessary to succeed in career fields such as politics, criminal justice, and education.

“Unlike a traditional philosophy degree, this one focuses more on applied matters,” said Walker. “More of the nuts and bolts of running a society.”

The popularity of the “Philosophy, Law, and Ethics” course taught at the department since Fall 2015 sparked the idea for the new major. Initially planned to be a single course taught over one section, the philosophy department was forced to create another section in the fall of 2016 to accommodate the student interest. Even with 180 slots for students to take the course across the fall and spring semesters, it was clear the department needed to do more.

“By the fall of 2017, we filled about 270 seats for the class,” said Walker. “Its popularity suggested there was further student demand for philosophical approaches to justice and the law.”

The JPPL major will be open to all arts & sciences students in good standing with the university once it becomes available for declaration in the fall.

“My belief is that the main thing that we offer here is the skills,” said Walker. “The content is important, but just being able to go out there and reason effectively and write effectively is probably the two most important skills that are transferable to any area.”

For more information about the major and what it entails, visit the philosophy department website at https://philos.nmsu.edu.