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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

University of Dayton launches five-year bachelor’s and law degree program for philosophy majors in Core program

By Dave Larsen

University of Dayton students in the Core program who major in philosophy can now complete an undergraduate and law degree in five years through a new partnership with the University’s School of Law.

Launched during the 2020 fall semester, the “3+2” program gives high-achieving students the opportunity to take their first year of law classes during their final year of college. Those law classes count toward finishing a bachelor’s degree and also toward the completion of a law degree, allowing students to start their law careers in less time with a significant savings on tuition and living expenses.

The Core program and UD Department of Philosophy make the program possible through the former’s efficient accumulation of semester hours and the latter’s substantial presence in the University’s Common Academic Program.

While students from any academic major can pursue law school, philosophy is an ideal background because it prepares students for the legal reasoning process, said Andrew Strauss, professor and School of Law dean.

“It’s a very similar approach. You’re doing refined analytical reasoning through language,” Strauss said. “I think there is tremendous overlap in that training. In terms of the jurisprudence, law is kind of like applied philosophy.”

In addition, philosophy is a demanding major that prepares students for success in law school and on the standardized Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

“We really want those students who have that interest in thinking hard about issues,” Strauss said.

The UD Department of Philosophy has one of the largest and most diverse faculties in the Midwest, offering courses in such areas as ethics, politics, science, music, dance, religion, law, social philosophy and human rights. The discipline exposes students to ideas that influenced present-day people who are working on jurisprudence, said associate professor of philosophy Myrna Gabbe, who worked with Strauss and others to develop the 3+2 law degree program.

Gabbe, who teaches ancient philosophy, said the program allows philosophy majors to pursue a law career at a lower cost, which can be especially helpful for students who want to go into public interest law to serve the common good.

“If you are interested in being a civil rights lawyer or jobs where your clientele doesn’t have a lot of money, then you might want to pursue a program that fast-tracks you and gives you maximum flexibility in terms of your career, so you’re not coming out laden with debt,” she said.

Philosophy offers a large number of courses for the Common Academic Program (CAP), a learning experience shared by all undergraduate students, regardless of their major, that introduces key questions and topics across a wide range of academic disciplines.

“Philosophy students can get through their bachelor’s degree requirements in three years because they can double-count their CAP courses and their courses for the philosophy major,” without taking more than 18 hours per semester, Gabbe explained. The remaining 20 semester hours of electives needed for the bachelor’s degree will be completed during students’ first year of law school.

Core, an intensive interdisciplinary program that stresses the connections between disciplines while fulfilling many of the CAP requirements, is designed to deepen the student learning experience. Students can receive 15 semester hours of honors credit for completing the Core program.

“With its rigorous two-and-a-half-year interdisciplinary curriculum, which includes a strong emphasis on philosophy, Core is a perfect fit for this exciting new 3+2 program,” said Bill Trollinger, Core program director and professor of history.

Many law schools offer 3+3 programs, in which the third year of undergraduate studies is also the first year of law school. Students then do two additional years of law school, allowing them to achieve both degrees in six years instead of seven.

“We have this unusual program at UD, with only a handful of other law schools, where students can graduate from law school in two years,” Strauss said. “So, that means it is possible for students to get their entire undergraduate and law degree in five years — one additional year over the typical undergraduate program. That’s obviously a huge advantage for someone in terms of opportunity costs. If they are eager to get out into the working world and start practicing law sooner, it gives them that opportunity to do that.”

For more information, visit the Core/Philosophy + JD program website.

Photo at top of page (l to r): Myrna Gabbe, William Trollinger and Andrew Strauss.

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