Hobby Center Receives One Million Dollars for Program in Ethics and Politics of Capitalism

BBT Charitable Foundation Funds Will Support Graduate, Undergraduate Research, Study Opportunities

Politics. Ethics. Economic literacy and social science training. A $1 million gift from Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T) to the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy (HCPP) will make new programs, a new speakers series and a summer training institute in social science research methods available for graduate and undergraduates interested in varying public policy perspectives.   

“We are grateful to BB&T for the confidence they have placed in our university,” said John Roberts, professor and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), which houses the HCPP.  “We know that the programs made possible from this grant will add an important dimension to our curriculum that will aid our students in developing a highly sophisticated view of the topic.”

The philanthropic investment, available over 10 years, will allow for the creation of “The BB&T Program in the Ethics and Politics of Capitalism” to be housed in the Hobby Center for Public Policy. The program will be co-directed by Jim Granato, professor and director of the HCPP, and Sue Collins, professor and co-founder of “Phronesis: A Program of Politics and Ethics,” an interdisciplinary curriculum in politics and ethics, with courses in political theory, philosophy and classical studies. 

  The newly created HCPP program will include an upper-level elective course, “Political Economy and Ethics of the Free Market,” which Granato will teach.  It will cover different perspectives on the free market.  Granato also will direct an annual two-week institute in social science methods, supported by the gift, that brings top-flight scholars and graduate students from other universities to UH to work with our faculty and students.

  “Many of the pressing moral and political issues for our students right now are economic,” Granato said. “Students should have the critical tools to evaluate the policy issues at stake and the principles underlying and dividing them.”

Funds also will support undergraduate and graduate student stipends, as well as lectures, seminars and workshops, which will draw scholars from varied disciplines and perspectives across the country to share their research on ethics and economic issues.

 “This gift is important to student success at a time when going to college and entering the job market present real challenges,” Collins said. “The opportunity for scholarships, stipends, travel and visiting scholars means students can receive an extraordinary education, while some costs of that education are defrayed.”  

The UH program joins similar programs at other universities in the BB&T footprint, including The University of Texas at Austin, Duke University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of South Carolina, University of Maryland, Clemson and Georgetown.

The BB&T gift and program also helps to launch a new initiative of the HCPP for the Interdisciplinary Study of Free Societies. As part of the UH Tier One effort, this initiative is developing funding for interdisciplinary conferences and colloquia for the university and Houston community on the issues central to free societies, as well as support for visiting scholars and fellows, and for UH faculty, graduate and undergraduate students across the liberal arts and social sciences. 

Established in 1981, the Hobby Center for Public Policy serves the Houston community as an impartial research organization within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. The center’s primary focus is public policy and economic research, the results of which are shared with the community.