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Steven M. Sheffrin, Executive Director of The Murphy Institute

Greetings From The Executive Director

Steven M. Sheffrin

Welcome to the Murphy Institute. As the Executive Director, I am pleased to lead a vibrant organization that contributes so greatly to the intellectual life of Tulane and, more broadly to the advancement of the study of political economy in all its dimensions.

The Murphy Institute consists of three overlapping programs that reinforce each other.

  • An undergraduate major in Political Economy. One of Tulane’s most popular interdisciplinary majors, its students engage in serious study of economics, politics, and philosophy. They study with some of Tulane’s finest professors who are all dedicated to the goals of a broad, interdisciplinary education that examines social problems from a variety of dimensions.
  • The Center for Ethics and Public Affairs. The Center is devoted to the social and ethical dimensions of public affairs with an emphasis on the scholarly discussion of ethics and moral and political philosophy across a wide range of disciplines, intellectual perspectives, and schools. Each year, the Center hosts three or more Faculty Fellows, who spend the year in residence and interact with Tulane faculty and visitors. The Center also cultivates a rich intellectual environment for the community through a series of very popular faculty seminars and lectures.
  • The Center for Public Policy Research. The Murphy Institute created the Center for Public Policy Research to complement the Institute’s two other existing programs. The Center aims to establish programs that balance academic research with applied policy work. Currently the Center has four policy-focused programs in the areas of Regulation, Health Policy, Education, and Public Finance, which are united by their focus on research, teaching, and outreach to both the Tulane community and beyond. In addition, we have created seed grants for new faculty reseach, are hosting lectures on public policy and have created working groups on important public policy issues.

These three parts of the Murphy Institute – an undergraduate interdisciplinary social science major, a Center to reflect on the moral and ethical bases of social systems, and programs to encourage the rigorous analysis of public policy- make the Murphy Institute a one-of-a-kind intellectual center, not just for Tulane but for the nation. No other institution in the country provides an undergraduate education focused on political and economic dynamics, fosters ethical reflection on social values, and also promotes research and outreach on public policy.

Please take the time to peruse our website to understand the full dimensions of our programs. And feel free to contact me or anyone else in these pages to learn more about the activities of the Murphy Institute.

— Steven M. Sheffrin
Professor of Economics, Director of the Murphy Institute

Charles Murphy - The Murphy Institute

Founding Of The Institute

The Murphy Institute was established in the memory of Charles H. Murphy, Sr. (1870-1954) and inspired by the vision of Charles H. Murphy, Jr. (1920-2002). Operating in South Arkansas and North Louisiana, Mr. Murphy, Sr. launched family businesses in timber, banking, and oil exploration that were brought together in 1950 under the leadership of Charles H. Murphy, Jr. to become the Murphy Oil Corporation, a now worldwide oil and gas exploration and production company based in El Dorado, Arkansas.

It was Charles H. Murphy, Jr., who served as the Chair and driving force of the Tulane Murphy Foundation until the early 1990s, who envisioned the Murphy Institute as what it has in part become: an international force in reviving and replenishing “political economy” as Adam Smith first understood it: not just study of interconnections between politics and economics, but a rich interdisciplinary field in which economists, historians, moral philosophers, and political scientists make contributions of shared and equal interest.

The Murphy Institute is supported by the endowment of the Tulane Murphy Foundation. Original donors to the Foundation included Bertie W. Murphy, the widow of Charles H. Murphy, Sr., and their children and spouses: Johnie W. and Charles H. Murphy, Jr.; Bertie M. and John W. Deming; Caroline M. and Rt. Rev. Christoph Keller; and Theodosia M. and William C. Nolan.

Mission Statement

The Murphy Institute seeks to educate students and the interested general public in the understanding and analysis of the most challenging economic, moral, and political problems of our time; to support and advance the finest applied research in public policy, public affairs, civic engagement; and to inspire and inform all of its constituencies through its programs, scholarship, instruction, and events with the objective of advancing human prosperity and well-being.

Institute Programs

Within this broad purpose, the Murphy Institute supports a number of academic programs in the fields of political economy, ethics and public policy. Since 1984, it has sponsored a highly acclaimed undergraduate program in political economy which brings together economists, historians, philosophers, and political scientists committed to moving beyond traditional boundaries of their disciplines in a common search for new insights and new ways of studying the interconnections of politics and economics. Some 90-120 Tulane students annually enroll in the undergraduate political economy program, making it one of the most popular interdisciplinary majors at the University.

The demanding curriculum of this program includes courses drawn from economics, history, philosophy, and political science; it also requires completion of five ‘core’ political economy courses designed specifically for the major. The strength of the undergraduate program can be measured, in part, by the recognized excellence of its students.

To enrich teaching and research in political economy, the Murphy Institute also hosts conferences, seminars, and lectures by prominent public figures and visiting scholars. With Cambridge University Press, it sponsors “Murphy Institute Studies in Political Economy,” a series of occasional volumes comprising original essays by leading scholars in the United States and other countries. With Sage Publications, the Murphy Institute also sponsors PPE: A Journal of Politics, Philosophy & Economics. Published three times annually, PPE is a forum for scholarly interchange of concepts and methods among political scientists, philosophers, and economists interested in evaluating political economic institutions and practices.

In 2001, the Murphy Institute broadened its operations to establish the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs, which offers both Visiting Faculty Fellowships and Graduate Prize Fellowships. The idea driving the Center is that Tulane should have a place where faculty, students, and visitors can broadly examine critical issues of right and wrong, justice and injustice, citizenship and community, and the ethics of the professions. The Center’s annual Faculty Seminar provides a setting in which Faculty Fellows, Tulane faculty, and visiting scholars present new scholarship-in-progress.

In 2010 the Murphy Institute expanded its intellectual scope by creating the Center for Public Policy Research, a multi-disciplinary research center that balances academic research with applied work in the areas of healthcare, public finance, regulation, and education policy issues. This Center focuses on increasing public policy research, supporting external grant opportunities, and escalating campus and community outreach. The Center is enhanced by the systematic and rigorous analysis of social perspectives and alternatives that stem from Murphy’s other programs.

These three assets make the Murphy Institute a one-of-a-kind intellectual center that fosters ethical reflection on social values, an undergraduate education focused on political and economic dynamics, as well as research and outreach on public policy. These programs are united by their focus on research, teaching, and outreach to both the Tulane community and beyond, while building on the existing and significant strengths of affiliated faculty. Together they enrich the scope of analysis, thought, and discussion on campus, setting the Murphy Institute apart from any other institute throughout the country.

The Murphy Institute

Established in memory of Charles H. Murphy, Sr. (1870-1954), and inspired by the vision of Charles H. Murphy, Jr. (1920-2002), the Murphy Institute exists to help Tulane faculty and students understand economic, moral, and political problems we all face and think about. More important, it exists to help us understand how these problems have come to be so closely interconnected.