Trinity College Launches New Ethics, Society and Law Stream in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program

Posted Jan 20, 2017 11:35 am

Trinity One Seminar Class

What does it mean to be morally required to do something? What is the relationship between moral values and the law? How does a society make itself better over time?

Starting September 2017, first-year students will be examining these among other challenging and urgent moral questions as part of the new Ethics, Society and Law (ES&L) stream in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program (Trinity One).

“The new ES&L stream has a deeply interdisciplinary approach to examining ethical issues. Students will explore and question assumptions about right and wrong, and think about how ethics should inform decision-making within the social, legal and political context. They will learn how to navigate different theories and how to apply them to real-life problems,” said Professor Michael Kessler ‘02, Raymond Pryke Chair and Director of the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program. 

Drawing on Trinity One’s successful model, the new ES&L stream will provide students with a rigorous grounding in different disciplinary approaches to some of the most pressing contemporary issues. The new stream was designed to reflect both current student interests and the College’s teaching strengths. 

Like all existing streams in Trinity One, ES&L will focus on learning through guided discussion. “The program is ideal for students who enjoy collaborative, debate-oriented learning,” said Prof. Kessler, noting that the small community allows students to get to know their peers and study with Trinity’s exceptional faculty. “In Trinity One, we look at the best arguments for all points of view, and try to leave no stone unturned. By using this method our students develop critical-thinking, communication, writing and research skills that they will need as they move to upper year courses. That is what we see as the core value of Trinity One – our students acquire advanced skills in their first year, and this allows them to hit the ground running as they move into their majors and specialist programs."

Students who graduate from the new ES&L stream will have a firm foundation for a number of areas of study. The new ES&L stream provides one pathway to be able to apply for the College’s highly successful and competitive ES&L major. It also provides a foundation for a range of majors in the humanities and social sciences – Bioethics, International Relations, Peace, Conflict & Justice, Philosophy, Political Science, and Public Policy.  

"Applying to the Trinity One program was one of the best decisions I've made. It allowed me to improve my critical thinking skills, broaden my worldview and develop relationships with a group of very driven students and wonderful professors,” said Trinity student Aisha Ryan who completed Trinity One in 2015-2016 and is now double majoring in International Relations and Health Studies.

"Trinity One provided opportunities to have academic discussions in an open environment created by caring professors,” said Trinity student Jerry Zhu, a Political Science and Contemporary Asian Studies double major who completed Trinity One in 2015-2016. “It gets students to consider different issues outside the classroom that can become academic passions.”

For many students, they will be drawn to this stream as they see a match with their own intellectual interests. “The study of law is an area of interest for many incoming students. The new ES&L stream gives students an opportunity to seriously engage with thinking about law from the very beginning of their university careers,” said Professor Mayo Moran, Trinity College Provost and Vice-Chancellor and former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto. 

“Trinity has benefited from the support of donors who understand the need for specialized personal attention that a program like the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One can provide our students. We are so grateful for their foresight and dedication to the College and the next generation of leaders,” Provost Moran added.

Since the program’s founding in 2005 (with the Ethics and International Relations streams), Trinity One has been made possible through the generosity of Trinity’s donors, both past and present. In 2007, a $1 million gift from Peter and Melanie Munk named the program in Margaret MacMillan’s honour. This was followed in 2010 by a $4 million gift from Raymond Pryke ’51 who made it possible for a permanent chair to oversee and teach in the program. In 2012, the Public Policy stream was added to provide an option for students interested in politics and governance. In 2014, a $1.5 million gift from Anne Steacy ’76 supported the creation of two science streams – The Anne Steacy Biomedical Health and The Anne Steacy Health Science and Society streams. 

Trinity One Co-curricular Event with Bob Rae

Like all the One Programs (First Year Foundations) at the St. George campus, the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program is open to any full-time student entering the first year of study in the Faculty of Arts & Science, regardless of college affiliation. Each new Trinity One cohort usually involves a mix of students from a variety of Colleges, as well as both resident and non-resident first years. To enrich the academic experience and to provide mentoring and networking opportunities, students and professors from all streams connect throughout the year at catered co-curricular lunchtime events featuring leading thinkers, respected academics, and notable Trinity alumni. In addition, the U of T Centre for Ethics, which is located at Trinity College, is an important hub for scholarly exchange and offers students additional learning opportunities. The program also draws upon the rich resources of the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance, the Munk School of Global Affairs, the Faculty of Medicine, and affiliated hospitals. 

Applications for the 2017-2018 Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program opened on Monday, January 23, 2017. For more information, visit