Fledgling researcher takes flight


- Tara Sharpe

Philibert. Photo: Janine Dukelow.

Victoria Philibert, who graduates this month with a double major in philosophy and Pacific and Asian studies, is a perfect example of how the Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) can impact UVic students whose first forays into deep research evoke personal insights and discovery.

Students receive a $1,500 scholarship and, with their professors, undertake research that is normally reserved only for graduate students. UVic President Jamie Cassels first had the idea for the JCURA during his tenure as vice-president academic and provost. Since 2009, 783 students have received this award.

Philibert’s research, supervised by Katsuhiko Endo from Pacific and Asian studies, focused on youth in Japan within the context of a demographic crisis—exploring how and why cultural, spiritual and holistic underpinnings appear to be motivating a high percentage of youth away from marriage and child rearing.

But to visit Japan was too expensive for Philibert. “I feel like I know every scholarship,” she adds, having amassed funds for her undergraduate education through book and essay prizes, as well as two scholarships: the Elias Mandel Prize in Humanities and Michiko Warkentyne Scholarship.

The bursaries and scholarships were huge in assisting me to focus on my larger research ambitions during my degree.

Living on her own since age 16, Philibert worked 20 to 30 hours a week while maintaining a high grade point average. “The bursaries and scholarships were huge in assisting me to focus on my larger research ambitions during my degree.

“And the one thing that was never an obstacle was the classroom.”

Born and raised in Victoria, Philibert transferred from Camosun College in 2014. She always wanted to study philosophy. It was her “saving grace all through high school,” which she describes as “socially frustrating. I read a lot of philosophy to deal with it.”

Her instructor at the college, Helen Lansdowne (also associate director of UVic’s Centre for Asia- Pacific Initiatives), “inspired me to take Pacific and Asian studies.”

And Philibert found an “uncanny symbiotic relationship” between the two fields of study.

“Learning about existentialism perfectly suited studying humanism in Japan’s 1960s cinema, and learning about Descartes, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein connected with what happens in our imaginations when we watch a piece of bunraku puppet theatre or try communicating meaningfully to an android.”

She thinks people shouldn’t go to university “to find themselves, although that happens. They have to meet it halfway. Make the most of all the opportunities.”

Philibert is taking one year off— to work, of course—but with a goal of securing full funding to pursue graduate studies.

About her double major, she alludes to a sense of uplift, “of the contagious nature of ideas,” but also “learning how to ground my philosophical interests in a concrete place and time.”

She doesn’t know “if memorizing kanji while grappling with Kripke was masochism or a trial I’ll later be thankful for. But maybe when or after I pursue graduate studies, the answer will appear.”

And even still, she can “feel the pull of flight in the air.”


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Keywords: convocation, graduation, student life, philosophy, pacific and asian studies

People: Victoria Philibert

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