Graduate Spotlight: Cynthia Oyugi – Money doesn’t buy happiness and I am glad my research proved this
Cynthia Oyugi, a psychologist by profession, will graduate with a Master of Applied Philosophy and Ethics (MAPE). MAPE is a two-year, part-time programme designed to have students spend two weeks on campus and with the rest of the sessions conducted online through reading materials, assignments and interaction with lecturers. Cynthia shares the joys and the impact the two years she spent tackling philosophy and ethics has had on her personal life and profession.
How did you learn about MAPE?
My father introduced me to the humanities department at Strathmore. I took his suggestion seriously and dived into the deep end. I had chosen a few electives of philosophy while pursuing my undergraduate degree in psychology but I never thought of doing MAPE.
How was your experience at the beginning?
I vividly remember my first class. The topic was logic. I had a cold, and I was feeling out of sorts. I didn’t understand a thing the lecturer was saying so I concluded I had made the biggest mistake in joining MAPE. But my father pointed out that I just needed to study, which I did, and it all started making sense. I then realised that the beauty of the course is that it can be applied to anything because it talks about human actions and ethical aspect of human actions.
What was your experience thereafter?
I enjoyed the course and I learnt a lot from it. It required a lot of reading and discipline. Metaphysics challenged me; I now know why it is known as the first philosophy! The dissertation also required effort. I finished the degree within the stipulated time though I now understand those who get stuck at the dissertation stage.
However, the faculty were wonderful, knowledgeable yet demanding. The way the lectures were delivered opened up my mind to appreciate things we take for granted. The support staff were also very helpful; they made sure we had what we needed in the shortest time possible.
How does it apply to your profession?
Psychology touches on human emotions of things but philosophy helped me appreciate the logical aspect of it. It gave me a better picture of why we do the things that we do. It also touches on religion, particular from Thomas Aquinas, who says the human intellect is perfected by faith in God. This aspect made me understand the role of God in my life more.
What impact has MAPE had on your personal life?
Logic has helped me better articulate my arguments. I am not a confrontational person by nature but now I can handle an argument well. I have also become better informed on topical issues of discussion in our society, for instance those touching on bioethics. I am able to not just give an opinion from a faith based perspective but from a logic point of view. I can hold my own when I am talking about something I believe in to the point where others are convinced that the topic was well argued.
A degree in philosophy may currently not be one that is well known and revered in the country. How do you deal with skeptics who wonder what difference applied philosophy and ethics will have on your professional life?
I have encountered this skepticism. Many ask why I chose this particular graduate programme and not an MBA perhaps. Philosophy may sound very abstract but after one studies it, one realises that it weaves into everything you do because you are a human being. The ethics component of the programme applies to all professions. I am now better able to reason out with others as to why we always have to do the right thing; you are not doing it because you want to be seen as good but because it benefits not only you but everyone around you.
What was the topic of your dissertation?
I focused on happiness among Kawangware and Kibera youth. I chose this topic because of my background in psychology. People approach psychologists because they are unhappy; we try to address the psychological issues so that they can get happier.
I used an American philosopher, Robert J. Spitzer who is largely unknown. He explained that happiness for man involves four components: pleasure, achievement, contribution, transcendence and he expected research to show that majority of people are at the pleasure component.
But true happiness is found in God because he is perfect truth, perfect love, and perfect peace. The Kibera youth all ticked the four components. It was encouraging to realise they are happy; I felt it when I was there, that despite their poverty, they have found a way to be happy. It ascertained that money doesn’t buy happiness and I am glad my research proved this.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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