Former engineer philosophical about new field

January 21, 2010 - 8:00am

Laura Marino Rugeles found satisfaction in overseeing

complex communications projects in her native Colombia but the electrical

engineer felt the need to take on a new challenge.

“In engineering, you work with structures and

machines. You design, fix or program equipment. That’s exciting, but in

philosophy you are thinking about life – the big questions, and that to me is

even more exciting.”

Marino, 41, has spent the past two years rigorously looking

at the “big questions,” and is headed toward graduation with distinction Jan.

26 at Vancouver Island University with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in


“Philosophy was always my first intention. I had always

dreamed about it – engaging in it formally, not just picking up a book now and

again or treating it as a hobby.”

Marino grew up in the mountain town of Socorro before enrolling

in engineering at Javeriana University in Bogota. She was encouraged to pursue

the field by her brother and she achieved success working on major

communications projects. She worked for a time as an engineer in Miami, then

came to British Columbia in 2003 after taking time off to sail the East Coast

from Annapolis to the Caribbean. It was during that time off that she met the

Canadian sailor who would entice her to move to Gabriola Island and marry.


Marino worked on electrical projects after moving to the

Nanaimo area. Three years ago, she decided to pursue her passion for


“It’s one of those things. I thought if I don’t do it now,

I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life.” She challenged herself, “Am I

going to keep working at what I’ve been doing or am I going to follow a


Marino recalls asking Robert Lane, now honorary research

associate with VIU’s department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, “Am I

crazy? Am I out of my mind?”

She was reassured by his answer. “He said, ‘You’ve come to

this point in your life. It’s not crazy. Just follow it.’”

Robert Pepper-Smith, chair of the department at the time,

was equally encouraging. “He said go for it, if you’re passionate about

something, nothing should stop you.”

Marino found parallels between philosophy and engineering as

she plunged into her studies. Logic is fundamental in both fields, she said.

Both take a great deal of hard work. “Philosophy is a very, very tough field.

It’s not just ‘what do you think about this?’ You have to be really rigorous.

You have to be so creative, really dig deep and analyze.”

Her hard work has paid off. She has not only earned a

Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Philosophy with distinction, she was also invited

to present a paper at the recent Western Canadian Undergraduate Philosophy

Conference at the University of British Columbia.

“Laura is a very good analytical thinker,” said Justin

Kalef, one of Marino’s philosophy professors at VIU. “She’s bright and

enthusiastic but her strongest quality is her persistence. One time she had an

essay for a directed study and she wanted it to be really good. She went

through seven drafts. No matter what I said, she didn’t get crestfallen. She

went right back at it and kept working.”

“She now produces great essays right off the bat, but it’s

her persistence that got her there.  Many people who come to philosophy

with great ideas can’t get themselves past the gauntlet of critical responses

that all great philosophers must run. But Laura made it through.”

Marino intends to pursue post-graduate studies in philosophy

at Simon Fraser University or the University of British Columbia.

“My ultimate interest is to teach, to keep researching. I

have that spirit. It fits me well,” Marino said. “Philosophy enriches me so

much. It’s the kind of wealth I can’t get anywhere else. Philosophy takes a lot

of work but it is very rewarding.”

Faculty at VIU’s department of Philosophy and Religious

Studies make a concerted effort to provide the kind of atmosphere that attracts

high quality students and give them a level of attention they would not get at

an institution where the focus is on post-graduate studies.


have a department where professors not only stay current, but also devote a great deal of energy to students. It’s fantastic to be part of an institution

that has room to focus on the undergraduates,” Kalef said. “Undergrads are

better off at a school like this.”

Marino agreed. “Everybody in the faculty has been great.

Without that support, nothing would happen.”

Note: Vancouver Island University will

award baccalaureate degrees to 286 students at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo

Monday, Jan. 25 and Tuesday, Jan. 26. Convocation ceremonies begin at 2 pm.

On Monday,

112 students will receive Education degrees. The following day, 174 students

will graduate from eight disciplines including Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of

Science, Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Business Administration, Master of

Business Administration and Bachelor of Tourism Management.

The graduating

class includes 48 international students from 16 countries and 14 First Nations

students from western Canada.


For more information, visit the Philosophy and Religious

Studies website

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