Samantha Mendez: “Musings from the VHML Summer Seminar 2017”

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Summer Session 2017: “Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life” cohort | Samantha Mendez is in the front row, fourth from the left.


Prior to the 2017 summer seminar, my research exposure was mostly on the field of Psychology. My collaborations were also limited to the Psychological discipline; hence, my understanding of the world was mostly influenced by the psychological frame. The best part about the experience was the interdisciplinary nature of the discussions. It was truly refreshing to be among philosophers and theologians who enlarged my understanding of virtue, happiness, friendship, meaning in life, and self-transcendence. I was not limited to a psychological standpoint, which usually automatically involves operationally defining virtue and happiness in measurable ways. The engaging and meaningful conversations I shared in and outside the sessions enriched my understanding and deepened my appreciation of pursuing knowledge for its own sake. I am also grateful for the cultural exposure through the faculty and my co-attendees. Prior to my attendance in this seminar, I only learned about other cultures vicariously through books, scientific papers, and movies. The interactions and conversations I have had with everybody from the summer seminar contributed to a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity.


Studying the constructs from a philosophical lens contributed to a holistic understanding of these constructs. It reminded me of the intimate history of Philosophy and Psychology as academic disciplines. This, in turn, inspired me to keep the philosophical perspective in mind as I currently write my dissertation proposal. The dialogues I’ve had with the other seminar attendees have also helped me clarify my own research agenda. I came to the seminar with a rough idea of what I wanted to study but I came out of it with more questions, which have been valuable in helping me tease out what I truly wanted to investigate.

More photos from the 2017 Summer Seminar “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence”

As a final note, I want to express my gratitude to Professors Candace Vogler and Jennifer Frey, and to the organizers and donors for making it possible for me to attend the summer school! I am also honoured and humbled to have spent a week discussing matters that are important to me as a scholar, and as a person, with the faculty and the other participants. Thank you for your stories, insights, ideas, and company. The experience has made my academic journey a truly meaningful one. Maraming Salamat!

Samantha Mendez is a Developmental Psychology PHD candidate working on her dissertation on the experience of meaning in life among single Filipino women. She is currently a faculty member of the Psychology departments of the University of the Philippines Diliman and the Ateneo de Manila University. She is an alumna of the Virtue Happiness and Meaning of Life Summer Seminar 2017.