Bachelor of Arts

Student Achiever - Katherine Gray

Katherine Gray did not realise that the big questions tickling her mind in high school – regarding ethics and the nature of human perception and experience – were essentially the stuff of Philosophy.

That is, not until she took her first Philosophy course in the second year of her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Newcastle.

"I had always known that those concepts were the subject of extensive academic analysis, I just hadn't realised that there was an identifiable area of academia dedicated to studying them," she says. 

The co-founder and president of the UoN Philosophy Society started a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws degree in 2009. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in 2011, did Honours in Philosophy throughout 2012, and expects to finish her Bachelor of Laws in 2014. 

As with many Bachelor of Arts students, Katherine changed majors midway through her degree when a particular course ignited her passion for Philosophy and convinced her to change tack.

"I began my degree majoring in International Affairs and Religious Studies," she says. "But when I took my first Philosophy class, RELI3010 [Religion, Nature and Morality] in the second year of my degree I was instantly hooked and I began transitioning to a major in Philosophy.

"I was encouraged to really question my preconceptions about nature and to delve deeply and critically into the thoughts and musings that came from that questioning.

 "I fell down the rabbit hole, and while what I found there was confronting, I was thrilled by the process and found myself wanting more and more of it."

Katherine GrayKatherine does not underestimate the influence of her mentors.

"Dr Colin Wilks introduced me to Philosophy in the Religion, Nature and Morality course and played a huge role in inspiring me to think and to question and to face sometimes confronting conclusions head on," she says.

"I'm indebted to him for that because it has shaped who I am and how I think at uni and in the world outside academia.

"He also provided me with great support throughout my Honours year, when he acted as my supervisor.

"Dr Joseph Mintoff also had a significant impact on my studies in Philosophy, particularly in challenging me to rethink the concepts of rationality and consistency." 

Katherine, whose Honours thesis was titled Power and Responsibility: Assessing Environmental Ethics and their Utility in Moral Practice, last year tutored PHIL1060 (Philosophy of Psychology), and she is keen to do it again.

"I absolutely loved tutoring and would love to go on to tutor more courses in the future. I would also like to complete a PhD in Philosophy and eventually lecture in Philosophy and possibly Law. Alternatively, I'd like to work on governmental policy at a national level," the born-and-bred Novocastrian says. 

"I come from a family that has always been interested in politics. Both my parents are social workers. 

"My brother Peter was a passionate environmentalist who passed away from bowel cancer in 2011. His environmentalism and political activities had a huge impact on me growing up and this is reflected in my ongoing interest in environmental ethics and politics."  

Katherine loves to hike in the Blue Mountains with her partner Alex, is a keen hockey player and a "huge foodie". She says wanderlust is a Gray family trait and loves to travel whenever she can.

And, of course, she can talk the talk.

"I love to talk about philosophical concepts with a whole range of people and enjoy the opportunity to do so in my involvement in the UoN Philosophy Society." 

Katherine says while it's very important to take time to consider what you want to do before you go to uni, it's also good to "maintain an open mind while you're at uni and not be afraid to follow paths that differ a little [or maybe even a lot] from your initial plan".

"You'll be exposed to a whole range of topics that you might never even have heard of, and if they grab you, follow them," she urges.

"Uni is a lot of work and that work is easier if you love what you're doing. If I hadn't kept an open mind during my B/Arts I would never have pursued Philosophy and that would have been a great shame because it brings me so much joy and satisfaction now."  

And Katherine offers students this tried-and-true survival tip:

"Look after your grades, stay on top of your work, but more importantly, look after yourself," she says.

"Be active, be social, and if you need help ask for it. There are lots of people [lecturers, tutors, mentors, academic support staff, doctors, psychologists, career advisors, librarians] who are ready and waiting to help you, and you should utilise them.

"It's important to look after yourself so that you can last the academic distance."

Wise counsel, indeed, from a lover of Philosophy, which incidentally stems from the Ancient Greek word for "lover of wisdom".