Payoff for perseverance

Oct 02, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3
By Howard Fluxgold

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One of the happiest grads at the October convocation ceremonies is likely to be Mondo Secter who receives his doctorate in interdisciplinary studies, as he says, “by the skin of my teeth.”

Secter (left), an accomplished sculptor and Oriental brush artist, took nine years and three thesis supervisors to complete his degree.

The interdisciplinary studies program is designed for students whose subject crosses the boundaries of several faculties. Secter began his thesis in the faculty of business administration and completed it in the school of communication. He will get his degree from the faculty of applied sciences.

As an interdisciplinary student “you are like a ronin - a samurai without a lord and with no real home,” explains Secter who has written a book called the I Ching Handbook.

“When I began my thesis, my first supervisor in the business faculty thought I should be finished in two or three years,” Secter recalls with a chuckle. He recently discovered that people working in similar fields take six or seven years to complete a thesis.

Secter's thesis focuses on the typology of the deep structure of culture. “This is a very elusive subject that I approached by combining organizational culture and international business with semiotics and Chinese philosophy,” he explains.

In his thesis, Secter sets out to demonstrate that the I Ching, written more than 3,000 years ago, was not just a book of divination, as it is popularly perceived. “My theory is that this book has relevance to decision-making and problem-solving that was disguised as a book of divination. I want to show its usefulness and relevance today, especially in the west.”

Secter admits that the past nine years were both exhausting and “financially draining.” When he found himself in an intellectual “black hole,” he sought relief in his art. He also co-authored a cookbook on Japanese-Western cuisine with his Tokyo-born wife, Ari Tomita, an accomplished artist and chef.

Before starting his doctoral studies, Secter, a Brandon Manitoba native had studied art in Jerusalem, Milan and New York where he had solo and group shows. In 1980, he became the first western abstract artist to display work in China with a show at the National Gallery in Beijing. His art has also been on display at the SFU gallery.

Now that he has received his degree he is looking for a post-doctoral fellowship “to give me the freedom to develop my theory to the next level.” He also wants to teach his theories in an interdisciplinary setting. “The subtext of my model is to introduce a shift in consciousness that impacts on how people relate within and between organizations, and that helps individuals relate better with their counterparts in other cultures.”

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