Michael Peters and Karuna Joshi-Peters

Karuna Joshi-Peters, 71, will receive a doctorate in philosophy—her second doctorate—at the UH Mānoa Advanced Degree Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14. She shares some advice for non-traditional students wishing to return to school.

Joshi-Peters is married to UH Mānoa Physics Professor Emeritus Michael Peters. They are longtime Kāneʻohe residents. Her sponsor is Ron Bontekoe, philosophy chair and professor.

Two doctorates? Nobody even needs one. Why would you want a second? And at your age? The questions were many and the answers elusive. Even to myself, I couldn’t answer these as I prepare to walk at the UH Mānoa Advanced Degree Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14.

India is the land of my birth many decades ago. My father was passionate about education at a time when World War II made warriors out of many a young man. Even as a daughter born in British India, growing up in independent India, I received an excellent education, culminating in a master of arts in philosophy from Banaras Hindu University. A scholarship from the East-West Center at UH Mānoa brought me to Hawaiʻi in 1971—some 45 years ago.

The first PhD from UH Mānoa trained me as a clinical psychologist. It gave me a profession that I love and a flexibility that was critical while raising a family. The second PhD has trained me as a philosopher. It gives me boundless beginnings—to become anything I wish to become. To achieve the degrees, I balanced the demands of career, family, health and academia. Things were not always perfect, or even good, sometimes. I worked hard, but more significantly, I had the unwavering support and encouragement of a large circle of loving people, at the center of which is my best friend and husband, Michael. (Old professors never retire; they just make graduate students out of their family members.)

What did I write about for my second dissertation? What advice do I have for non-traditional students, be they the “young-old” or single mothers wishing to return to school for educational enhancement? The answer to the two questions is a combination of what I focused on in my two doctorates. In psychology I studied “self-reinforcement.” In philosophy I thought about “trust” and “self-trust.” I tried to outline an epistemology of trust, which is a fancy way of asking how do I know trust. I also reflected on what do I value in trust. Putting them together led to the idea of an ecology of trust. Thus the title of my philosophy dissertation: Knowing Trust: Towards an Ecology of Trust.

Giving advice is not what that I believe in; giving encouragement is. So I end by sharing this: If you can imagine something you’d like to explore, or wish there was something you had accomplished—wait no longer. Now is the time and here is the place. Trust in yourself and start. Support from others will begin to flow to help you realize your dreams, even the ones yet undreamt.

1992 photo of Karuna Joshi-Peters, husband Michael and sons Adrian and Julian.