Matthew Billet

Morality & Religion in Environmental Concern
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I had an incredible experience conducting research as an undergraduate with Dr. Cynthia Fekken at Queen's University. I experienced how questions ostensibly small in scope are connected to rich networks of theories and ideas that can help make sense of them. In the broadest sense, this was what motivated me to pursue graduate studies.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I was enamoured with the work on the cultural evolution of religion that was being conducted by a large group of UBC researchers. It was clear that UBC was interested in big questions and had the capability to bring together interdisciplinary teams of talented researchers to address them. I also noticed very quickly during recruitment that the psychology department had a special sense of community. When you work in a setting where everyone is supportive and genuinely wants the best for you, your research and your well-being enjoys great benefits.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

There's many things that make the psychology program here attractive. The most obvious is the quality of the research. We have a very big department filled with prolific researchers who have a record of setting their students up for success. I'll mention two other things. First is the focus on statistical training. Since we have a dedicated Quantitative Psychology area, we are able to offer extensive and specialized courses on statistics for the social sciences (SEM, MLM, you name it). Second is the culture of co-supervision. I've been promoting my research on environmentalism here, but I'm also engaged in another interesting line of research that investigates what information people seek and utilize to inform their impressions of others. Although this is more specific to my own situation, I believe it speaks to the values of the program more broadly: students are free to pursue their interests and are supported in this venture by the faculty.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise was how engaged the student body was in advocating for their values. In my department, the graduate students have taken great initiative to create support and opportunities for students and faculty from diverse backgrounds. Beyond my department, I'm impressed by the activity of the student body in their pursuit of sustainability. It's been a pleasure to be a part of a community that actively aims towards the good.

It is clear that UBC is interested in big questions and has the capability to bring together interdisciplinary teams of talented researchers to address them.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I would be foolish to believe that I could have done this without the loving support of my family.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Graduate school is odd because it seems that everyone (even your lab mates) are on their own path. Besides the courses you take, it's likely that no one else will be doing exactly what you're doing. It's probably helpful to accept this early on in your studies. Be open to the idiosyncrasies of graduate school; pursue the opportunities that present themselves to you, not the opportunities that others have or are pursuing.


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