Take 10 with a Triton: Susanne Degher’s Philosophy of Living with No Regrets
Name: Susanne Degher
Position: Events specialist and fiscal assistant in the Department of Philosophy at the School of Arts and Humanities
What she does at UC San Diego: Degher describes her work as the best of both worlds. Each morning she activates her analytical mind as she deciphers all the department’s fiscal transactions that come her way. Then by the afternoon she is on her feet, finding event spaces, booking travel for faculty members and placing catering orders, tapping into the energetic, extroverted part of herself.
It has been nearly 12 years now that Degher has been part of the Department of Philosophy; she previously spent about five months at the English Language Institute at the Division of Extended Studies. She is part of a tight-knit team of six, “We have a really good team; everyone is very warm, and we laugh a lot. The faculty are all wonderful as well.”
Among her favorite projects are planning events, such as ongoing lectures in the Colloquium Series where visiting faculty share their latest work as well as annual programs such as Ethics in the Public Sphere—free public events that invite attendees to learn about and discuss the ethical challenges facing contemporary society.
What she loves about UC San Diego: Degher loves to learn and being surrounded by enriching conversations. When she first joined the Division of Extension’s English Language Institute, she enjoyed the opportunity to meet international students from around the world who took part in the program to improve their language skills. It was a good fit for her as someone who speaks Swedish, English and French.
And then joining the Department of Philosophy team, Degher has gotten to meet and learn from scholars each day. “I knew it was a good workplace, I like being in education,” said Degher. “You get to meet professors and students, it's enriching, you always discover something new.”
Best advice received: The best advice Degher received was not from a person—it was from a book. When her first daughter, Cleopatra, was born, Degher decided it would be best to move back to her home country of Sweden where there would be more family support. Twelve years and another daughter later, Degher and her husband began discussing whether it was time to return to California. Her friend worked at UC San Diego and had many good things to say about the university.
For guidance, they turned to the “I Ching” or “Book of Changes,” an ancient Chinese divination text that can offer answers during times of uncertainty. Degher’s question was what she could expect from moving back to the United States and working at UC San Diego. To initiate a response, she threw a set of coins that revealed a number, which then correlated to a set of phrases in the key. The answer she received: “Heaven on earth.”
“Sometimes I don't want to ask it because I don't want to know the answer,” said Degher. “I didn't know what was going to happen. I kind of wanted to stay; it’s a lot of work to start over. But we came and it’s kind of amazing how it worked out.”
On whether she feels like it’s “Heaven on earth” to work at UC San Diego, Degher explained that heaven to her is contentment. She is happy with her life, enjoys her work and is satisfied.
Something unique in her workspace: When asked about her workspace, Degher described it as “spartan,” devoid of artwork or other accessories. She focuses on being productive while in her space, and then ventures outside into the sun during breaks. In particular, she loves to take in the ocean’s negative ions on the fifth-floor terrace of the Arts and Humanities Building.
Favorite spot on campus: For nearly a decade, Degher has been practicing meditation. Though she does this intentionally by sitting every morning to clear her mind, she also likes to find spaces that inspire clarity and calmness. One of her favorite nearby campus is the Scripps Coastal Reserve.
“There’s a half-mile pathway that goes along the cliffs; I like to sit on a log where I can watch the hang gliders,” said Degher. “There’s also signs where you can read about plants and bees and more. It’s beautiful and peaceful.”
Something most people don’t know about her: Degher has a personal philosophy, “If you want to do something, just do it. You don't want to regret it later.” And she has certainly embraced this throughout her lifetime.
Her first dream was to become an actor in Hollywood. She moved from Sweden to Los Angeles and attended as many auditions as she could with the goal of starring in movies. “I'm glad I did it,” said Degher. “I met the most interesting, crazy, creative people. Everybody comes there—musicians, directors, painters; it was very exciting.”
But the most interesting person she met? Her husband. They were both at a party, and they were introduced to everyone except each other. They connected, and the rest is history. “His outfit was punk-inspired, with long hair and make-up. I was working in a bank and was a matching freak with a red handbag, red shoes, red belt—we were opposites. But here we are, 36 years later. He’s wonderful.”
After they married, Degher set off to fulfill another dream, this time working as a flight attendant with the notorious Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) in the late 1980s. “It was one of those girl dreams that you have, it was great,” she said. “You wrote your own tickets in those days. We traveled a lot, from Poland and France to Jamaica and Guatemala.”
After Hollywood and soaring the friendly skies, Degher went back to school, her first love. She initially pursued nursing, and while she enjoyed the coursework, the idea of administering an injection led her to choose a different focus. Degher earned a bachelor’s degree in French at San Diego State University. Soon after she and her husband started a family and moved back to Sweden, where she served as a sixth-grade teacher and worked in student affairs at a local university.
If she had one day to do anything she wanted: Family comes first with Degher, and if she had a full day free, she would spend it with her husband and two daughters. Her elder daughter, Cleopatra, and her husband are currently expecting. “We could rent a cabin somewhere quiet, do a mini vacation.” An important addition to the trip would be Zeus, their “California designer mutt.” The 12-pound Poodle-Yorkie-Chihuahua is a big part of their lives.
In terms of traveling, Degher would like to explore Japan and South Korea next. “I’ve been watching a lot of Korean drama television and would love to see the countryside,” she said. Locally, she’d like to take a ride on a hang glider to see the unparalleled views of Black’s Beach.
Ultimately, she likes to keep her options open. “You never know where things may lead.”
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