World-wanderer, waiter in Washington and wine salesman Brett Phillips interviewed to be a TCU staff member the Thursday before his wedding.
Phillips counts five different jobs and lists Italy and Australia as places he lived before he settled down at TCU. Phillips, the director of Student Organizations, is now helping others find a sense of belonging among more than 230 student organizations.
“I’ve been an explorer, and it took me a long time to really figure out how to interweave the things that I am really good, but that I’m also passionate about,” Phillips said about his journey from various jobs after his graduation from Pepperdine University to a career at TCU.
A stand out in the crowd with his iconic silver hair and radiant smile, Phillips is best known for his first position at the university as a student activities coordinator. Back then, he encouraged student leaders in organizations like the House of Representatives and theCrew, and worked with programs like Frogs First and Frog Aides.
When he was hired in 2010, Phillips worked alongside two other full-time staff members, a graduate assistant and numerous student leaders at TCU. Phillips filled a new position that coincided with the opening of the new Brown-Lupton University Union.
“They were excited to get another person that could help shape and support and really create change,” Phillips explained about his role involving the increase of large-scale campus programs at the time.
This position is where he started on his career path. Last year, he left his beginnings and followed the path to his new office upstairs.
Phillips starting working last semester as the director of Student Organizations and is only one of two people working with organizations on campus.
Naturally, his team dynamics have changed, he said. There is only one graduate student working with him for Student Organizations, but he continues to be surrounded by professional staff in the Student Development Services office.
“I have a lot more autonomy to help run and support and create change, but the connectedness is still very much there,” Phillips said about his two-person show.
Connectivity is essential, and it defines Phillips’ new position—with or without a large supporting staff.
Vanessa Norris, the graduate assistant for Student Organizations, described Phillips as a connector from her experience working with him.
“He wants to reach out to others and make sure that they know that he’s there as a resource, as a friend and as someone they can talk to,” Norris said.
Norris also said that the department wants students to know they have a voice and can get connected to the necessary resources.
She said Phillips wants to make it easy for people to be connected to each other and the university community through the organization information and resources that the office provides.
He also helps students work through anxiety about getting involved at the university. Phillips started a new initiative, Find Your Fit, to help students make TCU more like a home.
“It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the opportunities or to compare yourself to other people and what they are doing on campus,” Phillips said. The director also said that students need to feel a sense of belonging to have a chance of success in college.
The Find Your Fit campaign is an OrgSync group created with the foundation of Aston’s involvement theory. Equipped with a background in student development theory, Phillips wanted to create a program that targeted student success and happiness.
“The greater the quantity and quality of involvement, the more likely the student will succeed in college,” Phillips said, quoting a theory based on Aston’s original findings. “That is kind of the heartbeat behind what we are thinking.”
Phillips explained he wants to offer aid along a journey that can be difficult for a student entering the the university community. He is ready to walk alongside them, chat about advice over a cup of coffee and ultimately be intentional about guiding people to find their place.
Robin Williamson, the assistant dean for Student Development Services, spoke about how Phillips changed the feeling of the office by serving as a resource to students because of his joys and passions.
Phillips is beginning to see how Find Your Fit, a six-week initiative might continue to develop and lead students to their final destinations. It started to show an influence at the Activities Fair. The event showcases student organizations and brought in 2500-3000 people.
Along with the new campaign, Phillips changed the office of Student Organizations under the not-so-romantic guidelines of the KISS Model.
Phillips clarifies lightheartedly, “Keep It Simple Stupid, but maybe it shouldn’t be stupid but maybe Keep It Simple and Streamlined.”
Changes to the Student Organizations website allow for easier navigation, he said. With a background in marketing, Phillips put everything he thinks Student Organizations needs into six big buttons that will hopefully guide them during the school year.
Risk management training, a presentation about possible risks and how to prevent them, also received a makeover from its original two-hour ordeal to a shorter, more effective presentation for organization presidents.
Williamson elaborated on Phillips’ and Norris’ positions concerning how they make sure student organizations align with state laws for risk management. She said this requires audits, creating rosters and checking that organizations are in compliance and safe.
“Brett and Vanessa have gone about it in such a wonderful, positive way that it doesn’t seem so tedious and overwhelming.” Williamson said with a smile. “I think students have really appreciated their willingness to sit down and help students navigate the process.”
President of TCU HyperFrogs Jordan Ray, a junior journalism major, said risk management training was a more extensive process than he realized because he is new to his position, but that it helped his organization.
“Risk management is a really good thing, especially for what HyperFrogs is trying to do where we try to promote, you know, positive spirit,” Ray said.
Looking forward, Ray is brainstorming ways to get HyperFrogs members to actively use OrgSync, not just the leadership team. He said that OrgSync may have deterred membership because he had to ask members to sign up for the organization database website.
Phillips said in the end he is looking to find out what is most important, what students are struggling with, what they need and how his department can create change.