Vincent Phillips’ vibrant personality and love for people are perfect for the work he does in the New Student & Family Programs office. If you’ve ever been to the sixth floor of the Union, you have undoubtedly heard his laugh and you cannot forget his enthusiastic disposition. Phillips, who is from Dallas, studied Higher Education at the U of A, and was a Graduate Assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. He now works for the New Students and Family Programs office full-time.
Phillips’ journey to become a Graduate Assistant was a unique one. Arkansas was not on his radar when he was looking to attend grad school. And he had missed the deadline to apply for GA day event, where GA candidates are interviewed and learn more about the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas.
“I sent this long email saying, ‘I’m so sorry, can I still do this? Can I still attend GA day?’” Thankfully, they allowed me to,” Phillips said.
“I was a little mad because I didn’t have an interview with New Students and Family Programs. That was my top choice based on the description” he said. So, when Phillips saw director Quincy D. Spencer he gave him his resume and pleaded for an interview. Spencer took him up on his offer and interviewed him.
“I will never forget when he called me because I had just interviewed at another institution, and they had sent me a letter saying I was accepted into their program, and I hadn’t gotten one from Arkansas, so I thought I was just done with Arkansas,” Phillips said. However, a day later Spencer called and offered Phillips the position without even being accepted into the graduate school yet. The rest, as they say, is history.
As Phillips was getting closer to graduating from Graduate School, he was preparing to apply for jobs at other universities, but many of his superiors had been moved around through various promotions, which left a coordinator position open in the NSFP office. Phillips was encouraged to apply by his supervisor, and so he proceeded. Phillips recalls that it was while they were conducting interviews at GA day that his supervisor told him that they wanted to offer him a full-time position in the office.
“I remember being shocked and laughing out of disbelief,” Phillips said. Now he is the program coordinator for leadership and late night programs at the U of A.
Many people do not realize all that the NSFP office does, but Phillips leads programs like “Emerging Leaders,” “Cardinal Nights,” and other large programs that occur on campus. Phillips also chooses student-leader of the month by finding which student best exemplifies what the division is all about. Once he was hired on full-time, Phillips created another program called “First Year Leadership Summit,” which is collaboration between NSFP, Housing, and Greek Life. First year students signed up for the event and got to hear presentations on leadership inventory, thankfulness, and 10 tips to get the job, What Phillips most enjoys about this position is the opportunity he has to help younger students learn what their own leadership style is and how to grow and embrace it. Additionally, he loves the variety of things that he is doing in the office.
Phillips immensely enjoys his job and the responsibilities that he performs in his unique role. In one capacity, he delegates tasks to other student leaders; in another, he leads small groups of students himself. That is one of the things that he loves most about his position; it is ever changing, but it is always focused on students. Despite the large events that Phillips helps plan and bring to fruition, his favorite thing about his role is the small 6-week program with first year students called “Emerging Leaders.” Emerging Leaders holds a special place in Phillips heart because helping students find their own leadership style is his passion. During the program, Phillips says that students will “define your values, your actions, interpersonal relationship, communication, diversity, and professionalism.”
Often, when students first come to college they are not sure what they are good at, what qualities they possess, and how to use those qualities. Phillips loves helping students find their leadership style so that they can use it to facilitate pursuing their goals and flourish once they reach them. Phillips said they “want you to be prepared for the career world” after attending the program. Phillips is enthusiastic about this program because he believes that finding your leadership style can help you to understand yourself.
“You do not have to be commanding the crowd to be a leader; leadership is multi-faceted and is individual and useful no matter what it is,” Phillips said, “Without knowing your leadership style, there can be many times of doubt and insecurity about how you contribute to a team or to a working environment.”
Phillips helps students to see their value in their leadership style to discredit some of these fears. He describes his leadership style as “motivational, I love to champion for others. I am enthusiastic and charismatic.” But he also believes that servant leadership is essential. “I think being a servant leader is being a leader in general. I think we all need to be a leader that is a servant. I tell my students all the time that if I asked you to do it, I’m going to do it myself,” he said.
In addition to leading “Emerging Leaders”, he also leads small groups of students who plan larger events on campus. Phillips says that the NSFP office is always buzzing with student volunteers that want to help new students enjoy their time on the University of Arkansas campus. Phillips says that there are undergraduate students who are devoting their own time to support other U of A students by planning large events on the campus for them to participate in.
“I applaud my student workers because they work so hard and are dedicated to student success,” he said.
Phillips also recalls some funny memories from the various events that he has planned. One program in particular he remembers is where he created a large paper mâché tree. “On the tree we had different leadership types: bureaucratic, autocratic, and others.” Phillips laughed as he reminisced on this occasion saying that he is constantly doing tasks that he would never expect to do in order to create a stellar event. He also joked that it was relieving to be able to tear apart the tree once the event had ended. However, he said that it was a valuable experience because “that event and cardinal nights helped me to be more detail oriented.”
Phillips also talked about the important mentors in his life that have helped him to find confidence in his leadership style. He discussed the mentors that helped him to choose making the move from Texas to Arkansas, and the mentors he has on the University of Arkansas campus. A few that he mentioned were Dr. Zach Shirley, Kelly Smith, and Danielle Davis. Phillips also talked about some mentors that he has gained while being on the University of Arkansas campus. One that he mentioned was Quincy Spencer, the Director of New Student and Family Programs. He also mentioned gaining insight from the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Charles Robinson. Phillips says that one day he would love to be in a role like the one Robinson holds. Robinson oversees all of the divisions departments including: Student Activities, Student Media, University Housing, Career Services, the Pat Walker Health Center, University Programs, Student Standards and Conduct, Greek Life, and various others. Phillips talked about the insight that he received from Robinson about the work that he does and his personal journey to the position. “I had a conversation with him and it changed my life,” Phillips said. Robinson discussed how he became an African American Vice Chancellor at a historically white University. Phillips said this interested him because “I want to understand how people of color are working and thriving in institutions that are historically white.”.
When asked to reflect on his most memorable moment thus far as a GA for the office for New Student and Family Programs, Phillips recalled helping a student who had recently lost a parent. Phillips vividly remembers the student coming into his office, sitting on his couch, and telling him the devastation she was enduring.
“You never know what people are going through,” he said. “You never know when you will need to refer a student to someone. You have to know the people on campus to use those resources. We need those safety nets because college is stressful.”
Phillips reflects that this experience helped him to understand that student’s needs are individual and important. “The classes you’re in may give you the quantitative data, but the graduate assistantship gives you the experience,” he said.
Phillips said he has learned “you can’t be selfish in your blessings. If you get blessed, you bless other people.”