Staff Spotlight: Phillip Gill
Sr. Administrator, International Student and Scholar Services Division
Originally from Southern California, Phillip Gill is a diehard fan of surf rock instrumental bands such as The Bel-airs, The Centinels, The Langhorns, El Ray, Man or Astroman, and The Space Cossacks. Phillip played in a band during college and is an accomplished amateur guitarist, although he modestly calls himself a “hack.” He has toyed with the notion of one day forming a band of middle-aged rockers and calling it “The Comb-Overs.” Although his job is fraught with government regulations and enough red tape to wrap a thousand statues of Will Rogers, Phillip is one of the funniest people in the Office of International Affairs.
Phillip left California to attend Southern Illinois University because he was in love with a woman who was a student there (the romance worked out—they’ve now been married for 26 years and have two children). While at Southern Illinois University he majored in Political Science and Religious Studies. When his wife completed her PhD in Psychology and finished a post-doc at Johns Hopkins, she accepted a tenure-track position at Eastern New Mexico University and it was there that Phillip started his Master’s in Education with an emphasis on Reading and Literacy. While working on his graduate degree, he also supervised the ENMU Tutoring Center. International students were the premier tutors in the STEM fields, and this marked the first time that Phillip worked closely with foreign nationals. Most domestic students who came in for tutoring in math or chemistry were also working with international students for the first time, and Phillip was fascinated by their interactions and cultural exchanges. When he was recruited by the Admissions Dept. that housed the international programs on campus, the die was cast. In a few months he became the sole International Student Advisor for ENMU. The program had about 50 students when he started, and over 150 students five years later when he left the position to become an International Student Advisor at Texas Tech University.
Now a Sr. Administrator in the Office of International Affairs (the government title is “Responsible Officer”), Phillip operates the TTU Exchange Visitor Program (J-visas). In layman’s terms, this means that he processes the paperwork that allows Exchange Visitors to apply for their visas. The three main populations that he serves are as follows:
- Visiting scholars (both teaching and research)
- Student interns
- Degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students
Phillip assists and advises approximately 400 exchange visitors, all of whom play an integral role in the internationalization of the Tech campus—both professionally and culturally.
In his spare time, Phillip loves reading non-fiction books on history, philosophy, and religion. He is also a news junkie who finds the current presidential election cycle both fascinating and repugnant. He currently serves as President of the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Lubbock, a position that is time-consuming but rewarding. When time and busy schedules permit, he and his family love to travel—both domestically and internationally. They are dedicated foodies who love to visit small, out-of-the-way “mom and pop” restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, and they always make time to explore museums and art galleries in whatever city they visit.
What is your favorite thing about your job in the Office of International Affairs?
My favorite singular thing? That’s tough to answer. From a big picture, I take great satisfaction in bringing student and scholars from all over the world to TTU, and I’m fortunate and proud to play a role in TTU’s internationalization efforts. Interacting with international visitors makes my work life much richer, so whether I’m discussing the dialectical differences between Gujarat and Maharashtra, which Spanish city or town to find the best tapas, or why Swedes give Norwegians such a hard time, I’m learning about multiple cultures simultaneously. I’m also learning about, and connecting with not only our international visitors, but also many TTU departments, government agencies such as The State Department, Customs and Border Protection, Citizenship and Immigration Services, and on occasion the FBI and the Social Security Administration; of course, each government agency has its own culture as well. Favorite thing? Variation!
What do you see as the future of international education?
I see no end in sight for the US as the most attractive option for international students and scholars; however, I see a more competitive environment for attracting international students, both here and abroad. US universities will continue their drive for more internationals, and foreign institutions will increase their international marketing and internationalization. As the world’s employers seek more globally savvy prospective employees, higher education will continue to adapt to this growing need. International professionals in higher education will be measured by how quickly they make long-lasting relationships with students, scholars and other various partners, and how well they adapt to an ever-changing geopolitical landscape. I’m very happy to say that TTU and its graduates are poised and prepared for the coming challenges.
How do you relax after work?
After work, I like to cook and eat dinner. Sometimes there is a little competition to see who’ll cook; all the Gills like to cook! I don’t own a regular TV, and I don’t have cable. On occasion, we’ll watch a series on Netflix. To really relax after a stressful day, nothing changes my mood like playing guitar. It’s my favorite escape hatch. My second favorite is online news and commentary, followed by YouTube histories and documentaries. If the news gets too aggravating, I’ll switch to biographies, history, and philosophy for some reminding that only some and not all of humanity is troubled.