Society & Culture
Semester Sneak Peek is a new series that provides a preview of courses available at Tulsa Community College (TCC) this coming fall semester.
As a series about upcoming classes, these episodes will feature interviews with many of the instructors tasked with teaching them.
Today's episode features Dr. Gay Phillips, Associate Professor at TCC.
Edited by Sam Levrault
Music by The Odyssey, "75 to Ramona"
Transcript: Bethany Solomon
Bethany: Welcome to Semester Sneak peak, a new series that highlights instructors that are tasked with teaching fall courses. We thought it would be best to highlight these courses to educate students!
I am your host, Bethany Solomon, associate editor of the Northeast campus and today we have a special guest, Gay Phillips, who is teaching several interesting courses this upcoming semester. It is a pleasure to have you Ms. Phillips!
Tell us about yourself. You may start with your childhood or educational experiences.
Gay Phillips: Thank you!
I grew up in west Texas, in the oil fields with my father. We traveled a lot. And that peaked my interest, traveling through the nation and getting to know different areas and different people. I was always interested in how we are similar as people, and how we are different. How culture gets created and shared. How we influence cultural changes, and why us humans do what we do. Those combined helped me fall in love with sociology. That is my primary discipline.
We got to Oklahoma and it felt like we moved to a foreign country and looking back I know that is not the case, but when I was 10 years old that is what it felt like.
G: And we stayed in Oklahoma ever since.
B: Very nice! I can see how that is the underlying inspiration for sociology and how it relates to even anthropology. Did you go from finding inspiration to sociology into finding interest in anthropology? Was that a later discovery?
G: While I was studying sociology in my undergrad I had options of taking anthropology courses along with sociology, a lot on native studies and indigenous population. It extends what we study about culture a little bit into the anthropological theme
B: Interesting! Let’s go to into your experiences prior to TCC as far as being in the workforce.
G: Sure. After I completed my bachelor’s degree I went to work in social services. I thought I wanted to be a social worker, and discovered I was not adept to doing that. I worried about people too much. After working for five years in social services I made a change. I went into professional development for people who work in social services. Predominately, people who work with homeless youth who have been abused and neglected.
That was the field I was in. I knew people and knew what the ongoing training needs were, so professional development 20/25 years doing lots of training workshops and all kinds of topics and how to deal with kids that live on the streets.
How to teach people how to be trauma informed. Kids and families that go through trauma. We did hundreds of training workshops, and so that is what I did. While I was doing that I went back and got my master’s degree. I knew I did not want another direct service degree, so I continued with sociology to work with people in social structures and cultures. So, I did that and after several years I decided I really wanted to teach at the college university level. I went back and got my PHD and became a private consultant doing training, workshops, and program development.
I had done quite a bit of programs for a lot of different organizations. I went back and got my PHD. I started as an adjunct. I was an adjunct at Rogers State, OSU, and now TCC. I have been involved with TCC since 2000, and a full-time position came open by 2012.
B: Wow, quite the experience. With TCC specifically, I know you mentioned trauma evaluation, that is something currently being developed here at TCC. Mental Health Awareness and how trauma effects people even in the realm of education, how it effects the individual’s rate of success, and their ability to learn. To me it is fascinating and I recently interviewed Shatia Stephens, she coordinates mental health awareness plans. I know it is not necessarily understood by many, and people don’t often see its effect.
In these specific programs, have you been able to reach out to individuals and help them understand the importance?
G: In many of my courses I try to talk about how human development is something we do over our lifespan and then talk about the consequences when you don’t have basic needs met like attachment bonding, and or you experience some sort of life trauma, which almost everybody does.
G: If you don’t have those foundational bases of attachment of being in a secure environment it is much harder to deal with those traumas. You might not have that basic support system.
I try to give basic education in all my classes about human development and what we need as humans. And then I talk of introducing ideas with trauma which helps to explain some of the crime rates we have, the homelessness we have, it connects to so many topics I teach in sociology and those fields.
B: How has that experience been for you? What has that taught you about students. Their willingness or unwillingness to address problems that they may not really understanding to how it correlates with their own success.
G: Two or three things. One, I hope they feel like ok, somebody cares. And that gets to as much for me not only what I teach but how I teach. Because I want to be respectful, where they are, what they are living with. I was a student at many different points in my life. I understand some of those struggles but not all of it. I was not raising two or three kids at the same time I was in school, but I try to make a connection to help them feel like somebody does care, I think that is critically important. I try to respect where they are at the time, not everybody is ready to seek assistance or know how to do that. If they want help I will make a phone call or give them somebody’s card and say “tell them I said I want to talk to you.” Some students feel a little bit of relief of ‘ok somebody is trying to understand my situation and seems to care’ that does not change their situation. A lot of it That is up to them to seek support, I just try to encourage and be there to help them wherever they are and with what they want to do.
I also talk then about what resources students here at TCC, and in fact just yesterday was organizing materials I have about student assistance programs we have.
I try to bring those in to my class about what is available. I encourage them, that if they need any kind of connection, if they are struggling not just academically, emotionally or supporting their family to make contact. So, I try to get to that and some of the issues people are dealing with and then help them make connections.
And I also talk then, about connections outside of TCC. I do some service learning in some of my courses and we go visit places. I take my classes to family safety centers that deal with domestic abuse. Not just couples, but anyone with family who have experienced some sort of violence or abuse can go to family safety centers, we tour that.
I talk a lot about the community resources in Tulsa, we have great community services here.
I also try to respect where they are at the time. Not everyone is ready to seek assistance. If they want help I will give them someone’s card and tell them to say, “I talked to them.” Most students experiencing this find relief and see that someone seems to care but that in of itself does not change their situation. It is up to them. I try to encourage and help them where they are.
B: Very good. Would you say this is something you implement in all your courses regardless?
G: Pretty much. Even on my online classes, because I have students who communicate through email. And I have done referrals for students. Something happens during the semester for three or two students. I try to be empathetic and help them out with referrals.
B: That is good! You are essentially practicing what you teach and bringing to students’ awareness, human development. That seems like that is the core connection between all your courses.
G: Yes. I tell my students in all my classes that we are pack animals. It is kind of an odd way to say it. Because of those social connections, we need each other. What we do to each other, how we communicate, how we understand each other, all those things matter.
B: That is a very good point. That brings up a very interesting questions involving your course Interdisciplinary Diversity & Inclusion, how have you found the differences that people may have on the surface, be it socioeconomic status, culture, ethnicity, or anything that divides people and causes them to communicate in different ways. How does that prevent people from running in packs?
G: It really is a matter of expanding our packs. There are basic components all cultures share. Every culture has a family, who is included in that family, how the family dynamic is lived out can be very different, but everyone has got one. We have a family of origin. I try to teach what is common amongst us as humans. We all have family and need to feel connected. We all need to have a predictable world and sense of safety. I try to teach all those common elements.
Once you dive deeper into what people are doing and why they are doing it, usually you can find the common ground. And secondly a lot of how people live it out becomes less important.
B: Very good. Taking these courses, I can see how important it is to seek to understanding people versus just focusing on our differences.
So, with the four courses you teach: Anthropology, Sociology, Marriage and family, and finally, Diversity and Inclusion, which is a new course by the way...
G: Yes, it has been revised!
B: So can you explain the revision?
G: Social Inequalities historically has been a discipline of sociology. The focus is a lot on studying race, ethnicity, gender and class. In our global society, in our broader human world, we need to look beyond just social inequalities. There are a lot of aspects in those four. Issues of people living with disabilities, intergenerational issues, that is a big one today. We always here older people disgruntle about younger people and what they do but we have our version of it today.
So change one is to expand the topic.
The second, to talk about inclusion and talk about cultural competency. How do you become a culturally competent person and why is that important? The primary reason is employers really want people to deal with diverse population. That is their number one issue, what is important in an employee. If you are not comfortable as an employee dealing with diverse populations, you are not going to make it as far. So, learning to do that and getting comfortable to talking to people who talk different, act different, and look different from you is important. You got to be able to understand beyond surface explanation, and beyond what you don’t like. To understand why there may be a dislike, is it a core issue that is important to you that may shape.
Getting comfortable with diverse populations, whether it is families, cities, or school.
This course is looking at very interactive and experimental in terms of talking and discussing and going to visit places. We have lots of organization with social justice issues. We will hear from people who are doing the work.
Overall, just looking at what kind of skills and attitudes you need to develop to be more culturally competent.
B: With social inequalities did you have students challenge your perspective or challenge new ideas or inputs that surprised you or caused you to see something in a different way?
G: Sure. In all my classes. I have had students challenge me as to people’s abilities to change their views. Particularly in changing their bigotries. Really wondering if our institutionalisms, such as ageism, or racism can really be changed or made better. I have seen people with extreme bigotry change, so I believe in people being able and willing. It does not always happen, but it is possible. Getting some students to believe that change can occur for the better is sometimes a challenge.
They key in all my courses is helping students have a voice.
I have values and I can express those hopefully, in a way that is not offensive to other people. Now there are some things that are inevitable. I want us to be able to know where we stand and do it respectfully. And, where does that come from a person? Every value and belief come from somewhere. There is a basis as to where that came from.
It comes down to the human components for need for safety, take care of your own, those common things we have in common.
I may not like uncle Joe’s viewpoint on something, but I can understand where it came from and why he is attached to it. And sometimes it makes it better for me.
B: Exactly. It gives you a sense of compassion. From my perspective that would help, I try to understand the origin of others believe what they believe and when you do it is easier to forgive or to deal with it. It is
G: Right! Not to simply see them as their bigotry and just see the humanness in that person.
B: Yes! That is powerful. Have you seen your students walk away different in your class, or their ability to see potential? To me, this is relevant to life and the key component of success, which is relationships.
G: Because we’re pack animals!
B: Exactly. We can’t survive on our own. Specifically, with you can say, the younger generation, Millennials or with what they would call Generation Z, do you find technology changing the way we relate with one another, do you find that they are less likely to know how to develop relationships? It is a common stigma.
G: It presents different challenges. We have had other things that have gotten in our way and those relationships. Whether it be have to spend our time just surviving, therefor the quality of my relationships is not as deep or emotional as we expect today.
Today we have tech, they are great. I love technology and how we use it! If it is impacting us negatively I am not sure, I am ready to answer that. I the top of somebody’s head in my classroom. To be honest about it.
G: What it tells me is I must get better at how to connect, maybe send that person a message. There is always going to be something that gets in the way of relationships. We just need to figure out how to communicate and break those barriers. I am not someone that does not like Gen Z or Millennials. I love you guys!
B: Good to hear! [Laughs…]
G: You’re fun, you’re creative and you’re aware of the world around you in ways my generation was not. I think it is just a matter of figuring out how to navigate it all, for all of us.
B: How to adapt!
G: Exactly. How to adapt. It’s a new adaptation.
B: Okay. As far as classrooms, what are your classroom expectations? How do you handle assignments? Are they consistent?
G: Close to it, I teach online and on-campus classes. For instance, in the fall I am teaching introduction to sociology, marriage and family, and cultural anthropology all online. They are 8 weeks and fast paced. I set up assignments weekly. The longer ones are every other week. I always have some form of reading or textbook. Usually a quiz over 1 or 2 chapters and they are usually analysis papers, a topic issues related to one of these courses. Papers are usually 2-5 pages.
On campus I teach intro to sociology, at west and in the fall and metro, during the spring. Diversity of Inclusion is on campus as well. I like block courses that are a little bit longer. If I need to cover 50 minutes topics, I want 3 hours. Or if we are going to do a field trip, so I like those longer courses. I teach aging and dying, and social problems. Assignments are all typical. As far as quizzes and analysis papers.
B: What are the best ways to contact you?
G: It would be email which is email@example.com and my phone number is (918) 595-8842. My office is located at Metro Campus, Academic building in room 514.
B: And your typical hours?
G: I am usually here like, 11pm-2pm ( 3pm), Monday-Thursdays, for sure. I am willing to set up appointments when it is convenient. If I need to meet at West I will.
B: Alright! We have covered a lot of information. Thank you for joining us on our show.
G: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about sociology and my other courses!
B: Of course! It is exciting and innovative stuff. I believe the foundational lesson we can all learn is how important it is to understand human development.
G: Thank you so much.
B: No problem, Gay we wish you an incredible semester! You can check us out on our website at tccconnection.com or our podcast that is hosted by pod bean on iTunes.
Check out The TCC Connection online at http://tccconnection.com/
The TCC Connection is a student newspaper based at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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