Meet Dean Gena Philpott

When you arrive at PUC and begin exploring your new home away from home, you’ll likely want to know just who is in charge of your living space. We’ve made that easy for you! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring all of our residence hall deans here on the blog so you can get to know them all. And if you need to contact them, feel free to reach out!

Name: Gena Philpott
Dean of: Andre Hall
Phone: (707) 965-7461
Dean since: 2004

So, what were you doing before you came to PUC?
I worked as the head dean of girls at Gem State Academy in Idaho for eight years. I also taught art and yearbook there.

What does a typical day look like for you?
The thing I think I love most about my job as a dean is even though we have regular daily duties, responsibilities, and meetings to attend as in any other job, the exciting thing about it is my day can change at a moment’s notice depending on what might be happening with a student or situation on campus.

But, in a typical day, I’ll double-check the nightcheck count to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Then I answer texts, messages, and emails. It’s during that process I typically find out about happenings that will be changing my intended schedule for the day. Some of those happenings may include a shopping run for food requested by RAs for an upcoming residence hall event; checking on an overflowing sink or toilet; running someone to a doctor appointment when Health Services is short on resources; mediating a fight between suitemates over who isn’t doing their part in keeping the restroom clean; listening to a students talk about their relationships and giving advice on how to handle or what to say in order to resolve something. There are truly a thousand different scenarios that could be all in my day’s work. Think parenting/mentoring to 580 young ladies—shared between four people 24/7.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
Finding balance in all things—between responding to above-mentioned extenuating circumstances, to students, to paperwork and disruptions in normal schedules, while still maintaining and carving out time for a marriage, family, friends, and a personal life.

What do you find most rewarding?
I love it when I see students maturing from freshman year to senior year—overcoming things that hold them back and learning to enjoy life and the new skills they are learning for life.

What are some of your hobbies?
I love traveling and exploring with my husband—from camping in wild places to discovering the awe of lava in Hawai’i. I also enjoy reading and attempting to make favorite comfort foods lighter in calories—although I have a hard time with that since most of my recipes start with a stick of butter. I find pleasure in art—from watercolor painting to ceramics to graphic design. I have some nerdier hobbies as well—maybe this isn’t the best place to go into those.

Besides the students (because we know they’re really the best thing ever), what do you love most about PUC?
Aside from getting paid to interact with young minds every day, I would say I love working with a team of colleagues who understand and support me as a dean. It helps to have people who know the job and can relate and tag-team in crisis situations. I also love that PUC is willing to have the hard conversations even when the PR surrounding the conversations aren’t always understood. Continually asking ourselves why we do things as a church and educational community is important for our growth both mentally and spiritually. I love the fresh eyes, energy, and pictures of Jesus that young minds bring to PUC.

Let’s travel back in time a bit. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was three, I had big goals to become a “cat farmer.” Ironically, I became allergic to cats at age 12, and I took that as a direct sign I should maybe look at a different career path. Then I wanted to work as a designer and graphic artist for Review and Herald. I was wowed by Harry Anderson, Lars Justinen, and Nathan Greene’s artistic work. But it wasn’t until I joined the residence hall staff in college as a student dean and worked for the English department I found my true calling—education. After spending a year as a taskforce dean and art teacher at Upper Columbia Academy in Washington State, I was hooked for life and haven’t looked back!

What did you study in college?
Like most college students, I changed my major many times but ultimately ended up with a double major, earning degrees in both English and computer graphic art with minors in religion and secondary education. I feel I have been able to use all the indecision and different major changes to lead me to be a better dean and educator—to serve my residents even better than I could have if I had been single-minded in my ambitions. I can reassure students changing career paths is ok, learning is a lifelong process and they can change it up as they grow and mature and gain new insights and interests.

So tell me what a dean has on her bucket list. Okay, okaylet’s not speak for everyone. What’s on your bucket list?
I’ll start with some fun things I have done already. I went to Hawai’i two summers ago—that’s where the lava comment above came from. It’s hard to describe the amazing emotional experience to see molten rock flowing, cooling, and actually creating more earth as we know it. If you didn’t understand the majesty of the creator, you see and feel it when you get a chance to witness it in person. The second thing I was able to do from my bucket list while there was swim in the open ocean with sharks—no cages. That was also a spiritual experience. Adrenaline-filled, yes, but still just amazing and I was truly awestruck. Something I would do again in a heartbeat.

And for the to-do bucket list, I would love to go to Europe with my husband—Switzerland, Austria, France, and Italy. I have been to Spain and Morocco years ago and would love to be able to explore more of all the historical places—too many to name. I would love to stay in one of those igloos with glass ceilings and view the northern lights in Alaska or Norway, and they have hotels in Norway where you can see the wolves—I always thought that would be cool, as well. And then there’s Bora Bora and Brazil … the list goes on!

Any final words? Leave us with some wisdom!
Haha! I’ll do my best.

To be a dean is to be a life skills educator. What is taught outside the classroom can improve your academic achievements beyond what a person thinks they may be capable—from time management, to integrity, ethics, modesty, budgeting, healthy eating, sleeping, exercise and relationship habits. We try to slip ‘Adulting 101’ between all the o-chem and anatomy lectures. And I truly do love it.

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