Six Whitties Who Will Change the World – Galen Phillips

kristencoverdale

20090929-01-profiles-webEvery year, senior Galen Phillips picks a new personal challenge to pursue. One semester, he took a 300-level philosophy class. “I’m a politics major, so it was a way to kind of put myself out there,” he said in an interview. In his junior year he joined the nationally-recognized parliamentary debate team and this year ┬áhe is tackling the sport of racquetball.

Soft-spoken but charming, Phillips is hesitant to talk about himself at length. But Phillips opens up on the topic of international travel.

“My family moved to Spain for a year when I was eight and I got to go to public school there. Also, I took a gap year before college. I spent a semester teaching English in Ecuador and a semester teaching English in China. It really allowed me the opportunity to see how other people live,” said Phillips.

Over the years, travel has become one of Phillips’ passions. The summer between his first and second year he returned to China as an au pair and taught English during his stay.

Phillips animatedly shared his plans to someday work in international law, focusing specifically on human rights, citing how his previous experiences abroad have thus shaped his life. This, he said, is his way of participating in the global community.

“My whole existence has been premised upon a certain amount of privilege. To represent those who haven’t been given the same benefits as I have, that’s my way of giving back,” he said.

Though very future-driven, Phillips takes time to enjoy college life. As a member of the club water polo team, he enjoys friendly competition and camaraderie with his teammates. He also recognized the health benefits of this extracurricular activity.

“It gives me a chance to exercise which is kind of a rare occurrence,” joked Phillips.

Phillips has been recognized as an excellent debater and was an asset to the Whitman team last year, taking first place at a tournament at Pacific Lutheran University with sophomore John Henry Heckendorn. When asked why he would choose to leave the team, he responded with a grin and, like many former debaters, blamed the time commitment.

“I don’t really think debate would allow me the time to really hone my racquetball skills to where they need to be at,” said Phillips. “That’s why I quit debate.”

He mentioned that after he has mastered the sport of racquetball, he hopes to debate during his last semester of college.

Before enrolling in law school, Phillips plans to take some time off to travel. These few years before entering the professional world would be focused: “I’d like to do a vision quest. Maybe teach again or work on organic farms. This is the only time in my life when I’ll be able to just go do that. And considering the U.S. economy, I think it’ll work out great.”