Dr. Glenn Phillips begins his book of Aggie poetry – “Fellow Students” – with a poignant author’s note to the reader: “For many poets, their first book is a greeting. For me, this book is a way to say farewell.”
In the 119 pages that follow, Phillips – who received his Ph.D. in higher education administration, one of four degrees he received at the university – pens a loving tribute to his nearly 17 years at Texas A&M as a student, an employee and a faculty member.
Today, he has sold nearly 1,500 copies and all proceeds contribute to a soon-to-be-formed Aggie Ring Endowment. The endowment honors his cousin, Jeffrey Wetuski ’91, who passed away before he could receive his own ring.
From the Inside Looking Out
As old Aggie lore states, “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it and, from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
Phillips discovered for himself how true that statement was when he began writing poems in an attempt to capture the Aggie experience for a small project in his graduate class.
“Poetry has the ability to explain things in a really different way,” he says. “So I wanted to see if I could talk about the Aggie experience in that way.”
He admits, “I came to the conclusion that you can talk about it but you can’t explain the Aggie spirit or tradition or what it’s like to go here… but I could talk about my experience.”
So it began. Over the span of seven years, he wrote poems whenever he felt inspired. With titles ranging from “How to teach in three easy steps” to “An Open Letter to James Earl Rudder,” the collection now covers all the moments cherished and lessons learned during his time in Aggieland.
Not Purchased, But Earned
While the idea to write poetry came from a need to describe his personal experiences, the idea to publish that collection and sell it arose from a desire to give back to future Aggies. As Phillips sees it, the endowment will provide the next generation of graduates a chance to participate in one of the university’s longest-standing traditions: the acquisition of an Aggie Ring.
“Early on in my time at Texas A&M, I really valued the Aggie Ring and the availability of the Aggie ring and the idea that Aggie Rings were not purchased; they were earned,” he says. “That distinction was really important to me.”
That sentiment originates from his time as an undergraduate student, when he and his friends formed an organization called Change that bought Aggie Rings for those students who couldn’t afford them. The organization hosted change drives that raised nearly $6,000 during its first year.
More than a decade later, raising money for the endowment allows Phillips to continue that legacy of giving back while also honoring his late cousin.
Storytelling & Research
As a qualitative researcher with an interest in arts-based research, Phillips sees tremendous value in storytelling, especially through poetry, as a tool for academia.
“This book of poetry could easily be called arts-based research,” he says. “I’m using poetry to tell my lived experience.”
While his master’s degree program in the Department of English taught him how to write poetry, he explains that it was his time in the College of Education and Human Development that taught him how to tell someone else’s story with poetry. In that sense, he says, “This book is an extension of the voice that I gained from the College of Education.”
For more information about Dr. Phillips' book, including where to purchase it, visit http://aggiepoetry.com.
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