Lure of travel and writing drew graduate to Thailand

by Jenna Box
Dane Phillips with monkeysDane Phillips spends most of the year 9,000 miles away from San Marcos but keeps the education and invaluable lessons he learned at Texas State University close to his heart.

For the last six years, Phillips has spent the majority of his time in Thailand working for an academic consulting firm where he assists MBA applicants in strategically planning their next educational steps.

Phillips graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and double minor in business and journalism. He was in the honors program and studied abroad in Belize as part of his anthropology work.

Phillips worked as a freelance writer from 2006-2010, and in 2011, he began working for the consulting firm. He works with higher education students planning which schools they will attend, developing career goals and highlighting their best achievements. He also edits applicant essays for grammar, spelling and punctuation.

A Strong Foundation

Initially, Phillips found a job posting online for a part-time editing gig, which paved the way to his current position. Although editing is “easy and second nature” for Phillips, that is not what he loves most about his job. “The element I enjoy most is learning about various industries, multi-generational family empires, and regional political and cultural issues,” Phillips said.

He credits professors Dave Nolan, Kym Fox and Gilbert Martinez with being instrumental in his education, providing him with the “triple threat” of the journalism and mass communication world: writing, editing and photography.

Thai man in canoeSenior Lecturer Gilbert Martinez, who specializes in media law, remembers Dane as a competent and deeply invested student. “Dane visited me often during office hours to discuss Supreme Court cases relevant to media law. I enjoyed his hard work, attention and participation in class,” Martinez said. “I’ve also enjoyed hearing about his travels overseas and how he has used his college degree, journalism and mass communication classes in his everyday work.”

Senior Lecturer David Nolan, resident visual communication expert at Texas State, said Phillips was curious about the world and an excellent student. “He has a natural talent for visually expressing himself and seeing stories from a different perspective,” Nolan said. “Dane is a fantastic writer and accomplished photographer and one of our best graduates.”

Phillips said his degree prepared him well.

“Texas State’s anthropology program is especially strong,” Phillips said. “Anthropology is the perfect foundation for any intellectual exploration of society, abroad or at home, and my professors were absolutely brilliant.” Professors Beth Erhart, Jim Garber and Jon McGee all helped “shape the lens through which I see the world,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he especially enjoyed the honors program that created a more Socratic and participative learning environment. The demand it required and the reward it yielded were important for him. Today, he puts that energy toward helping others achieve their educational goals. “Most of my clients are quite fluent in English so the strategy element is by far the most important,” Phillips said. “These students are applying to the most prestigious schools in the world, so they have to come across as exceptional.”

The key to this, he shared, is a piece of advice all higher education students need to understand: content, not literary prowess, will always be most important.

Witnessing Conflict

Sunset in Thailand

Phillips lives in the financial district of Bangkok where protestors camped out for several months in 2010. This location has afforded him the opportunity to watch political conflict unfold and observe what he describes as the “invisible hand that chokes entirely too many people.” Every day, he witnesses the remnants of war in Laos and Vietnam.

“Poverty, subjugation, and hegemony aren’t just concepts in books or talking points for political debates. They are very, very real. They have a human toll and all the reading and documentary viewing in the world can’t replace actually meeting some of these people,” said Phillips.<

Literary Greatness

He is unsure about what the future holds; he does not predict what it will bring and does not plan more than a year ahead. “It allows me to believe, however briefly, that I may be living in a Tuscan villa writing a memoir in 18 months. But I could also be living in an abandoned bus under a bridge in North Dakota,” Phillips said.

Dane Phillips at a waterfallThis idea of achieving literary greatness through experience and worthy content is something sought after by many, but Phillips has the conviction and patience it requires to achieve it.

He explained, “You may sit down one day and find that words fall to the page more easily, that all the moments you’ve been memorizing have coalesced into a unique and profound narrative. Eventually, inspiration finds you and demands that you act. And ideally, all the small things you’ve done along the way have added to your writing arsenal, giving you a voice that is unlike anyone else’s. And the hope is, at some point, people will want to hear what you have to say … or maybe not, but if you speak English and are willing to travel, you’ll never starve to death.”

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