A lifelong interest in international studies led to a shift in careers for Sheilah Philip when opportunities provided by the college allowed her to fully immerse herself in other cultures.
Philip’s career at the college began in 1989 when she began teaching in the theater department. After retiring from teaching full time in 2013, Philip returned as the theater department’s professor emerita. As professor emerita, Philip can continue to teach and be involved with committees throughout campus.
“The growth the department experienced, the faculty she was [responsible] for hiring all contributed to the status of the theater department,” Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Jim Lane said. “She had a very direct hand in all that, from the directing of the shows she did, to the classes that she taught, to the students she influenced.”
Philip’s interest in theater and international studies began when she was young. Her parents were involved in community theaters in her hometown of Hays, Kansas. They would invite international students from the local college to their house over the holidays, providing a firsthand experience with other cultures.
In 2003, she was selected to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Japan Studies Seminar, which jump-started her interest in Asian culture. Philip currently teaches Introduction to Japanese Culture, a course that she put together herself during a sabbatical. The humanities course aims to introduce students to the arts and ideas of Japan.
Philip has co-led a number of study abroad trips through the college, taking students to Russia, China, Portugal and Japan along with her own travels. Philip is currently working on arranging a trip in 2018 to World War I battlefields in Belgium and France.
“Whenever we go elsewhere and look at a different culture, or through a class look at a different culture, it opens our minds a little bit,” Philip said. “It opens our minds to the fact that there might be a different way of looking at it than the way we are looking at it. That fosters not just tolerance, but it fosters acceptance.”
During her time at the college, she has been involved in a number of plays, both starring in them and directing them. Philip also worked for a number of years to get a Japanese garden put on campus, a project that fell through at the last minute. A smaller scale Japanese garden is currently outside of the Gym building, which was built as a continuing education credit for landscapers and architects in the Kansas City area with the help of Japanese gardeners.
When she’s not involved with anything at the school, Philip is involved with the talent agency Hoffman International, doing auditions for voice overs and commercials and also teaching for them. She represents the college on the advisory board for the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival, which takes place on campus in the fall. She also volunteers for the InterUrban ArtHouse, an organization that assists in getting arts in school and artists with managing their businesses.
“The arts offer the same kinds of mind-opening perspectives that studying other cultures or traveling internationally does,” Philip said. “That’s part of why both theater and international studies are important to me.”