Where this Falcon Flew: Phil Rich

Time Spent Abroad Lead to a Goal of Helping Others

By: Alyissa Horn '21

Phil Rich graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2018. After growing up in Bowling Green, Phil knew the first thing he wanted to do was to experience life outside of the town. Following graduation, he found himself in the country of Cameroon. It was a relationship he formed at Bowling Green, though, that would lead him to the country. Phil’s journey through his four years at the university would set him up to travel around the world and later get accepted into the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University in Chicago.

When Phil began his first year at BGSU, a major in business seemed the most realistic because he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do after graduation. He knew that the Schmidthorst College of Business would give him applicable skills that he could use to find a job after college. By the end of his sophomore year, though, he found that he didn’t really have a passion for his classes. Phil says he really enjoyed his business professors, and he enjoyed his time spent with the college. Looking back, though, he says he became more involved with organizations outside of class work that better suited his passions. He would also end up adding the newly created Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL) minor.

The people in honors, especially the people in the Honors Scholars Learning Community, completely changed my perspectives and life goals for the better. While Phil says that, in the grand scheme of things, one’s major is pretty insignificant, there are some jobs and opportunities that his background in accounting could be beneficial. The accounting skills he learned from his degree may help him to work with a legal aid organization in the future, especially since a wide skill set can be extremely beneficial in the non-profit sector.

Outside of classwork, Phil says he found organizations and friends that helped him to create a community and a college experience that he hoped for. Five of the guys he remains in contact with today are his first five suitemates from his time living in Founders. The Honors College would inevitably shape Phil’s life outside of Bowling Green. At the beginning of his first year, he joined Honors Scholars with Dr. Neil Browne. When discussing honors scholars Phil said, “The people in honors, especially the people in the Honors Scholars Learning Community, completely changed my perspectives and life goals for the better. It was the ideas and behaviors I observed and evaluated in the people around me that inspired me to take the route I am currently on.”

Outside of the Honors College, Phil also joined and helped to expand BGSU Votes, a nonpartisan student-led initiative focused on voter and political engagement. When Phil joined the organization, there were only two students involved. By his senior year, Phil says this organization was one of his main priorities, and today BGSU Votes has a plethora of student volunteers helping to ensure that students on BGSU’s campus are registered to vote and have the resources available to be informed voters.

An unlikely experience with a Cameroonian woman during the Young African Leadership Initiative held at BGSU would give Phil the opportunity to spend almost a year abroad volunteering. Emily ran a non-governmental organization in Cameroon, and she gave Phil the opportunity to travel to the country and volunteer with her. When he arrived in Cameroon, he lived in Limbe, but due to a political crisis, he ended up moving to the capital city of Yaounde. It was here that Phil says he was able to find a more structured volunteer experience. During his time in Yaounde, he lived with a host family and spent most of his time volunteering with the Bitame Lucia International School. Phil says his role here encompassed a large range of activities. A lot of his time was spent developing and teaching reading programs for children. There was a large disparity in education within the school, primarily due to large class sizes. This led Phil to create a Saturday reading program to help children who were falling behind in class. He recruited ten volunteers from a nearby university, and he said they tutored around twenty-five students every Saturday. For the older children, Phil also created a small-scale chicken farm with the goal of teaching the children simple business transactions.

When Phil returned to the United States he felt reaffirmed in his career goal of becoming a Civil Aid attorney. It is his goal to be able to provide legal work for people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal counsel in civil justice cases. In pursuing this passion, Phil was accepted into the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he began classes this fall.

Become comfortable with being uncomfortable.As Phil is working towards his next step in life of becoming an attorney, his biggest advice to students is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This was the same advice he gave when giving a speech at Honors Convocation during his second year at Bowling Green. While he says students likely hear this advice frequently, the university is a large place and there are a lot of different things to discover and learn.

Phil’s experience at Bowling Green State University echoes the advice that he gives to students. He took all of the experiences the university had to offer him, and he has used those experiences to propel his career. While still in law school, there is no doubt that he will continue to take advantage of every opportunity, and he will truly make a difference within his career.

Updated: 04/07/2021 01:25PM