HUNTINGDON, Pa.- Juniata women's volleyball alumna Mar-Jana Phillips took some time to answer a variety of questions from why she picked Juniata to what she is up to now. She will also compete in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta Indonesia (August 19-September 02) and the AVC Cup (September 14-24) in Nakornnont, Thailand.
Thinking back to when you were applying to college, what caused you to select Juniata?
I chose Juniata because of the opportunity to play at a high level of volleyball and while still focusing on my academics. That balance was the key for me coming to Juniata.
What was your POE/area of study?
Business Marketing & Secondary Emphasis in Digital Media
Was there a point during your college experience when you felt particularly challenged and weren't sure how to push through? If so, how did you overcome that feeling and get to a better place? Who helped you?
I was struggling with certain classes and not sure if I was going to pass but with the help of my friends and professors' patience with me, I was able to overcome the adversity.
What surprised you about Juniata or your experience there?
What surprised me was the amount of help not just from the students, but from the Professors and Staff. You can walk anywhere and ask for help. People will help you with a smile and no hesitation. I went on a lot of college visits and Juniata was the most welcoming college.
What are you doing now? Did Juniata College play a role in connecting you to your current position?
I am currently playing volleyball overseas in the Philippines. It's nice because I can be closer to my grandmother and get to know my mother's culture a lot better. Juniata College Women's Volleyball team led by Heather Pavlik gave me the platform to showcase my talent I needed to be selected to play abroad. The countless hours I put in, work with my coaches, teammates, and trainers was a big component to getting where I am today.
Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
My favorite spot on campus is the Quad just because I loved seeing people pass by for classes, slack lining, and hanging out with their friends while doing homework or playing volleyball. Playing volleyball out on the quad was probably my favorite pastime because sometimes professors would even join like Rob Yelnowsky. However, anyone who knew me on campus knew where to find me which was the training room. I loved to hang out with Dodie and Meghan even if they were busy taping people. Sometimes they would teach me how to tape or do rehab treatments for certain injuries. When I lived in East my sophomore year I would always take naps in there because I never wanted to walk ALL the way back to my room before classes. I just love having conversations with Dodie.
Who are your favorite Juniata people?
My favorite person from Juniata is Dodie Edwards. She was not only my trainer but she was my best friend. Despite the huge age difference, we just got along. We can talk for days about non-sense, give me advice, help me with my taxes because I had no idea what I was doing, watch YouTube videos, or do Buzzfeed quizzes. She was my go to person when I wanted to pass time and do nothing.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the rewarding feeling I get when all the work I have put in the last few years has come full circle and when the freshmen come in look up to me as a role model, just as I once did. Another thing I am most proud of is getting a chance to continue playing volleyball overseas and being on the Philippine National team to represent my mother's country. I am amongst the list of elite professional players like Kim Hill and Jordan Larson who are on the US Women's national team. Going further in the NCAA playoffs each year with my volleyball team is another thing I am proud of. Achieving something like that is irreplaceable. The bond between our team was so strong and I miss them every day. We played for one another. It's the team you win with that matters the most.
Do you have a personal motto or mantra or a favorite quote?
"People enter your life through a time of need and leave at a time of growth"
I like this quote in a way that is comforting. People have come into my life at times of need, they have helped me through times of adversity and often it is not until they leave that I realize the lessons I have learned from them to help me carry on.
How has your experience playing volleyball at the Division 3 level at Juniata differ from playing in the Philippines?
The league itself is a bit different as it is a developing league. The athletes are smaller bringing a different style than I am used to, they rely on their quickness and defense rather than focusing on offense. Another difference is the language barrier. Even though English is their second language it takes a bit longer for them to get a point across, versus back home it's a bit easier to communicate. I would say having patience to learn new ways to communicate and learning a new system has been something I have had to work at here in the Philippines
What is something that you have learned while in the Philippines either related to playing volleyball or a life lesson that you will apply to daily life?
I have learned more about patience and how to handle adversity. My patience used to be terrible especially in the beginning because I wasn't used to the playing style and having to communicate in a different language. Adversity is something I go through a lot in the Philippines. Being homesick and going through a season with my team has taught me a lot. Our team faces difficult opponents and injuries.
Being in the Philippines has shown me first hand that it is not always about material things in life. I see kids and adults with little to nothing but they can smile and have a good time just sitting and talking with one another. Kids running around playing with just a stick and each other is very eye opening. These are true human connections that we sometimes overlook.
Do you have a favorite memory so far while in the Philippines?
It is hard to choose my favorite memory because I have so many, but one that sticks to me the most was going to Palawan (an island in the Philippines) with two of my teammates, one from Canada and the other from Ukraine. I went to a zoo and fed a tiger. I also went zip lining from island to island and swam with whale sharks. Another favorite memory is making the Philippine All Star team and winning a bronze medal in Thailand.
Did your internship in marketing at Juniata help prepare you with what you are doing now? If so what did the internship help you with?
My internship with the marketing department helped me be more of a people person and how to appeal more to targeted audiences with work content. The Philippines is really into social media and the fans are energetic here so I must be creative with my social media content to keep them coming back. I play volleyball for the Sta Lucia Lady Realtors which means I am an employee of the Sta Lucia Land Inc. and I must advertise the company by playing well. The more popular the team is the more people will know the company. I also must be able to market myself to foreign teams. To be seen and recruited by a league overseas I had to use my communication and videography skills that I learned at Juniata College. To get a team's attention I made a highlight video which I used my video production skills I learned from Professor Ryan Gibboney.
The amazing friendships I've gained through volleyball. The girls I got to know on and off the court. The opportunities it gave me to travel the world. To experience different cultures and to create memories and friendships that I will never forget. No matter how many injuries, tough practices, and adversity each team I was on went through, it has and always will be worth it.