Debra Jones occupies a small, cozily-lit office in the School of Government. Her demeanor is alert and brisk, and she describes her new job with a thoughtful passion. While not yet technically the dean of students, she is occupied full time, learning about Principia and her role in the community through the current but departing dean, Dorsie Glen.
“Dorsie has been especially selfless. She’s really encouraged me to offer new ideas and brainstorm about new ways to look at things,” Jones said in an interview with the Pilot.
Jones became interested in the dean of students position through prayer. “I had been praying for some time about how I could serve the cause of Christian Science more directly, and one day the thought came to look at the Principia job listings,” she said. She continues to approach her responsibilities from a metaphysical standpoint, noting that her experience from previous jobs “really has to be subordinated and redeemed to an inner spiritual quiet.”
Before coming to Principia, Jones worked in a variety of different environments. She spent time in IT for the Christian Science Monitor, which afforded her the possibility to observe the world of journalism. She then worked as executive director of The Leaves in Dallas, a Christian Science nursing facility. The job allowed her to work closely with Christian Science nurses, an opportunity she valued greatly. “I just love what they do. I love their thought,” she said. She also ran her own financial planning business.
Her job experience has provided many chances to work with young people. “I’ve probably hired a couple hundred college-age folks in an outdoor education and recreation company I worked for,” Jones explained. She also worked as a regional advisor for college CSOs for The Mother Church.
Jones is excited to start her new job, but noted that the regime change may not be so drastic as some have predicted. “I’ve heard a rumor that my first big project is going to be to reorganize the Blue Pages,” she said. “I would be most happy to oblige and make that my very first project, except that I feel like I need a little more experience before I do that.” However, Jones still welcomes ideas for improvements on campus.
Jones’ job is certainly not the easiest one out there. The dean is involved with students in many ways, including one of the most challenging arenas. “I’ve really seen that the goal [of discipline processes] is to relate healing,” she said. “I think the thing about it that’s good for me to remember in terms of keeping perspective is that healing does require each of us – you and me – to give up dishonest, or self-destructive, or limited ways of thinking about things.”
She continued, “It reminds me of the third verse of Hymn 123. It reads, ‘When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.’ I love that, that we each have to have that dross carried away in growth, and even the gold in our character, we get to refine.”
On the topic of the best qualities for a dean to express, Jones said that it’s important to be “loving enough to be humble and selfless, so that I can focus on the universe that really exists: infinite Mind and its expression.” And an even greater realization, she adds, is that “I, Debra, can do nothing of real or lasting value unless its reflected from Mind itself.” On the topic of uplifted thought, Jones recommended reading “Watching vs. Watching Out” on page 232 of Miscellany and “If the Lord Build Not the House” by Mary Kimball Morgan.
Of course, she doesn’t spend all her time in serious pursuits. Jones and Glen have become quite good friends. “When we don’t see each other, even for a couple of hours, we’re kind of like, ‘Aw, I’ve missed you so much!’ We laugh about it a lot,” she said. At one point, to keep part of a surprise party secret from Glen, Jones changed all the clocks back an hour. “She was completely clueless about it,” Jones said. “It was fun to trick her.”
Glen and Jones also enjoyed their recent tea party with Lowrey House. It was a grand affair, with scones, refined conversation, classical music and a (televised) fire in the fireplace. “It was funny,” Jones said, “because the whole time we were there, I kept thinking, Is there some mischievous element that’s eluding me here? You know, it’s the sweet boys of Lowrey. But they were perfect gentlemen, and every time I think about it, it makes me smile.”
Jones is certainly committed to the task set before her. She said that being dean and enabling students to become better citizens and Christian Scientists “really struck me as quite a humbling challenge, and also a privilege” – one that she can’t wait to begin.