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Getting to know: Dee Gillen

Faculty Staff Fitness Coordinator


Dee Gillen is the coordinator of the College of Public Health and Human Science’s Faculty Staff Fitness (FSF) program. Before she assumed this role, she was an instructor for the FSF and the Physical Activity Course (PAC) program. Dee came to OSU in 2015 and has more than 20 years of experience in various physical activity leadership roles. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and her master’s degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in corporate wellness at University of Oregon. Dee is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and ACSM Cancer Exercise Specialist and holds the Exercise is Medicine Level 2 Credential, as well as certifications through MOSSA, EFi Gravity, Freemotion, Reebok and AFAA.

What made you decide to get into this field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?

“As a child, I loved dance and sports, which flowed into my education in Exercise Science. I wanted to pursue physical therapy and worked after my bachelor’s degree as a physical therapy aide. My vision turned when I began working in health clubs and corporate fitness settings and found positivity in working with people in preventive care. It lit a fire in me to be a motivator and coach to all. I have taken many turns in my career but never lost my vision of being a coach. I keep finding new and exciting ways to be a coach and leader!”

Why did you choose to work at Oregon State/PHHS? 

“When I moved to Corvallis almost three years ago, I told myself it was time I shared my skills in fitness management and instruction in a different fashion. The atmosphere at Oregon State University is vibrant and ready for action, which is the perfect place for me to plant my roots and share my energy and vision in a corporate fitness area through FSF, PAC and Kinesiology. It is a perfect combination of my experience in the work force.”

What is your favorite part about working in FSF? 

“I love giving back to the people who give to the Oregon State community. The faculty, staff, retirees, graduate students and spouses who attend these classes are the backbone to the university and I love seeing the smiles and lives enhanced by leading them through my or my staff’s fitness instruction.”

What do you believe is the greatest accomplishment you’ve had in your career so far?

“My career has been so varied that this is a tough question. I am an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist and American College of Sports Medicine Cancer Exercise Trainer and have been coach and personal trainer to people attaining a healthy body, moving through joint or cancer treatments, or starting an exercise program. I have led and developed team-run classes that inspired others to move more. These experiences are priceless not only for the people I work with, but also myself.”

How do you strive to change people’s lives with your work?

“I strive to change people’s lives with my work by creating fantastic fitness experiences that make their day better. Whether I am teaching the class, creating the schedule or hiring an instructor, my goal is to make someone’s life improved by participating in the FSF Program. This can be by making a friend, revitalizing their mindset before returning to the desk, or getting stronger. We all know we should move our bodies, but if it can be in a way that makes it fun, it overflows to the rest of the day and our lives.”

What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?

“There were three pivotal pieces of advice I have received and lived by over my career. When I worked for Jacqui Snyder, Owner of Fitness Link Inc., which provides corporate wellness services, she once told me to always be true to myself and not try to be anyone else. At the time, I was new to the fitness industry and trying to do things many ways instead of doing what felt right to me. It has held true to creating fantastic fitness experiences since. The owner of Superior Athletic Club, Jim Kusnerik, told me to ‘do it like Nike’ when I first was a club manager, personal trainer and group exercise director for him. It was such a ‘go get ‘em’ piece of advice that I take all of my days with that attitude. Most of all, my mother has influenced my overall attitude toward life, which is to never stop learning. If we always are learning, the possibilities are endless.”

What advice do you have for faculty and staff interested in FSF? 

“The best advice I have for faculty, staff and graduate students interested in FSF is to try classes out. Fitness is not a ‘one-size-fits all’ business, and finding the ‘perfect fit’ sometimes takes perseverance. The offerings in the FSF Program are endless and I strive to help anyone with finding the appropriate class for the fitness and wellness goals.”

What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?

“I grew up outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and celebrate the Kentucky Derby annually – hats, traditional food and all!”

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

“My favorite activities outside of work include spending time with my children Sarah, 9, Case, 6; and husband, Steven. We love the Oregon lifestyle with hiking, trips to the coast or mountains, or just creating a delicious meal at home.”