Familiar face becomes first doctoral graduate from School of Education and Human Services

Now with three degrees from Oakland University, Dr. Anita Hicks was the first doctoral graduate of the School of Education and Human Services with a degree in organizational leadership.

“My drive was to get a better understanding of what an adult student over the age of 24 goes through from a graduate level because they have different responsibilities,” Hicks said. “A lot of them are parents or have full-time jobs and have different needs than undergrads.”

Her resume also includes a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration. Hicks comes from a diverse background, holding management positions in law, aviation, professional sports and higher education. She has been with OU for many years working as the associate director of the Oakland Center.

“I am really excited to be the first one to complete the program, and I really look forward to where it goes in the future and anything that I can do to assist with the success of the program and students,” Hicks said.

She completed a study on graduate students at the conclusion of her Ph.D. education, which allowed her to take a walk in their shoes and see OU from their perspective. She has been researching adult learners within traditional universities since 2013.

“My experience in working with adult students over 24 years of age, as well as working in student affairs, peaked my interest in gaining a better understanding of how the needs and service utilization in obtaining a graduate degree affects that population,” Hicks said.

Hicks’ job is to make the lives of graduate students easier and to help them have a voice on campus. Her job allows students access to specialized services tailored to them. The study she did paved the way for better access to student services for all graduate students.

“I don’t think that students realize they really need these services until they get into a program on campus,” she said. “Because a lot of times they are focused on the rigor of the program and it isn’t until they are enrolled that they think about the services offered.”

Hicks is often observing and communicating with graduate students through face-to-face conversations as well as surveys. She strives to learn new ways on how she can help make their lives on campus easier.

“A lot of graduate students are on the outside looking in trying to communicate with faculty and staff and have their questions answered while still juggling everything else,” Hicks said.

Hicks sees herself remaining in this field of work for a long time, as she has a passion and drive for helping graduate students be successful at OU.

“My future plan is to remain involved in student affairs and also work alongside with graduate studies to be a voice for these graduate students and to also help the university recruit and retain them and, at the end, graduate them,” Hicks said.

For more information on the Ed.D in Organizational Leadership program, visit the Department of Organizational Leadership website.