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COLUMBUS, Miss.--Dr. Dorothy Berglund was there when Kennie Hicks started to shine at the Mississippi University for Women.

Berglund saw Hicks’ potential when he was a student in her UN-101 course when he was a freshman, but Hicks didn’t become “that student” until he moved to his major courses.

“That’s when he showed himself to be the student who stands out above the rest,” said Berglund, a professor of Family Science and chair of the Department of Psychology and Family Science.

Hicks continued to shine through his graduation last month, recording a 3.67 grade-point average in his required Family Studies classes. His achievements in and out of the classroom recently helped him earn National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) Honors Student Recognition. Hicks was one of 40 college and university students recognized for completing their academic programs in the spring of 2021. He is the third student from The W to earn the honor.

“His work was always outstanding, and he asked excellent questions in class (and in related online formats) that showed he really engaged with the material in relation to how he might use it in his future studies and/or work with families and children,” Berglund said. “He also became a member of NCFR and completed his provisional Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) application while interning this spring.”

In addition to excelling academically, Hicks fulfilled the leadership and community service requirements to receive the honor. As a senior in high school, Hicks committed to the Army Reserves and served in that capacity throughout his time at The W. While at The W, Hicks was one of four students from the Department of Psychology and Family Science who had a paper presentation accepted for the Southeastern Conference on Family Relations. Last fall, Hicks was accepted to work on a research apprenticeship at Mississippi State and then presented his research at the MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Hicks also was a Project JumpStart Volunteer and worked with the teachers, parents and children of The W’s Child and Parent Development Center (CPDC) to prepare lower income preschoolers for success in kindergarten. JumpStart also helps student volunteers develop leadership skills.

Hicks, who minored in Psychology and earned two certifications in Family Life Education (FLE) and Child Advocacy Studies Training (CAST), admits he forgot he submitted an application for NCFR Honors. He said the acceptance email made his week because he was stressing about final exams.

“The email also reminded me of how much I had accomplished within my three years at Mississippi University for Women,” Hicks said. “Then within a few days after getting the email, I found out I was also the student of the year for the Family Science department, which was also amazing.”

Hicks said his grandmother, Katherine White, who graduated from The W in 2012, inspired him to attend the school and to pick Family Studies as his major. He credits Dr. Berglund and Dr. Youn Mi Lee, who also taught his grandmother, as well as Dr. H Bliss, Mrs. Rose Marie Ford and Ms. Ashlee Hill for helping him to realize his goals.

Hicks said it wasn’t easy balancing all of his responsibilities, his course load (19 hours every semester from his sophomore year) and his two jobs, but he said staying busy allowed him to nurture his leadership, communication and teamwork skills. He also feels The W prepared him for his next step, which will be to attend the University of Mississippi’s Experimental Psychology Graduate program. Hicks hopes to pursue a career working with autistic children.

“One of the biggest things I saw grow during my time at The W is my passion for the work I want to do,” Hicks said. “The passion was always there, but as time started to pass and I got into higher level class with more in-depth assignments, my need to learn grew. My passion grew because I had to understand the knowledge and make the connections necessary to help me retain the information to be efficient at the work I wanted to do. My instructors at The W helped me see perspectives I would not have thought of instantaneously, or even if I had reviewed the assignment two or three more times. With their help, I was able to take in more solutions to issues that I could come across in the field of work I want to do.”


May 28, 2021
Contact: Adam Minichino
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