First-year RJ Wicks visits the beach at the Santa Monica Pier in August. He said the Malibu location was a big factor in his decision to go to Pepperdine, and he felt like he was at a resort walking around campus.
Photos Courtesy of RJ Wicks
First-year Political Science major and Industrial/Organizational Psychology minor RJ Wicks’ dream job is to work in education policy, or curriculum design, and bring innovation to the education system. Wicks said he has big aspirations for the future, but for now, he is focused on being a motivated student and friend while maintaining his positions in several organizations on campus.
Wicks said he is an SGA freshman class senator and a Diversity intern with the Pepperdine Office of Admissions. He is also involved in the Black Student Association and is in Alpha Omega Campus Ministry.
“I’m able to see that community that Pepperdine always advertises about, you know, just how everyone’s super welcoming, encouraging and really wants to build connections with you,” Wicks said.
Wicks, who is from Carson, Calif., attends Pepperdine on a Posse Scholarship, which awards full tuition to talented high schoolers. He said the Posse program accepted 10 students from his area, who all go to the University with him.
Wicks said he met with his “posse” before starting school, and the meetings acted almost as a “diversity training” in which the group of students prepared to go to Pepperdine. He continues to meet weekly and build relationships with the people in his “posse.”
“Going to a predominately white institution for some of us was something we had to adjust to and be ready for those conversations,” Wicks said. “No matter what university you go to, just preparing yourself to represent yourself well, understanding what it means to go to a university with many multiple different people from all walks of life.”
Wicks said he sought out opportunities that reflect his passion for diversity, such as his position on the SGA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. He started working with other organizations to bring awareness about the importance of diversity.
“I introduced the idea of having Pepperdine possibly partner with a historically Black college or university, also called an HBCU, in a cultural exchange program that provides different opportunities for students at Pepperdine and the HBCU we partner with,” Wicks said.
While Wicks hopes to work on this project with the SGA, he is already making waves as the only Diversity intern in the Enrollment Management division of the Office of Admission. He said he came across the position by searching “diversity” on Handshake. The internship focuses on improving campus culture with admitted students and reaching out to prospective students.
“I’m looking at marketing initiatives that they continue to post and send out to students, making sure it’s inclusive, and involving and trying to recruit as many diverse student populations,” Wicks said.
Wicks is also participating in research for the internship by looking at what other universities are doing and finding methods that Pepperdine can implement to better diversify campus life and the applicant pool. Wicks said he hopes to stress the importance of diversity within higher education institutions like Pepperdine within his extracurricular roles.
“Growing up, I went to schools with a large POC population, so when I went into spaces where everyone looked one certain way, or everyone acted a certain way, I was like, ‘This is weird,’” Wicks said. “I think that’s what made me realize the importance of diversity because I was so used to it.”
In a way, Wicks is already living out his dream of working in education policy by bringing innovation to the way Pepperdine looks at diversity, he said. His goal is to have Pepperdine actively have diversity woven into the system of the institution.
“My passion is definitely being there for others and supporting others in any way I can and just using my talents and gifts that I feel like God has blessed me with to better benefit the world and people who I surround myself with,” Wicks said.
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