Dean Jason Hicks looks forward to leading an aspirational, collaborative College of Liberal Arts
Jason Hicks became dean of one of Auburn University’s largest colleges July 1, and as his first academic year on the Plains begins, he reflects on what the College of Liberal Arts can expect from his leadership.
Hicks describes himself as a leader who emphasizes collaborative effort to elevate a shared vision for the future. He said the programming of the institution, the curricula and the experiences at Auburn are at the heart of his mission. Through mindful, strategic action, Hicks hopes to foster a spirit of collegiality and a foundation for success.
“My leadership style is very collaborative. I want to partner and work with people on ideas. And that way, we get a shared vision of how we move forward as a college in terms of facing challenges, but also embracing new opportunities,” Hicks said. “That’s the bottom line: I’m here to advocate on behalf of our faculty, staff and students, on behalf of the college and to be a good steward of our resources, but also in thinking about how we can move in different directions when it’s going to be beneficial to the college, beneficial to programs and to students.”
As he took the helm of the College of Liberal Arts, Hicks emphasized four strategic priorities that will drive the college.
The first is maintaining an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone, including people with different backgrounds, cultures, ideas and solutions to strengthen the Liberal Arts community. The second is elevating the college’s research enterprise. Across the college’s 12 departments and two schools, Hicks will support the resources faculty and students need to conduct research and creative scholarship.
Hicks also stresses the importance of professional development opportunities for faculty, staff and students. For faculty and staff, this means connecting them with resources to support their professional growth. For students, it’s a crucial component of Hicks’ fourth strategic priority: student success.
From understanding how students experience majors of study and extracurricular activities to their interactions with faculty and staff, Hicks said the student experience is critical from the first campus visit through graduation.
“I want to make sure that we’re really focusing on that student experience so that they feel like they’ve always had a welcome space for them to be successful,” Hicks said. “By focusing on how we engage the resources available to us, bringing them developmental opportunities so their academic success is assured and maintaining excellence in how we support them through Student Services is a major factor.”
As the academic heart of Auburn University, the College of Liberal Arts provides core coursework for every student and helps them answer questions about how to explore the world around us, how to appreciate and understand different cultures, how to solve problems and how to serve the state in line with Auburn’s land grant mission, among many more.
Hicks said this strong foundation of education and service not only makes the college a core component of Auburn’s prominence but sets an example beyond the boundaries of the Plains.
“Being a leader, both in terms of vision and mission within the university and for the community, highlights how we actually engage students and give them a better understanding of the world around them. They take that experience with them, so we want to instill that within them,” Hicks said. “We also have a lot of programs and departments that serve the community directly, so we’re visible and have a lot of outreach and presence within the community. Those are the key things to me and the representation of an institution. We always want to be a leading light in terms of the spirit and the integrity of what the institution’s providing for the community and for the students.”
To achieve this shared, strategic vision, Hicks said it will require collaboration across the College of Liberal Arts’ variety of disciplines, strong leadership and a shared excitement about the future of the college. For Hicks, this means active listening, understanding the college’s physical and conceptual placement across its endeavors, helping to overcome challenges and developing relationships with the Auburn Family.
Hicks brings academic and leadership experience from Louisiana State University, where he became a full professor and international scholar in human memory, participant of the SEC Academic Leadership Development Program, chair of the Department of Psychology, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a Provost’s Fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs. Throughout his career, Hicks said his leadership philosophy has always been driven foremost by people.
As Hicks looks to the future, he hopes to build on the College of Liberal Arts’ legacy of excellence and elevate the ways in which it sets an example for liberal arts colleges around the world.
“Auburn really has a good history of our liberal arts programs. In fact, some of our departments are quite well known across the nation, with regard to both the history and our current work. In that regard, we can be seen as an exemplar of what a liberal arts college should be,” Hicks said. “So, I would like to think that other universities could look at us and say, ‘This is what we should strive to be,’ that we could be an aspiration for others as well. And that’s my vision for the college, is to think about what we can do so that others see us as an aspirational goal.”
To learn more about Dean Jason Hicks, visit here.