Dr. Doug Hicks came to the University of Richmond in 1998 as an assistant professor of leadership studies and religion in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. Since then, he has made significant contributions to the School and the University. He has also garnered a number of awards for his teaching, scholarship and service, including the 2012 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award and the University’s Distinguished Educator Award. He was named to Style Weekly’s “Top 40 under 40” list in 2007. He will start a new chapter in his career next fall as provost at Colgate University. Below he reflects on his time here and what he will miss most.

What attracted you to the University and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies?

The Jepson School’s broad-based, liberal-arts approach to understanding leadership as service to society grabbed my attention. The School had advertised for a position in the humanities, emphasizing social ethics. I was completing my Ph.D. at Harvard in the study of religion, with a special focus on ethics and economics, and I sensed a potentially excellent fit with this innovative program. 

How have you seen the School change during that time?

The Jepson School has developed and matured over the past 14 years in exciting ways. We now have a larger faculty, and my colleagues are doing world-class scholarship in their fields and connecting their work to the understanding—and teaching—of leadership. The School is now better known in higher education and more respected and integrated into the curriculum and life of the University.

You were the founding director of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and served as executive director for a few years…

The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) arose from a serendipitous opportunity and a series of overlapping efforts by faculty, staff, students and the administration. I was fortunate to be well situated in those conversations. The approach to community-based learning of the Jepson School, particularly its core service learning course, was foundational for the development of the CCE. On a personal level, I will always be grateful to Dr. Dick Couto, one of Jepson’s founding faculty members, for his mentorship and wisdom on how to undertake collaborative educational work with community partners and to place student learning and social needs as central aims of the work.

You have written and edited books on a wide variety of topics. How has your scholarship informed your teaching, and do you have a favorite book?

Two of my books, “Religion and the Workplace,” and “With God on All Sides,” connect directly to the first course I developed at the Jepson School: Leadership and Religious Values. In both cases, students read a draft manuscript and provided invaluable comments on the text. Jepson colleagues, including Gill Hickman and Terry Price, helped me on both the scholarship and teaching sides of this nexus. My books address different audiences and topics, and I’d have a hard time playing favorites!

What are you proudest of during your time here?

I would like to believe that I have helped bridge the Jepson School with both the rest of the University and with greater Richmond. Together with colleagues, and a generation of fine graduates, I believe that we have displayed ways in which the understanding of leadership is deepened through rigorous analysis and academically grounded community engagement.

What will you miss most?

The Jepson School within the University is a collection of wonderful human beings. In higher education today, there is a lot of talk about learning communities. The Jepson School is one such embodied learning community—comprised of exceptional scholars, caring and effective staff, conscientious and bright students. The members of the Jepson community and the University love ideas and seek to apply their intellectual abilities to make Richmond and wider society a more just and humane place. I am most grateful to have been part of that good work.