Assistant Director - University Housing
Are you from Georgia? If not, where are you from?
Ricky: I am not originally from Georgia. I am from Sam Black Church, West Virginia. I went to Marshall University where I received my bachelor’s in criminal justice and master’s in counseling.
Tell us more about Marshall University and how it led you to where you are today.
Ricky: I was pretty involved as a student leader in undergrad. I went to Marshall with the hopes of one day getting into the FBI. Some people grow up wanting to be astronauts or doctors, I wanted to be a part of the FBI. I was also the first person in my family to go to college, so I naturally took advantage of every involvement opportunity I could. After I graduated, I had some mentors and other staff who I admired that recommend UGA – its community, its people, and its students. I trusted them in their advice and pursued a role in University Housing.
What caused the switch from law enforcement/FBI to working in education?
Ricky: As a first generation college student, it was my experience as a resident assistant (RA) that really opened my eyes to the world of student affairs and higher education. I think the impact that student leaders have on their campus and in the lives of others is incredible. While I was what some might say “over-involved,” I still wasn’t sold on going into higher education. I then pursued a master’s degree in counseling with a focus in corrections. While in that role, a full time entry-level position opened up in [Marshall’s] University Housing office. While doing that as a grad student, I soon realized that perhaps my passions didn’t lie in my FBI path as much, but instead working with college students. Combined with some incredible mentors at Marshall, I was able to pursue a path in student affairs and complete my degree in 2005.
What is something you learned as an undergraduate student leader that has translated to your professional role(s)?
Ricky: I recognized that, like most things in life, the more I put into being an RA, the more I got out of it. I witnessed how much our work as student leaders affected our residence hall as well as the campus community. It was inspiring to know that I was helping others as they “figured out life” while in school. There is no question in my mind that our work, [from] students to professional staff, and everyone in between, is impactful. Whether it is in the larger community or the individual, I love how our work is so dynamic and versatile. We get to help students find their way in a confusing world and that is such an incredible feat.
What do you like about working here?
Ricky: I love how wide-reaching Student Affairs can be here at UGA. Staff have the ability to be a part of a variety of things inside of their department or in the greater Division as whole. I tell my students that being an RA is all about what you put into it, and I think the Division is constantly exploring ways to give staff the space to put their spin on programs or services for students. Also, I love my staff. Each person on our team brings their own needs, their own pizazz, and contributes to our work in their own unique ways. That’s where I’m finding the most value in my work – investing in them and doing what I can to support them, not only in their work, but also in their goals. I get to be there for them so that they may be able to be there for someone else.
Do you have any advice for new staff or young professionals starting out at UGA?
Ricky: Explore your job or position in way that you almost get lost in it. No one is an expert in their job as soon as they start it, and some aren’t ever fully at that “expert” status, so go easy on yourself while exploring the nooks and crannies of your job.
Take those five minutes to talk to the student or say hello to a colleague. I have lost count on the number of times that a quick five minutes that I initially didn’t think anything of ended up being everything that person needed.
You’re not expected to be an expert in your job, so make sure to check in occasionally with your supervisor to make sure you are appropriately meeting expectations while also diving into your job.
Determine what makes something feel like “home” to you and see where you can find items on that list here in Athens. I firmly believe that Athens and UGA have so much to offer and are so unique; it’s just sometimes people don’t explore it as much as they want to or are stuck in comparing it to somewhere else. Working at UGA is a great opportunity. When you combine Athens and UGA together, well, that’s where the magic happens.
Seek out other professionals that think like you and not like you so [you can] continue to learn anything and everything about yourself and others.
What’s the coolest thing you have ever done and why?
Ricky: When I was at Marshall University, my friend Brian and I were in a hip-hop duo called RnB. We performed at a talent show and won first place singing our song titled “Friends.” The following year, I was a part of a duo called Illeet where we performed for church, for a campus diversity program, and a full-blown concert at a 4-H camp. I still try to write and record music when I can but that was definitely one of the coolest things I have done.