Dr. Ashley Hicks, Ph.D. ’20, has been on a mission to make the College of Business’ student body more diverse, and her plan is working well so far. Hicks serves as assistant to the dean for Student Services, but her primary responsibility is enrollment management for the college.

“I oversee all of our open houses and prospective student programs to recruit new students to the College of Business,” Hicks said.

Hicks has been in her current role since 2015 and employed at Illinois State University for over a decade. During her tenure, she has seen the college’s enrollment of students of color increase by more than 30 percent, an impressive accomplishment that earned her the Administrative/Professional Council’s Distinguished Service Award in March. Currently, 28 percent of the college’s student population and 34.5 percent of its newest cohort come from traditionally underrepresented groups, nearly identical to the Universitywide percentages.   

“I’ve been very intentional with creating targeted programs for students of color to help create a more diverse student body,” Hicks said. “One of the initiatives we implemented this year was hosting our first multicultural open house, a program held virtually, targeting students of color who have been admitted to the College of Business.”

In addition, she advises the College of Business Executive Council, serves as a faculty mentor for the business-themed living-learning community in the residence halls, and oversees recruiting to the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, which invites only students in the top 10 percent of their class. Despite the recent success, Hicks said the challenges continue, with one of the biggest being that she knows she is not reaching everyone.

“Not all students will recognize the value of attending some of the events and programs that are offered, and I wish even more students took advantage of the opportunities,” Hicks said. “Being more creative in marketing and incentivizing the events and programs always poses a challenge. Even when I succeed, there are always opportunities to expand my net.”

Last fall, Hicks arranged for a presentation that focused on diversity initiatives in the college, including highlighting courses taught on the subject. Members of the college’s multicultural student organizations participated and spoke about their programs. In addition, employers seeking to recruit diverse talent were featured.

Hicks appreciates the power of social media, so she works closely with the college’s social media team to ensure that the team itself is diverse and that the college’s digital marketing is representative of its population. She also works with the college’s marketers to ensure that the college is promoting more diverse and culturally relevant content in its printed materials.

“We combed through all of our promotional materials and mailings to ensure that our student population is appropriately represented in our marketing mailing pieces as well,” she said.

In addition, Hicks established two registered student organizations that focus on diversity in business. One, the Association of Latino Professionals of America, aims to network and provide professional development opportunities for students. The other, Business ACUMEN (Association for Cultural Unity, Mentoring, Education, and Networking), brings a diverse group of speakers to the college and provides programs that incorporate culture and issues specific to underrepresented groups in business.

“Both groups have been a success,” Hicks said. “These organizations have not only served as a retention tool, but they also aid in recruitment.”  

Neither Hicks nor the important work she’s doing has gone unnoticed at the college.

“Dr. Ashley Hicks is an outstanding colleague, and she has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help the College of Business with student recruitment, retention, and scholarships,” said College of Business Dean Dr. Ajay Samant. “The enthusiasm with which she does her work is remarkable.”

Samant commended her for her organizational skills and the care she gives to students and their families who visit the State Farm Hall of Business.

“She has played a leading role in recruiting students from underrepresented minorities to the College of Business,” Samant said. “It is a matter of great pride for our college that enrollment of underrepresented minorities has risen 30 percent since Dr. Ashley Hicks has served in her role. She is a great asset to our college and to our university.”

For Hicks, she gets the most satisfaction when students who participated in programs she implemented land an internship or a full-time job.

“It’s even more gratifying when I see students succeed who really didn’t know where to start and were trying to find their way,” she said. “It feels amazing.”