by Sheryl Marlar

Akiebia Hicks works as a park ranger.

She’s an author, publishing her first book.

In her spare time, she’s a student at the University of West Georgia, having recently been accepted in the Master of Public Administration program in the school’s political science department. Oh yeah, she also works as a department grad assistant.

Akiebia Hicks with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.
Akiebia Hicks with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.

Hicks, from Ellaville, obtained her undergraduate degree at Georgia Southwestern State University. While there, she worked as a park ranger intern at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains for a year and a half.

After Hicks graduated, former President Carter was instrumental in her decision to further her education. He encouraged her to apply, even writing her letter of recommendation to UWG.

This past summer, she began working as a park ranger at the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Fort Payne, Ala.

As a park ranger, Hicks began to see patterns and visiting habits of the visitors to the national parks. She noticed that not many minorities visit the parks, so she began to research why. What she found really opened her eyes to the visitor numbers, as well as who visits and who does not.

“I began to wonder, why don’t minorities, especially African-Americans, visit the parks,” she explained. “Maybe it’s a cultural fear, to do something different than your family before you.”

Hicks explained that when she does see other minorities at the park, she almost imagines what they are thinking.

“They look at me like they’re wondering what I’m doing there,” she explained.

Hicks’ research not only led her to write a book, but she has incorporated it into a proposal that she submitted to the Conference on Sustaining Diverse and Inclusive Communities funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Her proposal was accepted. In November, she will attend the conference at Queens College in New York to present her work.

“This is a great achievement,” said Dr. Kathleen Barrett, lecturer in political science.

Her book, entitled One Driver, is based off an idea she’s always had living life.

Akiebia Hicks in her park ranger uniform.“If you’re living your life and make a mistake and go off path, then you have to deal with it, no one else,” she explained. “The whole point of the book is to let the reader know that there are so many things in life we can’t choose—our genetic diseases or who our family is, our race or if we grow up in poverty or not. But one thing we can choose is whether or not we want to be accepting and decent human beings. Racism isn’t genetic and neither is hatred. So many things in life we can’t control, but why not take advantage of the things we can.”

Many would wonder how she is able to do so much at one time, but Hicks seems to take it all in stride. She has a firm plan for the trail she plans to blaze. With her MPA, she’d like to advance in the National Park Service or teach history on a college campus.

“I hope to have published a few more books and be doing something in the public sector or the university system where I can change lives,” she said.

“Balancing outside activities and work can be tough at times, but knowing that I can seek guidance from my department makes everything worth it,” she concluded. “The professors and Brenda McCrary in the political science department are the epitome of supportive and understanding faculty and staff. I’m honored to have had the pleasure of meeting so many passionate faculty who care about the students and their success. I heard many great things about UWG’s College of Social Sciences, and I can honestly say that this department makes me proud every day that I decided to go west and experience such greatness first hand. Go Wolves!”

Posted on October 13, 2017