Diversity is a journey on a two-way street
For Athletic Director Kasey Hicks, that journey is a mission
Editor’s note: This story, by Knightly News reporter Jamie Harmon, is one in our series Layers of Community. The series began with an overview article by Knightly News reporter Ashley Reichard. The name of the series was Layers of Diversity, but the Central Penn College committees, and The Knightly News, that created the project changed the name to Layers of Community, to better convey the intention behind the series: to unfold for our audience the layers of people and the environment – and, in those, the diversity and inclusiveness – of the Central Penn community. We hope you find the series informative. Please share your thoughts on our blog page and on social media. You can also email the editors, and the reporters. The editors’ email address is at the end of the article. Reporters’ email addresses are with their byline.
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By Jamie Harmon
Knightly News Reporter
“Diversity is a two-way street,” according to Central Penn Athletic Director Kasey Hicks. ”You can’t go up a one way (street) trying to find common ground or complete a common goal.”
There’s no doubt Hicks was born with a basketball in her hand.
Her mother, who attended University of Scranton and earned a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame at the university, was a basketball coach from the time Hicks was young.
Hicks, 34, said the “basketball court was my crib,” because she spent lots of time playing basketball through her childhood while spending time with her mother.
Between her father’s love of baseball and her mother’s love for basketball, Hicks was introduced to sports at an early age. She continued and played basketball, softball and soccer through junior and senior high.
Realizing a dream
After high school, Hicks attended Immaculata University, where she continued to play basketball while furthering her education. After college, Hicks knew she wasn’t ready to stop playing basketball, so she continued playing, for the United States, through USA Athletes International(USAAI),in Argentina. There, she came out of her comfort zone and learned a lot about other people, as well as about herself.
Although playing sports at a young age taught her to work with a team, it was her experience in Argentina that helped Hicks understand the importance of diversity. While in Argentina, Hicks had to learn the language and culture to better understand her environment, and relate to her teammates. While playing for the United States as a shooting guard, she played basketball with women from all over the world.
When Hicks returned home from Argentina, she began looking for a career in which she could be involved directly with coaching youth. At the time, Hicks was recruited by Central Penn College as head women’s basketball coach. She also worked at Penn State Harrisburg as assistant director of intramural sports before she became Central Penn’s head women’s basketball coach.
“One of my favorite things about coaching is I’m always learning something new from my players,” Hicks said.
She added that something important she’s learned regarding diversity is to always learn from others.
Aiming to make the most impact
When Hicks came to Central Penn full-time as an admissions counselor, it seemed like destiny because she was able to work directly with her players. Hicks was able to recruit during the day, and be head coach for the Central Penn College women’s basketball team.
“I feel like I am most impactful when I am in a diverse setting,” she said. “Therefore, when I was looking for a career, I wanted to go somewhere I could make the most impact.”
Her chance to make an impact came when she was promoted to the position of Central Penn’s athletic director, and she was able to complete a dream she set long ago. There are only three women who hold the same position she does in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), the league to which Central Penn belongs. The USCAA represents 77 colleges, according to its website.
“Coming into this position, I felt as if I had something to prove, since women are sometimes looked at different in the sports field,” Hicks said. “I always wanted to be seen the same as the males in the field, but now that I am here, I want to be different, and I realize I do not want to be the same.”
Outside of basketball, Hicks enjoys completing numerous house renovations with her spouseon their first home, purchased a couple of years ago. She also has taken up a new hobby – woodworking – during the COVID pandemic, to help pass time.
Hicks has a deep love for the theater, and musicals, locally and on Broadway. She enjoys attending shows in New York City with her younger brother and sister.
“Most people would never know I am a huge Broadway buff, and often listen to show tunes in my office,” she said.
Other activities she enjoys include spending summers beachside or floating on the Susquehanna in her pontoon boat, catching rays of sunshine with her two dogs.
As athletic director, Hicks said she strives to ensure students feel included and accepted during their time at CPC.
“Inclusion takes effort, and sometimes people must come out of their comfort zone to experience personal growth and diversity,” Hicks said. “That’s the beauty of diversity: We can acknowledge and celebrate who someone is, and grow from what we learn from them.”
Hicks said she continues to learn from her players, and to create cohesive and engaging teams for Central Penn.
“Inclusion takes effort,” Hicks said when asked how she is able to connect with her players to understand their needs. “Validating somebody’s opinions, based on their experiences, and then finding common ground, is a great way to relate to someone.”
Keep learning, and spread the knowledge
Striving to continue to learn and to grow is important to Hicks.
“I continually surround myself with people who push me to grow, and as a result, I am always learning of ways to improve my connections with students,” Hicks said.
One of those ways also increases diversity, equality and inclusion.
“As an employee for the college, I try to take five students a term and reach out to get to know them,” Hicks explained.
Her goal to create a sense of belonging continues to have a deep impact on students along their journey at Central Penn College.
See our other articles in the series:
Layers of Diversity Project launches
Asia Sargent: Advocate for the voiceless, guide to any student
The many layers of Brant Ellsworth
Have a comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.
Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.