Veronica Hicks ‘13 learned about Moore's graduate program in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations by accident.
She was teaching art at a technical high school in Camden, NJ when she decided to accompany a few of her students to Saturday art classes at Moore.
“The kids did not know how to get to Philadelphia and I would teach them how to use the train with their parents,” Hicks said. “The director of Continuing Education noticed that I was the only art teacher showing up with the students. She mentioned the master’s program at Moore and thought I might be a good fit since our school had a special needs population.”
The MA in Art Education is a one-of-a-kind graduate program for educators passionate about teaching art students with disabilities as well as typical students. Hicks decided to enroll in the program because she only took one class in special education as an Art Education major (and Metalsmithing minor) at Kutztown University.
“Through Moore’s program, you could immediately put what you learned to work during the school week,” she said. “I had better results from all of my students…The beauty of this program is that it really teaches you how to open your eyes to all disabilities. It’s not about disability, it’s about ability.”
Hicks graduated from Moore in 2013 and enrolled in a dual PhD program in Art Education and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University. She recently passed her comprehensive exams and is currently hard at work on her dissertation research. She is scheduled to graduate in the summer of 2017.
Hicks’ dissertation involves a case study with a former art student of hers, "Tiffany." Both women identify as “black, female and disabled,” she said. Tiffany uses a prosthetic arm. Hicks has an auditory processing disorder that affects her ability to distinguish what people are saying. The two women are co-authoring a graphic novel about the student-teacher relationship and the shift from a teacher-centered to student-centered classroom.
“This student (Tiffany) stands out because we were working on a scarf weaving project a few years ago and I didn’t know how to teach her and was afraid I would offend her because of her physical disability,” Hicks said. “When I got off my pedestal of being an authority in the classroom and came to my senses, I asked if she could teach me the best way to teach her how to do the project and she did. That moment was the stone that created the ripples in the pond.”
Hicks sought out Moore Illustration alumna E. Jackson '15 to provide the graphics for the novel after viewing their work at a portfolio event at the College. The three individuals now meet both virtually and at the Moore to discuss the book.
“Moore always makes it happen, so of course when we wanted to seek out an illustrator, I went to Moore,” Hicks said. The graphic novel, when completed, will be available as a free online publication and also hosted on Jackson’s website.
As part of her thesis research this summer, Hicks and Tiffany plan to “remake” the scarf project that originally brought them together. Hicks is also teaching part-time in the Department of Art + Design at West Chester University. This fall, she plans to teach an integrative arts course to elementary education students.
“Now that I’m ABD (All but dissertation), I can start applying for full-time positions before completing my PhD,” Hicks said. “For now, I’m so happy to just be working in my field.”
Hicks is also very active in the Penn State community. She has lectured at universities in Ghana and Austria as part of the university’s study abroad program. She recently became an Africana Research Center (ARC) Fellow and was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to use towards her dissertation.
Hicks received the Harold F. Martin Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award for 2015-16, awarded to only ten graduate students from the entire Penn State community. “I was nominated by multiple faculty members who believed in my research and my teaching capacity, which meant a lot,” she said.
Hicks is a member of the Divas with Disabilities Project, a social movement created for women of color with disabilities. She was named the organization’s global ambassador for 2015. She also worked with the U.S. Department of Education’s Upward Bound Program to create a curriculum for the empowerment of young women called FAWNE: Forum Acknowledging Women’s Narratives and Experiences at Penn State.
When reflecting on all of her numerous achievements, Hicks credits Moore for setting her on the right path to her future career in art education.
“Moore prepared me beyond my wildest dreams, not just for my job, but to pursue my dual PhD,” she said. “Everywhere I interviewed, I got accepted. I was well prepared for the amount of reading and writing that was expected for my terminal degree. Moore really pushes that and they also push research. Because Moore’s program is so unique, it really stands out.
To learn more about Veronica, visit her website