DEIA Associate Vice Chancellor Cecil Hicks Jr. on furthering equity and inclusion


Zach Gilbert

As we start a new year and usher in a new presidential administration, Cecil Hicks Jr. has advice for how Mavericks can increase inclusion on campus. Photo courtesy of UNO.

Following the storming of the United States Capitol by a mob of supporters for former President Donald Trump, Cecil Hicks Jr. – Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion (DEIA) at UNO – shared a statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about how the campus could move forward from this social strife.

“The events of [those] two weeks have weighed heavy on my heart and have been a truly sad way to begin our new year and new semester,” Hicks said. “I stand with Chancellor Gold and others within our campus community in clearly denouncing the actions of [that] Wednesday and reaffirming our university’s commitment to doing the important work of fostering equity and inclusion for every member of our community by seeking constructive and proactive change.”

Hicks referenced MLK in his statement, looking back on when he stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling on the country to “make real the promises of democracy” and “lift [the] nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” After witnessing the vitriol spewed from the Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol, King’s words are more relevant than ever.

Additionally, Hicks quoted the words of Langston Hughes, who once said, “What happens to a dream deferred?” He then pushed us to ask ourselves what we can do to avoid further pain, division and fear in the future and help safeguard a more supportive society.

“As Mavericks, we have a long history of breaking the mold, being innovators, and being committed to our community,” Hicks said. “In normal times, many of us would be giving back in person, but today, I ask you to put that Maverick Spirit towards reflecting on your lived experience and the lived experiences of others.”

Hicks offered suggestions for three categories of questions Mavericks should ask themselves to bring about a more compassionate campus.

First, to focus on “self-understanding,” Hicks believes we should look inward and inquire: What assumptions do we make about others based on appearance rather than actions? What is the history of our neighborhood or community? Who do we regularly interact with and whose voices are we missing?

When it comes to “understanding others,” Hicks urges Mavericks to investigate the following: What different roles and identities make up a single person and why? How does tone shape how we process messages from others and how others understand us? How much of our identity – and the identity of others – is truly driven by individual choice?

Finally, in “understanding how to make an impact,” Hicks recommends that we begin by answering these questions: What minority-owned businesses can we support in our community? How can we engage in active listening to fully hear and understand others? What organizations do we belong to that are missing alternative voices?

To aid the introspective journey Hicks proposed, the UNO Libraries have prepared a resource collection about MLK and his legacy.

“It is also true that this work cannot be done in one day, one weekend, or even one year,” Hicks said. “We must come together to make specific, measurable, and self-sustaining change, [and] I look forward to working together, as Mavericks, in leveraging the urgency of now to make our dreams a reality.”