"My understanding of what is important in life began with my family, who taught me about cultural diversity and having respect for people who are different from me."
Samuel Hickson, a former McNair student, studied the processes of racial identification in multiracial students in modern America and the benefits and consequences of that racial choice. Through his study, "Silent but Real: The Struggle for Racial Identification for Multiracial Students in Modern America," Samuel sought to understand how student’s racial classification changes as their education increases. In addition, Samuel worked on a senior project , which tells the story of social conditions of the world through photos. "One Voice, One Sound; Ghostly Voices, Stories Untold," considers social conditions in five countries: Ghana, Uganda, Jamaica, Mexico, and the US. His project revealed that education comes in many forms — academic, physical, art, music, and others — and that by incorporating the physical aspects of education with the arts, the possibility for affecting positive change multiplies many times over. And that’s what Samuel’s life is all about — effecting positive change in the lives of people around him.
Samuel came to Brockport to study international business, but soon realized that business wasn’t the field for him. "I talked with Robert DiCarlo in the Office of Career Services who discussed life goals with me. After learning of my desire to help people, Mr. DiCarlo suggested I check out sociology. That’s when I took an introductory course, and I have been fascinated with the subject ever since," says Samuel. "The College has been a good fit for me," he added.
Extending his academic initiative beyond the campus, Samuel was selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative, held at the University of Texas-Austin during his time at Brockport. The Initiative remains a hallmark of his personal life and academic studies, as well as his commitment to making a positive impact for others throughout the world.
Holding fast to the experiences of his life, Samuel began his McNair/Senior Thesis Project by envisioning a proactive way to help raise money for Hope Hall, a private, non-denominational, not-for-profit school designed for students with special learning needs who consistently experience frustration in the traditional classroom setting. While researching the school, Samuel began to wonder how many people in the world suffered from similar social conditions of frustration but had no way of alleviating those feelings. As such, his thesis helped to tell some of these stories.
Samuel developed his interest in helping less privileged individuals through his own experiences. Born into a middle class family, Samuel moved to many locations as a child, and he quickly became aware of inequalities that exist throughout the US. In his travels abroad, he also witnessed the line between those of privilege and those of little means. This began his interest in the study of race, ethnic relations, and class on a global scale.
While attending Brockport, Samuel was a member of Alpha Kappa Delta sociology society, Alpha Chi National Scholastic Honor Society, and Tau Sigma. Samuel also was listed in Who’s Who Among Americas Colleges and Universities, active in the Save the Children Club, participated in the Organization of Students of African Descent, and was a firm supporter of the cultural clubs at The College at Brockport. "I like to show support for various ethnicities. I am multi-racial myself — Italian, Irish, Native American, African-American, and Caribbean," says Samuel.
Samuel spent time during his busy schedule to work in the C-Step/McNair Office, while attending Brockport. "Because of the knowledge I have gained in the office, and in working in the Office of Academic Advisement, I have more ways to help students."
Samuel says that his own knowledge about the important things in life began with his relationship with his family members who taught him about cultural diversity and who, he says, taught him about, "having respect for people who are different from me."
In addition to helping people, Samuel also has a love for music which is an important part of his life. "In a hurried world, music keeps me grounded. I’m a singer by birth. My introduction to music was through gospel music. In addition to gospel, I also love opera and classical music. I continued my training at Brockport. It is very rewarding, and I have learned many languages through my music," said Samuel who is fluent in English, Spanish, Gaelic, and Italian and who can sing in 14 languages. "My music studies help me to express myself through music and give me a better appreciation of the world."
With the support Samuel received as a McNair student he is confidently continuing his academic program. He is now pursuing a PhD in International Development and opportunities to work in the fields of both urban development and child advocacy. Through this, Samuel hopes to help countries use their natural resources to rebuild their infrastructures.