Thanks to his high achievement and enthusiasm, junior history major Robert Hickman has gotten to meet a variety of important people over the past year. On September 17, he received an award named after one very important person.
For its 25th anniversary, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission honored Hickman and another scholar alongside 25 additional people who have carried forth Dr. King’s legacy, including former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean.
The New Jersey State Department-run organization granted Hickman its Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission Scholarship, a $5,000 award for academic excellence and leadership in promoting social justice, human and labor rights, and world peace. The award confirmed the praises of Christopher Fisher, chair of African-American Studies, and history professor Dan Crofts, who encouraged him to apply.
“We are pleased the State of New Jersey affirmed our assessment of Robert and believe his recognition shines brightly on the good work being done across our campus,” Fisher wrote shortly after the announcement.
As the professor acknowledged, Hickman has involved himself in a range of activities dedicated to charity, social awareness and political action. Aside from serving as a vice-president of the TCNJ Debate Society and Secretary of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, he has worked with several organizations, on campus and off, focused on positive social change.
Hickman started tutoring in high school with an essential thought: “Why don’t I use my strength to help somebody else with their weakness?” Currently, he tutors at Trenton Central High School under the Bridge to Employment Program (through the Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement). He works with high school juniors preparing to enter math and science fields, focusing specially on the SATs.
“I guess it’s kind of selfish, it makes me feel good to do it,” he said.
Hickman has also volunteered with two anti-violence organizations, Womanspace and TCNJ’s Office of Anti-Violent Initiatives (OAVI). He came to Womanspace, Mercer County’s domestic and sexual abuse organization, because of a course requirement, he said. He has since become an active proponent for sexual violence awareness. Last April, Hickman helped OAVI set up signs and fliers and worked a table for its Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, Hickman, a Community Adviser, plans to organize a special awareness activity for his residents.
Certain of Hickman’s activities have extended into the national community. As far as his professional future is concerned, nothing tops his internship with MSNBC in the summer of 2008, a period ratcheted by the political frenzy of a presidential election.
Hickman, who said he loves politics, attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention and met former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. “I had seen conventions when I was younger,” he said, describing his excitement at “being able to actually be there, and see how the process goes of choosing a candidate.” He later attended then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s nomination speech in Denver.
Throughout the internship, Hickman worked as an assistant on the set of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” one of the news station’s most popular programs. His responsibilities included the daily procurement of scrambled eggs for the outspoken host.
Hickman said the two engaged in small-talk, adding, “he’s a very quiet, very introverted guy.”
“You think you’d have a certain type of person,” he said, “but they’re all very different people, all very bright.”
Following the election, Hickman received one more surprise. His MSNBC supervisor asked him to work at the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. “It was freezing,” he said, “we were working outside, but I will never forget it. There were people everywhere.”
Hickman, undecided about going to law school, said that he plans on eventually getting into politics himself. His interests lie mainly in political strategy: “I love campaigns more than I do specific policies,” he said.
“At the same time,” he included, “I hope that my involvement in politics and getting particular people elected does effect some particular changes, things I see in our society that I would love to change.”