To understand Jessica Wicks is to understand a little about where she comes from; Memphis, Tennessee. The home of soul. A city full of a spirit, energy, and intensity seldom matched anywhere else. A name meaning established, enduring, and beautiful. And a history reaching as far back as the pharaohs, where the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis was called “the life of the two lands,” an everlasting place.
Many of the things that describe Memphis can also describe Jess, both as a leader and an individual. Her leadership style is positive, energetic, and motivating, welcoming to those around her. Coming to Worcester State has allowed her to break out of her shell and grow while learning to be the best leader she can be.
Leading with Soul
Jess credits the experience of working as an Orientation Leader between her freshman and sophomore year as the start of her leadership journey. The position allowed her to get to know campus faculty and staff members, interact with students, and learn everything she could about campus.
“That feeling I felt, being on stage, talking to people, and having someone look up to you in a way…I’ve never had that feeling. I think my favorite thing was just being around people, and learning and growing; I just felt on top of the world for that summer. I had friends who were like ‘Jess, you were so different when you were an Orientation Leader.’ I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but to me it’s a good thing that I was on top of the world. I was doing something I loved and I made connections.”
Spending time talking with small groups of first-year students gave Jess the opportunity to build relationships with them, and some of her students later joined her in club meetings or became her residents. They’ve become friends, supporting one another through the ups and downs of college student life.
“I love being around people, I love helping people, that’s one thing about me. Just being around people is my ideal…being that friend for someone, has really helped me in my leadership style. Because yes, I’m here to lead and give you direction, but I’m also here to build that friendship with you and really be that mentor, that peer for you, to help you grow.”
Relying on Energy & Spirit
Holding leadership positions on the Orientation and Residence Life require more than just practical skill; they require a type of energy and determination that helps during even the most difficult and demanding of times. These positions have taught Jess the importance of having a strong team around her, made up of people who can provide support and help.
“You don’t have to do it all. It’s okay to do one thing, to have two things that you’re good at, you don’t have to take on like, ten things at a time. I feel like that’s the best lesson that I’ve learned. And I think just as a leader, do what you can handle. And just be the best you can at that.”
A spirit of determination to forge a new path has also followed Jess from back home. The first time she applied to work as a Resident Assistant, she wasn’t offered the position. But instead of becoming frustrated, she threw herself into her Orientation Leader role and opportunities rippled from there. To a student who isn’t sure about applying for a role or job they want? She recommends they just go for it.
“Just do it. What do you have to lose? I applied for RA, but I didn’t get it that year, but you know, OL was the thing I got and I will forever be thankful for that because it was the start of something. It’s a ripple effect. Different programs open up different opportunities. Just go for it, you won’t regret it.”
Jess describes a great leader as someone who is open and honest, a good listener, and willing to take criticism and advice from others. But most importantly, they should be themselves.
“Don’t try to be like any other type of leader that you see; I wouldn’t want anyone to try and be like me. Of course you can like some of my characteristics, but [you should] truly be yourself. I think a lot of leaders aim to be just like a certain person, but you kind of screw yourself over in the end. But if you truly be yourself and just be open and honest, then that’s the best type of leader that you can be; that’s what makes you unique.”
“The Life of the Two Lands”
Ever since her first year, Jess has been a familiar face on campus. She is an Orientation Leader, Resident Assistant in Sheehan Hall, current secretary and former chair of Third World Alliance, and a member of the Circles of Leadership program and Student Support Network. She has naturally stepped into a variety of student leadership roles. Reflecting on this, Jess shared that one of her biggest accomplishments has been stepping out of her comfort zone and taking advantage of all the leadership opportunities that Worcester State has to offer.
“Believe it or not, in high school and middle school, I was never in a leadership role. I was just in class, I never did anything after school. My school life here [at Worcester State] and the way I’m around other people is different. People back home in Memphis, if they see this type of Jess they’re like ‘what, she does this?’ They have the basics to know that I’m very sweet, and I’m very kind, and I’m a people person, but my involvement and just seeing me really owning everything I do and being the best I can be, they’re probably shocked. So it’s two different environments and the biggest accomplishment has been to step out of my comfort zone.”
Students coming to college and taking the opportunity to be someone different or try something new is not uncommon. Jess spoke about the realization that her college experience could be less about fitting the mold of how others saw her and more about trying different things.
“Coming here no one knew me, so if I fell on my face or whatever, oh well. They’re not going to remember that. It’s a different environment from high school. I decided to come here because I wanted a change. And coming to Worcester State was the best choice. I was like, okay, I’ll start new. Even though I didn’t know anyone, I was just like ‘hey, I gotta make the best of it.‘”
Established & Everlasting
With the hope of someday becoming a motivational speaker or working behind the scenes on theater productions, Jess is studying communications with a concentration in media production, and minors in both art and theater.
“I had a thing for arts, and all of this just came from being at Worcester State, all this interest in creating things, I was able to put things into words being here. Seeing the people and all, that’s a great feeling. That’s why I love behind the scenes.”
Now entering the second semester of her junior year, Jess has only grown more confident in the leader she is becoming and the relationships she is building.
“[Every year] my friends do a Friendgiving. My group of friends, we’re all different, from different backgrounds, no one is the same, which is so crazy but I love it, because we’re all together. Just eating and laughing.”
And her final thoughts on her Worcester State experience and her leadership journey?
“A lot of times when I’m around a group of people, or with a lot of people, I go into a daze. You may think I’m distracted. But what I’m doing is taking in the moment because it’s almost too good of a moment, and I’m trying to take a picture in my mind to remember it. It’s like, I’m living a dream in that moment, I’m leading others. I wanted to come to Worcester State to start new, and I actually came to Worcester State to start new. It’s a crazy feeling.”