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Degrees earned: Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in neuroscience and medical humanities 

Hometown: Christchurch, New Zealand

It takes fortitude to go to college 9,000 miles from home. Sophie Hicks, of Christchurch, New Zealand, will tell you that. “I knew that university was never going to be easy, especially on the other side of the world to home, but I loved every minute of it,” says Hicks of her years at Caldwell University. 

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with minors in neuroscience and medical humanities on May 23 and watched the graduation ceremony via the livestream from her home in Christchurch with her parents, Debbie and Dave Hicks.   She would have loved to be with her Caldwell friends but due to the pandemic could not travel.  

Still, Hicks could feel only joy reflecting on her time at Caldwell and the people who inspired her to take risks to pursue her goals. “If it were not for the amazing faculty in the Psychology Department I would never have had the courage to conduct my own research and reach out to larger schools for internships.” She took advantage of opportunities inside and outside the classroom to be a leader, from becoming a peer educator to co-founding the neuroscience minor to serving as the Student Government Association president for event planning and management. “You have freedom and access to many opportunities,” says Hicks of Caldwell. These things are not handed to students; they must work for success and they need the drive and ambition to identify and pursue their dreams, says Hicks.  She certainly showed that drive and ambition at Caldwell.  

Following the death of George Floyd last May, Hicks thought about what she might do to combat racism. She met with University President Matthew Whelan and other members of the administration to present her ideas, which included starting an anti-racism speaker series. The idea came to fruition and the program featured numerous faculty and national speakers throughout the academic year. 

Sophie Hicks ’21 standing in front of The Remarkables mountain range in her native New Zealand.

At honors convocation, Hicks was presented with the prestigious Trustee Recognition Award and the new Saint Dominic Award, honoring a graduating student  who has emulated the life and legacy of Saint Dominic through involvement and leadership in activities that reflect the four Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community and service. 

Other highlights of her college career including playing in the CACC conference championships twice with the Cougar volleyball team and once with the track team and volunteering for Midnight Runs to New York City to reach out to the homeless, at a food bank and the Caldwell Street Fair. She has fond memories of experiencing her first Thanksgiving meal and Black Friday sales, “my first time watching the Super Bowl,” the NBA and March Madness, and snow around Christmas. “It’s usually summer in New Zealand,” she notes.  

Like most university students, Hicks was disappointed that her time with her Caldwell friends was cut short due to the pandemic, but she sees the life lessons in the experience. “I’ve learned that you have the power to make anything as meaningful as you want it to be.”   She recalls how she flew back to New Zealand in December 2020 and had to stay in a quarantine hotel at Christmas away from her family. “Instead of getting caught up in the wishful thinking of what Christmas would have been like pre-pandemic, I decided that I would make it special for myself, by myself. And it was. I think having this awareness and contentment is very important for life during and (hopefully) after the pandemic is over.”

Hicks would like to earn Doctor of Neuroscience and  Doctor of Medicine degrees in New Zealand or Australia. “My ultimate goal would be to serve those who have been underrepresented in medicine while also conducting research on health differences and medical conditions that have been previously disregarded in the industry.” No doubt she will be calling on that virtue of courage while carrying memories of her university years with “some of the greatest people in the world,” including peers, faculty members and staff. “Everyone I’ve met at CU has made an impact on me and my life,  and I will take that into my future and remember it with fondness.”