Michelle Hicks: “It's never too late”

Hampton University grad and mother of three, now in SOE’s Ph.D. in Special Education program

Headshot of Michelle Hicks, student in the Ph.D. in Special Education program at the VCU School of Education.
Michelle Hicks


  • Undergraduate Degree in Communications, Hampton University, 1995
  • M.A in Reading, Old Dominion University


Michelle Hicks is a Hampton University alumna pursuing her Ph.D. in Special Education at the VCU School of Education.

Hicks unexpectedly discovered her true calling in her youth when her grandfather lost his sight. That's when she was introduced to braille as a way to communicate, an experience that she describes as pivotal in her life. When she later learned that you could pursue special education as a profession, she knew it was the perfect fit for her. “It’s amazing,” she said. “You’re working one-on-one with students, and you can see how you’re making a difference.”

Why VCU?

After graduating from Hampton University with an undergraduate degree in communications, Hicks knew that she wanted to go back to school and earn her doctorate. However, being a mother of three, she couldn’t afford to stop working. Then she heard about the PRISE Scholars Program: a four-year grant that offers recipients complete coverage of their tuition and fees, plus a generous stipend. To top it all off, recipients receive research-intensive expertise and earn their certification. This program – and the supportive staff in the School of Education – are why Hicks chose to enroll here.

Undergraduate Experience and Advice

Even though Hicks' experience at Hampton University prepared her to go anywhere and conquer anything, she feared that leaving her intimate HBCU [historically black college and university] community to come to a large campus would make her “just another number.”

She was relieved to find that this isn’t the case at VCU. Being older than most students in her cohort, Hicks wanted to send them the message that “it’s never too late” to pursue higher education.

No matter where you go, how old you are, or what hurdles are in your way, you should acknowledge the obstacles, but don't give them power, she said. Only then will you exceed your expectations, she said.