Curtis Hicks, MBA, (22) knows that life can take people in directions that they never imagined. Hicks seeks to provide support for people experiencing some of their most difficult moments.
Hicks wearing personal protective equipment.
Hicks before observing an urological laser surgery procedure. 

Hicks is a radiation and laser safety officer for UCI Health. In this position, he educates hospital staff on proper radiation safety and meets with cancer patients afraid of the treatment path that is in front of them. 

Connecting with people at their most vulnerable isn’t easy, but almost two decades into his career, Hicks feels like he is doing exactly what he should be doing. 

“It’s very important for me,” Hicks said about his career. “I’m talking to people who are already scared of cancer and already scared of radiation treatment. Dealing with people like that all the time has changed my mindset on life, death, and God.”

Growing up in a military family, Hicks constantly moved from place to place. In the U.S., he lived in Ohio, South Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut. He also lived in Nabih Saleh, Bahrain; an island country on the Persian Gulf. Everywhere Hicks lived, he strove to listen and learn from people and cultures that were around him, including people from different walks of life.

“I think I have a fairly high emotional IQ because I’ve been able to know different types of people, where they come from and what they’ve been through,” Hicks said. “ When we lived in Bahrain, we lived out in town and we interacted with a bunch of local people. That really opened my eyes and helped me out with what people go through and how they live. I think it really trained me to be able to look at people from a different perspective and be more empathetic.” 

“…I think no one really cared to know what I needed to succeed.” 

Listening to people is important to Hicks, because when he was in high school, he didn’t feel like the educators in his life did that for him. Despite constantly moving, Hicks was a good student in elementary school and into middle school. But when he settled in Connecticut, he felt like his education was becoming more regimented and teachers didn’t make much of an effort in engaging with him. 

“A lot of it was just getting us ready for tests,” Hicks said about high school. “I had no clue how good I was or how much I liked math because no one ever challenged me. I could have been better and gotten better grades, but I think no one really cared to know what I needed to succeed.” 

Going into college, Hicks was prepared to study early childhood education so he could be the type of teacher to kids that he didn’t have. But just like his living situation growing up, Hicks’ college education wasn’t straight-forward. 

After high school, he studied early childhood education at Norfolk State University in Virginia, but his parents eventually pushed him to switch his major to something in STEM, so he started studying computer science at the university. 

Although Hicks had previously had little faith in the education system,  that changed once he stepped onto campus at Norfolk State.   Once he got his first bit of experience learning in a college environment, his curiosity in the subjects he was studying was unlocked in a way that it had never been before. Hicks finished his freshman year at Norfolk State with a 3.8 grade point average. 

“​​It was very surprising to me that I got those grades,” Hicks said. “And very surprising to my parents that I got these grades.” 

Although he excelled in the classroom, Hicks missed his family back in Connecticut. After a year at the university, he applied for a nuclear engineering scholarship and was selected, leading him to move back to the Northeast and attend Three Rivers Community College in Connecticut. 

Hicks earned an associates degree from Three Rivers and went on to earn a B.S. in Physics and Radiological Sciences at UMass Lowell. 

Since graduating from UMass Lowell in 2006, Hicks has worked with over a dozen different organizations across the country in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Michigan, Connecticut and California as a laser safety officer, physicist and project manager. 

Hicks has enjoyed his work for the last decade and a half, but in the last few years, he started feeling like he was reaching a ceiling of what was possible for him in his career. Despite his extensive work experience, Hicks noticed that the people in management positions in his field had master’s degrees — something he didn’t have. 

“Every time I looked, I was the only black person in my office.”

Additionally, he started to recognize that there weren’t many other black people that work in his industry and wondered what type of effect that might be having on his ability to work in more elevated roles. 

“Every time I looked, I was the only black person in my office,” Hicks said. “As of right now, I’m the only black person in all of environmental health and safety at UCI. There’s maybe 70 people. I’m the only one. That’s really how it’s always been.” 

While working at one of his previous jobs, well-intentioned co-workers approached Hicks privately and told him that the current management team probably wouldn’t ever give him a chance to take on more of a senior role.

“They’re going to say they’re going to give you a chance, but they’re not,” Hicks’ coworkers would say. “They have to make it seem like they’re diverse.”

After years of hearing the same thing, Hicks decided that he was going to force the hand of hiring managers. 

Hicks decided to get a Master of  Business Administration (MBA), all while raising a family and working a full-time job, and make it as difficult as possible for hiring managers and supervisors to turn him down for promotions and new roles. 

Hicks in his cap and gown standing with his family after graduation.
Hicks and his mother, wife, and three of his four children after graduating from Point Loma with an MBA.

In 2020, Hicks and his family moved from Massachusetts to California and lived close to Point Loma’s campus in San Diego. One day, he decided to set up a meeting with Jamie Hess, the current Dean of the Fermanian School of Business at PLNU, for an interview about acceptance into the university’s MBA program. 

Hicks initially felt self-conscious about going back to school 15 years after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree, but Hess immediately put him at ease. 

“Talking with her made me very comfortable in the program,” Hicks said. “She made me feel like this is a good program.” 

Hicks graduated from the master’s program in 2022 and now lives in Los Angeles with his four children and wife Shanelle. 

Hicks knows from experience that life isn’t a straight road. He knows that the valleys we experience can make people feel alone and helpless, but when he’s with children, patients or whoever it is, he tries to be the type of person that can put them at ease and let them know that everything is going to turn out fine. 

“I just want people to be OK,” Hicks said. “That’s why I chose hospitals. I want to work in a hospital where I can help patients, but I can also help the staff. It’s a major part of my life to walk in the path that Jesus walks and to do the things that I’m supposed to do as a Christian. I just want everyone to be okay.” 

PLNU’s the Viewpoint publishes relevant and vital stories that grapple with life's profound questions from a uniquely Christian perspective. In addition to the content offered online, the Viewpoint print magazine is published three times a year in spring, summer, and fall.