As an Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture, Hicks fully embraces community engagement pedagogy, focusing his scholarship and teaching on projects that advance social justice. He teaches a process that affords equal voice to all members to the design team (which includes community partners) while recognizing conditions related to poverty, empowerment, degraded environments, and lack of education resources.
Hicks’ approach to design has significantly shaped the Interior Architecture department’s collective understanding and implementation of community-engaged design, impacting “culture, activities, and vision,” according to the Chair. Most significantly, Hicks helped launch the Center for Community-Engaged Design (CC-ED) in a storefront space in the low-income Glenwood neighborhood near UNCG. The center connects students and faculty with community members and partners, engaging diverse stakeholders in design processes that address specific and often critical needs.
The dedication of the Center in April 2014 coincided with the inaugural Novem Mason Symposium on Community-Engaged Design, which highlighted the community-engaged design of faculty, staff, and students and featured a distinguished panel of experts assembled by Professor Hicks. In conjunction with the symposium, over 100 faculty, students, community partners, and alumni spent six hours participating in community–engaged design projects throughout the community. Since opening, the CC-ED has been engaged in numerous projects including a community-engaged summer studio directed by Professor Hicks involving 11 interns in four projects, including one where students worked with a local organization to conceive a Housing First approach to ending homelessness; and one involving redevelopment of Cottage Grove, an impoverished area in Greensboro, to include a community center, medical clinic, and garden. For his outstanding work in interior design education, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation awarded Hicks the 2014 CIDA Award of Excellence.