Dickens said the honor was a surprise to him “because when advising students, you don’t always tell them what they want to hear. I try to stay as positive as I can.”
Academic advisors help students navigate their academic experience and connect them with campus resources when needed. Advisors often assist a student in achieving goals by examining curricula, along with the student’s aspirations and abilities and help them address problems that may arise in their academic pursuits.
Dickens has been a professor at Northwestern State for over 23 years. Prior to that, he was director of graduate studies in education and director of health and physical education at Northern Kentucky University. His philosophy in advising is to help his students prepare themselves to become professionals in their field.
“Sometimes you have to push them when they don’t want to be pushed,” he said, adding that seeing his students complete their degrees and graduate makes the effort worthwhile.
According to Steve Hicks, director of the Academic and Career Engagement Center, Dickens’ nomination included a note from a student who referred to Dickens as “more like an adopted dad to his students.
“Not only does he keep up on track with academics, he also keeps us on track in life. There were several times when I went to him and said ‘I just can’t handle this anymore. I’m stressed out. By the time I left his office, I felt so much better and was able to continue to succeed. He is so very deserving because of how much time he invests in each and every one of his students.”
“For the last eight or nine years, Dr. Dickens has taught university studies, formerly known as orientation, to an average of 35-40 students each fall semester who major in one of the two Health and Human Performance curriculums,” Hicks said. “He is very student-oriented and wants to share with the students what he knows and how they can learn and be among the most successful HHP students during their stay here.”
Dr. John Dollar, head of the Department of Health and Human Performance, which is part of the Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development, described Dickens strong work ethic “as dependable as sunlight.” In addition to teacher certification matters, Dickens advises pre-physical therapy and pre-med students and coordinated with the Department of Biological Sciences to design a concentration in health sciences for student in the undergraduate health and exercise science program.
“It is intended to provide a program so that students who apply to the physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant programs have the prerequisites,” Dickens said.
“He is always there for the students,” Dollar said. “ He is quick with a degree audit and can tell a student exactly what they need to take or retake and advises the students who want to go on to become physicians’ assistants, occupational therapists or physical therapists, etc. He is very, very effective and very patriarchal.”
Dickens is also executive director of the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Professionals (LAPHERD), which will enable him to act as advisor to faculty, students and professionals across the state, Dollar said.
“Some of the best teachers, the best coaches, the best advisors are those that push you beyond what you though you could accomplish,” Dickens said.