PD Alumni Returns to Deliver Junefest Keynote Address

KN-16dexter120aDr. Kim J. Nickerson will deliver the 2017 JuneFest Keynote Address.

Dr. Kim J. Nickerson is the son of the late Mary Lee Nickerson and Cecil W. Nickerson who still resides here in Amarillo. He is a very proud 1980 graduate of Palo Duro High School. In fact, he was the valedictorian of his class, making him the first African American valedictorian of a predominantly White high school here in Amarillo. Before high school, his education was nurtured by attending Horace Mann Junior High, Hamlet Elementary, and Hilltop Elementary.

Dr. Nickerson left Amarillo in 1980 to attend North Texas State University – now the University of North Texas, where he graduated “cum laude” (with honors) in 1984. He stayed at North Texas over the next several years, earning his master’s degree of science in experimental psychology in 1989 and his doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1992. Dr. Nickerson moved to Richmond, Virginia where he completed his internship in clinical psychology at the Medical College of Virginia and then, from 1992 – 1994, completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical/community psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

As a licensed clinical psychologist with intense interests in community, Dr. Nickerson began his professional career as an assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins – Bloomberg School of Public Health where his research focused on race, ethnic, and cultural factors related to the use and effectiveness of clinical mental health services. At Hopkins, he also developed a reputation for sound, community-based interventions for children, youth, and their families and communities that did not exploit or pathologize the communities, but rather invited the communities into partnerships to develop more effective services based on cultural competence and respect.

In 1998, Dr. Nickerson left Johns Hopkins to join the Minority Fellowship Office at the American Psychological Association. He worked his way up the ladder at the American Psychological Association – joining it as a program officer, and then being promoted to associate director, and then ending his career at the APA as the Minority Fellowship Program Director.

In 2007, Dr. Nickerson returned to the University of Maryland and took on dual roles as an assistant dean in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and an assistant dean in the School of Public Health. Over the past 10 ½ years, his responsibilities and position titles at Maryland have evolved. Currently, Dr. Nickerson is the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He also serves as the College of Behavioral and Social Science’s Diversity Officer and as the College’s Equity Administrator. Dr. Nickerson is responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion, as well as academic excellence and career advancement, among students, faculty, and staff. He monitors diversity at the college and university level, develops programs to enhance the training of students and the climate of the university’s educational and work settings, and plays a lead role in engaging the College’s leadership in diversity and inclusion strategic planning. Dr. Nickerson is also responsible for representing the College on committees and task forces convened by the campus leadership – including committees and initiatives that flow out of the President’s Office, the Provost’s Office, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Graduate School, and the University Office of Human Resources. Recently, he was appointed to co-chair the President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues.

Career Summary
Dr. Nickerson has close to 20 years of science education experience developing and implementing programs that propel students to higher educational attainments and advance the careers of professors. Dr. Nickerson is active in science education on the national level as well. He has consulted with, and served on committees aimed at increasing underrepresented minority participation in science throughout the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Georgetown University, and various not-for-profit organizations, and colleges and universities throughout the country. Through all of this, his aim is to bolster the participation of minority groups in science fields including psychology, neuroscience, public health, genomics, and broadly, social science and bio-medical fields.

Family and Leisure
Dr. Nickerson is married to his college sweetheart, Dee (from Jefferson, Texas) and they have two adult children – a son, Maalik Mandela Nickerson and a daughter, Nia Amani Nickerson. His interests include traveling throughout the Caribbean, balancing vacation and leisure time with exploring the rich history and culture of the islands. He is a lover of books and cherishes his collection of books on the African American experience, including both non-fiction and fictional works as well as historical and contemporary writings. He loves studying Africa and African cultures and illuminating their influences on not only the United States, but also on the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the world. He also enjoys gardening, high school and college track and field, college football, and college basketball.

Significant Points of Pride

  • Graduated first African American valedictorian at Palo Duro High (class of 1980).
  • Awarded the prestigious Minority Fellowship Program fellowship for mental health services from 1988 – 1991.
  • Inducted in the Palo Duro Hall of Fame in 1996.
  • Recognized as a “Distinguished Alumnus” from UNT in 2002.
  • In 2002, served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Cultural Competence for Children’s Mental Health for the SAMHSA National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at Georgetown University.
  • Served as a member of the National Institute of Health, National Human Genome Research Institute’s Advisory Council from 1999 – 2004. At the time, he was the youngest and only U.S. born scientist-of-color on the Council at the time we were completing the sequencing of the entire human genome (The Human Genome Project).
  • Served as a Member, Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research Advisory Board for the NHGRI National Advisory Council from 2001- 2004.
  • Served as a National Advisor for the Diversity Action Plan for the NHGRI from 2005 – 2012. This advisory board instituted model training inclusion plans for broadening the participation of minorities in the genome sciences in major universities across the country and Puerto Rico.
  • As a scientist and academic, Dr. Nickerson’s work has been published in various journals. One of the most popular is a special issue on “Genes, Race, and Psychology in the Genome Era,” that he co-edited for the American Psychologist in 2005.
  • Dr. Nickerson has overseen programs and initiatives that have secured federal funding and provided support, mentoring, and professional guidance to hundreds of young students pursuing their doctoral degrees.
  • Dr. Nickerson is often sought for his expertise in graduate education for ethnic minorities. In 2010, he was interviewed by Black Enterprise Magazine for their article, “Graduate to a Bigger Paycheck: Black Enterprise Reveals How to Find the Right Grad School Program to Boost Your Earning Power.”
  • Dr. Nickerson receives his greatest satisfaction from the dozens and dozens of students he has personally mentored who have gone on to achieve beyond their wildest dreams in their careers. In doing this, he points out that he is doing more than influencing the life trajectory of a single individual – instead, he recognizes that the power of successful mentoring has the potential to change the entire branch of a particular family’s tree.

Personal Quotes from Dr. Nickerson about His Career

“In my career, I have strived to make the educational, service, research, civic, social, and cultural institutions and structures that were created and sustained by everyone, work equitably for everyone, especially African Americans. To that end, among our greatest institutions are our colleges and universities. Therefore, I approach with both seriousness and joy, my efforts to help all students, especially those students who have been traditionally poorly served, underserved, or completely locked out, take full advantage of all that a university has to offer – beyond just the social aspects.” One of his favorite quotes is, “Only the educated are free,” by Epictetus (AD 56 – AD 135; Greek philosopher and sage).

Copyright 2017 – Dexter Harper. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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