FOSSI | Keeping up With 2021 FOSSI Scholar, Ethan Ricks

Keeping up With 2021 FOSSI Scholar, Ethan Ricks

February 22, 2023

FOSSI: Could you share a few highlights about your first few semesters at Jackson State University?

Some of the highlights that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life were the football games during the 2021-2022 year. The amount of fanfare that Deion Sanders and the Jackson State Football team attracted was extraordinary. The energy of the spectators, the sound of the band (THEE Sonic Boom of the South), and the level of play of the football team in the Veterans Memorial Stadium is something I will always keep in my memory.

Another one of the highlights that I have was the time I spent in my summer program when I first came to Jackson State University. I was invited to participate in the Aristocrats program during the spring prior to my first semester. This program allows students to live on the campus of the University during the summer and take two or three classes, free of cost.  The program was structured such that there was a two-week STEM Bootcamp prior to beginning summer classes. The directors of the program established a point system for us to follow during that time. You could earn points by completing all the different assignments throughout the time of the Bootcamp. If you completed enough assignments and earned enough points, the program would agree to pay for your summer school classes. If not, then the program wouldn’t fund you. To make it more interesting, the directors also split us into four groups and held a team competition to see which group could get the highest number of points total.

Barely anyone knew each other going into the program and we all came from different places and backgrounds. Despite that, my team worked diligently every day. When someone was down because of stress, we would come together and encourage them. When we were working together on assignments and team events, we would pool together our ideas to come up with the best result possible. Overall, my team received second place, while three of the members were top ten students out of the forty students that were in the program. Everyone in my group earned enough points to get funding for summer school. Individually, I was the top-performing student in the program. Beyond the concrete accomplishments, most of the people in our group would form bonds with each other that affect us even now.

FOSSI: How has the FOSSI Scholarship impacted your experience at Jackson State University?

The FOSSI scholarship has made my experience at Jackson State University a lot less stressful. I’ve had to see a lot of people leave my school due to financial problems. Even one of my closest friends during my freshman year had to leave during the summer of this past year because he did not have the aid to continue school. With these kinds of concerns out of mind, I am able to dedicate my energy to my studies and all the different activities on campus. The scholarship has truly been a blessing to me, and I am forever thankful to the FOSSI organization for awarding me with it.

FOSSI: How are your studies going – what are the biggest challenges and what do you like most?

I would say my studies are going better now. I regret that I didn’t take my first year of classes at Jackson State University as seriously as I could've. The subject material came easily to me, and I didn’t feel the need to apply myself outside of classes. Now, I feel the importance of understanding the topics completely. In the field of computer engineering, your success depends on how detail-oriented you are, and your understanding of fundamental concepts. Also it’s a lot more fun to push yourself and see how much you can learn, rather than sitting back and coasting through classes.

One of the challenges I’ve faced during my time at Jackson State when it comes to studying is managing my time. I am involved in several student organizations at Jackson State, and sometimes it’s hard to balance my focus between extra curricular activities and academics. The strategy I have been using to counteract this is prioritizing what’s most important to me. At the end of the day, my academics and schooling always come first, so I use most of my time and energy studying for my class. My extra-curricular activities are also important to me, so they still take a significant amount of energy to manage, but not at the expense of my learning experience.

What I like most about my studies at Jackson State is learning about computer science and programming languages. Computer science can be used for anything you want and can think of, so everyone can use it. From a person who does research and needs a program to analyze data, to the person who really loves games and would love to design one of their own, computer science can be used for those tasks.

Everything I learn in computer science is a tool that I can later use when I’m developing code for personal projects and interests, so I feel that what I’m learning is extremely valuable.

FOSSI: What extra-curricular activities are you enjoying on campus? 

I am currently enjoying several extra-curricular activities on campus. One of them is the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation Program (LSMAMP). This program prepares students for graduate school by giving them workshops, educational experiences, and opportunities for internships and research. I currently serve as the outgoing President for the organization, and I have been in charge of programming fundraisers, community service opportunities, and social events for the students along with the rest of my executive board. I also participate in the W.E.B. Maria Luisa Alvarez Honors College at Jackson State. This program enriches the experience of Honors Students by preparing workshops of all kinds, straight talks, community service events, and different social events for Honors students to come together and connect. I served as Mr. W.E.B. DuBois Honors College for this past year. The experience I had interacting and connecting with different Honors students was fulfilling and rewarding.

Another organization I’ve been a part of this past year was the Student Government Association(SGA) at Jackson State. I currently serve as the Legislative Secretary of the Senate, and the chair of the Internal Affairs Committee. Serving in this capacity and creating bills that would positively affect the experience of the student body has been exciting for me. I’m considering running for a position within SGA next year.

Last and most importantly, I do Campus Ministries at Jackson State. A couple of other students and I who are members of my church decided to start a Campus Ministry. We do prayer meetings every night and we discuss different scriptures and ideas in the Bible. Out of everything I do, this is the most important work to me.

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