Unlike most high school students, LeRoy Ricksy Jr. (Criminology and Criminal justice, 2018) knew before he came to Ohio State that the Department of Sociology was his destination.
“I wanted to major in a field that was close to forensic science,” he said. “My mom is a corrections officer and almost all of my aunts and uncles are in the police force around the country – I knew sociology would help me better understand people, policing and its impact on communities.”
The Harlem, New York native found his way to Ohio State through the Morrill Scholarship Program, the university’s premier merit scholarship program, rewarding academically talented students engaged in diversity-based leadership, service and social justice activities. Once on campus, Ricksy met Susan Van Pelt, one of the department’s academic advisors, and their relationship over the next four years allowed Ricksy to flourish and to build an outstanding academic and research portfolio.
“Susan was a great mentor and advocate for me,” said Ricksy. “She knew my passions and my vision, and she was always following up with me on opportunities and experiences to build my career. She made sure that the classes I took were crucial and significant to my career plans.”
One of the classes that VanPelt recommended was Introduction to Law & Society, taught by Sociology Professor Ryan King.
“Professor King really challenged me to think critically and engage in debate,” said Ricksy. “The opportunity to write a legal brief as an undergraduate was amazing – most of my friends at other schools never got that chance. I made sure right then and there to take all of his courses.”
During Ricksy’s first year, he took a trip to Chillicothe, Ohio, as part of a course on leadership and poverty. For the first time in his life, he met students and teachers from Appalachia – a part of the country unknown to him.
“It was a real eye-opening experience,” he said. “I met people who didn’t look a thing like me but were struggling with similar problems that inner-city residents face.”
As a result of his experience in Chillicothe, Ricksy became a coordinator of Ohio State’s A Day in the Life of a Buckeye program, working with Appalachian and Urban high school students to experience life at Ohio State and college in general. He also served as an inclusion advisor for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and president of the student organization Band of Brothers, providing resources for the development of African American men on campus. For his deep and abiding commitment to helping others and demonstrating university values of inclusion, Ricksy was honored by Ohio State in 2017 with the Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award.
One of the things that Ricksy hoped to do before he graduated was study abroad to enhance his course work in law and criminal justice. With VanPelt’s encouragement and support, Ricksy applied and was accepted to the Ohio State/University of Oxford Summer Pre-Law Program, the oldest overseas pre-law program in existence. Before his last year as an undergraduate, Ricksy spent his summer in England, gaining invaluable hands-on experience in Great Britain’s legal system.
“Studying in a university that has had a major role in developing our current legal system was really valuable preparation for me, for law school,” Ricksy said.
Ricksy began his first year at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law in August. Looking back on his four years as a student in sociology, he knows he’s well prepared for the rigor of the next four years of classes.
“My professors challenged me every day to think critically,” he said. “Look first at the facts, analyze, listen and then back your positions with facts and data. You can think differently, they said, but you must think like a scholar.”
King, one of Ricksy’s faculty mentors, wrote him a letter of recommendation for law school. He wasn’t surprised that Ricksy was accepted to Ohio State as well as a number of other law schools.
“I have no doubt that LeRoy will be an outstanding lawyer,” he said. “LeRoy’s motivation to learn about the law is coupled with integrity and leadership qualities. He sets the bar high for himself as a student and as a citizen.”