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Meet Arica Dickson, an Implementation Manager Whose Passion for Equity Informs Her Work with HBCUs

Written by Black Engagement Network (BNet) on Feb 9, 2022

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, Graduate Programs, Life at 2U, Undergraduate Programs

EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout February, in celebration of Black History Month, our “A Day in the Life” series highlights members of 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet) who support the programs of our partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).


For Arica Dickson, championing equity is a deeply personal mission. While serving as the director of career services at a private university, a large disparity between her salary and that of a more junior employee came to her attention. “I knew I wanted more for myself,” says Arica.

Ready for a new workplace that recognized her worth, she accepted an analytic linguistic recruiting job with a government contracting company, only to be let go six months after starting. “I was devastated,” says Arica. “However, I kicked myself into gear and applied to 100 jobs in a week.”

As Arica found herself at this inflection point in her career, a friend informed her of a position that aligned perfectly with her professional background: senior placement specialist at 2U. “At that time, all the employees' pictures and positions were posted on the website, and the end of each job posting said: Give a Damn,” she reflects. “The company culture was captivating. I knew I was interested in being with 2U for a long time.”

Nine years later, Arica is still at 2U, working as a senior manager of new partner implementation. Her role involves developing undergraduate programs with Morehouse College and graduate programs with Howard University, two esteemed Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) devoted to driving change and forming the next generation of Black leaders. Drawing on her background in recruiting and career services, Arica helps create educational opportunities that equip Black students with the tools to grow and succeed in their professional lives.

In observation of Black History Month, BNet sat down with Arica to learn more about what’s kept her at 2U, the life-changing work she does with Horward and Morehouse, and her contagious passion for increasing representation through learning.

Arica, you seem deeply committed to your work as an implementation manager. What drives your passion to help support Morehouse’s and Howard’s respective missions?

Supporting these two institutions is a great honor and privilege, and I’d say my personal experiences as a Black woman inspire me to further their missions. Having been passed over for promotion after promotion in past jobs, I knew something had to change. I felt the need to make room for not only myself at the table but also the people coming after me. That’s why I’m passionate about working in underserved communities and helping students achieve their goals, and working at 2U has given me the opportunity to fuel that passion. My role enables me to uplift people like me.

A proud Arica on graduation day, after earning her online MBA through a 2U-powered program from American University's Kogod School of Business

Your dedication to both Morehouse and Howard definitely shines through. Is there something that most excites you about working on HBCU programs or a particular opportunity that Morehouse and Howard offer learners?

By collaborating with HBCUs, we get to partner with an educational system that is dedicated to educating people like me. I am most excited about outcomes in the field of social work and educating more Black people nationwide. As for a particular opportunity for learners, both Morehouse and Howard offer an introductory course that focuses on the rich culture and history of Black people and why the past and present inspire the future.

Student outcomes are what invigorate and drive our mission at 2U. Is there one story of learner success that has stayed with you throughout your time here?

The most memorable moment I’ve had at 2U was when I learned about a father who was so proud of finishing his bachelor’s degree at Morehouse around the same time his son completed his degree. It solidified for me that we actually are increasing the number of Black men graduating from college, and I’m so honored to know I have a small hand in making that happen. It’s stories like these that make me so proud of the work I do.

What an incredible moment that must have been for that father-son duo. It’s those moments that really speak to the positive impact we can have in partnership with HBCUs. You’ve also been a student through a 2U-powered program; you earned your online MBA from the Kogod School of Business at American University (AU). How do your own educational experiences connect to your passion for lifelong learning and supporting student success?

The summer before what was supposed to be my freshman year in college, my dad sat me down to say, "Arica, I've lost my job and I can't afford for you to go to school.” Without skipping a beat, I stood up and said, “I got this.” I ended up putting myself through Hollins University, an all-women's school in Roanoke, Virginia. Years later at 2U, once I discovered the company offers a tuition reimbursement benefit for full-time employees, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to earn my master’s degree. The Kogod School of Business focuses on the philosophy of learning by doing, which to me means that all students are in the “front row,” learning from their classmates and teachers through an exceptional, rigorous curriculum.

My experience at AU further fueled my passion to help others and continue my volunteerism with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV), where we’ve found the English language to be Americans’ biggest barrier to going to school and earning a respectable wage. Removing the English barrier at LCNV, just like we remove the back row in education at 2U, means that people can learn invaluable skills on their way to bright and fulfilling futures.

Wow, your own father-daughter story shows just how much you believe in yourself and in the power of education. Between 2U, AU, and LCNV, your imprint is in so many places, Arica! February is Black History Month, a time when we look back at those before us who have also left their mark on the world. How is this observance personally meaningful to you?

Black History Month spotlights the great accomplishments Black people have made, which are often overshadowed by the majority in our society. It also creates a timeline of how far African Americans have come, while highlighting how far we still have to go to end racial injustice. Personally, it’s so meaningful to me because it provides an opportunity for me to continue to learn about Black culture—including its music, dance, and inventions—and how it continues to pioneer change around the globe.

We do still have a ways to go, but together, we can make change happen. Speaking of the strength we have as a collective, you’re a member of BNet. How does your involvement inform your work at 2U?

BNet has been a safe space for me to learn from other Black employees and allies. They’ve taught me how to support positive change, further my own professional development, and foster 2U’s mission to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion both within and outside the company. Growing up in a predominantly white community, I did not have strong Black leaders to model, but after connecting with BNet, I have learned and grown so much. I feel more confident in myself, particularly when I’m leading tough partner conversations or meetings with other 2U employees.

It’s inspiring to hear that BNet has made such an impact on you during your time at 2U. We’re so fortunate to have you to learn from, too. On that note, can you leave us with some words of advice? If someone reading this were interested in joining the company to work with HBCUs and expand access to high-quality education, what would you tell them?

No matter your cultural background or race, supporting an HBCU is truly an experience like no other. I have never laughed harder or louder in a meeting than I have with the Morehouse and Howard partners. The deans and university administrators are incredibly dedicated, and they put the Black student experience at the forefront of every decision.


Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help partners thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.