Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) Psychology major, Samantha Bicking, has never met a challenge she could not conquer. She has an annual reading goal of 75 books, crushes five college classes per semester and serves as president of eight Gloucester-campus student organizations – including the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the Student Government Association.
“I do love a good challenge,” she admitted. “Challenges make me push myself and that’s how I find myself improving.”
Bicking got an early start on college when she began taking RCSJ classes through the High School Option Program (HSOP) prior to her graduation from West Deptford High School. Her first class was Photography and the experience quickly melted away any self-doubt.
“Photography 101 definitely boosted my confidence, because Professor Coates didn’t treat me like I was just some high school kid. He treated me like I was one of his students no matter what my age was,” Bicking recalled. “HSOP allowed me to find my independence and become more focused on what comes after high school. When I started taking RCSJ classes, I really felt like I belonged and that was genuinely exciting.”
Following her high school graduation, Bicking enrolled as a full-time Psychology major in September 2019. Despite being the same age as many of her fellow RCSJ students, her academic experience made Bicking a lifeline for friends with questions about college classes or campus resources.
“I knew what a college classroom was like, what the decorum was and where everything was on campus. There was no transition period where I was nervous to walk into a classroom,” she said. “Before I knew it, I basically became a tour guide!”
Bicking did not want her campus involvement to end at providing unofficial tours, so she began looking into student clubs and organizations. An animal lover since birth, she quickly joined the Animal Care Club; one week later she took on the role of treasurer for the Student Government Association and soon became president of Women in STEM. In 2020 she expanded her leadership roles to become president of the Student Government Association, Animal Care Club, Book Club, Horror Club, Science Club and Psi Beta, along with peer leader for the Peer 2 Peer Club, Vice President of the Media and Broadcasting Club, campus representative for the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges and a member of the Music Society, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Phi Theta Kappa and the National Society for Leadership and Success.
“I’ve made so many friends through these clubs that benefit my life and who are there for me – and I get to be there for them,” she reflected. “These leadership roles are helping me to help others, and that’s something I really enjoy. It’s why I’m going into psychology.”
One of Bicking’s longest-held campus memberships is also among her most influential RCSJ experiences – her involvement with the five-star, Alpha Psi Pi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) international honor society. High grades earned through HSOP made Bicking eligible to join PTK in 2019; a warm welcome from Alpha Psi Pi advisors and members encouraged her to expand her involvement, taking on chairperson roles on the Outreach Committee and the Team Building Committee.
“Through PTK, I’ve found a family that’s not only helped me to grow academically and professionally, but also personally,” Bicking explained. “It’s helped me to develop into the student that I am and taught me to be more open-minded and that it’s okay to be myself. That’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned.”
In May 2021, Bicking walked across RCSJ’s Commencement stage to accept her associate degree in Psychology, adorned with a rainbow of cords, stoles, tassels and sashes marking her campus involvement and numerous academic achievements. For her 190 fellow Alpha Psi Pi graduates, the milestone meant bidding farewell to the chapter; but Bicking, a participant in the Rowan “3+1” program, had been granted one more year to shine in PTK. This time as Alpha Psi Pi chapter president, among the many other campus leadership roles she plans to continue.
“3+1 was another opportunity, because RCSJ is filled with opportunities, so I took it and I’m so glad I did. I get to stay at RCSJ,” Bicking announced, with a cheer. “I’ve been told I’m technically a graduate, but I don’t accept the alumni label just yet! I want to stay where I feel like I belong and can be myself. RCSJ is my second home.”
Through “3+1” – a partnership between RCSJ and Rowan University that offers students a bachelor’s degree in select majors for less than $30,000 – Bicking will complete her third year at RCSJ before continuing to Rowan University for her senior year and graduation. She will also make RCSJ history by becoming the first junior-year Alpha Psi Pi president, and she plans to spend her “bonus year” increasing the chapter’s focus on PTK’s service-based College Project and Honors in Action Project, along with continuing to grow chapter membership.
“Our past chapter present, Ashton Paladino, really inspired me to take my involvement to another level,” Bicking noted. “The biggest thing I want to do is leave our chapter better than how I found it and that’s going to be hard, because Alpha Psi Pi is amazing. I love our chapter.”
After completing her junior year at RCSJ and senior year at Rowan University, Bicking intends to earn her doctorate and maybe even do some research work. Her love of academia carries through to her career goals; she aspires to become a psychology professor, and eventually a department head. She is currently dipping her toe into the environment as a technician at RCSJ’s information desk, where she exercises her long-practiced talent for helping fellow students get acquainted with the College and – of course – serves on numerous staff committees.
“Even when I go to Rowan University and then onto the next program, I’ll still be in the mindset of RCSJ because it’ll be with me forever,” Bicking concluded. “I wouldn’t be the same student if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve been here at RCSJ. There are so many opportunities here, there’s a sense of community and it’s more affordable. That’s something I barely focus on because there’re so many other amazing reasons to come to RCSJ aside from it just being easier to finance.”
Visit RCSJ.edu/Enroll to learn more about the opportunities waiting for you at Rowan College of South Jersey.