FSS Welcomes First Female Dean

Professional picture of Dr Heather Ricketts

When you walk the office hall of the Faculty of Social Sciences you are first greeted by a wall furnished with history. This rich history and legacy of leadership dates to the 1960s and accounts for 14 Deans all of whom have been men of excellence and impeccable stature. We are proud to announce a timely shift in the tides as we introduce our 15th and first female Dean of The Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Heather Ricketts who began her tenure August 1, 2022.


Dr Heather Ricketts is a Sociologist and holds a Ph.D. in Development Studies. She is a former Head of the Department of Sociology, Psychology, and Social Work. Dr Heather Ricketts is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Psychology, and Social Work and has given over 20 years of service to the University of the West Indies. Dr Ricketts entered the world of academia after years of working in the public sector where she gained invaluable insights in the areas of social policy, research, development, and analysis. 


Get to Know Your Dean* 


Dr Ricketts, where do you see the Faculty of Social Sciences 10 years from now? What is your overarching vision for the faculty?  

I foresee a very strong Faculty of Social Sciences based on the academic profiles of the young team of Department Heads and programme coordinators and the management training which the HRMD has been providing. The upcoming crop is strong.  


My vision for the Faculty is the vision that we have embraced for ourselves to REACH, and REACH stronger and farther. I would like to see us stand out regionally and internationally and become among the first choices for students pursuing higher education. I’d also want to see the development of programmes that are exciting and relevant to us as Caribbean people and for our degree programmes to be benchmarked internationally. 


There is always the vision to produce more academic content from the region. I want to see more textbooks written by our scholars and used in our teaching. 


What are you really passionate about? 

Tackling inequality. I can’t stand it. There’s a fair amount of invisibility that’s experienced in this society. I am passionate about people being visible and heard; treated as equal partners. I grew up and lived in a space where the social structure was flatter and less rigid than it is in Jamaica, and where everyone was treated equally and with respect. Some people are just not counted in this society and face exclusion. Quite a bit of my public service is therefore in the field of social policy, particularly social protection. 


How has COVID-19 shaped the education landscape? 

It has taken some of us kicking and screaming into the 21 century! 


It has forced us to embrace technology, things many of us have been trying to push back on. It has therefore been somewhat destabilizing. Its impact, particularly on young parents, has been significant, turning the uninitiated and untrained into teachers. It has also increased the burden on parents, and mother in particular, who are now faced with the realities of balancing work, family life, and children’s (home) schooling.


It has brought opportunities for the infusion of technology into research. However, it should be noted that research is already showing that COVI19’s impact on female academics has been more severe than the impact on their male counterparts. With females being the ‘natural’ caregivers and having the responsibility for childcare and elder care, they have to give more attention there, over and above research interests. 


Let’s not forget though, the digital divide that COVID-19 has magnified, and the inequality in the school system. The children of the poor and from working class backgrounds will be the major casualties if deliberate efforts are not made to provide them with the necessary support through laptops, tablets, and internet and WIFI access. 


Why FSS? 

I got drawn into academia having left the PIOJ to complete my PhD. While working on the thesis, a position became vacant in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, and I was asked to apply. The rest as they say, is history! I’ve remained in the Faculty because I enjoy lecturing and I’m invested in the growth of the Faculty. Life has also been good to me as it has brought many opportunities. 


Fun question, what will finally break the internet? 

Anxiety, which the internet’s all-consuming nature is foisting upon all of us. There is a pressure/stress that it puts on its users. Everything is NOW! There’s also a sort of dehumanizing side effect which is not good for relationship building. With the internet come emails, and the immediacy with which these must be treated. Whereas before, someone would walk across a corridor to one’s colleague, an email is now sent. I think there is a real risk that if we don’t manage the internet, it will affect our physical and mental wellness. I think what will finally break the internet is the negative effect it will have on our health and wellness. That said, however, it is incumbent on us to recognize the signs of internet stress and to take scheduled breaks and de-compress. 


*First published October 2020 - https://issuu.com/fssmarketinguwi/docs/new_academic_year_issue__7_