Dolphin Highlights: Alex Ricker-Gilbert

Jacksonville University’s newly appointed athletic director, Alex Ricker-Gilbert, aims to enhance the student athlete experience. Hired by Jacksonville University (JU) two short years ago, Ricker-Gilbert has big plans for the future of Dolphin athletics.

Ricker-Gilbert is applying what he’s learned while working under the former athletic director Donnie Horner. “He really bolstered the demeanor and attitude of the staff, making it a great place to work, so I’ve tried to carry all that over,” said Ricker-Gilbert, “That’s how people grow; if you give them autonomy, if you let them make decisions, they will grow, learn and respect you more.”

Ricker-Gilbert believes that students taking care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally is just as (or more) important than what they do on the field. Junior football player Griffin Garland said, “I like how there’s more academic help available this year.” The department has added a third full time academic employee to allow students to thrive and receive help where they need it. During Ricker-Gilbert’s two years at Jacksonville, the average gpa for student athletes has risen from 2.99 to 3.18. “I want to get that GPA above a 3.2,” said Ricker-Gilbert, “That would be a real accomplishment and show the value of what we do.”

Ricker-Gilbert isn’t stopping at academics. Amongst his goals, he’d like to retain and graduate students at a 95 percent rate. Ricker plans to use these improvements to better promote what JU students are accomplishing. He’d like to get the student athlete story out and raise money in a greater volume with hopes of enhancing the student experience.

In addition to the academics and student well-being, Ricker-Gilbert wants the Dolphins to compete on the field. “I want us to be competitive in every sport in every league, year in and year out,” said Ricker-Gilbert, “Compete like champions; compete like Dolphins.” The Dolphins will be expected to continue doing work within the community but it will be a priority to make sure the hours hold value and weight.

Ricker-Gilbert’s vision of JU athletics is modeled after President Costs’ vision. Cost is creating a model that aims to improve the student experience. By embracing this, Ricker-Gilbert hopes to improve the student athlete experience as well. “A lot of things are changing, I’m stoked we are getting a new weight room,” said Junior football player Thomas Oporto. In five quick months, Ricker-Gilbert was able to achieve a new weight room in addition to adding more and newer equipment to the athletic training room. All the investments made in both the students and facilities will hopefully lead to victories on the field.

Tackling goals head on is not a foreign idea to Ricker-Gilbert. With both his parents being professors at Penn State University and his grandparents working closely with the Paternos at Penn State, he spent a lot of time around higher education. Having grown up around collegiate level athletes, it wasn’t until Ricker-Gilbert was in college that he decided his career needed to include athletics. “It’s a tough business to crack into,” said Ricker-Gilbert.

His early career began when he first started out in Student Athlete Services at Penn State. He then interned in academics and compliance and student athlete services at Westchester and Villanova during graduate school. Following graduation, he found himself working at Purdue University and in Fort Wayne where he met basketball staff who he would later bring to JU.

With increased attention to student athlete academics, well-being and facilities, the athletic department at JU hopes to see many more winning seasons.