Rebecca Hickman, Executive in Residence, Shares Her Wide Range of Experience

Posted: Sunday, July 19th 2015 at 10:18 AM

FCB Executives in Residence (EiR) exhibit strengths in various areas of business. From entrepreneurship to finance, each of these executives has in-depth knowledge about the corporate world. For Rebecca Hickman, her knowledge lies in multiple areas.

An NAU alumna, Hickman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 1974 and went on to receive her MBA from Grand Canyon University, preparing her for extensive work in the corporate field.

Hickman has experience working at Price Waterhouse & Co., a CPA firm; Arizona Public Service (APS); and APS’s parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corporation. Despite having only worked for two major corporations, she gained skills in a many business disciplines, her favorite of which was investor relations.

“Since I graduated from NAU, I’ve been hired by two companies during my whole career — three now with NAU. (Pinnacle West was formed out of APS after I started working there.),” Hickman said. “Careers can take interesting turns and we have to be open to them. I moved around to several different jobs within APS and Pinnacle West.  For example, I’ve done more than 5 billion dollars in finance transactions, such as selling common stock and bonds and arranging various bank loans and lines of credit. My last position was as head of investor relations, and I kept it for a number of years because I really liked the breadth of what it involved and all the different people with whom I got to interact.”

Investor relations is the primary interface between a publicly-held company and the investment community, so Hickman worked with Wall Street analysts, major institutional investors and individual shareholders to help them understand Pinnacle West and APS strategically, operationally, and financially, as well as the companies’ outlooks.

“It sounds very financial, but to do it well involves accounting and finance; communications; marketing and customer service; general management; and interacting with a lot of people because you have to be able to work with all the areas of the businesses and explain them to investors,” Hickman said. “Dealing with all of that and working in a large company, in all humility, I gained extensive experience in many business fields.”

Hickman believes her real-world experience can help her students learn in a different way than they would with a professor who may have a depth of knowledge in their field, but not diverse corporate experience.

“I think textbooks provide a good outline for courses, but professional experience and expertise provide a richer academic experience,” Hickman said. “It all has to fit together. It’s very humbling to realize what I know now about all the subjects in the FCB."

Hickman returned to NAU and became an EiR in Fall 2013, helping FCB's Dean Van Slyke teach a class while she planned her courses for the following semester.

She has developed a course called Accounting Ethics, which she has taught for three semesters. The  class is an alternative for accounting majors to the business ethics course usually required for all majors in the business college. The class was approved as a permanent course in spring 2015 and, starting in Fall 2015, Accounting Ethics will be ACC 340. She has also taught the Principles of Finance course, and will be adding Principles of Accounting in Fall 2015.

Hickman has been on the National Advisory Board for the FCB, and this connection is what helped her become a candidate as an Executive in Residence. Although her past positions were not necessarily in academia, her variety of experience and innate leadership skills helped her transition easily.

“When I wanted to shift from the corporate world to academia, it made sense to tell my connections at NAU and others that I decided to retire from the corporation and wanted to teach,” Hickman said. “When I told people at Pinnacle West and in the investment community that I was going to leave and that I wanted to do something with teaching, there were a number of people with whom  I dealt who said, ‘you’ve been teaching us for years; you’ll be great at it.’ I had done some teaching and leading seminars, and I think it’s a kick. It’s very special being able to come back to NAU and work with the students here.”

Hickman lives primarily in Phoenix, but makes the commute to Flagstaff every week in order to continue teaching.

“I come up to Flagstaff three days a week and NAU has been very good to me in terms of trying to help me keep my time on campus compact and yet enough time to serve the students,” Hickman said. “Why would I bother to drive back and forth from Phoenix? Because it’s an opportunity to give back to NAU, and I feel respected, rewarded, and challenged.”

She believes the University’s job is to help students earn what they want — a strong, relevant education.

“The students are our ‘customers.’ Each of us has different connections with different students, but helping the students learn what they need to learn and want to learn is part of our service industry. I believe we’re all here for a common goal. We’re here to help the students achieve the education they need to help them succeed in their careers.”

Categories: rebecca hickman executive in residence faculty 2015 summer 2015 price waterhouse & co arizona public service pinnacle west capital corporation