JTC 24: Coming Into Focus

Latoria Hicks breaks the mold and forges path as a filmmaker

A young woman standing outside with a video camera gives a thumbs-up sign.

This story is part of the 2024 Journey to Commencement series, which celebrates the pinnacle of the academic year by highlighting University of Mississippi students and their outstanding academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.

Latoria Hicks has worked on multiple film projects during her time at the University of Mississippi as a film production major. Her film production thesis project is a romantic film called "Piece by Piece," focusing on self-acceptance and is her directorial debut.

"I've always steered away from directing because I didn't think I had what it takes, but the program really prepared me for it," the Ridgeland native said. "That's one of my proudest accomplishments, just knowing that I was able and capable of doing it."

Hicks is a member of the university's Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and her film "Voices of the Academy: Black Language and Academia" was her honors thesis project. She worked on the project for about a year before her defense.


Latoria Hicks (right) goes over materials on set with an actor for her thesis film, 'Piece by Piece.' Submitted photo

"It's looking at three professors' perspectives on Black language, their use of Black language in and outside of the classroom, and how our perception of language shapes what we think is successful," Hicks said.

The Honors College afforded Hicks many opportunities as a film student and has helped support her goals, especially related to her thesis, she said.

"I had this idea for my thesis in mind, so I went to them and they granted me a fellowship that allowed me to go to Atlanta (to work on the film)," Hicks said. "I already had received an internship with Executive Creative Group Productions, and the Honors College provided me with funding so that I could stay there, complete my internship and also work on my thesis."

Hicks was also named a Gilman International Scholar, which afforded her the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for a two-week intercession. Her experiences in Atlanta and Ireland were the most eye-opening during her undergraduate years, she said.

"In Atlanta, I could envision myself being on my own, especially far away from my family, so it was definitely a good learning experience," she said. "From there, I wanted to see if I could go further and explore the world a little more.

"It just opened my eyes to see how much more there is to see and interact with in the world."

I think people probably found it funny that I was studying film because I didn't fit the stereotypical mold of a film connoisseur."

Besides her involvement with the Honors College, Hicks was also a member of the Black Student Union, UM Pride Network, the NAACP and the minority engagement council within the Honors College.

But the most meaningful part of her college experience began in the fall of her junior year, when she assisted in bringing Queer People of Color, a student organization that prioritizes safe spaces for students, back to campus.

"That's kind of been my main focus as far as student groups," she said. "It's interesting because I think freshman and sophomore years, I was trying to find my own space on campus because I didn't really see myself anywhere.


Latoria Hicks explores the United Kingdom during a study abroad trip to Ireland. Submitted photo

"Junior year is really when I actively went and searched for those different types of communities."

Hicks worked with the university's Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement to help spread awareness about the organization, get it up and running, and begin hosting more events that would serve the queer students of color at Ole Miss.

"It is a different experience holding different types of intersecting identities," she said. "Some people might not feel safe within LGBTQ+ spaces because of racism and some people may not feel safe in places designated for ethnicity because of homophobia.

"So to have a space where people can discuss their intersecting identities has made me really happy."

Hicks said that her time at Ole Miss has marked a turning point in her life, citing the Department of Theatre and Film as being particularly supportive.

"Before coming to college, I didn't know anything about film," she said. "I think people probably found it funny that I was studying film because I didn't fit the stereotypical mold of a film connoisseur.

"Since coming here, it's been very eye opening because coming from zero, it feels like the university has definitely prepared me as a filmmaker by giving me so many opportunities."

Juli Jackson, visiting assistant professor of film production, offered lots of support for Hicks in her senior year.

"I had the joy of watching Latoria balance academic rigor with directing demands on multiple high-quality productions, all while working with me each week on practical tools for their future," Jackson said. "I see Latoria emerging from our program as a formidable talent destined for success as an authentic voice in a film industry that truly needs them."

As for her plans, Hicks said that she's not set on one career as long as she's following her passions.

"I know that no matter what, I definitely want to make art any chance that I get," she said. "So, that's the goal, to just continue making art."

See more photo from Latoria Hicks' Journey to Commencement


Audrey Samples, College of Liberal Arts



May 12, 2024


Latoria Hicks

A young woman gestures on a film set.

Latoria Hicks directs 'Piece by Piece,' a film that follows Olive and Esme on a journey of romance and self-acceptance. Submitted photo

A man points out something on a video camera monitor to a young woman.

During her internship in Atlanta, Latoria Hicks (right) studies with a production group and works on her honors college thesis film, 'Voices of the Academy: Black Language and Academia.' Submitted photo

A young woman looks up at something out of the frame.

Latoria Hicks works on set for her first film as a director. Submitted photo

A young woman sits in front of a background screen in a photo studio.

Latoria Hicks graduates in May with a degree in film production. She plans to keep pursuing art and creative ventures. Submitted photo