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Riley Hickman

ACE in China: 2018
Duke University
Swimming and Diving (Men's)
Davis, CA
Riley’s Blog Posts from ACE in China: 2018
Profile View Riley’s Student-Athlete profile on

“The idea of not taking this opportunity that Duke and Stanford have provided for their student-athletes was unimaginable. The joy I have seen from teammates returning from previous ACE programs and the positive impact they have had on local communities around the world has motivated and inspired me to take this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Riley’s past experiences with service include building relationships with patients at the Duke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a local nursing home for the sick, injured, and elderly, and teaching swimming lessons to children with the Swim with the Blue Devils program. Riley regularly volunteers with Bull City Fit, an organization that promotes fitness and health for children of the local area who may not have access to healthy food options or physical activities. Alongside some of his teammates, Riley is a member of Team iMPACT, a committee that works to provide a support system for a child with a medical condition and his/her family. Riley also serves on an on-campus committee devoted to improving the quality of food for student-athletes on campus and participates with other Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership initiatives.

ACE Ambassador Profile

male student-athlete sitting on ledge overlooking mountain

Riley is a senior on the Duke Men’s Swimming and Diving team and participated in the ACE in China 2018 program. Originally from Davis, CA, Riley plans to return home after he graduates this year (2019). Riley learned about the ACE program through his team and through direct conversations with teammates and friends who had participated in the program on previous occasions. He likes to quote his teammate Max St. George, who went to China with ACE in 2017, by describing his time there as “the best thing I’ve ever done.” Riley is pursuing a degree in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. He was actually inspired by his interactions with Dr. Bill Bleisch, the program director and field biologist at CERS in China, to explore scientific research career opportunities in the field. Riley is excited to bring what he learned in China back home to his team and hopes to use the inspiration and motivation he found in China to develop a career path that brings him both fulfillment and joy.

Want to hear more about Riley’s ACE experience? Contact Riley.

Dear Future #ACEathletes,

  • Best advice for learning about ACE: Speak to ACE alums from each program and figure out what exactly the focus of the program is. Info sessions as well as meetings with friends who had attended ACE worked best for me.
  • Best advice for applying for ACE: Think critically about the skills you have learned from your experiences as a student-athlete at Duke. If you are an athlete at such a prestigious athletic school, you will undoubtably have leadership qualities that can be translated into a strong ACE application.
  • Best advice for getting started at your program: Be open and easygoing. Things will be entirely different, but ACE treats its participants well. Soak in the space and keep your ears ready to listen. By being relaxed and open to anything, the experience fully opens itself up to you.
  • Tips for getting to know your community: Patience is the single most important aspect of connecting with the community. Being relaxed and understanding that it is just as difficult, if not more difficult for the locals to communicate with you as it is for you to communicate with them.
  • Tips for training: I took every opportunity, no matter how unique, to train my body. Personally, being a swimmer in a place with no pool, I really had to be open to different forms of exercise. I ran with track runners, played basketball with lacrosse players, and lifted with a wrestler. I may not have been directly training for swimming, but I was maintaining my physical fitness and actually learned different ways to connect with and strengthen my body.
  • Tips for bringing ACE back to your team: Speak with your coaches during the summer and then set up a meeting, if possible, with your team to share a short description of your experience. I made a slideshow and shared it with my team and my coaches, hoping to inspire the underclassmen to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Reasons for staying involved in ACE: I want to share my enthusiasm for the program as my previous teammates did for me. I would not have been so motivated to apply and attend the program had it not been for my own teammates. I want to bring this to as many teams and individuals as possible.