Ross Aikins

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Program Manager

Higher Education Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-898-8398


Professional Biography

Dr. Aikins joined the faculty of Penn GSE in Fall 2013. A native Californian, he received his Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011, and specializes in collegiate substance abuse and student health research. Dr. Aikins has teaching, administrative, and research experience in K-12 and postsecondary settings, including the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, UCLA, and Occidental College. 

Prior to joining Penn GSE, Dr. Aikins received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Institute of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) in New York City, and lectured at CUNY Brooklyn College. He also served as a development consultant for The Freedom Writers Foundation in Long Beach, authoring more than $730,000 in grants from foundations including The Sherwood Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

In his current role, Dr. Aikins advises over 50 full- and part-time master’s students in the Higher Education Division, and oversees the graduate assistantship program for full-time M.S.Ed. students. Additionally, Dr. Aikins teaches graduate classes, supports admissions functions of the Higher Education Ph.D., Ed.D., and M.S.Ed. programs, and manages the Higher Education Division.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Aikins’s primary research interests concern college student health and student development, specifically mental health and substance abuse issues. His doctoral research qualitatively explored the health and developmental implications of college students who use stimulant medications medically and non-medically (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin, and other so-called “cognitive enhancement drugs”), which earned the Margaret J. Barr Research Award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

In his role as an NIH Research Fellow, Dr. Aikins served as Primary Investigator of a large multi-regional survey of prescription drug diversion, and co-authored a mixed-methods NIH grant to investigate ADHD malingering and the ethics of enhancement-drug use in academia. Additionally, Dr. Aikins joined the military veterans research team at NDRI to explore mental health and substance use characteristics of recently separated from the military veterans of color who attend higher education.

Outside of his primary teaching and administrative responsibilities to the Higher Education Division, Dr. Aikins has presented over 20 selected or invited talks at organizations including The American College Health Association (ACHA) and Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), TED, and NerdNite.

Selected Publications

Aikins, R., Zhang, X., & McCabe, S.E. (in press). Academic doping: Institutional policies regarding nonmedical use of prescription stimulants in U.S. higher education. Journal of Academic Ethics

Aikins, R.D., Christian, M.E., & Harper, S.R. (2017). The NCAA on drugs: Players, performance-enhancing drugs, and the need for tougher testing policies and practices. In S.R. Harper & J.K. Donnor (Eds.), Scandals in College Sports. New York: Routledge.

Morton, C.M., Hoefinger, H., Linn-Walton, R., Aikins, R., & Falkin, G.P. (2015). What are youth asking about drugs? A report of NIDA Drug Facts Chat Day. Journal of Drug Education. 45(3-4), 195-210. DOI: 10.1177/0047237915622084

Aikins, R., Golub, A., & Bennett, A. (2015). Readjustment of urban veterans: A mental health and substance use profile of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in higher education. Journal of American College Health, 63 (7), 482-494.

Harris, S., Nikulina, V., Gelpí-Acosta, C., Morton, C., … Aikins, R., Smith, V., Barry, V., & Downing, M. J. (2015). Prescription Drug Diversion: Predictors of Illicit Acquisition and Redistribution in Three U.S. Metropolitan Areas. AIMS Public Health2(4), 762-783.

Aikins, R., Hoefinger, H., Guarino, H., Rosenblum, A., Magura, S., & Joseph, H. (2015). Conducting rapid street assessment of drug users in NYC using oral fluid and brief interviews: A feasibility study. Journal of Addictive Diseases. doi:10.1080/10550887.2015.1059118.

Aikins, R. (2015, April 9). High achievers. Times Higher Education, pp. 34–41. 

Aikins, R. (2015). From recreational to functional drug use: The evolution of drugs in American higher education: 1960–2014. History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society, 44(1), 25–43. doi: 10.1080/0046760X.2014.979251.

Aikins, R. (2012, August 15). Olympics, doping, genes, and other inconsistencies in ‘performance enhancement’ and sport. Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society (University of Florida).  

Aikins, R. (2011). Academic performance enhancement: A qualitative study of the practices and beliefs of stimulant using college students. Journal of College Student Development, 52(5), 560–576.