May 17, 2012

Sean Fortney Class of '12

By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Among Bucknell University senior Sean Fortney's ultimate life goals: beatboxing for a professional a capella group and becoming president of a community college.

First, though, he's going to make a few stops. He's about to tour New Zealand with 17 graduate students in Bowling Green State University's higher education student affairs program, comparing the country's educational system to that of the U.S.

Then, this summer, he'll lead the residential life program at Duke University's Talent Identification Program, an academic and residential experience for middle- and high-school students who scored higher on their SAT's in seventh grade than average high school seniors.

Finally, in the fall, he'll head to Michigan State University to work toward a master's degree in student affairs.

Fortney wants to become a community college president because he knows how much community colleges can improve people's lives. A few years ago, he was putting himself through Harrisburg Area Community College and thought he would never be able to afford a four-year degree at a private liberal arts university. Then he found out about the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program.

"The program really offered me a chance at a different life," said Fortney.

After participating in the program's introductory six-week summer session on campus — which acquaints students with academic and residential life and connects them with mentors — Fortney was accepted for transfer into the University. A Bucknell Community College Scholars Program scholarship would make it possible for him to complete his bachelor's degree in political science and education.

"Without the opportunities it created for me, I might not have had a chance to go to New Zealand or Michigan State, or work with Duke," said Fortney. "In my limited two years here, I have gained a great deal of experience for my future career."

That experience includes focusing on the education department's college student personnel courses and becoming deeply involved in the University's residential life programs.

One of Fortney's mentors, Associate Provost Robert Midkiff, has enjoyed seeing Fortney clarify his life's goals.

"When I first met Sean, his interests were extremely diverse and not connected or integrated," said Midkiff. "But I knew that he was smart, motivated, and had the intellectual and academic skills needed to be successful here. Over time, he has discovered his passion for higher education generally, for student affairs and student development specifically, and his academic and career goals have become focused, sustainable, and achievable."

"This program gives students access to a liberal arts education," said Midkiff. "It opens doors for them. Sean is a great example. The Community College Scholars become more confident, assured and assertive, and they set their sights higher than when they started. And they are successful — they get jobs in their chosen fields, they get admitted to law school, to graduate school — they get a chance to live their dreams. How awesome is that? And isn't that what education is supposed to do?"

Contact: Division of Communications

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