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By Julia Ferrante
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University President John Bravman stood before the members of the Class of 2015 Tuesday night as they prepared to begin their academic careers and encouraged them to do one thing above all: "Choose well."
The president, who is beginning his second year at the University, congratulated the 920 first-year and transfer students for selecting one of the finest liberal arts universities in the world. Now, he said, it is up to them to make the most of their experiences.
"We pledge we will do our best every day to make you proud to be a Bucknellian," Bravman said to a packed house at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. "All of us will do what we can to help you make the most of these opportunities. But you have to choose. You have to want to learn. You have to choose to become what you want to become, to know what you want to do in life — or, it will be chosen for you."
The president made the remarks at Convocation, a ceremony steeped in tradition that marks the official start of the academic year. University leaders, staff and faculty dress in full regalia for the event, which honors the newest Bucknellians on the eve of their first day of classes.
Provost Mick Smyer, referring to an essay by Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer in This I Believe, the Class of 2015's common reader, urged the students to "disrupt their comfort zone" and challenge their ideas of the world.
Tony Massoud, associate professor of political science and chair of the faculty, also told the class to embrace their time at the University as one of self-exploration and discovery.
'Goldmine' of opportunity
Bravman called Bucknell "a place of many treasures," where students have the opportunity to compete, sing, dance, design and build as they carve out their spots as future leaders.
"You must choose to mine those treasures," he said.
Bravman shared a story about meeting with artist and Bucknell alumnus Mako Fujimura, Class of '83 and the parent of a current student. At his Manhattan studio, Fujimura showed Bravman an array of paintings, all of which incorporated lines and flecks of gold.
"All around him were these glorious paintings," Bravman said. "It was like seeing an explosion of the mind and soul."
Among the works was a tiny object on a work bench, Bravman recalled: a little brick of gold leaf. The size of the brick was deceiving. One tiny pellet can be pounded out into about 300 feet of gold leaf, he said.
"On this day, I saw gold in a new way," Bravman said. "Mako Fujimura is turning gold into art in a way I have not seen before. He is putting gold before the world, and people are buying it because they want to have that beauty and artistry of his gold in their presence."
The gold leaf, Bravman said, signifies the values of creativity and invention that distinguish Bucknellians. He encouraged the new class to embrace the liberal arts core of the University and to find new ways of thinking, seeing, knowing, doing and becoming.
"Use your precious time well," he said. "Make choices with the motivating belief of who you are and who you want to become ... As you define yourselves at Bucknell, choose who you want to become. You are defining the Class of 2015 and this University."
Riley Schwengel of Barrington, R.I., whose parents, Robert, Class of '83 and Elizabeth, Class of '84, had told him about Bucknell, said he was inspired by the Convocation ceremony. He hopes to become a biology major.
"I like how the president said it is all about us as individuals and how we have to grasp this moment," he said.
First-year student Aradhana Agarual, who had never left her home country of India before traveling to Bucknell Aug. 4, said the University so far has exceeded her expectations, in beauty and opportunity. She hopes to become an engineering major but has not yet chosen a specialty.
"It is so beautiful here, especially when the sun sets and the light falls on the red brick buildings," she said. "And yesterday, I joined seven or eight clubs."
This week marked the beginning of many traditions for the Class of 2015. Following Convocation, the students departed the Weis Center to the sound of bagpipes and quietly assembled in a circle on the Academic Quadrangle for their first-year Candlelighting ceremony.
From Aug. 19 to 22, the class celebrated its arrival with a packed schedule of Orientation events, including meeting their foundation seminar faculty, discussing Bucknell's expectations with deans, getting covered in orange and blue paint at Color Wars, meeting their classmates and Lewisburg neighbors and participating in other activities designed to welcome and introduce the students to Bucknell.
The Class of 2015 also witnessed history as a rare earthquake in Virginia could be felt on campus Tuesday. Before the ceremony, Bravman referred to the earthquake, joking, "We're going to rock your world, and we demonstrated that this afternoon."
Contact: Division of Communications