Dear Faculty & Staff Colleagues,

It is great to be back with you for the start of a new academic year. I want to thank those of you who helped make our New Student Orientation program so successful. It is deeply gratifying to talk with new students and their families who are eager to recount stories of their early interactions with you, and how those encounters have reinforced their decision to attend Bucknell. As I shared with our newest Bucknellians and many of you during Convocation, it is through this engagement that our students will continue on their path to a fulfilling and meaningful life — thanks in large part to you. I welcome you to read my convocation speech. Please also enjoy this brief video that captures the spirit of our first-year students' excitement as they begin their education at Bucknell.

Below is my customary end-of-summer update on University initiatives. As I begin my eighth year at Bucknell, I am both in awe of all we have accomplished together and excited by the opportunities ahead. I cannot thank you enough for your commitment to our students and for all that you do to make Bucknell the special place that it is.

Best wishes for a great year,

John Bravman signature

New Students

The Class of 2021 comprises an exceptional group of individuals, including 974 first-year students. We also welcome 30 transfer students, 18 of whom are Bucknell Community College Scholars. Our new students possess impressive academic and extracurricular accomplishments and come to us from 31 states, the District of Columbia and 49 countries. Students of color make up nearly 22 percent of the incoming class, which is the second-most diverse class in Bucknell's history. More than 6 percent are international students, and more than 10 percent are the first in their families to attend a college or university. About 7 percent of our new students are Bucknell legacies.

Few individuals have a full appreciation for the complex challenges that come with recruiting such a talented group of students. It is an achievement to be proud of, and I thank our admissions team and our many faculty and staff colleagues, alumni and parents who helped bring this impressive group to Bucknell.

Faculty Appointments and Recognition

I am also pleased to announce that we have successfully concluded searches for 19 tenure-line faculty positions. Each of these individuals, some of whom are former visiting assistant professors, brings experiences, expertise and perspectives that will enrich our campus and benefit our students.

  • Hasan Arslan, assistant professor of chemistry
  • Maria Balcells, assistant professor of philosophy
  • Matthew Baltz, assistant professor of sociology & anthropology
  • Paul Barba, assistant professor of history
  • Soundarya Chidambaram, assistant professor of political science
  • Julia Cole, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Eliza Congdon, assistant professor of psychology
  • Annetta Grant, assistant professor of markets, innovation & design
  • Esra Kose, assistant professor of economics
  • Obed Omar Lira, assistant professor of Spanish
  • Vanessa Massaro, assistant professor of geography
  • Kenny Mineart, assistant professor of chemical engineering
  • Elif Eda Miskioglu, assistant professor of chemical engineering
  • Gregory Pask, assistant professor of biology
  • Sezi Seskir, assistant professor of music
  • Bryan Vandevender, assistant professor of theatre & dance
  • Benjamin Wheatley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
  • Jaye Austin Williams, assistant professor of Africana studies
  • Ning Xu, assistant professor of mathematics

Congratulations to these faculty colleagues. We wish you well and look forward to working with you to deepen the educational experience we offer our students.

I would also like to congratulate several other faculty colleagues for recent recognition of their teaching and scholarship. Professors T. Joel Wade and Katherine Faull have begun three-year terms as presidential professors. Professors Doug Allen, Alan Cheville, Donna Ebenstein, Jason Leddington, Ryan Malone, Benjamin Wheatley and Wendelin Wright have all earned new appointments to endowed academic positions. You may read more about our colleagues and these well-deserved appointments.

Administrative Updates

July 1 marked the official establishment of our third college — the College of Management. In parallel, Raquel Alexander officially joined us as the inaugural Kenneth W. Freeman Professor and Dean of Management. As Provost Barbara Altmann and I shared with you last December, Raquel comes to us from Washington and Lee University’s Williams School of Commerce. We will formally welcome Raquel to Bucknell at a campus reception on Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Weis Center atrium. I hope that you can join us.

I am also pleased that Georgina Dodge has officially joined us as associate provost for diversity, equity & inclusion. Georgina comes to us from the University of Iowa, where she served since 2010 as chief diversity officer and associate vice president, as well as Title IX coordinator. As noted when we first announced Georgina’s hire, the title of this position has been expanded to reflect its broad responsibilities. Georgina reports to Barbara and oversees the Office of Accessibility Resources, the Office of Civic Engagement, the Griot Institute for Africana Studies and the Teaching & Learning Center. She will also serve on the President's Diversity Council.

On Sept. 18, Kevin Mathes ’07 will join us as the new dean of admissions. Kevin comes to us from Dartmouth College, where he served as senior associate director of admissions. In addition to his bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and education, Kevin holds a master of education degree in college student personnel from Ohio University. We look forward to welcoming Kevin back to Bucknell.

Last week we began the search for a dean of the College of Arts & Sciences — our third academic dean search in three years. As many of you know, serving on search committees is a significant investment of time and energy, and I am very grateful to our colleagues who have agreed to participate in this process, particularly committee co-chairs Barbara Altmann and Professor Abe Feuerstein, education. To assist with this search, we have once again partnered with Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a highly respected search firm that specializes in higher education recruitment. We hope to conclude the search by the end of the calendar year.

During this time of transition, we are fortunate to have Professor Karl Voss, mathematics, serving as interim dean. Karl is entering the second year of a two-year appointment and is contributing to the University in numerous meaningful ways in this leadership position. I greatly appreciate all of his efforts.

WE DO Campaign

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who, in one way or another, helped the University conclude the WE DO Campaign. As I shared with you in July, the campaign raised more than a half-billion dollars — $513 million, in fact — including more than $170 million for financial aid endowment and $100 million for academic programs and support. The success of this campaign has already changed the face of our University — most evident through the physical changes to campus, such as Academic West, the Graham Building and the work underway on Hildreth-Mirza Hall, ​a home for our Humanities Center — and will continue to benefit our students for generations to come. We should all be proud of this incredible achievement. I'd like to extend a special thank-you to our colleagues in Development & Alumni Relations for their commitment to the WE DO Campaign. Through their determination, we raised $113 million in fiscal year 2017 alone — more than double our previous one-year record of $53.5 million.

We are planning special celebrations around the success of WE DO during Family Weekend (Sept. 22-24) and Homecoming (Nov. 3-5). I hope you can join us.

The success of WE DO highlights our shared commitment to improving Bucknell for our students, and it reinforces my belief that, together, we can continue to aspire and accomplish great things.

Strategic Planning

During my open faculty and staff fora in 2014, I spoke of the need to refresh our strategic plan. More than a decade has passed since we promulgated The Plan for Bucknell. And while we will, in some sense, never be finished pursuing its broadly defined goals, with the conclusion of the WE DO Campaign and the establishment of our third college, we have reached a point at which we must sharpen our strategic commitments. I will soon share additional thoughts about this endeavor with an eye toward ensuring deep engagement across campus.

Branding Initiative

As I have discussed with you in the past, part of our plan for being more strategic is telling our story in compelling, distinctive and authentic ways. Last year, to aid in that effort, we partnered with Ologie, a national branding firm that specializes in higher education. Ologie spent a significant amount of time learning about Bucknell, including through engagement with representatives of our various constituencies. In all, more than 1,400 members of our community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents, participated in various one-on-one meetings, focus groups and surveys to help with this initiative. Based on that feedback, and working closely with campus partners, we have now begun to execute a branding strategy that guides our messaging and visual identity.

One expression of the theme that emerged throughout this engagement — and elicited very positive reactions from our internal and external audiences — is “By Way of Bucknell.” To be clear, this is not a tagline; it is not a slogan that will appear on all of our communication pieces. Rather, it is a succinct expression of how we tell the story of Bucknell. We have also created this website with more information and helpful resources. Our colleagues in Communications will begin holding informational sessions throughout the academic year to share updates on this initiative, as well as exchange ideas on how this work can continue to evolve.


I have written to you on several occasions about our transition to Workday, a modern, cloud-based software solution that addresses human resources (HR), payroll and financial needs in ways our current systems cannot accommodate. As I shared in the spring, we expect Workday to go live in early April 2018. Our colleagues in Finance, HR and Library & Information Technology continue to invest significant time and energy into this project and will hold open preview sessions and other training opportunities as we move toward the Workday launch in April. Updates, FAQs and other information on this transition are available online.

This transition is specific to finance and HR functions; we will continue to use Banner for core student and other academic information systems (registrar, bursar and financial aid) for the foreseeable future.

Campus Construction and Facilities Projects

The summer break routinely brings with it several construction and facilities projects, and this summer was no different. Among the significant projects completed are two 26-bed, 12,500-square-foot small houses on South Campus. Both buildings include a number of sustainability features and are expected to receive a LEED Silver rating. As you know from my previous updates, several years ago we repurposed the house formerly occupied by Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) for use by the Entrepreneurship & Innovation affinity group. Due to a decades-old agreement with SAE, which returned to campus last year, we were obligated to provide housing similar to that which they last occupied. As such, SAE currently occupies one of the new houses, which is smaller than SAE’s previous location on St. George Street. The other new house on South Campus is currently home to the affinity group titled “Engin uity.” Consistent with our other new residential facilities built within the past five years, neither of these houses has a basement.

As noted above, construction is well underway on Hildreth-Mirza Hall, which will house our new Humanities Center. The renovation and expansion of the facility are progressing as planned, and we expect to complete the work in April 2018.

Other notable facilities projects include:

  • adding a kosher kitchen and upgrading the HVAC system at the Berelson Center;
  • upgrading the windows at both the Art Building and Bucknell Hall, which will increase energy efficiency;
  • replacing the roof and HVAC system at the Animal Behavior Lab;
  • renovating offices in Taylor Hall and the Observatory; and
  • relocating the Muslim student community and prayer space from the Gateways to the South Campus Apartments, which allows us to provide our Muslim students with a kitchen, gathering space, office and dedicated prayer room.

The planning work for two new academic facilities continues. Academic East, a 78,000-square-foot facility that would provide space for student and faculty research, laboratory instruction, design studios and offices for both engineering and education, is in its final design phase. In the months ahead, we plan to seek approval to build the facility from the Board of Trustees. Construction is subject to adequate fundraising.

We also continue to explore collocating our College of Management and Department of Art & Art History in a new facility. As I shared with you in May, the board approved the expenditure of resources to move forward with schematic designs for such a facility, the second of four phases in the process. Meetings related to that design phase with students, faculty and staff will commence this semester. As with Academic East, this project is subject to adequate fundraising.

I am also happy to report that both the Graham Building and Roberts Hall renovation project earned LEED Silver ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council. Also, the campus’ electrical utility system received a Performance Excellence in Electrical Renewal (PEER) certification. PEER is a third-party certification program that measures an organization’s ability to provide dependable, sustainable, resilient and cost-effective electrical power. Bucknell is only the fourth site in the country to achieve this noteworthy accomplishment.

Winter Break

Finally, I am pleased to share that we will once again extend the winter break, which will begin on Monday, Dec. 18, and run through Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, with normal operations resuming on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Expanding the winter holiday period allows us to reduce University operations, which results in significant energy savings. Non-exempt (hourly paid) employees required to work during this period of reduced operations will receive additional compensation for those hours worked. I hope you have the opportunity to rest and enjoy your family and friends during this extended break.