Growing up, I wanted to be the best version of myself. I thought to achieve that, I would need the best education in the world.

James Cobbinah stands before a building on campus.
Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

James Cobbinah '20 isn't afraid of uncertainty or failure, perhaps because he is a planner whose thoughtful approach to education, work and life moves him in a steady, if evolving path toward his goals of running an airline — and bettering the world.

"Growing up, I wanted to be the best version of myself," says Cobbinah, an accounting & financial management major from Ghana. "I thought to achieve that, I would need the best education in the world. And in my view, the U.S. provided that."

Bucknell, he says, matched his strengths and his interest in STEM, which was his focus in high school.

Still, life at a rural Pennsylvania campus initially gave him "culture shock," he recalls. "From the food to the people to the accents, it was hard to adjust. But you have to train yourself to be successful in every environment."

Along with reaching out to other international students, Cobbinah sought guidance from International Student Services, where staff helped with even minor things, such as understanding colloquialisms.

Gradually, Cobbinah adapted and thrived — and changed his academic focus to finance.

"When I came to the U.S., I fell in love with the markets," he explains. "I read The Wall Street Journal and saw how the markets reacted to the U.S. elections. Now I want to start my career on Wall Street."

He adds, "Bucknell does a fantastic job with management studies. I like the fact that it's combined with a liberal arts education, and my professors are very well-versed in their fields."

The major has been a good fit for Cobbinah, who recently secured an internship with JPMorgan Chase in Manhattan, and who was selected to attend the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar.

The event, which brought together leaders from business, government and entertainment, bolstered Cobbinah's already-strong interest in entrepreneurship. Several speakers' focus on economic and social justice also reinvigorated Cobbinah's passion for doing good, which first led him to co-found a nonprofit organization benefiting youth in Ghana.

"In high school, a couple of us decided we could use our skills for the greater good, and we couldn't just go through a system," Cobbinah says. "Since 2014, we've written scholarly articles in newspapers and visited middle schools, speaking to kids on topics like integrity, discipline and the role of extracurricular activities in development."

In the future, Cobbinah hopes to blend his interests in finance and charity, as an entrepreneur in the airline industry, which links back to his love of engineering and flight.

"I like that I will be my own leader," he says. "And I can help to have an influence that way."

James is from Accra, Ghana.

Posted November 2018