Sometimes I describe my relationships with my professors to my friends who go to different universities, and they always ask, ‘What do you mean?’ Here at Bucknell, you just get to know professors so well.
It was the ukulele video that did it.
At the end of class one day, Professor Tammy Hiller, management, showed a video of her daughter playing the small stringed instrument. She meant it to be a charming exclamation point after a productive, collaborative session.
Watching the video, Colleen Hull '22 couldn't help but think about a trip to Costa Rica she took over winter break during her sophomore year. Every morning at the hostel where she stayed, Hull and her friends played the ukulele near a big mango tree.
"I don't even know what came upon me, but I started getting emotional," Hull says. "And so at the end of the class, I just wanted to tell her that I really appreciated it — that it meant a lot to me. And then she started crying, and I started crying. I thought, this just doesn't happen. But at Bucknell, you just form really close relationships with professors."
That interaction epitomizes the experience of many Bucknell students — a level of closeness with classmates and professors that goes far deeper than coursework.
Coming into Bucknell, Hull knew she wanted to study management, building on a foundation established in economics classes at her high school in Spring Lake, N.J. But she also wanted to continue studying Spanish — her favorite subject throughout school.
"I knew that Bucknell was definitely a place where that was possible," she says. "I remember meeting my tour guide, and she was doing things across the colleges here at Bucknell, and I was like, 'Well that's nice,' because you don't necessarily hear that at every university you tour."
Hull is pursuing two majors: one in Spanish and the other in managing for sustainability. And her application showed such promise that she earned the Neil F. Shiffler Memorial Scholarship, named in memory of a management professor who taught at Bucknell for more than 35 years.
'What You Make It to Be'
Managing for sustainability, which those in the major just call "MSUS," gives students the freedom to chart their own course toward a management degree.
"MSUS is what you make it to be," Hull says. "Besides your base of core management courses, you have the autonomy to go down whatever path you want. I know some people within managing for sustainability are going the environmental route. For me, I'm more interested in the socioeconomic sustainability aspect within management."
While all Bucknell students have the freedom to choose their courses and course of study, some students appreciate the more structured nature of certain majors while others want total control.
Hull is in that second group. Through her nearly four years at Bucknell, she has enjoyed the opportunity to follow her interests down new paths — a journey worth taking even when the destination isn't clear.
"Knowing all the majors we have here at Bucknell, I couldn't imagine not having the opportunities to take some really cool classes," she says. "One of my favorites so far was actually a course I took my first year: Masculinity in American Performance with Professor [Meenakshi] Ponnuswami."
Experiences like those add to Hull's arsenal as a talented, well-rounded person — someone who can flip from discussing business strategies in a conference room to talking about 20th-century theatre at a networking get-together.
During the summer before her senior year, Hull interned at Stifel Financial Corp. in New York City, working in fixed-income sales and trading and collaborating with the emerging markets team. In conversations with others on the trading floor, she discovered a field that seemed perfectly matched to her interests and skills.
"Within the emerging markets team, it really helps to be fluent in another language because you're working with a lot of foreign investors and firms," she says.
Hull even got to work on a bond pitch research project with the emerging markets team — compiling a comparable analysis on the protein sector in Brazil.
"To do research on companies, maybe in Spanish-speaking countries, would be really cool," Hull says. "I would love that."
Finding the Right Words
Hull's Spanish major ties into her fascination with the ability to read and write in a different language — a kind of real-world superpower with applications that last a lifetime.
"I think it's not only fun but also important, especially living in the United States," she says. "So many people know only one language, and you meet people from around the world who know like six languages."
Because of the pandemic, Hull wasn't able to study abroad during her time at Bucknell. But in late 2019, before the world shut down, she convinced her parents to let her take a solo trip to Costa Rica, where she spent a month in a hostel with other travelers.
She remembers getting into the cab at the airport, her pulse accelerating the way it does when she speaks to a native Spanish speaker for the first time in a while.
"My heart goes into my throat a little bit, like, 'OK, we're about to start speaking fast now,' " Hull says. "I just remember thinking, what the heck do I think I'm doing, this was not a part of any program or anything. It was totally on a whim."
But then they started talking, and over the course of the two-hour drive, Hull discovered the beauty of trying things that might seem scary at first.
"I remember just being in this car and going through all these rural areas, surrounded by farm and dirt roads," she says. "We were just speaking in Spanish the entire time — talking about our families and why I was doing this trip. The driver was so nice. My car ride conversation helped me to ease into everything that I was going to be doing in Costa Rica."
Even though she didn't study abroad — "and have that experience of speaking Spanish 24/7 for a few months" — Hull says her upper-level Spanish classes have given her the opportunity to communicate in an authentic way.
"Upper-level classes are totally open-floor, which is so much more like real life," Hull says. "It's kind of crazy to think of my speaking level — when I was a first-year versus now — just thinking about what I'm actually able to say and talk about. It's nice. It's satisfying."