May 10, 2013

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By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Since its launch in mid January, the Bucknell Compliments Facebook page has accumulated nearly 2,000 friends — and the tributes keep rolling in.

When Bucknell junior Liane Chesek woke up on the morning of April 3 and checked Facebook, she saw the familiar red notification icon at the top of her screen. She clicked through to find a compliment describing her as an inspiration.

"Her constant ability to stand up for what she believes in and to support those around her perpetually amazes me ... " the compliment read. "I know she's going places. I'm lucky to have her as a friend." That comment was an excellent way to start the day, said Chesek. "It means that someone was thinking about me and put in the effort to compliment me in such a public way."

Junior Dan Haney received two compliments in a row on April 5. "I think Bucknell Compliments is a fantastic idea, and I commend whoever started it," he said.

Dean of Students Susan Lantz said she kept smiling the first time she read the list of positive words written about Bucknellians, and she returns to the page often. "The reactions to the uplifting compliments are genuine and sincere," she said. "The comments and interactions on the page help showcase the strong community connections clearly visible on our campus."

Bucknell Compliments is run anonymously, but Bucknell's Division of Communications recently tracked down the mystery student who runs the page to find out more about the motivation behind the project.

Q: Why did you create Bucknell Compliments?

A: My high school recently started a compliments page. I received a compliment and it felt really nice, so I kind of decided that I wanted to make other people feel that way.

Q: How long did it take for the page to gain traction?

A: It took about a week and a half for it to take off. I wrote the first few compliments, and then others trickled in at the beginning, and it grew from there.

Q: Why did you want to do this anonymously?

A: I just thought it would be cool to see how it could change how people express how they care about each other. It's not something we do openly all the time. Sometimes they need an anonymous source to go through.

I think people feel more comfortable sending in compliments if they don't know who's running the page. I don't know most of the people sending them, actually. It's nice to see people's love across all grades. It is weird, though, when I get ones about myself.

Q: What's been the most surprising aspect of this project?

A: Probably the psychological aspect. I've asked people who I know have sent in compliments if they did it, and they always say no. The psychology of denying that you're complimenting one of your friends — it's just so interesting.

Q: Do you ever think you'll need to bring in others to help you?

A: There was a peak in mid-February when I considered bringing someone on. But it's been a little quieter. There will be lulls, but then it will start up again — maybe after this interview gets posted.

Q: How many compliments have you received?

A: I tried to count them on the one-month anniversary, and it was such a long task. I'd say probably close to 750 or 800.

Q: Has anyone that's been complimented written back to you?

A: Sometimes. And sometimes they ask who it was and I say, "No way. I'm sorry about that." Someone messaged me that I should turn off my location services because my phone could reveal where I was. The person said, "I know you're in the cafeteria." Well, I was actually not there, so apparently the location services aren't that accurate.

Q: Have you received any comments that really touched you?

A: I thought you were going to say compliments for people that I *don't like* — I do receive those but my personal compass tells me to post them anyways. To answer your question, yeah, some of them are really, really nice, especially when they come in for people I've seen on campus and I know they're having a hard time. It's important to help people feel like they belong here.

Q: Why did you choose Bucknell?

A: It is a beautiful campus and a good school. I was kind of looking for a town like this because I'm from a city. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone a little bit. Lewisburg is beautiful. I like the school spirit aspect here. I feel like there is a real sense of community. People really love it here.