May 13, 2015, BY Heather Johns

"I believe in fresh starts, new beginnings, clean slates," wrote Ruby Fako '15 four years ago. It was the opening line in her first assignment as an incoming Bucknell University student from Gaborone, Botswana, and her university journey was just beginning.

On May 17, 2015, Fako and her classmates will together begin a new journey, as Bucknell alumni — and as the student speaker at Bucknell's 165th Commencement ceremony, she will help usher the Class of 2015 to their own fresh starts, new beginnings and clean slates. | Watch Commencement live online.

Home away from home
When Fako's high school adviser asked her to describe the perfect university, she said she wanted to go somewhere not in the middle of nowhere, but also not in a metropolis, "so I could focus on the community and not on the city." Fako also said her school should be "small enough where I could feel at home."

Today, as a graduating economics major and French minor, she marvels at how apt her description was. "People say, 'You're so far from home,'" she said. "But I don't even feel it. I feel very cared for here."

Fako has made the most of her time away from Botswana. She went abroad during her junior year to Tours with the Bucknell en France program, where she was "amazed how language works. You keep making mistakes and learning how to communicate, but there's a point where it snaps into place, and you start dreaming in French."

Learning through mistakes is a concept that has motivated Fako since her college search. The financial crisis was in full swing when she was shortlisting university choices, and it made a big impression on her.

"Through that experience, learning about how intertwined businesses and companies are with people's investments and livelihoods interested me," she explained. "After graduate school, I want to work in risk management and finance to better the way people's investments are used."

As a Bucknell student, Fako has been involved with The Gathering, a campus ministry organization, Latino Dance Corner and the Bucknell Africa Student Association. But she counts being a Residential Assistant (RA) as her most influential experience at Bucknell. "I've been an RA since my sophomore year," said Fako. "We're focused on getting everyone engaged with each other and aware of the resources available on campus."

She spent her senior year as an RA for first-years in the Discovery Residential College, which gave her the unique opportunity to look back at the same time she was looking forward.

"My first-years have definitely made my senior year special as I've spent time with them, learned about them and experienced all the first-year opportunities that Bucknell offers," she said.

In addition to teaching her to lead, Fako said being an RA "has given me an avenue to truly care about people, and be able to back that up by connecting them with resources and being there for them as a mentor and as a friend, as well as helping them out when they need it."

Fako said she'll never forget her experiences as an undergraduate. And when she addresses the Class of 2015 at Commencement, she won't ignore the words she wrote four years ago — when, like now, she was on the cusp of a brand-new adventure.

And she's not even nervous.

"I think there's something to be grateful about when you get to share something of yourself with people," she said. "You leave a mark. Hopefully it's a good mark, and one people will remember for good reasons."

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