May 15, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba

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Meet Bucknell's 2018 student Commencement speaker.

Growing up in Rockville, Md., Jackson Pierce-Felker '18 never planned to hike solo across the Isle of Skye in a driving rain. He never expected to study the effects of exogenous oxytocin on voles. And he certainly never foresaw himself forming a boy band at a college in the heart of Pennsylvania.

Yet this year's student Commencement speaker did all that and more after taking a leap of faith and coming to Bucknell as a Posse scholar.

Student Commencement speaker Jackson Pierce-Felker ’18 has explored a variety of interests at Bucknell. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

"I had people looking out for me and seeing things in me that I didn't see in myself," said  Pierce-Felker, a psychology and English-creative writing major. "That was enough to give me the courage to pursue the University's multitude of resources and opportunities."

His experiences included working as a residential adviser, pursuing his passion for writing poetry through a Stadler Center summer seminar, studying abroad in England and forming a campus-based "rap supergroup slash boy band" called KP140 with classmate Trey Johnson '18.

The importance of embracing new experiences is a core message in Pierce-Felker's Commencement address — and it's a value he plans to live beyond Bucknell. He will spend his post-graduation summer serving as a property management intern at a flower nursery in Maine, where, along with working, he'll learn to play piano and sail. He'll also prepare for the Graduate Record Examination, with the intent of eventually combining his interests in writing and psychology to open a holistic wellness center in an underserved community, where stigmas about seeking mental health services might linger.

"I'd like to show people the healing power of art," he said, noting that his mother works as a therapist at a county jail. "My mom would tell me stories about people who were lost in the system. From a young age, I knew that I was privileged, and I thought the only way I could give back to the world was to help people and keep them from slipping through those cracks."

The need for students to advocate for a better world after college is also central to Pierce-Felker's Commencement address.

Noting that Bucknell students have great potential to be "catalysts for change," he said, "This is an opportunity to remind people that we have that power. Don't let that fall asleep. Don't lose that light inside of you."

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