Four years ago, Bucknell welcomed the first class of students to its newly established College of Management, which was officially launched as the University's third college in June 2017.
The launch of the college brought fresh momentum to management education at Bucknell, and the acceleration has only continued since. In just the last four years, the college was named in honor of Ken Freeman '72; hired Raquel Alexander as its inaugural dean; introduced new majors and minors; and established innovative and reimagined opportunities to explore management in action everywhere from Silicon Valley to Costa Rica to Dublin, Ireland, to name just a few milestones.
Through it all, the senior management majors who will be graduating at this May's Commencement ceremony haven't just had a front-row seat; they've often been in the driver's seat.
"It was such a unique position to be the part of the first official graduating class," says Amy Yowell '21, a managing for sustainability major from Betterton, Md. "Not only did the curriculum change, but there were so many more opportunities to help shape the experiences of my fellow students."
As a member of the college's student advisory board, Yowell and other Freeman College students got to guide the direction of events like Freeman Week, a weeklong celebration of management education at Bucknell, as well as new programs like the recently launched majors in business analytics and management & organizations.
"There are always new opportunities arising — I was the first-ever student representative for the National Retail Association, for instance," Yowell says. "There are so many different opportunities here to get involved that it feels like most of the learning happens outside the classroom. Being able to get as involved as possible has been my favorite part of my experience."
The Small College Difference
Those new opportunities have only added to the outstanding, personalized educational experience that drew the Freeman College's Class of 2021 to Bucknell in the first place. For many, Bucknell rose to the top in their college search because it offered access to the opportunities of a larger college in an environment where they'd know their professors and classmates by name.
"I went to a small private school in Bethesda, Md., where the connection with teachers and professors and deans really stood out to me. I wanted to have that similar experience in college," says Maanik Lal '21, a markets, innovation & design (MIDE) major from Potomac, Md., who was also a Division I athlete with the Bison football team.
Millo Lazarczyk '21 came to Bucknell with interests that at a glance seemed at odds. He'd been performing in plays since he was 7, and in high school took the stage both in school productions and with a regional show choir. But he was also drawn to business schools and the chance to help create something new by working at a startup after graduating.
When it came time to apply to college, Lazarczyk thought he would have to make a choice: business school or music conservatory. What drew him to Bucknell was the rare opportunity to pursue both interests simultaneously in equally challenging programs.
"There was only one other school on my list that would allow me that opportunity, and I was really interested in pursuing these dual interests in two very different areas," says Lazarczyk, a MIDE and theatre double-major from Whitehouse Station, N.J. "It was also the only school I applied to without visiting, but the MIDE major really interested me because it just seemed so different from anywhere else. I did visit after I got in, and I really fell in love with the small classes and tight-knit community."
James Odiorne '21's path to Bucknell wasn't as conventional. The global management major from Havertown, Pa., transferred to the Freeman College after a semester at another school, where had trouble connecting with his classmates and professors. The difference at Bucknell was apparent right away, Odiorne says.
"Bucknell was one of two schools that was going to let me apply and come in as a first-year student, and I really wanted that experience — Bucknell has a sensational Orientation program," he says. "What drew me to Bucknell is that they gave me that chance, and I was able to hit the ground running. They do a really good job of making sure that happens."
Hitting the Ground Running
Those opportunities to get involved from the get-go soon grew into chances to effect real-world change with the skills the students were building in their management courses.
Over their four years, graduating Freeman College students raised $10,000 to renovate a safe house for sexual assault and human trafficking victims through a company they created in a Management 101 course. They worked with a local business to develop an expansion plan to Australia and helped retail giant PetSmart develop new products to ease animals' separation anxiety when their owners return to in-person work after the pandemic. They managed $3 million of Bucknell's endowment through the Student Managed Investment Fund.
"The experiential programming, in which we interact with alumni, has been really awesome, and helped me develop a fuller perspective of different opportunities," Lazarczyk says. "I participated in the fall New York City trip my sophomore year. I've gone to numerous employer events with alumni from different organizations, including CEOs and heads of different departments. I did an externship with the Atlanta Hawks. It's been really awesome to sample those real-world work experiences before actually going out there."
For Lauren LeoGrande '21, a MIDE major from Locust Valley, N.Y., serving as a voice for Freeman College students through the student advisory board has offered opportunities not only to chart the direction of her own future, but of the college's as well.
"Last summer, we created an official Code of Ethics for the college," she says. "We all were very invested in the future of the college, and it was nice seeing our hard work pay off in a way that would help grow the college. We all grew very close and shared a passion for strengthening the college for the future students who follow us."
A Name That Carries Weight
As they come closer to graduation, the students say they're also learning how the Bucknell name opens doors in the professional world.
Ryan Williams '21, an accounting & financial management major from Whippany, N.J., has a job lined up at global accounting firm PwC after graduation. When he first applied, Williams wasn't sure a job at such a prestigious company would really be in reach, but a connection with an alumnus there quickly shifted his perspective.
"I emailed him, and 30 minutes later he replied to see if I wanted to set up a call," Williams says. "He walked me through the whole process. The fact that he would drop everything that he's doing and call me in the middle of a pandemic when his whole company is trying to revolutionize the way that they're working from home, it just really hit home — I realized how great the network really is here."
And as they look ahead to starting their careers, members of the graduating class are also looking forward to seeing what's next for the Freeman College, including the opening of a new Management/Art & Art History Building this fall.
"It feels special, but looking in the long run, I think it's going to feel a lot more special 20, 25, 30 years from now," says Brian Rubenstein '21, an accounting & financial management major from Berkeley Heights, N.J. "With the amount of changes that have happened in our four years here, it's going to be really exciting to see how that rapid change continues to happen."