Becoming Bucknellians

Student doing activities
Becoming Bucknellians
Bucknell’s immersive New Student Orientation starts the undergraduate experience off right.


The excitement is palpable. You can hear it in the exuberant cheers that ripple through campus, feel it in the warm greetings of soon-to-be friends, and see it in the smiles of young people embarking on their next great adventure — becoming a Bucknellian.

The date is Aug. 17, and Bucknell University has just welcomed more than 1,000 first-year and transfer students to campus for a momentous beginning to their college journeys. Held across the five days leading up to the fall semester, New Student Orientation immerses incoming classes in endless opportunities to meet and bond with peers, experience the collegiate classroom and cement their place as Bucknell’s newest generation of scholars.

It’s a program that stands out from those at other institutions, not only for its impressively detailed schedule but also for its thoughtful design.

“We want first-year students to feel like they are active and welcomed members of our community from the moment they move in,” says Adrienne Jensen-Doray ’09, who has served as director of the first-year experience since 2021. “Achieving that kind of meaningful integration requires time and intentionality.”

From late-night spirit rallies to academic advising to the hallmark Candlelighting ceremony, this year’s Orientation enveloped the Class of 2026 in the three central pillars of the Bucknell experience: community, scholarship and tradition.

Student having fun on campus
Campus gathering
People hugging
Student gathered in a line
Tradition bookends the Bucknell Orientation experience, connecting each new class to the generations of Bucknellians who have gone before.
It manifests in events such as the Matriculation ceremony, held at the conclusion of the students’ first day on campus. Symbolizing the transition from admitted applicants to enrolled students, members of the class processed along a lighted pathway through the Christy Mathewson Gates — a trek they’ll mirror when they exit the same gates at Commencement.

“Hearing the alma mater play as we walked through was just so surreal,” says Hailey Drapcho ’26, a literary studies and classics & ancient Mediterranean studies double-major from Pittsburgh. “It’s a moment we’ve been waiting so long for, and I can tell right now that it’s something I’m going to look back on in four years.”

There to help mark the Class of 2026’s official welcome into the Bucknell community were University leaders, including President John Bravman, Provost Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, Religious & Spiritual Life Director Kurt Nelson, and Assistant Vice President & Dean of Admissions Kevin Mathes ’07 — who shared a speech highlighting the class’ impressive accomplishments and unique attributes.

At the heart of Orientation is the “hope that, by the end, each student is reaffirmed in their decision to become a Bucknellian,” says Jensen-Doray.
“What makes that hope a reality is teamwork — from Facilities and Dining to Student Health, Public Safety and our passionate student Orientation leaders.” That level of coordination is why there’s no shortage of ways for Bucknell’s newest students to explore, learn and build relationships through events that run from sunup to past midnight.

A high-energy icebreaker at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium helps introduce members of the class to one another, while another event groups students by residence hall to compete in an Olympic-style series of competitions.

Led by enthusiastic teams of Orientation Assistants, the newest Bucknellians venture into Downtown Lewisburg for an exclusive shopping experience at the Bucknell bookstore, as well as an afternoon of discovering local shops, eateries and iconic landmarks in the town they now call home.

Students having a good time
Student speaking on the microphone
Students walking together
Between signing up for clubs and grabbing selfies with Bucky, students also meet with academic advisers, learn about global education opportunities and gather with faculty and staff to discuss the summer’s Common Reading book. This year’s selection was George Takei’s memoir They Called Us Enemy.

For students like Nikita Bityutskiy ’26 — an engineering major from Silver Spring, Md. — it was the perfect first impression of student life and scholarship at Bucknell.

“Settling in at college is obviously a lot to navigate, but it’s cool to finally experience it all and to see how many people are here to encourage us as we take this next step in our lives,” he says. “Knowing there’s a huge support system set up for us from the jump makes me feel confident.”

That sense of confidence was bolstered when the Class of 2026 gathered on the last night of Orientation for the Convocation ceremony, the final event before the semester began on Monday, Aug. 22. In his address, President Bravman urged the class not to view fear as a roadblock to success but as a challenge to rise above: “The biggest obstacle is our doubt … Have faith that the world can indeed change. Have faith in yourself and know that, with the education you will receive here, there will be few people more prepared or more capable to change the world than you.”

Students on the computer
Professor speaking to students
Students actives