From the President
Illustration of John C. Bravman, President
Illustration: Joel Kimmel
The Centrality of Community Service
People often ask me to explain the purpose of higher education. They cite the rising cost of attending college and question the return on that investment. I believe that such ledger-line comparisons too often take priority over the true worth of a college degree, which includes adaptability, a nimble mind, intellectual depth and a commitment to society at large. This issue of Bucknell Magazine demonstrates the benefit local communities and the world at large accrue when public-service-minded individuals such as our featured alumni and current students invest their minds and hearts in serving the common good.
Our students, faculty and staff have done a lot of local service over the years, from tutoring at-risk students after school or inmates at the state prisons to serving free meals to the underprivileged. And they’ve engaged the nation and the world. Take, for instance, our long-term commitments in New Orleans and Nicaragua, where students have helped rebuild communities after devastating hurricanes. As Jamie Cistoldi Lee ’99, one of the original members of the now 20-year-old Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua, says, “Other institutions do civic engagement, but Bucknell asks students to think differently about the way they situate themselves in the world.”

The many ways our students serve the community represent a critical aspect of active learning. By providing service opportunities and challenges, we place students in a milieu they have not encountered before. We are preparing them for a changing world.

At Bucknell, we want to elevate and build on what our faculty, staff and students have done for decades, making community service a more visible and public commitment. Going forward, civic engagement will be more central to Bucknell’s mission — it is one of the priorities of our soon-to-be-unveiled strategic plan, which will call for the finalization of a civic-action plan that is already close to implementation. Titled Engaged Bucknell, the new civic-engagement plan, led by Professor Coralynn Davis and Director of the Place Studies Program Shaunna Barnhart, details how serving the greater good will be a more integral part of the student experience.

Engaged Bucknell focuses on: University-wide integration of engagement, coordination of efforts, access for all students, mutuality to ensure both students and community organizations benefit from partnerships, and communication. It calls for improved visibility of our civic-engagement efforts and connections with alumni who support it.

I believe that a significant outcome of postsecondary education should be creating well-educated people who engage in lives of active citizenship. My own life has taught me how important it is to prepare for a future you don’t expect.

As a kid, I thought about becoming a physician — a bold thought for someone whose parents did not attend college — but medicine did not become part of my career path. Now, after spending 35 years in college education — itself, a wholly unexpected development — I’ve wound up as board chair of Geisinger Health, which has a 100-plus-year history as a major rural health-care provider in central Pennsylvania. As a volunteer leader, I lend my skills and my time to help chart the future of a $7 billion, 30,000-employee operation. It’s a role I didn’t expect, but despite the many daunting aspects, it is immensely satisfying. Just as I have stretched myself to leave my comfort zone and do more to help my community, I expect our students will commit themselves to greater engagement, locally and globally. And the world will be better for it.

Copy of John C. Bravman signature

John C. Bravman