Emma Shaffer ’23 posting up in basketball game
Photo: Emily Paine
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Team co-captain Emma Shaffer ’23 scored a career-high 24 points in a game against American University in February.

Holding Court

by Bryan Wendell
Emma Shaffer ’23 headshot
Photo: Rafael Suanes
As the daughter of two former Bison athletes (Kirsten Ellison ’92, P’23, basketball, and Robert Shaffer ’91, P’23, football), Emma Shaffer ’23 has Bucknell in her blood.

Despite being raised in a Bucknell household, Shaffer grew up near Cincinnati and didn’t visit the campus until her junior year of high school when Bucknell’s basketball team began recruiting her.

Shaffer has been a standout player since at least the sixth grade, when she led her team to an Amateur Athletic Union national championship. As her squad defeated teams from as far away as Alaska, colleges began to take notice.

Bucknell offered Shaffer more than just the chance to play Division I sports. Shaffer recognized that Bucknell’s academic opportunities would prepare her for an array of careers once her time on the court ended.

“I knew I wanted to study business for a really long time,” says the markets, innovation & design major. “My dad was an accounting major and had an influence on that.”

Courses like Exploring Management and Introduction to Organization and Management helped her build foundational business skills. Hands-on experiences offered through student organizations like the Women in Finance club added real-world flavor. And then came the internship.

The summer before her senior year, Shaffer completed a 10-week internship in capital markets operations at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati. Five hundred miles from her home court at Sojka Pavilion, Shaffer had joined a different kind of team — one where she was the rookie once again.

“Going through the internship, I realized I really want to do this kind of work,” she says. “After a couple of days there, [my boss said], ‘Wow, I really see how much you speak your mind.’ I definitely think basketball helped with that.”

That boss was impressed. So much so that the company gave Shaffer a return offer — a formal invitation to join the Fifth Third Bank team full time after graduation. She accepted.

Even while making her mark in Cincinnati, Shaffer remained focused on her Bison squad. After finishing her workday at Fifth Third Bank, Shaffer would text her first-year teammates to check in and answer questions about the team. When she returned to campus for the fall, Shaffer regularly walked or drove with her teammates to class and helped them navigate the nuances of college life.

“I’m just being there for them — the way my older teammates were there for me,” says Shaffer, one of just two seniors on a team dominated by first-years and sophomores. “During my first year, I was still trying to get my footing. Now, I have to be that voice when things are good or bad.”

Shaffer, a team captain and the Bison leader in rebounds and blocks, says she hopes she’s creating a foundation on which her teammates can build.

“I hope they say I had a great impact,” she says, “and that I paved the way for people who will be there next year.”

Instant Replay

Career highlight
“We went into the locker room to get our pregame talk. When we came out to play, there were hundreds of kids from local schools all screaming. Getting to talk with them after the game and signing autographs was just super fun.”
“It’s a fight because lineups change, and you’re never sure if you’re going to start the next game. It keeps you on your toes.”
“We’re a really young team, so it’s important to be patient and lean in with all the first-years and sophomores. I want to help them however I can.”