Bucknell was established in 1846 as the University at Lewisburg, the nation’s 100th college or university in order of founding. It was renamed in 1886 in honor of William Bucknell, a major benefactor. It has enrolled women since 1883 and, although founded by Pennsylvania Baptists especially to train teachers and missionaries, it always has been open to students and faculty of all religious faiths and it is nondenominational today.
Over the years, the University has steadily evolved from a local, denominational institution to a highly visible national institution. The 3,597 undergraduates and 71 graduate students are drawn from most states and 55 countries, including 20 percent who are students of color and 7 percent from abroad. Prospective undergraduate interest is such that only 33 percent of applicants can be admitted, and 58 percent of those who enroll and provide a class rank are from the top one-tenth of their secondary school classes.
Among the institutions sharing the interests of Bucknell’s applicants each year are most of the Ivy League universities, other prominent doctoral institutions such as Duke and Carnegie Mellon, and many of the finest liberal arts colleges, underscoring Bucknell’s considerable stature in its 173rd year.
The range of institutions with which observers align Bucknell bespeaks the University’s distinctive institutional type. This type is decidedly undergraduate and collegiate, providing for personalized, liberal learning, yet it incorporates the curricular complexity and scope of significantly larger institutions.
Professional and preprofessional programs in the College of Engineering, music, education, and the Freeman College of Management do more than coexist with the liberal arts and sciences. All of these programs operate with obvious excellence, and they often function synergistically to enhance the intellectual transformation of students that is Bucknell’s raison d’etre.
The Bucknell model for higher education dates to the late 19th century and the earliest years of the 20th century, when the University’s fourth president, John Howard Harris, oversaw the institution of the engineering programs, the expansion of the education program, and the introduction of prelaw and premed programs.
Bucknell University awards bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in more than 50 fields, including nine interdisciplinary programs – animal behavior, cell biology/biochemistry, comparative humanities, mathematical economics, environmental studies, international relations, Latin American studies, neuroscience, and women’s & gender studies. Approximately 66 percent of the students are enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, 19 percent in the College of Engineering, and 15 percent in the Freeman College of Management. A small number of master’s degrees are awarded in selected fields.
The undergraduate curriculum capitalizes on the strengths of Bucknell’s entering students – the drive to succeed, a curiosity to understand, a desire to find meaning in daily life – while providing the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Requirements are structured to develop context – historical, cultural, and geographic – for the study of nature and societies; the analytical tools and ability to reason; initiative and motivation to learn; and basic writing, quantification, and problem-solving skills.
Because students will be living and working in a world where intercultural competence and technology will demand broad perspective and transferable habits of thought, Bucknell includes both independent and collaborative learning, as well as focused study in international and modern culture and issues, as cornerstones of the undergraduate experience. About 50 percent of each graduating class has studied abroad in approved programs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
Great Teaching and Other Assets
Notwithstanding the variety of intellectual commitments and practices represented at Bucknell, the faculty aspire to be great teachers universally and single-mindedly. They practice a most direct, energetic, and committed form of pedagogy, one result of which is a rich variety of close intellectual encounters between faculty and their students. Undergraduate research is emphasized in all areas of the curriculum, and it is made possible by the high level of the faculty’s research and scholarship. Bucknell’s faculty consists of about 361 full-time members, 99 percent with the Ph.D. or another terminal degree.
The faculty’s strong relations with students have much to do with Bucknell’s extraordinary graduation rates – 88 percent within six years – which annually rank among the highest few in the nation. Employment and graduate school placement figures are also very high.
Bucknell’s additional assets include an $851 million endowment, an operating budget of $241 million, and a network of more than 50,000 alumni throughout the nation and the world. The 450-acre campus is among the most attractive in the country; most of its more than 100 facilities are described later in the catalog. Of particular note are the highly regarded Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library (1951), the handsome Weis Center for the Performing Arts (1988), the capacious Rooke Science Center (1991), the Weis Music Building (2000), the Breakiron Engineering Building (2004), the LEED Silver-certified Academic West (2013), and LEED Silver-certified Hildreth-Mirza Hall (2018). In all, there are 14 LEED-certified buildings.
The University provides comprehensive residential and student activities programs to support the educational mission and to promote personal growth and responsibility. Ninety-two percent of Bucknell students live on campus, enjoying options that include seven residential colleges. More than 150 student organizations create a wide range of cocurricular and extracurricular opportunity in the arts, media, community service, religion, and other areas. An active Greek system involves about 52 percent of the eligible (non-first-year) students.
Bucknell’s athletics program is particularly rich and distinctive. Approximately one-fifth of all students participate in 27 varsity sports at the Division I level. Bucknell is a member of the Patriot League, whose member institutions share a commitment to the primacy of the academic experience. Bison Athletics has captured the Patriot League’s all-sports championship in 18 of the 28 years contested. Bucknell annually ranks among the national leaders in student-athlete graduation rate, including #5 in the most recent survey in 2018. Bucknell ranked #1 as recently as 2013.
The campus is bordered by the Susquehanna River and Lewisburg, a historic small town in scenic central Pennsylvania. Most of the mid-Atlantic region’s major cities are within three or four-hour drives, including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., and the University uses their resources on a regular basis. Still, the day-to-day life of faculty and students is clearly nonurban and nonsuburban, and the walk from downtown to the University among stately 19th-century homes, in the light of the borough’s signature street lamps, evokes the sense of an earlier, calmer America. Lewisburg also is ranked among the nation’s “most livable” small towns on the basis of key resources such as health care, safety, and the economic base.