Who is John Bravman: Insight to what Bucknell’s president actually does

Bel Carden, Special Features Editor

Although most students recognize John Bravman, the University’s current president, by both name and appearance not many would be able to give much detail about the man beyond his title. John Bravman has been president of the University since 2010, following a 35-year career at his alma mater, Stanford University. During his time at Stanford, Bravman acted as the Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for undergraduate education, Dean of the Freshman and Sophomore College and Bing Centennial Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He has also earned a Bachelor of Science, Masters of Science, and Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in materials science and engineering. He is the University’s 17th president and longest-serving.  Beyond his academic accomplishments, Bravman has also earned accolades such as the Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and serves as the chair on the board of directors at Geisinger Health System. 

When asked how specifically he would explain the job of a university’s present, Bravman responded as follows: “As president, I serve as chief executive officer of Bucknell University and as a Trustee on the Board, having all rights of the position as a Trustee as permitted under the University’s bylaws (except for managing my own contract). I am subject to oversight by the University Board of Trustees and am a tenured member of the faculty. My responsibilities include providing vision for Bucknell to further its mission, ensuring the institution’s fiscal health, and demonstrating continuous leadership and direction for the planning and operation of all aspects of the University in conformity with various policies, rules, regulations and laws. I also have significant fundraising responsibilities, which become even greater before and during a campaign. I meet and speak with a variety of constituents (students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, media, etc.) each year in a wide variety of venues and locations (auditoriums, arenas, and stadiums, classrooms, reception halls, tents, Zoom, etc.). I also meet regularly with faculty, staff and student leaders on issues that are important to the University. Finally, I represent Bucknell in a variety of off-campus roles as well, including as a member of the Patriot League President’s group,” Bravman said.

As someone who oversees so many different aspects of the University, another essential component of Bravman’s position as president is meeting with students, groups, faculty and other organizations on campus. Bravman highlighted this aspect of the job when discussing what his typical week or day may look like. “I meet with my senior staff, and have frequent calls or meetings with members of the Board of Trustees. I often speak with students, faculty and staff one-on-one, to student groups, and as an invited guest in classrooms. I travel to meetings off campus, attend various campus events and attend fundraising and alumni events. I read reports, respond to correspondence, contemplate strategy and vision and prepare for speeches and events. I spend a good amount of time with parents, informally and through the Parents’ Board,” Bravman said.

He also emphasized how he misses working with students in a classroom environment, therefore he looks forward to these interactions with Bucknell Student Government, one-on-one group meetings and other possible classroom visits as a guest speaker. 

As such a prominent member of the University community, some would argue that in many cases he is the face of the community. Bravman is no stranger to the opinions, both positive and negative, surrounding the University. Although Bravman is involved in many of the major decisions concerning the university, he also explained that he does not alone hold the decision making power, “As president, I rely heavily on the expertise, skills, collaboration and strategic vision of my senior team, which includes the provost; general counsel; vice presidents for strategic initiatives, human resources, finance & administration, enrollment management, University advancement, library & information technology, and communications; and director of athletics. I work closely with them to evaluate and enact any changes that affect our entire student body or campus community. The Board of Trustees is the ultimate fiduciary of the university and has both prescribed and normative boundaries for the president’s and their own authority. In general, a university president has less discretionary authority than does a private sector or corporate CEO,” Bravman said.

Ultimately, Bravman’s central goal is providing a better future for the University and allowing the University to grow and change with society. He explained that the goal can only be achieved through the help of the students as well, encouraging students to voice their opinions and incite change through engaging in student government and being active in student groups. 

He concluded the interview by discussing how now more than ever students have the opportunity to make a difference for the large community, “Each student can also make a positive change on campus just by doing the right thing. As we continue on-campus education, we all have a part to play in keeping the Bucknell community safe and healthy.” 

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