People of the year

Julie Spierer, Special Features Editor

At the end of every school year, the Editorial Board of The Bucknellian nominates and votes to determine three people who have made significant contributions to the University community.

This year, Jackson Pierce-Felker ’18, Anna Millar ’18, and Rachel Stewart were selected as the two Students of the Year, and the Faculty/Staff Member of the Year, respectively.

Student of the Year, Jackson Pierce-Felker

Had it not been for D.C. Posse 10, senior Jackson Pierce-Felker would not have found the University and would not have had the opportunity to impact the campus through his involvement in a myriad of organizations, clubs and activities, drive to succeed, and passion to make the campus the best place it can be.

Jackson was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up just outside Washington D.C., and so coming into the University, Jackson hoped to find a new sense of home in a different location. In order to do so, he grew acquainted with a number of faculty and staff members who helped the campus body feel like family.

When asked who has acted as his mentor throughout his college career he answered, “there are a thousand.” Karen Marosi was previously the Associate Dean of Engineering, as well as Pierce-Felker’s posse mentor. “She was basically my campus mom,” Pierce-Felker said. He also recognizes the impact visiting assistant professor of English Katie Hays had upon him. “From my freshman year she looked out for me and saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Pierce-Felker said.

In order to best facilitate students’ acclimation to the University community, Pierce-Felker acted as an Residential Advisor (RA) for several years, and ultimately held the position of lead RA for independent living on campus.

His involvement on campus includes a wide variety of different activities and campus jobs, including student calling. He previously served as the Editor-in-Chief for the literary magazine, “Fire and Ice,” and attempted to form a chapter of a group he called, “Students for Sensible Drug Policy.” This year he is one of the two head reunion ambassadors, and looks forward to this summer’s reunion.

When asked what he felt most passionate about on campus, he said KP140, what he described as a “boy-band rap group.”

“It’s taken me a long time to accept that I’m an artist, being able to create something from nothing and share that with people has been amazing… When you make something and share it, and have these people respond to the music — it’s phenomenal” Pierce-Felker said.

Pierce-Felker explains his biggest inspiration is Kanye West. “I mean that genuinely… He is so unashamed and unafraid to be himself. He understands art differently than the rest of us, which puts him in a perpetual state of trend-setting… That music saved my life when I was an angsty high-schooler… And anyone who feels differently about him can talk to me. I’d go to bat for Kanye.” Pierce-Felker said.

Pierce-Felker’s life after graduation will be characterized by new places and new pursuits. This summer, Pierce-Felker will move to a rural town in Maine to live on a very old flower nursery that has not been in operation for a while. Here, he will help the family, restore the property, as well as learn how to play the piano under the instruction of the nursery’s owner.

As a creative writing and psychology double major, Pierce-Felker is interested in exploring the arts and helping people, and the ways that these two may interact and overlap with one another.

After his first-year, Pierce-Felker had the opportunity to intern as case manager at Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen in D.C. “They also had a permanent housing program. I got to see people’s lives change, from street to home,” Pierce-Felker said.

Two summers following, he was given the opportunity to attend the University’s Seminar for Undergraduate Poets, where students from universities around the country were given the opportunity to complete writing workshops for three weeks. “I had never been so comfortable and happy, it was so beautiful here on campus during the summer”

In the future, he aspires to attend graduate school for social work. “My long term goal is to open a holistic wellness center. People respond differently to different types of treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) doesn’t work for everyone, and a lot of the therapies we’ve developed in the past are based on non-representative samples. There are many ways to address our problems, through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or music therapy. It would be cool to have a one-stop shop for everything, like a liberal arts education for your soul. Finding art did a lot for me, and I have a responsibility to share that with the rest of the world,” Pierce-Felker said.

One of his favorite experiences at the University has been research with assistant professor of psychology Jennie Stevenson on alcohol levels in voles. He engaged in social bonding experiments with the rats to observe the ways in which isolation affected their drinking habits. As he had never even been in a lab before, he expresses great thanks for Stephenson’s immense patience throughout the process as his research professor.

Pierce-Felker has recently been selected as the commencement speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony.

To underclassmen students, Pierce-Felker imparts the following words of wisdom: “Who you are right now is exactly who you need to be. It’s okay not to be chasing something. I spent so much time here trying to hustle and overburden myself with extracurriculars to achieve an imaginary and impossible standard I set for myself, but that whole time I could have been at peace with who I was. Appreciate the moment because that’s the only moment you can exist in.”

Staff member of the year, Rachel Stewart

When asked how she ended up at the University, Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Rachel Stewart responded, “sort of by accident.” However, the impact that she has had upon numerous University students and improvement to campus life after two and a half years at the University is no accident.

In her undergraduate career, Stewart studied psychology and sociology. Stewart took several classes surrounding topics in gender and sexuality, which led her to receive a job with the Violence Against Women Prevention Program, a similar ally program as SpeakUP. After leading workshops surrounding sexual violence, bystander intervention, and consent, Stewart realized her passion: preventing sexual violence.

After graduating from Harvard with a masters degree in higher education, Stewart scrolled down a page of job openings and stumbled upon her current position. She knew she wanted to make a difference on college campuses at an administrative level, and this was her opportunity.

“I love really close connections with students and being able to create an environment that any student can come in and vent to me and talk about things in their lives… Sometimes we just eat candy and lay on the floor and talk about life. Being able to be a mentor for students is something that is really important to me. And making sure that everyone has someone that they can come to. If they want me to be that person, I want to be that person for them,” Stewart said.

Overseeing the SpeakUP program is one of Stewart’s main responsibilities. As well as providing students with the adequate training to become a SpeakUP peer, she maintains a general oversight of the program. She engages in research to ensure that the University’s initiatives are informed by most recent studies and data.

“My biggest goal is ending sexual violence, but to break it down to a smaller goal, it would be making sure that every student on this campus is protected and is informed of the resources available – and hopefully we can get the word out about everything,” Stewart said.

She notes that the University’s students are immensely passionate and talented, and is grateful for the joy working at the University has brought her. Seeing the growth that the students she has known have underwent to become student leaders has been her favorite part of working at the University.

Stewart encourages students to attend SpeakUP workshops and events, enroll in a women’s and gender studies course, and open discussion about sexual violence with others. Although the subject is complicated, there are so many sources to seek information, and if need be, so many resources to find help.

“Don’t be afraid to really stand up for your values. It can be really scary, especially when you are young and when you have so many different social dynamics going on, but for me the best thing I could ever do was finding my passion and throwing myself into it, and not caring who was judging me for being a feminist or caring so deeply about sexual violence… I set out to make colleges and universities better, and that’s what I am going to do,” Stewart said.

Student of the year, Anna Millar

Anna Millar ’18 challenges students “to push themselves out of their comfort zones and meet as many new people as possible, and make themselves as uncomfortable as possible. There are so many incredible things to experience on this campus, but it is so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day.”

On campus, Millar is a geography major, an intern in the Career Development Center with Emily Dietrich, working to organize the Externship Program, an Executive intern in the Office of Alumni Relations, and sits on the student section committee, student experience committee, and senior giving drive. She formerly led her class as president for two years, and was a member of Bucknell Student Government for three years. Millar also rowed on the women’s rowing team for two years.

Out of all of her different involvements on campus, she feels most passionate about her leadership as a RA for three years, and her current position as lead RA for small houses. Specifically, she most loved serving for two years as the RA for first-years.

“It’s an incredible thing to have the opportunity to be one of the first people they get to see and look up to. Knowing I had to model behavior and helping them adjust, developing a community on the hall, helping them get involved, and helping them learn what Bucknell can be for them; being there for them when they’re high and when they’re low, I feel like I have learned so much about myself, and it’s an incredible thing to be so vulnerable with someone else. I still have residents who come up to me and say ‘I remember when you were there for me at this time.’ I sometimes even forget what they are talking about, but they always remember” Millar said.

It was no surprise that she accredited her Community Director Rebecca Haupt as being one of her greatest mentors. Before Haupt, Millar says she “had many different ideas and passions,” but Haupt “helped [Millar] to culminate what [her] four years have been, and helped [her] to solidify [her] authentic self.”

After graduation, Millar will continue to serve as a leader in her career as she embarks on an experience working at an elementary school in Charlotte, N.C. for Teach for America. After completing research with her geography advisor, assistant professor of geography Vanessa Massaro in studying incarceration rates in Philadelphia, she realized she desired to work closely with minority concerns. She also thinks of Massaro as one of her greatest mentors at the University. “She is the reason I’m a geography major, stayed at Bucknell when things were hard sophomore year… Without Vanessa’s guidance and mentorship, I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for Geography or prison reform and my relationship with her really exemplifies the power of a liberal arts education and the opportunities that an education at Bucknell provides,” Millar said.

After working with Teach for America, Millar ultimately wishes to engage in prison reform. After her research, she took a positive psychology class and recognized that she was immensely interested in making changes in the prison system. “There are so many assumptions as to what people did and you create this relationship with these people, and realize that they are just as much of humans as you are… they’re real people with feelings and families,” Millar said.

A common theme Millar described was the idea of vulnerability and empathy. Her biggest inspiration is her dorm parent and admissions director in high school, Julia Sabourin, and Millar feels that she exhibited these qualities in abundance.

“She inspired me to be who I am. She’s really loud and very similar to myself and you can’t miss her presence. She taught me early on to find a balance between empath and vulnerability and enforcing rules. When I look back at the relationship I created with her I realize that’s what inspired me to get involved in residential advising. I carried over the same techniques she taught me, and I feel her mentorship has really made me influential in that position here at Bucknell” Millar said.

Before she came to the University, Millar constantly heard about the great experiences she would have in her four years. She explained that anytime she brought up the University, everyone would have the most positive responses. The University allowed her to take the gap year she wanted, for which she was grateful.

She defined the highlight of her experiences as reunion weekend. “It was great connecting with a new group of students in the summertime. It was really cool when there were no defined social spaces, we all were put in the same dorm. We came together as a cohesive unit…and had the opportunity to share the same space with alum who experienced it 15 years ago, realizing that even though there are new buildings and new developments, it’s still at its core, the same place. It was so profound I think it culminated everything for me,” Millar said.

Finally, Millar urged students to get to know as many people as possible, and avoid making immediate judgments.

“It is easy to generalize people, but if you just take the time to listen you can get to know everyone’s stories,” Millar said.

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