People of the Year

People+of+the+Year

Photos courtesy of Eden Elam, John Davidian and Professor William Kenny

Libby Darrell, Special Features Co-Editor

With finals approaching, what better way to wrap up the year than to acknowledge prized members of the University’s community. Each year, The Bucknellian’s editors recognize two University students and one staff member to be appreciated in a “People of the Year” feature. 

 

Student of the Year, Eden Elam ’20

As a Markets, Innovation, and Design major with an Economics minor, Elam’s interest in management and economics at the University began with the popular course Management 101. During her first year, she took this class at the Freeman College of Management and became passionate about her project to design, market, and sell joggers in order to raise money for the non-profit, CONCERN Foster Care. 

I loved being able to conceptualize a product idea early on and hold something tangible and valuable later that semester,” said Elam. “I also worked with an amazing team. As a result, that following summer I ended up transferring from the College of Engineering into the College of Management.” 

In addition to her major, Elam has participated on campus as the President of the Black Student Union, an Undergraduate Executive Intern in the Freeman College of Management, a member of the Student Advisory Board, the creator of the Bison Business Alliance — a club that aims to support underrepresented student populations on campus in networking and professional development — a Posse Scholar, a member of 7th Street House and the Treasurer of the Union — an organization that uses shared experience to support Black success on campus and beyond.

As President of the Black Student Union, Elam helped the University plan its Black History Month celebrations, including the 10th Annual Black Arts Festival and the Black Alumni Weekend. All of the month’s events — from the signature Fashion Show, Stomp Out, and Black History Gallery — featured the theme “We Built This,” which was a recognition of “The 1619 Project” and its goal to re-examine slavery’s legacy in the U.S. and remember the 400th anniversary the first Africans’ arrival in Virginia, according to The New York Times. 

“We wanted to shine a light on the leading role Black Americans have always played in our collective American history,” said Elam. She explained that her inspiration for her important involvement on campus is her mother, who has allowed her to be her own person with her own aspirations, and the message of “falling in love with that you do” from the video “100 Pieces of Advice from 100-Year-Olds.”

Although she has several memorable experiences, one, in particular, was taking the class “Social Entrepreneurship” with Professors Tammy Hiller and Kim Daubman. In this program, Elam traveled to Cape Town, South Africa for three weeks where she was able to not only see the physical beauty of both the city and the people, but also recognize how their citizens leverage creativity to amend some of the social and economic damage created by the Apartheid era regime. She even visited a gallery fully operated by men who had been formerly incarcerated–some of whom were the artists, creating marketing strategies to draw domestic and international attention to their business.

As a recent graduate of the University, Elam has accepted a fellowship at Atlantic Media in Washington, D.C., and plans to work from The Watergate Building.  

Her advice to students, eager to follow in her footsteps, is to make their college experience about the people they spend time with. “I feel like college is rarely about what you do, but who you do it with and I feel so fortunate to have lived with friends who became my family,” she said. “I have gained so much exposure from being a student at Bucknell. The meaning of it all is in what I have learned about the world, who I am, what I care about most, and how I can contribute.”

 

Student of the Year, John Davidian ’20

Although he will graduate with a major in History, Davidian was first unsure of his academic path at the University. Inspired by the 2016 presidential election during his first-year, he decided to take a history class with Professor Enyeart on American Capitalism, figuring the class would help him “contextualize the present.” His spur of the whim decision ended up being one of the best decisions he made at the University.

“I am truly blown away with how much energy and attention the faculty in that department provided me over the years, and the support they provided for me and my work,” said Davidian of the faculty at the University. 

During his time at the University, Davidian served as a representative of the Bucknell Student Government (BSG), the Vice President of Operations of the BSG Executive Board, a contributing writer for The Bucknellian, a member of the Community Conduct Board, a tutor in the University’s Buddies Program and an Executive Intern in the Office of Sponsored Projects among some of his participation roles. 

In terms of memorable courses, a few professors specifically prompted him to think differently about the world around him. These classes included “Political Economy of Media & Advertising” with Professor David Kristjanson-Gural, “Imperialism & Anti-imperialism” with Professor Jennifer Thomson, “Red Scares” with Professor John Enyeart, and “Nationalism” and “Identity & Nature” with Professor Amanda Wooden. 

To wrap up his University experience, Davidian worked on his thesis with Professor

Enyeart, which explored “resource extraction on Navajo and Hopi lands in the Southwest,” explained Davidian. With the help of the Mellon Confounding Problems grant, he was able to complete archival research last summer in New Mexico, Arizona and Washington, D.C. for his project. 

“Doing this research and then writing the thesis was such a rewarding process,” he explained. “One sort of guiding aspiration has been to try to orient my life around experiences and learning, and less so to do things because they look good on a resume or I think they’ll lead to a cushy job later on,” he added about the benefit of having academic freedom at a liberal-arts university. Also, because one’s career path is rarely limited to only his or her major, Davidian encourages students to take classes in subjects they are passionate about, rather than merely based on what is practical for a career. 

After graduation, Davidian plans to do a gap year and then begin graduate school in 2021. In his free time, he hopes to travel and explore the U.S. in addition to job-searching. For a career, he aspires to become involved in higher education, possibly as a professor, because of the impact the University’s faculty members have had on him. “I can’t repay those individuals for the wisdom and mentorship I received from them, but I can try to pay it forward to others,” he said. “If, in the future, I can help other students better make sense of the world and their place in it, I would consider that to be incredibly rewarding.”

In reflecting on how his semester has ended with remote classes, Davidian has appreciated the University’s community more than he already did. “Now that I’m home, finishing college online, the thing I’ve been thinking most about is the people I miss. I’m not thinking about the busy weekdays with a packed google calendar. I’m not thinking about heated university governance meetings. Or long email exchanges. I’m not thinking about my grades or my GPA. I see now why a residential college experience is so valuable, and why education cannot be replicated fully on Zoom or in a Moodle chat room,” he explained. “As I sit in my quiet, dark living room in Massachusetts, it is really hitting me that the people in my life at Bucknell were the most important thing. During this public health crisis, as so much about the world is broken and stressful, I’m thinking about my friends, and moments I had with them.”

 

Staff Member of the Year, William Kenny

Our Staff Member of the Year is William Kenny, a professor of music at the University. In his 35 years at the University, he has served as Director of the University’s Symphonic Band, leader of the Bison Band and Chair of the University’s Faculty.

Prior to his teaching at the University, he had teaching experiences only at large state universities. He first started working at the University when he was 28, and one of his predecessors at the University recommended him for the position. However, his entire career in music began when he recognized his passion for music and playing the horn, and applied to college with a major in music. 

In leading the Bison Band, Kenny has been able to join important people in his life together, including his wife and daughter, friends, community members, alumni and a host of enthusiastic students. The band travels together, supporting the University’s athletic teams and playing fun music together. “This has allowed me to get to better know students as people, not just as trumpet players or drummers,” said Kenny. Also, he explained how the University and its intimate class setting has allowed him to become acquainted with his students. “The education, and the total experience, that Bucknell offers is truly, vitally important. But before we teach about notes, about repertoire, about our disciplines, we teach people — real people having real lives.”

While he has had many role models in his life, he admires Professor Jackson Hill who formerly taught music at the University. “He is brilliant, immensely talented, hard-working, and he really, really cares. I might not be the first two, but I strive to work toward the latter two.”

In addition, he gains inspiration from his students, who have taught him immensely, and in return challenges them to think differently about their impact in the world. “I’ve learned what [the University] is about, and I have recognized that I’m very, very lucky to have landed here,” Kenny said. “Now the course objective that I most embrace is: ‘Did we make our world better — for us, and for our audiences — through our study, rehearsal, and performance of our music?’ When my students and I can answer with an honest “yes” — that’s the most fulfilling aspect of my work at Bucknell.”

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