Get to know the people behind Bucknell's Community College Scholars Program.
By Paula Cogan Myers • Photography by Dustin Fenstermacher
This story originally appeared in Bucknell Magazine. To read more from the latest issue, click here.
After he graduated from high school, Oscar Beteta ’11 planned to pursue a four-year college degree. He had admissions offers, but the honors scholarship he received from Montgomery County Community College provided the financial support he needed to make attending college a reality. While there Beteta heard about the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program (BCCSP), and in June 2007, the program’s inaugural year, he and a group of 29 students from five different community colleges arrived at Bucknell for a six-week summer session. They lived on campus, took two classes, attended workshops and learned how to transfer to a four-year university such as Bucknell.
The goals of the program were clear — to support high achieving community college scholars in pursuit of four-year degrees; to provide opportunities for students from different age groups, backgrounds and learning environments; and to enrich the Bucknell experience for all students by diversifying the student population with people who bring different life experiences and perspectives to campus and the classroom.
“Some community college students balance competing time commitments, including full-time jobs and families, as they decide on the best path to a four-year degree,” says Mark Davies ’74, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of partnerships. “During community college, many students discover new academic interests, learn more about themselves, find available opportunities and consider what an education at a higher level might mean for them.”
Beteta decided Bucknell was for him and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. A few weeks after graduation, he began working for Air Products and Chemicals, where he is still employed as an applied research and development engineer. The job provided Beteta income to help his mother close on a home in Blue Bell, Pa., fulfilling a long-held dream.
BCCSP began when Bucknell received a four-year grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to pilot the program. T. Joel Wade, professor of psychology and BCCSP academic director, leveraged expertise he gained as director of a previous Bucknell program to create BCCSP. “The level of motivation, dedication and academic achievement among BCCSP students has a very positive impact on so many aspects of Bucknell’s environment,” says Wade.
The University has since taken over the program’s funding, and to date, 220 students have participated in the BCCSP summer program, 128 have gone on to graduate from Bucknell and more dreams have come true. “BCCSP students are wildly successful here,” says Robert Midkiff, associate provost and program mentor. “They go on to graduate programs, professional programs and employment in a variety of positions and contexts. And they achieve success — changing their lives and the lives of their families forever.”
So who are these Bucknellians, and the educators driving them to succeed? What brought them to Bucknell? And what about life on campus appeals to them most? We just had to ask...
Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Director of Partnerships
Mark Davies '74
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH BCCSP? I serve as director of the program and promote BCCSP along with our community college partners. I’m involved in scholar selection, course selection, mentoring and assisting students as they apply as transfers (either to Bucknell or to another school of their choosing), helping them adjust to campus culture and cheering for them as they graduate and move on to greater things. I hope I serve as a friend and confidant along the way.
SECRET PASSION? I’m up every day at 5 a.m. and love CrossFit training.
CITY OR COUNTRY? I love visiting cities, but I’m really into the woods and stars.
DO YOU HAVE A PET? Koach is a Welsh Terrier. He’s my best friend (besides my wife, Kathy, of course) and no matter what my day has been like, he is always thrilled to see me.
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
THEME SONG? “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? BCCSP is such a unique program that many students tell me it’s unbelievable that a school like Bucknell is giving them a chance to demonstrate how successful they can be here. The average age of these students is 28. They’re so eager to get engaged with this place, and our faculty members connect with them.
Vicente Prieto '15
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa. Major: International Relations Your community college: Community College of Philadelphia
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? BCCSP is a special program that gives well-deserving students from a lower socioeconomic status the opportunity to fulfill their academic dreams. The reality is that without the program, many BCCSP members could never have afforded to attend even if they were accepted.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl
BISON OR 7TH STREET CAFÉ? 7th Street Café
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? International Politics with Professor David Mitchell is my favorite class. It set the foundation for my major, explaining how international relations works by introducing both theorists and their beliefs.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Grad school applications
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST CAMPUS STUDY SPOT? Bertrand Library, 3rd floor
PERSONAL INTEREST? History
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. It focuses on the events that led to World War I and deals with the intense drama of the first month of the war. It’s great if you love history, as I do. It not only explains the war, but it also explains the events that followed in the 20th century.
Lydia Crush '16
Hometown: North Wales, Pa. Major: Spanish Your community college: Montgomery County Community College
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? Everyone involved in BCCSP believes in the scholars and that helps us to believe in ourselves. BCCSP opens doors to an entirely different kind of education and life that wouldn’t be available to many of us without it. Personally, it gave me the confidence to make the first move and get involved on campus right from the get-go. I’m grateful for the support BCCSP provides and thankful for the independence that it kindles.
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? Hispanic Linguistics. It’s a fantastic combination of two topics I love: Spanish and linguistics. We get to learn about dialects, pronunciation and the intrinsic grammatical structure of the language. It’s teaching me so much more about the how and why of the language than I have learned in regular life and other classes.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Finding a way to turn the educational system’s focus back to learning for the sake of learning
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF CLASS? I’m involved in Bucknell’s theatre, working in the shop and as a stage manager. When I’m not at the theatre or working, I’m outside with Bucknell’s Outing Club and BuckWild program. There are so many gorgeous parks within traveling distance of Bucknell. I’m a fan of most outdoorsy things, but rock climbing is by far my favorite.
TELL US ONE THING NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT YOU. I love learning new string games, like Jacob’s Ladder.
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. The main character, Dicey, was my role model when I was younger. I love re-reading it as I go through new life experiences and grow up; I still feel a connection to Dicey, but my attitude toward her situation morphs as I change.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE SUPERHERO? Sewerman, my Dad’s comic book superhero
Associate Provost, Registrar, Dean of Graduate Studies and Dean of Summer Session
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH BCCSP? I oversee and manage, with my staff in the registrar’s office, the transfer credit process for BCCSP students. I advise them on how to make degree progress during community college with an eye toward transfer to Bucknell or elsewhere. But more importantly, I serve as a mentor and advocate. As someone who was a first-generation, working-class college student from rural West Virginia, I have an obligation to be a role model for these students. I prepare them for what it’s like both personally and professionally to live a life of straddling — the idea that as you move up the educational and socioeconomic ladder you live in both your class of origin and your new class.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Both — I’m up early and most productive in the morning, but tend to stay up late as well.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? The future of Bucknell and how we make this a more inclusive place and stay on top in the ever-changing world of higher education — along with worrying about my families of blood and choice.
PERSONAL INTERESTS? Kayaking, reading and music
CITY OR COUNTRY? Country — born a hillbilly, still one at heart
THEME SONG? “The Dance” by Garth Brooks (most days)
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? This program changes lives, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. Most of these students are working-class, first-generation college students. For many of them, enrolling in community college was a risk. It’s amazing to see them come here, take the risks they are taking and then be successful not only in obtaining degrees, but also in changing the climate of this place.
Abu Chowdhury '15
Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh Major: Economics Your community college: Montgomery County Community College
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl
THE BISON OR 7TH STREET CAFÉ? 7th Street Café
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? Latin American Developmental Economics
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? My haphazard thoughts about life
PERSONAL INTEREST? Knowing people
SECRET PASSION? I want to open a community development nonprofit that would empower people by working with them hand-in-hand. Conventional development works from the top down, so the people it affects most don’t have a voice in the development process, which makes it less effective. I want to have a bottom-up development process, where the people themselves would decide what they want and how they want it.
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
WHAT’S YOUR THEME SONG? “We Shall Overcome”
Professor of Psychology
T. Joel Wade
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH BCCSP? I developed, constructed and directed the program on which BCCSP is based. I am also the academic director and teach in the program occasionally, and I’m a faculty mentor.
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? This program makes a difference in people’s lives (students, professors and affiliated administrators) and a difference in the academic and social environment at Bucknell.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl, but I can be an early bird also.
THE BISON OR 7TH STREET CAFÉ? The Bison
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? My Psychology of Beauty and Attraction course is my favorite class to teach because it counters what many people think about the correlates of beauty. It shows how and why beauty is fundamentally important, and it shows how attraction has a strong biological basis.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Grading, writing and playing guitar riffs
PERSONAL INTEREST? I have been playing blues guitar since 1993. I started, somewhat religiously, after my father passed away. Blues guitar is important to me because the structure of the music provides a great emotional release and revitalization, and it reminds me of my childhood — there was a juke-joint down the street from my house, so as a child I often heard live as well as recorded blues music.
Shaneka Dixon '15
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa. Major: Psychology Your community college: Community College of Philadelphia
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? We have developed a particular view of society based on our experience, and that is what we bring to our coursework.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? I am spontaneously both.
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? Education in the Human Spirit
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? A 16-ounce Miss Honeybee from 7th Street Café
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST CAMPUS STUDY SPOT? I love the student space in the ELC and 7th Street Café.
CITY OR COUNTRY? I was born a city person, so I love the city, but while living in Lewisburg I’ve discovered the gems of the country, like seeing cows sunbathe.
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?The Bible. It provides every type of story I am interested in — drama, romance, action, thriller, apocalyptic.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE SUPERHERO? Jean Grey, The Phoenix, is my favorite superhero because she’s the only hero with her level of power, and she wasn’t initially aware of it. She reminds me of my inhibited potential.
Judy Phan ’13, M’15
Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Major: Chemical Engineering Your community college: Montgomery County Community College
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? Without the program I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I left my country seven years ago to come to the U.S., I only could dream about getting an associate’s degree. Now I’m finishing up my master’s degree at a prestigious university, Bucknell. The program opened up a whole new world to me.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? Modern Dance 1. (Yeah, I know it’s not an engineering class.)
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST CAMPUS STUDY SPOT? The chemistry student lounge. One of the walls is a big window so you get lots of natural sunlight shining into the room. It feels like you’re sitting outside, but you don’t get too distracted by people walking around you. You also get a mini-kitchen with a sink and a microwave.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF CLASS? Archery
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Most of the time it’s research and writing my thesis.
CITY OR COUNTRY? I’m a city girl, but I love camping and other outdoor activities.
PET’S NAME? Chromeo is a Siberian husky. He’s 17 months old.
THEME SONG? “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and “Puff the Magic Dragon”
Melissa Hopkins '16
Hometown: Freeland, Md. Majors: Psychology and Philosophy Your community college: Harrisburg Area Community College
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? BCCSP has given me a second chance. I was on track to go to college from a young age, but I was sidetracked after high school by having to make money. When I went to community college, I was determined to get back on the path I knew I was supposed to be on and worked really hard to get good grades and demonstrate leadership. If it hadn’t been for BCCSP, I’m not sure that I would have been able to continue school at any other four-year institution, because I would not have been able to afford it. BCCSP truly cares about the individuals it invests in.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl
THE BISON OR 7TH STREET CAFÉ? Bison
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? The Psychology of Beauty and Attraction with Dr. Wade
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Homework
BEST CAMPUS STUDY SPOT? The O’Leary computer lab
PERSONAL INTERESTS? Cooking, animal welfare, gay rights and activism, environmental protection
TELL US ONE THING NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT YOU. I have a rock collection that I’ve been adding to since I was about 7.
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN?The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Greg Schrock '16
Hometown: Grantsville, Md. Major: Computer Science & Engineering Your community college: Garrett College
WHAT DO YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT BCCSP? To a general audience, that it’s an amazing opportunity and just as great an experience. I don’t know where I’d be without this program. To potential students, to not be intimidated by the idea of coming to Bucknell. Do your best; that’s all you can ask of yourself.
ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? I function the best as an early bird, but I am naturally a night owl.
FAVORITE BUCKNELL CLASS? Software Development
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Not much. But when something does, it’s usually the planning of my schedule for the next day.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST CAMPUS STUDY SPOT? The study room in the library, with friends
PERSONAL INTERESTS? I like to sing and play guitar.
CITY OR COUNTRY? City at night, country otherwise
WHAT BOOK COULD YOU READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN? My Bible
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE SUPERHERO? Captain America — he’s the least invisible hero I know of, and yet he’s the most willing to put himself on the line for what he believes is right.
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