Final Paper Topic – Bucknell University

Sitting in the lush farmlands of Central Pennsylvania, Bucknell University is one of the premier liberal arts universities in the nation.  It boasts an absolutely magnificant campus, talented faculty, and intelligent and motivated student body (if I don’t say so myself).  Having now spent almost three years at this university I believe that I have had the opportunity to see this university in a very different light that most students do.  I have worked with deans, faculty, students, and high-level administrators and have a gotten a “behind the scenes” view of how this university is run.  It would be easy state that the goal of Bucknell University is to educate students in a liberal arts setting to a degree where they will have the ability to succeed as citizens in the 21st century.  Yet, there are so many more facets to Bucknell as an organization than simply educating students.

Bucknell University

Bucknell University

Throughout this semester we have been looking at organizations through the lenses of the natural, open, and rational perspectives along with focusing on other aspects of the organization such as power, technology, and culture.  The interesting thing about Bucknell is that it is such a multi-dimensional organization with several very different groups all working to better the overall organization.  Bucknell is actually quite similar to Enron in the sense that they both have a decentralized structure with different groups working towards different goals that will all hopefully benefit the organization (Bucknell/Enron) in the end.  These different groups at Bucknell are comprised of the students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, and trustees.  Yet, even within one of these groups, say the administration, there are individuals and sub-sets working towards drastically different goals.  For example, those working in Development and Alumni Relations are working on very different things than say someone in the Finance Department or Athletics. This also sets up for a very interesting hierarchy within the university because many of the groups are in essence working for each other.  The administration has to work to appease both the students and faculty because without either the university wouldn’t exist, but each of these groups has extremely different interests.

In addition to the complexities within the organization, I also think that a lot of the topics we discussed in class can be applied to help analyze Bucknell as an organization.  Theories about power and authority can help to explain the power struggles within the university and potentially the conflict that occasionally arises between the student body leadership and the administration.  I would also argue that Bucknell has a very distinct culture around it.  There truly is a sense of being a “Bucknellian” at this university and the “Bucknell Bubble” absolutely exists.  Innovation is also something that is extremely important to the success of this unversity.  Because of internal and external pressures and the competitive environment that surrounds liberal arts universities, Bucknell is constantly required to come up with innovative new ways of doing things.  From a new curriculum to a virtual admissions website. organizational innovation is essential for this university to thrive.

It is clear how several of the topics and theories discussed in class can be applied to and help us to understand Bucknell University as an organization.  I fear that the only issue I may face is the complexity and vastness of different organization aspects, so I may have to focus more specifically at certain areas of the university.  Either way it will certainly be interesting to yet again look at Bucknell through a new lens.

7 Responses

  1. Sounds like you have a ton of work ahead of you Josh. Personally, I’ve always wondered what the day to day decisions President Mitchell has to make, any how they affect the University as a whole. Also, I think it would be interesting to see how the whole bookstore move came to fruition, and how that idea moved through the Bucknell organizational ranks to become reality.

  2. When working on building the website and company last semester, I had to meet with many different levels of Bucknell administration. Some were much more flexible and open to making accommodations so that Elizabeth could start her business (Assistant Dean of Students), while others were very concerned about the laws protecting against change (Mr. Wayne Bromfield). When writing your paper you might want to consider which departments at Bucknell are more open to change, and those more closed to change. It sounds like you have a very interesting idea for a paper.

  3. That is a great overview of different aspects of Bucknell and how they relate to many topics.

    How will you narrow to a more specific question?

    Kelli’s is a good suggestion. If we take openness to the environment as the variable, what parts of the university are more or less open? WHy? What effects does that have? That is just one question. You could pursue others.

    Goal complexity is one. What kind of goal complexity is there? How does that effect organizational structure? Once that structure is in place, how do power and authority work?

  4. It may be worthwhile to examine one group of stakeholders at the University, for instance the professors, and examine their presence or role in the overall context of the operations of the school. May help narrow things down a bit…

  5. I certainly have to narrow down this topic – this was more of an overview and brainstorming session of sorts. I think more than anything I am interested in the senior-level administration (senior staff) and the things that they must do in order to please all of the different aspects of the organization. Goal complexity and authority/power definitely come into play for the senior staff as the stakeholders they are working to please have very different goals and plans for the university.

  6. Josh,
    I’m trying to get a Bucknell page onto my web site( Also I’d like to have Bucknell in my next book. Would you be able to provide a few thought’s.
    Joe Drozda

  7. Catering is a tough business, and it’s been getting tougher. For one LA catering business, the only choice to survive was to take some very creative approaches to landing business.

    This company has weathered the recession the same way most businesses have. They cut some staff, they became bargain hunters and they’ve taken pay cuts. The best attack they’ve made on the recession, however, might surprise you.

    For the first time in ten years of business, they started using a limo rental company.

    A number of businesses who have taken the opposite tack: They got rid of their own fleet or have stopped renting limos. Big mistake. This company realized early on that if they wanted their business to survive and — better yet — thrive, they needed to cut costs while investing available funds in areas with good ROI.

    LA is a tough town, and first impressions matter a great deal. So renting a limo to meet a client lets them know that this business is successful and serious about getting their business. It shows them that, no matter what, they won’t cut corners. Even when things are tough, clients want the best ingredients, the finest china and the most inspired chefs to cook their food. When they see this company rolling up in a limo, they get the message that they only give their customers the very best in return for their money.

    Renting limos in LA has other benefits. For one, rent on office space is astronomical, but if they are going to meet clients at the office, it’s got to be a first-rate space. This translates in to paying rent on property every day of the year even though client meetings take up a short amount of time.

    But this company only pays for the limo when they need it. That’s savings for you.

    They have saved thousands of dollars by moving out of my commercial rental property, moving the office to a cheap garage and only seeing clients in first-class limos.

    The change has done wonders for the business in other ways as well. Now, when a client calls, they get the convenience of the company going to them. They love that. It saves them so much time. Because they don’t have meetings in the clients’ homes, though, they don’t have the stress of making sure their place looks neat and nice. It can be a dump. Who cares? No one ever sees it.

    Instead, a representative rolls up in front of their home or workplace, invites them into a comfortable, first-rate limousine, and regales them with their menu. Being in a limo is fun, and if clients are having fun, they are more likely to sign on the dotted line.

    This caterer’s business has grown since the recession started, thanks to the decision to use limos. It isn’t an expense. It’s an investment.

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