Student Spotlight with Ian Bussard

MAJOR DECISION: It took Ian Bussard a while to figure out his major because his likes span the gamut. He enjoys math. He’s good at music. He likes words and working in new media, as well as old media. He’s been part of the Penn Model Congress, and he’s a member of the Friars Senior Society. He chose the history of art as his major, he says, because it combines many of those things, while leaving plenty of room for even more creativity.

BUTTON HOLED: Bussard may be best known around campus for his work at the blog Under the Button, where over three years, he worked his way up from being a contributor to serving as managing editor through his own brand of wit and whimsy. The blog is an online mélange of student-generated campus news, gossip, and sharp-elbowed snark that is updated all day, every day.

IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING: Being funny on demand is not easy, and Bussard says the fast pace of blog posting forced him to keep his creativity in high gear. “It was a challenge to be as quirky as possible every day, and I liked that.” To keep his punch lines punchy he says he drew inspiration from other humor blogs and sites such as The Onion, Videogum, and Gawker.

NO AUTOGRAPHS, PLEASE: Bussard says he was a bit surprised when he realized his blog posts had garnered a following. “Sometimes people would be surprised that I was a real person,” he says.

OFF-LINE, FOR NOW: In December, Bussard stepped out from Under the Button to concentrate on his senior thesis. But after graduation, the blogging bug could bite again.

PLAYING A DIFFERENT TUNE: Had Bussard chosen a different path, he could very well have become a professional musician. He’s been playing the viola since the age of eight, and considered attending a conservatory. “But,” he says, “I decided not to because I wanted to get a college education.” Nevertheless, the viola remains a big part of his life. In his freshman year he played with the Penn Symphony Orchestra and in the years since has been part of a quartet with the Penn Chamber Music Society.

PENN IN THE FAMILY: Bussard’s father, Mark, is a Penn alum, a graduate of the School of Nursing. His older brother Peter graduated in 2011 and is now living in Japan. “I applied to all the Ivies,” Bussard says. “But since my brother went here, I had the advantage of knowing what it was actually like.”

WHAT NOT TO DO: It’s hard for Bussard to describe the job he hopes to have five years from now. But he knows what he doesn’t want. “I know I never want a desk job. I could never be a lawyer, or someone in finance, or consulting,” he says. “Ideally, I would be in a position where I get to wear a lot of different hats, do something different every day.”