New Paths to Peoria

From left to right: Jennie Hackinson, Brock Fuhrmann, Jason Bellmore, and Zach Flunker

By Matt Hawkins
December 17, 2013

Four Bradley University freshmen from Wisconsin’s Fox Cities took different paths 300 miles south to Peoria and formed a unique kinship on the Hilltop.

Appleton native Brock Furhmann ’17 and his father Scott Furhmann ’88, sold fellow Appleton friends Zach Flunker ’17 and Jason Bellmore ’17 on the university while Neenah, Wisc. Native Jennie Hackinson ’17 discovered Bradley online.

Once the four connected, bonds quickly formed over Green Bay Packers football and Wisconsin’s cheese-oriented culinary culture.

“I’m thankful for these guys. It’s nice to have them,” Flunker said. “When I’m with these guys it’s a taste of home. When I have a rough day, I can come hang out with them.”

The southward migration began when Fuhrmann, an entrepreneurship major, visited campus and decided to follow his father’s footsteps. Friendly peer pressure brought the other men south while Hackinson took her own journey to Bradley.

“I like the five-hour distance from home and the feel of campus,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone.”

After committing to Bradley, Fuhrman turned his sales pitch on longtime friend Bellmore and high school classmate Flunker. A few miles away in the Appleton suburb of Neenah, a Google search for advertising programs led Hackinson to Peoria.

Flunker, a sports communication major, credited the Furhrmanns for helping him make a tough college decision.

“I was looking at getting into communications and thought general communications,” Flunker said. ”I knew I wanted to get into sports. Once I saw Bradley had a sports communications major, that jumped above everything.”

Furhrmann, knowing Flunker wanted to become the next Bob Uecker, realized Bradley’s sports communication program could open the necessary doors in the future.

“Zach’s dream job is to be the voice of the Brewers,” Fuhrmann said. “I knew they had the program to get him here.”

Hackinson, on the other hand, realized few Wisconsin schools had advertising programs.  Thus, she turned to Google and found Bradley atop her searches.  After visiting campus, she realized the Hilltop offered opportunities beyond the academic degree she sought.

“I wanted to challenge myself,” she said.

Initial challenges abounded as the Wisconsin natives adapted to the lack of cheese in Illinois culture.  Though Peorians don’t call water fountains “bubblers,” eat cheese curds or have refrigerator drawers designated for cheese, the four were warmly welcomed by locals’ hospitality.

“Everybody is so nice here,” Hackinson said. “If I have a question, I’m not afraid to ask. When I left for Fall Break, I didn’t want to leave here.”

The four jumped into Bradley’s Greek life, extracurricular activities and academics. As a result, their social time is limited to Sunday afternoon football. While the majority of Bradley’s football fans cheer for the Chicago Bears, the Wisconsin natives don green and watch their Packers together.

As a result of the busy schedules, the group quickly transitioned into college life and found valuable friendships.

“I love it,” Fuhrmann, who is a manager for the men’s basketball team. “I’ve got floor buddies, frat buddies and the basketball team. I’ve built some good relationships with those guys.”