Alex Bamfo began his career working in the campus mail room of the college he attended. Now, as General Manager of the Barnes & Noble at Howard University and the Howard University West Campus Bookstore in Washington D.C., he continues that path of service supporting his new university campus. Spend five minutes with Alex as he reflects on the importance of alumni, basketball and creating magic in his bookstores.
What was your first job?
I literally started in the mail room, sorting the mail for the various departments on campus when I was a college student.
How do you describe your current role at Barnes & Noble College?
It’s about building relationships with our campus partners here at Howard — everyone from students, faculty members to alumni, administration and the various campus organizations. I also look at this job as being a coach, teacher and motivator to help my team succeed and accomplish those common goals that make us successful as a company, but more importantly, supports my university.
What are you working on right now?
I’m looking forward to meeting with our alumni organization and showing them the many benefits the bookstore can offer our alumni groups.
Since you started your career, where do you think you’ve seen the most change in higher education?
In the way students learn. Our students here are slowly gravitating toward digital. There have also been big changes in how students gain access to the learning materials they need and we’ve seen that in the growth of our cost-saving rental program. The bookstore used to be a place where students just bought their textbooks, but it’s really evolved into a support system for students and faculty.
In your conversations with our campus partners what do you think is the biggest challenge facing higher education today?
The thing you hear the most, of course, is the cost of education. But linked to that I think is the whole question of providing access — getting more students enrolled and helping students complete their education. The benefits of a college education are enormous, so how do we help schools with enrollment and retention?
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I majored in business, so I like the idea of running a company, but I also enjoy mentoring. In my spare time I like to coach, so maybe I’d be a basketball coach.
Can you think of a few words that might best describe your campus or your students?
I’d say we’re really diverse in our culture here at Howard. Our students come from many different ethnic backgrounds, almost every state in the union and from countries around the world, but one thing that unites them is their passion for learning. I’d also say that the students are also very fashionable, and that’s reflected in the amount of general merchandise we sell!
Favorite part of the bookstore?
I spend as much time as I can on the sales floor. I want to be in front of our customers.
Favorite book or book you’re currently reading?
Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, by Lee Cockerell. It has some really intriguing views on leadership. He talks about how creating “magic” in business, career and life all stems from outstanding leadership. I have had great mentors in my life and I hope I can inspire my staff — because everyone in an organization is important.
Digital or hard copy?
Both – digital for the convenience sometimes, but I like both.
Is there some distinct or notable characteristic you’ve noticed working with Barnes & Noble College people?
It doesn’t matter where you go in the company, everyone you encounter wants to help you. I know if I have a question I never have to go very far for an answer.
Best day at Barnes & Noble College?
I really enjoy Homecoming; meeting all the alum’s and seeing their reactions to our store. I would also have to say the day Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys visited soon after we became a Barnes & Noble College store. He was here on a college tour with his daughter and meeting and talking to him was thrilling and a great memory.