This weekend, I had the honor of attending the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference (CALC) in DC. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the conference. Expectations weren’t high, as I expected it to be just another one of those networking sessions. I’m not a big fan of networking, as I’ve always felt awkward going up to a random group of people… what is the etiquette? Hi, my name is John, uh, sorry to disrupt your conversation so I could introduce myself, and now I can’t think of a subject to start off conversation with that is not cliche?
Still, the prospect of spending the weekend with some of my closest friends and the 2012 Senior Class Campaign Committee as a bonding experience was enough to get me out of bed at 6AM on Friday to begin my trek to North Campus and onto the seven hour bus drive down to our country’s capital.
The sessions ended up being surprisingly good. There was a panel that the included Sheryl WuDunn (first Asian American to win the Pultizer Prize and one of my idols for her work in educating the public on international development issues) and other big players in the field of journalism talk about ethics, politics, and the future of education. There was a session to better understand how the university works financially and the importance of giving to Cornell so that the university can maintain its stance as one of the best universities internationally. Risa Mish, Cornell graduate and Senior Lecturer of the Johnson School of Business, gave a workshop on resilience, which was very well received. All in all, I learned a lot and the prospect of becoming an alumnus was suddenly not as daunting but, I guess I can even say… exciting.
What was most infectious throughout the weekend, though, was the love and passion of the alumni that I interacted with (and consistently Human Ecology alumni had the strongest presence, which made me proud to be a HumEc). I went to a small dinner hosted by the Human Ecology Alumni Association, and I got to sit across from the Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Boxer on Environmental Health Issues. He works a crazy number of hours a day, but he still managed to work as former President of the Alumni Association as well as on two search committees for former Human Ecology Deans. It just proved that, not having enough time to work as an alumnus for my university, was completely invalid.
I met so many others that were still so involved, and the climax was definitely President Skorton’s speech, where the air in the room was alive with Big Red Spirit over the subject of the tech campus. As a student, it’s hard to interact a lot with alumni, but those that stay involved, man, do they LOVE Cornell! It made me that much prouder to be a Cornellian and that much more excited that my contributions to Cornell through my current organizations and involvements on campus would not just suddenly end with graduation. There are still so many ways to stay involved, albeit different, and ways to play a role in the development of the university that gave so much to me. I want to play that role in the future of the alumnus that helped make Cornell the institution it will become. I know I can’t be a Chuck Feeney, but hey, we can all try to emulate his selfless spirit and love for the university.
Cornell is not an easy school and everyone knows that, but in a way, the difficulties that people went through at Cornell seemed to create an even stronger bond among the alumni. There is a feeling of “We went through it together and survived. Oh, you’re a Cornell student? We know your experiences, come join us, you are one of us.”
Hopefully, this year, through Senior Class Campaign, I can bring this amazing experience that I had with alumni back to campus so that seniors can all share the excitement of our next transition in life. Senior year second semester, here I come.