January 31, 2010

Alumni Leadership Conference Draws Future Class Officers

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Students and alumni gathered in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for a conference focused on leading, collaborating and networking among alumni. The event, called the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference, attracted hundreds of alumni, along with current students, faculty and administrators. The 3-day conference, organized by the Office of Alumni Affairs, included networking events, workshops on volunteer leadership and discussions ranging from life on campus to national politics.

“It really made us realize that once we graduate, we’re not done with Cornell,” said Steph Rigione ’10, co-president of the Senior Class Campaign, who attended the conference.

More than 800 alumni and about 40 current students attended the conference to meet alumni, watch lectures from notable Cornellians and administrators and learn how to lead alumni events. Rigione said the workshops included the history of Cornell, how to be an active young alumnus, career success strategies, such as interviewing techniques, and getting involved in the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, through which alumni interview prospective students.

In addition to the many workshops and lectures, students said they enjoyed simply interacting with alumni.

“Meeting alumni from ’73 to ’09, getting to see what Cornell is after you graduate … is really amazing,” said Darin Jones ’10, co-president of the Senior Class Campaign. “I jumped at the chance to go [to the conference].”

Members of the Senior Class Campaign made up over half of the approximately 40 students who attended the conference. Jones said that many of them will go on to become the future class officers responsible for organizing reunions and other events.

“This was a great learning tool for us to know how to organize class events,” she said.

The conference offered more than workshops on leadership and organizing. Attendees could tour the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, learn from Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73 what it is like to be a current student at Cornell and hear Provost Kent Fuchs discuss Reimagining Cornell, according to the conference’s schedule of events.

“It was incredible speaking to people of all walks of life and ages, all with Cornell in common,” said Dan Tracy ’10, who attended the conference on behalf of the Senior Class Campaign.

In Tracy’s favorite event, “What You Should Know About the History of Cornell,” one alumnus from the 1930s asked about when Cornell’s swim tests were conducted in the nude. Tracy described the discussion of Cornell history, legends and trivia by Corey Ryan Earle ’07, an associate director in alumni affairs, as a “light-hearted Q and A conversation” rather than a serious lecture.

Jones said spending time with alumni was one of the best parts of the conference.

“Interacting with the alumni was always amazing,” he said. “They were very welcoming and forthcoming.”

For Jones, the most interesting event was a talk from Vice President for University Relations Glenn Altschuler MA ’73, PhD ’76. The talk, called “Cornell’s Brand and Our Place in the World,” covered how the University positions itself in the outside world, according to the conference’s schedule of events.

“[Altschuler] gave some excellent answers to very difficult questions” regarding where the University is heading, Tracy said.

In his second event on Friday, Altschuler analyzed President Barack Obama’s administration and weighed his achievements against his campaign promises along with CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod ’85, according to the schedule.

Rigione said her favorite part of the weekend occurred during a networking event Saturday night, which took place at the same time as the Harvard Cornell basketball game on campus. Televisions were set up to watch the game, and alumni and students cheered together for Cornell, Rigione said.

“It was very memorable,” she said.

Original Author: Michael Linhorst