April 23, 2013

GUEST ROOM: One Year Out

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At the start of our final semester at Cornell, worried that time was running out to check everything off our college bucket lists, we attended the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. From the moment we entered the hotel, we were overwhelmed with enthusiastic, excited alumni. They were eager to understand how to improve student life on campus, and wanted so badly to hear our individual stories and share their own.

The people we met and came to love during our time on the Hill molded our Cornell experiences. Some may argue that this is not unique to Cornell, but we disagree. Cornellians are unique and the conference proved just that; we bonded with the enthusiastic alumni in attendance through shared experiences of ambitious endeavors, social activities, difficult classes and the sometimes, unbearable weather. The people we met at Cornell were there for a reason, and they chose Cornell for a reason; that binds us together as Cornellians long after graduation.

At CALC this year, my first as an alumnus, I (John) found myself imitating the generations of Cornellians that I had met the previous year. I wanted to spend most of my time with current students, learning about campus and their plans for the future. I sat in on sessions like the one Vice President Susan Murphy ran on the current state of the University. As an alumnus, I mentor students and have been back to campus multiple times to speak and advise students on global health.

Cornell alumni have taught me the importance of giving back to students so that I can be someone who improves Cornell life for undergraduates. Perhaps the gift I gave to Cornell this year will help fund a student’s summer abroad experience, impacting his career choice. Or perhaps the extra time I spent prepping an undergrad on the phone for an interview will help her get accepted to her dream medical school. It is through these efforts, passed down to the next generations of Cornellians, that we can maintain the essence of Cornell for the Class of 2017 and beyond.

As the brilliant Katerina Athanasiou ’13 pointed out in a poignant column recently, senior year goes by too fast. In my last months as a student, I (Olivia) spent each moment drinking in time with my friends, the sun on the quad and lazy afternoons at CTB. Graduation Day was magical, but it came and went, as did the summer. Soon, we were months into our jobs, fully supporting ourselves for the first time, and desperately missing The Hill.

For the first few months after leaving campus, I was still in a student mindset, hoping that this apartment in New York City was just temporary and that soon, I’d be back at my beloved Cornell. But now, as time progresses and I begin to identify as an alumna, I’m LOVING it. There are countless opportunities for alumni to reconnect and contribute, and the reunions are incredibly sweet. Last month, we were among the 400 young alumni at the first ever Alumni Duff Ball. Joined by trustees and staff in the Cornell-themed Bowery Hotel, we chatted, caught up and danced the night away. And the sweetest part? A portion of every ticket went to VP Susan Murphy’s Student Life Fund at Cornell. Those dollars went to student programming, supporting initiatives from club sports teams to the Intercultural Center and making campus more dynamic for you, the students.

Did you know that 86 percent of Cornell’s $1M+ donors gave their first gift in the first five years after graduation? Most of those initial donations were small, no more than $20. The Tech Campus is about to break ground on Roosevelt Island, thanks to Mr. Feeney’s incredible gift, but he couldn’t always give $350M away. I encourage you to listen to your Senior Class Campaign classmates and give, even just a little. Your dollars truly add up and the sense of pride you’ll feel afterwards will overwhelm you. In addition, give your time — mentor younger students, volunteer, come back for Reunion Zero and stand tall in your soon-to-be Big Red Alumni status.

What’s important to remember is that once your physical time on The Hill is over, it doesn’t mean you’ll ever actually leave. A part of us will always belong to Cornell, and we hope you’ll join us in doing everything possible to give back and make the Big Red experience extraordinary for each incoming class. We, the newest alumni of Cornell, are now the supporters of the University that encouraged us during our most formative years. Each new building, endowed professorship, undergraduate scholarship and sponsored event — those are OUR dollars and ideas.

Enjoy every last minute of this semester, seniors. At the end of the day, remember that we’re so fortunate to have something so amazing to miss.

Olivia Moore and John Rhee graduated from Cornell in 2012.  Feedback may be sent to [email protected] Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: John Rhee