March 27, 2023

DERY | Cornell Needs A Better Alumni Network. Here’s Why.

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As I toured the halls of a prospective graduate school thousands of miles away from Ithaca, I caught a glimpse of an image of Lynah Rink. That week, the Big Red Men’s hockey team had been competing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament, and I attended their game only several days before — the Lynah Rink iPad screen-saver I happened to walk by during my graduate school open house was a welcome sight for the eyes. A simple “go Big Red” was enough to start a conversation with the graduate students who had graduated from Cornell just several years prior. After a weekend of meeting students across the world, it was refreshing to chat about anything from Cornell hockey to professors. Most of all, I appreciated his perspective as a Cornellian and the ability for us to share the same point of reference in discussing his current graduate studies. During the visit and others, the number of Cornell alumni I happened to meet, and the excitement in our eyes once we realized our Cornellian connection, made me truly appreciate the reach of our alumni network. At the same time, I felt lucky to have bumped into these Cornellians on my own; as I did not personally know any Cornellians at these graduate schools, it would have otherwise been more likely that I had not been able to profit from these conversations. Although one of the greatest strengths of being a Cornellian is its vast alumni network, Cornell should provide students with more resources to tap into it.

Having applied to graduate school as a senior in college, I had very few graduates of previous years in my major who I felt comfortable reaching out to for general advice, let alone about specific programs. A centralized database, through which students could look up the contact information of Cornell graduates at different graduate school programs, for example, would have been exceptionally helpful. Better yet, an alumni officer within the department, or shared among several departments, to help connect me to fellow Cornellians would have allowed me to ask fundamental questions about graduate school fits or on how to craft a competitive application. The Nolan School of Hotel Management already offers such a database used by many students for contact information of Cornell graduates in the workforce; there is no reason why convenient access to the Cornell alumni network cannot be extended to students in other colleges or for students applying to graduate school. Though certain alumni networking platforms at Cornell do exist, uniform advocacy for their usage among all students is essential to bolstering our alumni network.

The University itself would stand to benefit from efforts strengthening access to its alumni network. Cornell graduates offering helpful guidance to current students will improve the ability of Cornell graduates to find jobs or other post-graduate study opportunities. When possible, students could be put in touch with alumni already in positions of influence. Through promoting fundamental networking practices, we further stand to gain from a greater sense of community that is fostered if current students more actively and regularly interact with graduates. This year’s graduates, if they regularly interacted with prior years’ graduates to help them find their footing post-Cornell, are in turn more likely to pay it forward and help the graduating classes that follow. Cornell’s large enrollment and alumni population also ensures that connections are likely to spread rapidly. 

Of course the administration is not expected to network for its undergraduates; the ability to network independently is certainly an important skill — but one not mutually exclusive with additional resources they should provide. Though organizations such as Cornell Clubs exist in many cities across the country, Cornell can do more here on campus to promote a well-connected alumni network beyond it. More advocacy among Colleges to reach out and use Cornell’s alumni network would greatly empower students and our school community. 

Roei Dery is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Dery Bar runs every other Monday this semester.