May 7, 2023

CHASEN | What Kind of Cornell Alum Will You Be?

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I’ve been thinking for a while about what I wanted my last column for The Cornell Daily Sun to be about. Despite only being a part of The Sun for my senior year, writing these columns and interacting with those who took time out of their day to read them has been one of the more enjoyable parts of my time at Cornell. At first, I considered taking a sort of “victory lap,” and discussing what I am most proud of about my time at Cornell. But I realized that I’ve spoken ad nauseam about the various activities I was fortunate enough to be part of, as well as the various people who have made my time at Cornell a great one. I also considered discussing my biggest regrets over the course of my time in Ithaca and what I would do if given another chance at it. But with less than one month from graduation, it does not make sense to play a game of “what-if,” especially given I am lucky enough to have few regrets about my time here, despite going to college during a global pandemic. I even considered giving more advice for folks just starting their Cornell journeys, but I figured Ted Lasso had that covered.

In the end, I decided it was time to look forward, rather than look back. I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about precisely how many times I would plan to be back in Ithaca in the coming years, and for which events. I’ve thought about coming up for Homecoming, of course, but also for Applefest, hockey games and potentially even a trip to Syracuse for the New York State Fair. But on a deeper level, I’ve thought about a question that will define my relationship with Cornell from now on: What type of Cornell alumnus will I be? I encourage every member of the Class of 2023 to do the same as we leave campus for the final time as students.

When most people think of Cornell alumni, they think of one thing: donations. They see various buildings around campus named after older alumni, as well as various professorships, department chairs, deans and even coaches’ titles being funded by alumni donations. They see the far-off number that is the University endowment, and wonder how all that money will be used in the coming decades.

But there are so many ways to get involved as alumni, aside from donating to the college, program or group that meant the most to you as a student. You may be pursuing a career path that may be of interest to students. Meeting with them and helping them understand what it takes to get to your position is a great way to build connections across generations. You may be in a position to help organize Cornell alumni events in your town or city that can help build the Cornell community across the world. You may even be interested in joining the various class year governing bodies, or perhaps even the Board of Trustees. But if you do engage with any of these governing bodies, all I ask is that you always look to put yourself in the shoes of students and ask yourself whether the decisions you are being asked to make would truly benefit as many Cornellians as possible.

Above all, the most important thing about being a Cornell alum is finding your own unique way to stay involved and build our incredible community. Returning to campus over the course of the next few months for Homecoming and hockey may be the most immediate way I can think of to stay involved. But that will surely change as we grow older, and various new avenues of engagement open up. My experience as a Cornell alum will surely change numerous times over the course of my life.

So as I wrap up this column and my time here at Cornell, I urge seniors to not just take a look back and appreciate all the incredible opportunities we’ve had here, but also to look forward to the incredible opportunities we have as alumni. I’m sure I speak for many others when I say that being a Cornellian has opened a lot of doors for me already in my life, and I hope to be able to pay it forward somehow. And I look forward to the various opportunities I’ll have to do so, regardless of how they present themselves.

Isaac Chasen is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected]. This is the final installment of his fortnightly column Cut to the Chase.