Meeting of the Minds

Second Annual Alumni Leadership Conference Draws More than 800 By Scott Pesner '87 After attending the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference (CALC) both this year and last, Enrique Vila-Biaggi '94, MEng '95, knows one thing for sure: he'll be back in 2012. "You get more than 800 engaged alumni and staff together, provide them with incredible, […]

Second Annual Alumni Leadership Conference Draws More than 800

By Scott Pesner '87

After attending the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference (CALC) both this year and last, Enrique Vila-Biaggi '94, MEng '95, knows one thing for sure: he'll be back in 2012. "You get more than 800 engaged alumni and staff together, provide them with incredible, entertaining, and informative speakers, and add wonderful educational tracks," says Vila-Biaggi, who traveled from his home in warm Puerto Rico to a snowy Washington, D.C. "What more can you ask for?"


CALC was launched in 2010 to expand the popular Mid-Winter Meeting of the Cornell Association of Class Officers, which had been held annually for more than a century. Last year, attendees included local club officers and CAAAN leaders and volunteers. This year, the invitation list was expanded to include alumni leaders from the Greek system and several college alumni associations, as well as any alumni volunteer leaders who wanted to attend. In addition, more than fifty current students participated, including members of the 2011 Senior Class Campaign. On top of attending board meetings, attendees took part in sessions on personal improvement, such as "Balancing Act: Home, Career, and Volunteerism" and "Career Advice: Turning Avocation into a Vocation," as well as those that helped them become more effective alumni leaders.

Big Red Bear

In "Volunteers Leading Volunteers," Risa Mish '85, JD '88, director of the leadership skills program in the Johnson School, spoke about how alumni volunteers can lead effectively without "formal power." "We know that no volunteer can compel another volunteer to perform," said Mish, "but that doesn't mean that effective volunteer leadership is a question of whim and luck." She said a good team leader must be able to answer four questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? How will we get there? and What's in it for me? Mish said that leaders who can answer effectively will earn their teams' commitment because members will know their time and talent are being well used.

reunion planning

Another popular session, "What's Next with Social Media?," featured three alumni with expertise in that area: CALS assistant professor of communication Lee Humphreys '99; Adam Hirsch '04, COO of; and Laura Fitton '94, author of Twitter for Dummies. The three discussed the impact and future of social media, with Fitton encouraging employers to allow the use of social media in the workplace, as it's beneficial for the company.

night life

In addition to these sessions, discussions focused on such topics as current events on campus, what Cornell needs from its volunteers, and the faculty/student experience. Sessions included "What Every Volunteer Leader Should Know About Giving to Cornell," "Diversity at Cornell," and "A Conversation with Cornell's Alumni-Elected Trustees." At the Saturday breakfast, vice president of student and academic services Susan Murphy '73, PhD '94, talked about the state of student mental health and University initiatives in that area; President David Skorton gave a speech at the Saturday lunch, followed by a Q&A.

Beyond hearing from Cornell and its leadership, attendees were reminded of what makes the Cornell experience unique: the relationship between students and faculty. In "You Changed My Life," moderated by Engineering college dean Lance Collins, two alumni discussed the mentorship of their former professors. David Goldston '78, director of government affairs for the National Resources Defense Council, spoke about Richard Polenberg, the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History; Jocelyn Beach '04, a fourth-year medical student, praised Marjolein van der Meulen, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

While many sessions were geared to a broad audience, breakout groups focused on particular interests of alumni leaders. CAAAN chairs and volunteers participated in a simulated admissions panel; fraternity and sorority leaders got an update on the Greek system; Reunion planners discussed plans for June; and club leaders learned about the current discussion on eliminating membership dues. "I had an amazing time," said Lauren Beller '86, a club officer and CAAAN chair who was attending for the first time. "The best part was meeting all these alumni leaders who share your enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to next year."


Class and Human Ecology Leaders Honored

At this year 's Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference (CALC), several alumni were recognized for their outstanding service to the University.

Jane Hardy

Jane Little Hardy '53 was the recipient of this year's Bill Vanneman '31 Award, given to an alumnus who graduated at least thirty-five years ago in recognition of volunteer work as a class officer. A former class vice president, Hardy co-chaired her 50th Reunion and served for ten years on the board of the Cornell Association of Class Officers (CACO). She is also a former lecturer in the Department of Communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In an acceptance speech that touched on her reasons for leaving her home in Canada to study at Cornell as well as her experiences advising students, Hardy called upon those in attendance to continue their volunteer efforts on behalf of the university. "When someone asks you to do something for Cornell, say yes," she said. "Find a way to do it and do your best. The results will be substantial in terms of friendship, in terms of satisfaction."


At the Friday luncheon, the Human Ecology Alumni Association (HEAA) presented its annual achievement awards. Rebecca Morgan '60 received the Helen Bull Vandervort Achievement Award, given annually to a graduate who upholds the mission and values of the college in his or her life, career, and volunteer activities. Morgan is a former Cornell trustee, California state senator, and a co-founder of Teen Success, a national program helping teenage mothers complete their education.

HEAA's Recent Alumni Achievement Award went to Silvestre Arcos '00. Arcos teaches math and Spanish at the Laboratory School for Finance and Technology, a middle school in the South Bronx. In 2010, 97 percent of his sixth-and seventh-grade students demonstrated proficiency on the New York State Math Test, prompting a 2010 School of Distinction in Mathematics honor from Intel. Arcos also founded the school's unique dual-language program, which has become a model for its promotion of cross-cultural learning and Spanish language development. Rounding out the honors, HEAA presented Ashley Jeanlus '11 with its Outstanding Senior Award.


CAA and CACO Elect New Board Members

The Cornell Alumni Association (CAA) and the Cornell Association of Class Officers (CACO) elected new officers during their meetings at the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in January. CAA elected a new executive committee, with incoming president Stephanie Keene Fox '89 succeeding Nancy Abrams Dreier '86. The rest of the executive committee will consist of five vice presidents: Tom Cummings '75, Laura Fratt '81, Shana Chacko Mueller '95, Scott Pesner '87, and Steve Siegel '68.

new board members

Several new directors from the regions were elected to first-year terms. They were: Kim Jones '98, MBA '02 (Mid-Atlantic); Shane Dunn '07 (Northeast); Marie-Jouvelle Aubourg '06 (Metro NY); Theresa Flores '93 (Southwest/ Mountain); and Stephanie Grise '98 (Midwest). In addition, Janet Fallon '76 (New York/Ontario) and Charles Wu '91 (Western) were elected to second two-year terms. Five new directors-at-large were appointed, and two additional directors were given second terms. Katherine Ward Feld, MBA '82, JD '83, Sam Pollack '99, Jon Simon '92, Andrea Wasserman '00, and Heather Wells '02 were appointed to their first terms, while Krishna Collie '96 and Mollie Pulver '80 were approved for second terms.

On the CACO side, Rob Rosenberg '88 was elected to a second term as president, while Jay Waks '68, JD '71, and Charles Stuppard '82 were elected to the executive committee as vice president, diversity and inclusion, and vice president, students and young alumni, respectively. In addition, six alumni— Mike Avery '55, Paul Cashman '73, Stan Rodwin '50, Debra Schaffel '89, Nancy Sverdlik '79, and Andrea Vidler '07, MPA '08—joined the CACO Board as directors-at-large.


We'll All Have Drinks . . . on the Danube

Each fall, on the third Thursday in October, thousands of Cornellians gather in cities around the world as part of International Spirit of Zinck's Night, remembering the downtown Ithaca bar and the weekly revelries long celebrated by Cornell seniors. But what if you're traveling with a group of Big Red alumni? Well, you hold an impromptu Zinck's Night right where you are.

Zinck's Night

That's what participants in the Cornell Alumni Travel Program did as they were enjoying a cruise along the Danube on the MS Amadeus Diamond between Austria and Germany, en route to Prague. Some twenty alumni added a truly international flare to Zinck's Night by celebrating on board with the help of Julie Featherstone of Alumni Affairs and Development, who traveled with the group. Not only did everyone have a great time, but many of the more senior alumni were able to share stories of the actual Zinck's.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must comply with our Commenting Policy.