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Alumni Association President Message

I Am Cornell!

Diane Irwin

Have you heard about the initiative “I Am Cornell,” an online, ongoing photo project that is piecing together a mosaic? The premise is that Cornell is bigger than a bunch of buildings sitting on a hill. Cornell is thousands of people, each with his or her own story. The same could be said about the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). During Reunion last year, there was a booth in Barton Hall where alumni could videotape themselves explaining why they are Cornell. I had difficulty pinpointing one specific item to explain why I am Cornell.

Many of us can create a long list of the ways that Cornell helped us when we were undergraduates—whether it was by providing us the opportunity to see notable figures, conduct research, or travel to new places. When I was close to graduating, one of my professors used his contacts to help me obtain job interviews. Once I landed a job, it was the Cornell Alumni Association that helped me form a network of friends in my new location.

Recently, though, the reach of Cornell became clearest to me. Students in the school district where I work participated in a national competition to design an experiment that would be flown in low Earth orbit to test the effect of microgravity. The winning proposal for our district was an experiment titled “The Development of Minnow Eggs in Space.” The students had to obtain fish eggs within three weeks, which meant we needed fish eggs in December. After several days of searching the Internet and making phone calls to suppliers around the country, I was seriously considering telling three 10-year-old girls that they wouldn’t be able to conduct their experiment because we couldn’t find eggs. Then I contacted Mike Walter in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering (BEE), who reached out to his contacts, and within a half hour I received a phone call from another BEE professor who gave me contacts to provide us with eggs. The experiment was back on track. The three girls now want to be scientists as a result of participating in this experiment. Who knows, they may be future Cornellians.

Our connection to Cornell and CALS is always there. Share your experiences of what Cornell and CALS have done for you at the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Facebook page. Please remember to “like” it while you are there.

I am CALS because I am part of a great network of people always willing to help. It is important that as alumni we continue to nurture our connection to Cornell and CALS. Please consider reviewing the CALS Alumni Involvement Opportunities chart and identifying ways that you can get involved. Your level of involvement can vary from low to high and can take various forms, such as giving to the Annual Fund, contributing time to mentor students, organizing an event, or serving on a department advisory board. The most important thing is to be engaged in some way.

To participate in “I am Cornell,” make a sign telling what Cornell means to you. Then have someone snap your photo holding it. The only rules: sign your name (first only) and write the phrase “I Am Cornell” on your photo. Alumni and students should include their class year. Share your Cornell with the world via the I Am Cornell Flickr group.

Diane M. Irwin ’94
2010–2011 CALS Alumni Association President