Moyouri Bhattacharjee ’15 is a data scientist in New York City. Graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a major in Biological Sciences, she’s continued her Cornell journey as a volunteer for the Cornell Alumni Ambassador Network (CAAAN), the Cornell Asian Alumni Association (CAAA), and the NYC Cornellians Regional Club.
How did you start your journey as a Cornell volunteer?
I’ve always had an interest in volunteer work because when I was younger I would follow my mom around to all the different community programs that she was super involved in—public service and community work—so I thought, I can do that, too. When I went to Cornell, I joined Alpha Phi Omega, which is a community service fraternity on campus. It was just a great mix of public service and community building, and I had a blast. I thought that I definitely wanted to keep this going. When I graduated it seemed like a good way to start.
You wear many Cornell hats, what drew you to each group?
I think it was just a lot of luck and meeting the right people who got me excited about their visions for their groups and then just getting sucked up into how awesome these volunteers are and how hard they’re working—and how I’d love to help them! CAAAN is great because I get to talk to prospective students and get them interested in Cornell. A friend brought me to a dinner that was being hosted by the CAAA and I talked with a couple of board members at the time and they convinced me to join one of their new committees. Between attending and helping plan some of their events, one thing led to another, and I became VP of Programming. CAAA helped me find NYC Cornellians because while I was reaching out to help CAAA collaborate with other alumni groups someone suggested to check out NYC Cornellians. They were looking for a Diversity Alumni Programs representative for their Board. I met with one of their co-presidents, and I thought that this could be a great experience. It’s just a lot of luck and a seeing how these amazing volunteers are doing in their space and saying, “How I can help with that?”
Is there something that your clubs are working on that you’re especially excited about?
NYC Cornellians is sort of building themselves up and they started this new scholarship fund. I think it’s great, because students can always use more money to attend Cornell. Because it’s such an amazing experience, helping them along the way is just the best thing we can do as alumni. Also, NYC Cornellians is doing a lot on Discord and trying to build an online community that’s casual and allows people to connect to each other. CAAA just has so much going on. We did a lot of these major virtual events that used to be big in-person dinners before COVID-19. We’ve been making a big shift from in-person to fully virtual, and it was really hard, but we pivoted and we’ve had huge turnouts for events like our Diwali dinner and our Pan Asian celebration this year. We have our diversity reunion coming up and I think it’s going to be one of the most connected reunions ever.
What has been your favorite volunteer moment?
I can’t pinpoint one specific volunteer moment that was my favorite, but I can share one that has been super impactful. It was with CAAAN when I was just starting out. I was supposed to meet a student who was running late and it was pouring outside. This girl rushes in soaking wet head to toe with a broken umbrella and her book bag sort of lumped into a plastic bag. It was a scene. She came up to me and said, “I’m so sorry I’m late. I hope you don’t mind that I look like this,” and I was like, “You just tracked through this huge storm with a broken umbrella—why are you apologizing?” Once we had some tea it all settled down, but it was just so awesome to see how much prospective students want to learn about Cornell and connect with alumni to see what it’s all about. For one person to battle through wind and storm just to make one meeting… it was so cool. I think that this moment will stay with me for a very long time. The Cornell experience is bigger than you are —there are so many people who are coming after you, and you’re the next step for them.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
It’s had a very profound impact on me. I got to meet so many people from so many different walks of life. That “…any person… any study” motto really does translate when you get to campus. If you go looking, you will find someone with any interest, many that you would never would have thought about before, and you’ll get to learn about them. If you play your cards right, you get to experience some of the things that they did. It puts a new perspective on why you go to Cornell. Everyone goes to Cornell saying I want this profession, or that I want to be this sort of person. But when you finally go there, you find that it’s not a one-dimensional experience. There are so many layers to what people can do. You don’t just learn about your major. You learn how to connect and how to lead. Altogether, it really did shape what I wanted my future as an adult to look like and the values I wanted to embody.
What makes you feel most connected to Cornell while living in New York City?
I was very lucky in that a lot of my friends also came back to New York City with me. I had a huge community of fellow alumni to sort of tap into as we were checking out our new jobs or new life post-undergrad. If you just wear a Cornell cap or a Big Red sweatshirt you’ll have someone walk up to you and say, “Hi! What year are you?,” and it starts a conversation. Cornellians pop up everywhere and they’re so warm! It’s very cool to live in a city where everyone’s so busy but you still get to see that warmth. It makes me very proud of all of us alumni for being so inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
Do you have a favorite class or extracurricular from your time at Cornell?
Alpha Phi Omega was hands down one of my favorite extracurriculars. I served on some committee or held some position every single semester just because I wanted to meet new people. I had like eight littles. Just making new friends and getting them settled within the group was important to me. I also had so many classes that I loved. I got close to a lot of the teachers in my major, but some of my favorite classes were from outside of my major. I took ALS 3100—Foundations in Leadership: Skills for Professional Success and Life. It was completely outside my comfort zone. But it built a new skill set for me and brought me new perspectives. I think everyone should take a class like that.
Do you have a message for newly graduated alumni looking to volunteer?
Don’t feel like you need to go for a board position right at the beginning. There are always ways to serve within your regional clubs and within affinity clubs where you can settle in and get in touch with fellow alumni in the area. You’ll meet people from different groups and you’ll want to participate. Another way to get involved is to just sign up for something on CU Volunteer. You never know what’s coming up. You’ll find Cornell staff that are manning these different groups and they’ll always make time to teach you what you need to know or how you can get involved. It’s like going to your teachers and professors so that you’ll do a lot better. Reach out to the alumni in your area and the staff that oversee these groups. Everyone’s here to get you involved and to include you.
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering or giving at Cornell, please fill out this short form and a member of the NEC Team will reach out to you.