Praveen Anumolu ’01 discussed his many Cornell involvements with fellow volunteer Erica Healey-Kagan ’05.
Praveen’s alumni activities and positions:
- Cornell University Council (Administrative Board and current TCAM planning chair)
- Class of 2001 (President 2011-2021, current treasurer)
- Cornell Asian Alumni Association (CAAA) (current treasurer)
- Continuous Reunion Club (CRC)
- Cornell Club of Long Island
- Cornell Pride
- Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN) (volunteer since 2003)
Erica Healey-Kagan ’05: Cornell is a big place, what do you consider to be your communities and how did you find your corner of the university?
Praveen Anumolu ’01, MEng ’03: The corners are extremely big with different spheres of influence. A lot of people happen to be from clubs or groups and a lot of them happened to be musicians, because I did a lot of performing groups, so mostly instrumentalists. That combined with people I happen to randomly live with and also people that I academically interacted with.
It’s something I reflect on especially being a class officer. I can certainly, by the degrees of separation, find someone who knows someone, but it’s always an opportunity that you’re always meeting new people.
What was it like for people in the communities that you associated with on campus at that time you were a student?
When you first get to campus it’s sort of overwhelming and you’re also 18 at the time. One of the things that really attracted me to the school was being able to really study anything. Although I graduated from engineering, I had a large amount of liberal arts education. I basically completed the requirements for an archaeology major, I studied languages, I did a lot of a lot of stuff that’s not even reflected in my transcripts. I’m not sure how that necessarily helped me in my professional life but I think it definitely made me a much more well-rounded individual.
I think more importantly, it’s trying to find the experiences of others where you know you’re challenged and you know you’re confronted with realities that you did not share.
After you graduated, how did you make your start as an alumni volunteer? Was there a particular group that you first got involved with? What was the beginning of your alumni volunteer experience like?
I stayed at school for my masters, so I would say my alumni start was a little delayed, but really my first volunteer thing was CAAAN, which is something I randomly sort of still do. I emailed my local CAAAN and I actually live really close to where I grew up so I got in touch with the Cornell people there, and that was sort of my first alumni thing, although I had been attending Reunions after I graduated but I was not a class officer. I wasn’t a class officer until after my fifth Reunion. So, it was an interesting mix but I was still sort of heavily attending Reunions.
You’re a class officer, but I also know that you’re involved in Council and so many other organizations, how are your different alumni volunteer roles similar? How are they different? How do you think about balancing those roles?
There’s definitely extreme similarity between various roles dealing with the university. A lot of the staff liaisons are often the same people. Each group sort of has its own mission. It also has a lot to do with culture. They have a want to make the university itself better and they want to address needs. I think pretty much all alumni organizations have a component of student engagement which I think is ultimately furthering the mission and ideals of the university.
As an alumni volunteer, what advice would you give to a fellow alum who is not yet involved and wants to start getting involved?
If you have an interest, try to find a way you can do that as a volunteer. Class officer roles tend to be a first thing, regional clubs also. Often, involvement with your school or college or a professionally oriented involvement. It really depends on interest. The philosophy with all of these organizations are simply trying to get individuals involved who want to be. If you have a desire and ideas, even if you don’t have a lot of time, there are often ways to get involved that may not be as time intensive. I personally have other things that vie for my time.
What is the tie that binds you to the university?
I think one thing is a commitment to the university’s mission. We can always do better and it’s looking for that to be realized. Also, the founding of the university—the “… any person … any study” and having that be available to more and more. I think one thing that I learned a lot about is the different experiences that students have.
Is there anyone in particular, whether it was when you were a student or since you’ve become an alumnus from Cornell, who has inspired you or mentored you in a particular way?
I actually have several. I’d like first acknowledge Jim Hanchett, Class of ’53, who just recently passed away. He was a long time CRC president. He was actually how I ended up joining CRC. Bill Vanneman ’31 was an inspiration, as far as doing Reunion stuff. He was always there. CAAA President Matt Palumbo ’83, he has a lot of knowledge on what the university does and how its structured, because he has been involved in a variety of positions over the years.
It’s often very interesting and I’m sure there are others that I would love to know. When I have conversations with individuals, whether it’s at Reunion or CALC or TCAM, especially with those who have been volunteering for a long time about what their journey has undertaken and what motivates them, how they get involved, how they how they stay involved. I’m not necessarily looking to do the same thing, but fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for volunteering and I really look up to the those who have been doing this a long time.
Even though we may be 50 years apart in age, it’s a tie that binds us together. It’s that unspoken thing.