CACO (Cornell Association of Class Officers) volunteer Janelle Teng ’11 recently sat down with fellow volunteer and Senior Product Manager at Integral Ad Science Yvette Lapompe ’10, to discuss Yvette’s journey from student to alumni volunteer, what made her get involved in multiple organizations, and what makes volunteering for Cornell unique.
Yvette’s alumni activities and positions:
- CBAA (Cornell Black Alumni Association) – VP Membership
- 2010 Class Council – Co-President, Previously VP of Membership
- CACO (Cornell Association of Class Officers) – Director at Large
- MOSAIC – Member at Large
- NYC Cornellians – Member at Large
Janelle Teng ’11: Cornell’s a really big place, with lots of different communities. Where did you find a sense of community, starting as an undergrad?
Yvette Lapompe ’10: I would say my sense of community probably started from COSEP [Committee on Special Educational Projects]. I was in the pre-freshman summer program and so I went to Cornell early, and spent that summer meeting a bunch of other minority students who came to Cornell a little early to just get a head start on the freshman year. And that’s where I met, I would say, my closest friends and that sense of community, and decided that I wanted to room in Ujamaa because most of them were also rooming there. I would say even throughout my four years, if I can think of anything that was a sense of community, for me it was Ujamaa, even [though] I only lived there for freshman year. But even still, it was home away from home. It made Cornell feel like home. Whether you live in the dorm or not, you can always come there and you know everyone and everyone knows you. And so for me, that was my sense of community at Cornell.
Do you feel a through line or any theme from your undergrad activities to your alumni activities? Was it easy to transition from being a student to being an alum?
Wanting to give back! Particularly for CBAA, the previous e-boards of CBAA tended to skew a little older; I always enjoyed coming to CBAA events, but always wanted my friends to come back with me. It was basically me wanting to get more younger alumni involved in these organizations. And with this executive board with John Rawlins ’06 [current president of CBAA], we were definitely able to do more programming events that cater to the younger alumni, that they’d be more interested in coming to. For the Class of 2010, just wanting to get more folks involved. That’s part of what drives me and why I’m part of the organizations that I am. It’s just to get folks more involved. It’s such a fun experience that I have, and I want to share that with others.
What is it about Cornell that makes you want to be more than an alum, want to be an alumni volunteer for Cornell?
It definitely stems from my undergraduate experience. I think it’s probably naive to say the best years of my adult life were at Cornell. And so, it’s just that experience in wanting to always foster that feeling. That’s probably part of the reason why I volunteer with Cornell as much as I do. And the reason why I will always want to get back to Ithaca is because of that experience and Cornell just always feels like a second home for me.
How did you get your start? When did you join or when did you decide to become a member or an active participant and volunteer of CBAA, for example?
My active participation as a volunteer actually started with my class, Class of 2010. My five-year Reunion was both CBAA and my class year Reunion. The experience of me being back on campus just made me want to get more involved. Wanting to be active, and wanting to give back, it was perfect for me.
What’s something that you either wanted to get out of being a volunteer or didn’t expect to get out of being a volunteer, but now that you are holding those positions, you find that it’s a benefit?
The biggest benefit for me is just knowing what it takes to be a leader. You have all these skills that are transferable even in your workplace. For me, I wouldn’t call myself an introvert, but I would definitely say I was more on the quiet side even throughout undergrad and in the beginning of my work career. Being in these organizations just helped me to overcome that and be more outspoken, do more things, be able to volunteer for more speaking opportunities and just having those skills that would help you later on, not just in these organizations, but also in life – moving up and advancing.
In addition to being a class officer and now a class president, you are also on the board of CACO. How is that role different than being involved in your class?
I think the first thing that I would call out for sure is just being exposed to other alumni. Being able to have that experience in CACO, being able to speak with alumni from across all generations, you don’t really get that in your class, speaking to your peers. We just need to speak to people across generations and hear about their experiences and what they are also doing with their classes.
What do you love about being involved in multiple ways, through CBAA and CACO and MOSAIC and New York City Cornellians?
What I get out of each of them is definitely something very different. Having that breadth of experience across generations is the biggest takeaway for me. I would say for CBAA, transferring like my experience from undergrad and being in that community, but also in my alumni life. I think most folks get disconnected after graduation, but this ties me back to that Black experience at Cornell and CBAA’s very different in that they do a lot of social things. And I think, as creative as the events are, it’s just something different that I look forward to, that I don’t get out of any other organization within Cornell, or outside of it, to be honest. I’d say Class of 2010 is probably my closest connection to Cornell, just because that’s my experience. I came in with my class, and those are the folks that I’ve known the longest and want to continue to tie that back together. I think in each and every role I get something very different and unique, but it’s all of what contributed to my experiences in undergrad, and it’s something that I want to take away in my alumni life as well.
What advice would you give to somebody who is thinking about becoming more engaged with the university?
I would tell someone to just start looking at the events. It doesn’t even have to be something formal. With CBAA, for example, we do monthly unity hours where it’s basically a social event via Zoom. I got the inkling to wanted to be involved, just by attending something. I think that happens for a lot of folks and that you attend and you’re like, man, I want to be more involved in this, let me reach out and ask someone on the board, how do I get more involved. The first step is just having an open mind, look for events at Cornell and just attend the ones that seem of interest and then you’ll know where to start from there!