[MUSIC PLAYING] ABBY MARANGA: My name is Abby. I am a senior at Cornell University. My parents are both originally from Ghana. Being first generation in America, I felt that I should be helping to create a better space for everyone. I was involved in service in high school. Service is a part of my identity. So when I saw that I had been accepted into The Cornell Tradition, I knew that I'd found a space. As a senior, I became very involved in the leadership, as well.
So you know I'm on Student Advisory Council, right? I'm going to meet up with a group of them, and we're just going to talk about how last semester went and goals for the next semester and catch up.
SPEAKER 1: Like, are you sad to walk away from it?
ABBY MARANGA: Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah?
ABBY MARANGA: I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss it a lot. Seniors, this is your last day. The thing I think I'll miss about Tradition when I leave is the people that I've met through this organization. But I'll be back. I would like to be a very dedicated alum.
SPEAKER 2: It's just always amazing to see like how many Tradition alum have not only been successful in their career but have taken their career and brought it back to Cornell Tradition.
DOUG RUTZEN: I'm Doug Rutzen. And I graduated from Cornell in 1987. I grew up on food stamps and on welfare. My parents were divorced. My mom had lost her job. I came to Cornell with no money. I walked into the Cornell Tradition office, and I saw a woman moving boxes. So I asked if I could pick one up and help her. And she introduced herself as the director of The Cornell Tradition.
I told her about my background. And she said, I'll give you a job. You can be our first student employee. We're going to help pay your loans now. And we're making a bet on you that you're going to continue to work in the public interest trying to make your world a better place.
SUSAN MURPHY: Hey, good to see you, Doug. Thank you so much for coming.
DOUG RUTZEN: Thank you. It's really a pleasure.
SUSAN MURPHY: I'm thrilled to have you here.
DOUG RUTZEN: Thank you.
SUSAN MURPHY: You were part of the inaugural class.
DOUG RUTZEN: Correct. I was full financial aid.
SUSAN MURPHY: Now your daughter's coming to Cornell.
DOUG RUTZEN: You take a kid who was on food stamps with no money and give them a shot and, in one generation--
SUSAN MURPHY: He's paying his kids' education.
DOUG RUTZEN: Right. And we don't need financial aid. I can actually give back through the tuition. It's not the same kind of donation that others might make, but it's, for me, an important part. What I thought was so cool about The Cornell Tradition is they were willing to bet on me at the beginning.
SUSAN MURPHY: We were making a bet because we saw some potential. But you're right. It was an investment.
DOUG RUTZEN: I think that we, as a group that went before, need to figure out how we can provide opportunities for current students.
SUSAN MURPHY: Mhmm.
ABBY MARANGA: So we have different kinds of immune cells going on-- we have the t-cell, these are the main super hero-- then the measles virus and like little measles henchmen. This is our last class.
SPEAKER 1: It's a good way to end a Cornell career.
ABBY MARANGA: I never expected it to end with puppets, but I don't mind.
SPEAKER 1: [LAUGHS]
ABBY MARANGA: As a senior embarking on a really unknown journey, a lot of things are up in the air right now. I feel a lot of anxiety.
I am now a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. And I've been a Tradition fellow ever since my freshman year.
DOUG RUTZEN: I was a Cornell Tradition fellow in the very first class--
ABBY MARANGA: Well, then.
DOUG RUTZEN: --back some years ago. What kinds of things have you done with the Tradition?
ABBY MARANGA: Oh, so many things. Through the Tradition, I've been able to get a job on campus. And I used my support account to actually go to Tanzania two summers ago. And I did rounds in a hospital there. And it was very, very compelling to actually work in international medicine as opposed to just sitting in a classroom and learning about the issues.
And so this is us during our field experience. We had to wear white coats. And everybody used to think that we were doctors. And we were just like, no, no, no. This was our first day in the surgery rotation. That was so exciting. I wasn't sure if I could handle it. But, after a while, you got used to it.
We were with an American surgeon who actually does surgeries for free. I was really inspired by that because I found that I could see myself doing the same thing.
DOUG RUTZEN: So I brought a few photos, as well. Through The Cornell Tradition, I was able to work with blind, deaf, and mute people in the Caribbean. And we needed to figure out a way that we could create job opportunities. So we set up a mattress-producing factory. We were able to convert this workshop for the blind, which was losing money every year, into a $3 million business. We did the same thing in places like Antigua and Barbados.
So it was really a wonderful experience and really opened my eyes up to international public service, which then culminated in 2013. President Obama asked me to join him on a panel at the UN General Assembly. The focus was on the legal framework for civil society. So here's a picture with President Obama, the Deputy UN Secretary General.
All of this work and my focus on nonprofit organizations goes back to that very first summer with The Cornell Tradition. The components of the Tradition-- everything from the Student Advisory Council to the summer support that allowed you to go to Tanzania to the requirement for public service to the requirement to have a job-- allowed me to develop skills, develop talent, which then led me to where I am today. So I'm sure the same will happen to you. I can see--
ABBY MARANGA: I am--
DOUG RUTZEN: --great things in your future.
ABBY MARANGA: --very, very hopeful. And, you know, I wouldn't even be at the place I am now with my current interests and my current hopes were it not for my membership in the Tradition fellowship and then also getting to speak with alumni like you and seeing the things that you do. It makes me really hopeful that, like, I can go on and also make the change that I so desperately would like to see in the world.
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In 1982, The Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation established by entrepreneur Charles F. Feeney ’56, made its first-ever grant of $7 million to establish The Cornell Tradition. The Tradition is a fellowship program that offers service, work, and scholarship opportunities to many of the university’s most civically minded undergraduates. To date, it has provided more than $41 million in loan relief to over 5,000 fellows. Together they have collectively performed more than 2.8 million hours of work and service on behalf of the communities with which they are involved. In 2016, Atlantic concluded its grant-making—totaling $8 billion worldwide, $1 billion of which benefitted Cornell with a final investment of $7 million in the Tradition.
This film chronicles a meeting of one of the first Tradition fellows, Doug Rutzen ’87, and one of the most recent, Abby Maranga ’16, and helps to convey the Tradition’s influence on the students who take part in the program and the communities they serve.