To create positive change in ourselves and greater community, we need look no further for inspiration at SUNY Cobleskill than to our vision: to call all learners to grow, sustain, and renew the world and its citizens. Our vision is with us in our day-to-day actions, as well as our long-term pursuits. It guides our quest for knowledge in the present and the future.

Evidence of our vision exists across campus; at our annual Scholarship Luncheon, it is on full display. This celebration and recognition of the bond between our donors and students is a campus favorite. Our benefactors sustain student-learning, propelling our students to renew the world evolving around them.

On a day on which we reward and acknowledge the creation of opportunity, we also address the notion of “paying it forward.” What can we do with the opportunities we have? How can we extend our reach to maximize our impact? Where can we turn to transfer all that we have to others? I think it is critically important our students not only develop an understanding of this concept, but also reflect on how it applies to their own situations.

I reached out to our students for their insights. I had no doubt their responses would impress and inspire me.

In only his first year at SUNY Cobleskill, Ronny Huertas-Lugo has mapped out a pathway for paying it forward: he plans to use his Business Administration and Entrepreneurship studies to open and operate his own hospital. His interest in bettering community encapsulates everything we try to promote when we pay it forward. Ronny wants to improve himself by helping others improve themselves. He understands the importance of collaboration and idea-sharing, and is committed to incorporating teamwork into his future.

I find Melissa Snare motivating. She intends to pursue a career in biopharmaceutical research, with the goal of providing hope and wellness to those struggling with pain and disease. I think there is a great deal of truth to the idea that the spirit of a community depends on hope and wellness, in addition to research. Melissa adds she hopes to break the stigma of greed that accompanies pharmaceutical research; instead, she is focusing on affordability and accessibility. We can all agree this is a much-needed way of giving back.

Gabriel Gerhardt’s service-minded approach, and attitude of giving, make paying it forward seem like a given. It isn’t — which is why I am able to take so much from Gabe. He says stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and moving forward even when you are afraid or uncomfortable is where true power initiates. With the right mindset in place, he adds, we are limitless in our ability to positively disrupt the world. In Gabe’s case, he says he will be applying himself to a career in the military, or intelligence. From this platform he will be able to affect change on personal, national, and global levels.

Nathan Wilson’s approach to paying it forward correlates with an ongoing SUNY Cobleskill initiative, involving Greek Life. While Nathan’s commitment to the reintroduction of Greek societies to our College is exactly what it takes for the administration and students to work on a united mission for the long-term success of the Greeks, Nathan is proactive in his thinking. His ambition is to increase accessibility in Greek Life, especially for students with disabilities. This is no small task; it may require organizing new chapters, and it may require reorganizing existing ones. For Nathan, opening doors for others is as much about giving back as it is about giving forward.

Paying it forward for Kimberly Rose relates to what paying it forward is all about for many members of our community: teaching. As she trains to become an educator herself, Kimberly says a key component of her plan to extend her knowledge to others will be offering discounted sessions and workshops. Kimberly believes a commitment to learning knows no boundaries. She says she will proceed with that mindset in providing opportunity.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to each scholarship recipient and benefactor for filling SUNY Cobleskill with potential, ambition, and giving. We each play a role in paying it forward. As we strive to make a difference, I hope to learn more about you, your plans, and the great things we can do together.