How CUSD Has Impacted You — Tony Li

Tony Li

Profile Links: Portfolio | LinkedIn

Why is CUSD important to you?

I experienced a lot of growth during the time I spent within CUSD. Your friends are important to you because they experience growing with you. And that is how CUSD was like for me. The time I spent working on CUSD was when I experienced the biggest period of growth. Working on CUSD and hanging out with CUSD people all contributed to my development. And it’s not always professional, sometimes it is personal. With that, CUSD really does mean a lot to me.

What made you decide to join CUSD and what does it mean to you now?

I thought CUSD was much more legitimate and organized than most of the other clubs on Cornell’s campus. I remember opening the CUSD acceptance email my sophomore spring and I was like oh damn over 100 people applied and I was one of the three people who were accepted to Marketing and Communications team! I thought to myself: “that’s pretty damn cool”.
I took it seriously from the get-go. It meant a lot to me to be apart of the CUSD community — I looked up to a lot of people in CUSD not only within Marketing and Communications, but also in other teams. It’s that feeling of accomplishing something great.
My perspective on CUSD changed over time. In the beginning, I knew that CUSD has a huge mission, and I wanted to do great work for it. Over time I did get burnt out. I vacillated back and forth between being super passionate and being overworked. But throughout the process, I learned a lot about inspiring others with my passion and how to best delegate work so I don’t become burnt out. Right now, my attitude with CUSD is back to giving as much as I can offer. We’re working on cool projects now, and with new people who are excited and passionate about what they do. I would say we’re definitely headed into a new direction within Marketing and Communications and within CUSD as a whole.
CUSD now feels much more focused because of the people. People care more and their passion shines through. Our new executive board are young and great at what they do. They bring a new level of energy and I think that’s great and that’s exciting.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Even without the environmental aspect, there needs to be an aspect to design that is natural and organic. That means, it needs to be thoughtful and genuine so it will sustain and will solve problems and will provide value. It is never quick and easy with branding, with marketing, or with telling stories. It builds on something, and it creates leverage. Sustainability in design is sort of the long game — it’s well thought-out.

How has CUSD impacted you academically & career-wise?

CUSD opened my eyes to what I can actually do academically and career-wise. Every time I talked to someone — anyone — I gained new perspectives. Especially meeting and talking to our previous director, Mind Apivessa, I started learning and being exposed to different things. CUSD consists of over 100 people, so you always have the chance and luck of bumping into new opportunities and exposure.
How I discovered product and software design was through a network of people. Through getting to know Mind, I was exposed to Mind’s friends and friends of friends. When you’re on campus, you bump into people and you talk and you’re like oh I’ll go to this workshop. Things just happen because they are just natural. You don’t set out with a specific plan like “Oh I want to discover product design” because I didn’t even know product design existed at the time. By talking to more people, you really begin to put yourself out there. Looking from a long term standpoint, I might have never discovered product design if it weren’t for CUSD. Maybe I would have discovered it some other way but it just worked out with the path of people I met.
Attending that product design workshop really inspired me. I thought to myself, this is exactly what I want to do and I really should try it out. The next day, I met a CUSD alum who ended up being my boss last summer. His application is called Agnes, an app that helps students find groups and events on campus that are catered to their interests based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He was asking for test users and I was like wow this is my shot. If I could become a test user and show him what I can provide then I can possibly intern for him.
I walked up to him and introduced myself. I also found out that he is a CUSD alum who worked on a bunch of different projects and was passionate about them. I went home, watched a lot of Youtube videos, and made a 20-page powerpoint. I called him for three and a half hours and he ended up giving me an internship on the spot! That was all chance, from attending the product design workshop, to meeting my boss, to discovering my passion for product design. I might have gotten a product design internship somewhere else, but I would never know. I really have CUSD to thank for that.

How has CUSD impacted you in your daily lives?

First semester I was very energetic. Second semester I tried to do too much and I learned so much about team work: how to work with people with different priorities, sharing the work, and taking a step back in order to delegate the work better. So second semester was a lot of growing pains. Now in my third semester, it’s much more balance for me. CUSD has made me more mature and experienced. These are the things I constantly think about and am more aware of because of my time on CUSD and it has made me grow.

What is one of your fondest memories or interactions within CUSD?

My first semester on CUSD was sophomore spring. Our main focus within Marketing and Communications was supporting Sustainable Education Ghana (SEG). We worked together with SEG to set up an interactive exhibition. Working on it and trying my very hardest to make videos, getting to know the team and becoming good friends with everyone involved were aspects that felt so rewarding.
To be honest, I felt lost in many areas my sophomore year. But putting together the SEG exhibition gave me a sense of purpose. It felt like CUSD was the only thing that mattered at the time and that was my purpose. And I was willing to do everything I could to make it successful and it made me happy doing what I was doing at the time.

What was one of your proudest projects on CUSD?

Last semester, our work with Voices of African Mothers (VAM), SEG’s stakeholder, and SEG was really great. We managed to raise $4000 in one day at Cornell just through our marketing efforts and reaching out to people.
I created a video for VAM by actually interviewing the founder and the CEO of VAM. Most times we’re working for stakeholders, but we never get to meet them or talk to them. Actually talking to them and creating content with them and not just for them was enlightening. I was like wow, now I know their mission and it really made everything worth it. Just meeting them, talking to them, and working with them made this project one of my proudest moments.

Do you have anything else to add?

CUSD is like a pit stop in life. It’s really hard to know what you’re getting out of something. You always have to give in order to get something out of it.
There’s this quote: “if you’re even 51 % selfless and 49% selfish, then you have a chance to do something and be something”. Being selfless more often than not provides more value to other people and will build you leverage in the long run. Now, I enjoy just giving without expecting anything because I think a lot of the times I used to calculate what would provide me value but joining CUSD made me realize that it is about something greater than myself. It’s about providing value to other people, not just through your work but also through helping your members grow and helping each other grow.