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You Get What You Give

Sometimes opportunity knocks in the form of a second chance. Jonathan Strauss ’16 is an example of what happens when you utilize every resource. 

By Jonathan Strauss ’16 

The Moravian University community can add great value to your journey if you allow it. Every Greyhound, whether you’ve just graduated or it’s been decades since you’ve been back to campus, has the connections and resources Moravian provides at their fingertips. This community knows how to come together to help students get the most out of their educations. Here’s a glimpse into my journey from an uninspired former athlete to a driven individual, thanks to the life altering experiences that this institution, and the people connected with it, has afforded me. 

In the fall of 2012, I entered my First Year Seminar class taught by Katie P. Desiderio, associate professor of management. After an injury encouraged me to turn down athletic scholarships at Division I schools, I looked to Moravian’s small school environment to begin my academic career. My dreams of Division I athletics had fallen apart, but Dr. Desiderio was determined to help me focus on my new journey. Her passion and devotion to student success is boundless, and her dedication to engage me was inspiring. 

When I decided to transfer to another institution, Dr. Desiderio saw me through the process of leaving Moravian. But she did not forget about me. When I changed my mind again and decided to come back, she was instrumental in getting me on campus a second time. I began to understand the role that she was playing in my future: she was no longer my academic adviser, but she continued to invest in me as a student, an opportunity she would extend to anyone willing to take it. That moment of realization was when I began to trust the Moravian University process. While completing my sophomore and junior years, Dr. D played a key role in presenting opportunities to me. One of those opportunities was applying to become a Student Trustee. 

In the fall of 2014, I was sworn in as the newest member of the Moravian University Board of Trustees as a student trustee. This one opportunity helped me gain two prolific mentors, the first being Patrick Perone ’15, Senior Student Trustee for the class of 2015. Patrick showed me what it takes to be a success and continues to drive me forward through his own example. He saw something in me and has since connected me with numerous alumni and Moravian University community members, most notably Andy Hart ’90, Senior Vice President of Tiffany & Co., in New York City, my second mentor. 

It, once again, felt like someone else at Moravian was presenting me with the resources to shape my future, and I wasn’t about to let them go to waste. In my short but fruitful experience, I’ve learned that when it comes to networking, you get what you give. It is not all about what you get. Are you engaging in class? Are you engaging with your peers? Are you engaging with faculty, staff and other alumni? In everything that you do, are you putting forth your best effort? It is the small building blocks in life that add up to the monumental things.

And so I began fostering a genuine mentor relationship with Andy through email, phone calls and in-person meetings. After meeting with him at Tiffany & Co.’s corporate headquarters in New York City and seven months of follow up conversation, he presented me with the opportunity for seasonal employment at Tiffany & Co. in Bangkok, Thailand for the summer of 2015, making me the first international intern for the company. Not someone from Harvard or Yale or even Penn State—me, a biology major from Moravian University. 

I barely had time to contemplate the challenges of this opportunity before Amy Saul, associate dean of career and civic engagement, and Julia Gasdaska ’07, director of major gifts for the University, began using their resources to find the financial means necessary to achieve my goal. I was connected with Tom Ortwein ’77, an alumnus living in Bangkok who generously donated the financial support needed. He made me feel welcome in Thailand before I even got there—he even offered me his bicycle.

By trusting the foundational principles of this institution—to provide every opportunity for students, alumni, faculty and staff to engage together within the community and reach their full potential—I was able to get the internship of my dreams and move closer to professional success. Did you know these principles are active and alive in our faculty, staff, students and alumni every day? After my experience, I am certain they are.

Reaching your full potential as a student or alumni of Moravian University is not easy, but hard work and trusting the process allows you to strive. There is no “hands off approach” to success. No one is going to do the work for you, and great opportunity is not handed out to anyone. Great opportunity is seized. The Moravian University community is rich and extensive, and tapping into its resources is simple, but you need to have the desire to do so. It takes the approach that most of us take to recreational and sporting events: the Houndem spirit. Go ahead and take Houndem as a literal approach to accessing the plethora of resources offered to every single member of our community.

With a Houndem like spirit, the odds of reaching your target employment goals are drastically improved. A foot in the door, an informational interview, or an unpaid internship is often the byproduct of such spirit—whether on the giving or receiving end. 

President Grigsby raises the banner of Moravian University in this way: “We are an elite college without being elitists.” I embrace this truth and, with that, we have no excuse not to be the hardest working individuals in any competitive environment. Hold your head high, wear your attitude like a garment of pride, and work like a Greyhound; your returns will bring accolades that will point back to the Moravian University community. 

For me, being a Greyhound is about living a reflective life, finding fulfillment in the work I do and serving as a leader today, tomorrow and every day following. I realize what this College has done for me and, with intention, I plan to be engaged within the community for years to come. 

As Greyhounds, we are responsible for cultivating our own pride. Pride for our school comes from a decision to be a student, alumni, faculty or staff member that brings honor to the institution. It is not the school’s responsibility to cultivate the pride in you; it’s their responsibility to create the environment to allow you to thrive. You bring the respect and the honor by your behavior, involvement and support. That’s what being a Greyhound means. 

When looking back at your Moravian University experience, ask yourself this: What is my purpose? More importantly, what is my legacy? A person’s legacy is the value that he or she adds to those around them. As alumni, are you giving back to the institution? Give back at all costs, no matter what it is. Be it 1¢ or $1 million, an international internship or a day at your office, it is all the same in the eyes of a student striving for success. No matter who you are, somewhere out there is a better version of yourself and it’s your exclusive responsibility to find that person each and every day. If we as a community embrace this truth, this institution will continue to flourish for generations to come. And so the question remains: what is your legacy?