Raj Bellani ’95 spent four years on campus but has a family for life.
By Raj Bellani ’95
As much as I chose Geneseo, Geneseo chose me.
I was very excited to attend SUNY Geneseo. I had great mentors, great classmates and great suitemates, all of whom chose to invest their time and effort in me. Geneseo became part of my DNA.
I didn’t plan it, but I found my niche and a second family as a member of the Student Activities Commission concert committee. It happened because I wanted to see Marsha Warfield perform but I could not afford the ticket — so I volunteered. The committee chair saw I was a serious person and assigned me to work security, then later invited me to join the committee full time. A year later, I was chair of concerts and by senior year, I was vice president of the Student Activities Commission.
Geneseo provided me a foundation for success and amazing mentors. If it were not for Susan (Sue) Spring and Kathy Trainor in Student and Campus Life, I would not have graduated from Geneseo, and more importantly, found my profession.
These two amazing women helped me write my first professional memo and taught me how to “red line,” or go through, a contract. They reminded me that I knew what I was doing, even if I wasn’t sure. I still use all the skills they imparted on me in my current job. Everytime I red line a contract, I still hear Kathy and Sue in my ear.
Senior year, I had an epiphany: I wanted to be like Sue and Kathy. My goal was to become the director of student activities. I found my calling because of my them. Sue and Kathy believed in me and hired me after graduation as a year-long, professional intern in Geneseo’s Department of Student Life, working in union operations, student activities, Greek life, orientation, leadership development and more.
My internship started me on the road of higher education administration. My professional journey has led me to awesome opportunities and eventually led me to my current position as vice president and chief of staff at Denison University.
I would not be where I am or who I am today without people like Kathy and Sue, who pushed me to be my better self. I had so many times, even in graduate school, that I felt lost. They took my call every time.
I recently created The Kathy Trainor and Susan Spring Endowed Fellowship at Geneseo to ensure the legacy they provided me and other students lives on. The fellowship will be used for leadership development and personal student growth and support. I trust Geneseo to decide how best to use it to help students achieve their next professional step.
Relationships like those I had with Kathy and Sue are what Geneseo is all about. Everyone is invested in each other.Everyone touches you in some way. On a very personal level, having a sense of belonging is central to everything. We find it in our houses of religion, our communities, our work, our nuclear and extended families, and our friends.
I will always belong to Geneseo. It will always be a center for me, a foundation for feeling that I am part of something greater.
Raj Bellani ’95 is a member of the Geneseo Foundation Board of Directors and the vice president and chief of staff at Denison University in Ohio. He earned his doctorate in education at the University of Pennsylvania and has served in a variety of roles at higher education institutions, including dean of students and dean of experiential education and career development.