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Living a life of service

The lightbulb went on for Lina Billings when she walked in the big arena, the ceiling draped in fine linens, tables adorned with china and sumptuous floral centerpieces, crowded with some of Cleveland State’s most influential and accomplished alumni.

It was the Distinguished Alumni Awards, a yearly gala honoring some of the University’s best and brightest, and Lina was there as a student representative from the student organization Campus Activities Board.

“To see that was inspiring and eye-opening,” she says.

In that moment, she knew that one day she’d be like one of those honored by the University for her life’s work. It’s not that she’s seeking the accolades or in pursuit of recognition, but she wants to live a life of service.

Hers is an unlikely path beginning in Russia, then Idaho and finally Cleveland, where she enrolled at CSU in 2014, settling on a major in speech language pathology.

“I’m a very people-oriented person,” she says.

“I want to help people and communication is such a huge part of life.”

As a student in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College, her tuition was covered by a scholarship from the College and working in CAB. Like other scholarship recipients, she notes that she had the freedom to focus on school, but she also describes how it freed her for something else: to find community.

Like she said, she’s a people person, thriving on connections and she found that by fully engaging in campus life. It’s where she says that she has had some of her most rewarding experiences.

“Being on campus has opened so many doors to meeting people…” she says.

Those people have given her insight into the true power of giving and its lasting effect.

“That has stirred me to do better and to be better, so I can pour out to others and give back when I can.”

“Pouring out” is something you’ll hear frequently in a conversation with her. She’s keenly aware of and overwhelmingly grateful for the investment her professors have made in her life. Only, she likens the experience to one vessel emptying its contents into another.

“Our professors are, hands down, some of the most compassionate, loving, caring professors that I’ve ever encountered.”

Now, she’s wrapping up her graduate career at CSU, currently working in a highly competitive clinical at the Veterans Administration, and pins much, if not all, of her success on her scholarships during undergraduate.

“It has set me up to be as successful as I am and as successful as I’m going to be, and I want to give back because I see how it has affected me,” she says.

“It’s like a cycle.”

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