The Erb Institute is a family. There are no two ways about it. I don’t say that lightly, unlike some organizations. The Erb family, like any strong family, is full of people willing to give with no expectation of reciprocation—from material things like a tube for river floats to intangibles like their time, energy and wisdom.

While I’ve definitely made the most of that tube on the Huron River this summer, it’s those intangibles that have made the most difference for me—since before I was actually an Erber.

When I was deciding which business and sustainability dual-degree programs to apply to, I was surprised to quickly get an introduction to Terry Nelidov, the institute’s managing director. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to connect with someone of his caliber before I’d even applied to the school. He was a font of knowledge on our first call and helped me think through my future as a sustainability professional and prospective applicant, pressure-free. He also offered an introduction to a veteran of the agrifood sustainability world—exactly where my interest lies.

That introduction was to Paloma Lopez, former global marketing and sustainability director at the Kellogg Company who was named a Global Sustainability Woman Leader by Forbes Magazine. Paloma and I bonded over our shared mission to fight climate change, undernutrition and obesity through the food system. It was this conversation—and the willingness of Terry, the Erb team and the Erb network to make it happen—that put the Erb Institute ahead of the competition for me.

Since then, the Erb family has only kept it up. Over the course of my first year, I received many more such introductions to members of the Erb community. The people I’ve come to know through Erb have been paramount as I’ve broken into the notoriously competitive and networking-heavy world of early-stage impact venture capital.

Still, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to meeting our Erb community. Erb is one of the first dual-degree programs of its kind, it sits within one of the top research universities in the world, and it has one of the biggest alumni networks in the world. The list of people I hope to meet seems limitless.

You can get that only from the Erb family.

Paloma and I kept in touch after that first meeting. Thanks to Terry’s connection and Paloma’s generosity with her time, I ended up getting a summer internship with the startup she founded, Future Fit Foods. Through Future Fit Foods, Paloma and her co-founder Sean Ansett (another global sustainability leader and Erb family member) are transforming the food industry. The experience I had working with them gave me a unique look into how we can fight the ills of our world through the food system. And in true Erb family fashion, they have continued to mentor me and introduce me to experts in their sphere.