An illustration of Ezra Cornell doing a podcast

This is Ezra

Podcast Celebrates Alumni—and their Love for Cornell

The hosts (pals from the Class of ’90) trace fellow alums’ paths from the Hill to success in a variety of fields

By Linda Copman

“Is it riskier to invest in Bitcoin, or to run down Libe Slope in high heels?” Michelle Stuzin Katz ’90 posed that question to investor John Cota Small ’90 in a recent episode of Cornell (thank) U, a weekly podcast she co-hosts with Stephanie Marmelstein Gitlin ’90.

(Small’s answer: the heels.)

Launched in November 2021, the podcast spotlights a Cornellian in each weekly episode.

Guests have included alumni from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, writers, entrepreneurs, researchers, social media influencers—even a TV weatherman (Dave Price ’87) and a New Yorker cartoonist (Ali Solomon ’01).

Stephanie Gitlin and Michelle Katz
Podcasters Gitlin (left) and Katz. (Photo provided)

As of August 2022, the show (which is not formally affiliated with the University) has about 40 episodes, all available on Apple and Spotify; new installments air every Monday.

Longtime friends, Katz and Gitlin co-host their interviews via Zoom (Gitlin from Florida, Katz from suburban New York)—carrying on lighthearted banter as they follow their subjects’ stories from the Hill to the present day.

“We try to approach each guest as if we were having coffee for the first time,” says Gitlin, who majored in psychology in Arts & Sciences and now works as an attorney.

Stephanie Gitlin and Michelle Katz as students
The hosts as undergrads. (Photo provided)

Katz and Gitlin—who met when they pledged Sigma Delta Tau sorority—particularly enjoy peppering their guests with sassy, unexpected queries.

“We find that if we ask the right questions, our guests share wonderful, funny, poignant, and sometimes even embarrassing stories,” says Katz, a former human development major in Human Ecology, who does the bulk of the behind-the-scenes work on the podcast. “I’ve learned so much from them.”

They asked physician and integrative medicine practitioner Danielle Greenman ’07 whether acupuncture is more or less painful than stepping on hot coals. (Less.)

To serial entrepreneur Jeff Wald ’95, MAP ’98, they playfully inquired whether he’d invest in their fictitious startup: a professional hugging school.

We find that if we ask the right questions, our guests share wonderful, funny, poignant, and sometimes even embarrassing stories.

Michelle Stuzin Katz ’90

“I like it,” Wald replied. “I like it a lot.”

Other guests have included the creator of Cornell’s pandemic-era “Zoom mixers” (Tony Chen ’12, ME ’12), a serial entrepreneur and cosmetics guru (Divya Gugnani ’98 of Wander Beauty), a prolific author and former game show contestant (Brad Herzog ’90), a corporate CEO (School of Rock’s Rob Price ’90), and a nationally known pediatrician (Jen Trachtenberg ’89).

Stephanie Gitlin and Michelle Katz on a laptop screen
Living more than 1,000 miles apart, the friends record their show via Zoom. (Photo provided)

(To suggest a Cornellian to be featured on the podcast, message them on Instagram or email cornellthanku@gmail.com.)

The hosts weave a few common elements into each episode—including a speed round of Cornell-themed questions in which they ask guests to name things like their favorite Collegetown eatery, campus study spot, or Hot Truck order.

The venture generates no income for its creators—but for them, that’s part of its appeal.

“It’s fun because there’s no pressure to grow,” Katz says. “We don’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves.”

At the end of each show, Gitlin and Katz ask their guests to share a piece of advice for current students—and to name one thing for which they’re most grateful to the University.

“The three most common answers are: ‘I was thankful to get in,’ ‘for the friends I made,’ and ‘for meeting my spouse,’” observes Katz. “Far and away, our guests are most thankful for the relationships they made at Cornell.”

Top image: Illustration by Cornell University.

Published August 9, 2022


Comments

  1. Favorite podcast!

  2. Mat Zucker, Class of 1992

    So great. Just listened to a few episodes. “Fresh From the Hill” is another Cornell podcast which has featured a lot of Cornell alums as well if people are looking for more.

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