Meet Michelle Stuzin Katz ’90 and Stephanie Marmelstein Gitlin ’90, the co-hosts of the Cornell (thank) U podcast! Michelle graduated from the College of Human Ecology with a major in human development and family studies (HDFS) and now resides in Westchester County, NY. Stephanie graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences as a psychology major and currently lives in Jupiter, FL. The alumnae podcast offers listeners a chance to take a trip down memory lane with other Cornellians. Their weekly conversations introduce you to past and present Cornellians, share where they are now, and why they are most thankful to Cornell.
Tell us about your journey to Cornell.
Michelle: I visited Cornell when I was 13 and it became my mission to attend. Almost everything I did through high school was decided through the lens of, “Would this be of interest to Cornell Admissions?” That goal made me a much more well-rounded high school student. My brother, Randy, attended Cornell two years before I went and we really enjoyed our time there together. I feel grateful every day (truly) that Cornell gave me a chance.
Stephanie: I grew up in Maryland and visited Cornell on a cold, rainy day in October. When I was accepted, my parents insisted that I visit the campus again. It was a gorgeous spring day and I remember seeing students hanging out all over the Arts Quad and the steps of the Straight. I got off the plane in a bright red Cornell t-shirt and my parents knew I had made up my mind! It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
Michelle: It’s the friendships I made at Cornell that continue to impact my life the most. Though people can make friends on any campus, I think the friends you make at Cornell are those most aligned with your own values, even if the interests are different. I regularly keep in touch with about 40 Cornell friends. My HDFS major inspired me to coach youth sports for ten years, and I tapped into what I learned in my classes at every practice and every game. I also credit my professors with making me a better parent. My time at Cornell continues to make me happy and a lifelong learner.
Stephanie: I met my husband, David Gitlin ’91, at Cornell and made incredible friendships that have lasted over 30 years. Cornell also gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities to learn, grow, and execute.
What makes you feel most connected to Cornell since graduation?
Michelle: The friendships keep me connected, but most recently, our Cornell (thank) U podcast has connected us to the campus and to other Cornellians who are uniquely fascinating. When we speak to guests each week and hear their stories, we are immediately mentally transported back to Cornell.
Stephanie: The Cornell (thank) U podcast that Michelle and I started in 2021 has made me feel the most connected to Cornell that I have felt since graduation. Each week, we are talking about and reminiscing about Cornell memories. We’re having the best time reliving those days and hearing about other Cornell experiences!
What was the inspiration behind the Cornell (thank) U podcast?
Michelle and Stephanie: Initially we wanted to entertain our friends and ourselves by talking about the time in our lives that was really special. We aimed to talk about relatable content and “where are they now,” types of stories. As word of the podcast spread by our fun and thoughtful audience, listeners have reached out to us with the most incredible Cornellians (past and present) as potential guests, who have made the show a joy to do and a great way to connect. We’ve also been able to help people find jobs or just network.
Do you have any advice for Cornellians who want to start a podcast or an entrepreneurial journey?
Michelle and Stephanie: We would suggest two things: Choose something you love that’s fun for you, and try to stay consistent. We upload our podcast every Monday even if we stay up til 2:00 a.m. finishing the edit. And we always have fun. We have had more laughs doing this podcast than we ever could have imagined. We’ve always had fun together and it’s amazing how much fun all of our guests are. They’re the best!
What surprises or excites you most about Cornell today that you’ve learned since graduating?
Michelle: I was surprised by how many people tapped into the alumni network and how strong it is. I regret not being active in it 30 years ago. I am also amazed at the entrepreneurship efforts and the work that Zach Shulman ’87, JD ’90 is doing. We spoke at his conference last April and we were surrounded by the most brilliant people.
Do you have a favorite class or extracurricular from your time at Cornell?
Michelle: My favorite time was spent playing sorority intramural sports—the more obscure the better. We did not fare well in the ice hockey tournaments, but we LAUGHED.
Stephanie: Favorite class: Psych 101 (now 1101) with Professor Jim Maas. Favorite extracurricular: Being in Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) sorority.
Do you have a message for newly graduated alumni looking to volunteer?
Michelle: Cornell has countless ways to volunteer. I would suggest finding the things that are most meaningful, trying a few out and starting slowly. Overcommitting makes it difficult to sustain and Cornell is appreciative of any help—big or small.
Stephanie: Volunteering for Cornell in some capacity is a terrific way to stay and feel connected to your alma mater.