"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

--Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell University Commencement, May 28, 1995

Monday, April 6, 2015

8. Stephanie Geller

Several of the alums featured between now and reunion were degree marshals for their respective colleges during our commencement ceremony in May 1995, an honor awarded to the two students in each college with the highest GPA.

Baltimore, Maryland · Architecture, Art, and Planning

Name at Cornell
Stephanie Lessans


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I live in Baltimore with my husband, Jeff, and my two sons, Henry (age 12) and Ira (age 9).  Although I’ve changed jobs several times since graduating from Cornell and obtaining my MSW several years later, my professional goal to help revitalize our nation’s distressed urban areas has not changed.  I’m particularly passionate about catalyzing out-of-the-box, community wealth-building models such as worker-owned cooperatives to create quality, empowering job opportunities in low-income areas.  Outside of work, I love reading, games, and spending quality time with my friends and family.  I also love hiking, especially around waterfalls (which definitely has roots in my years at Cornell).

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

My favorite times were those spent with dear friends—first, hanging out on the 3rd floor of U-Hall 3 and then at “The Brick,” a dilapidated house on Eddy Street, where we spent many nights playing hearts, laughing, and just relaxing together!  I spent too much time at Uris Library, but even when I think back to those long days and nights of studying, my memories are quite happy ones—sitting next to good friends (we spent so much time in one area that we deemed certain desks to be ours) and taking breaks to enjoy stir-fries and cookies at the Straight.

·  How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?
As an Urban & Regional Studies major at Cornell, I learned about the interconnected nature of the systems, institutions, policies, attitudes, and many other factors shaping our communities and oftentimes resulting in severe urban challenges.  My classes helped me develop a “macro-lens”—an ability to recognize the interrelated forces that have left so many of our nation’s neighborhoods facing severe disinvestment and stress.  As someone now working to revitalize some of Baltimore’s poorest areas, this lens has helped me better understand the complex challenges facing this city and formulate the type of systemic-level solutions necessary to affect positive, sustainable change.  

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?

First, I am so excited to re-connect with my friends.  Our four years together at Cornell helped us become so close—I know that even though it has been so many years since we’ve seen each other, we will jump right back in where we left off—laughing, sharing, and catching up!  I also am looking forward to sharing one of my favorite places in the world—Cornell—with my sons, who are now 9 and 12.  They had a blast at the last reunion, and now that they are 5 years older, I know will get even more out of the experience.