Mark Cisz ’91 and Linda Moerck-Cisz ’91, P ’21, P ’22, P ’27 are Cornell parents from Northport, New York. Their son, Bryan ’21, graduated from the College of Engineering; their daughter Kaitlyn ’22, graduated from the College of Human Ecology; and their son, Stephen ’27, is a first-year student in the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. Mark and Linda have been dedicated volunteers for the last six years on behalf of Cornell families. They’ve welcomed new parents and supported the university through the Family Fellows Program.
What drew your children to Cornell, and when did you know it was the right fit for each of them?
Each of our kids had their own path. We saw a lot of schools for all three and we really left it up to them. Bryan, who is an engineer, really loved Cornell’s engineering program, he especially loved the co-op opportunities and project teams. Right from the get-go, it was his early decision school. Kaitlyn had loved marine biology since she was a young child but wasn’t sure if it was something she’d want to pursue for the rest of her life. She participated in a pre-college summer program at the Shoals Marine Laboratory in Maine, run cooperatively by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. Kaitlyn was also very involved with Cornell on Long Island through camps run by the Cornell Cooperative Extension. She found that the organization was very involved in both marine science as well as community education and health, and that’s what spurred her interest to connect the dots with both sides at Cornell. Stephen knew at a young age that he wanted to go to Cornell. We encouraged him to look at a lot of schools, but he really had his mind and heart set on Cornell. He applied and was accepted at the Brooks School with a focus on their public policy major and that’s a perfect fit for him. He took three classes over the summer, and two of them were focused on international economics. He gained a good understanding of how public policy and government decisions around supporting society for its economic issues can have a big impact. It was a real eye-opening experience for him to understand how government policy affects the economics of everyday life.
For us, we knew it was the right place for the kids because all of them did their research, and we felt it was a good match for who they were and what they wanted to study and accomplish. For the two oldest who have graduated, it was really everything that they had wanted and more and we’re hopeful that Stephen going into his freshman year will find a similar experience to his two older siblings. All three kids wanted something different, but they all found their paths at Cornell.
With your two children who have graduated, was there a moment when you saw them really become their own person through their experience at Cornell?
Bryan was in the driver’s seat from the day he started. Engineering has a blueprint for every student to stay on schedule, but he signed up for two project teams and made friends that he still talks to every week. Kaitlyn found herself in a very competitive position, interviewing for research opportunities, and she did it all on her own. They knew what they wanted, and it was nice at Cornell that they grew into their own and became so independent. We would come to see them and could see the change over time.
They were so independent that we would have to call them!
What has made your Cornell experience so special, and what is your current student most looking forward to?
Both of our older students created relationships with friends and professors that have really guided them. Stephen’s looking forward to creating his own path. He’s interested in a lot of different areas of the university and is excited to have this opportunity to explore.
What advice do you have for new students and families?
We were both first-generation college students and there’s a lot more focus on that at Cornell. Cornell has really done a lot to support these students, and we love that the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) has been established to ensure that first-generation students have the right attention today. Cornell’s really been at the forefront of broadcasting all the different online and in-person services and we encourage all students and families to look into services provided.
As we were walking through some of the Cornell to-do lists with our new student, we were impressed with the videos reminding students of the importance of open communication expressed in a constructive and kind way. Cornell students put a lot of pressure on themselves. Having a perfect experience from day one or meeting your best friends right away doesn’t always happen, it’s random. You may not meet your group until sophomore year, you may join a club and find them that way, it might be through pledging to a fraternity or sorority that you find them. The first semester is about getting your feet wet and adjusting to college. If your first roommate works out great, and if not, you have four more years to find your friends. It’s okay to have fears, and if things don’t go your way, just know there are people there to help you.
What made you decide to get involved as parents?
When we heard about Cornell Family Fellows, we thought it would be helpful for us, as parents of a student there, to share our knowledge and experience with other families. It’s really great when you call up a family whose child just got into Cornell to welcome them to the Cornell family and answer some of the questions that they had but didn’t know how to get the answers to. We love it, it’s just a great experience.
Why do you think it’s important for parents to support Cornell?
The tuition covers what it covers but there are still shortfalls that affect the experience your child is going to have, and the annual fund bridges those gaps. Similar to back in high school or grade school when your local school was asking you to support them even though you may pay taxes because you see a direct benefit for your children or the broader community of students at Cornell. What resonates is when we talk about some of the programs, professors, or equipment that those funds go toward, it makes it more tangible and real for families to understand the benefits and how it can help their child and other students who are at the school now and in the future.