As part of our 40th anniversary, we are looking back to learn about our roots and the individuals who grew with us. Michael Stepner was a long time Explorations camper over a decade ago, and he recently shared his favourite memories and some thoughts about the impact our camp had on him.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am an economist studying how public policy can be designed to insure economic risks and reduce inequalities. I finished my Ph.D. in Economics at MIT in June 2019. I am a post-doctoral research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Harvard Economics during the 2019-2020 academic year.
How many years did you attend Explorations?
Do you have a favourite memory you would like to share?
I remember the thrill of learning how to put together a computer at around 12 years old. In just two weeks, we transformed the computer parts scattered around the room into fully functional computers. Two weeks later, I started transforming my basement at home into a graveyard of computer parts, seeking to replicate that thrill of putting together a working computer. I kept learning about computer hardware and software over the subsequent years, put together many computers, and even made a part-time job out of fixing other peoples’ computers. But that seed of knowledge and confidence with tinkering with computers was planted during the Build a Computer from Scratch course at Explorations.
Are there any meaningful friendships or connections you formed at camp you would like to tell us about?
David Rudin and I met at Explorations when we were five years old and started planning out how we’d build a space shuttle using the parts from a Rona catalogue. In the 20 years since then, we’ve been travel partners, debate partners, and even went to Space Camp together one year. But we haven’t finished building our space shuttle yet.
Which activities do you remember enjoying the most?
Build a Computer from Scratch, Fencing, Rallan Omano’s Radio/Video, Paper Play, Debate, Behind the Scenes in Montreal
Did any activity leave a lasting impression on you? Personally or professionally?
Learning how to debate in Richard Barrett’s debate activity impacted every stage of my education and career since. As a kid, I found it fun in camp to debate topics that were silly or especially relevant to my life (like a ban on homework). And that activity started teaching me how to structure arguments and present them persuasively. I developed those skills at Explorations, which led me to continue developing them in debating clubs in high school and university. Ultimately, that skillset has been the foundation for every presentation I’ve given in school and at work, and an asset in every job interview I’ve done. Persuasive speaking is a highly generalizable skill, which I started developing while debating the ethics of zoos and the merits of homework at Explorations.
For nearly 40 years now, Explorations has been striving to connect, inspire and empower learners and educators throughout Montreal. In celebration of the many extraordinary individuals who have been part of our organization as learners and/or educators, we will be looking back to our roots and the people who grew with us. Please join us on this exciting adventure and look back in time.