Stephanie Lepine

InterFuture Class of 2009

Research Project: Secondary School Students’ Motives to Volunteer in Environmental Organizations: A Study of the United States, Ireland, and Tanzania

Seven years ago I was accepted into the undergraduate thesis program, InterFuture. Now an alumna, I am grateful to be able to share a few words on what the experience has meant to me.

Being a member of the InterFuture Class of 2009, I attended conferences in 2008. Make no mistake, the conferences were as much, if not more significant than the actual travel experiences. The June conference tugged at the carpet of comfort and academia until it came swiftly from under my feet and landed me square on my you-know-what. It asked, “What do you love?” It brought me, a mere sophomore in college who was neck deep in interior design classes the realization that yes, interior design was the path I wanted, but there was MORE to it than that. Cue Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way.

I have always been one to march to the beat of my own drum, but my core behaviors and defense mechanisms had never really been pulled apart like they were in the August Conference. It asked, “What are you trying to say?” and “So what?” It was like that best friend one keeps around if one needs little tough love. I asked myself, ‘Have I really gone through all of these years of school and theater and still don’t know how to speak?’ The answer was frighteningly, yes. I didn’t know where to begin with building an argument or concluding a hypothesis… So what?

So, InterFuture has meant an increased awareness of technical research methodologies and presentation skills. It enforced clarity and accuracy. It taught me that it’s okay to not know the answer or not have a conclusion. It taught me to listen to myself as I speak, and more-so listen to others when they speak. It taught me to explain with personal details because that’s the interesting stuff; engage and interest others with tangible details. And, finally, it taught me that sometimes what you think matters, doesn’t really matter at all.

What made InterFuture special was that it not only addressed the intellect, but it also took into account the heart of every scholar. For my heart, it meant truly letting go of external influences that I had internalized over the years, which left room for what intrinsically mattered to rise to the surface. It meant reuniting me with me, which in-turn, gave me the grounds to confidently support myself and my project. This program leaves the scholar truly autonomous: self made and self governed, with a team of alumnae there to question and guide along the way. This attention to the inner me and the guiding questions aided me (and has continued to aid me) in reconnecting with myself, heart and mind, leading me evermore toward a life lived wholeheartedly.

With these valuable skills allowing me to clearly understand and articulate what matters to me, I stand out. I no longer feel intimidated and instead engage with people, and they take notice. Today, at 27 years old, seven years after my InterFuture experience, I am moving to a new city and starting my own business as an interior organizing professional. InterFuture helped me not be afraid of the world, but observe, analyze, and take part in it.

What are the cultural factors of me? InterFuture is one of the largest cultural factors that has shaped who I am and how I view life in a hundred thousand undetectable ways and I will be forever grateful.