Orientation: A Gathering of Millennial Minds

Southgate Energy Intern Michael Stepniak.

The day after Memorial Day, when we honor those who’ve served the nation in arms, UniverCities Connection interns rallied together to kick off a campaign of their own. Its goals: slash city energy bills, beat back Michigan’s tradition of disinvestment in older urban centers, and claim higher ground in the battle against global climate change. Some say the latter struggle should be the moral equivalent of World War Two for the Millennial generation (people aged 18 to 35), and these young metro Detroiters certainly aren’t wasting any time taking it on.

The scene for the team’s first gathering was the sunlit Ypsilanti branch office of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, just steps from Michigan Avenue, the historic western route to Detroit. Arriving from places as various as Ann Arbor, Ferndale and the Motor City itself, the interns found common ground in drafting guidelines for dialogue and a mutual commitment to learning from each other. That learning began informally with an icebreaker that revealed, among other things, that Southgate Energy Intern Michael Stepniak owns a dog named Pancake.

Michigan Suburbs Alliance Executive Director Conan Smith followed, recounting the history of the organization that has nurtured the Millennial Mayors Congress, UniverCities Connection, and numerous other initiatives. In all the work they do, he told the interns, they should feel the freedom to innovate: “If you’re not stepping out on the edge a little bit, you should be in the corporate world.”

Soaking in the sun in downtown Ypsi.

As the team went into the street to pose for a photo, the sun shining above came as a welcome relief after a week of biblically-scaled rainstorms which left several feet of water in nearby Riverside Park. In the months to come, the UniverCities interns will help light the path toward a more prosperous and sustainable metro Detroit. Stay tuned to hear how their quest first got ignited.


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