Stephen Turban '17

Stephen Turban sweeps into Quincy dining hall, a bundle of quirky energy raring to out-dazzle the sun. Sharply dressed in a skinny black tie and starched white button-up, he sports a lucid twinkle in his electric blue eyes, a rainbow of rope bracelets around his left wrist, and a charming Duchenne smile that extends easily into laughter.

Stephen is something of a legend on campus. Among his many accomplishments, he is a UC veteran and former presidential candidate, a Class of 2017 Facebook celebrity, a co-founder of the Franklin Fellowship, and a published author at the Huffington Post. Moreover, as one of the best-connected individuals I’ve ever met, he regularly introduces his friends to new ideas, new people, and new opportunities, creating a positive network of relationships around him. “If you’re always thinking about [others], then you’re going to end up with a collection of people in your life—a.k.a., your network—who deeply care about you and who you deeply care about,” said Turban.

He shows me a few material possessions that he always carries with him: a small moleskin notebook that contains his ideas, to-do lists, and the names of people he’s met, a bottle of sunscreen (“because I am a ghost of a man,” he jokes), and an appreciation card at Life Alive, your local hipster-vegan organic café. What he holds most dear to his heart, however, are his relationships—the people in his life that make it worth living.

An insightful observer of the world, he comments on the relative isolation of the high-achieving students on Harvard’s campus. “People lack mentors who deeply believe in them. Not many people [here will tell you], “hey, I think you’re an all-star, I think you’re going to take over the world, your dreams are my dreams, I want to see you succeed.” Naturally, he wants to set out to change that.

This past summer he worked as a research assistant at Harvard Business School, where he worked with two professors in the fields of creativity research and leadership development. A creative leader himself, he is a huge advocate of a growth mindset. “I was talking to Dean Khurana recently…and he said that the biggest lesson he’d ever learned about mentors is that you need to stop looking for the best mentor and start becoming the best mentee,” said Stephen. “You frame a relationship to become, ‘how can I be the best person for you?’”  

Stephen is also a big fan of dinner parties—which he describes as a classier alternative to sweaty Harvard dorm parties. “I really like the context of spending time with each other, making food, eating food, and just being very domestic [together],” he explained. “You can’t fail at a dinner party—you’re just having great conversations with good friends.”

To bridge the gaps between friendship, food, and self-improvement, Turban co-founded the Franklin Fellowship, a group on campus that cares deeply about growing themselves and helping each other. “It’s by far the thing I care the most about, and it’s totally changed my life,” said Turban.  “One of the things we do is bring in speakers, professors, and thought leaders for a weekly dinner. We support each other, provide feedback, and invest in each other’s growth and development.”

Regarding the future, Stephen focuses more on the person he wants to be than the next line he wants on his resume. “I try not to think about what I’ll do in 5 years because there are going to be cool opportunities and hopefully I’ll take them. I do think about who I want to be in 5 years—I hope I’m more sensitive to my friends, less self-centered, [and] more proactive in the lives of others.” 

Photographs by Shori Hijikata. All rights reserved.