Allison Turner

Hometown: Channahon, Illinois
Colleges: Liberal Arts, Agriculture, Honors College
Majors: Political Science; Natural Resources and Environmental Science

Allison Turner is a Boilermaker on the move with two consecutive Udall Scholarships and a Finalist for the 2014 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Whether she’s collaborating with other Honors College students, working on a scholarship application or just indulging in her hobby of exploring the great outdoors, this junior is always on the lookout for her next adventure.

What are your professional areas of interest? My interests are sustainability—particularly water sustainability—and communities. Improving the environment can bring people together, make communities more exciting places to live, and of course it can help our planet for generations to come.

You interned with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. How did you get there and what did you do? I went through Purdue’s Global Policy Research Institute. They sponsor summer internships for students through their Policy Scholars program, so I applied for the program and they helped me find an agency to work with. My supervisor at EPA was impressed with my resume and she and I had both traveled to Bonn, Germany, which was a neat commonality. At EPA, I worked with two public-private partnership programs: the Center for Corporate Climate Leadership and the Combined Heat & Power Partnership.

How have you worked those interests into campus life? On campus, I involve myself in projects that make sustainable initiatives accessible and fun for the student body and for the community. I spearheaded the expansion of Purdue’s football recycling program, collaborating with two organizations to organize schedules, recruit volunteers, and inform football fans about recycling. Our recycling rate has increased considerably and the fans have been very receptive!

You are an undergraduate in both the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Agriculture. How does that combination coincide for you? They both work really well together. My coursework in the Natural Resources & Environmental Science program provides me a solid foundation of the science behind environmental issues, while my Political Science courses show me how these fundamentals are utilized in public policy. I take lots of policy-focused environmental classes and environment-focused political science courses. Writing my thesis in a Natural Resource Social Science lab gives me the best of both worlds!

Can you give me some examples of what you might do post-Purdue? I have lots of options after completing my Purdue degree, which is really exciting. I’ve been looking at going to graduate school—probably studying both law and environmental science. But before then it might be good to take a little bit of time off. I’m thinking about applying for a Fulbright in Singapore because they created a great water management program. I’m interested in seeing how their citizens are involved with that program. I’m also talking with other Udall Scholars to see what opportunities are available stateside.

After graduate school, I plan on doing my part to help communities better manage their water. This could take shape in a lot of different ways. I could work in a federal government agency like the EPA, developing guide books, partnership programs, or new regulations. I could work in a regional planning agency like the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, helping municipalities develop water management programs and providing them resources and specific guidance. Or I could be part of a local agency or a nonprofit group, working on creating and implementing water plans and projects in one particular locality.

How do you think your interests coincided with what the Udall foundation seeks to support? The Udall Foundation is looking for a student with a commitment to the environment, and I’ve found and demonstrated that commitment through my involvements at Purdue. But beyond that, they want people who go the extra step: people who have motivated others and benefited the community, and people who will continue to do that. The Udall Foundation calls that “the Mo Factor.” I think my work and my aspirations really align with that.

How do you think your work piqued the interest of the Truman Foundation? The Truman Foundation emphasizes public service and winners are committed “change agents.” Much of my previous experiences have centered around community service, and I don’t see myself working anywhere but the public sector.

Tell me what it was like for you as a Truman Finalist. I only had two weeks between my notification as a Finalist and the interview, so those two weeks were busy. We scheduled three mock interviews, in which I interviewed with different sets of Purdue faculty as the panel. I found that extremely helpful, as they asked some really tough questions but also gave me some valuable advice. The day of the interview was fantastic. I got to meet all the other Finalists—everyone was so passionate about very different things and it was fun to interact with them during the day.

What would you like to tell future students going for a Udall, a Truman? Wherever you’re at right now, talk to lots of people and try new things. It’s okay if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned—you learn from those experiences, learn a lot about yourself, and those experiences help you define and redefine your goals. And that’s important regardless of whether or not you are applying for huge national awards.

When you are applying, get a lot of feedback. I’ve shared my application with faculty advisors, family, friends, and professors; people I have known forever and people I met two days before I handed them my application. They will help you find out which spots in your application are strong, and which spots need work. And know it’s okay and perfectly normal to write something, delete 90% of it the next day, and go at it again.

How did you first connect with NISO and start applying? During my first semester at Purdue, my academic advisor suggested I go to NISO because she thought I might be a good candidate for many of the scholarships that were offered. I emailed the director of NISO to set up an appointment. During that first visit, we talked about lots of scholarship opportunities. I later attended a Udall callout and was able to get a lot of personal interaction while I applied for the scholarship. I applied for the Truman the next year.

What other experiences have you had with NISO? I am in there all the time. I run into the office to ask weird questions and get advice on scholarships, study abroad and anything else that comes up. It actually gets kind of addicting. The best thing about NISO is probably having someone look at your scholarship application materials and make sure they are where they need to be. NISO also has great contacts. Having NISO to direct you early on is huge.

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