Phuong Nguyen —
The Rambler interviews Associate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Jeremy Turner, on the Number One advice he would like to give Illinois College’s soon-to-be graduates. Below is excerpt of the interview.
The Rambler: Could you share with us how your experience was like as an undergraduate student at Illinois College?
Professor Turner: When I came to IC, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a first-generation college student, so my parents weren’t able to give me any high expectations. Going to college was, kind of, a challenge. I remembered these specific things coming from family members, “Why would you waste four years of good earning times when you could be employed, why expand your childhood while you can get to work?” I really didn’t know the answer to that.
Somewhere around my sophomore or junior year, I was able to have professors here that showed me how fascinating the world was and how much I could do. There were so many more options than just what I could see in front of me.
The Rambler: And how did the decision [to major in Psychology] come about?
Professor Turner: I took an introduction to Psychology class, just because it sounded interesting. After that I realized I wanted to be a psychologist. At first, a clinical counselor of some sort, then I realized I really didn’t care to listen to people’s problems. It wasn’t for me. What was for me was studying people, why people did what they did. Literally, Dr. Rellinger-Zettler here, who was a new prof at the time, was the first person to tell me I should consider graduate school. She saw something in me as a student that I didn’t see in myself. Then as an advisor, she started to give me all the information. “It sounded really cool. I think I would like to do that.” So I did. By the time I was a senior, I was a 100% excited about it and got into a PHD program at Northern Illinois… If it weren’t for the faculty here I wouldn’t have seen those doors of opportunities.
The Rambler: What was the biggest difference between graduate and undergrad schools ?
Professor Turner: The biggest difference was the passion that goes along with it. At graduate level, you know that this is the last time, you are gonna get exposed to this material before you are teaching it. Because you have chosen this area, there’s an internal passion about it. I was studying the brain, neuroscience, I couldn’t put the stuff down. I was constantly reading about the brain and how it works. I couldn’t have enough of it. So the class seemed fun, they were so enjoyable.
The Rambler: So if you could go back in time and relive college, what would you have done differently?
Professor Turner: Definitely, I would’ve lived on campus. I lived off campus because I was from Jacksonville . To save money, because I was paying for my own college. So I lived at home. Just came in for classes. I didn’t get to know people well at all. I just knew a handful of people in my classes and my professors. I really wished I had lived on campus, because I think, I would’ve developed my deeper, better relationships with my colleagues and professors. That’s the one thing I regret, but otherwise, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would relive it all.
The Rambler: Having born and raised in Jacksonville, and now working here, did you ever feel like going somewhere else, try out different places?
Professor Turner:: There have been time when I thought of that, but I get to go to other places quite a bit for meeting, conferences, summer things. And I like visiting places, but I like living here, I like the comfort of it. We love our family. This is home for us. And frankly, the main reason we came back here was when I was here as a student, my goal at that time, was to go off and get a PHD so I can come back and be a teacher here.
The Rambler: What made you think so?
Professor Turner: Well I wanted this life. I saw how excited the teachers were about the materials, I saw how fun it was to think about it, read out it, write about it, and teach about it. And I thought what more would you want with your life, to be around young people for the rest of your life, to be around intellectuals people, having interesting conversations with others, comparing this other people in my family, who would do 9-5 jobs, it was fine, some of them made really good contribution as lawyers, nurses, and doctors and other things, but nothing like that ever stimulated me as to come and be here. I also wanted to have an impact. The advising I got here was so transformative for me, I wanted to do that for other people. I want my life to take the form of giving back that to other students .
The Rambler: For many of us, this is our last year of college, our motivation is going low. How do we pick that up?
Professor Turner: Well, I think one way to pick it up is to realize that this is the best year of your life. I would really use this as an opportunity to reach out to your fellow students and your faculty, and say those things that you didn’t have a chance to say, [like] thanks for that influence. Just soak it all in. When you talk to your faculty and staff about how they are doing, actually care what they are saying, don’t let it fly by without experiencing it. And this is the pivotal point for most seniors that where you apply for graduate school, or your try to figure out your first job, you don’t know what your next step is. It is really critical that people are not afraid of taking a risk. One of the biggest mistakes that students can make is to play it ultra safe. And not venture out. Whether it’s moving far away for a job, or apply for a job faraway, or apply for graduate schools that you are not sure if you’re getting into. Just take your risk!
The Rambler: Is there any other advice you would like us to know…as we pack our suitcase and leave IC in four months?
Professor Turner: I’d like to encourage students to open up the world. You have your whole life to work and to buy cars and homes and things like that. And life is long. So this time in your life, before you have a lot of significant obligations, whether it’s family or work… I wish every student upon graduation could take an international trip or go to Haiti, volunteer for a few months in the summer. Some kind of international experience like that would be really useful. You can’t measure the value of stuff like that.