Student Profile - Kay-Alana Turner

Turner discovers new worlds, sets new goals

Margaret Kay-Alana TurnerDetermined, inspiring, and a natural leader— characteristics that make Kay-Alana Turner a perfect fit for her double majors in management and Spanish and her minor in hospitality. The 21-year-old senior is a Lumberton resident with dreams of leaving the small town to work internationally in the ecotourism industry.

“My opportunities through Lamar have shaped everything. If I hadn’t been here and had the experiences that I’ve had, I probably wouldn’t be anything like I am now,” she said.

Originally majoring only in management, Turner reached a pivotal point in her education during her 2015 studies in Salamanca, Spain for a Spanish course. There, she discovered her passion for exploring new cultures. Turner was inspired by her success with the Spanish language while abroad, which spurred her decision to make it a second major.  

“It feels good to know that I can now talk to 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. It feels like unlocking some barrier. There are all these new places where I can interact in a whole new way,” she said.

Encouraged by her summer trip abroad, Turner signed up for another international trip, a business course in Costa Rica and Panama, during spring break of 2016. Her studies of local and multinational companies kindled her interest in the ecotourism industry.

“Latin America has so much natural capital and its constantly being destroyed. With sustainable tourism, we want to preserve the natural capital— water, forests, anything that can be used as an economic driver—by making it a destination for tourism. It’s a great opportunity to change countries that don’t have many other ways to get ahead,” said Turner.

Margaret Kay-Alana TurnerAfter seeking ways to turn her career global, Turner took a course in hospitality at LU and realized the opportunities it could afford her. She added hospitality as a minor soon after. Now she envisions herself working internationally for a company such as Marriott Hotels, known for superior employment standards, and implementing sustainable management decisions that benefit the local economy and environment.

Unrelentingly intrigued by new cultures, Turner is spending a portion of her 2016 summer break in Guatemala to study ecotourism, making connections with organizations that will let her get an “inside look.” She plans to spend her fall 2016 semester at ESC Rennes School of Business in France.

Turner says she would not attempt so many new educational opportunities if not for the support from her husband, family, friends and church group. Though being married while in college requires balancing more responsibilities, she finds her marriage to be a source of strength and encouragement.

“I have the support of my husband and we both believe that I can do this. He supports me in everything. The hardest part is that we are both very ambitious so it’s a challenge to make all of our goals work,” she said.

Turner is a member of the McNair Scholars Program, which helps underrepresented students towards graduate studies by providing research opportunities and student-faculty mentor relationships. She selected ecotourism as her research topic and studies under the mentorship of Sarah Schwartz, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Space Science.

She is also a Lamar Ambassador and a member of the Honors College, Global Lamar, the College of Business Student Advisory Council and the Wesley Student Foundation.

Turner says she is grateful to Lamar University for providing the opportunities that make her accomplishments possible.

She plans to attend graduate school after completing her bachelor’s degrees in fall of 2018. Turner is the recipient of the Mirabeau Presidential Scholarship, the McMaster’s Honors Grant for Study Abroad, the Creative Cardinal Grant, the Mirabeau Study Abroad Grant, the Daughters of the American Revolution Scholarship and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus Scholarship.