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Dr. Steve Turner: A Seasoned Higher Education Leader with Prudent Vision

Northeastern State University

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Education leaders are the cornerstones upon which learning communities function and thrive. The importance of these leaders has increased multiple fold in the 21st century. Transformation in academic propositions, student preference and industry requirements are posing numerous challenges for today’s higher education institutions and their leadership.

Influential leaders like Dr. Steve Turner (President of Northeastern State University) are rising above all these and several other hurdles to serve as a role model for the regional university system. From his early years spent working in the oil industry to his later college years serving as both student and staffer, Turner has worked his way through the ranks to achieve his dreams.

An Illustrious Career

Turner holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in human resources with an emphasis in counseling—both from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.. He began his career in higher education at ECU in 1989 and has had the opportunity to serve in several capacities. Prior to his Northeastern State University (NSU) appointment, Turner served as Vice President for Administration and Finance and Executive Assistant to the President for governmental relations and economic development at ECU.

Turner began his tenure as the 19th President of NSU on Jan. 1, 2012. During his tenure, NSU has been strengthened in virtually every area of the institution. Beginning with Destination 2023—a 10-year roadmap of distinction through degree completion, President Turner has made student-centered academics and advisement one of the top priorities for Northeastern. Moreover, under his leadership, NSU has experienced historic fundraising success with the “Preserve our past, ENSUre Our Future” campaign.

A Staple within the Communities

From its humble beginnings as the Cherokee National Female Seminary established in 1851, and through its evolution as a teacher’s college and present-day comprehensive university—NSU continues to play a key role in northeastern Oklahoma’s history and development. The historic link to the Cherokee Nation and Indian Territory makes Northeastern the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma.

With the seminary, the Cherokee Nation reestablished the education system that was lost with the forced removal of Cherokees along the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. The original seminary was built in Park Hill south of Tahlequah and destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday, 1887. On May 7, 1889, the Cherokee National Female Seminary was dedicated north of Tahlequah—where it would continue to provide learning opportunities for young women for 20 years.

Since its inception, NSU has been a staple within the communities it serves. Its mission has always been to empower students to be socially responsible global citizens by creating and sustaining a culture of learning and discovery. With core values such as integrity, excellence, creativity, leadership and collaboration, NSU’s faculty and staff are dedicated to preparing students to be future leaders.

Outstanding Academic Portfolio and Services

Be it first-generation students, adult learners or those wishing to retool for advancement or other opportunities, access to education for everyone has always been a priority for NSU. The university has campuses in Tahlequah, Muskogee and Broken Arrow—alongside a robust online presence. As a result, the university is the choice for northeastern Oklahoma students with convenient delivery formats that include on-campus, blended and online.

“Leveraging opportunities for hands-on experiences into our curricula that also meet our industry and community needs is another way NSU is able to provide an outstanding academic portfolio for its students,” asserts Turner.

For example, a longtime partnership with the Cherokee Nation enables doctoral students within NSU’s Oklahoma College of Optometry to study eye care nuances within diverse populations. The partnership also allows students to participate in the delivery of eye care to its indigenous community through some of the more than 40,000+ patient encounters the school sees through its Cherokee Nation and specialty clinics. Turner mentions that similar partnerships with other healthcare programs allow NSU’s students with ample immersive opportunities such as—the Speech-Language Pathology, Physician Assistant Studies and Occupational Therapy programs.

Alongside providing quality teaching, challenging curricula, research and scholarly activities, and immersive learning opportunities, NSU’s dedicated faculty and staff offer a service-oriented, supportive learning environment where students prepare to achieve professional and personal success. The additional academic services include—free tutoring, workshops, health services and counseling, academic and career advising, internships, job fairs, resume and mock interviews, as well as support from faculty mentors and student advisors.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

“Northeastern’s diverse community will help you learn about the culture of other students and embrace your own,” mentions Turner.

In addition, NSU has a thriving international program that welcomes students from around the world. From hands-on help with academic resources to the opportunity to attend a variety of events highlighting cultures from around the world, the university celebrates its diverse student body. Annual events at NSU include the World Fair, Holi Festival, Saudi Day, and the Lunar New Year Celebration.

With its campuses located in the heart of historic tribal lands, NSU offers unique cultural opportunities for its international students. It is the No.1 institution serving Native Americans in the nation with American Indian or Alaska native students making up 35.1% of the student body. NSU arranges a variety of programs throughout the year including—Gatheration, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, American Indian Heritage Month, the Symposium on the American Indian and the Indigenous Leadership Summit—showcasing and celebrating its proud indigenous heritage.

“NSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Center for Tribal Studies serve as ambassadors advocating for equity and justice while respecting the differences between us, and celebrating our similarities,” mentions Turner.

Extracurricular Activities

While on campus, NSU students can participate in several extracurricular activities including—over 100 organizations, club sports, NCAA-II Athletics, intramurals and Greek Life. It recently launched an eSports team where students can earn scholarships competing in a variety of electronic groups.

Enunciating the importance of extracurricular activities, Turner states, “Participating in extracurricular activities allows students to enhance technical skills, gain valuable leadership and organization skills, and develop the soft skills that employers seek.”

Immersive Learning Experience

Today, there is a greater correlation between education and workforce development in the higher education sector. This is particularly true at NSU, where students can pursue workforce-ready degrees with built-in immersive learning components.

“We take pride in our identity as Oklahoma’s immersive learning university where our students gain real-world experiences through internships, practicums, residencies, etc.,” adds Turner.

Through Career Services such as career and major advice, resume and cover letter support, graduate school assistance, jobs and internships, and networking and career services—NSU supports its students in career development, career readiness and career counseling. The university’s career services team, faculty and economic partners are poised to connect its graduates to high-paying careers.

Meeting the Global Demand

Turner anticipates that as we confront the next normal that will emerge post-COVID-19, there will be more demand for education at all levels. He mentions that the pandemic has changed several facets of the global workplace with more changes to come. As some of the new norms are here to stay, flexible schedules and delivery formats are imperative in the post-pandemic world. Northeastern is at the forefront of this shift. The university offers several degrees with in-person, blended and online options.

The NSU community is committed to moving forward safely. It strives to continue working together to meet the global demands of citizenship and the workforce.

“We were reminded throughout the pandemic to be thoughtful, gracious and kind as we all navigated the hardship brought on by COVID-19,” adds Turner.

He believes that now is the time to work together to ensure the critical occupations that drive our health, economy and knowledge as industries are prepared to take on the new normal.

Choosing a Higher Education Institution

As a seasoned educator, Turner believes that students should choose a higher education institute that offers the academic programming, delivery methods, support and hands-on experience which is needed for them to be workforce-ready. Moreover, students should consider the affordability of the institute and the scholarship programs it provides. Lastly, he believes that students should also factor in the opportunity for community and engagement while choosing an institution. Dr. Turner and his leadership team are committed to providing students with the full college experience while keeping NSU’s tuition very affordable.

Northeastern State University

Read Full Magazine:- The 10 Most Influential Educational Leaders in USA, 2021

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The Educational landscape is changing dynamically. The new generation of students thus faces the daunting task to choose an institution that would guide them towards a lucrative career.

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