From Lima, Peru to northern Uganda and Los Angeles to New York City, Lucas Turner has been on the move since graduating from Creighton in 2013. It was clear, even as an undergraduate, the former Heider business student was not going to follow a conventional career route.
While he enrolled in the Heider College of Business as a freshman, Turner originally planned to follow a pre-dentistry track. Possessing a lackluster interest in science, he decided to pursue business solely, focusing on social entrepreneurship, and immediately felt “a freeing feeling.”
“I had been deeply involved with service through the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, and I loved every single one of my business courses. So it seemed like the perfect fit, and it was,” says Turner.
Then a semester abroad in Athens, Greece “opened up my worldview and unveiled a passion for international development,” recalls Turner. “I applaud the business school and my advisors for recognizing my strengths rather than making me feel inadequate because I was not a science whiz or a Fortune 500-bound trainee. Instead, they encouraged me to continue to be disruptive and push the envelope, which ended up helping me discover a career path that was the perfect fit for me.”
And what is this “perfect fit?” A career in the nonprofit sector (or with for-profit firms with a social conscious business model) that involves international travel and requires thinking outside the box.
It began directly after graduation when he moved to Peru to volunteer for Krochet Kids International (KKI), which seeks to lift women and their children out of poverty by teaching them an income-earning trade: knitting and crocheting. Turner believes his time with KKI erased some of his preconceived notions about poverty. After experiencing the love, joy and sense of community in Peru’s Pacifico neighborhood, he realized impoverished areas are not synonymous with danger.
Turner’s next job took him to northern Uganda with charity: water, a clean water organization responsible for well construction in rural villages. Tasked with visiting over 70 communities with charity: water wells, he learned the significant role clean water and its source - something he took for granted - has on economic well-being.
“Without clean water, people cannot break out of the cycle of poverty, and any other issues take a back seat because dirty water most of the time means death,” says Turner. The time women and children spend looking for clean water sources detracts from time they could be spending earning a wage or attending school.
Turner returned stateside to intern at TOMS, an experience he describes as “a dream come true.” TOMS, with its One for One model, was a company he had researched when he first thought about pursuing the social entrepreneurship track of his management major. “I learned so much about transparency, pivoting and wearing several hats in a company,” he says.
For the past three years Turner has worked for buildOn, most recently as a community engagement manager of the East Coast. buildOn breaks the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations by partnering with communities to build primary schools internationally and running high school service learning programs in the U.S. He has led 22 school building Treks to Nepal, Nicaragua, Malawi, Senegal and Haiti. As community engagement manager, he prospects new high school and university teams to sponsor and travel to construct new schools and coaches those teams to meet their fundraising goals.
“The upcoming generation of young people care more about giving back more than any generation before, so being able to work with them on a daily basis is the best part of my job,” he says.
Turner believes his time at Creighton prepared him for each of his varied employment experiences. He was surrounded by peers who pushed him academically and professors who expected him to perform at a high level, he says. He had ample exposure to service opportunities and loved the Jesuit value cura personalis. His collegiate experience, coupled with his on-the-ground training the past four years, will prepare him for life’s next adventure: establishing his own company.
“I am still on a journey to starting my own thing, and when that tipping point comes, I know I will be ready,” says Turner. “It’s all about patience and seizing the right opportunity.”
To follow Turner’s journey, visit his website/blog, www.lucasonthego.com.