April 21, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Alina Turner, PhD'13 (Anthropology)

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.

Alina Turner is a leading researcher and innovator in the field of homelessness. She has worked as the Vice President of Strategy for the Calgary Homeless Foundation where she helped implement Calgary’s 10 Year Plan To End Homelessness. Following this, Turner founded her own company, Turner Research & Strategy Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on social issues like developing research projects that support government or non-profits on areas like homelessness, affordable housing and domestic violence prevention. Turner also is a Fellow at The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and serves on the Board of Directors for Accessible Housing. 

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

For me it was convocation! It was really gratifying after so many years of hard work. I did my undergraduate and my master's, so it was especially great because it was really the last time that I would convocate. So for me, it really culminated all the years of schooling that I had done since I was six years old.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

The Den is a fun time but I really liked the Last Defense Lounge, as that is where I would go celebrate with colleagues and faculty. I remember my supervisor would take me there for drinks every time we hit a new milestone. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a student completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?

I would say try everything that is potentially appealing to you, even without thinking about money. You should pick something you’re going to be passionate about and happy doing for the rest of your life. Don’t do something because your parents told you to, don’t do something because you saw the salary range is high and don’t do something because your professor told you to do it; do it because you are intrinsically motivated by it and it makes sense to you based on who you are. This way, you really can’t go wrong and success will follow. 

Word association: The Den


How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

I wouldn’t have my career if I didn’t have my education. Especially for my work, it is directly relevant because I studied the issues that I’m now contributing to in the professional world so I obtained that expertise from my schooling. Also, just learning how to learn, how to think critically and how to look at things as a big picture. There are always going to be things that come up that you never looked at before and so you need to have the confidence and the technical skills to learn about these things and think critically; these skills are definitely a trademark of the arts degree. You can definitely tell if someone has that social background or that critical, cultural analysis background or even the writing skills that an arts degree provides. You don’t need to come out of school knowing everything, but you do need to have the skills to be able to figure it out along the way and an arts degree provide you with those skills.

Best part of your job?

Being my own boss; that is really important to me. It is also doing things that I love to do and am passionate about. I don’t have to take on a project unless it makes sense to me and I believe in it. 

How can I steal your job?

If you’re not passionate about it then you can’t steal my job because I’m more passionate than you are so I’ll fight you for it! It’s about whatever you pick, being the best at it and having the expertise and recognition from your peers that you are really amongst the exceptional in your field. You should know what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about and hopefully those two things align with each other and then you’ll be unstoppable.