April 17, 2015

Turner spurs learning and confidence at UNC

2015 Women of Distinction - Education

In addition to her administrative tasks as acting dean and associate professor of accounting in the University of Northern Colorado’s Monfort College of Business, Karen Turner puts a lot of energy into teaching and mentoring students.

“Students are a lot smarter than they think they are and believe that it’s not special if they can do the work,” she said.  Her focus is to help them “be confident to take the risk to say what they think and not be timid about putting themselves forward.”

In the classroom Turner encourages and supports that initiative every time students raise their hands. “If they answer in a questioning tone,” she said, “I ask if they’re giving the answer or a question. “It helps them gain confidence in themselves.”

Her experience in business helped her increase her own confidence and take the necessary steps to learn what she didn’t know enough about.

For example, one of her early positions was working in a retail store. Realizing she didn’t know enough about accounting in the job led her to sign up for classes. That was the start of her career in accounting. 

Turner’s background includes owning and managing Bryan Surplus and Supply for 10 years and United Microprocessor for four – both prior to her current 30-year career in university settings.

“It gives me credibility, especially with small businesses,” she said, referring to current work with the East Colorado Small Business Development Center and UNCs BizHub, a virtual business incubator that focuses on health care, ag-tourism and oil and gas.

Since starting her tenure at UNC in 2005, Turner’s responsibilities have included heading the UNC accounting and CIS department and leading the accounting program into its continued Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation.

As dean of undergraduate programs at Monfort College of Business, her responsibilities included gathering and analyzing student data, curriculum issues and student affairs.

Using those skills helps Turner keep the college in touch with what works best for its students.

“We regularly go through strategic planning here,” she said. “Education is always changing and changing quickly,” she added, discussing the options of online, face-to-face and a hybrid of both formats for teaching.

“When I came here 10 years ago I was impressed with how MCB knew who it was, and how everyone was proud of that. We’re very student-oriented and offer a lot of modes but want to continue being who we are and choosing what’s best for the students we have.”

Researching how both traditional and nontraditional students do with different teaching methods helps the college stand behind that goal.

Turner has her hand in numerous activities – from helping establish accounting education requirements for certified public accountant licensure in Colorado to volunteering with Women2Women, an organization that assists women with medical and child-care needs.

Still, she names teaching as the most challenging and rewarding of all. “It’s a challenge to keep students’ attention and challenging them to go beyond their present capabilities.

“Once or twice a year I get an email from a past student saying, ‘I’m doing this now because of what I heard you say in class.’

“That’s why teaching is also my first love,” she said. “It’s about making a difference in someone’s life like that.”

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