Alumni Spotlight: Aislynn Turner '11

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I started at Duke majoring in Public Policy, thinking that one day I wanted to go into government and policy. However, I soon found myself falling in love with all of the cultures embedded within Duke’s campus, and I took on a second major in International Comparative Studies (ICS). The courses I took and professors I learned from opened my eyes in ways I never expected. I developed a passion for languages, cultures, and for understanding why different types of governments operate the way they do. While at Duke, I had opportunities to conduct research in Egypt, China and Kenya. My research in Kenya led to the development of my ICS honors thesis, which was later published as a book about Kenyan education and economic policy as it relates to women’s empowerment. I graduated from Duke with a keen interest in government operations and international development policy, but I also wanted to further my education and focus on a specialty. Thus, I headed to the University of Southern California to work on my Masters of Public Administration. Because of the international research I had conducted at Duke, USC offered me a Dean’s Merit scholarship that covered the majority of my tuition expenses.

While in grad school, I was selected for a highly competitive internship program with the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department. Though I had never before heard of the field of emergency management, it intrigued me from the start. Natural and man-made disasters affect all nations, can happen at any time and can have devastating effects on the economy and day-to-day life of local residents. During my first week at the internship, I was assigned with writing a Mass Feeding Plan for a city of 4+ million people. It didn’t take long for me to see the relationship between the policy I was shaping and the impact it had on local people. This field was exactly where I wanted to be, forming policy that had a direct impact on peoples’ well-being.

I have continued to advance in my career in emergency management, working as a Homeland Security Analyst in government consulting and then moving to Atlanta to work for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security. My studies in ICS remain very relevant to my career. Whenever a major disaster happens in any part of the globe, we learn from one another and support one another. It wasn’t long ago that our executive leadership traveled to Japan after the major earthquake/tsunami/nuclear incident that devastated the country. Our executives brought back lessons learned from that incident that we have now applied to our own plans and policies in Georgia. In this field, nations and states continuously work together to share resources and knowledge so that we can prepare people for disaster and adequately respond to and recover from any incidents that occur.

You can follow my Twitter updates on emergency management trends at @AislynnTurner.