When Elizabeth “Lizzie” Turner ’18 applied for a full scholarship to attend UConn and enroll in the Honors Program, interviewers asked her why they should admit her.
“My answer was something along of the lines of, ‘Because when you google my name in 20 or 30 years, next to the company that I will run or whatever impact I will have on this world, will be that I am a graduate of the University of Connecticut. That I am a UConn Husky.'”
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be true of many in the Class of 2018. What do you want Google to say about you?'” Turner asked in the keynote speech for the Honors Medal Ceremony prior to graduation.
“It is going to be incredible to see who wins the Nobel Peace Prize, directs a ground-breaking Broadway play, who cures cancer, who starts a movement that will change people,” she said.
“I believe that they are sitting in this room because not only of the caliber of student sitting here, but the type of person here. The type of person who would willingly sign up for a program that gives them more work than a majority of other students, that pushes them to ask big questions and dig into tiny pieces of data to answer them.”
At UConn, Turner Found Her Voice
Turner, who will join Traveler’s in June, specializing in underwriting development, majored in management with a minor in communications.
“I will definitely miss the friends I’ve made here and always running into people I know on campus,” said the Bloomfield, Conn., native in a recent interview.
Turner said through her four years at UConn, she found her voice, learned not to be afraid to ask questions, or acknowledge that she needs help, and developed the courage to share her beliefs and perspectives.
“I learned that being unique is not a bad thing,” she said. “Everyone brings something different to the world and it wouldn’t be the same without our contributions.”
‘Cheers to the People in our Corner’
Turner praised the Honors Program, now marking its 50th anniversary, saying it challenges students to find excellence in themselves and to invent and create, improve and implement using this excellence in the environment around them. She said the program helps students realize their passions and strengths, become scholars and intellectuals and even to fail with grace and recover with grit. From nurturing students who create toys to help autistic children to learn, to encouraging others to invent processes for running campus buses on cooking oil, the program and its students excel, she said.
“Cheers to the people in our corner,” Turner said, noting that management professors Lucy Gilson and Travis Grosser are among those who not only say they want students to fly but “who help in every way that they can to get us to the catapult.”
Turner shared discoveries from her thesis in which she interviewed 20 women of color who are managers in six industries. “They told me about the importance of mentors, but not only one person that you can go to, but what they called a ‘board of directors’–different people who specialize in different areas of life that can serve as our mentor in that challenge.”
“Cheers to our parents and families who nurture and support us, who put up with us, who pray and hope for us, who believe in us,” she said. “I know that I stand on the shoulder of giants. My parents forged a path for me, living the definition of excellence, compassion and faith,” she said, noting that her brother Dan “always has my back” and her grandmother’s “huge heart and wisdom teaches me how I should live my life.”
She concluded her speech with cheers to the class of 2018, to very late nights and very early mornings.
“To the feeling of uncertainty when we walked into our first college exam and the feeling of ecstasy when we wal
ked out of our last one,” she said.
“Cheers to lifelong friends; to memories that will never fade; to stories that you will re-tell your children over and over again; to roommates that became friends and then sisters, like my roommates Julise and Micheca, who made chicken and waffles on snow days and who “I can always count on when I need a laugh.”
“Cheers to Shipley, and Insomnia cookies to Lip Sync and basketball championships… Cheers to us, because a college without brilliant students is just a building with letters on it,” she said.
“So class of 2018, go forth and conquer. Take your work ethic, drive for greatness and just plain smarts. Take your dreams and your goals. Take your love and passion. Take your network and connections. Take this UConn education and go impact this world in a way that makes your page on Google something you are proud of. Congratulations!”