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The question usually comes during childhood: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Some answers are quick. Others are more deliberate.

It was the latter for Harrisburg University of Science and Technology 2012 graduate Jackie Turner, who doesn’t mince words when asked about the extra time she needed to lay out her career goals.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” says Jackie. “I did fairly well academically in high school, and when I graduated I worked at a staffing company in York, eventually moving into a recruiter position. I was working 45-50 hours a week and really enjoyed what I was doing.”

Then at age 26, Jackie accepted a voluntary layoff from the company and made a decision that she says changed her life.

“I decided to go back to school,” she says.

Jackie’s self-described “journey” that this decision created started at Harrisburg Area Community College in January 2009. She had no declared major at the time and hadn’t even heard of Harrisburg University. But Harrisburg University’s “snazzy public recruiting image,” as Jackie calls it, resonated with her, and after doing due diligence on the school’s programs and learning about the then-newly opened Academic Center, which houses six scientific teaching labs, Jackie started taking classes in the fall of 2010.

“Harrisburg University is accredited, I could stay in the area, and the science programs really appealed to me” says Jackie.

“Appealed” just might be an understatement, as Jackie absorbed all that she could—”I took 16 credits my first semester, and 15 or 16 credits all other semesters . . . many nights were spent in the library”—all while developing skills that have served her well in her career.

“Being a student was like having a career. You learned how to prioritize and manage your time,” says Jackie. “Through repetition, you learned how to persevere.”

And persevere she did, juggling a full course load, an internship at the Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS), and a job in hospitality at the local Holiday Inn.

But an exuberance “to do everything,” combined with a continuing uncertainty about what exactly to do for a career, challenged Jackie. This is where Dr. Christina Dryden entered the picture. Dryden, who was Jackie’s professor in an advanced Environmental Modeling class as well as her advisor, “worked with me to formulate and adjust the best academic plan for my future,” says Jackie. “In alignment with Harrisburg University’s philosophy, she helped me to see possible real-world applications of any decision I made in college, career, or otherwise. She was also very open to applying classroom projects to my internship. I was able to apply the skills I learned in Environmental Modeling to a major forecasting project at NAVSUP WSS.”

Also helping to bring clarity to her career path were two 500-level graduate courses, Professional Communication and Project Management, which Jackie received approval to take. “These really piqued my interest even more so in the business environment and helped in many ways with my internship at NAVSUP WSS,” says Jackie.

But it was the support from family and friends that really motivated Jackie. “I got feedback from just about everyone. They’ve been very supportive, and have instilled confidence in me, helping me to be more outgoing,” says Jackie.

Navigating both school and work can easily bring ups and downs to even the most driven person. How the person handles adversity or self-doubts, though, can speak volumes. In her case, Jackie draws inspiration from a special source. “My mom died in 2007. When I feel discouraged, I know that she would be proud of me.”

Proud, indeed. Jackie not only holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Integrative Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Science and Renewable Energies from Harrisburg University but also is a permanent, full-time employee at NAVSUP WSS. Hired in September 2012 as a Supply Planner/Inventory Management Specialist, Jackie develops and executes inventory management plans to support a subset of items for the U.S. Navy. “Considering a number of factors such as budget constraints, time sensitivity, systems integration, government regulations, logistics networks, demand history, and production lead-times, I’m required to maintain lean but adequate inventory levels to support fleet requirements,” she says. “There’s a lot of planning involved, but I’ve also had times where my role was critical in assisting a deployed submarine. Those situations can get very intense, but I like it.”

Jackie is proud as well of her contributions to shaping the Harrisburg University community. In particular, she cites the university’s Student Government Association (SGA). Recognizing a need to foster a closer relationship between students and the university administrators, she helped to start the SGA. “I’m proud to be part of the group of individuals who laid the foundation for Harrisburg University’s Student Government,” says Jackie. “I felt very strongly about getting students involved. We established a structure and mission, and I look forward to seeing the group mature.”

Jackie is intent on maintaining close ties to Harrisburg University. She attends events at the university and has initiated informal discussions between NAVSUP WSS and university administrators to set up tours and internships.

It’s clear Jackie has no regrets about her decision to return to school nor about where she earned her degree. “I am pleased at my decision to come to Harrisburg University,” she says. “The faculty is a very talented group that believes in the university and its vision.

“With its size and strong ties to the local professional community, Harrisburg University provides opportunities that other, bigger schools either don’t have the ability to or that aren’t accessible to the average student,” says Jackie. “You’re not one of thousands of students (at Harrisburg). It’s exciting to be part of something that is growing, improving, and expanding . . . you have a chance to shape school philosophy and policy.

“Harrisburg University has a home for anyone.”

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