Provost Jennifer Turpin is the first female provost at the University of San Francisco and realizing the responsibility that job entails, she hopes to build a stronger connection with the students, faculty, and staff of our campus. She stepped into her office in the Rossi Wing of Lone Mountain wearing a casual pair of red sandals, a navy blue and white patterned skirt and a matching navy blue T-shirt. Her golden locks hung by her shoulders as she sat for her third meeting of the day.
“I have so many meetings and I always have work to take home,” she said. She took out her iPhone to recap her schedule as she commented on the hundreds of emails she answers in a day. “My biggest challenge right now is being visible and getting outside my office to walk around campus,” she added.
Former professor of Sociology and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost Turpin said she was one of the founders of the Women’s Studies (now known as the Gender and Sexualities Studies) program at USF. “I’ve always wanted to make a contribution to the female faculty, staff, and student population on this campus although I don’t think that a man couldn’t do the same.” She does admit however that her gender has occasionally played into her professional life. She said, “I’m consulted on issues such as how we can establish lactation rooms on campus. I would probably not be consulted about that if I was a man.”
As a mother of two children and a grown stepson she said, “Being a parent I realize that every student has a mother and I think about what they would want for their child’s experience at USF. I know I would want the best for my kids. I feel it is my responsibility to provide that.”
A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, Turpin recalled that college was a fantastic yet challenging time for her. Her campus, with over 50,000 students, had a football team and plenty of exciting activities throughout the week. There was a lot of school spirit and many events she wanted to be a part of, but they sometimes had to be put aside since she worked full time. The fourth out of five children, Turpin said her family was poor when she was born and when she was growing up. Although thanks to the efforts of her father, her family became part of the middle class. Her family lost everything when she was 13. Her parents got divorced and she lived with her mother.
“I started working at 13, babysitting and cleaning houses, and when I was in high school, I worked at a pharmacy to help pay the rent. I learned about sacrifice and hard work and the value of an education because I really had to want it to work that hard.”
Bringing that experience into her position, Provost Turpin said she has worked with her team to make education at USF affordable. For example, the tuition for summer housing decreased by 33 percent and options have been explored to create a three-week intensive program of summer classes so that students and faculty have time to enjoy their summer too.
As provost, Turpin collaborates with President Stephen Privett, S.J., and establishes priorities for the academic programs at USF. She works with the deans of the campus colleges and researches what campus issues are the most important in providing a superior Jesuit education. In simpler words, she makes sure USF can be the best it can be for everybody that is a part of the campus.
Among some of the things she has done so far are investigating what the major health issues are facing students so that USF can provide better education programs and prevent possible crisis cases in the future. Two student leaders are among the members of that task force.
In an attempt to address the different concerns of the USF community, Turpin works with four vice-provosts, each in charge of overseeing a particular area such as enrollment, budget, grants, accreditation, international students and recruitment, and student development and resources.
Acknowledging that as she climbs the career ladder at USF she no longer has the proximity to students she used to have in the classroom, Provost Turpin said she is thankful to everyone that has supported her and is especially thankful to the students that have shared their stories with her. “It’s a privilege to represent our students and share their stories with the outside world. I’ve learned that students don’t just make a difference after they graduate. They make a difference while they are at USF.”
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