Like many of the men in Kaleb Turner’s extended family, he planned to pursue an engineering degree after graduation from Magnolia High School in Magnolia, Texas, a thriving suburban town about an hour north of Houston in 2016.
“All five men on my father’s side have engineering degrees: my granddad Louis, my father Michael, my two uncles and my brother Matthias all have engineering degrees,” Turner said. “Every Thanksgiving, the men in my family would sit around the table and talk about the chemical compositions of petroleum. My grandfather worked for Shell for 38 years and since my brother went to Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering, I felt I was supposed to follow in those footsteps.”
Turner enrolled at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he was awarded a scholarship to study chemical engineering. However, he quickly decided to switch gears and opted to return to Texas after one semester and enroll at Blinn College in Bryan.
“I realized engineering isn’t really for me,” he said.
A self-taught musician, Turner performed regularly during services at Vineyard Church of Conroe and taught eight students how to play guitar and drums. To get a better handle on his financial affairs as self-employed gig worker, Turner enrolled in Introduction to Accounting at Blinn. Turner credits his experience in the class taught by Jennifer Garcia with his decision to pursue a career in accounting.
“What was cool about this class aside from my interest in numbers and accounting in general is that Mrs. Garcia would include activities during class to get her students accustomed to making journal entries and general ledger entries,” Turner said. “Her passion for the field, even when teaching students about the absolute basics of accounting debits and credits, is the reason I was successful in accounting classes. She inspired me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting, followed by an MBA (Master of Business Administration) and then become a certified public accountant.”
As an accounting major at Blinn, Turner attended an informational event about a new higher educational opportunity in the Bryan-College Station area that was hosted by three Island University professors.
“Drs. John Gamble, Murphy Smith and Kathy Smith were presenting the idea of a new campus specifically tailored for students like myself who were looking to transfer to a four-year university but had different plans than the standard eight-semester sprint,” Turner said.
The RELLIS Campus – so named for the six Aggie Core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity, and selfless service – was announced by Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp in May 2016. It was a transformation of the 2,000-acre Riverside Campus into a technology and testing research hub that facilitates collaboration between private and public sector companies and provides unique educational opportunities for students.
At RELLIS, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi offers Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree programs in Accounting, Finance, Management, Marketing, and General Business. The BBA is accredited by AACSB International in both Business and Accounting, a distinction held by fewer than 1% of business schools worldwide. About 80 business students were in the first cohort at RELLIS, including about a dozen accounting majors, one of whom was Turner.
“I didn’t really know what to expect because it was a brand-new campus. It opened its doors in the fall of 2018,” Turner said. “We all went to the same classes together, so it wasn’t traditional in that sense. It’s been amazing being able to stay in contact with the professors. I’ve had many more connections with professors and faculty and administrators here than I would have had at a larger school.”
A natural leader, Turner serves as the founding president of the Student Accounting Society and took on the difficult task of building membership for a new student organization. Despite the challenge, Turner quickly found that he had a knack for outreach responsibilities.
“My role as president broadened to make outreach and student engagement the defining characteristic of my work there, and I became incredibly passionate about student involvement on campus, in general,” Turner said.
Dr. Murphy Smith said Turner is a top academic performer who brings energy and enthusiasm to learning that positively affects other students in the classroom.
“In my career, I’ve taught about 10,000 students; Kaleb is second to none,” Murphy Smith said. “God has blessed Kaleb with many gifts and abilities. Kaleb is a kind of Leonardo da Vinci of students, a genius at many things. He is intellectually brilliant, very personable, and a highly effective leader.”
Turner also served as a role model to other students by actively participating in campus activities, including serving as a student leader who led groups of 22 local high school students on campus tours during the spring and fall 2019 semesters, Dr. Murphy Smith said.
An academic standout, Turner has made the Dean’s List in spring and fall 2019 and again in Spring 2020 in pursuit of his Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting degree; he will graduate with a 3.52 GPA. He was selected by the Office of the Provost as an Outstanding Graduate for the fall 2020 semester and will participate in the Fall Island University Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 12.
Following graduation, Turner said he plans apply to an MBA program at one of a handful of universities – they include Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, to name a few. Turner said he owes much of his success to the support he has received from his family
“I really feel blessed to have the family that I have and want that for other people,” Turner said. “So I plan to take all the stuff I’ve been given and go out into the world and work in nonprofits so that I can use my degree as and the knowledge that I have to make an impact on the world positively.”
Dr. Murphy Smith said he has no doubt that Turner will have a positive impact on the world around him.
“Kaleb understands that what is really important is not fame and fortune but to live life with honor and nobility – to be brave, and to help others,” Smith said, “I am fully confident that Kaleb will make a great difference for good in this world.”
Originally published December 4, 2020 on the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi website.