Becker Excellence-Marissa Turner '17

Published on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Marissa Turner ’17 accepts the Samuel May Award at the annual Honors Convocation on May 5, from former Becker College President Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.

Marissa Turner first set foot on her current path at the age of three after visiting her grandmother’s home and spending time with her 20 cats. On May 6, Turner, of Coventry, R.I., graduated from Becker College with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science, pre-veterinary and her family could not be more proud.

Turner’s grandmother founded the Humane Association of Northwestern Rhode Island in her house, taking in cats, dogs, and a talking crow named Heckle. Saving lives is in Turner’s blood. Her father was deployed three times with the U.S. Army National Guard. Her mother is an emergency medical technician and a firefighter.

At Becker, Turner chose a rigorous academic program that requires hundreds of hours of practical learning experiences. She put those experiences to use as one of dozens of volunteers who responded to a 2016 call from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to assist in an animal abuse case involving hundreds of animals. Turner assisted the field investigations response team and the veterinary team with physical examinations and treatments.

In high school, Turner was not a motivated super-achiever. In fact, she did not expect to attend college. After failing a few high school classes, she was not allowed to participate in sports. Instead of wallowing teenage angst, she became determined to turn herself around. “I was able to refocus on my end goal,” she says.

Her end goal expanded to include a basketball championship, and college. While interviewing for a part-time job at Dunkin’ Donuts, she learned that an employee there was going to Becker College. She added Becker to six other colleges on her search list. When she visited Becker Turner “fell in love” with the on-campus Lenfest Animal Health Center and veterinary clinic, small classes, and athletics.

Turner continued her love of volleyball as a Becker Hawk. She was recruited to the women’s basketball team, she later decided to join the lacrosse team to “keep busy,” and she became involved in student leadership programs. At the annual Senior Athletics Awards Ceremony on May 4, Turner was recognized with the Outstanding Female Athlete Award for her excellence as a three-sport athlete.

How does she do it? “I keep an agenda, and I put everything in it,” she says.

At first, “I was so shy,” says Turner. Now she knows that students who don’t get involved are at risk of dropping out, or at least not getting the most out of their college career. She began to consider joining clubs and volunteering for leadership programs when she was paired with peer mentor, Melvin Booker ‘14. From a rough neighborhood in Roxbury, Mass., Booker transformed himself at Becker into an aspiring scholar and winning member of the Becker football team.

Turner learned from Booker’s example, “I always saw him in the hallways, encouraging people to go to games and events and to get involved,” she says. He is one of several students and prospective students of whom Turner said, “We still keep in touch.”

As a peer mentor and member of the Campus Activities Board E-Board, LEAP athletic leadership program, Becker Leaders Understanding Excellence (BLUE Crew), Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and Pre-Veterinary Club, Turner made a goal of introducing Becker College and the benefits of getting involved to others. She counts many Becker students as her own “recruits.”

What does she say to unsure prospective students and athletes who may be faltering? “You can do it, too.” She assures them that she was shy and encountered challenges. “I surprised myself,” she says.

Turner is going to continue to surprise herself and others as she continues to pursue her aspirations at St. George’s  University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grenada, West Indies.