Nicol Turner-Lee, president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communication, said originally she wasn’t interested in technology, but now she understands the role it plays.
She spoke to about 80 people in the Carnegie Cinema Monday night about how her career really came to fruition.
“My life and my mission was focused on people,” she said.
Turner-Lee started out in sociology when she began her undergraduate career at Colgate University and continued in this field for her doctorate at Northwestern University.
While studying there in 1999, she began doing volunteer work at Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, one of the largest public housing neighborhoods. It was there where her career became more oriented toward technology and the importance of telecommunications.
Turner-Lee would volunteer at the local high school and see how engaged the inner-city students were by the seven computers they had at the public housing.
“I was amazed how people who could not read could start to learn by looking at the computer,” she explained.
She had people in her Ph. D program come fix up the computers as a community service project and children would come to the room just to see these computers. Turner-Lee then bought five more computers just to add to that particular room and by the time she left Chicago, five more computer centers were opened in the community.
She told the audience about a woman who was about 50 years old and could not read, and yet was able to online shop using the computer. She explained that just giving this community access to devices that they were able to learn more and be kept up to date on the importance of technology.
After her work in Chicago, Turner-Lee left for the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies in Washington, D.C. Studies she did there involving underrepresented populations have been used in government records.
Only seven months ago she became the President and CEO of NAMIC, an organization that advocates multi-ethnic diversity in the communications industry. The organization hopes to get more diversity within communications and help multi-ethnic individuals reach higher positions in these companies.
“We have so much to do,” she said.
Turner-Lee said she believes in the end this will benefit society.
Alysha Preston, president of the Penn State chapter of NAMIC, thanked Turner-Lee after her talk and presented her with Penn State memorabilia.
Kimberly Bolt (junior-telecommunications) came to Turner-Lee’s presentation for extra credit for one of her classes and said she learned from what the NAMIC president had to say.
“It was interesting to hear how the industry is changing,” she said.