Spotlight on… Frances Turner
Each of our faculty and staff bring a unique perspective and approach to helping Howard Community College (HCC) students succeed. From faculty, to advising, to support staff – all share a love of working with students and seeing them achieve their goals. To learn more about what motivates one faculty member, we sat down with Frances Turner, assistant professor of biology, to chat about her background, what she loves about teaching at HCC, and discover some surprising facts!
Q: What brought you to HCC?
A: I came to HCC as an international student. I am originally from the Philippines and I wanted to study overseas. I launched a campaign to convince my mom to let me do that. After a year of nagging (and taking the SATs in secret), she finally relented. However, she would only let me do it if I went to a community college and stayed in a city where one of her sisters resided in, which at that time was either Hayward, California or Columbia, Maryland. I visited community colleges in both areas and loved HCC more. So off I went!
Q: You are now faculty at HCC. How did that happen?
A: I moved to Toronto to pursue a master’s degree in molecular science. After I graduated, I moved back to Columbia to be with my [now] husband. I was able to get an adjunct position at HCC, so that is how I ended up here! You may know the saying, “You can get there from here.” What they don’t tell you is, “After you get here, you come back!”
Q: What led you to teaching, and what do you like most about teaching?
A: I never considered teaching until toward the end of my time in grad school. I always thought I would be a microbiologist and work in research, but in my second semester of grad school, I was given a teaching assistant position for biochemistry. I found myself really enjoying the experience and looked forward to my teaching classes. So when I was trying to figure out what to do after grad school, I considered teaching as an option. I didn’t think it would lead me to where I am now and I am glad it did! I like to think that somehow, no matter how small, I am making a difference. I may never find the cure for cancer or find a solution to end poverty, and I will never be rich. But at least I have done something that I could positively affect another human being. And I get to have so many chances to do that for every semester I teach.
Q: How do you make connections with students?
A: I like to think that my students know that I genuinely care about them. Sure, I am their teacher and they earn a grade in my class. I am also truly interested about their lives and their stories. I make it a point to get to know their names (which I make a promise to them that I will know by the third week of class). I also make it my business to know something about them – be it where they work, what their major is, how many siblings they have, etc. Most times I am able to notice if something is amiss. For example, when a student stops showing up for class, I’ll get worried and I’ll actually try to find them or get in touch with them. I like to think that this is how I am able to connect with them..
Q: What led you to your particular area of study?
A: There were three reasons to why I pursued what I pursued in college – biology. First, the crime show - CSI. Second, I dissected a frog during a biology lab in high school and loved it! Later I found out that dissecting a frog is very different from dissecting a cat – but it was too late to change majors by then! Finally, my parents did not want me to be a biologist. I was given the option of being a doctor or a lawyer and I said “nope”. I am going to be a scientist – even if at that time, I had no clue what that meant.
Q: Who would you most want to have lunch with, and why?
A: My current favorite author is Gregg Hurwitz. He has written a number of suspense thrillers and his latest installment is about a young boy named Evan who was taken from an orphanage in East Baltimore and trained to be an assassin called Orphan X. I picked up this book by accident and have been hooked on this series since (he has written 3 books on Orphan X so far). I would LOVE to have lunch with Gregg Hurwitz, ask him a thousand questions about Evan and secure his promise to continue writing about Orphan X until he dies.!
Q: Any advice for your students?
A: First, no one is good or bad at anything. Good and bad are judgements – you just have learned or not learned. I always joke that there’s no such thing as bad at science… just bad science teachers!Second, life is a continuum that hopefully runs for a long time! You can have everything you want, just not at the same time. You don’t have to do or excel at every aspect of your life in one moment. You’ll get there, just not right now!