Usha Buch-Turner received both her BS and MS from the department after an opportunity to travel from her home in the South American island, Trinidad and Tobago, and attend college in the US. She currently works for the electrical utility company OGE in Oklahoma City as the Director of Corporate Environmental.
What degrees have you obtained from Texas A&M?
I obtained a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering with an environmental focus in 1996. In 1999, I received my M.S. in Agricultural Engineering after completing my thesis in air quality under Dr. Calvin Parnell.
What drew you to Texas A&M?
A number of factors really sealed my choice in favor of A&M but key among them were personality and affordability. I had the opportunity to travel from my home in the South American twin-island of Trinidad and Tobago and attend college in the United States. I wanted to be an engineer and the engineering program at A&M had a great reputation. Right from the beginning, A&M’s sense of school loyalty and tradition really appealed to me as well as the down to earth personality of the campus and how welcoming everyone was. At the time, I was unaware of how actively connected the alumni network is both formally and informally, but realized the importance of networking. There is no better calling card than an Aggie Ring.
What was your time like at Texas A&M and the department?
My time at the university and in the department were unforgettable and irreplaceable. I would not do anything differently. More than just the college experience, I made lifelong friends from countries all over the world and became part of a network that I could rely on in ways I never imagined that I could.
I transferred into the department after my sophomore year, so I missed out on some of the ASABE indoctrination. Coming into a smaller, close-knit department, especially not being from Texas, meant that there was quite a cultural learning curve. There is nothing like suffering through Biochemistry 303 to help with team bonding! I have some unforgettable memories of the days in the old building, including trying to get up to the third floor with a sprained ankle where on some occasions, one of the guys would literally throw me over his shoulder to get me to class.
One of the qualities that I think makes the department stand out is that the professors take a real interest in your success and it shows. In graduate school, you become more like a peer and that relationship becomes even stronger. Graduate school as one of the Parnell Crew was truly life changing. What happened behind those lab walls is legendary and I immediately inherited six brothers and friends for life. There are maybe a dozen people in my life that I think of as being more than mentors, people who have not just had an impact on my life but will be with me forever as a guiding hand. Dr. Parnell is high on that list.
What are you doing now?
I spent the next 18 years after graduate school in the electric utility industry in Texas and Oklahoma, an industry that has seen a lot of change over that time. I am currently the Director of Corporate Environmental for OGE Energy in Oklahoma City and am responsible for state and federal public policy and strategy, which I really enjoy. The environmental discipline touches many areas within the energy sector. There are rarely days in which I do not call on my degree, experience, and years at A&M. Along the way, I met and married another Agricultural Engineer from Texas A&M who works in cotton ginning.
What are some of your hobbies or activities?
Usha Turner: I have a number of undertakings, which in addition to work and being a mother, keep me pretty busy. When I moved to Oklahoma City, I joined an 8-man corporate and masters rowing league at the amazing OKC RIVERSPORTS facility. I also sit on a number of civic boards including Red Earth, Inc., which promotes Native American Indian art and culture, and on the Oklahoma State University Graduate Program Environmental Science Advisory Board.
Is there anything else that you want to share?
Over the years, I have met more people than I can count in my profession and industry. Those that I meet from Texas A&M always stand out in excellence both personally and professionally and in particular, those from the department and similarly-related disciplines. I feel truly fortunate and blessed to be able to wear an Aggie Ring and to be able to call myself an Ag-E!
Article by Whitney Steinmann
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