Senior Wisdom: Derek Turner

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Next up, Christian/conservative/Core-champion Derek Turner. Nominate wise seniors by sending their name and “resume” to [email protected].

Name, Hometown, School: Derek Turner, Phoenix, AZ, CC

Claim to Fame: Incessant supporter of the Core, vocal fan of Arizona, thesiser on Indian water rights, perennial opinion-spouter for Spec, Barnard wannabe, conservative-about-town, campus character, and 2-term president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

Where are you going? The D. By which I mean Detroit, where I’ll be in the first class of Venture for America Fellows, working at a startup there for two years in an attempt to create jobs and sharpen my entrepreneurial skillz. My heart belongs in Arizona, though, so I will return eventually.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. The education we receive here is world class. I came here thinking that a Columbia education is only marginally better than others. That’s not the case – the Core Curriculum and the intellectual rigor required in our classes is unlike the vast majority of schools in the world. After I realized that, I became much more interested in defending the College and the Core, because if we don’t have it nobody will.
  2. It’s possible to be respectful and opinionated. As a conservative and a Christian, I have found it possible to become friends with even the most liberal and atheistic individuals on the campus. With a generous helping of respect on both sides, you can foster amazing friendships with people who you don’t agree with on any issue or doctrine. I haven’t changed my positions on many (if any) issues, but because of these relationships I better understand how people think. It’s far easier to discount the campus as being “against you” than it is to reach out and see the goodness of most students here.
  3. Planning never works, especially in this stage of life. I came to Columbia thinking I knew how my life would work. Since then, almost every aspect of that vision has been turned on its head multiple times. I’ve come to realize that it is impossible and horribly unproductive to plan beyond your immediate decision points. If you follow your passions in the short term, the long term will work itself out. If anything, trying to plan out your accomplishments limits you terribly.

“Back in my day…” The Diana didn’t exist. It sucked.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I’m the only guy in the Diana, the only goy in Hillel, the only Republican at Dems events, and the only capitalist in the Anthro department.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? It occurs to me that the War on Fun is better described as an Arms Race with Fun. As facilities/public safety install more roof-access locks, students become more acrobatic in their (successful) attempts to reach the top of buildings. Our goal should be to gain the ability to achieve Mutually Assured Destruction, leaving both sides free to leave each other at peace through deterrence. In this Cold War analogy, the Administration is most certainly the USSR.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I probably won’t live in Asia for the sole reason that a summer in Singapore left me crippled without access to cheese. My allegiance lies with dairy.

Advice for the class of 2016: Forgo the internship, take the harder class, greet that classmate on College Walk, subvert all “us v them” mentalities, ask questions, do your readings, don’t stress, explore your beliefs, and above all, prioritize people above your resume.

Any regrets? Only two. First, I regret not becoming an advocate for the Core/College earlier in my time here. Second, I should have majored in American Studies, but didn’t because of an illogical bias against majors with “studies” in the name. Besides that, my years at Columbia have been the most incredible of my life thus far. It will be a bittersweet goodbye.

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  1. Gentleman + Scholar  

    Thanks, Derek. Would've been great to get to know you earlier.

  2. LIKE A BOSS  

    Derek Turner, you're the man.

  3. Anonymous

    Met Derek my junior year of college. Definitely one of the most awesome friends I've ever had.

  4. Niño  

    Well-put, sir. It's been great to get to know you for the past four years. Stay noble and civil. And yes, it means boy.

  5. Anonymous

    Derek was in my Art Hum class and is one of the friendliest people at Columbia. FOur for you Derek Turner! you go Derek Turner!

  6. Anonymous  


  7. Anonymous  

    I am a liberal atheist, and Derek makes me melt.

  8. 2012er  

    Just met Derek for the first time last week. A genuinely nice person. Wish I could have gotten to know him better.

  9. BC '13  

    I've had a crush on this kid since I read "I'm Sorry, Diana Center." I'm sad he's leaving. Also, I'm sad that more guys aren't like him. #foreveralone

  10. james dawson

    derek is the best. be well in detroit!

  11. Anonymous


    you'll freeze your ass of, Arizona boy,

    but you'll have a great time.

    see you at Bronx bar.

  12. CC12  

    Just met him this semester at the awesome senior stories events he's helped run. I'm sad not to have gotten to know him better and glad to have known him at all.

  13. Anonymous  

    I just met him at Bacchanal. He seems like such a nice person. We talked about deserts and their similarities to clean rooms. Why do you always meet the most awesome people last?

  14. dp  

    Derek is such a boss!!

  15. Anonymous  

    dont forgo the internship. but everything else he said is the truth

  16. haha  

    "and the only capitalist in the Anthro department." real talk

    • and  

      i always thought i was the only one. i think there are a few undercover capitalists in that department, that simply don't want to come out because they fear being lynched by the other people in their discussion sections.

  17. That was

    witty, humorous, and included actually useful wisdom.

    And then he's ALSO a fan of the Core and the American Studies department? Truly someone to emulate. Maybe I should drop pre-med like I was considering after all.

  18. It's so coldddd in the D!  

    How the fuck is we sposed to keep peace?!

  19. Anonymous  

    core curriculum? intellectual rigor? can i go back in time and have his instructors?

  20. reality check

    It's cute that he thinks go-getter spirit and Ivy League education can solve Detroit's economic problems. Maybe after seeing all the social death caused by a system where structures of meaning and the material resources necessary for human existence can vanish overnight in the service of profit, he'll reconsider his cheery support for capitalism.

    • Anonymous  

      The City Detroit needs people like Derek. He may not be able to solve the economic issues in one fell swoop, but every well-educated, energetic, and talented person who moves there brings the city one step closer to re-gentrification.

      • Anonymous  

        this is maybe the least critical perspective on detroit that i've ever heard. re-gentrification as the unquestioned answer? really? stay the fuck out of our city with your ideological self-interest, you colonial asshole. you too, derek; i think your intentions might be good, but please believe me when i say that the last thing detroit needs or desires is more institutions that rely on the principle of profit rather than that of people.

        • Anonymous

          It also doesn't need more hipsters growing kale in Woodbridge

        • Anonymous  

          My family is from the suburbs of Detroit, so I am indeed well versed on the city's needs. The majority of the buildings downtown (besides the DIA, casinos, the Fischer, and a few hotels) are abandoned. The area needs life; that includes updating the area and making it livable, and desirable, for young, intelligent minds. They city of course needs substantial economic growth, be it through large industries or new startups. There are hundreds of new startups in Detroit (Woodward is becoming quite a hub) and we need to keep that going. I have to disagree when you said that "the last thing detroit needs or desires is more institutions that rely on the principle of profit rather than that of people." Detroit requires a hefty influx of profit; more and more people will follow. Derek, I think you are doing a terrific thing by moving to this great city.

  21. Anonymous  

    Around campus Derek is all smiles, all the time. I had a class with him freshman year (the kid was brilliant even then) and four years later, he still always remembers to say hi when he's passing by. Our campus could use a couple more Dereks to really heighten the sense of community.

    Can't wait to read about his impact on Detroit in the next few years.

  22. Anonymous  


  23. Anonymous  

    My roommate and I befriended Derek and two of his suitemates when we were all loaded down with big blue bags from Ikea on the 1 train at the beginning of the year. Such a sweet, cheerful kid.

  24. Kraft  

    Derek is the greatest goy Hillel has seen and maybe ever will see. If it wasn't for his blue eyes and blonde hair, he probably could pass for Jewish. Alas.

  25. de

    i love you, derek turner!!!

  26. I'm sorry, but

    "I probably won’t live in Asia for the sole reason that a summer in Singapore left me crippled without access to cheese."

    I used to live in Singapore and they totally sell cheese there?????????? What am I missing?!

  27. Fun Warrior

    Wait, there's a war on fun? It involves locking roofs? Don't any of you kids know how to pick a lock. MIT mocks you! Tsk.

  28. Bias against "studies" majors.

    I have this too... now I'm wondering if I should reconsider.

  29. Anonymous  

    want to know you!

  30. Anonymous  

    Is this the guy who I always see singing and dancing in the Diana? I thought he was crazy...

  31. Anonymous  

    I went to high school in Singapore... you couldn't find cheese there?? What about cheese roti prata? You missed out! Of course there is also cheese in the grocery stores, and there are many good pizza places :)

  32. Anonymous  

    he is actually amazing! i knew off the back he would when the ap barnard award....congrats!!!

  33. Anonymous

    WOW are the man who woulda thought u were gonna turn into such a baller


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