Tyehimba Turner ’16 was part of the first cohort of Peace Corps volunteers allowed into Liberia to restore education systems in the wake of two civil wars and an Ebola crisis. Tyehimba embodies the legacy of our founder Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, and has “set out to where the work is great and difficult.” 

This article appeared in The Magazine of Dominican University (April 2020)

Bringing a Dominican Worldview to Universal Challenges
Dominican alumnae/i are extending the values they learned as undergraduates to a global stage.

Tyehimba Turner ’16 serves as community engagement manager for UNICEF USA, working with the city of Chicago and community organizations to establish child-friendly policies that address systemic gaps in social service. His career, thus far, has focused on righting many of the wrongs he sees in the world—overseas and here at home. 

Turner was an honors program student mentored by Margaret Jonah, professor emerita of biology. “She’s the smartest scientist I’ve ever met,” he says. “She showed me that science at its core is asking a question and then finding the methods to address it.” 

He credits his political science professor, David Dolence, and former Lund-Gill Chair Christopher Kennedy for teaching him how to analyze a range of issues, including education and health care, from a U.S. policy perspective. 

Four years ago, Turner was teaching ninth and tenth grade science as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. He was part of the first cohort of Peace Corps volunteers allowed into the country to restore education systems in the wake of two civil wars and an Ebola crisis. 

Public health, one of the world’s most challenging policy areas, was an important focus of Turner’s work. He educated community members about the danger of malaria and transported sick individuals to medical services. 

“Many Liberians had come to distrust the health system during the Ebola outbreak,” he explains. “They associated government hospitals with death; that’s where their sick relatives went and died.” 

Turner encouraged the children he taught-and their parents-to seek treatment for their health concerns and set up an informal pipeline to a hospital where a Peace Corps doctor was posted. When a pregnant neighbor became seriously ill with suspected malaria, Turner urged her to go to the hospital, but she refused. 

“When I checked on her later that night her fever had reached 104 degrees,” Turner says. “I refused to leave unless she came with me to the hospital. When we arrived there, she was diagnosed with complex malaria. She went on to make a full recovery and give birth to a healthy child. I’m proud of that moment. It’s very likely she would have died if she had not been treated that night.” 

Prior to his work with the Peace Corps, Turner served with AmeriCorps Vista, where he recruited and trained volunteers for service in shelters across the city of Chicago. 

Today, Turner deftly blends all these experiences in his work for UNICEF. He is researching Chicago’s policy banning child labor in its garment supply chain and working with the city to strengthen the policy’s language. He sees this as a major step toward reducing child labor and trafficking, an issue he discussed as the kickoff speaker for last year’s Fair Trade Campaign national conference in Chicago.