2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: John W. Turner, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

John W. Turner

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Age:  51

I am highly motivated, health conscious, coach of others who is devoted to family.”

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

Family Members: Wife – Julie, Three sons – Brandon, Grant and Nathan

Fun fact about yourself: My favorite holiday is Irish Christmas, aka St. Patrick’s Day.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Iowa State University, Bachelor of Science Transportation and Logistics

Where are you currently working? Union Pacific Railroad, Vice-President Network Planning & Operations

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I graduated from Iowa State University with Distinction as well as a member of the Dean’s Honor Roll. I have spent many years as a volunteer youth basketball coach working with kids from kindergarten through eighth grade.  In my current role, I am a member of four different Boards helping management teams think through the challenges of running their businesses. In my personal life, I also serve on the Finance Committee of St. John’s Catholic Church.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My family is the most important part of my life so I’m proud to say I made it through the Notre Dame EMBA program with an even stronger and more committed relationship with my wife and children.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?

Achieving things is how I am personally wired. Similar to my mother who was not able to start college until later in life, and my father, a high school graduate, I too began my railroad career as a brakeman and high school graduate. While working, I was able to complete my college degree and continue to advance in my career while being married and raising three wonderful children.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is Professor Ram Ramanan because he took a dry subject and made it fun. Also he has a spot-on Sean Connery imitation!

Why did you choose this schools executive MBA program? When I began considering where I wanted to earn my MBA, I wanted to choose a place whose commitment to faith and academic excellence matched my own. Notre Dame is peerless in this regard. The commitment to high ethical and educational standards is directly aligned with who I am now and aspire to be in the future. The Notre Dame EMBA will prepare me for the next step in my career with an ethical, strategic and analytical framework to make decisions.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained from my time in the Notre Dame EMBA program was being true to who I am. Allowing others to truly see who you are and being vulnerable is a leadership strength not a weakness.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? There is no doubt that juggling work, family, and education is a challenge. There are times when each of these takes priority over the other two. I had one classmate ask me if I wanted to achieve a 4.0 GPA during my MBA. As I reflected on my response, I had not really thought much about it. My answer was: There are going to be times when my education will have to take a backseat to my work and my family. In order to achieve the 4.0 GPA goal, I would have to sacrifice too much of my other two life priorities and I am not willing to do that. I guess this is not a story as much as it is advice to others. Give yourself the grace to live your life AND get your education.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Life will not give us a two-year pass. Do not be afraid to go for it. The time will pass anyway. The question is what will you have to show for it?

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is thinking that it is ever too late in life to further your education.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was missing out on so many of the social experiences that this program had to offer which were cancelled due to the pandemic. In spite of all of that, I did still build amazing relationships with my classmates.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have to mention two here because I can’t choose between them: Geoff Allman and Seth Sullivan. Both are influential, spiritual, and very high character people. They are the kind of people our mothers would be proud that we are associated with.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted a serious educational experience complete with a strong alumni network. I wanted to finish this program having had a meaningful shared experience with an amazing group of people and that’s exactly what I had.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal has always been to add significant value to my organization. As long as I am doing that, everything else will fall into place for my career.

What made John such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“A senior executive at Union Pacific Railroad, John Turner’s contributions to the Executive MBA program at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business were invaluable in the classroom, with his learning teams, and as a leading member of the cohort of 53 students earning their diplomas May 2021. John’s impact on his classmates and faculty was elevated through Mendoza’s distinctive approach of a community of collaborative learners, who build lifelong relationships with each other and faculty.

John’s academic achievement in my Corporate Finance course was one of the highest in the class, where he was able to share his significant experience and how finance is a prominent enabler for his and his firm’s success. Also noteworthy was that for 14 of the 22-month program, the University, business and society experienced tremendous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notre Dame and Mendoza’s Executive MBA program implemented safeguards and continued with in-person learning. Because of John’s role with Union Pacific, in which he is in charge of the supply chain to keep things moving and meet society’s needs, he was able to bring that same confidence and drive to carry on, to his classmates, faculty and the Executive MBA program.”

Walter Clements
Associate Dean, Executive Education
Teaching Professor, Department of Finance
Mendoza College of Business
University of Notre Dame


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