By Adam Doster, Staff Writer, Loyola University Chicago

Dominique Jordan Turner (photo courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)


Dominique Jordan Turner thinks of herself as “a builder.” Why follow somebody else’s blueprint when you can design your own from scratch?

Last fall, she took on one of her biggest projects yet: joining Loyola University Chicago as its first vice president of institutional diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Sitting on the University’s cabinet and reporting to the Office of the President, Jordan Turner is leading and coordinating urgent DEI efforts across Loyola’s campuses. Early on, her charge includes an assessment of Loyola’s new Strategic Plan, ensuring that the University’s long-term priorities are as equitable as possible.

Consciously or not, this role is one that Jordan Turner has been preparing for her entire life. She was born on Chicago’s South Side, where her parents grew up in the Ida B. Wells Homes in Bronzeville and had Dominique as teenagers. Their daughter became the first person in their family to graduate high school and college.

Jordan Turner largely credits such achievement to her mother, who relocated with her to Niles, Michigan in search of more stability. For college, Jordan Turner went to Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black research university and one that felt far removed from Niles, a small town with little diversity. “I wanted to go to a place where I felt at home,” she explains.

Jordan Turner arrived at Clark Atlanta with big dreams, thinking perhaps she’d become the next Oprah. Her mother counseled her to try something more practical, like business. Throughout college, Jordan Turner carried 18 credit hours each semester and worked three jobs at a time, maximizing her tuition money and putting off the possibility of distressing calls from the financial aid office.

She’d never seen Black wealth like she encountered in Atlanta, a place where people with power looked just like her. “I went to college, and they reaffirmed my greatness, my excellence, my Blackness. At Clark, they expected me to be a leader. It was an affirming experience.”

Like a lot of high-performing graduates in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Jordan Turner tried her hand at management consulting, working for Deloitte. She was challenged by the work and enjoyed the perks of per diems and travel, but felt unfulfilled. “I was making companies more money. I was doing spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations,” she says. “I’d been blessed to get this opportunity to be the first in my family [to attend college], and I just felt like I was squandering it.”

Dominique Jordan Turner in conversation on campus (photo courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)


Despite protestations from her grandmother, who dubbed her an “educated fool,” Jordan Turner flipped 180 degrees and left Deloitte for the Peace Corps. Her placement was in Panama, where she spent two years living on a monthly stipend of $300. She built trust with her new neighbors by teaching them English, and setting up a neighborhood computer center in coordination with a local group of women after securing computer donations through old consulting connections. (The center was eventually certified by the country’s ministry of education.) Using her business training to empower people in need was invigorating; it gave her life a renewed purpose.

After returning to the States, Jordan Turner spent the next fifteen years taking on new leadership roles. Most recently, her own consultancy, Dare To Be the First, helped clients like General Mills encourage their talented women and people of color to be more bold, confident, and effective leaders in the workplace. Previously, Jordan Turner served as CEO of Chicago Scholars, which helps first-generation and low-income Chicago students get into and through college, and oversaw a five-fold expansion of its staff and budget. (In 2020, LeBron James named Chicago Scholars his nonprofit of choice during the NBA’s All-Star Game festivities in Chicago.)

In her new role at Loyola, Jordan Turner is now on campus and making connections with Loyolans of all stripes. She’s planning a broad listening tour and holding regular office hours in an attempt to grasp what equity problems people want addressed: What has been done, what hasn’t, and how does the University measure success? “My leadership style is to co-create things,” she says. “I want to bring voices into a room that are not already there.”

She was encouraged by what she saw during the interview process and her early orientation. While plenty of organizations talk about DEI, she thinks “Loyola’s commitment has clearly been demonstrated.” It will be her responsibility to bring under one roof disparate initiatives and establish what she calls an “institutional vision” for DEI. Student concerns, no doubt, will be front and center.

Moving into a Jesuit environment, Jordan Turner relishes the opportunity to bridge her work and her faith. And while she’s at Loyola, she’ll keep in mind the example of her own mother, who made sacrifices to give Jordan Turner chances that every young person deserves.

“My mother is probably the hardest working person that I know—she always had at least three jobs, and took care of her kids. No matter how hard she worked, she could never do more than just pay the bills,” she says. “It wasn’t because she was lazy. It wasn’t because she was a bad person. It was where she was born, and in what skin she was born. I thought as a kid that was unfair. And as an adult, we know there are some justice and equity issues underneath.”

At Loyola, Jordan Turner will bring issues like those to the surface, allowing the University community to interrogate them collectively. Her blueprint is just waiting to be drawn.