Lauryn Rydl Turner’s (’96) time at Harding was influential in preparing her for her current role as chief of staff for USA Gymnastics.
After finishing her time as a Bison cheerleader and graduating with a degree in math and computer science, Turner taught math and Spanish for three years in and near Jackson, Tennessee, while also coaching competitive cheerleading.
Though Turner said she enjoyed teaching, she wanted to grow and do more with her talents. Through the recommendation of a friend, she began working for Varsity Spirit in sales. After growing in the brand and eventually serving as vice president of development for Varsity Brands, the umbrella company over Varsity Spirit, Turner said her diverse professional experiences allowed her to move into a larger position with USAG.
“I’ve gone from teaching in a small private Christian school to being in the boardroom with private equity funds in New York and in Boston,” Turner said. “I’ve learned so much from that experience, and it prepared me for my role at USAG.”
Turner said she is able to succeed in her current position by combining her passion for athletics with her knowledge of business. She said student athletes are taught both sport-based and character skills, which she feels are important in building resilience and integrity.
“I am passionate about the life lessons and the incredible experiences sports provide athletes,” Turner said. “Being able to bring my passion and leadership experience to the organization along with my business acumen provided a perfect blend for what USAG was looking for.”
As chief of staff, Turner manages human resources, IT and finance along with leading strategic planning and execution. She said her computer science degree is useful as she interacts with and advises IT, and her math degree provides a skill base in analytical problem solving.
“With a math major, the biggest skill that is required is taking a complex problem and creating a solution,” Turner said. “Being solution minded, whether that is personnel, resources, operations or strategy, is something I utilize every day. I would say a math degree does prepare you. Although it’s not a calculus problem from Dr. Duke or differential equations class with Dr. Brown, it’s the same process as far as identifying a problem and the tools that I have to solve it, and here’s how I’m going to create that solution.”
Turner said her involvement as a student gave her leadership experience that proved invaluable to her professional life.
“The opportunity that exists in a smaller university to be involved in things and to be a leader is harder to achieve if you’re at a school with 60,000 people,” Turner said. “It’s harder to connect. It’s harder to raise your hand to volunteer or to express interest in being involved. The opportunity of being heavily involved in Spring Sing, in a social club, being a cheerleader or playing intramural or club sports, learning those leadership components is inevitable when you’re involved like that.”
— Emma Aly