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Multitasking mask maker

Doctoral student Amilee Turner sews, donates 2,000 masks while finishing her dissertation and starting her career

Photo by Steve Puppe

Spring cleaning took on extra urgency for Amilee Turner, doctoral student in political science. “I was going through my closets in March and there was so much fabric, and at the time there was such a shortage of masks, especially for immune-compromised people and front-line workers,” she recalls. 

Turner, g’18, knew she could transform the remnants from her years of dressmaking into protective apparel, so she created her own pattern for adult and children’s sizes—including a slot for medical filters—and began sewing. She also filmed a how-to video for the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity. By August, she had sewn and donated 2,000 masks and received more than 100 letters of thanks from people all over the country. 

The Lawrence native returned to her hometown in 2015 to study international relations and public policy at KU after earning her undergraduate degree in criminal justice (with a minor in fashion design) at Lindenwood University in St. Louis. “I never thought I would be finishing my doctorate and using my minor to help save lives,” says Turner, whose daughter, Micah-Belle, will turn 4 in January.   

Public service also is the focus of Turner’s research, which explores the psychosocial factors that contribute to terrorism, drug trafficking and violence against women, and the reactions of various groups to public violence. As she prepares to defend her dissertation next spring, she also teaches a KU course in public policy and criminal justice, and she recently began a new job as a research analyst for the Kansas Department of Corrections, examining juvenile offender programs. In addition, she is part of a corps of social scientists selected by the International Fact-Checking Network to analyze data from 79 countries regarding responses to myths and misinformation about COVID-19. “I’m excited that I have a good career path in front of me,” she says. 

With so many tasks at hand, Turner has reluctantly set her masks aside for now. “Throughout my whole life, I’ve tried to be the overachiever. I have to remember to come back down to earth,” she says. “But the struggle is what gives you your impact and purpose in this life. You can’t take life for granted.” 

Turner no doubt will make the most of the career she has tailored. 

Issue 3, 2020


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