Chang Oh Turkmani, a globetrotting business woman, lawyer and a staunch supporter of education, will be the featured speaker at the UH Cullen College of Engineering’s spring commencement on Thursday, May 9 at the Fertitta Center.
“I know for a fact that without the education I received, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “Everything I have earned and built for myself and my family would not be possible if not for the education I received in this great country.”
Building a global career
Born in South Korea, Turkmani speaks seven languages – Korean, English, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, French and Arabic. She graduated with her Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree from Georgetown University Law Center and from the Executive Program at Harvard University Law School. She earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Spanish from Northwestern University.
She is the managing director and principal at The Mega Company of Washington, D.C., which she owns with her husband, Salah Turkmani (BSChE ’77, MSIE & MSChE ’78). She serves as financial advisor and debt negotiator to various East European governments and oversees all commercial and financial transactions concerning investment, countertrade and export contracts of commodities and industrial raw materials. The company was selected by the U.S. Embassy in Romania as one of the most successful U.S. companies doing business in Romania.
Turkmani is also the principal of American Construction Technologies; managing director of Crest Energy; and managing director and principal of CDM Global – all in Romania. These roles allow her to be involved in the specialized field of temperature-controlled warehouses and logistic centers, the energy sector and in environmental remediation and industrial waste management.
She is the principal and president of Blackwater Power Co., which works with Sargent & Lundy – the oldest U.S. engineering firm based in Chicago – and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. on the refurbishment and restart of CANDU nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe.
In addition, Turkmani has been an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown Law for 16 years. Her course, Pre-Negotiation Strategies for Cross-Border Transactions, covers the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, cross-cultural negotiations and international dispute resolution.
She was Alumna of the Year in 2016 at Georgetown and received UH’s Bridgebuilder Award in 2014. She is also a Dame in the Order of the Knights Templar.
Fostering the future
Her various experiences have taught her important lessons about life – especially the need for awareness and understanding of different cultures.
“The world is no longer divided by artificial and arbitrary geographical boundaries. It is becoming one economic and political marketplace. This is why I believe that leaders such as our graduates must be prepared to compete in the global economy,” Turkmani said. “Cultural tolerance is not sufficient; we must accept and embrace other cultures.”
Turkmani is involved with several scholarship endowments: the Law Asia Scholarship at Georgetown Law, the Turkmani Family Scholarship at Cornell University and the Claudio Grossman Scholarship at the American University Washington School of Law.
“For me and my family, to thank means to give back so that another generation of students can have the same opportunities that were given to me,” she said. “Scholarships we have endowed at various educational institutions represent our token of gratitude for the opportunities we have been given.”
She was introduced to the University of Houston and the Cullen College by her husband.
“He would often speak so fondly of UH. When we had a chance to meet the chancellor, we both jumped at the opportunity,” said Turkmani, adding that meeting Renu Khator was an unforgettable moment for the couple.
“When we met this delicate lady who spoke about ‘the fire in the belly’ (which has come to be one of my favorite sayings), a lady who not only exudes confidence but delivers clear mission and plan for the University, we were in awe,” she said.
Today, Turkmani is a member of the Engineering Leadership Board of the UH Cullen College of Engineering and part of the University of Houston’s “Here, We Go” Campaign Executive Committee.
“I have come to love this great institution and I cherish the opportunity to be part of the UH Cullen College commencement,” she said.
The Turkmanis have three children. The youngest – Natasha – has a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Princeton University and a Master of Philosophy in energy technologies from the University of Cambridge. She won a National Science Foundation grant to work as a summer research intern at the Cullen College in 2013.
With more than 30 years of experience in the international arena, Turkmani has some advice for Cullen College students, graduates and new engineers.
“The graduates today are now a part of another, even larger family. You will go very few places around the world where you will not encounter other UH alumni, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe,” she said. “I encourage students to embrace that benefit and be an active member of this community. Keep in touch with one another, help the next generation of students, and stay connected to UH.”
The spring 2019 UH Cullen College of Engineering commencement will be at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 9 at the Fertitta Center. For more information, please visit: https://www.egr.uh.edu/current-students/commencement