Q&A with 500 Festival Princess Jillian Turner


Meet Jillian Turner, a junior Insurance and Risk Management major, representing Indiana State University on one of the most prestigious events in all of Indiana, the Indianapolis 500. She is one of 33 women selected out of hundreds of applicants to be a 500 Festival Princess.

The 500-Festival Princess program is a not-for-profit organization with over 50 events and programs that celebrate and educate the community on the Indianapolis 500 through a statewide outreach program. Turner and her fellow 500 Festival Princesses will put in over 1,500 hours of community service.

She was selected out of hundreds of applicants for her outstanding leadership, academics, community involvement, and “embodiment of Hoosier spirit.”

Get to know her more below.

Tell me about your time at ISU, how are you involved on campus?

I love to stay very involved on campus and step into leadership roles any chance I am given. I have been awarded the Gongaware Scholarship, which is a $39,000, 4-year scholarship for students planning to major in insurance and risk management. Out of the 3 scholarship recipients in my class, I was chosen as the recruitment head to assist in leading the recruitment process of the scholarship over the next 4 years. I serve as the Vice President of the Indiana State University Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, which is an international professional fraternity organized to promote, encourage, and sustain student interest in insurance, risk management and actuarial science. I am a member of the Networks Professional Development Program, which is a 4-year program preparing students to enter the workforce with the essential elements of knowledge, skills, and experience for success. I previously served as the Freshman Liaison on the Student Advisory Council, held membership of our Industry Relations Team who took charge of planning and organizing industry professionals to come visit and speak to our program, and now serve as the co-chair of our upcoming executive forum. As a 3-year member of our Student Philanthropy Organization, we strive to promote the importance of philanthropy and active engagement within the university. Allowing myself to take a broader look into the university, I took on the role of Director of External Relations within the executive cabinet of our Student Government Association. Looking into the 62nd Administration of SGA, I am excited to take on the position of Chief of Staff.

What made you want to apply to be a 500 Festival Princess?

As a college student in today’s world, there are so many activities and programs I can choose to participate in or support. While those are important and create fulfilling experiences for me, having the honor of representing the 500 Festival Princess Program is an opportunity of a lifetime. Growing up in Indiana, I have always been fascinated by the 500 Festival Princess Program and I have seen first-hand how it has positively impacted young girls like me across the state. The 500 Princesses have such a unique opportunity to support their local communities while representing a special part of our state’s great history.

What goes into being a 500 Festival Princess?

While serving as a 500 Festival Princess, 33 Indiana women are given countless opportunities to grow professionally, gain mentorship, and leadership from the 500 Festival Board of Directors, and develop leadership skills within their communities. Each year, Princesses conduct more than 1,500 hours of community outreach impacting more than 50,000 people, expanding the celebration and impact of the Indianapolis 500 in a meaningful way.

You not only represent Indiana State University, but Terre Haute. How proud does it make you feel knowing that?

I’ve grown up in Terre Haute my whole life so having the opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much, means the world. I have spent lots of time in my life and in my academic career volunteering throughout the community and on campus, but I have never had the opportunity to participate in something on this level and bring it back to Terre Haute.  As a Hoosier, the great Hoosier love of racing is strong, and this program provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience surrounding that.

Aside from the mandatory tasks, I know you’re scheduling your own outreach events. What are those and how did you pick them?

Yes! Each princess is responsible for outreaches within their own community. I started by reaching out to local nonprofits I already have connections with to see if they are open to a Princess joining any events. I have also reached out to local elementary schools, including mine, to plan fun events with the kiddos. It just so happens that 4th grade Vigo County curriculum includes Indiana History, so it all aligns perfectly!

Another big part of the 500 Princess program is I know it is a networking opportunity in your field of study. Two-part question, who is your mentor and how excited are you for the chance to further make connections in your field?

I was very lucky to receive a mentor within my field of study. I have been paired with board member, John Gause who is the President and CEO of Apex Benefits Group in Indianapolis. We have already created a small connection through the insurance program at ISU, but with this mentorship opportunity, I am thrilled to see that grow. I think John is just as excited as I am as he is already planning 500 festival days with the company and his clients!

Any scheduled event(s) you are most excited for?

The event I am most excited about is an outreach opportunity I have coming up with a local elementary school. I provided the 4th grade teachers with a curriculum packet to teach over the week. Using these packets, the kids will create trivia questions at different point values using their knowledge of the Indy 500 and Festival. I will bring my homemade 500 Festival Jeopardy Board and use the questions the students came up with to play a fun round of 500 Jeopardy! This gives the students an opportunity to learn, but in a fun and memorable way!

I know this is all new but what are your initial thoughts and key takeaways from this experience so far?

There is nothing like this program. It has opened so many opportunities to be a part of things that you might never see or even think of. It is truly once in a lifetime and I will be forever grateful for that.

After race day and once this all ends, what do you hope you take away from the 500 Festival Princess Program experience?

I hope to have gained lasting friendships with the other princesses. Throughout this process, it becomes a shared sisterhood and I look forward to sharing life with these girls when Princess days are over.

Anything I may have missed that you want to add on or any shoutouts you want to give?

Not that I can think of now! If I think of something, I will let you know! Thanks so much!