Emerging Scholars: Breaking Down Access Barriers — Jenny Lee - Higher Education

Higher Education News and Jobs

Emerging Scholars: Breaking Down Access Barriers — Jenny Lee


by Dianne Hayes

Title: Associate professor of higher education, University of Arizona: Ph.D. and M.A. in higher education, UCLA; B.A. in social ecology with a minor in African-American studies, University of California, Irvine

Age: 39

Career mentors: Gary Rhoades and Iliana Reyes, University of Arizona; Simon Marginson, University of Melbourne

Advice for new faculty members: “First, as Gary Rhoades instilled in me when I was first hired, know your worth. You have as much to offer and say as an assistant professor as a full professor. Second, know what is most important to you, and spend your time accordingly, keeping in mind that not everything that is urgent is important.”

It was her parents’ strong work ethic and sheer determination that was the driving force behind Dr. Jenny Lee. Immigrating to San Diego from Seoul, South Korea, at age 3, Lee watched her parents overcome challenging obstacles in order to make a living for their family.

“Although my parents did not earn any degrees in the U.S. and barely spoke English, they instilled in me the value of hard work,” Lee says. “Whether they worked in an assembly line factory, deli shop, and, finally a dry cleaner, my parents served as a model in my approach to education. They taught me that, while we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can always work to improve them.”

Lee took that advice to heart. “I clearly recall a time when I was torn on whether to go off to college or stay with my family in order to help the family business. When I shared my inner struggle with my mother, she told me that I must go to college so that I would not have to work with my hands as she and my father had done throughout their lives.”

Related:  ACE: Significant Efforts Needed to Improve Diversity in College Presidency Ranks

For the past 15 years, Lee has devoted her time to teaching, service and research on college access for underserved populations. “I created a service-learning outreach course while I was a graduate student at UCLA and then a similar course when I became a faculty member at the University of Arizona. These service-learning outreach courses prepare college students as mentors and tutors to low-income middle and high school students in local underserved communities. With the support of private donations and a foundation grant totaling almost $500,000, there are now approximately 100 college students serving six local schools per semester and countless secondary students who are now preparing for higher education. I continue to research inequalities in college access but have also since started investigating issues of access and educational mobility globally.”

As a first-generation college student, Lee has focused her research interests on college access, primarily because of her personal experiences as an immigrant with little knowledge of the educational system and how to access higher education.

“I became interested in ways that I can better understand the experiences of international students and higher education in my country of origin, South Korea. My father died before I completed my doctoral studies, but, some time before he passed away, he told me that I should consider using my degree to help impact Korean education.”

Lee has taken her father’s suggestion seriously. During her sabbatical last year, she devoted time and research toward Korea. Her international work included learning about the experiences of international students and higher education in South Korea.

“In addition to my research on Korean higher education, my international research seeks to challenge and re-conceptualize traditional views of international higher education that tend to minimize or disregard the role of developing countries and the human side of migration for students from these countries,” Lee says.

Related:  Wisconsin Gives 8th-Graders Path to Higher Ed

She has authored and also co-authored more than 40 publications. Her work has not gone unnoticed by Dr. Jeffrey Milem, department head of Educational Policy Studies and Practice and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona.

“I’ve been her colleague for the past five and a half years. She’s been a remarkably productive scholar in terms of quality and quantity of work,” Milem says. “She has a strong commitment to issues of social justice and equity. She is a great person who is widely respected by colleagues and students.”

“My personal rewards include knowing that my work will make a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether it is a doctoral advisee, undergraduate in my class or a fellow scholar who is informed by my research, I believe that making a difference is all that matters in the end,” Lee says.

Strategic Partnerships Opening Doors to Study Abroad for Disadvantaged In order to increase and diversify the number of American students who study abroad, K-12 educators, nonprofits and universities must pursue strategic partnerships to reach students from diverse backgrounds while they are still in high school. Tha...
Guillermo: Harvard Continues to Nickel and Dime Striking Food Workers Running a college or university isn’t always about the book learning. Sometimes, administrators come to this realization: the Ivory Tower is just a hotel and food service business for the educated class. But to deal with that effectively, they ...
Stakeholders Cite Leadership Instability, Finances as HBCUs’ Greatest Challenges As the Obama administration draws to a close and the nation prepares to select a new president, historically Black colleges and universities leaders reflected on the past and future of the HBCU community at the annual HBCU Week conference, held in Ar...
Harvard Students Lead Sit-in to Back Striking Dining Workers CAMBRIDGE, Mass. ― Students at Harvard University are staging a campus sit-in to support the school's striking cafeteria workers. Dozens of students walked out of classes on Monday and marched to a nearby building where Harvard officials and a lab...

2 Responses to Emerging Scholars: Breaking Down Access Barriers — Jenny Lee

  1. I believe education is one of the influential factors for the country’s progress. Without education a person could not possibly be more in character and also to think scientifically.

    houston dermatologist
    September 4, 2012 at 11:16 am

  2. If children are stunted education because of economic factors, it seems this can be overcome. There is no harm if we try to scholarship programs that exist because we never know when we will be able to get that opportunity.

    OC compare medical insurance coverage
    October 1, 2012 at 8:11 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *