Kristen Lee will graduate from Duke in May 2013 with a Sociology major, Spanish minor, and a prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate study.
Kristen is fascinated by the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality with health disparities. She has researched South Asian sex trafficking and the connection between movement within the criminal justice system and HIV risk. She also studied abroad in China and India, focusing on health and development.
Her commitment to public health issues is a thread through her extracurricular involvement as well. Through DukeEngage, Kristen worked with Ecuador-Colombia border communities, creating gender and family violence workshops and presenting research on HIV to local leaders. At Duke University Medical Center, Kristen is the student chair of the Sickle Cell Transition Program, an initiative that eases the patient transition from the pediatric to adult sickle cell clinic through education and support.
Kristen is grateful to be able to describe her mentors as friends. “At Duke, Professor Kim Blankenship inspired me to change my entire college trajectory with her thoughtfulness and commitment to gender and health. I came to Duke as a Biology major and ended up pursuing sociology and global health. Professor Rosalind Chou taught me to recognize injustice and not shy away from it. The Baldwin Scholars family demands I embrace who I am and shows me by example what it means to be fearless in pursuit of my dreams and endlessly generous in support of the dreams of others. And throughout my entire life, my mother has been my number one role model. As a single mother, she taught me that no dream was too big to try, that no did not always mean no, and that living life unexpectedly was half the fun.”
Kristen is brave. She credits a choice she made to be her own best friend rather than her greatest critic and enemy. “Giving myself the permission to make mistakes, learn from them, and take risks opened me up to a world of possibilities. At one time, I was so hard on myself. As a natural born perfectionist, I held myself back because of fear of failure and embarrassment, but I have since learned that failure can mean growth and embarrassment can be remedied with laughter. Deleting all the white noise of second guesses and insecurity, I have the confidence to thrive. Sidestepping a formulaic definition of success and the pressure to achieve on someone else's terms, I decided that it was more important to be happy in pursuit of my truth and passions.”
She advises first-year women to strike up conversations with peers and professors they're interested in. “Never underestimate the power of a good dialogue over coffee or a meal. Some of my most life-changing decisions at Duke were made outside of the classroom. I would never have studied abroad in China and India if I decided not to have a certain lunch with a friend. I also never would have learned my passion for sociology if I were too uncomfortable to visit my professor's office hours and meet up after a movie night showing. For me, I learned at Duke that a life-changing connection could start with something as simple as an email.”
Kristen and 53 other college students from across the U.S. were awarded Truman Scholarships for their academic passion and dedication to work in the arena of public service. She plans to attend medical school and eventually found a women’s health clinic in Chicago.