Lee named Alumni Academic Excellence and Schonfeld scholar
- June 3, 2020
- Honor recognizes undergrad for outstanding academic performance and service to UCI soc sci and the wider community
Name: Rachel Lee
Major and current year at UCI: political science, third year
Awards: School of Social Sciences Alumni Academic Excellence Scholarship and Elena B. and William R. Schonfeld Scholarship
Hometown: Rowland Heights, CA
Biggest accomplishment: interning at the Secretary of Senate, Engrossing and Enrolling Office through the UC Center Sacramento (UCCS) Academic Internship Program. I networked with amazing individuals at the capitol and also produced my own research project.
What major milestones have defined your life to this point?
Moving to the U.S. when I was 4 years old, getting into college as a first-generation student, interning at the Capitol through the UCCS program, and selling my own shirt designs.
Why did you decide to come to UCI and pursue a major in political science?
UCI gave me the most financial support, which was important to my family. It is also perfectly located near the beach! I want to go into law, so political science seemed to introduce that field.
When do you plan to finish your degree and what do you plan to do after?
I will be starting my senior year this upcoming fall. I plan to take a gap year and participate in the Capitol or Judicial Fellowship program or intern at a law firm before going to law school.
What activities have you been involved with on campus and in the community?
On campus, I am part of the Student Alumni Association, Pre-Law Society, DREAM Center, and Asian American Christian Fellowship. I am also a DREAM Scholars peer mentor for undocumented students. I serve at my home church on the worship team and children’s ministry. From time to time, I decorate venues for events and sell my handmade products. I recently launched my shirt design onto a clothing online platform.
Explain the research projects you’ve pursued as an undergrad at UCI.
I am currently studying with professor Matthew Beckmann on American presidents. I collect data to evaluate the workday of presidents by looking at presidential diaries. In addition, as part of the Sustainability Track for the Campuswide Honors Collegium, I am doing research on urban greenspaces and environmental justice. I will be continuing my individual research project in sustainability with a focus on environmental policies.
Who has played an important role in your life thus far and why?
My parents have continually supported me throughout every step of my academic and professional journey. Although I am a first-generation college student, they have tried to understand the struggles and experiences I go through.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?
Being undocumented has shaped me significantly. My life has altered around this identity: it has encouraged me to strive even harder academically, it has pushed me outside my comfort zone to network and seek professional experience, it has also made me keener to issues of social justice.
Being undocumented is not the only challenge that I face—it is being a low-income, Asian-American, first-generation undocumented student. I am pushed to stand out in order to gain the resources I need for an undergraduate education. The implications of an undocumented identity not only revolve around my college education, but also extends to helping my family navigate the political realm and bridge the culture barrier.
What’s your best memory thus far from your undergraduate experience at UCI?
By far, it was my UCCS experience. This was my first time traveling on an airplane by myself and moving that far from home. I’ve met many inspiring students from all different UCs with whom I still keep in touch. The professors were really engaging, especially in providing one-on-one feedback for our individual research, as well as preparing us for our research symposium. Most importantly, I had the best experience at my office: I had the best co-workers, I got insight into the legislative system, and proofread around 60 pages of bills every day. This experience has given me lifelong friendships, mentors, and opportunities.
Any other interesting tidbits you would like to share?
Another one of my passions is sustainability! The Campuswide honors sustainability course has introduced me to a whole new field; I hope to combine my passion for law and the environment in the future. I am also a very creative person, which explains my numerous hobbies—this includes baking, designing, handlettering, taking pictures and dancing.