Riddle Prize winner found courage to lead
If you take a look at Sarah Lee’s impressive résumé, it might surprise you to hear that she doesn’t consider herself a natural leader.
“I’m really shy and more of a fringe person, rather than the center of attention,” Lee said. “My freshman year, I never would have expected to be a leader.”
A senior in neuroscience, Lee is heavily involved on campus, from running an Honors College publication to mentoring students in Campus Housing.
“I’ve tried things I never thought I would be good at,” said Lee, an Honors College student.
Lee is this year’s winner of the Donald and Leah Riddle Prize for Outstanding Graduating Senior. The prize, named for a former chancellor and his wife, is among UIC’s top undergraduate honors.
She focused her studies on neuroscience to fuse her interests in biology, biochemistry and psychology. As a member of the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA) initiative, she will attend the UIC College of Medicine in the fall.
“I think the brain is probably the most interesting thing I’ve studied,” she said.
She combined her major with a minor in Russian after cultivating an interest in the country during a study abroad trip she took as a student at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. She completed her capstone project for the Honors College on cultural representations of flooding in Russia.
“I desperately wanted to keep learning the language,” she said.
“I’m very passionate about The Ampersand and even after four years, every time an issue comes out, I just feel so proud,” she said.
She’s also a leader in Campus Housing, having served as a resident assistant and peer mentor for the past three years.
“Being a role model and being supportive and a confidante has been really impactful, even more so on me than on residents,” Lee said. “Some of my most memorable experiences have been being an RA: holding the hand of a sick student in the middle of the night, helping residents who have had their heart broken or through failing a midterm or class. It’s definitely a jack-of-all-trades role that I have grown into.”
While she’s been supportive of residents, Lee has found her own support from her parents.
“They’re always there for me,” she said. “My mom taught me to not be afraid of anything. I get a lot of my bravery from her.”
In her spare time, Lee enjoys watching movies, listening to music and running. She finished the Chicago Marathon in 2014 and plans to run a half-marathon next year.
“Running is a good stress reliever for me,” she said.
As Lee looks forward to graduation, she shares her words of wisdom for the incoming freshman class.
“Try anything once and challenge yourself,” she said.