David Lee: Exploring the World from a Personal Perspective

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Being receptive to new ideas has led David Lee, '16, all around the U.S, and soon will take him to Ireland, where he will attend University College Dublin to study the urban environment.

David Lee, '16David Lee is going to Ireland. The University of Washington Tacoma senior has been accepted into the Master of Science in Urban Environment program in the School of Geography at University College Dublin.

Lee graduates this month from UW Tacoma with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable urban development. The 38-year-old leaves for the Emerald Isle in August. Lee’s wife has also been accepted into University College Dublin. She’ll be getting a graduate degree in public affairs.

David Lee has always been something of an explorer. He left high school, got his GED, and then took to the road.  “I wanted to understand the world from a personal perspective instead of a classroom perspective,” he said. Lee bounced around the U.S., taking seasonal jobs at both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Lee also spent three years in the Marine Corps. Afterwards, he decided to enroll in Clover Park Technical College for video production and multimedia. “That was just before the 2008 crash,” he said. “Everybody stopped throwing money into marketing.”

The financial meltdown forced Lee to reevaluate. He came to UW Tacoma and quickly found a home in the Urban Studies Program. Lee wants to use his education to address social and environmental issues. “I want to identify underdeveloped regions and to help people in those areas develop their infrastructure within their own culture, within their own ideals,” he said.

Lee’s decision to go back to school has been successful: he was a semi-finalist for a prestigious Fulbright grant in early 2016. Part of his success can be attributed to work ethic but also to perspective. “When you’re in school you have to focus on being a good student,” he said. “And that means being receptive, being open to new ideas and learning to work with people who don’t necessarily agree with your view.”

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Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 6, 2016
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu