Allison Lee, a PhD student studying mechanical engineering, recently received a renewal of her teaching fellowship from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The award, given to only four to five students in the nation annually, represents years of hard work and dedication to her studies.
As an undergraduate student, Lee studied mechanical engineering at BYU. Following graduation she interned for a few months, during which time she learned that returning to school would suit her best.
“I didn’t like the work that I would be doing with just a bachelor’s,” she said.
After deciding to return to BYU for graduate school, Lee realized that she ought to plan her career around her passion for teaching. With her sights set on a position as a university professor, she opted to begin the five-year PhD program. Currently, Lee is in year four of the program, and plans to graduate next August.
Lee first received the ASME teaching fellowship in 2015. After submitting an extensive application that included her GRE scores, academic transcript and letters of recommendation, her submission was reviewed and selected from a pool of qualified applicants from all over the nation. The fellowship provided a way for her to teach an undergraduate course here at BYU, giving her valuable experience as she pursues her dream job.
Ultimately, Lee believes it was her passion for teaching that set her above the rest of the applicants. She even referenced her mission in Chiclayo, Peru, in the application, explaining that, while she was teaching something different as a missionary, she realized that she had both an aptitude and a desire to mentor others and help them achieve their dreams. In addition, Lee acknowledges that having an advisor write sterling letters of recommendation “probably helped too.”
Renewing this competitive fellowship has been key for Lee as she seeks to bolster her teaching resume.
“There are a lot of students who are interested in teaching, and this guaranteed me another opportunity to teach,” she explained. “[After] having taught two courses, now I can say ‘look, I’ve done this, I have student ratings, I have experience,’ when there are so many people who don’t.”
Looking back on the first course she taught two summers ago, Lee acknowledges that teaching is not always a walk in the park.
“It was a little intimidating,” she admits. “I’m supposed to know a lot of things by the time I’m teaching a class…and it had been a long time since I had taken that specific course.”
However, despite any minor setbacks or frustrations, the triumphs of teaching always minimized the struggles.
Lee maintains that “the best part of teaching anything is when the people that you’re talking to finally comprehend what you’ve said, and you’ve explained it in a way where you can see the comprehension.”
After graduation, Lee is intent on finding a position at a university that values teaching over research. As she puts it, “I like research, but I love teaching, and I want to go somewhere where that’s emphasized.”