Esther Lee picked Truman because she knew a smaller school would provide more opportunities for growth. She’s grateful for the support she has received and plans to pay it forward whenever possible.
Esther Lee is so involved on campus it’s easy to wonder how she finds time for all of her interests. She is the president of the Community of College Entrepreneurs. She previously served as a senior vice president for the co-ed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and is currently the organization’s diversity coordinator. Even though she is a business administration major, with a concentration in marketing, Lee is a member of the Clarinet Choir and has performed with the Wind Symphony. She’s also found time to mentor Kirksville High School students through the TRU-Leaders Next- Gen program.
All that might be overwhelming for some, but Lee came to Truman from Overland Park, Kansas, specifically to get more opportunities, or as she has put it before, “to be a big fish in a small pond.” On top of all those extracurricular activities, she’s also a full-time student and on track to earn a degree next May in four years. She could have graduated earlier, but chose to stay and make the most of her collegiate career.
“If I could go back, I would advise myself to lessen my course load,” she said. “Staying four years allows you to be more involved, make a bigger impact and have a more balanced life. If you take initiative to make the most out of your time at Truman, you won’t want it to end.”
Along with Lee’s generally ambitious nature, some of her drive can be chalked up as a byproduct of the pandemic. Every year of her college experience has been affected in some way by COVID, which altered many of the events and activities taken for granted by previous classes.
“The pandemic created a deeper appreciation for connections. As a sense of normalcy started to return, I saw that in all the organizations I was in,” she said. “Everyone was eager to form meaningful relationships with one another. In addition, I began to push myself to meet as many people as possible to make up for lost time.”
There was a lot for Lee to make up in her role as president of CCE. At the onset of the pandemic, meetings were moved to Zoom. Membership understandably waned, dropping into the single digits. As pandemic guidelines for organizations eased prior to the 2021-22 school year, Lee worked with members to brainstorm recruitment strategies, including tabling, participating at the activities fair and hosting other events.
“I did not know what to expect for our first in-person meeting in over a year, but the turnout was amazing,” she said. “It was definitely a memorable moment to see so many Truman students eager to get involved on campus and learn more about entrepreneurship.”
It’s fitting Lee heads up a student organization devoted to entrepreneurship. For more than five years she has run her own photography business, Esther Lens, and she took second place in Truman’s business pitch competition, Bulldog B.I.T.E., as a sophomore. Her pitch of Smarter, an automated study partner with voice recognition capabilities to enhance study time for students, netted her a $2,000 award.
Lee’s level of involvement could lead some to believe she is a hyper-focused, career-driven student with a clear vision of what she wants for the future. While she will certainly excel in whatever path she chooses, her overall plan is fairly broad and rooted in nobility.
“From a professional standpoint, I hope to be proud of what I do,” she said. “I also hope that I am able to be a mentor to anyone in my field within my company, as well as students at Truman, using my network to help others advance in their career. I hope that in my personal life I continue friendships and connections I formed in college. I also hope that I am able to give back to the Truman community in any way that I can.”
Lee does have one specific goal in mind. In addition to her career, she wants to create a nonprofit to help immigrant business owners by marketing their entrepreneurial endeavors. Both of her parents came to the United States for their education – her father hails from Malaysia, and her mother came to Truman from Taiwan – so supporting immigrants is an issue near to her heart. In fact, in the past year Lee started working as a cultural integration leader helping groups of new international students get acclimated to American culture.
“I know the amount of work my parents put in given the fact that English was their second language,” she said. “Their drive is what motivates me to always do my best and always help others.”