Joey Lee

Joey Lee pursues his Ph.D. as a first generation student

Deciding to go to college four years after graduating high school might seem like a difficult choice for many, but for Joey, he knew it was exactly what he needed to do.

“I wasn’t happy with my job or where I was at in life,” said Joey. “For my family, factory jobs are the norm. To me, I could be doing more to fulfill my career potential than sticking to those norms and expectations.”

He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Illinois State University by spring 2014. Without even taking the summer off, Joey started his journey to completing his Ph.D. at Iowa State University (ISU) during the summer 2014 semester.

“When you lack that home-based support group you never really know the next step or understand the college process,” he said. “You have to find the support on campus to help guide you whether that be more friends or connections around the community.”

Getting involved with something you’re passionate about is something Joey stressed. There are endless opportunities on campus and throughout the community.

Joey got involved in research back at Illinois State and carried that passion with him to ISU for his graduate school.

“Learning how to develop new information and share it with others through conferences or publications was something I felt really proud about doing,” said Joey.

His love for sharing knowledge from research will go hand-in-hand with teaching students after graduating and becoming a professor himself.

“Once I got to college I learned how well I communicate with others,” he said. “It’s rewarding to help others and teach others as a grad student. Helping others achieve helps me.”

Joey’s interest to mentor others wasn’t the only thing that lead him to his career goal. While he finds getting involved in clubs and research important, Joey emphasizes how much connecting with a professor helps lead to a more successful college experience. 

“Find someone, [like a professor,] who is where you want to be at and grab onto that person,” said Joey. “Ask them to go get coffee, everybody likes coffee. Most professors are more than willing to give you their time if they can tell you’re passionate about something.”