Dr. Tina Lee: Beyond profession

Isaac McInnis-

Studying people isn’t easy, not to mention getting them to change; yet University of WisconsinStout’s Dr. Tina Lee manages both (and then some).

Dr. Lee began teaching at Stout in 2011 after earning her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the City University of New York. Now, as Associate Professor of Anthropology and Program Director for the Applied Social Sciences at Stout, she seeks to foster cultural competence among her students. For Lee, educating students about anthropology gives them the ability to see the world through the eyes of others. Doing this not only prepares them for an increasingly diverse job market, but also makes them better people in the process.

“When you actually sit with people who’ve lived in poverty and struggled to raise their children, you can learn about what their struggles are like,” says Lee. “Anthropology is taking people seriously.”

Cultivating equality is her life’s work. Earlier this year she published her first book, “Catching a Case: Inequality and Fear in New York City’s Child Welfare System.” Since coming to Stout, she has given numerous presentations throughout the United States, all of which center around exposing and eliminating social and ethnic biases.

“Those problems,” remarks Lee, in reference to societal inequalities,“affect us all.” More than anything, Dr. Lee is hopeful. Though she is constantly addressing the disparities of today, her optimism for tomorrow is unwavering. “There are plenty of models of human society that value equality,” she says. “There are so many possibilities.”

Much of what Dr. Lee is seeking to achieve is exemplified through research. Her research (and her students’ research) often has a strong interdisciplinary aspect. One such project—LAKES REU—employs environmental science, anthropology, sociology, mathematics, and a number of other disciplines in an effort to understand and provide possible solutions for phosphorus pollution issues in Menomonie. Social scientists, Lee added, contribute to the project by understanding why farmers farm the way they do. They also help figure out how to encourage farmers to utilize different techniques and processes..

Whether it’s her involvement with LAKES REU, or working with Engineers Without Borders to evaluate their sociological impact – another of her projects – Dr. Lee’s passion for bettering the human condition is evident. “There are so many things about the problems in our society that everyone agrees exist that could be helped.”