Josephine Lee Wins CLA Teaching Award

Professor of English and Asian American Studies recognized for excellence
Professor Josephine Lee teaching at podium with white board behind

Professor Josephine Lee has received the 2020-2021 Arthur "Red" Motley Exemplary Teaching Award, the College of Liberal Arts' highest recognition for educators. The purpose of the honor is to reward CLA’s top educators, those who "demonstrate great dedication, passion, innovation, and commitment to teaching."

Taking a class with Professor Lee was "a much-needed bright spot" in a difficult year of distance learning, says Caitlyn Speier, a 2021 graduate in English and Philosophy. "From the start of the semester, it was clear that Professor Lee is an expert in her field and has a passion for this topic. We explored materials from a range of perspectives and mediums that made class exciting every week. Before meeting, Professor Lee would provide us with individual replies to our responses to that week's materials, which made her feel very accessible and aware of your presence in the class. By encouraging discussion, having a clear understanding of the material and obvious concern for us as students, Professor Lee made an incredibly welcoming and enjoyable class atmosphere”—even over Zoom!

"Lee models learning by
always being a tireless
learner herself."— former
student Nae-Rae Kim

Lee has now been recognized for teaching excellence at the University, college, and department level: She won the University's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education in 2008 and Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contribution to Undergraduate Education in 2002, as well English's own Ruth Christie Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014. As an example of her commitment to education, this past fall Lee collaborated with Assistant Professor Douglas Kearney in presenting a 2020-2021 workshop series to promote a deeper understanding of equity and diversity issues, especially as they intersect with the graduate training of MA, PhD, and MFA students in English.

"Jo truly is one of the most generous, giving, and honest teachers I have ever known, and a prolific and rigorous scholar who passionately shares her ideas," notes Na-Rae Kim (PhD 2016), Assistant Professor in Residence and Associate Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. "She models learning by always being a tireless learner herself. When I thanked her after I earned my PhD, she thanked me and other international students for teaching her transnational perspectives in research as well as what it is like to be an international student. I have come to appreciate her even more after I became a professor and advised students, for her ability to identify and cultivate strength in people and for the patience and respect she shows to others."

Professor Lee is the author of the forthcoming Oriental, Black, and White: The Formation of Racial Habits in American Theater (University of North Carolina Press, 2022). She is also Editor in Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture. Her other books include The Japan of Pure Invention: Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado (University of Minnesota Press) and Performing Asian America: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage (Temple University Press). Lee received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2019-2020. The Association for Asian American Studies presented its former president with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

Lee was instrumental in helping to found the Asian American Studies Program in 2004 and served as its first director (in 2006 the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans honored her with its Leadership Award). In 2017 she helped to bring to the University a $1.75 million, five-year grant (recently renewed for another five years) from the US Department of Education’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Program, which has resulted in the establishment of the Asian Pacific American Resource Center and several other initiatives to assist AAPI students at the University.

Congratulations to Professor Lee!

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