The Scholar

When UT senior Lindsay Lee interviewed in the Rhodes Scholarship finals in November 2013, she convinced the committee that she’s going to change the world. She became one of thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from a field of 857 candidates.

The unlikely odds and staggering workload made her wary of even entering the process. However, Lee’s multifaceted skill set made her a perfect candidate for the challenge. The Haslam Scholar carries a double major in math and Spanish.

Her thesis project involves analysis and mathematical modeling with the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. She’s done research for Vanderbilt Medical Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Her off-campus volunteer efforts include Redeeming Hope Ministries and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. And she plans to make a global impact on public health care.

“The Rhodes interviewers focused on my combination of math and humanities,” she says. “They seemed to think it was well rounded.”

She credits UT for giving her an edge in the Rhodes competition.

“I like to think that I am living proof of the value of a public education and that, with the proper support, students at the University of Tennessee can do absolutely anything students at a fancy private school can do,” she says.

Lee, who uses a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, has put the UT message “You’re going to change the world” into action. She founded Campus Disability Advocates, which provides a voice to students, faculty, and staff with disabilities and regularly consults with campus and city officials about access for new and existing structures. CDA has also hosted the Disability Issues and Advocacy Conference on campus for two years, including presentations from international experts.

She aims for the group to continue its advocacy after her graduation. “It gave me confidence interacting with the campus administration,” she says, and she believes it helped make her unique in the Rhodes Scholar selection process as well.

When she thinks about her future at the University of Oxford, Lee says, “Math is the foundation of health policy. I want to do public health research using math to help create equal-access health care.”

She notes that some of the worst outcome groups in public health care are the disabled, and much better research data is needed to help make widespread change.

Lee plans to do a one-year MSc in applied statistics and a second year in a program she has yet to select. “I don’t mind not having it all decided,” she explains. “I mean, it’s Oxford—I can study so many amazing things.”

Photo by Jack Parker

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