No Plain Jane
She might never sleep, but senior Jane Lee has made her mark through her tireless commitment to Northwestern student government, Evanston politics and international social endeavors.
"He'll probably tell you I'm a glutton for punishment," says Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences senior Jane Lee, anticipating friend Matt Hall's comments.
But, when asked to describe Lee, Hall answers more tactfully. "I'd have to describe Jane as an overachiever — she will outperform anyone she's up against through sheer determination," says the School of Communication senior from Mount Vernon, Ill., who serves with Lee on the Associated Student Government executive board.
And outperform she does. Lee serves on a number of boards and committees at Northwestern, including the Campus Safety and Crime Prevention Committee. She is active in her sorority, Kappa Delta, and is spending her last quarter at Northwestern pursuing an African American studies minor in addition to her double major in political science and legal studies.
Last summer Lee served as a counselor for the National Teen Leadership Program and traveled to China with Technology & Education: Connecting Cultures, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based nonprofit that leads teams of Chinese and U.S. entrepreneurs in ventures related to technology and education. She is TECC vice president of U.S. government relations.
One of her most important commitments is her role as Associated Student Government president. Busy to be sure, Lee maintains that it is no punishment to live her Northwestern life to its full potential.
She has been scouting out opportunities to make change since her childhood in Northridge, Calif., where she wrote a bill providing grants to school districts that implemented recycling programs. (A version of the bill became California law, and Lee was named Woman of the Year in California's 40th Assembly District.)
Last year Lee brought her activism home to Northwestern when she fought for student representation during the redistricting of Evanston's aldermanic wards. "She single-handedly protected the students' voting rights in Evanston," said Lucile Krasnow, Northwestern's special assistant for community relations.
A few Evanston aldermen proposed a redistricting plan that would have split 2,000 on-campus students into three districts, thereby reducing the strength of the student vote. This plan would have also diluted the concentration of African American voters in two other wards, potentially a violation of the Voting Rights Act. So Lee spent several hundred hours working with the Citizens' Ward Redistricting Committee and proposed two maps before city council. She also successfully requested a delay in the final vote until students returned to campus.
The final map incorporated aspects of Lee's proposal and maintained the student vote in two wards. "I just could not stay silent," Lee says. "These are the principles of democracy that I've held dear to me — democracy as an open process. This is why I'm an advocate."
On another ASG project, Lee worked with EVMark, a downtown Evanston promotional organization, to expand Big Bite Night, a New Student Week event that introduces students to Evanston eateries. Lee, who was working in Chicago at the time, scheduled meetings at 7 a.m. so that she could attend. Her passion paid off. Twenty-one restaurants participated, and nearly 2,000 students turned out.
At least one Evanston resident has been impressed with Lee's political zeal. "She's smart. She's committed, yet she's not brash. She's personable. She'll do anything she puts her mind to," says Mayor Lorraine Morton (GSESP42).
Lee's passion for politics was also cited by Glamour magazine, which pegged her "the community crusader" in its "Top 10 College Women 2004" list.
"It was incredible," says Lee, the eighth Northwestern woman to be chosen since the magazine's first competition in 1957. (Lee and two other Glamour women were also among the 20 students nationwide selected as All-USA College Academics by USA Today.) "I was inspired by all the girls who were also on the list."
Krasnow, for one, looks at Lee with the same awe. "I was a slacker in college compared to what Jane Lee has done," said Krasnow, who wrote letters of recommendation for Lee's USA Today and Glamour honors. "She's one of those remarkable young women whom I will gratefully enjoy standing on the sidelines and watching where she goes in life. She has big dreams, big aspirations. She has a heart of gold, and she's very passionate about political issues and people. She's accomplished more in her four years here than anyone could ever dream of doing."
As for Lee's own future, she plans to work for Deloitte Consulting in Chicago and hopes to attend Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. After graduate school Lee would like to follow her passion for domestic policy issues and pursue public office.
— Kate Johnson (J05)