Rawls College of Business student Junia Lee received a prestigious Sumners Scholarship.
Zig Ziglar once said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” If one is looking for proof, look no further than Texas Tech University's Junia Lee, a student in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and the Honors College. The junior from Flower Mound received an undergraduate scholarship of $30,000 – the first Texas Tech student ever awarded the prestigious honor by The Sumners Foundation.
In 1949, former U.S. Rep. Hatton W. Sumners created The Sumners Foundation to encourage the study of self-government. As a result, the Sumners Scholarship was created as a merit-based program to reward candidates demonstrating academic excellence, a sense of civic responsibility and the potential for leadership in the states of Texas and Oklahoma. This year, 20 at-large scholarships were presented across the two states by The Sumners Foundation.
While studying abroad in Norway on a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, Lee shared her thoughts on receiving the prestigious Sumners Scholarship.
What led you to decide Texas Tech University was the place where you wanted to further your education?
Texas Tech has been on my radar since my older brother attended this very campus. Since fifth grade, I have continuously heard of the opportunities in Lubbock and that there was so much more to the city than what meets the eye. At first, I was a little skeptical about applying, but it all changed when I had my official campus tour and visit.
I had chosen a non-traditional business/medicine major, and though I had done my research on fulfilling my educational goals, I really had little knowledge about the university beyond that of a typical high school student. Yes, the campus is beautiful, and campus life is fun, but what won me over was the relationships the faculty, staff and administration have with the students – even prospective ones. They wanted to help me find and achieve success. They wanted to help me realize my goals. But beyond academic and professional goals, they wanted to know who I was and see to it that I also achieved my personal goals. That was what made me feel right at home. For many of us, college is the first time we ever experience such a shift in our lives – our first home-away-from-home experience.
Texas Tech understands we are more than a number on the 40,000-plus student spectrum, which motivated me to learn and grow.
It seems you are a very driven, goal-oriented person. What's your biggest driving force?
My answer really comes in two parts, and first and foremost is my family. My parents, who are first-generation immigrants from South Korea, made it possible for me to be who I am today. Without their resiliency and passion to create opportunities, I would not be as driven or aspire to do what I do. Their dedication and hard work made it possible for me to dream big and to go after my aspirations. And, of course, my siblings make it possible for me to keep my eyes on what's ahead in my journey. They are all my heroes from whom I draw inspiration.
In addition to my family's influence, while I was in the Flower Mound High School Marching Band, during my junior year I was appointed as a drum major. Every year, the leadership team had to attend an all-day leadership clinic. I had honestly dreaded it, but ironically, the seminar changed how I view my driving force.
In that seminar, we talked about personal circles of influence. Each person has one, whether big or small. And the only way we expand or shrink that radius is through our day-to-day interactions with those around us. The catch, though, is that influence is a two-way street, much like respect. Oftentimes, we are so focused on what is in front of us that we forget to see the bigger picture. This lesson made me realize the impact we have, which not only allows for personal growth, but also facilitates the growth of others.
We live in such a diverse world of communities within communities. If not for the greats who paved the way before me, or the mentors and upper-level students who shared their experiences with me, I would not be the person I am today. I learn, grow and strive toward success because I am inspired to keep that legacy going and by keeping an open mind to new perspectives. I have a seat at the table for a reason, and whatever circumstance I am in, I can be inspired while giving inspiration.
In a short time span, you've applied for and received two significant scholarships at Texas Tech: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and The Sumners Foundation Scholarship. What did the application process tell you about yourself?
As a perfectionist, I have always been afraid of failure, and when something felt too difficult or the odds were not in my favor, I had the tendency to just give up before I began. However, I have been learning to let go of that negative thought process and beginning to look at failures as a learning curve - which was a difficult concept to embrace. It was not until I saw a TED Talk by psychologist Adam Grant about “the surprising habits of original thinkers” that I really felt myself coming to terms with it. He stated that “the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they're the ones who try the most,” and that was what got me. I always saw failures or getting a “no” as a negative and never as a possibility of more.
These applications attested to the fact that I was no longer tied to the fear of failures and I will always have a shot at succeeding if I actually shoot the shot. Because what is worse than missing the basket? Not actually going for it.
How important was it to seek these scholarship opportunities and what do you see these scholarships providing in the form of an opportunity?
I come from a big family. With four siblings and one currently in college with me, scholarship opportunities are an immense help financially. Apart from family circumstances, I find that these scholarships will take some weight off my shoulders for the remainder of my undergraduate career and focus on what graduate school may have in store. It also motivates me to reach for greater heights because these scholarships amount to more than money. It shows me there is someone out there wanting me to succeed, and I find out of respect, I should honor that.
I also can say that with this scholarship, Gilman scholarship, and many others, I will have my undergraduate education (and my whole study abroad trip) covered through financial aid, and I could not be more grateful for such an honor.
What has your experience been like in the Honors College and the Rawls College?
Texas Tech is like a second home to me. The sense of community this university instills, through entities like the Honors College and the Rawls College of Business, has not only allowed me to grow as a student, but as a leader, student representative, and most of all a young adult navigating through the challenges of newfound adulthood.
I came to college during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world was full of uncertainty. It was through the Honors College and Rawls College I was able to overcome the void of the unknown and find a greater sense of passion for student advocacy and resiliency and the value of mentorship and friendship. I find being an honors and business student at Texas Tech is truly a blessing because not only has it opened endless opportunities for me, but it has also brought into my life the best faculty and staff, who have become lifelong friends and mentors, to help me sculpt and build the person I am today. I could list countless academic and professional opportunities and obstacles that these mentors have helped me to overcome.
It is through these communities that I was able to study abroad, join student organizations and look for opportunities beyond academics. I have met former U.S. diplomats, awe-inspiring deans and groundbreaking professionals who have motivated me to become the best version of myself.
I see you are involved in quite a few organizations on campus. What have those experiences helped you accomplish thus far and how can they help someone else?
I often say irony has its way sometimes. It's funny because, personality-wise, I am 100% an introvert, but I cannot stand to sit still and be quiet when it comes to involvement.
I joined the Student Government Association (SGA) my first year at Texas Tech. With half of my classes online or hybrid, I had extra time on my hands and I wanted to join at least one organization. Then, I came across one of the two first-year programs in SGA called the First Year Leadership Association (FYLA). This program allows first-years interested in public service and politics to intern under the elected student body executive members. After a rigorous application and interview process, I became an intern to Vice President of Graduate Affairs, Charles Ramey II, and the president of FYLA.
Through this experience, I began to understand how big Texas Tech was and what it meant to represent the 40,000-plus students that made up the Red Raider community. I also learned how to contact the right people for different initiatives, learned more about graduate school, and developed a bigger passion for student advocacy, which led me to run for a Student Senate seat.
Within this organization, I met many people who have helped me get involved in other organizations like the Scovell Business Leadership Program, the Dean's Student Council and Mortar Board, as well as multiple committees such as the Health and Wellness Fee Committee, the Honors and Awards Council and the Women's History Month Planning Committee. This has not only expanded my knowledge of how to work in such settings, but it has also allowed me to see that you can make a difference as a student representative here at Texas Tech. These experiences allowed me to look at issues on campus pertaining to health, equity and opportunity and search for solutions such as implementing the first-of-its-kind Texas Tech University System-wide Public Health and Health Policy Think Tank for looking at ways to create operational policy for gender-inclusive restrooms.
I have come to realize we are learning everywhere we go, and education goes beyond textbooks. What I like about being involved is that I can apply what I learn in the classrooms to real-life scenarios, and I would like to help everyone find a place in an organization like SGA, where they can thrive.
What are some of your career goals?
In the future, I aspire to work in the field of healthcare administration as a liaison for health care and business professionals focusing on the effects of healthcare policies and disparities. I currently have plans to either apply for the dual master's degree programs for Doctor of Medicine/Master of Business Administration or Doctor of Medicine/Juris Doctor, which highlight health organization management. I also have become more interested in public health and health policy and am looking into careers and education opportunities that encompass public health, such as the master's program at the London School of Economics for Global Health Policy.
Currently, I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in business administration management with a concentration in pre-medicine. I also have minors in biology, health professions and international studies. I want to use my experiences in business to allow for conversations and collaborations that bring forth solutions and answers to tough questions when it comes to controversial topics in healthcare. Having lived through a pandemic and witnessed many instances of health disparities and inequities, I have become interested in being an advocate for those who have these experiences.
Health policy is something that is always changing and the idea and challenge of overcoming adversity through adaptability is something I find intriguing. With great possibility for interconnection and newfound health policy concerns arising, I want to be able to bring forth not only my insights and experiences but keep the idea of inspiration going to address these concerns and issues.
What advice would you pass along to an incoming student at Texas Tech?
One piece of advice given to me was, “Do not let anyone put a cap on your potential, especially yourself.” When I hit a wall or feel inferior in any situation, I remind myself of this line because it truly is eye-opening when you let go of the worry and the doubts of whether you are good enough. Something I have learned is to never take the “no” before the “no” is given to you, and every opportunity should be looked at with possibility. To me, the scariest thing about not taking a chance is the risk of staying stagnant in your progress to success.