PublicSpotlight: Lisa Lee

It’s lunchtime at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, and the halls are packed with scurrying students, frazzled faculty members and campus visitors who eye the chaos warily.

Lisa Lee, one such campus visitor, has been escorted away from the crowds by the Asian American Studies Department. Whisked away from her day job in Palo Alto, Calif., she spoke on Feb. 24 about infusing passion into a career path as part of the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy Brown Bag Series. Lee led a lunch discussion about her experience juggling a day job with her passion for multicultural arts and publications.

Officially, Lee works for a social networking Web site, a job she affectionately deems her “day job on the side.” She said she devotes every moment she’s not on the clock to Hyphen magazine, a volunteer-run publication that caters to an Asian American readership.

Since joining the volunteer staff in 2008, Lee has doubled Hyphen’s annual budget to $55,000. Thanks in part to Lee’s enthusiastic marketing efforts, the magazine has also increased its readership by 90 percent, according to AAST.

At the lunch discussion, Lee’s bright blue dress and energetic demeanor is a welcome spot of color against the conference room’s muted walls and neutral folding chairs. Undeterred, she launches into the discussion with a cheery, “So, how do you have a career but continue to do what you love to do?”

Ears perk. Faculty around the table reminisce about the passions they once pursued.

“My corporate job is not a miserable experience. I’m learning a lot about how to organize people and recognize talent from my day job,” Lee said. “I can integrate skills from my day job and use them to help Hyphen.”

People around the table continue to chatter as Lee shares her story. It no longer seems so implausible to maintain a hobby and sustain a career. Lee stumbled across Hyphen at a bookstore and was intrigued by their multicultural advocacy and design sense. She contacted the staff and began volunteering, just as simple as that.

“When we’re children, we tend to believe that we can be a dentist, a doctor, and a part-time cowboy,” Lee said. “As adults, we realize the impossibility of this. But who’s to say we can’t take elements of what we truly enjoy and keep those passions a part of our lives?”

Want more from Hyphen? Check out its Web site.

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