Class of 2018 Profile: Elizabeth Lee, ME major, explores identity through web comic

Elizabeth Lee identifies as many things. She’s a mechanical engineering major, a proud Asian American, and a woman working in the STEM fields.

To give a clearer voice to these identities, Lee created a web comic called “Existing Quietly, Living Loudly.” She develops the concepts, draws the panels and writes the dialogue and captions based on her real-life experiences.

“I realized as a woman, as an Asian American, our voices are very silent in the world. I wanted to bring out that voice a bit more,” she said.

Lee said the comic gives her a platform to tackle issues around identity, race and the challenges women face in the male-dominated engineering industry. It also highlights the valuable intersection of art with science and technology.

Elizabeth Lee (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

She was inspired to bring the web comic project to life while taking an Asian American literature course taught by Haerin Shin, assistant professor of English and assistant professor of cinema and media arts. Through the lens of literature, the class focused on model minority myths, micro-aggressions and other issues tied to race and culture.

Lee, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, credits her time at Vanderbilt and the relationships she’s built here with helping her embrace her identity.

“Since my time at Vanderbilt, I’m a lot prouder to be Korean,” she said. “At first some of my friends and I thought we needed to fit in better. But now the thinking is, ‘I am enough being who I am; I want to share that with the world; and there is beauty in every aspect of all races and all colors.’”

She credits the Asian American Christian Fellowship for providing her with a strong foundation on campus. “Through that organization I’ve become more defined in my faith and found other people who are interested in that path as well,” she said.

Following graduation, Lee has a job lined up with an engineering firm in the San Francisco Bay area.

“I chose engineering because I thought it’s a good intersection of being creative and being able to design, with science and math backing it up,” she said. “And I really do enjoy the concept that in engineering there’s no absolute right answer. It’s the same for art.”

MyVU has profiled 14 members of the Class of 2018, including three engineering students.
We’re featuring their stories in the lead up to Commencement on May 11.