Marine veteran finds passions while pursuing 3 degrees at ASU


January 21, 2022

In high school, Simon Anthony Lee was a part of multiple political advocacy organizations, one of which, the Minority Student Achievement Network, took him to a national conference in Glendale, Arizona.

While in Arizona, he toured Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. After seeing the beauty of the campus and scenery, Lee, who was only a sophomore at the time, knew he found where he wanted to go to college. ASU student Simon Anthony Lee wearing a blue suit, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. Simon Anthony Lee Download Full Image

A decade later, Lee is currently working on his third degree from ASU — all from the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Lee’s path to completing his Bachelor of Arts in political science with certificates in international security, human rights and socio-legal theory was an untraditional one. He started his undergraduate experience at a sophomore level of credits because he spent time in the Marine Corps.

He was then deployed to Okinawa, Japan, for a year in the middle of his studies. Even though his graduation was pushed back due to his deployment, Lee shared that his time as a Marine instilled in him discipline and the ability to tap into learned perseverance when in difficult situations.

“Furthermore, my time in the Marines has reminded me that different opinions are built from different life experiences, and to reject an opinion no matter how outlandish it might seem to you, is to discount the experiences of another,” Lee said.

“Instead, use the knowledge and research you attain to find common ground and move forward in conversation.”

While working on his undergraduate degree, Lee found ways to spend time on the campus he fell in love with. He created and governed the ASU chapter of the Caribbean Student Association through the Black African Coalition.

“My father is from Trinidad and my mother is from Barbados,” Lee wrote on the Caribbean Student Association Facebook page. “I was born in the Bronx, (New York). It’s been my dream ever since arriving on (the) ASU campus to have a community of Caribbean people (here). I’m honored to bring that dream to life.”

Lee was also a part of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center’s Outreach Team, and while working on his dance minor, he met his significant other during a salsa class.

“During my bachelor’s degree is where I met a handful of lifelong friends and retained a deeper understanding of myself and my purpose in the world,” Lee.

He originally choose political science based on his “interest in issues of equity across America, particularly the school-to-prison pipeline,” but after taking Audrey Comstock’s political science course in international security, he was inspired to change his focus to national security and foreign affairs.

With his newfound research interests, Lee was looking into graduate programs when he met with former Ambassador Edward O’Donnell from ASU’s Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab.

At the time, O’Donnell was director of the School and Politics and Global Studies’ International Affairs and Leadership master's program, offered through ASU Online. Lee was hooked, however when the launch date for the program was pushed back, Lee decided to pursue a different online master’s degree from the School of Politics and Global Studies first — global security.

“I liked the flexibility of the program and the vast knowledge the professors of the program have to offer,” Lee said of the degree, whose faculty consist of internationally recognized thought leaders, including influential practitioners and top scholars.

Lee would graduate the with his master's degree in global security in one year, and followed it up by enrolling in the master's program in international affairs and leadership – joining their inaugural class last fall.

“I’ve loved the (master's program) program,” said Lee. “It’s everything I ever imagined.”

According to Lee, the coursework, led by former ambassadors and high-ranking officials, heavily utilizes practical applications where they “simulate roles of international actors in a possible crisis” and “draft memos to high-ranking officials in the DoD and the National Security Advisor.”

“I enjoy assignments like that such so much more because we are able to be graded on our understanding of class material while practicing the very things we’re expected to be good at in this field,” he said.

Even though Lee's graduate programs have been online, like when he was an undergraduate, he is finding ways to get involved with the ASU community. Lee is currently a Global Human Rights Hub Fellow, which allows him to learn from Comstock once again — this time, as his fellowship adviser.

Lee shared that he was excited to learn more about the international law aspect of national security through the fellowship. His first blog post as a Global Human Rights Hub Fellow was titled “The U.S. is losing the Cold War on Global Influence.”

Between his studies, Lee also finds time to work with ASU's Global Security Initiative as a research aide on narrative, disinformation and strategic influence. He is also currently a case worker for U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, where Lee says he has been able to appreciate the impact one can make in someone’s life by being there for those in a time of need.

He is considering a career at a think tank, consulting firm or as a political affairs officer, where he can utilize his two master’s degrees and the professional experiences he’s achieved while at the university.

“My experience at ASU has been amazing,” said Lee. “The faculty at the School of Politics and Global Studies are so supportive and undoubtedly are vying for your success. ASU will always hold a place in my heart.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies

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