Lee Family Endows Brace Student Fellowship

The Brace Student Fellowship was recently endowed by the parents of Susan Lee ’19, one of the three Brace Student Fellows from last year. Since the founding of the Brace Center for Gender Studies in 1996, the Brace Student Fellowship has provided select students the opportunity to conduct research on topics of gender and present their findings to the Andover community. 

Coreen Martin, Instructor in English & Interdisciplinary Studies, served as one of Lee’s advisors for her research project. Martin explained that the endowment will help ensure the continuation of the fellowship. 

“[The Brace student fellows] are mentored by a faculty member over the summer, and both faculty and students receive a modest stipend to support their time spent on the project. The endowment will ensure that funds are available annually to cover faculty and student stipends and all costs associated with the program,” wrote Martin in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Flavia Vidal, Director of the Brace Center, the Lee family’s donation is the first donation specifically in support of the Brace Student Fellowship. The endowment guarantees that the fellowship will continue regardless of the Brace Center’s regular budget.

Vidal said, “We’ve been really lucky that for all of these years we’ve been able to have [the Brace Student Fellowship] and have the funds come out of the regular budget. But if anything ever happened at some point and the Brace Center didn’t have a regular budget on any given year, or had a much reduced regular budget, then the program wouldn’t be able to exist. With this endowed gift, we now have the funds to make sure that the Brace Student Fellowship happens no matter what happens to the rest of the budget.”

Currently, the Brace Center’s annual operating budget is used to finance all of its programs and events. The donation will allow the Brace Center to redirect more funds from the operating budget towards other projects, according to Vidal. 

“In securing the funding for the Brace Student Fellowship, [the Lee family’s donation] allows us to use the funds that would normally come from our budget for the fellowship for other projects and programs,” said Vidal.

Lee presented her project in the winter of 2019. She described her project, “The Asian Female ‘Subaltern’ in Porn: Theorizing and Interfacing the Consumption of Asian Porn Through 2.0 Search Engines” as a turning point in her personal growth.

“The privilege to conduct socially-minded scholarship, or activism through study, dramatically broadened the way I view the world and the possibilities for creating change in it. I was an Asian female doing research on racist porn sites, and while I couldn’t sue them, it was equally empowering and important, I think, to “flip the lens” and make subjects out of organizations that are traditionally “spectators” of Asian women. Even as an alumna, this idea that you can problematize, and then diagnose more effective solutions to social issues via critical scholarship informs my future plans,” wrote Lee in an email to The Phillipian.

Current Brace Student Fellow Uanne Chang ’20 attended Lee’s presentation last year. Chang, who gave a presentation titled “The Body in Ballet: How the Male Gaze Shaped the Ballerina Archetype” in December, reiterated Lee’s sentiment on how the research process offered new perspectives on her identity.

“I really loved [my Brace project]. I learned a lot of things about myself and how I identify as a ballet dancer. I think the most growth I experienced within this process was just a lot of self-realization, realizing the roles of gender and gender stereotypes play within the world of dance,” Chang said.

Junah Jang ’20, a current Brace Student Fellow, remarked on how her research inspired some of her subsequent work. Jang will give her presentation, titled “The ‘Miss’ in Miss Saigon: Deconstructing a Fantasy of Asian Femininity,” on February 10.

Jang said, “Over the summer, while I was working on my Brace project, I was also preparing for my THD-901 project in the fall. Originally, I didn’t really have a planned direction for [the theater project], but in doing my research for my Brace paper, I decided I wanted to do a story about an Asian-American woman. I ended up doing a play on this Korean comfort woman and American military intervention in Korea, which was kind of a cool reflection of the research.”

Former Brace Student Fellow Trevor Lazar ’17 studied sex trafficking, and how it affects underprivileged and marginalized young women in the U.S. According to Lazar, his work for the fellowship continues to impact his global outlook.

“[My research] certainly had a huge impact on my worldview, one that I find myself regularly upholding but also challenging. At least in college, the conversations I’ve had about sex work largely revolve around situations where a worker is in complete control of their life, and choosing to do so on their own volition… I remember reading numerous stories from trafficking victims that stick with me to this day. From this project, especially, I came to believe that storytelling is the best way to develop empathy and encourage systemic change,” said Lazar.

With their donation, Lee’s parents hope to open the way for the Brace Center to become even more involved at Andover by supporting more projects on gender equity. 

Lee wrote, “When [my parents] started looking for ways they could help the school, it was an obvious choice to support the fellowship to foster more gender-related scholarship. The work of the [Brace] Center is already steeped in the majority of gender equity work at Andover and unmistakably makes waves on student culture. It’s our hope that it comes even more to the forefront in the future.” 

Editor’s Note: Junah Jang is a Managing Editor for The Phillipian.