Getting to know U: Debbiesiu L. Lee – School of Education & Human Development

Getting to know U: Debbiesiu L. Lee

Debbiesiu L. Lee

Associate Professor

Educational and Psychological Studies


What is your favorite vacation spot? OR Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited?
I have two favorite vacation spots. One is Sedona, Arizona. I have always had a special affinity to the red rock, ever since I first visited before interviewing for the PhD program I would come to join. There is a deep, powerful, and mysterious spiritual energy that seems embedded within the area that both grounds and awakens me. My second favorite spot in the world is Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Again, I feel a certain spiritual connection to the ocean and sands in that part of the world that calms and refreshes me. The diving there is also amazing, so that’s a great bonus.

What is your favorite movie and why?
My favorite movie of all time is Contact featuring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. I was a geek when I was younger and was fascinated by the notion and probability of extraterrestrial life. I appreciate how the movie highlights the dynamic tension that occurs when dichotomizing science and spirituality. I think the two are more connected than we care to admit in this Western society and, yet in time, I believe that we will begin to see more how the two are inextricably interwoven and inform one another in our pursuit of Truth. I also firmly align with what I see as the ultimate message of the movie: In Life and through Time, we are (and everything is) all interconnected.

What is your favorite hobby or thing to do on weekends?
On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my partner and kids doing whatever it is that brings smiles to their faces and joy in their hearts. Whatever it is that we end up doing, I relish the uninterrupted time with them. Their laughter and fascination for life exhilarate me. I know that as my kids get older, they will want to spend more time with friends and pursuing hobbies than spend time with their parents. So, for now, I cherish every moment.

What is special about the place you grew up? OR What is your favorite childhood memory?
I My favorite childhood memory is spending time with my family at a nearby lake. Growing up, we did not have extra income to spend on family vacations, so I cherished the rare weekends that we got to spend on the lake that belonged to the company for which my father worked. We swam, fished, threw frisbie, and paddled and rowed boats. I remember the excitement of helping my parents set down an oversized pink beach blanket, plopping down on it, and enjoying the sun and sand with a shovel and pail in hand.

What is something nobody would guess about you (that you are willing to disclose!)?
Perhaps something that people would not have guessed about me is that I earned a second-degree black belt in Kung Fu many moons ago. I have always been drawn to martial arts, not only as a physical exercise, but also for its mental and spiritual components. To me, Kung Fu is a lifestyle. The direct translation of Kung Fu is “mastery through time and effort”, and it is a philosophy that has driven me throughout my life. I know that whatever goals I set for myself, I can accomplish them in time so long as I continue to exert focused efforts (physical, mental, spiritual) towards them. I believe that everybody has the capacity to maximize and achieve their greatest potential. Although we may start out with different beginnings, our endings are our choice and are influenced by each and every choice we make. We cannot control where we came from, but we can control who we are and who we become through our choices.

What was your first impression of UM (or SEHD) when you first started working/going to school here?
My first impression of UM was that is was paradise.  Actually, that is still very much my impression. There is so much natural beauty here in South Florida and on campus in particular, that I feel awe and draw inspiration from it every day, multiple times a day.

The first impression that I had of the School of Education (which was its name at the time that I joined) was that everyone was so warm, welcoming, and supportive. I remember how Blaine (who was my first mentor here) always had his door open to me and provided an encouraging space for me to grow as a junior faculty member. I also vividly remember sitting next to Beth Harry at my first school-wide faculty meeting. I was so intimidated to be among such brilliant people, but she immediately made me feel comfortable and that I belonged. Isaac and Ora were also tremendous in how inviting and kind they both were, even as they were settling in themselves. Ora would take the time to process with me all of my impressions as a new faculy member, and that really eased the process of my transitioning from a student. Wow, I can’t believe how long ago that was- almost 13 years! Time certainly does fly by!