Jouapag Lee

Photographer: Maire McMahon ’15

The charm of small-town Winona and the beauty of the bluffs drew Jouapag Lee to Winona from Eagan, Minn. After four years spent earning a degree in mass communication and a minor in global studies, the things she’ll remember most are weekly trips to Zaza’s with friends and the opportunities to grow and develop into a better person.

A second-generation American, Lee initially wasn’t sure higher education would be part of her path. Receiving her diploma today makes her the first person in her family to achieve a college degree.

“I am so proud to be standing with the graduating class of 2014,” Lee said. “I hope to pave the way for other students like myself who may have once thought college wasn’t a reality.”

Studying abroad in South Korea during her junior year was a huge turning point in Lee’s life. “I had a hard time adjusting to the new culture at first, but the experience has completely changed my life and has shaped the direction of my dreams,” she said.

During her time at Winona State, Lee has been involved in the Hmong-American Student Association as president and secretary, the Asian-American club as treasurer and vice-president, the K.E.A.P. (Knowledge, Empowerment, Advocacy and Pluralism) Council as student groups coordinator, and Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) as diversity specialist.

Lee plans to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon, where she has been accepted to the non-profit management program with an emphasis in education and social services.

Lee’s experiences have taught her how to persevere. She said, “I have learned so much about myself here and learned about where I fit in, in the world. I think I will always look back at my time here as one great learning experience.”

Lee’s advice to her peers is “that everyone should learn to trust their choices; everything else will fall into place.”

For more information on the Spring 2014 WSU Commencement ceremonies, visit: