Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Annette Lee

Student Spotlight: Annette Lee '23

Annette Lee '23 shares her most rewarding experiences and the Watson Professors who have made an impact during her time at Brown

Hometown: Champaign, IL

Concentration: International and Public Affairs

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience at Watson?

The Watson Student Advisory Council, which I've been a part of since my sophomore year, bridges the gap between student perspectives and the Watson Institute itself, which is bursting with resources and growing quickly. This is all the more reason that students should have a voice in the decision-making process. I appreciate that we are trusted to pursue the initiatives we feel best serve students, and I do not take for granted the privilege of having a direct line of communication with Watson. In previous years, we have worked on solidifying what we'd like the Council (and by extension Watson itself) to be, and I am excited to do more work this year. In particular, I would like to think about how the Watson's many resources could benefit other members of the Brown community and beyond.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

COVID has been by far the biggest obstacle for me at Brown. Part of it is the opportunities that I feel have passed me by. Another part of it was the social aspect—it is hard to meet people during a pandemic and in its fallout. Finally, courses were tough because it was hard to connect with professors and classmates, and to feel like I was learning as much as I would normally. I will say that, of all the courses I took during the worst of the pandemic, my Watson courses were highlights. The specific instructors I encountered made a huge effort to make classes feel collaborative rather than isolated, and worked hard to make their courses rewarding and engaging. It lit a fire under me to make the most of my remaining time at Brown.

What courses have been the most impactful during your time at Brown?

I knew I was interested in writing a thesis, but like many students, I didn't know the first thing about how to go about it. After talking to some alumni, I decided I would take a course my junior year with Professor Elliott, who has long-taught the thesis seminar course. That course ended up being Democratization as Metaphor, and it gave me the tools to engage with scholarly work and to hold my academic writing to a higher standard. It also spurred me to think about what scholarly topics I, personally, found interesting, and it was instrumental in my development of a thesis proposal. It also gave me my thesis advisor! I hope that, as the Watson continues to evolve, this sort of preparatory experience becomes a more institutionalized or at least accessible option for students.