Joanne Lee, Curie Lee, Josephine Lee, Sarah Lee, Moses Lee,

Meet The Lees

Five Sibilings. Five Different Paths. One School.

By Bonnie Miller Rubin

When Curie Lee (BS12) arrived at the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) in 2008, she thought she’d found a great opportunity in a place that combines education, technology, public service, and policy.

Two years later, her sister Josephine (BS14) reached the same conclusion. Then came Sarah (BS17). Then Moses (BS20). This fall, Joanne (BS22) became the fifth and final Lee family member—until their own children enter the picture—to find a home in SESP.

Perhaps even more surprising than five of six Lees landing on Annenberg Hall’s doorstep—sister Mary took the road less traveled, to the University of Illinois—is the divergent career paths they’ve forged. Now with some living as far away as San Francisco and Germany, the close-knit Lees have spread their wings, all while staying connected through a common purple thread.

“I think SESP has some kind of magic,” says their father, Young Lee. “None of my children have the same interests, yet SESP met each one’s diverse needs. I wonder if there’s any other school that can do such a thing.”

The Lee children grew up in a tidy bungalow on Chicago’s North Side, where they all graduated from Lincoln Park High School. Young and their mother, Curie, emigrated from South Korea in 1990 to serve as missionaries, and they now work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their story is an immigrant tale of parlaying education, faith, sacrifice, and work ethic to find a better life.

“Our parents really instilled this love of learning along with the idea of looking out for one another,” Moses says.

“When we get together, there is so much to share, celebrate, and debate,” Sarah adds. “The Wildcat way has hugely shaped our family life.”

Here’s how one family found five different identities within SESP:

Curie Lee

Curie Lee, 28, Cologne, Germany


Curie, the SESP pioneer, is finishing her PhD in disability studies at the University of Cologne. At Northwestern, she also majored in political science and minored in German. She credits SESP with sparking her interest in education policy, which she continues to study through an international lens. Advice to her youngest sib: “Begin with the end in sight.”

Josephine Lee

Josephine Lee, 26, San Francisco


On a mission to make the internet a safer place, Josephine is part of the sales team at HackerOne, a cybersecurity startup in Silicon Valley. “I attribute my passion for technology and startups to my learning and organizational change studies—especially how technology mobilizes communities and organizations,” she says.

Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee, 23, Chicago


Sarah, with one Northwestern degree under her belt, is applying to the SESP learning sciences doctoral program and working in the Technological Innovations for Inclusive Learning and Teaching (TILT) lab, which brings Chicago and Evanston educators together to improve STEM access and equity. Her Holocaust Museums and Memorials course, taught by Instructor Danny Cohen (PhD11), “was instrumental in triggering my interest in how people remember, commemorate, and importantly include voices that are often marginalized or silenced,” she says.

Moses Lee

Moses Lee, 20, Chicago


Moses hopes to find his niche either in the nonprofit or government sector, perhaps in the foreign service. He sharpened his Arabic and learned the Moroccan dialect Darija in Tangier last summer through a Critical Language Scholarship, an intense overseas language and cultural immersion program. “The stories I heard over the dinner table ignited my excitement to come to Northwestern,” says Moses, who was the kid in high school wearing his older sister’s Northwestern lanyard. “From early on, I thought Northwestern was very cool.”

Joanne Lee

Joanne Lee, 19, Chicago


Joanne, who loves both science and the humanities, researched schools throughout the country. She chose SESP to pursue her interests in education and technology. She isn’t yet sure of her career path, viewing her undergraduate years as a formative time to explore SESP’s offerings. “I’ve learned from my siblings and my own gap year that you can only plan to a point,” she says.