By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Starting his Syracuse University studies as an early-decision candidate in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Jonathan Lee was gung-ho to become a news broadcaster and was planning a career “as the next Anderson Cooper.”

Shortly into his first semester, after trying the field for a bit, he decided things just didn’t click. While maintaining his dual enrollment at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), Jonathan added a policy studies major at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Then, he fueled his passion for technology by filling his schedule “with just about every elective iSchool course I could get,” Jon says. It was a wise path, it seems, because this May, Jon caps his Syracuse days with a baccalaureate degree, a job in information security with the U.S. Department of Defense, and the capstone honor of being named a University Scholar.

The recognition is the highest academic honor presented at Syracuse University.  

“It’s definitely the biggest honor I’ve ever received,” Jon, who also was cited as a Syracuse University Remembrance Scholar, said. “It means the world, and representing the iSchool is a great honor as well,” added the accomplished young student.

Campus Influencer

“I’m very proud of Jon’s tremendously impressive accomplishments during his undergrad tenure here and believe he’s incredibly deserving of this honor,” said Julie Walas Huynh, the iSchool’s director of Academic Advising and Student Engagement and Undergraduate Programs Manager. “It’s been my privilege to watch him grow, get involved, achieve high academic recognition, and become a campus influencer during his time here. I know he’ll represent himself, the iSchool, and the University well,” she said.

Since he’s been a peer advisor, Jon also knows that the iSchool’s student pool “is getting stronger every year,” so the award is particularly meaningful, he said. Even so, the Pittsburgh native admits that the honor came as a surprise. Putting together the portfolio that was part of his nomination process was an enlightening experience, too. “It was really interesting to go back and look through everything I’ve done in the four years here and see it come together.”

Advice: Get Involved

“Most students go through [their program] semester by semester, and never have a chance to look back,” he explained. “Some students say they’re going to get involved, then end up hanging around the [dorm] floor. The more groups you join, the more people you meet, the more connections you have, the more time you’re doing something you like,” he suggested.

Part of the key to a successful campus experience is getting involved beyond the limiting scope of the people in your dorm, the students in your classes, and the circle of folks that you see every day as you pursue your academic major, Jon advised. That belief led him to the MLB advanced college challenge in his freshman year, when his team ended up in the top five finishers. He also competed in his sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Jon approached academics in the same manner, taking a wide range of courses, covering web design, mobile applications, and information security. “It’s been cool to try the different classes,” he said, although “security is what I landed on because it’s the nexus of policy and computing.”

He also interned the past two summers at the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. The first year, he worked in a generalized IT function position. The second summer, he was assigned to information security, a field that clearly presented interests and challenges, led to a job offer, and created an initial career foothold as an operations specialist after graduation.

Teaching a Possibility

Jon plans to begin his career in the public sector, thinking that it’s an easier shift to return to private-sector employment, if he chooses, than the other way around. That may include some form of teaching, he readily admits. Just as he dipped a toe into various campus activities when he began at the University, Jon tried his hand at teaching this fall as a course instructor for an introductory-level web design class for undergraduate students, and found it very gratifying.  “I really did enjoy the opportunity to teach a class in the fall. I would hope to come back to that as an adjunct professor or in some capacity at some time,” he said, calling it “one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. It is very easy to put together what you want to teach – but to be able to interpret what each student has done, it was a totally new learning experience.”

Most certainly, Jon will continue in the technology field, even if he veers into varied paths of interests. “I think technology is something our generation has grown up with, and we’re clearly very adept at it. In today’s day and age, innovation is really the key to progressing as a society and continuing to move forward and solve the challenges that face us. Whether it’s big issues like energy, or specific to the technology realm, new and innovative ideas can come down the pipeline and really change the way we do things as people, and solve bigger humanitarian problems, as well as daily issues. There’s so much innovation at the crux of that. I think the basis of societal change moving forward is going to be technology,” he surmised.