Alumni Story: Shari Lee, Ph.D.

photo of Dr. Shari LeeShari Lee, Ph.D., ‘04MLS, ’10APC, has reinvented herself professionally many times  — each time with outstanding success. The narrative arc of her life spans a series of successful careers in a variety of industries. Today, she revels in her career as an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science. 

Testifying to her excellence in the field, Shari received the 2011 Association for Library and Science Information Education Eugene Garfield Dissertation Award. Her thesis on making library space more attractive to teens, was cited for its originality. The honor was conferred in San Diego on January 7 at the 2011 Conference of the Association for Library Science and Information (ALISE).

Although Shari earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, she considers herself  “a St. John’s girl,” crediting St. John’s — where she earned a Master’s in Library Science (MLS) — with giving her the depth of expertise and the confidence to become a leader in the field.

Her story starts to takes shape when she left Jamaica at 17 to come to New York to study commercial art. She was hired by a pennysaver newspaper, worked at a graphic arts firm after graduating and also produced a newspaper on reggae music. Inspired by her parents’ success in the bakery catering business, Shari opened two Jamaican restaurants in Brooklyn, but ultimately decided to get her college degree. “I needed the credentials to ensure my marketability,” she said.

Majoring in hospitality management at CUNY, Shari became fascinated by the life-changing attributes of computers which led one of her professors to suggest that she consider a career in library and information science. “Unlike the other graduate programs I applied to, only St. John’s invited me to come in for an interview the day after receiving my email,” she said. Shari was offered a full scholarship but turned it down because she already had a Gates Millennium Scholarship. St. John’s also “enabled me to work full-time and take care of my daughter — a necessity since I am a single parent.”

Shari’s outstanding academic performance helped her get into UCLA’s Information Studies program, which was recruiting underrepresented candidates. The research she did for her dissertation generated external recognition and led her to enroll in St. John’s post-doctoral School Media Librarianship certificate program where she employed her usual diligence to complete two school internships simultaneously while also organizing a symposium for DLIS.

Impressed by her scholarship, Jeffrey Olson, Ph.D., J.D., Director of Online Learning and Associate Professor of Library Science and Information, offered Shari a one-year teaching appointment to begin after completing the Librarianship. He also asked her to teach a course based on her thesis — a course that she is again teaching this summer. “Shari is a remarkable addition to our faculty who teaches with insight, passion and empathy who inspires her students to achieve more than they think themselves capable of,” said Dr. Olson.

Shari Lee is currently a Assistant Professor here at DLIS.