Sarah's Lee Journey
Sarah Lee joined the faculty at Mississippi State University after a 19 year information technology career at FedEx Corporation. As Assistant Department Head and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, she works to create awareness and programs that encourage more women to enter the computing pathway and persist into computing majors and careers. In 2016, she and co-pi Dr. Vemitra White were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science grant (NSF INCLUDES 1649312). Part of an national initiative to increase U.S. leadership in STEM, the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing (MSAWC) engages stakeholders throughout the southern US to leverage, strengthen, and create awareness of existing programs and create new programs for young women in computing across Mississippi. Goals of MSAWC include recruiting women to the computing pathway, retaining them in computing degree programs, and assisting them with the transition to the workforce.
At FedEx, Sarah held a variety of positions in the information technology division starting in 1992. She managed multi-million dollar software development projects, including a courier route planning system and a customer relationship management system. Awards she received while at FedEx include Information Technology Division Hall of Fame (2000), Shipment Management Systems Hall of Fame (2000), and Corporate Systems Development Hall of Fame (1998). She received leadership endorsement through FedEx's Leadership Evaluation and Awareness Process (LEAP).
While at MSU, she has launched multiple programs to increase the participation of females in computing. In 2013, she initiated the Mississippi Affiliate Aspirations in Computing award program, in collaboration with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), for girls in grades 9 -12 in the state. Since then, multiple young women have been recognized and awarded scholarships through this program both at the state and national level. Winners of this program have worked with Sarah and other professionals in the state to offer near-peer outreach programs for girls through NCWIT’s AspireIT program. One of these Aspirations winners, MSU student Rian Walker, collaborated with Lee to establish the Bulldog Bytes summer outreach program for girls in 2013. Currently, Bulldog Bytes programs, funded largely through the National Security Agency’s GenCyber program, are offered each summer for elementary to high school girls to introduce them to computer programming and cybersecurity.
Sarah has also sought to encourage students with disabilities on the computing pathway, and has hosted summer interns through the AccessComputing program at the University of Washington. She is currently working with one of these interns to offer a summer computing outreach program in 2017 for students with low vision or blindness. In 2015, she was selected by Dow for a DOW Diversity Fellowship through which she mentored MSU Bagley College of Engineering (BCoE) students who are members of an underrepresented minority group.
As a board member for the Mississippi Coding Academies and director of the Golden Triangle campus (an MSU affiliate), Sarah is working to develop educational pathways for recent high school graduates in addition to Mississippi citizens who want to retool for our increasingly digital economy.
Sarah was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal’s Top in Tech award program in 2019. In 2016, she received the President’s Commission on the Status of Women Outstanding Faculty Woman award at MSU. Her contributions were also recognized by her induction into the BCoE Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2016 and with the BCoE Service Award in 2014. She was selected as an Inspiring Women in Stem by Insight into Diversity Magazine, in 2015.
Sarah holds a BS in Business Administration and Computer Information Systems from the Mississippi University for Women and a master’s degree in computer science from MSU. She earned her PhD in computer science from the University of Memphis. She is married to David M. Lee Sr. and has two children.