Victoria Lee
Victoria Lee

Victoria Lee grew up in a Cantonese-speaking family in Hawaiʻi. Her first two years in public school were spent in the English Language Learner program, a curriculum which accommodates students who come from non-English speaking homes. Lee’s experience as a child ignited a passion to work in the English as a second language field, a goal that shaped her decision to major in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

As an undergraduate, Lee soon learned students could shave off a semester of graduate school through the Bachelor’s and Master’s (BAM) degree pathway. BAM enables students to start on their master’s during their senior year.

BAM pioneer for Second Language Studies

In fall 2018, Lee was one of six students who entered the Second Language Studies’ BAM pathway program. Currently, Second Language Studies is one of more than 20 areas of focus at UH Mānoa where students can pursue a bachelor’s and master’s expedited pathway.

Lee understood the pathway program could pose challenges but knew her desire to teach academic English to university students abroad would require more than a bachelor’s degree.

“The faculty and other colleagues in my department played big roles in my academic journey because they were very supportive of us, especially as we transitioned from being a BA student to a MA student,” she explained. “They were the ones that reminded us to compartmentalize our personal and academic lives because they understood how consuming graduate school could get and how burnt out we would be if we weren’t careful.”

Support for new pathway

Second Language Studies Undergraduate Coordinator Kenton Harsch was a big support source for Lee.

“Being able to double-count nine credits toward both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree means that a motivated student can move straight from their bachelor’s degree into a master’s degree, and in the end finish their master’s degree a semester earlier than they otherwise would be able to,” Harsch said. “That’s a significant saving of time and money, which is a great incentive for students.” The nine double-counted credits are charged at the undergraduate tuition rate.

This spring Lee graduated with her MA specializing in English language education. She was awarded a Fulbright grant and will leave Hawaiʻi in 2022 for South Korea to teach secondary students. Her loved ones are thrilled by her many accomplishments, and she is the first in her family to attend college. A long-term goal she hopes to strive for is pursuing a doctorate.

This is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.