Senior year of high school, Aram Lee was in a predicament: Wellesley College or Tufts?
“I didn’t know what to expect from either school, but when I visited Tufts, it happened to be one of those rare sunny days where everyone’s out on the quad, enjoying the sun in the midst of a busy April,” Lee wrote in an email to the Daily. “I felt such a sense of community and belonging, and I knew that Tufts was home.”
Lee hails from Hattiesburg, Miss., where she has spent most of her life. Lee went from “swelteringly warm” Mississippi to her new freezing Bostonian home at Tufts.
“Most of what you hear about the South is untrue (we do wear shoes), but I would say it somewhat prepared me for understanding the complexities of identity,” Lee said. “It’s rooted in history (there’s even a book that recently came out about the history of race in my hometown from William Sturkey) and generations of archaic ideals, but you’ll also find a strong, familial sense wherever you go here.”
Plus, the barbecue is “killer,” she added.
Having a passion for studying the connection between biological makeup and how minds work, Lee majored in biopsychology. When she began her coursework at Tufts, she recognized the glaring inequities in health care for marginalized people today.
“I was reminded of my own experiences trying to access mental healthcare in a small town in Mississippi. This grounded me in my desire to participate in a study of continuous novel discoveries about the brain and behavior and also draw attention to the ways in which systemic inequalities can severely affect mental health (and even our brain chemistry)” she said.
For two years, Lee worked for the Laidlaw Foundation as part of the first cohort of Laidlaw Scholars at Tufts. The Laidlaw Foundation supports young people to become healthy and engaged by investing in ideas, advocating for changes in systems and learning, its website says. Lee worked on a project with her friend Peter Lam during her time there.
“My project … was on developing a theoretical mobile application to combat binge-eating disorder using enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy and gamification,” Lee said.
Outside of her coursework, Lee has been involved in several activities on campus. Lee said that these activities gave her a place to build community and explore her identity.
Lee was a co-coordinator for Sex Health Reps, where she feels that she has grown with the program and has worked to dismantle preconceived ideas around pleasure and desire.
“The group offered a platform to discuss topics that still carry so much stigma and myth; for me, it was so crucial to dismantle these preconceived ideas around pleasure and desire,” Lee said. “I wanted to change our perceptions of who ‘deserves’ to feel pleasure and what intimacy can look like in different spaces.”
Under the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE), the Sex Health Reps are a group of students that are committed to promoting positive sex and consent education on campus.
“I feel so lucky to have been able to work with an incredible team of people at CARE to develop a program that provides a plethora of resources around sexual health and wellness for the wider Tufts community and continues to empower students through sex positivity,” Lee said.
The program would meet in the basement of Health Service, collaborating on ideas and facilitating workshops in first-year dorms. Since then, it has expanded, working with other student organizations on campus, and hosting larger events like Pleasure Market and Sexy Trivia. Members of the club even began participating in Orientation Week this past year, using skits and trivia.
“Our mission has always been to serve as a resource and spread awareness around consent and sex positivity, and as each year passes, we have further developed our standard events and curated new experiences for the students,” Lee said. “Even our content has evolved to be more accessible to all students, for those who have sex and for those who do not, to redefine intimacy as we commonly know it.”
In addition to being a Sex Health Rep, Lee has also been a member of the Action for Sexual Assault Prevention e-board. Lee spoke of the e-board, a tight-knit community of resilient and passionate individuals.
“I am proud of our impact and our fight to center survivors’ voices and needs,” Lee said. “Our resistance against an institution that fails to believe and support its survivors has been tumultuous, but our allies, our members, and the unfailing fortitude of our e-board will ensure that our voices will never be silenced.”
Looking back on her time at Tufts, Lee recalled one of her favorite moments.
“I remember this one brilliantly sunny day (similar to the one that made me choose Tufts) that I sprawled out on Prez Lawn, surrounded by my friends. There were groups playing music, and everywhere, people were laughing and smiling. It felt a little endless,” Lee said.
Lee also reflected on why she loves Tufts.
“I love the spontaneous conversations that sprout between students and professors, classmates, and complete strangers in the middle of the street; I always appreciated that people were willing to share their interests with one another so easily and so frequently,” she said.
When it comes to what she will miss most, however, she returned to the familial aspect she loved about Tufts just four years ago.
“I will miss Idah’s greetings, the cliche view from Tisch roof, Carm’s panini press, the very unreliable Joey, the performances, and the little homes we made,” she said.