Brian Lee: Finding His Community to Grow, Learn, and Develop
Alumni and Mu Chapter Founding Father, Brian Lee, looks back on how Pi Alpha Phi helped him navigate his own identity growing up Asian in America.
Brian Lee, a son of Korean immigrant parents, was raised in the predominantly white suburbs of Michigan. Though his parents encouraged him to perform well in school, Brian felt pressure from them to assimilate into American culture well.
Assimilating proved more difficult in practice. Despite Brian’s parents encouraging him to get more involved and get along with his peers in highschool, he found himself alone and being a target for others to pick on. The duality of feeling the need to embrace American culture while feeling dismissed by his own peers led to Brian struggling to find a community where he felt like he belonged.
It wasn’t until he entered college at Michigan State University where he had the opportunity to charter Pi Alpha Phi. Alongside nine (9) other men, they founded Pi Alpha Phi Mu Chapter. Whereas Brian didn’t grow up with many other Asians, he noticed how quickly he could connect with them:
“It was just so easy to connect with a lot of these guys. I didn't have to explain the Asian part of my life, my heritage, because they could all relate and understand knowing how I grew up.”
After spending more time with the fraternity, he and his brothers were able to express their shared experiences and their own differences growing up. Through open BBQ’s and volunteering events together they built a brotherhood where they could openly discuss challenges in their lives. From conversations on mental health, professional careers, and relationships - the fraternity allowed Brian and his brothers the opportunity to grow into leaders within their community.