Jennifer Lee: Sailing into an audiology career

Jennifer Lee: Sailing into an audiology career

30 Oct 2017    By Kelcey Buck

Jennifer Lee’s visit to Nebraska last November was a whirlwind, but by the time she left, she knew she wanted to be a Husker. After flying in late Thursday, she spent most of the next day at an open house for the Doctor of Audiology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before she headed back to the airport that evening, there was one more stop she had to make: Branched Oak Lake. 

That quick visit to the lake solidified the feelings Lee had gotten from her time at the open house. 

“It was just one of those things, it felt like the place to be. I was like, ‘If I get into Nebraska, I’m going.’” 

But what did Branched Oak Lake have to do with her decision about graduate school? It turns out, everything.

“I’m a pretty big sailor,” Lee, a native of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, explained. “Most of the jobs I’ve ever had in my life have been sailing related.” 

Jennifer LeeAsk Lee about sailing and she eagerly shares her wealth of knowledge about the sport. After all, she started when she was nine years old, and was the captain of her sailing team at the University of Connecticut for more than two years before arriving at Nebraska this fall. 

Even in a short conversation, it is clear that sailing is Lee’s first love. It’s also what helped lead her to another passion, the one she’s now pursuing as a career. While studying speech, language, and hearing sciences as an undergraduate at UConn, Lee was undecided on which career path was right for her, before ultimately picking audiology. 

“I like sailing and I like ears. How do you make those fit?” Lee said. “I ended up figuring out that I want to go into vestibular audiology. I want to, in the long run, study seasickness.” 

While researching graduate schools with strong vestibular audiology programs, Lee discovered Nebraska’s program and decided to make a visit. After finding out she was accepted, Lee’s first thought went to her Sunfish boat. 

“Actually, the first thing I did when I found out I got in was I called the yacht club to tell them, ‘I’m coming.’ So, I joined the yacht club before I figured out anything else.” 

Now immersed in her first semester of graduate classes, Lee doesn’t get to spend as much time as she’d like on her sailboat. But you can find her at Branched Oak Lake on the weekends, Nebraska weather permitting of course. And she’s hoping to get a sailing team started at the university.

In the meantime, she remains focused on a career that combines her two loves of sailing and audiology. 

“The dream is kind of crazy. There’s this thing, it’s called the Volvo Ocean Race. They basically sail around the world in short legs at a time. My dream goal is to follow them around and test their vestibular systems when they stop, and see if there’s an impact of being at sea for such a short time or for the long run.”

While working with the Volvo Ocean Race is her ultimate aspiration, Lee is keeping her options open for her future. She is certain that no matter where her journey takes her, she will never be too far from the water.

“I’d love to keep sailing. Obviously, doing that on the side, is something that will stay with me forever. I mean, sailing is everywhere, as long as there’s water.”

Special Education and Communication Disorders