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Crystal Chen Lee

Assistant Professor, English Language Arts Education

402S Poe Hall


Crystal Chen Lee (Ed.D.) is an Assistant Professor of English Language Arts and Literacy in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. Her research lies at the nexus of literacy, teacher education, community engagement and marginalized youth. She is the founding director and PI of the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI), a collaboration among the College of Education, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and youth-serving community organizations (Juntos NC, Triangle Literacy Council—Bull City YouthBuild, CORRAL Riding Academy, and Refugee Hope Partners). Dr. Lee also has two appointments as a Faculty Fellow of the Friday Institute of Educational Innovation and a NCSU Community Engaged Fellow. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, and she has published in books and journal articles such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, English Journal, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, Teaching and Teacher Education, and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. Dr. Lee began her teaching experience as a high school English teacher in New Jersey and a literacy instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Montclair State University. In addition to her teaching, she has also served as an International Leadership Civic Fellow in the United States Congress and an education intern at International Justice Mission, a global non-profit organization partnering with local justice systems to end violence against people living in poverty. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from Columbia University. Her dissertation, “Critical Literacy as Common Ground: The Possibilities of African Immigrant Girls in New York City Schools and Community-Based Organizations,” received the AERA Research in Women and Education SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award (Selma Greenberg Award), the American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Dissertation Fellowship, Teachers College’s Provost Dissertation Award, and Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship.

Research Description

The driving force of Dr. Lee’s scholarship and research has been her passion for educational equity. Within this passion, her research agenda focuses on two strands: literacy and teacher education, with an intersection of community engagement and marginalized populations in each strand. The first strand focuses on how literacy, especially critical literacy, can lead to increased literacy improvement and community engagement particularly for marginalized students. Specifically, this strand examines how literacy is not separate from youth advocacy and leadership but is rather intertwined. The second strand focuses on how teacher education can be improved and developed through a social justice framework that values communities and marginalized populations. In recognizing the literacy practices of community organizations, Dr. Lee is passionate about publishing student voices, as well amplifying students’ academic and personal strengths to inform how the community can meet the literacy needs of currently underserved and immigrant youth. Dr. Lee is the founding director and PI of the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI) that investigates and promotes the power of voice among marginalized students through a model of Write, Engage, and Lead. LCI’s mission is to build university and community-based partnerships by amplifying student voices through student publication, advocacy, and leadership. Dr. Lee’s current research projects and trajectories are:

  • Critical Literacy, Youth, and Community Engagement
  • Literacy and Leadership in Community-Based Organizations
  • Immigrant and Refugee Student Experiences
  • Literacy and the Social and Emotional Well-Being of Marginalized Students
  • Critical Literacy Practices and Teacher Education in English Language Arts
  • Teacher Education for Immigrant and Refugee Students

Teaching and Mentoring: Dr. Lee currently teaches in the PhD in Literacy and English Language Arts program, PhD in Educational Equity program, Master’s in New Literacies and Global Learning program, and B.A. in English with a Teaching English certification program, a combined program with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is currently accepting doctoral students.

Selected Scholarly Publications

Courses Taught

  • ECI 709  Critical Literacy for Social Change
  • ECI 709 Critical Theory and Public Engagement
  • ECI 524 Theory and Research in Global Learning
  • ECI 307 Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum
  • ECI 450 Methods and Materials in Teaching English
  • ECI 454 Student Teaching in ELA-Secondary

Honors and Awards

  • Kofi Lomotey Outstanding Reviewer Award, Urban Education
  • AERA Research in Women and Education Outstanding Dissertation Award (Selma Greenberg Award)
  • AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship
  • Provost Doctoral Dissertation Grant
  • Dean’s Doctoral Research Dissertation Fellowship
  • Teachers College Minority Scholarship
  • Arthur Zankel Urban Fellowship

Services and Engagements


Ed.D. Curriculum and Teaching Teachers College, Columbia University 2017

M.Ed. English Language Arts Rutgers Graduate School of Education 2009

B.A. English, Summa Cum Laude Rutgers University-New Brunswick 2008