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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, and CORRAL Riding Academy). Dr. Lee is also 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, 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 Fellow in the United States Congress and an education intern at International Justice Mission, a non-profit organization focused on human rights, law, and law enforcement. 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 American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Dissertation Fellowship, Teachers College’s Provost Dissertation Award, and Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation won the AERA Research in Women and Education SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award (Selma Greenberg Award).

Research Description

Crystal Lee’s research focuses on two strands: one on literacy education, and one on teacher education with an intersection of critical literacy and marginalized populations in both fields. She is interested in examining literacy from a social justice stance—one that includes the values and advocacy of families and multiple stakeholders who work to improve education for traditionally marginalized communities. In recognizing the literacy practices of community organizations, Dr. Lee is passionate about publishing student voices, as well as drawing upon their academic and personal strengths in order 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:

  • Youth Civic Engagement and Public Advocacy
  • Literacy and Leadership in Community-Based Organizations
  • Immigrant Adolescent Experiences
  • Literacy and the Social and Emotional Well-Being of Marginalized Students
  • Critical Literacy Practices and Social Action in English Language Arts
Past Research Projects:
  • Social Justice Teacher Education in Urban Communities
  • Immigrant Student Experiences in New York City
  • Preparing Teachers in Urban Contexts


Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2017
M.Ed. in English Language Arts from Rutgers Graduate School of Education in 2009
B.A. in English, Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2008


Selected Scholarly Publications

Courses Taught

  • ECI 709  Critical Literacy for Social Change
  • ECI 820 Critical Theory and Public Engagement
  • 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

  • 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

Research Areas