Taking Time with Marissa Lee
with Sara Massey
Marissa Lee is a familiar face to most when walking across The University of Alabama’s campus. Her leadership positions and drive in the face of adversity inspired all of us at Truth + Dare, so we sat down with her to hear more of what she’s really about.
Sara: Tell me about what you do on campus.
Marissa: I was president of my sorority, Phi Mu, but my term just ended. I have been involved in Phi Mu and Capstone Men and Women since Freshman year, and those have taken up most of my time. I am a public relations major, and also on exec for ODK Honor Society. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in various things spread out all over campus.
What are your thoughts on the diversity efforts on campus?
In terms of administration, I think the new director of diversity and inclusion is a good step. We have seen a lot of positive change just in my time being here because I think a lot of people are finally drawing more attention to these race issues. There are lots of little things that can be overlooked, and it’s hard to see if it’s not your experience. Having that open dialogue and being willing to be vulnerable and give someone else your experience will let it be more personal and it tears those walls down easier. A lot of the time, a lot of the problem is that people just want to be heard. So, giving people that opportunity is really going to start making change that we tend to shy away from.
What has been your experience as a minority woman on campus?
When I was younger, I didn’t face as many challenges. When I came through recruitment, it was the year after everything was in the media with racial discrimination. But this past year, myself and two other African American women were presidents of our sororities, it all seemed to come full circle. As I mentioned, I just recently finished my term as Phi Mu president, and saw and experienced a lot of things on campus that I did not see as just a member of the chapter. I grew as a person because I had to think in a different way and learn to adapt to those perspectives. Any president, even if you’re purple, is going to face things and confront issues that they didn’t expect.
How has this affected your drive to be successful?
I came into college wanting to step out of my comfort zone and try things that others might be too afraid to try. It wasn’t necessarily for me, but rather people coming behind me. I wanted to show them a face that looked like theirs, and that they could do it too. If you step out, the worst that can happen is a “no.” I had an incredible support system of older girls not only in Phi Mu, but all over campus. I have always been raised with the mindset that I always have to be ten times better to be considered for something, and have always gone by that standard of excellence. I may not know someone, but they may have seen me or I might have given their tour and that happens for other people too. You could’ve touched lives that you never know about. You impact lives daily, and you never know how, so I have taken peace in that.
What is one thing you wish you could tell the entire Alabama campus?
Take the time to be open to other’s stories and experiences. We all have a reason we are here, a different background, and a different story. The best way to love this campus is to get to know everyone. So just to take the time, get to know everyone, and sign up for everything!
What advice would you give to other minority women on campus experiencing struggles?
Remember that your worth doesn’t come from this Earth. I know everyone has different faiths and beliefs, but no matter what you believe, you can always believe in yourself. I have always known that I wear a Heavenly crown before I wear an earthly one. You want to be able to look back and tell your children to be leaders and show them how you were a leader. If you shied away from every opportunity, they will never want to follow in your path. I read a quote this past summer that I have been trying to live by, but the idea is to never say something to yourself that you wouldn’t want someone telling 5-year-old you.
Marissa not only inspired us with her words and her experiences, but kept us laughing with her easy charm and wit, thus making us want to know her past her campus feats.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
I am very plan oriented and a big dreamer, but in a practical way. My pipe dream would be to be an actress. I don’t think anyone would ever see that coming.
What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you recently?
My roommate is running a 5K for Thanksgiving and was going to go on a run Tuesday night, so I told her I would go with her. I have exercise induced asthma, so I had to find my inhaler, which had expired two years ago. We did a full lap around the quad, and I took a break while she did her second lap and I went to join her for her third. My phone died and all I could hear was the sound of death (us panting). So basically, I had a panic attack and couldn’t breathe because all I could hear was us breathing. It was quite the experience on the Quad.
What are you known for?
It may not come as a surprise, but people think I am extra or dramatic. However, I have decided that everyone else is just basic and I’m normal. I kind of have my own lingo and Marissa-isms that my close friends don’t even understand. So being dramatic goes hand in hand with my rare lingo.
In the spirit of the Truth + Dare blog, which would you pick? Truth or Dare?
I always go truth, because you never know with the dares! Unless the dare is to go get a coffee, then I’m down with that.
By the end of this interview, we were all raving about Marissa. From her easy wit, or corny-ness as she called it, to the advice and wisdom she offered up, Marissa embodies the ideals of a strong, successful woman. This interview was the highlight of our day, and left us wanting to be her best friend, especially after realizing she gave Sara her campus tour. We encourage you to do exactly what she says and take the time to get to know the people around you, we have already met five incredible women because of it.