Student-athlete finds success in the classroom and on the court

September 26, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Simone Lee is killing it, both on the volleyball court and off.

A senior outside hitter for Penn State's third-ranked women’s volleyball team and a first-team All-American, Lee leads the squad in kills.

But, it’s not just her on-the-court accolades that are impressive. The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, native is committed in the classroom as well, and she makes her work there a priority. That is something that has always come naturally for Lee, who is majoring in journalism with a minor in African American Studies.

“Even as a freshman, I don’t think it was that bad, but it is all about dividing up your time specifically to what you need to do and also getting naps in,” said Lee. “I’m a firm believer, take at least one nap a day and you’ll be set for the rest of your life. I took classes every day as a freshman and I had practice at a specific time, but it’s all about making sure you know, ‘Hey, I have to get this done.’ You have to know your priorities.’”


A self-proclaimed “Midwest gal,” Lee came to Penn State for its prestigious volleyball program. Initially, she had plans of becoming a genetic counselor, but later changed her mind and decided she prefers to tell stories.

Lee has been a storyteller since she was young, whether it was writing stories, keeping track of things or detailing events that happened to her.

“Ever since I can remember, there has been a pen in my hand and paper in front of me,” said Lee.

“I’ve always been a writer and I think that has helped me now from a creative standpoint to kind of broaden my horizon and see things in a different light.”

Not only did she have a passion for writing, she also had a passion for public speaking. In high school, she participated in academic decathlon for three years. As part of that, she had to present speeches, and she loved it.

“I love public speaking and I love talking,” said Lee. “If I could just stand on a stage and memorize something and then tell it to thousands of people every single day, I’d absolutely do it.”

For Lee, broadcast journalism was a great way for her to be able to tell stories, use her public speaking skills and even mix in sports if she wanted. In addition to public speaking and telling stories, Lee is passionate about African-American culture and educating others about it, which led to her choosing her minor.

While Lee hopes to play professionally overseas following her Penn State career, she also has lofty journalism goals.

“I want to be the next Robin Roberts, so I want to be on TV talking about issues that are important or even somewhere on news reporting, not like fluff cloud stuff, but hard news reporting because one, public speaking is awesome and two, you’re informing the public on stuff they don’t know and three, it’s a cool way to travel, too,” said Lee.

“There are a lot of important things and I think weeding out the lesser important things can really help bring more things to the limelight and bring it closer to the forefront of what is going on in today’s day and age.”

Lee is well on her way to building a foundation for career success. In February she was able to interview fellow student-athletes for a three-part video series discussing Black History Month and diversity throughout Penn State Athletics.

“It was like a match made in heaven,” said Lee. “I was like, ‘This is my major, this is my minor, absolutely.’ It was perfect. Just to be able to have that opportunity and really be able to use it fully was amazing.’”

In addition to her schoolwork and volleyball duties, Lee is also an intern with the Penn State Athletics Office of Strategic Communications. There, she does behind the scenes sports information work at sporting events.

Being able to accomplish so much is something that is brought about by Lee’s motivation to win and her competitive nature, characteristics she attributes to her parents, Karen and Arthur Lee.

In addition, Lee grew up with an older sister, Chelsea, who went on to play at Eastern Illinois. When Lee first started playing volleyball, she was a middle blocker rather than an outside hitter. Her sister was also a middle. When they would play each other, they would go back and forth, blocking each other, with neither one giving in.

Whether it’s in the classroom or on the court, Lee’s competitive, hard-working nature has paid dividends.

“My number one priority is winning,” said Lee. “I don’t even know how to describe it. Even in a class or something where we have to do something and we don’t get the best grade, I’m just like, ‘Guys, c’mon, why didn’t we do this?’ I feel like I’m so competitive, and I’m competitive with everything.”

Last Updated September 26, 2017