Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Ernesto Lee
Welcome to Baker College’s Spotlight feature, a series of brief interviews with notable BC students, faculty and alumni who are making news and reaching new heights in their educational and professional pursuits.
This edition of Spotlight features Dr. Ernesto Lee, a recent graduate of Baker College’s unique DBA-ABD (Doctor of Business Administration All But Dissertation) program. Dr. Lee currently works as part of the Data Analytics faculty at Miami Dade College’s School of Engineering and Technology. Here we learn more about Dr. Lee and his educational and professional path and passions.
Baker College (BC): Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, Dr. Lee. Let’s start please with you telling readers a bit about your time at Baker College. Why did you choose Baker for completing your doctorate degree?
Dr. Ernesto Lee (EL): Over 50 percent of doctoral students do not complete their degrees, and when it comes to women and people of color, that number is sadly much lower. I was determined not to be another statistic, so I searched for a school to transfer into that would be challenging and student focused. Fortunately, I found the Baker College ABD program, and it was a positive, life-changing experience.
My time at Baker was how I always dreamed of higher education. I worked hand-in-hand with experts, like Dr. Bashore and Dr. Vinton, who took a vested and personal interest in my research. They were tough, but fair, and guided me through the dissertation process. They are fabulous mentors who represent the best of Baker College.
BC: We’re thrilled to learn that your time at Baker College was such a positive experience. You now work in the world of academia, having gone from student to teacher. Did you always envision yourself here? What or who inspired you to want to be a professor?
EL: Elaine Eason, my beloved grandmother, who taught second grade for 30 years in Hampton, Virginia, inspired and encouraged me to be a professor. She spoke many wise words, but the most memorable was, “People trust people more than people trust math.” She would tell me that in her day, being a teacher was one of the only professions that an educated black woman in the Jim Crow South could get. For that reason, there was always high value placed on education, and we could see first-hand the power that education had to lift those without means from poverty to the middle class. Or from the middle class to the upper class. Because we were always taught that education is a human right, I think I always envisioned myself somewhere in higher education.
BC: Your grandmother sounds like a wonderfully wise woman; how lucky you are for having her guidance and support on your path. That journey has led you to teaching Data Analytics. What can you tell us about that field and why you’re passionate about it?
EL: I like to think that I teach the student, but I use Data Analytics as the tool. Data Analytics is the field of pulling objective truths or insights from data. I teach my students how to take raw data and pull actionable insights so that businesses can make data-driven decisions.
In the year 2010, we did not even have 1 billion TBs of data in the entire world. Today, we have 60 billion TBs of data, and by 2025, we will have 163 billion TBs of data. We are in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution right now, and we have more data than we know what to do with. This has opened business opportunities to monetize data.
BC: Fascinating! And a bit overwhelming. Luckily we have experts like you to help traverse this brave new world of Data Analytics. So now tell us about your “typical” workday…what are your roles and responsibilities?
EL: The best part about my workday is that no two days are alike. There are usually office hours involved, where I can work one-on-one with students. There is always time carved out for fine-tuning the next lecture. There is time dedicated to working on grants and committees. However, my favorite part of the workday is being in the classroom and serving our students and our community here in Miami.
BC: You touched on this a bit in your previous response, but tell us more about what you like best about your work. Conversely, what do you find most challenging?
EL: As you know, I am a Data Analytics faculty member at Miami Dade College, which is the second largest college in the nation, according to Wikipedia. Our Data Analytics program has been recognized as one of the best in the country, and feeds the growing South Florida tech scene. I love working with the amazing administration, staff and fellow faculty at my college – particularly my teammates in the Data Analytics program. While it is a challenge to constantly maintain an “up to date” curriculum when your program is on the razor’s edge of technology, we all share the same goal and commitment of serving our students to the best of our ability. Dr. Kai Liang, who was one of the principal architects of the Data Analytics program at MDC, once told me, “This school and this program are special. The students and our community entrust us with the responsibility of preparing our workforce.” Those wise words are the reason why I feel humbled and honored to serve in this position.
BC: And it sounds like they are lucky to have you on the team! What were your career goals when you first enrolled at Baker College, and how do they compare to where you are today?
EL: When I first enrolled at Baker College, I held dreams of being a researcher and having a paper published in a quality peer reviewed scientific journal. Just like the movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” I wanted to have just one original idea that I could contribute to science. My dissertation committee of Dr. Bashore, Dr. Cathcart and Dr. Houghton, along with Dr. Vinton, really helped to fine-tune my research, analytic, writing and statistics skills. Today, I am happy to say that, I have published more than 25 peer reviewed scientific papers in Data Analytics, Data Science and Blockchain in some of the world’s best journals, including: Scientific Reports, IEEE, The Journal of Mathematics, The Journal of Applied Sciences and many more. What has been really exciting, is to see that there have been well over 100 citations of my work in less than a year. This wouldn’t be possible without the guidance from the team at Baker College.
BC: Congratulations on all of your hard work and success to date! Again, you’ve touched on this a bit already, but tell us how you feel your time at Baker College has contributed to your professional opportunities to date?
EL: Baker College opened the door to opportunities that are usually hidden to people like me. I was embraced and valued by Baker, so even when I graduated, I never really left. I just transitioned to a loyal Baker College Alumni. As a professional in higher education, this has contributed to my success because this is exactly the feeling that I strive to instill in my own students.
BC: Speaking of students, what best piece of advice would you share with future (or current) college students…especially those considering or working toward a doctorate degree?
EL: In spite of the fact that 50 percent of doctoral students nationwide never finish their degrees, it is possible to succeed despite these odds at Baker College. Get to know your advisor and develop a clear plan. Understand that the college is committed to your success.
BC: What more would you want people to know about Baker College?
EL: Many colleges and universities are research focused, but there is a different “vibe” when the school is student focused, like Baker College. Not only is the doctoral program at Baker College challenging but fair, the secret sauce is in the faculty who lean into their role, and coach and guide you throughout your tenure in the program.
BC: Thank you again for sharing all of your wonderful and inspiring insights with us. Anything else you’d like to add?
EL: True nobility lies not in comparing yourself to others, but in comparing yourself with your former self. When I look at the before and after product that culminated in Dr. Lee, I am proud and grateful for the transition that Baker College facilitated.
For more information on Baker College’s DBA-ABD program, visit www.baker.edu/academics/graduate-studies/college-of-business/dba-abd/.