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A Name With An Aggie Ring

Stella Lee ‘23, an international studies major, is commemorating her time at Texas A&M University in a unique way.

By Kira Schwarz ‘22

Stella and two friends pause for a photo to show off their College of Liberal Arts t-shirts.

College of Liberal Arts student Stella Lee ‘23 and 6,508 others will receive an Aggie ring this weekend. | Photo by Anna Burson ’24

After working diligently to earn the required 90 undergraduate credit hours, College of Liberal Arts student Stella Lee ‘23 and 6,508 others will receive an Aggie ring this weekend. While earning an Aggie ring means something different to every Aggie, the meaning behind Lee’s is extra special because of what is engraved inside.

Aggies see their rings as symbols of their time at Texas A&M, and it can mean status, proof of hard work, or even symbolize networking opportunities. While the part of her ring that faces the outside world symbolizes traditional Aggie sentiments, it’s the name engraved inside of Lee’s ring that sets it apart. Instead of “Stella Lee,” the name her friends know her by, the engraving reads “Stella Soyoung Lee.” 

“My background is a very typical story of a child born of immigrants,” Lee explained. “I was born in Korea and I moved to America when I was really young. Legally, I had my Korean name, which was Soyoung Lee. In middle school and high school, I caught a lot of flack for my name and it was really difficult. People would make fun of it and say, ‘You have such a weird name. Why is your name two words?’ I go by Stella with my friends, and for paperwork, I’ve accidentally put down ‘Stella’ a couple of times. So, for that reason, I had my name legally changed. ‘Stella Soyoung Lee.’”

Lee doesn’t regret her decision to legally change her name and feels more comfortable about the way people refer to her. However, after coming to Texas A&M and finding a community that welcomed her, she remembered how important her given name was in Korean culture.

Since 2020, Lee has been involved with the Asian Presidents’ Council and currently serves as the Director of Civic Engagement. In her role, she helps Asian American students who want to run for student senate to build a platform and get connected with student senators already in office. She also helps her organization ensure that other Asian American organizations on campus are receiving as much help, support, and feedback as possible to create an inclusive environment for all Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. The main focus of the Asian Presidents’ Council is to build “a community away from home,” Lee said. It was that very community that helped Lee reconnect with her Korean heritage, and her birth name.

Graphic reads, "Ring Day April 7-8, 2022, Ford Hall of Champions at Kyle Field. 6,509 total rings. 51% small rings. 49% large rings. 72.3% natural. 24.2% antique. 2.5% Polara. 1% white gold. Rings by campus - College Station 6,500+. Galveston 109. School of Law 54. Qatar 48. McAllen 9. 375 volunteers, including 56 students.“There’s a whole optional process of picking a name for your kid,” Lee explained. “You go to this person and you tell them the predicted birth dates, and they tell you, ‘Your kid might be kind of like this, and these traits might fit.’ Korean derives from Chinese, so there are Chinese symbols for my name, and those all carry meaning. That’s something my parents went out of their way to do, and ultimately, my grandpa picked out my name.”

In Lee’s opinion, the person receiving her Aggie ring today is worlds away from the person who first stepped foot on campus in August of 2019. 

“I’m more of myself,” Lee stated. “I think freshman year, a lot of people — me included, of course — tried to be like everyone else and fit in. It’s cliché, but I really feel like sophomore year, even though we were on Zoom [in virtual classes], and especially this year, I kind of realized that I’m not having fun if I’m not being myself. I learned to embrace myself more by learning about what my needs are and how to fulfill those needs. Freshman year, I probably would have been shocked by small things like how I dress, who I hang out with, stuff like that. Now I feel that it’s me getting the ring, not me being the shell of someone getting the ring.”

In addition to accepting herself, Lee feels that her Aggie ring is also representative of what she has done on campus and what she has studied. The scholarship awarded to her for the ring is specifically intended for students who understand the importance of global networking. As an international studies major, Lee more than understands this importance and strives to value all the diverse cultural perspectives the world has to offer.

“Coming to Texas A&M and thinking about finding my community again, it was almost natural for me to re-accept my name, because I know in the past, it’s something I rejected,” Lee said. “Everywhere, your middle initial is optional, but now I’m like, ‘S!’ Put ‘S’ down. And then, on my ring, I wanted the full name. I thought it would be a good homage.”