A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Alumnus Gavin Lee

Jan 24, 2023

This is part of a series of profiles introducing alumni from Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA). If you would like to learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

Originally from Taiwan, Gavin Lee describes himself in three ways—as a lawyer, a big historian, and an active learning educator.

As a lawyer with more than 10 years of cross-sector experience, Gavin started his legal career by pursuing a Bachelor of Law at the National Taiwan University and a Master of Law at the National Chiao Tung University. During his college years, Gavin dedicated his free time to active engagement with social issues, guided by a fresh vision and empathy. As a youth leader in the sustainable development sector, he used law as a tool and legal weapon to organize an environmental movement aiming at stopping an environmentally harmful national highway construction. The initiative itself and associated civic engagement gained Gavin the Taiwanese Citizen Engagement Award twice.

In the next step of his educational journey, Gavin completed Visiting Scholar programs at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, then worked as a Visiting Scientist at the California Water Program. After his time in the United States, Gavin moved back to Taiwan where he joined Auria Solar Co.—a listed solar energy company—as a Chief Legal Officer. Later, he moved to public service and joined the highest level of the Taiwanese administrative government as a Secretary of the Minister without Portfolio, responsible for overseeing the cross-sector Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Policy. By facilitating the inter-ministerial policy cooperation, Gavin is dedicated to building up Taiwan's start-up ecosystem and an entrepreneur-friendly policy environment on a global scale.

Two years later, Gavin decided to bring his own ideas to life and started his own business as an educator, becoming a founder of the Worldviews Academy (WA). WA aims to provide global, long-term, and interdisciplinary education to answer big questions. Its heavy emphasis on decision-making is what drove Gavin to eventually discover and enroll in Minerva's Master of Science in Decision Analysis (MDA) program.

According to Gavin, his time at Minerva has given him an invaluable understanding of efficient and practical education. He appreciates Minerva's virtual setting as it breaks the constraints of time and space and allows the retrieval of newly gained knowledge through recordings of live in-class discussions. Moreover, the global student body gave Gavin a unique perspective of different worldviews, specifically through the diverse approaches of Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) applications in various aspects of Minerva's curriculum. Gavin acknowledges the importance of the emphasis Minerva puts on the utilization of HCs, which he sees as fundamental to preparing for conquering the challenges of the 21st century.

"For me, Minerva is the only way we can efficiently adapt to the unknown in the future."

Minerva's innovative approach to education, active learning, and utilization of the science of learning inspired Gavin to use similar strategies in his start-up and update the curriculum to better serve students who originally come from a background with a passive approach to learning with a heavy emphasis on memorization instead of the real-life applications of taught concepts.

"I teach problem-solving and decision-making to over a thousand students using an active learning environment. In my class, you can see 10th graders using problem-solving HCs to discuss company difficulties with board members of a listed company, complete pre-class workbooks, have reflections, and learn via engaging class activities."

Gavin recently performed a training for the leadership of one of Taiwan's most prominent social media platforms, with over four million active users. After that, HCs became the team’s common language in meetings and have proved to make communication among them more efficient.

Gavin believes that Minerva should serve as an example of the educational revolution to transfer the global scene of education from passive to active learning. To this effect, together with two other MDA graduates, Gavin decided to write a book about his learning experience at Minerva to encourage teachers worldwide to implement active learning in their curricula and prepare children for the uncertainty of the future. The book, titled "A New Approach to Global Talent Learning: Minerva's HCs Training," details the reasons why the authors enrolled at Minerva and describes their real-life applications of concepts they learned throughout the MDA in their professional and personal lives. There is an emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, complex systems, and decision-making with real-life examples, such as using a complex systems approach to analyze forest management by the Californian government or identifying the underlying reasons for recurring family conflicts.

"Complex system theory is applied not only to big policies but also to our surroundings and the people we care about. This is the reason I believe HCs stand for some of the most fundamental and applicable aspects in our lives."

Shortly after publication in April 2022, the book became a bestselling position in Taiwanese bookstores. It has already had a significant impact on universities and high schools around Taiwan, as they have started to introduce Gavin's classes as electives in their coursework, with teachers including HCs in their own teaching frameworks.

"Every teacher can benefit from our experience and transfer it to their own field or industry."

Apart from his legal career and education, one of Gavin's biggest passions is history. Since he first started college, he has written three books about international history, with some of the topics including war research and Chinese immigration. His publications can be found in over 50 libraries around the world, in the collections of world-renowned research institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Kyoto University.

For his Master's thesis at Minerva, Gavin chose to analyze the impact of China's one-child policy on the country's gender imbalance in the previous 30 years. What inspired Gavin to take on the topic was one of the assignments he worked on during his time at Minerva, which discussed a paper on statistical methods in the same context.

"Minerva has been redirecting my life in many contexts and shifted my career. [...] My dream is to build a robust network of people willing to share their life-changing experiences, learn from each other, and grow together."