Peter Lee ’17 has received the 2017 CUNY Thomas Tam Scholarship for demonstrating creativity in the communication of the concerns of the Asian-American community. Lee was recently recognized for his accomplishment at the Asian American/Asian Research Institute’s 16th Annual Gala on Nov. 30.

Lee, who majored in anthropology and participated in the Coordinated B.A.-M.D. Program, is conducting a year-long ethnographic photo project in which he will examine the practice of Chinese seniors who travel to casinos to redeem vouchers as a way of living.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Thomas Tam Scholarship,” says Lee, a 2016 finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. “Beyond providing funding for my project, the scholarship renews a moral purpose to the project and to the people I am fortunate enough to work with over the next year.” The Tam Scholarship provides Lee with $1,000.

Lee first learned about the subject when he was working on a project in Flushing’s Chinatown for an introductory anthropology course and noticed people queuing for casino buses. He came up with the idea for the project after taking several visual anthropology courses at Brooklyn College.

For his project, titled “Riding the Bus and Selling Credit: An Ethnography of Necessity and Aging Among Chinese New Yorkers,” Lee will accompany his research subjects on their bus rides. Among the questions his work seeks to address are why casino bus trips have emerged as social phenomenon, and what the necessity for a subsistence strategy reveals about the aging process for Chinese Asians in New York City.

“Visual media offers a powerfully accessible and visceral way to engage audiences,” says Lee, the son of immigrants and a former member of the Scholars Program, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Rosen Fellow.

Through this project, he hopes to explore issues of poverty, aging, and well being within the Chinese community.

“Since poverty and aging are two issues that are often neither spoken about openly nor acknowledged publicly, the photo collection seeks to address this silence through showcasing photographic accounts of Chinese seniors and their stories in a manner that both engages discourse and incites dialogue,” he says.