SGAEC President Lee Pribyl determined to make a difference

By Peggy Reisser

Most graduate students are primarily concerned with getting their degree, but Lee Pribyl has added a larger goal to his time as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Pribyl certainly wants to walk away from UTHSC with his degree. However, as President of the Student Government Association Executive Council (SGAEC), he is also determined to leave the university an even better place for those who come behind.

“I think that’s a goal most people involved in student government at their schools want to do,” he said. “You want to make the program better. You want to make the school better.

Pribyl, 30, grew up on a small, family-owned dairy farm in Maple Lake. He got his undergraduate degree in genetics and microbiology at the University of Minnesota. A four-year stint as a volunteer in a lab after graduation ignited his passion for research with a focus on cancer.

He came to UTHSC in 2014 to pursue a PhD in cancer and developmental biology in the College of Graduate Health Sciences. “I actually found UTHSC online,” he said. He didn’t know anyone at the university and had visited Memphis only a time or two.

“I came here for an interview, and from that point, I really felt like this was a good learning environment,” he said. “It seemed like I would fit in well with the program.”

The first year went by in a blur of studies and busyness. But toward the end of that year, Pribyl started to become more involved in student activities in his college.

A talk during orientation by the graduate school’s student government president evidently left an impression. In his second year, Pribyl served as marketing chair of the Graduate Student Executive Council. Each of the six colleges at UTHSC has its own student government organization, all of which are under the umbrella of the Student Government Association Executive Council that represents the entire campus.

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