What inspired you to work in this field? Coming from Taiwan as an international student, I remember well the difficulties of U.S. college life, culture shock, financial hardship, and finding a job in the U.S. after graduation. No way could I have overcome these hurdles alone. God brought many wonderful people into my life to serve as guides and encouragement, so I now want to be an instrument of the same.
The love shown by these former educators has inspired me to enter this field and advocate higher education for generations of future international students in America. My family and I are proud to call Mississippi College (MC) our home, and wonderful, inspiring people surround us daily. It is my privilege to daily help international students shape the trajectory of their lives for the better.
What are the challenges you've faced? When I was named the Executive Director of MC’s Office of Global Education (OGE), MC already had many (mostly Chinese) international students and a well-established infrastructure. However, there wasn’t much cross-understanding among the faculty to teach these students, and many students struggled not only with grades but also with a feeling of not belonging to mainstream campus life. Therefore, from the beginning of my directorship, my goal has been to make our office a home away from home for international students.
Various challenges have arisen along the way over the past 10 years at MC, including huge changes in political landscapes, local cuts in funding and staffing, rising expenses abroad due to the strong U.S. dollar, and, of course, the myriad ramifications of Covid-19. Everyone suffered during Covid-19, but the university responded by creating the MC Cares Fund. With that charity, we could retain and locally house and educate most international students throughout the pandemic waves.
Nowadays, we’re adapting once again due to the changing landscape. We’ve created a new curriculum featuring more online and hybrid classes, flexible starting dates, and STEM courses. We are also pivoting toward south-central Asia in our students' new post-Covid demographics and needs. All along the way, we have held to our Christian values as a lighthouse in a storm of cultural upheaval. We are recruiting, enrolling, nurturing, graduating, and career-placing our students, and they are making a difference in the most amazing places.
What do you hope to achieve in the future? As MC approaches its 200th anniversary in 2026, we realize the need for renewed branding. Although our constituents know Mississippi College as a full-fledged bachelor-, master-, and doctorate-granting, four-year comprehensive university, most of our international recruitment suffers from being misperceived as a mere college. In fact, we are a premier Christian university with a time-tested record of life-changing opportunities, but for tradition’s sake, we have been preserving the name. Yet, to move into our third century, there’s a major consensus here to push forward a more modern name and message on the international stage.
Besides this goal, we hope to raise more scholarship funds for our international students. We recently created a new fund called the Pletzchen International Student Scholarship Fund for this need. And finally, in terms of holistic Christian education, we’re working with local churches, organizations, and social groups to create more host family programs for our students while at the same time getting our students involved in work studies, mission trips, and teaching situations where they give back to the local community and world.
If you can give 1 or 2 pieces of advice to our prospective international students, what would it be? Never give up. If you run into a major hurdle, just start working on it with whatever tools you have.
Give your best to what your main thing is. Don’t do your studies half-heartedly.
Count your blessings and be grateful to the people and the environment that has helped you.
Don’t strive to be the big-shot leader. Instead, be a servant leader. Help people!