Published: Sept. 3, 2010

Staff profiles: Peter Briggs

Contact(s): Erica Shekell Office of Communications and Brand Strategy

Peter Briggs and the staff at the Office for International Students and Scholars cut red tape.

As the director of the Office for International Students and Scholars, Briggs helps international students understand the paperwork needed to come to the United States and learn about the many resources available at Michigan State University.

"We're the go-to office for all of the bureaucracy: how does somebody get a visa? How do they enter the country? How do they maintain a student visa?" Briggs said. "Those are the kinds of rules and regulations that we need to know to assist our students."

MSU has the 10th largest number of international students in the U.S., according to Open Doors, a publication of the Institute of International Education. Briggs predicts that 5,300 international students will attend MSU this school year - a record for the university.

Attending a large university such as MSU in a foreign country presents its challenges.

In addition to the typical problems that new students face - homesickness, financial stress and difficult course loads - international students struggle to break language barriers, secure visas and find employment, which for them is limited due to immigration laws.

Fortunately, MSU offers many services for international students and their unique challenges.

OISS hosts a special orientation program for new international students where they can enroll in classes and learn about academic advising, tutoring services and budgeting. They may also learn about classroom etiquette and typical American social atmosphere from returning international students.

The signature program of the OISS is the International Coffee Hour held every Friday, Briggs said.

"It serves as a gathering point for students from other countries, anybody who wants to be part of the international community," he said. "The Coffee Hour is the perfect place to be and hang out."

"Other offices that are very helpful to international students are the English Language Center, the Writing Center and the Learning Resources Center," Briggs said. "We strongly encourage students to go to their academic advisers and spend time with them, understand office hours of faculty and understand that we are just one part of this."