I study the history of Buddhism, and was quite interested in the role of Buddhist bhikkhunis, so I came to Taiwan. Taiwan has a wealth of resources for studying Buddhism. When I started working at the Taipei Ricci Institute, a Chinese studies institute founded by a Catholic organization, the director at the time told me that I should study female influence on the development of Buddhism in Taiwan, especially the bhikkhunis of Tzu Chi. These bhikkhunis are outstanding, so I wrote a book entitled “Taiwan’s Buddhist Nuns”, and used many chapters to portray Tzu Chi’s bhikkhunis and what they had done. They were really remarkable.
Another reason for me to come to Taiwan was that my husband, who is a Taiwanese. I live in Hualien and I like Tzu Chi University very much. I feel calm and peaceful whenever I walk onto the campus. Since joining Tzu Chi University, I think communication between the various departments is smooth and I have received a lot of help. Maybe some people think otherwise. They think the departments are very closed (silo), but communication means that we need to take the initiative, right? If we don’t take the initiative to put forward our needs and thoughts, how can others understand us?
I majored in history at Cornell, and completed my master’s program in Regional Studies–East Asia, at Harvard. Then I stayed at Harvard to complete my Ph.D. in History and East Asian languages. During my studies at these two Ivy League universities, I have met many outstanding people and scholars. We studied and conducted research, by making substantial individual efforts, and meanwhile, competing and collaborating with our peers, so that we made sound progress and developed ample ways to work with each other.
Each university has its missions and characteristics, and what we face has its causes and consequences. Tzu Chi University plays a vital role in the development of eastern Taiwan. There are many unique topics we can devote ourselves to exploring, such as Buddhism, charity, indigenous people, health and medical related topics, etc.
This coming semester, I will be chairperson of the Department of English Language and Literature. Our faculty members are very dedicated to teaching. They have spent a lot of time with the students, helped them become mature, and have laid a good foundation for the department. In the future, I wish that we can work together to assist the department to develop in a more diverse way. In addition to English literature, we may add additional cultural, gender and interdisciplinary elements into our curriculum.
I do not have a severe personality, but I can be stern. I choose to be strict with students. If we are too lenient with them, they might miss the opportunity to get better preparation for themselves. As a result, how will they excel in the workplace?
I can never bear my students using cellular phones in class. They might tell me they are using tablets or cellular phones to take notes or check information. I still don’t know how to deal with this, but I will think about it.