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International Student Organizations Soar Under New Director

Wed, 05/24/2023 - 11:02am | By: Dr. Emily Holmes


Members of the Pakistani Student Organization gather for an event on the USM Hattiesburg campus. The international student organization is among those affiliated with the university’s Office of Leadership and Student Involvement (submitted photo)

The Office of Leadership and Student Involvement (LSI) at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) owes a great deal of its organizations’ success each year to student organization advisors.

One of those is Dr. Leah McSorley, director of International Student and Scholar Services. Having just joined USM last summer, Dr. McSorley has revolutionized international student involvement through student organizations. She has been an international advisor and administrator for 13 years and is most passionate about helping international students be successful by working alongside them to eliminate as many barriers as possible. This includes helping with immigration rules and paperwork and understanding complex processes.

Dr. Emily Holmes, director of LSI, recalls meeting Dr. McSorley for the first time shortly after she arrived last summer. “Dr. McSorley took the initiative to connect with me and ask about student organizations,” Dr. Holmes said. “She was interested in reviving old groups that had not been active since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and in starting new student organizations for new populations of international students. I have been so impressed with her ever since.” 

Under Dr. McSorley’s guidance and support, several new international student organizations were chartered in LSI this past year. One is The Nations, which focuses on building community and relationships between students from all over the world represented at Southern Miss.

“Research shows that interpersonal relationships (both from one’s home country and from the U.S.) can make the biggest impact on a student’s integration to campus,” Dr. McSorley noted. “Student organization involvement is the perfect place for our international students to connect with one another, learn from one another, and have a great time while developing their leadership skills.”  

Dr. McSorley has been an invaluable asset to the international student population and has plans to continue to grow international student involvement in the future. “It has been such a breath of fresh air working with Dr. McSorley this year,” Dr. Holmes shared. “She is passionate and dedicated, and we are lucky to have her as a student organization advisor.”

It took Dr. McSorley no time to develop and establish relationships with international students when she arrived. Shiza Shahid, an international student and president of the newly formed Pakistani Cultural Club, said “Dr. McSorley’s passion for helping international students is truly inspiring. Under her leadership, I have been able to develop my skills as a leader and advocate for international students. We are so grateful to have her on campus.”

Throughout the year, LSI has openings for student organizations seeking advisors. For information on serving as an advisor, or about any of the university’s international student organizations, email the Office of Leadership and Student Involvement.