Published on June 4, 2019
Updated on June 27, 2019
As a middle schooler, Madison Plaster hadn’t yet considered much beyond her Ballwin, Missouri, hometown — let alone the other side of the planet. That all changed when her dad’s employer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, took the family to Belgium for an extended stay in 2010. Photo courtesy Madison Plaster
“I had to explain to some friends back home that Belgium was in Europe, and that it wasn’t Brazil,” says Plaster, laughing. “My dad had a company car, so we got to see a lot of Europe on weekends. It really opened my eyes to the rest of the world.”
These days, global geography is second nature to Plaster. A 2019 Yenching Scholar, she joins an elite group of approximately 125 students from more than 40 countries enrolling in an interdisciplinary master’s program this fall at Peking University in Beijing. Scholars choose from six research areas — including economics and international relations — and engage in field studies and research related to their specific areas of interest.
Plaster has never toured China, although she did spend time in the Shanghai airport during a trip to Thailand and Japan in 2016. She also studied abroad at the University of Alicante in Spain, the University of Bristol in England and in Nicaragua with MU’s Cornell Leadership Program.
“I’m looking forward to learning Mandarin, one of the required courses,” says Plaster, who already speaks fluent Spanish and conversational Japanese. “Of course [Japanese and Mandarin] are very different languages, but there are some commonalities, so I hope it will help.”
Plaster graduated in December 2018 with a bachelor of arts in international studies and a bachelor of science in business administration. She currently works as a member development representative for EAB, a best practice research and technology firm in Washington, D.C. She is Mizzou’s first Yenching Scholar, a program which launched in 2015.
Plaster’s advice to other students and young graduates? Try a little of everything. Or, perhaps, try a lot of everything.
“I was the social justice reporter at The Maneater, and I got involved with anything having to do with international topics,” Plaster says. “I met mentors — professors and people at the MU Fellowships Office — and I studied in D.C. last year through the Kinder Institute.
“I tried to take advantage of every opportunity at Mizzou.”