As CEO of Cambridge Network, Lin provides a platform for Chinese exchange students to attend high school in the United States. An estimated 30,000 Chinese students enrolled at American high schools in 2017, with their numbers growing annually. Cambridge Network partners with more than 200 public and private schools throughout the United States, serving 6,800 students over the years.
“I founded Cambridge Network in 2009, after brainstorming with our three cofounders about doing something meaningful and impactful,” said Lin, a Shanghai native. “My husband, Steven Gao, said we had to work in education, with a focus on China. Our company’s mission is ‘Expanding human perspectives and world harmony through education.’”
Lin came to Boston to attend Harvard Business School, starting Cambridge Network after launching several companies, including a lucrative manufacturing business. The team wanted to bring American students to China, but market research showed limited interest. However, Chinese families hoped to send their children to American schools, as Chinese education’s focus on the Gao Kao college exam required hours of schooling and money for extracurricular test prep.
“I appreciate Harvard’s motto of ‘veritas’ or truth, which is a tenet of American education,” said Lin, who chose Harvard’s home for her company name. “American education is more open, with a focus on leadership and giving back to the community.”
Demand from Chinese families exceeded the limited number of beds at U.S. prep schools. After talking to a high school principal, Lin realized there was a niche for a homestay provider in the international education industry. Cambridge Network finds host families, running annual background checks and consistently monitoring each home situation to ensure student safety. While most homestay agencies only require hosts to offer three meals, a bedroom and a 45-minute commute to school, Lin’s insistence on safety has resulted so far in 3 million days without serious incidents for students.
“We want our students to be welcomed by American families, so they can integrate into their communities,” Lin said. “Food is a great way to share culture. Our host families each get a rice cooker and a cookbook of Chinese recipes.”
The students complete community service, teaching schoolmates about Chinese culture, language and festivals. Two students enrolled at Massachusetts public schools have received early acceptances to Ivy League schools. More than 2,400 Cambridge Network graduates have completed high school, with 62 percent accepted to top 100 universities.
“Our students are young and will impact others,” Lin said. “They will outlive me and learn life lessons for their future careers.”
Lin was recognized as one of the Top 100 Female Leaders for 2017 by the Commonwealth Institute. As a working mom, Lin included a mother’s room and daycare at Cambridge Network’s Waltham headquarters.
While Lin’s daughters may love seeing more and more of their mom, they will also cherish the knowledge that her efforts have empowered thousands of learners. “I want to love, guide and nurture students, to help each child become their best self,” Lin said.