Profiles in International Education: Cynthia Engel

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I am SO very excited to share with you one of my very favorite International Educators, Cynthia Engel, as part of our Profiles in International Education. I love to share the great work that is going on in international education, by speaking with incredible international educators. I first met Cynthia when she came to the University of Minnesota - and our friendship bloomed. I was amazed to find such a committed interculturalist, backed up with global experience and an avid desire to soak in all that she could.

Fifteen years later, she's broadened her international influence - working to promote international education, sharing her love of intercultural learning with students, and still traveling the world. Now, Cynthia works as the Europe and Oceania Regional Director of IE3 Global Internships, at the Oregon University System. We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Cynthia, about International Education, intercultural knowledge, global internships, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about your background in International Education...

CE: I have worked in International Education in one aspect or another since about 1993 when I graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in French.  At that point, I moved to France and taught English in France for a while, moved on to teach English as a JET programme language assistant in Japan and then moved back to France to work at what is now known as a USA Advising Center in Geneva, Switzerland.  I then returned to the US to obtain my Masters in Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota where I also worked as the Student Services Coordinator for the International Study and Travel Center, now a part of the Global Campus at the UMinn.  Upon graduation I moved out to Oregon where I eventually helped to establish international programs at the new branch campus of Oregon State University-Cascades Campus.  I am currently the regional director of internships in Europe and Oceania for IE3 Global Internships, a program of the Oregon University System.



WE: What led you to this field?

CE: My study abroad in France while I was a junior at the University of Oregon was instrumental in guiding me into this field.  From there, my experience teaching both in France and Japan were solidifying periods of time.  I was intrigued by how different the educational systems were between the US, France and Japan and wanted to explore the similarities and differences more.



WE: How do you feel that universities can best promote international education?

CE: By associating with academic programs and working in an integral partnership with the teaching faculty.



WE: How can international educators - and travelers - promote intercultural and diversity issues?

CE: Speaking from their own experiences and how their own travels and education abroad have impacted their own life perspectives.  Also by supporting students, in a deliberate manner (through facilitated journaling and learning experiences) as they both work with intercultural programs in the US and sending them abroad.  It is important to assess student readiness with regards to the types of programs in which students enroll such that the challenges exist, but are appropriate for the student’s readiness to step outside their comfort zone.  For example, an internship where the student is living and working on their own in France would most likely be too much of a leap for a student who has never been outside their home town before.  A faculty led program or a study abroad program with a local cohort of students may be a more appropriate first step.  The idea is to challenge students, but respect the concept that if one is pushed too far, resistance will dominate their world view rather than an openness to new concepts and perspectives.



WE: International Education (through Study Abroad, cultural exchange, etc.) can change the world. How can we promote these activities and move forward with intercultural knowledge and cultural diplomacy?

CE: I think the more we can connect with students early in their educational experience the better.  High School IB programs are excellent means of encouraging students to examine the world through a global, whole systems perspective.  Carrying that forward into interdisciplinary freshman seminars at university and then actively encouraging and rewarding course curricula that incorporate intercultural and global perspectives into their syllabi is important to advancing these world views as well.  Creating faculty buy-in to the value and importance of sending students abroad and having them serve as the primary advocates for students going abroad is critical as well.  Creating forums for learning how to integrate the learning that happens abroad back into students’ lives at home is essential to maintaining the awareness and allowing it to infuse into their daily lives as well.  When we all start to see the world from a whole systems perspective, I believe the diplomacy and knowledge no longer becomes an added perspective to incorporate, rather it is interwoven into the thought processes from the beginning.



WE: What is up next for you?

CE: I look forward to continuing to advance our vision for IE3 by expanding student participation in international internships and finding effective ways to support them in their learning prior to, during and upon return of their internship. We are also looking forward to working in closer partnership with businesses in our region with offices abroad to facilitate integrating our student participants into the NW workforce with a broader foundation of global perspectives and experiences.

WE: Thanks so much, Cynthia! I am so happy to share your work in international education with our Wandering Educators.

For more information on Cynthia's work in global internships, please see:



Click here to see a Compendium of our Featured International Educators.