Conrad Zeutenhorst of UMD Education Abroad has recently been recognized by two leading international education organizations: NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and Fulbright. Regional adviser for France, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia, and coordinator of the Maryland-in-Nice intensive French language program, Zeutenhorst has been a part of the Education Abroad team since 2010, where he also focuses on supporting LGBTQ students in study abroad. He was given the prestigious NAFSA Rising Star Young Leader Award for his excellent work in diversifying international education; he also has been accepted into the International Education Administrators seminar for Japan, one of Fulbright’s most competitive programs. Zeutenhorst recently spoke with the Office of International Affairs about his work that led to the awards and his hopes for the future of Education Abroad.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a big history nerd and have always enjoyed reading and learning about peoples’ cultures and historical experiences, which in part influenced my interest in international education. Growing up in Arlington, VA, nearby Washington, D.C., I was exposed early to international contexts and people with diverse backgrounds. My parents had worked and lived abroad as well, so they made sure that I had opportunities to experience other cultures.
I earned a double degree in French and International Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle. During my undergraduate years, I sought out the opportunity to study abroad in Rennes, France for a year. Studying abroad energized me to make the most of my last year of undergrad, and led me to an internship at the University of Washington education abroad office, which was a great learning opportunity. I think that this combination of experiences of studying and living in new environments had a positive impact on my career trajectory.
How did you find yourself in your current position? Describe your path.
My internship at the UW education abroad office gave me insight into the field, and I was fortunate to have some great mentors there who encouraged me to pursue a career. I was energized by the academic opportunities students could pursue around the globe, and I also liked how study abroad advisors connected student and departments to these unique opportunities. When I moved back to the Washington, D.C. area, I interned with CET Academic Programs, a locally-based provider. The internship with CET introduced me to another perspective on the field, and I learned the value of networking and connecting with other education abroad professionals. Eventually, I connected with the Education Abroad Office at UMD, and applied for an advisor position. While I have been with Education Abroad since 2010, my role and responsibilities have evolved over the years to the point where I am an experienced education abroad professional and actively engaging in the field.
What drew you to education abroad advising, and why do you enjoy it?
I am enthusiastic about helping students to find study abroad opportunities that align with and enhance their degrees and academic experiences.Additionally, I am energized by building access to study abroad for students through collaboration with academic departments, and developing advising resources that enable diverse student identities and groups to participate in study abroad. Education abroad is a very collaborative field, so I also enjoy the many opportunities to work and learn from colleagues and partners on campus and around the world. Education abroad professionals are also genuinely passionate, motivated people, so our work is always engaging and energizing on a professional level. Finally, working on a campus as large and diverse as UMD, I am always excited by the many different opportunities to build connections with campus partners and develop resources for students.
What is the NAFSA Rising Star Young Leader Award, and how were you chosen for it?
The NAFSA Rising Star Young Leader Award is given annually in recognition of a professional who has impacted the field of international education during the first five years of the recipient's area of work. I believe that I was awarded due to my involvement in building resources and facilitating discussions around inclusion in study abroad for LGBTQ+ students. Diversity and inclusion are both personal and professional values, which have led me to be involved with the UMD Somewhere Over the Rainbow Committee, and present on topics related to advising and supporting LGBTQ+ students for study abroad. I think that this special interest and willingness to learn and innovate were what led to my nomination.
How does it feel to be appreciated for your work? Where do you think you can improve yourself from here?
It was quite an honor to be recognized by NAFSA and my colleagues, and also a great benchmark for the progress that I have made in developing my career in education abroad. I aspire to be a leader in the field, so this was good encouragement that I am on the right track.
The next step is earning an advanced degree that will refine and shape the way that I approach education abroad, and I was recently admitted to the International Education Policy program at UMD. With an advanced degree, I will have enhanced knowledge and expertise on developing and supporting the ongoing evolution of education abroad field. Additionally, I am always looking for new opportunities to be a collaborator and leader, creating opportunities that both teach me and allow me to contribute projects of added value to the field.
What are some of the challenges you face in this field, particularly in the area on which you focus?
The volume of students with whom I work each semester can be challenging, especially since I advise on dozens of programs that each require specific processes. This involves quite a lot of attention to detail. It is also challenging to strike a balance between building time in for personal professional projects and the daily responsibilities that need to get done. Therefore, I try to practice mindfulness about my long and short term goals, and what I can do to creatively and meaningfully manage my work flow so that I am completing long term projects while still managing my day to day work.
What do you hope to see happen in the field over the next few years?
I hope that the population of U.S. students that studies abroad both increases and diversifies. Education abroad is a learning experience that internationalizes students’ perspectives, but it also is a wonderful opportunity to show the diversity of the U.S. abroad. Therefore, it is critical that more Americans of diverse backgrounds study abroad, so that they have a more nuanced and mature perspective of the world, and the world has a more nuanced perspective of us.
Any plans for the future?
I am currently focusing on my Master’s degree in International Education Policy, and the degree will take about two more years to complete. In the meantime, I am preparing for the second Somewhere Over the Rainbow Conference in April, which focuses on discussions around LGBTQ+ identities in international education. And lastly, I’m excited that I will be visiting Japan for two weeks in June on the Fulbright International Education Administrator’s Seminar, after which I am planning a follow-up project focused on promoting Japan to UMD students.
Is there a message you have to international educators that you would like to share?
I believe that building connections between people, and innovative thinking and solutions for doing so, are essential components of the field of international education, and that these do contribute to making a more humane and just world. We owe it our field to strive to be passionate, enthusiastic, and to build inclusive space for everyone to have the opportunity to experience, learn, and grow through international education.