Leann Poirier '16 draws upon the lessons she learned at Virginia Tech as a French and international studies double major nearly every day in her work at the strategic communications company FGS Global.

But, she said, the skills she gained outside the classroom — both in Blacksburg and while studying abroad — have turned out to be just as useful.

“Having a variety of international experiences as an undergraduate helped me remain open to different perspectives in my professional and personal lives, especially when working with people from different countries who may have different views on a foreign policy issue or when thinking about how to communicate with colleagues and friends based in different geographies who have different cultural customs,” she said.

As an associate director in the Washington office of FGS Global, Poirier helps clients from nonprofits, international companies, and foreign governments strategize how to communicate with the U.S. government, media, and other stakeholder groups on issues that are important to them.

The 2016 College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences graduate will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural Global Symposium on Nov. 10 at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. The symposium is part of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education that promotes programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.

The series, which runs Nov. 7–14, is sponsored by Cranwell International Center with generous support from the Cranwell family, and is organized in partnership with Outreach and International Affairs. The steering committee includes representatives from the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, the Graduate School, the University Libraries, and the Global Education Office.

Organizer Iuliia Hoban, Cranwell’s assistant director for intercultural learning and program director of the Mozaiko living-learning community, said the goal is to spotlight the many opportunities for global education at Virginia Tech. Students from over 100 countries come to study at the university — more than at any other institution in the commonwealth — and hundreds more Hokies participate in study abroad programs all over the world.

“Global learning and engagement are central to Virginia Tech’s identity as a global land-grant institution and are key to advancing Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries vision,” said Don Hempson, associate vice president for international affairs. “While we strive to offer impactful programming throughout the year, International Education Week gives us an opportunity to appreciate the diverse global talents and aspirations of our Virginia Tech communities.”

Maureen Deisinger, assistant director of partnerships and affiliations at the Global Education Office, and Marcel Stepanek, an exchange student from the Technical University of Munich pose for a photo.
Maureen Deisinger (at left), assistant director of partnerships and affiliations at the Global Education Office, and Marcel Stepanek, an exchange student from the Technical University of Munich, were among the hundreds of students, faculty, and staff who stopped by the Global Education Fall Fair on the Drillfield in September. Stepanek is one of 43 international students at Virginia Tech on exchange this semester. Photo courtesy of Maureen Deisinger.

Poirier spent the summer after her sophomore year studying in Paris as part of a faculty-led French program. Students explore the City of Light while completing a program of intensive study at the world-renowned Alliance Française.

During her senior year in Blacksburg, she served as president of the Teach for Madame program that sends Virginia Tech students to nearby elementary schools to give lessons in French language and culture.

“Having international education programs, including an academic curriculum with international components and social experiences with people from different backgrounds, means that students at Virginia Tech can learn to recognize and appreciate cultural differences as a value-add in their personal and professional lives,” Poirier said. “No matter what field of study or work someone is going into, it is very likely they will end up working with someone from a different background or face an issue with an international element in the course of their work.”

In addition to the Global Symposium, International Education Week will feature: 

  • A special Sri Lankan Kandyan dance workshop and performance from the acclaimed Chirtasena Dance Company at the Moss Art Center.
  • An informational forum about Fulbright grants for faculty, students, and alumni.
  • An international cooking demonstration.
  • A multilingual open mic featuring poems and texts in languages other than English.
  • A discussion of diversity and belonging across cultures in collaboration with Virginia Tech Cultural and Community Centers.

Plus, the Council of International Student Organizations will host the Dance of Nations celebrating the cultural diversity that exists at Virginia Tech. And throughout the week, Dining Services will feature internationally inspired dishes to explore different cultures’ cuisines.

Students, faculty, and staff will have an opportunity to earn an International Education Week digital badge from Cranwell International Center. The badge, earned after attending at least six events and completing an after-session survey, can be added to a resume, website, social media page, or LinkedIn profile.

A full schedule of events can be found on Cranwell’s website.

“This week offers us the opportunity to really celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the university’s international community,” Hoban said. “It’s also a chance for students, faculty, and staff to learn more about the international opportunities available to them across Virginia Tech and around the world.”

International students parade down Alumni Mall during the annual International Street Fair in April.
International students parade down Alumni Mall during the annual International Street Fair in April. Photo by Mary Desmond for Virginia Tech.