Portrait of Sonia Feigenbaum, chief international officer of UT Austin

Texas Global Leader Sees Promise Ahead for UT International Endeavors

  • Mar 18, 2022
  • Global Engagement and Strategy

It would be hard to find anyone with deeper international bona fides than Sonia Feigenbaum. She seems tailor-made to lead the internationalization efforts and initiatives for The University of Texas at Austin as the inaugural senior vice provost for global engagement and chief international officer.

Born into a French family that later moved to the United States, Feigenbaum earned two graduate degrees in Spanish and became proficient in Russian, Portuguese and Italian. She and her husband, who is from Mexico and is part Japanese, have a 13-year-old son, who was born in South Korea (so now she is also learning Korean).  

Feigenbaum’s experience at the U.S. Department of Education as director of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions and International and Foreign Languages Divisions, and at the National Endowment for the Humanities as deputy director of public programs, further prepared her for a career in international higher education. That phase of her career began as a faculty member at Williams College and the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), and as a campus leader at Brown University. It continued at the University of Nebraska, where she was serving in a similar role when UT came calling. 

U.S. News & World Report ranks UT No. 43 among “global universities.” What is a global university? 

In our case, internationalization is embedded in the fabric of UT Austin. Our community is diverse, with students and scholars from multiple diasporas and world regions. Our curriculum incorporates global perspectives, our pursuit of academic excellence is informed by transnational research collaborations, and our campus internationalization programs expose our community to so many opportunities. We’re a highly ranked global university with ambitious goals. 

Why do we need international students here? 

International students are an inherent part of our community, and they are at the heart of our institution. They contribute to the diversity of our campus. Hailing from different world regions, with diverse socioeconomic, ethnic and religious backgrounds, they bring knowledge, talent, perspectives and life experiences that enrich our university. 

What’s something you’d like to see Texas do globally that it’s not doing yet? 

Global engagement is at the heart of UT’s mission, and our slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” calls us to pursue academic excellence and address global challenges collaboratively. Our faculty’s research and creative activities span the globe, and international students and scholars represent over 127 countries. We’ve developed global engagement initiatives to support our diverse student population, respond to faculty expertise and interests, and align with broader institutional priorities. Also, in partnership with the Texas Exes, Texas Global launched virtual dialogues featuring UT faculty and alumni, who share their expertise with the Longhorn community. 

With President (Jay) Hartzell’s vision, and with travel resuming, we have an opportunity to bolster our presence internationally and to build deeper connections with the Longhorn community. The steady growth of industries in Austin and Texas places UT in the desirable position of engaging with the local and global in parallel. We’ll strengthen collaborations with local companies and startups that are globally oriented. This will open doors for our students to explore opportunities domestically and internationally, giving them a competitive edge, and for UT to develop industry partnerships. It’s a very promising and exciting time for UT. 

To learn more about Texas Global's mission, supporting study abroad and international students, navigating international exchange during a global pandemic, as well as other global initiatives for the Forty Acres and beyond, read the full Q&A with Sonia Feigenbaum at UT News