Maria Cristina Montufar joins Lehigh from Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), from which she previously collaborated with ICAPE

Maria Cristina Montufar has joined Lehigh University’s International Center for Academic and Professional English (ICAPE) as its newest Language Specialist, bringing a broad range of teaching, curriculum development, and administrative experience to the position.

Montufar, who goes by the name Kiki, most recently taught English at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador, where she had previously collaborated with Lehigh and ICAPE on a collaborative online international learning (COIL) course.

“I am extremely excited that Kiki has joined our ICAPE team,” said Mark Ouellette, Director of ICAPE. “She is a skilled and motivated English teacher, and I am confident that her professional background and teaching experiences in Ecuador will bring a fresh perspective into how ICAPE can strengthen its programming in new and different ways.”

“I’m very excited and happy to be here,” said Montufar, who began her ICAPE position on Feb. 5, after moving from Quito, Ecuador to the Lehigh Valley. “The people have been great, very welcoming, and of course having worked with them previously I was very excited to join them and work here at Lehigh University. It’s a great place to be.”

Previous Partnership with ICAPE

In 2022 and 2023, while at USFQ, Montufar partnered with ICAPE Language Specialist Teresa Cusumano in the creation of a COIL class that allowed students from both of their universities to work together virtually and engage in a writing course that Cusumano described as dynamic, multicultural, and student-centered.

“When I was first approached about partnering in a COIL class with Kiki, I had no idea how impactful that opportunity would be, both professionally and personally,” Cusumano said. “Now, we are fortunate to have Kiki join our team in ICAPE, where I have no doubt that her skills as a teacher and her ability to connect and engage with students will be an asset to our department and Lehigh’s students.”

COIL was the first approach to the partnership between USFQ and Lehigh, Montufar said. They then piloted a program called collaborative hybrid international learning (CHIL), which included both virtual and in-person instruction, as well as a trip for students to both schools.

As part of her new position, Montufar will teach several English language courses, work with students in the English Language Lab, and assist with the creation and implementation of ICAPE courses and programs, Ouellette said.

She will also assist with assessing the English language proficiency of students, administer and develop English proficiency assessments, and help teach assistant English fluency exam administrations, among other job responsibilities, he said.

ICAPE's Mission

ICAPE, a part of Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), comprises a dynamic group of instructors and administrators committed to excellence and best practices in the language and pragmatic instruction and support of Lehigh's graduate and undergraduate students, including their integration into the university community.

ICAPE features advanced-level credit courses for matriculated students, as well as the pre-matriculation StepUp intensive English program, the TA program, and year-round individual tutoring and workshops in the English Language Lab.

Montufar has a bachelor’s degree in Administration & Marketing from USFQ, and a master’s degree in Education and Cognitive Development from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

Lehigh has a long history of partnership and collaboration with USFQ. The two universities enjoy an active student exchange agreement, and Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ‘82 delivered a lecture at USFQ in November as part of the school’s prestigious Chancellor’s Lecture Series, which has previously featured speakers who were Nobel Laureates, former heads of state, business leaders, and distinguished scholars.

A Passion for Education

Montufar has a deep-seated passion for education and self-knowledge, with a particular focus on project-based learning, self-regulation, and creativity. She particularly enjoyed collaborating on the COIL course with Cusumano because it let her USFQ students practice their target language of English in close collaboration with English-speaking Lehigh students.

“As a teacher, you can show and explain a lot of things, but I feel students are especially motivated by making a connection with fellow students their own age,” Montufar said. “I’m always looking for ways to motivate students intrinsically, and giving them the chance to make that connection with each other really motivates them, both inside and outside the classroom.”

Montufar said her passion for art also permeates all aspects of her teaching. She previously minored in Plastic Arts, and has been recognized for her artistic talents with scholarships from esteemed institutions such as the Music and Arts Conservatory of Santa Barbara and Access Theater for the Youth and Arts.

“I take education as a passion, and I have devoted my efforts to teaching and finding ways to permeate students’ learning with experience, and hands-on projects that above all help know themselves in a deeper manner,” Montufar said. “I believe that as one knows oneself better there is a higher understanding of humanity, its purpose and value.

In Quito, Montufar began a personal art project called Artswork, which sought to encourage youth involvement in the arts. She has since expanded that project beyond Quito, and plans to continue it in the United States. She also has a personal growth project called Resonance Repatterning.