More than 25 years ago, it all started with a simple idea. Two faculty members at Southeast Missouri State University agreed that the world would be a better place if more students had the opportunity for an international exchange experience. Armed with that idea and the vision to move it forward, Dr. Marvin Swanson and Margaret Popham-Needels created the precursor to Cenet: INET, International Network for Education & Training.


Naturally enough, the two educators first focused on student exchanges. These efforts blossomed into the Magellan Exchange, a global consortium of over 35 universities. Cenet kept study abroad affordable by allowing students, many of modest means, to pay tuition at their home university at the normal rate, rather than paying a potentially higher rate at the host institution.


In 1996, Cenet’s founders broadened their reach beyond the campus by securing approval from the U.S. Information Agency (now part of the U.S. Department of State) to sponsor inbound young professional trainees. At that point, the founders established the future and enduring structure of Cenet: an exchange organization that focused on Americans and international students, providing both study abroad opportunities and non-academic exchanges.


As Cenet evolved, it received approvals from the State Department to conduct other inbound exchanges: Intern, Summer Work Travel, and Camp Counselor. Revenue from these programs helps keep outbound Magellan exchanges affordable for American students.


This capacity to serve both American and international students enhances Cenet’s reach in fulfilling its mission: to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


As Cenet’s programs evolved, so did its staff. By 2008, both Dr. Marvin Swanson and Margaret Popham-Needels were considering retirement. As it happened, one of their very first study abroad students, Robyn Walker, had recently returned to the U.S. after 17 years living in Europe, and she had joined the Cenet staff. Robyn was appointed Executive Director in late 2008, with Margaret maintaining her presence on Cenet’s board of directors. Dr. Swanson passed away in 2011.


With its core programs in place, Cenet continued to build its network, maintain its focus on program quality, and provide outstanding support to its participants. That strong foundation for its programs has allowed Cenet to play a significant leadership role in the exchange community.


Cenet strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


Protecting our exchange participants is priority one.


As a U.S. Department of State designated BridgeUSA organization, it is our foremost responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all international exchange program participants. During a participant’s time in the U.S., sponsors are required to provide 24/7 support and act as their advocate, ensuring that their rights and safety are protected. Read more.


In 1961, the Fulbright-Hays Act authorized the Exchange Visitor Program to build mutual understanding between Americans and citizens of other nations. To fulfill this mandate, we stress a ‘cultural component’ in all of our programs. We encourage our international participants to experience American history, culture, and customs, and to provide them opportunities to share their own cultures with Americans.

The Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa) went through a recent rebrand and is now known as BridgeUSA.

Brand Tenets

Our brand identity was born out of the idea of living through windows. Through a window, the world is yours. Anything could happen.