Cellular damage from oxidative stress, in particular following ischemic injury, occurs during heart attack, stroke, or traumatic injury, and is potentially reducible with appropriate drug treatment. We previously reported that caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), a plant-derived polyphenolic compound, protected human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) from menadione-induced oxidative stress and that this cytoprotective effect was correlated with the capacity to induce heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX1) and its protein product, a phase II cytoprotective enzyme. To further improve this cytoprotective effect, we studied a synthetic triterpenoid, 1-[2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl]imidazole (CDDO-Im), which is known as a potent phase II enzyme inducer with antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities, and compared it to CAPE. CDDO-Im at 200 nM provided more protection to HUVEC against oxidative stress than 20 μM CAPE. We explored the mechanism of CDDO-Im cytoprotection with gene expression profiling and pathway analysis and compared to that of CAPE. In addition to potent up-regulation of HMOX1, heat shock proteins (HSP) were also found to be highly induced by CDDO-Im in HUVEC. Pathway analysis results showed that transcription factor Nrf2-mediated oxidative stress response was among the top canonical pathways commonly activated by both CDDO-Im and CAPE. Compared to CAPE, CDDO-Im up-regulated more HSP and some of them to a much higher extent. In addition, CDDO-Im treatment affected Nrf2 pathway more significantly. These findings may provide an explanation why CDDO-Im is a more potent cytoprotectant than CAPE against oxidative stress in HUVEC.