New Kid on Campus: Make Way for the International Partnership Manager

Clare Overmann Sudan

By Clare Overmann, Director, Higher Education Initiatives

When I was a child, no one could have predicted that I would grow up to work in the field of international education, let alone dedicate so much of my time and energy to the specific area of academic partnerships. I couldn’t have imagined that I would be leading delegations of U.S. university participants to the far reaches of the world trying to figure out which institutions would be the right fit as partners. And I certainly didn’t anticipate how much I would grow to appreciate the importance of these academic partnerships and the people who lead them.

At the end of the day, academic partnerships are really just relationships. Like the relationships we have with our families and friends, academic partnerships require patience, energy, empathy, persistence, and good communication. Similar to other types of relationships, academic partnerships are also constantly changing, require consistent attention, and need intercultural understanding in order to thrive. Anyone who has tried to maintain friendships across long distances, had a disagreement with a family member, or a miscommunication with a colleague can agree that maintaining these partnerships is a full-time job.

Now imagine that same full-time job of maintaining relationships and add on an additional internal stakeholder component required of international offices. What you will get is the burgeoning role of the international partnership manager that more and more higher education institutions are creating. In response to the growing popularity of international academic partnerships and the clarity that higher education leaders are gaining about how powerful and strategic partnerships can be, we are also realizing just how much effort goes into developing and maintaining these relationships.

An international partnership manager may collect and analyze institutional data to determine where new partnerships need to be developed, initiate new agreements and manage existing ones, help expand the scope of certain partnerships, hold regular calls and meetings with partners in multiple time zones, conjure up creative ways of incentivizing and engaging faculty to help lead partnership activities, perform regular evaluations on the progress of each partnership, and figure out effective ways of tailoring the academic partnership story to fit a full spectrum of audiences. And that’s just the start of the job description!

The role of the international partnership manager is still not widely popularized and the responsibility still often lies with an international officer or faculty member with other duties. As higher education institutions continue to realize how important this role is, the international education community needs to share experiences and good practices, provide trainings and workshops, and work together to clearly define this nascent role. As with the emergence of the International Enrollment Officer, the Chief Diversity Officer, or even the Senior International Officer, the International Partnership Manager is a role that will soon be common among higher education institutions around the world.

Next February 16-17, 2019, a group of experienced leaders in the area of international partnerships will be leading the first training specifically for International Partnership Managers as a pre-conference workshop at the 2019 IIE Summit. This training will cover everything from stakeholder management, the partnership taxonomy, initiating partnerships, and sustaining existing ones. There is also an option for an additional masterclass on the very hot topic of agreements!

To find out more about the 2019 IIE Summit, please visit our IIE Summit page.