Stewarding partnerships

Stewarding partnerships

Authors: Laura Semenow, Nina Castro, Jose Infante

Strategic partnerships, whether internal or external, public or private, governmental or non-governmental, have the potential to bring fresh perspectives and transformative opportunities to institutions and the students they serve. To effectively steward partnerships, it is crucial to adopt a holistic approach that encompasses strategic thinking, purposeful intent, and the establishment of mutually beneficial relationships.

This toolkit emphasizes the importance of partnerships having a clear purpose and aligning with the institution’s strategic objectives. Whether partnerships are transactional, focusing on specific goals, or transformational, seeking to drive long-term change, they must be intentional and purpose-driven. Furthermore, nurturing a network of collaborative relationships within and beyond the institution enhances educational mobility and fosters the exchange of knowledge and resources.

Within this section, you will find resources and guidance on effectively stewarding partnerships, including strategies to keep partners informed about the progress and developments within the partnership. Additionally, we recommend establishing a matrix of success to ensure that partnerships are mutually beneficial and align with the goals of all stakeholders involved.

To streamline the partnership review process, the toolkit offers insights on developing a committee comprising representatives from different areas of the institution. This committee will play a crucial role in evaluating and assessing each partnership candidate, ensuring that partnerships align with the institution’s mission, values, and strategic priorities. By leveraging the knowledge and practical tools provided in this toolkit, you will be well-equipped to steward partnerships effectively, fostering meaningful collaborations that drive institutional growth, enhance educational opportunities, and create positive impacts for the students and communities you serve.

Stewardship with Intention:

As a university administrator and expert in international higher education, you must come to understand the importance of this section in providing guidance and insights for successful partnership stewardship. This section focuses on the significance of having a clear direction, financial commitment, ensuring alignment with the institution’s strategic objectives, and the involvement of key stakeholders in fostering effective partnerships. These practices emphasize the need for financial commitment to support partnership initiatives and foster long-term sustainability.

  • Stakeholders
    • Identify the individuals within the institution who hold decision-making authority and have the financial backing necessary to support partnership initiatives.
    • Ensure that these key stakeholders are aware of and involved in the partnership stewardship process.
    • This person may have the title of Senior International Officer *SIO), or the responsibilities of this position if not the title.

  • Having the right people in the right places
    • Emphasize the importance of having individuals with the necessary expertise and skills involved in partnership stewardship.
    • Consider the specific roles and responsibilities of team members involved in partnership development and management.

  • Soft skills in partnership stewardship
    • Recognize the importance of interpersonal skills, effective communication, and relationship-building in successfully stewarding partnerships. Cross-cultural awareness is also essential.
    • Highlight the need for diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, and negotiation skills when working with international partners.

The Elements of Stewardship

  • Rationale
    • What is the rationale behind pursuing partnerships and collaborations with international universities?
    • How does it align with the institution’s mission, goals, and strategies?

  • Alignment of goals and strategies
    • How do the goals and strategies of your institution align with those of potential partner institutions?
    • What common areas of interest or shared objectives can be identified? (Similar majors, geographic settings, research agendas etc.).

  • Intent/Proposed outcome
    • What is the intended purpose or outcome of the partnership? How will it be measured and assessed? Should the MOPU stipulate actions as a consequence?
    • What specific benefits or value does the partnership aim to provide to both institutions?

  • Regarding resources
    • What resources, such as financial, staffing, and technological, need to be considered to support the stewardship process?
    • If there is to be scheduled travel, who is the fiscally responsible party?

  • Staffing
    • Which individuals, staff, faculty, and departments will be involved in managing the stewardship of partnerships on your campus? How do they differ from those executing the agreement?
    • How will responsibilities be assigned and coordinated among these stakeholders?

  • Governance
    • How can you build a strong framework for pursuing partnerships, including clear guidelines and shared responsibilities?
    • Can you outline a document that details the mutual benefits and expectations of the partnership?
  • Conducting an audit and evaluating partnerships
    • How can you conduct an audit of current partnerships to assess their effectiveness and alignment with objectives? What metrics inform the rubric of assessment?
    • What measures and checkpoints can be established to continuously review and evaluate partnerships?

  • Tech tools and communication
    • What software or technological tools can be utilized to manage and streamline partnership-related activities?
    • How can communication and expectations be effectively set and communicated with partners?

By addressing these questions and considering the various aspects of partnership stewardship, new professionals can successfully navigate the process and develop robust collaborations that align with institutional goals and contribute to positive outcomes for both institutions involved.


The complexity of international higher education collaborations can be navigated by professionals new to the field of partnership stewardship by using the insights and advice provided in this section of the toolkit. This will ensure the involvement of key stakeholders, financial commitment, and the development of soft skills necessary for successful partnerships.

Please let us know how this information has helped guide you through International Partnerships.

Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.