Networking on the Go with NAFSA

October 31, 2016

By Samantha Potempa and Jodi Simek

Networking is one of the most impactful ways you can build your professional expertise and effectiveness. But networking can sometimes take a backseat to some of the more immediate or urgent demands that we encounter in our jobs.

That’s why we would like to highlight some of the networking opportunities from NAFSA that can coincide with—and enhance—the responsibilities of busy international education professionals. We will explore four networking opportunities (of the many NAFSA has to offer) and share thoughts from some of our peers who have already taken advantage of these great resources to help build their professional network.

Knowledge Community and Interest Group Discussions A great way to connect with fellow NAFSAns while at your desk is through NAFSA’s Knowledge Communities (KCs) and interest groups. Not only are the KCs a great way to share information, but they are also a way to keep up to date on issues and trends in the field while obtaining a variety of perspectives.

It's a good way to brainstorm with the wider international education community, even if I don't know these people in person."- Lucy Hardaker, manager of marketing and outreach at Augsburg University, on how networking through the NAFSA KCs has been helpful to her.

Don’t forget that you have knowledge and experience to answer questions, too. If it is a sticky question, you can send a private response or even better, pick up the phone and talk through the issue with a colleague. Connections through the NAFSA KCs and interest groups provide you with a resource community which can develop into strong collegial relationships. Some of additional advantages of this type of networking are:

  1. You can answer and reply based on your schedule
  2. There is no cost involved
  3. You are helping your colleagues in the profession
  4. You are keeping up with knowledge and trends in the field

To join knowledge communities and interest groups, visit http://network.nafsa.org.

Trainer Corps Becoming a NAFSA Trainer Corps member is a great way to keep abreast of current issues, share knowledge, develop training skills, and expand your network of colleagues. Trainers work together in small groups to plan and execute the NAFSA Core Education Program workshops at conferences and onsite. Being part of a training team is a fun way to build some great collegial relationships. In addition, trainers often continue to be a resource for participants after the training program has ended.

Trainer Corps has offered a perfect platform for expanding my professional contacts. Not only have I worked closely with co-trainers from across the country who I may not have known otherwise, but the workshop participants have also been wonderful contacts. I stay in touch with many participants and co-trainers after a workshop, whether answering questions or reaching out for advice."- Betsy Morley, who has worked in study abroad, international student services, and international admissions at Ohio University, shares her experiences with Trainer Corps.

The application for Trainer Corps is now open. You can learn more about Trainer Corps by visiting www.nafsa.org/trainercorps

NAFSA Academy NAFSA Academy serves as a comprehensive introduction to the field of international education. The Academy is an excellent program for new professionals and experienced professionals who are transitioning into the field of international education. NAFSA Academy is a yearlong program made up of three in-person training events complemented by written assignments, regular cohort conference calls, and coaching.

As a faculty member, getting involved with NAFSA has been a tremendous opportunity for me to connect with international education professionals outside my usual network of contacts. For instance, I have been able to get to know a number of professionals in education abroad, which supports my work in directing my faculty-led program. Working with others in this way has helped me to understand the broad scope of international education."- Erin Mikulec, professor at Illinois State University, on her NAFSA Academy experience.

One of the greatest benefits of being a part of NAFSA Academy is that participants are paired with an experienced international education mentor in their NAFSA Region who serves a professional development coach. Furthermore, the cohort model of the program provides participants with an already structured network of international education professionals.

The application for NAFSA Academy Class 14 is now open and due December 2, 2016. Learn more about the NAFSA Academy by visiting www.nafsa.org/academy. Management Development Program NAFSA also provides experienced professionals with a training and networking opportunity through the NAFSA Management Development Program (MDP). In order to participate, MDP participants must have at least three years of management experience. The strength of this training program is that it focuses on methods and techniques to improve your management skills in an international education context.

MDP strengthened my network by introducing me to fellow leaders in international education while instilling in us effective management strategies tailored to the international education industry. I rely on this information daily, and enjoy the ability to collaborate with fellow managers on finding solutions to the problems we face."- Aleks Morawski, director of evaluation services for Foreign Credits, reflects on his MDP experience.

An added bonus is that the three-day program is interactive, which creates an environment where participants can build connections with other international education managers. Your fellow MDP participants provide a sounding board for implementing new ideas, troubleshooting challenges, and developing as a manager. Furthermore, the program facilitators are experienced international education managers and leaders who are excited to network with you.

MDP will be offered at the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, California, next May. For more information about MDP, visit www.nafsa.org/mdp.

Add Your Voice Whatever your budget, time, and experience level, NAFSA has networking opportunities for you. Take the time to explore the networking opportunities that fit best for you. Add your voice to the conversation. It’s the best thing you can do for your international education career.

We hope to network with you soon!


Samantha Potempa is assistant director for study abroad at Illinois State University. Jodi Simek is senior international adviser at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


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