Trusted AdvisersThe first steps to becoming a seasoned international educator can be the most intimidating: attending that first professional conference; breaking the ice on message boards; presenting that first session or workshop. In the back of your mind, you are secretly thinking, “Wow, I hope I’m ready for this!” But these challenges become less daunting when you approach them armed with tools, resources, and a ‘board of directors’ to support you.

What is a ‘board of directors’?
Your board of directors are individuals and mentors that you can turn to for trusted guidance on various aspects of your professional and personal life.

In assembling your board of directors, we recommend that you keep in mind the following:

  1. Include professionals with varying levels of experience. All experience levels qualify, since fresh perspectives and historical insights are helpful for effectively analyzing most situations. For example, an experienced international educator may have a student assistant provide mentorship on how to utilize both professional and personal social medial platforms.
  2. Identify those with similar professional backgrounds and responsibilities along with individuals in different knowledge communities. For example, the authors of this article are from three different knowledge communities, but collaborate with each other for perspective on issues that they face. Another example would be including professionals outside of international education for varied and unbiased advice.
  3. Requests should be focused, well-researched, and concise. Such will undoubtedly result in more focused and well-researched responses. Your board members become invested in the situation when you ask for advice, so follow up and share how the situation turned out. Be sure to acknowledge your gratitude and the time commitment involved. Follow-up and a sincere ‘thank you’ can go a long way.
  4. Once you have established your personal board of directors, it is time to reciprocate the favor. As you look to members of your board of directors for insight, remember to be available and supportive of those who call upon you for advice. We receive benefit and knowledge not only from receiving help, but also by helping others.

Although you may not feel qualified to provide the same type of advising that you seek, think about the ways that you can help and support the members of your board of directors. Furthermore, reflect on the connection which brought you together in the first place. By identifying that common connection, you may find creative ways to reciprocate. In addition, finding common interests outside of the profession is an excellent way to expand the ‘board member-advisee relationship,’ while developing cordiality and friendship.

Because of the ever-changing nature of international education, it is vital to cultivate a robust board of directors. Your board of directors will provide you with inspiration, advise you through challenges, and celebrate your successes.

Aleksander Morawski is director of evaluation services at Foreign Credits, Inc. Samantha Potempa is assistant director for study abroad at Illinois State University. Jodi B. Simek is senior immigration compliance and international student and scholar services (ISSS) coordinator at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.