Sustaining Momentum for Global Higher Ed Partnerships During COVID: TIEC’s Affiliate Membership And Virtual Networking Approach

By Robin J. Lerner

While there is no question that COVID-19 has created unprecedented stress and strain on the international education community and industry, it has also brought forward innovation, from VR-enabled international student experiences to institutional support for globally-connected classrooms, to programs introducing students to international communities within their own cities of residence. Global partnership development has also had to innovate. How do we build new partnerships when we can’t travel, we can’t network at conferences, and we are completely overwhelmed with planning for every COVID eventuality possible? 

While nothing takes the place of travel, the Texas International Education Consortium has found that technology-enabled networking at low-to-no cost can be an effective way to keep global partnership development on track. The key is a strong network, pre-vetted partners, and facilitation, facilitation, facilitation.

Over the last year, TIEC took the bold move to create an affiliate membership level for partner universities around the world. With an eye to scalability, affiliate membership gives our Texas universities a formalized platform to find peers at universities around the world that TIEC has vetted for relationship development. The modest affiliate membership fee supports partnership development activities.

As a benefit to membership, affiliate members are offered a virtual spotlight networking event facilitated by TIEC staff. This April, we piloted this model with our very first affiliate member, Prince Mohamed bin Fahd University (PMU) located in the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. TIEC curated a guest list from across our Texas member universities that aligned with PMU’s priority areas for international collaboration. Texas universities’ interest in meeting PMU was high, and the event’s discussions were animated, collaborative, and creative.

Our Texas-based, globally engaged model continues to innovate. Please visit our affiliate page to learn more about this membership option: 


Robin J. Lerner, Esq., assumed the role of President and CEO of the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC) on September 5, 2017. Prior to this position, Ms. Lerner held leadership roles at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and the Bureau of Legislative Affairs. Ms. Lerner also served at U.S embassies Cairo and Baghdad. Ms. Lerner was a senior counsel on the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and spent some years posted in post-conflict operations throughout the Balkans for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. When not working, Ms. Lerner enjoys spending as much time as possible with her husband – a middle and high school STEM educator – and their two daughters.



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