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Establishing Mutually Beneficial Relationships with University Partners

Would your organization benefit from a university partnership? Where do you start in creating this partnership? What are the benefits or challenges associated with this partnership? Here, Teresa Crum, M.S. and Brad Shaw, M.A from EdR Trust, expand on their presentation from the 2014 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition to address the questions listed above and more. 

Many universities still maintain traditional “Ivory Tower” characteristics of being disconnected from the everyday world and using operating systems unlike business models that might make them seem unapproachable and slow to embrace change. However, by taking a “partnering” attitude, you could establish a relationship that is not only beneficial for you, but for them as well. 

Benefits for the university are increased housing stock, new updated facilities aiding in retention efforts, affordable financing options, university access to more student populations, and additional revenue streams.  Your partnering efforts will reap benefits such as increased Net Operating Income, programming or system support, emergency response assistance, mutual data sharing, referral agreements, access to students for marketing, and master leases.   You might also find that once inevitable university challenges — increased scrutiny, unrealistic expectations, and interference in daily operations — may lesson with a true partner relationship. 

When building a relationship with your university partner, it is important to look at things from the university’s point of view, and clearly and fairly explain your company’s point of view.   You both should understand each other’s organizational culture, be fair, and communicate accurate information in an honest, open and timely manner. 

To get started building a lasting partnership, we recommend the following:

  • Become familiar with the entire campus 
  • Know the academic calendar and major events 
  • Contact key staff members to set introductory appointments 
  • Get to know university leaders and develop a relationship 
  • Maintain regular reporting and contact 
  • Recognize university associates at special times of the year 
  • Invite university staff to visit your community 
  • Volunteer for university committees and special events
  • Maintain and nurture relationships with open communication and speedy response

To accomplish all of these tactics, we recommend you start small. Study organizational charts and create a target contact list. Set goals and develop a script for you and others in your organization to follow.  

A good working relationship with many different departments is important in building trust with your university partner. In addition to on-campus housing and admissions, we recommend reaching out to other university departments such as: 

  • Greek Life 
  • Academic Advising 
  • Bursar 
  • Off Campus Housing/Commuter Services  
  • Financial Aid 
  • Athletics 
  • First Year Programs 
  • Parents/Family Office 
  • Registrar 
  • Campus Recreation 
  • Disability Resources 
  • Minority Student Services 
  • International Student Services 
  • Student Legal Services 
  • Ombudsman 

Be aware of the organic barriers you may have to overcome in building these relationships. Although not specific to you or your company, public-private partnerships have not always been well received by our on-campus colleagues.  As an outsider, you may threaten their “domain.”  

You will overcome these barriers if you make a strategic effort to assure your partner at every opportunity that you and your company care about the university’s goals and successful student experiences and outcomes. 



Want More?

All 14 breakout sessions presented in Las Vegas are available for purchase as PowerPoint-synced audio sessions. Learn more about REWIND: 2014 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition Online Recordings