How might we enhance the capacity of early-career scientists to build international partnerships that transform research into action?

A Partnership with the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Fellows Program


Universities often boast exceptional resources that support students and faculty to address real world problems. However, as global challenges become more complex, extending across geographical borders and sectors, these challenges require collaborative efforts that engage individuals and resources beyond the university. Therefore, university students and faculty can no longer work in academic silos.  Rather, universities need greater capacity to support students’ and faculties’ abilities to collaborate on research with outside actors – local communities, government, and industry – and translate their knowledge into global impact. In 2018, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Virginia Tech introduced the College’s first Global Opportunity Initiative for early-career CALS faculty.  The CALS leadership team sought GKI’s help to design a program that empowers CALS faculty to successfully form global networks and positions the university as a leader in global engagement and problem solving.


GKI understands the effort and skill needed to position researchers to attract funding and cultivate partners needed to fuel global impact.  In collaboration with the CALS leadership team, GKI facilitated a three-part training for tenure-track Faculty Fellows, introducing new tools and approaches for building collaborative partnerships. The trainings focused on application and refinement of skills in three focus areas: (1) framing the challenge and positioning research for action; (2) constructing a research pitch to gain support of potential stakeholders and partners; (3) designing a strategic network to support research efforts and translate insights into actions (sometimes called “translational research”). The sessions were spread out over the course of months, allowing for time in between sessions for Fellows to immediately apply some of the skills learned to their research, and refine them to meet their individual needs.  In a flagship partnership for the university, The CALS Fellows brought these skills with them to Kenya as they initiated an institutional partnership with Egerton University focused on addressing systemic challenges within the Kenyan agricultural innovation system.

There was tremendous value in what we learned from you (GKI)….Even the Fellows who were skeptical in the beginning felt the same. There were great dividends in Kenya and we hope we can keep working with you.”  – Dr. Tom Thompson, Associate Dean and Director of Global Programs, CALS

The skills and approaches GKI imparted to the CALS Fellows supported the development of concrete next steps for collaborative research, following the first visit with both Egerton University, and other Kenyan organizations, a partnership the university is keen to develop further over the next half decade.

Results / Outcomes

  • Implemented Virginia Tech’s first multi-day training for CALS Global Opportunity Initiative in support of a new five-year research-based partnership with Egerton University in Kenya
  • Delivered a training-of-trainers workshop for Program leadership to enable the CALS leadership to successfully facilitate partnership-forming activity, called Challenge Mapping
  • 100% of Fellows reported an intention to use the tools and approaches learned with colleagues in the future
  • 80% of Fellows reported increased confidence in delivering their research pitch following the training