In an increasingly connected world, tertiary institutions are prioritising internationalisation to enhance their profile and reputation, and Stellenbosch University (SU) is no exception. As head of International Affairs at Stellenbosch Business School, Samantha Walbrugh-Parsadh uses her extensive skills to grow both the Business School's international student body and strategic international partnerships.
As part of SU's Women's Month celebrations, Samantha tells us more about her role and the leadership qualities it requires.
Tell us more about your role at Stellenbosch University.
The main purpose of my position is to provide strategic direction to Stellenbosch Business School's internationalisation initiatives. This includes overseeing strategies for maintaining and growing our international student body and international partnerships that are well aligned with our academic project, facilitating the integration of internationalisation with our academic, administrative and support functions, ensuring alignment with the Business School's strategic objectives, and promoting understanding of internationalisation at all levels of the School.
What do you enjoy most about this role?
I enjoy working with my amazing team to deliver on our mandate, and the support and enthusiasm for internationalisation in the Stellenbosch Business School community, in our faculty and at institutional level. I also appreciate the people I meet from across the globe, the friendships formed over the years, experiencing new cultures and seeing new places. In addition, I am privileged to co-create international opportunities for our students, faculty and professional support staff and their counterparts at other business schools, thereby enhancing opportunities for growth and development in the international higher education sector.
What do you think are the key leadership qualities required to fulfil your role?
For me, the key leadership qualities are empathy, humility, passion, self-awareness, honesty, respect, creativity, resilience, flexibility, communication, accountability, integrity, trust and vision.
Leadership roles are demanding. What keeps you motivated?
I am passionate about international higher education because it changed my own life, so I want to create similar opportunities for others. I had the opportunity to learn a third language in high school and then spent a year in Germany as an exchange student after matric. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funded my postgraduate studies. I also represented SU as an Abe Bailey fellow in Britain and spent a year of my master's studies at the University of Salzburg in Austria as a recipient of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.
The best motivation for me is to hear local and international students, faculty members and professional administrative support staff speak about their learning experiences during their international benchmarking visits, conferences and other engagements. Another motivation is to see the penny drop as they realise that Stellenbosch Business School and the broader University truly offer world-class education as well as relevant and impactful research. That's when they really understand the importance of internationalisation.
What would your message be to the next generation of aspiring female leaders?
Know your value, trust your heart and stay true to yourself. Do not be afraid to make mistakes – learn from them and move forward. Identify a mentor early in your career. Embrace the opportunities available to you, even though they may not have been part of your original plan. Ask for help – it is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Encourage others and celebrate their victories with them. Say thank you to your team and others you work with. Create opportunities where others see obstacles. Be kind to yourself and take a break when you need it. Leadership is a journey; it is not always easy, but it is worth it. Persevere.