The KC conference is going to be great! Yes, you’d expect me to say that, since I’ve spent the last 16 months of my life working to make it an outstanding conference. And, I think I can back up that claim.

As Diana Lopez pointed out two weeks ago, we have sessions for everyone, at all different levels and across all professional areas, including sessions on interests which are shared among the Knowledge Communities. You and your colleagues from around the United States and throughout the world have created some excellent learning opportunities for us all. Diana noted we have 34 sessions this year for “advanced professionals”, so there’s a great deal here for senior campus leaders as well as for “leaders without titles”.

Recently our plenary sessions at conference have been outstanding, and this year promises to continue the streak. I’m very much looking forward to hearing from the controversial author Salman Rushdie, who has been significantly challenged because of his words. I think it’s important for our association to hear from the controversial as well as the palatable, without losing sight of our respect for audience members who may find some speakers difficult. And Nicholas Kristof will provide another great learning opportunity for us, as we consider the foundational role to be played by women in development. The international plenary luncheon completes the trifecta of excellent plenary speakers with Nathaniel Kwabo, who served as executive secretary of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for three years. I’m really interested in hearing about his work for conflict resolution and human rights.

Many colleagues tell us they come to the annual conference for networking opportunities, and the conference committee has worked hard to increase those. Please take advantage of your KC networking centers; you can use these for your own meetings with providers and contacts away from the Expo Hall, which happily is going to be really busy this year with an exceptional array of institutions and organizations.

Our Annual Conference is where I come to recharge and refuel myself with inspiration and understanding to get me through the next academic year.  Since I unabashedly regenerate energy from being with my colleagues and friends, I’m really looking forward to seeing all of you soon, in Kansas City. Fire up for conference! I’m expecting you in Kansas City.

Deb PierceDeb Pierce is the chair of the Annual Conference Committee (ACC) for the 2010 NAFSA Annual Conference and Expo. She is also the associate provost for international programs at Northern Illinois University.