In May, Kofi Annan joins NAFSA at its 2013 Annual Conference in St. Louis as we all reflect on the conference theme, Ideals and Impact in International Education. We’re thrilled that Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, will be the opening plenary speaker on Tuesday, May 28. An advocate for human rights, development, and peace, he revitalized the United Nations, bringing it closer to the public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector, and other partners. In 2001, his work was recognized when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace along with the United Nations.

Our other plenary speakers are not to be missed. Their personal stories and perspectives are remarkable and will inspire us all in the important work we do every day as international educators.

On Wednesday, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, will address the conference, sharing his remarkable journey from undocumented immigrant to globally renowned neurosurgeon and researcher. Today he is a professor and director of the Pituitary Tumor Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, and performs nearly 250 brain operations a year.

The Thursday plenary speaker is Rye Barcott, cofounder of Carolina For Kibera (CFK), a nongovernmental organization created to develop local leaders, catalyze positive change, and alleviate poverty in Kenya. In 2011, U.S. President Obama appointed him as a representative of the veteran community to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Friday’s international plenary and luncheon is a particularly exciting networking opportunity as well. Join colleagues for a social hour, conversation over lunch, and a speech from Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Those who register for this plenary by April 19 will be entered into a drawing for a chance to join an in-depth seminar discussion with Arias following the plenary.

It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring group of plenary speakers—individuals who embody hope, vision, determination, and impact. Take a minute now to mark your calendars to be at the 4:00 p.m. plenary addresses on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (May 28, 29, 30), and the International Plenary and Networking Luncheon on Friday, May 31. Each is an extraordinary opportunity to renew your spirit as a professional and an advocate for international education.

I look forward to seeing you in St. Louis!

Which plenary speaker most inspires you? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me a tweet @MarleneAtNAFSA using the #NAFSA13 hashtag.