Joyce Banda at NAFSA 2018I am thrilled that Joyce Banda, former president of the Republic of Malawi, will serve as one of this year’s plenary speakers at the NAFSA 2018 Annual Conference & Expo. Banda’s commitment to issues related to women and girls is crucial right now.

Around the world, women and girls are systematically marginalized and prevented from accessing education and essential resources that allow them to thrive. As the first female president of Malawi, Banda has championed children’s welfare, human rights, and women’s leadership both domestically and internationally.

Banda’s perspectives on leadership, politics, and access to education will resonate with this year’s conference theme, “Diverse Voices, Shared Commitment.” I believe that she will inspire attendees to reflect on how we can work together to address pressing global issues. I also believe that her insights on entrepreneurship and political self-determination will reframe the way we think about Africa’s past and its future. Although the continent is often generalized and mischaracterized politically, culturally, and socially, there are many ways in which we can use the NAFSA conference to develop meaningful connections to African institutions, students, and scholars to dismantle stereotypes and learn more about its many different perspectives.

As international educators, we should use Banda’s address and this year’s conference in general to recommit ourselves to the values we uphold, specifically in terms of access to student mobility and how we create and implement educational content related to Africa.

The NAFSA 2018 conference, for example, is a great opportunity to build new relationships with African universities that can result in exchange agreements and increased international student enrollments. Through sessions and workshops, we can learn how to examine our curricular offerings to devise new strategies for presenting African-focused academic content. In the member interest group meetings, and the Africa Forum, we can meet new African colleagues that we can bring to campus through faculty exchanges.

I am looking forward to learning from Joyce Banda’s vast experiences as a leader, a politician, an advocate, and a mother through her plenary address at the NAFSA Annual Cconference in Philadelphia. I hope to see you there as well.