The 2012 Annual Conference Committee (ACC)  has just returned from Houston and we’re really excited about Houston as a convention city for the 2012 NAFSA Annual Conference. Houston has so much to offer. When the committee wasn’t busy selecting content, you can bet we were enjoying the city’s fun mix of southern hospitality, western vibe, and metropolitan flair. When you come to the Houston conference, you’ll find all the sessions and workshops that are typically offered related to professional practice. But you will also find sessions focused on advocacy, Latin America, community colleges, minority-serving institutions, and cross-border issues between the United States and Mexico. There will  be offerings focused on China and India, and new sessions to capture cutting-edge issues. I’m delighted at the number of sessions dedicated to professional and leadership development, learning how to advocate for international education on your campus, and change management. And of course our conference theme, Comprehensive Internationalization: Vision and Practice, will be explored in a BIG way.

For all you session and workshop presenters who are dying to find out if your proposal was accepted, we’ll make our final selections by mid-November.

A number of popular poster fairs will be returning this year, including the technology and social media fair. If you haven’t already submitted a poster proposal, you can do so up to December 15.

Patricia WillerAnother reason I’m really excited is that the people who call Houston home really make the city special. I need to give a special call out to Irma’s. If you like Mexican food, this restaurant has to be on your must do list. Irma’s is a local institution and she was recently honored by the James Beard Foundation in New York.  The committee spent a very special evening with Irma, where we also received true Texan cowboy hats from Cavender’s. We’re working on bringing a cowboy hat fitting booth to the conference so that all of you can join me and the committee with our hats. Picture thousands of NAFSAns in cowboy hats! You’ll be in for a treat with the opening event, which will be held at Discovery Green, a 12-acre park across from the George R. Brown Convention Center. While in Houston, we were also able to connect with our Local Arrangements Team chairs, Jin Zhang, University of Houston, and Rosemary Valencia, The University of Texas, who will lead a Texas team of NAFSA volunteers who are ready to provide incredible hospitality and assistance. These NAFSAns know Houston and they are eager to help all of us explore this city, the fourth largest in the United States.

What’s next for the ACC planning? We’ll it’s all about networking and making sure you know what Houston has to offer. We realize how important networking is to NAFSA conference attendees, so we’ll be focusing on making sure first-timers and international attendees feel welcome and have the tools they need to make the most of their conference experience. A big focus will be on institutional partnerships and helping people connect. The committee and I would love to hear your thoughts on other groups that should be networking at the conference but may be having trouble or feeling overwhelmed. (With 8,000-plus attendees, we can certainly understand!) If you haven’t already, mark your calendar (May 27-June 1) and plan to join me at NAFSA in Houston!

NAFSA in Houston is BIG! And remember, Irma’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Patricia WillerPatricia Willer is the chair of the 2012 ACC. She is also associate vice president for international programs at the University of South Carolina. She has extensive experience in international education leadership, international student services, and education abroad. She is also an advocate for the need for campus collaboration in support of international education. Willer has presented extensively on international education issues. She received her master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Kansas.