The University Speakers Series is a great reason to come back to campus. Make plans now to hear Rafe Esquith and Soledad O’Brien.

Rafe Esquith: 7 p.m., November 16, Bone Student Center Braden Auditorium

Rafe Esquith is the only teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts. He teaches fifth grade at a Los Angeles neighborhood school plagued by guns, gangs and violence. His students are predominantly immigrants or children of immigrants, living in poverty, and learning English as a second language. Under his tutelage, they go on to attend the best universities. His work has been documented by PBS in “The Hobart Shakespeareans” and his book, “Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire.” This event is free.

Soledad O’Brien, 6 p.m., January 22, Bone Student Center Brown Ballroom

Part of CNN’s Special Investigations Unit, Soledad O’Brien creates documentaries on breaking news and ongoing issues. She covers political news as well. She previously worked at NBC Nightly News, covering such notable stories as John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane crash, and school shootings in Colorado and Oregon. She also reported on the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Tickets for the speech and meal must be purchased in advance. Call (309) 438-8790.