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Great Decisions series tackles North Korea, COVID, the melting Arctic, and African independence

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Eight straight weeks of global awareness begins on February 8 as the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan again presents "Great Decisions"

Eight Mondays in a row of global conversations, followed each week by eight Wednesdays of informal dialogue at "The Global Mixer"

Great Decisions 2021:
North Korea (2/8)
COVID from a global perspective (2/15)
The E.U. post-Brexit (2/22)
Reconstructing global supply chains (3/1)
Sustainable globalization (3/8)
The melting Arctic (3/15)
Africa in China--a look at Ghana (3/22)
The U.S.-Saudi Arabian relationship (3/29)

Get the full list of topics and speakers at

NEW to the Council and its members: "The Global Mixer," an informal, Zoom-based conversation about the Great Decisions topic of the week, other world issues members wish to discuss, and light-hearted banter about global culture, food, and travel. Join Council member Cathy Dopp, the Council staff, and other Council members every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in February and March for an hour (or so) of global banter--and bring your favorite beverage!

Suzanne DiMaggio of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will speak on North Korea

Suzanne DiMaggio of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will speak on North Korea

The Global Mixer offers a chance to discuss world topics every Wednesday

The Global Mixer offers a chance to discuss world topics every Wednesday

A tradition since the late 1950s, world watchers in West Michigan know that the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) will always bring eight consecutive weeks of global conversations to the region in February and March.

Not even a pandemic can stop that from happening.

The Great Decisions Global Conversations series kicks off on Monday, February 8, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., and concludes on Monday, March 29.

Information on the topics, speakers, and registration can be found at

The topics come from the Foreign Policy Association of America (FPA) in New York as the “eight most critical issues facing America each year.” This year’s subjects are North Korean diplomacy; COVID-19 lessons; the E.U. post-Brexit; global supply chain restructuring; sustainable globalization; the melting Arctic; China in Africa; and the U.S.-Saudi Arabian relationship.

“Of course, the pandemic was the number one global dilemma to discuss,” said WACWM executive director Michael Van Denend, “but there are many other complex issues to talk about, such as Brexit, climate change, and building new and better global supply chains.”

The invited speaker-experts share their perspectives in each program, followed by a generous question-and-answer period open to all attending. Two of the Council’s central values iare civil dialogue and non-partisanship, and that is reflected in the conversation time offered at all WACWM events.

Last year, COVID-19 caused a global shutdown that forced WACWM to go digital in the middle of the 2020 Great Decisions series, but the plucky organization did a quick pivot and kept the conversations going.

“I am grateful to my colleague Erica Kubik, our director of programming, for switching to a digital format mid-week so we could continue Great Decisions without interruption,” said Van Denend.

In fact, one positive of the move to on-line was the ability for Council members to view the programs at alternate times, an option picked up by several university members who were also quickly adjusting to digital classrooms.Many of those 2020 programs are still available at the Council's YouTube channel:

A new twist to the international conversations this year is the debut of "The Global Mixer," an informal, Zoom-based talk-back every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in February and March, to give the globally interested a relaxed format to continue the dialogue. Each edition of The Global Mixer will start with reactions to the presentation made the previous Monday and comments about the topic or country in focus. But chat about culture, food, music, and more is fair game, and the Council plans spot polls and giveaways each time. Registration is free and available at the same Great Decisions site:

The Council is grateful to Wolverine Worldwide for its generous underwriting of the Great Decisions series, and for topic sponsors Steelcase, Bank of America, Montcalm Community College, and longtime Council supporter Vernis Schad.


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