The purpose of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to educate, promote and provide forums for conversation on international topics.


The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan empowers the people and organizations of West Michigan to engage thoughtfully with the world.

Credible. Non-partisan. Relevant. Civil. Community-building.


To be the primary resource in Michigan empowering people and organizations to engage thoughtfully with the world.

Learn about our history.


70 years of


Arthur Vandenberg
Our History


In the years after World War II, Western Michigan was becoming increasingly isolationist. So, in 1949, two young men – Edgar Orr and Douglas Hillman – started an organization that was solely concerned with American foreign policy and international issues. 


They were young men inspired by the legendary U.S. Senator from Grand Rapids, Arthur J. Vandenberg. In his early years in the U.S. Senate, he was a vocal isolationist. He gradually came to understand the importance of global partnerships, becoming one of the architects of the United Nations Charter in 1945. He knew of the young Council, was slated to be a speaker but passed away before that could happen. The Council still honors its “Mentor in Spirit.”


Thus began “The World Affairs Council of Grand Rapids.” It officially became “The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan” in the mid-70s when the then-President of Grand Valley State University Arend (Don) Lubbers and Mr. Jay Van Andel, co-founder of Amway Corporation, both served on the Council board and achieved non-profit status for the group.


The Council is an educational non-profit (501c3), non-partisan and non-advocacy organization. It takes no stand on any issue. Its members are from all over the political spectrum but would agree on one issue: We want the World Affairs Council to start the conversation in this community on American foreign policy and other international issues.


The World Affairs Council is dedicated to educating people in western Michigan about other countries, cultures and regions of the world, as well as providing a forum for discussion of critical foreign policy issues facing this country. The Council is best known for its sponsorship of its award-winning Great Decisions Global Discussion Series, running since the early 1960’s.  The discussion series is used by local colleges and universities as a credit course (typically through the political science department); and also attended by Council members and the general public.

To change the world,

first know the world.

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The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan empowers the people and organizations of West Michigan to engage thoughtfully with the world.

"To change the world, first know the world."

Credible. Objective. Relevant. Civil. Compelling.

1700 Fulton St. SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

(616) 776-1721

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Dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on global issues with nearly 100 councils across 40 states reaching more than half a million people a year.

©2016 – 2018 by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. Created by The Vincent Group