Great Decisions series tackles COVID, Brexit, and the warming Arctic

Patrick Skinner speaking via zoom
Picture of Suzanne DiMaggio

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 warming 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. One of the Council’s central values is civil dialogue, 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.

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