Our  Team

Executive Director

Michael Van Denend

Michael has always been interested in world events and issues—and is a strong advocate of non-partisan grace-filled discourse.


He’s fond of Richard Mouw’s description of “convicted civility”—which is “combining a civil outlook with a passionate intensity about our convictions.”


Along with wife Loni, he’s been on a number of global adventures—and they’ve served numerous times in Haiti, before and after the devastating 2011 earthquake.


Michael came to the World Affairs Council after 33 years as the executive director of the Calvin College Alumni Association, where he interviewed and wrote stories about alumni all over the globe.


In addition, he’s an on-air radio programmer at WYCE 88.1 FM (Saturdays from 8-10 a.m.) where he presents folk, blues, jazz, rock and a lot of WORLD music.

Director of Programming

Erica Kubik, Ph.D

With a background in higher education, Erica has taught at various institutions around West Michigan. She earned her Ph. D in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green University


In 2015, Erica traveled to China with Davenport University’s Study Abroad Program and relishes more opportunities for global exposure in the future.

She chairs an excellent planning committee of local educators to make the Council's "Great Decisions" program each winter/spring a meaningful global-education experience, one that receives kudos from the national World Affairs Council organization.

Globally focused, locally engaged and driven by a passion for international affairs, foreign policy, cultural intelligence (CQ), language, and culture, Emily is highly motivated to help individuals and organizations effectively navigate the waters of cultural differences and become globally engaged .

From and early age, Emily has been influenced by language and culture thanks to her upbringing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and by studying abroad in France through the School for International Training, an immersive, field-based study abroad program.  In addition, Emily is an Advanced Certified Cultural Intelligence Professional in the domain of cultural intelligence (CQ). 

To her, the ultimate goals of cultural intelligence, cross-cultural communication, global engagement and education are to facilitate understanding and respect, build navigable bridges, and make the world a better place locally and globally.

Community Engagement Specialist

Emily Smith

Executive Director Emeritus

Dixie Anderson

Dixie has had the time of her life building one of the nation's most successful Councils over the last 20 years.


She's had the privilege of hosting a sitting President of the United States, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf, President Lech Walesa, Tom Friedman and many others. 


Dixie has had some great adventures:  She's presided over a discussion on water and sustainability with the Saudi Minister of Water in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and she was one of only 100 Americans to observe a Presidential Election in Taipei, Taiwan, to just mention two. 

She's passionate, as all World Affairs Council members are, about using conflict resolution and diplomacy to solve global problems. Violence and war are never the best solutions.

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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