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Thursday, May 17, 2018 12:07 am

World Affairs Council makes global issues local

 Since 1988 the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois (WACCI) has been sponsoring programs to educate citizens in the local area about U.S. foreign policy, global economic and environmental issues and international politics. WACCI, affectionately pronounced “wacky” by its members, hosts a speaker series with recognized experts on a wide range of topics of global importance with local impact. WACCI is one of more than 90 councils that are members of the World Affairs Council of America.

WACCI’s final program for this season is Wednesday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth St. Dr. Laura Dean, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Millikin University, will present “From Russia with Love: Combating Human Trafficking from the Post-Soviet Region to Central Illinois.” The program is free and open to the public. Her talk will focus on her current book project, which examines policy adoption and implementation in the post-Soviet region and research based on fieldwork and interviews with policymakers in Ukraine, Latvia and Russia. She will also discuss the work of the Central Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force combating the issue in our region.

Dean has an extensive background in political science and international studies. She holds multiple degrees, including a Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science, M.A. in International Studies focusing on Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, a B.A. in World Politics and a Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research is focused on public policy, migration and gender-based violence in the former Soviet Union. Organizations such as the American Association of University Women, Fulbright Program, Rotary Foundation and Social Science Research Council have all supported her research.

The World Affairs Council of Central Illinois prides itself on presenting programs by individuals who are experts in their field and major players on the world stage. Examples of past speakers include Victor Cha, chair of the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, who spoke about North Korea after Kim Jong-Il, and Pamela Constable, Washington Post bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaking about immigration policy. Climate change, sustainability of river systems, cyber security, NATO and the U.S. health care system are just some of the topics covered by past speakers.

Some may wonder why these programs are relevant to citizens of central Illinois. David Farrell, a longtime member and supporter of WACCI, says, “When we say ‘international,’ we could easily substitute Brandt, Union Pacific, Solomon Colors, ADM, Caterpillar, DICKEY-john, Boeing, the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and Ingram Barge Co. In fact we could probably employ the whole alphabet to capture the wide and deep ties of Illinois’ economy to world trade and international relations. World Affairs Council presentations provide some concise knowledge of, and insights into, the multiple and very complex issues that directly impact the jobs, opportunities and future life-choices of individual citizens in the Springfield area and all of Illinois.”

After a summer break, monthly programs will start again in September. Brexit, the 100th anniversary of WWI and the Middle East are some of the topics for the fall programs. Among the founders of WACCI in 1986 were professors at Sangamon State University and community members. There has always been a strong partnership between WACCI and the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS), and most of the programs are held on the UIS campus. Recently NPR Illinois became a new partner with WACCI and is helping to promote the programs. Details about future programs will be posted on the WACCI website and included in the email newsletter.

Membership fees are the only source of funding for most programs. Affiliation with the World Affairs Council of America provides the opportunity to bring highly regarded speakers to Springfield at an affordable price. A basic membership costs $50. To join, sign up for the newsletter or get for more information about WACCI and upcoming programs, go to www.mywacci.org. Lectures are free and open to the public. There is also a reception and dinner prior to the lecture that requires a reservation paid in advance. Reservations for the dinner on May 23 were due May 15. To inquire about availability, email mbplog@comcast.net.  

Karen Ackerman Witter is retired from the State of Illinois. Through freelance writing and volunteering, her goal is to connect people, organizations and ideas to achieve greater results. She developed an interest in international relations as a result of a Rotary Foundation scholarship to attend graduate school in Wales in the mid-1970s.

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