Barry McNamara  |  Published January 27, 2022

Great Decisions

Weekly discussion forum set to begin 42nd year; Feb. 2 topic is ‘Russia and the United States’

MONMOUTH, Ill. – With tensions building between the United States and Russia over Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine, the first topic of Monmouth College’s Great Decisions discussion forum of 2022 could not be more timely.

MICHAEL NELSON: Chair of political science department will host first of this year's Great De... MICHAEL NELSON: Chair of political science department will host first of this year's Great Decisions programs on Feb. 2.Monmouth political science professor Michael Nelson will lead a discussion on “Russia and the United States” at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 in Mellinger Commons on the lower level of the Center for Science and Business. The program is free and open to the public.

“I’m excited to be presenting on Russia and the United States,” said Nelson, who is teaching a course on European politics this semester and also serves as director of the College’s Center for Civic and Social Change. “Russia, of course, is in the news for massing its troops near the border of Ukraine. The issue of what Russia is doing in the European sphere is something I think we should all be paying attention to. I think Russia presents a distinct challenge for democratization around the world but, in particular, eastern Europe. It also presents a distinct security challenge for the United States. … How we address Russia and particularly this Ukraine crisis could set the stage for U.S.-Russia relations for the next five to 10 years.”

Many Monmouth College traditions were derailed for an academic year when the COVID pandemic broke out in 2020. But the College’s Great Decisions discussion forum held most of its 2020 sessions before on-campus activities ceased in March, and discussions were also held last spring. This marks the 42nd consecutive year Great Decisions has been held on campus.

This year’s six other Great Decisions topics will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9, Feb. 16, Feb. 23, March 16, March 23 and March 30, all in Mellinger Commons.

Nelson said “all of the College’s COVID protocols” will be followed at the weekly meetings, including a mask requirement.

“This year, we’ve moved to the Mellinger Commons space so people can spread out and feel more comfortable,” he said.

Great Decisions is a foreign affairs discussion series sponsored nationally by the Foreign Policy Association. Founded in 1918, the association was created as a way to “really encourage engagement by Americans in our foreign affairs and foreign policy, and to make sure that there’s great public education regarding those issues,” said Nelson.

“Getting a wide range of perspectives is one of the goals, because that’s how we all become better informed. There often is an impression that Americans don’t care much about what’s going on in the rest of the world. But the fact that this series has gone on for 42 years … tells me that people in western Illinois care.” Michael Nelson

On campus, the sponsors of Great Decisions include the Center for Civic and Social Change, the Office of Intercultural Life and the departments of political science and international studies.

“Typically, Great Decisions brings together faculty, students and staff members of the College but also members of the Monmouth town community and people from across western Illinois,” said Nelson. “We’ve even had a few people cross the border from Iowa to join us.”

The first 30 minutes of each session is a presentation by that week’s guest speaker, followed by 45 minutes of robust discussion of the issue.

“Getting a wide range of perspectives is one of the goals, because that’s how we all become better informed,” said Nelson. “There often is an impression that Americans don’t care much about what’s going on in the rest of the world. But the fact that this series has gone on for 42 years … tells me that people in western Illinois care. They recognize that they’re connected to the events of global affairs, whether it’s a war that’s going on somewhere else or whether it’s a trade issue that might even be affecting agriculture here in the state.”

Monmouth College Great Decisions
All discussions will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Mellinger Commons in the Center for Science and Business.

* Feb 9: “Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” Kaung Khant Nyein ’20, graduate student in urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
* Feb. 16: “The Quad Alliance (United States, Japan, Australia and India),” Caitlin Meagher, sociology and anthropology professor.
* Feb. 23: “Industrial Policy,” Jessica Vivian, political science professor.
* March 16: “Outer Space,” Michael Solontoi, physics professor.
* March 23: “Drug Policy in Latin America,” Francisco Ángeles, modern languages, literatures and cultures professor and Latin American studies coordinator.
* March 30: “Climate Change,” Nelson; Tim Tibbetts, biology professor; Jialin Li, sociology and anthropology professor.

Listen Up …

Professor Michael Nelson previews the 2022 edition of the Great Decisions on the 1853 Podcast.

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