World Affairs Council of Western Michigan

Member Info

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) empowers the people and organizations of West Michigan to engage thoughtfully with the world. WACWM does this with the help of 50 regional businesses, 11 colleges and universities, and many community partners. Together, we seek to provide programming that is credible, objective, relevant, civil, and compelling. To change the world, we believe, one must first know the world. You can learn more about what we do at

Directory Listing

World Affairs Council of Western Michigan
1700 Fulton Street East
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Web | Email

Staff/Contact Information

Michael Van Denend, Executive Director, Email

Erica Kubik, Director of Programming, Email

Dixie Anderson, Executive Director Emeritus, Email

Upcoming Events

February 7 | The War on Drugs and Its Environmental Impact

Monday, February 7, 6 p.m. EST, in-person at Grand Rapids Community College's ATC Center Auditorium or virtually on-line. Part of the 2022 Great Decisions Series. Register at

The US-led War on Drugs in Latin America has created a cat and mouse game that pushes drug traffickers into remote areas. Drug traffickers finance illegal cattle ranching and oil palm cultivation in protected areas to legitimize their presence, claim smuggling territory, and to launder money.

Dr. Jennifer Devine’s research team integrates remote sensing, GIS, and ethnographic methods to analyze drug trafficking’s environmental impacts in Central America’s protected areas. Their research reveals that drug trafficking is a key driver of deforestation in Guatemalan and Honduran national parks. In the era of the Drug War Conservation, Indigenous and peasant community-resource management is the most viable conservation strategy: this approach simultaneously achieves environmental sustainability, improves security and governance, and serves as a means of social and environmental justice.

Dr. Jennifer Devine is a critical human geographer and political ecologist who studies human-environmental relations, US - Central American politics, community resource management, grassroots social movements, global drug policy, and tourism and heritage management. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University.


February 14 | Myanmar and Human Rights

"Myanmar and Human Rights," Great Decisions 2022, Pratima Narayan, Monday, February 14, 6 p.m. EST, virtual ONLY. Register at

Ongoing human rights abuses in Myanmar have given the world pause when watching this struggling democracy. Now, after a military coup of the country in 2021, what is the situation on the ground? And how might regional and world players respond to this ongoing crisis?

Join Pratima Narayan as she discusses developments in the country. Pratima T. Narayan led investigations for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. In 2018, she was one of 18 investigators selected globally to participate in a U.S. Department of State investigation into atrocities allegedly committed against Rohingya communities in Myanmar. She holds a J.D. from Boston University School of Law and a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.

February 24 | Global Cooperation in Space

Great Decisions 2022: "Global Cooperation in Space: The Case of Mining and the Role of Law," Dr. Frans von der Dunk, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 6 p.m. EST, in-person at Grand Rapids Communiry College ATC Center Auditorium, or virtually on-line. Register at

As more countries and private enterprise continue to explore and develop space, it’s imperative to have global cooperation and agreed upon laws. Join Dr. Frans von der Dunk, one of the world’s leading authorities on space policy and law, as he discusses the role of space law in the exploration and commercial utilization of outer space, using space mining as a case in point.

Dr. Frans G. von der Dunk is Professor of Space Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s LL.M. Programme on Space, Cyber, and Telecommunication Law. He is also Director of Black Holes BV, a Consultancy in space law and policy, based in Leiden. Previously, he was Co-Director, then Director of Space Law Research at the International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University.

He has served as adviser to the Dutch Government, several foreign Governments, the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Dutch National Aerospace Agency (NIVR), the German Space Agency (DLR), the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as well as various companies.

February 28 | Russia and the U.S.

Great Decisions 2022: "Russia and the U.S.," Dr. Fiona Hill, former national security advisor, Monday, February 28, 6 p.m. EST in-person at the Spectrum Theatre on the campus of Grand Rapids Community College, or virtually on-line. Register at

Russia continues to present a challenge to the U.S. and Europe, evidenced by the worsening situation in Ukraine. How might the U.S. find an effective counter to Russia? And does that mean solving internal divisions within our own country first?

Join Fiona Hill, former senior director on the National Security Council, as she discusses the U.S.-Russian relationship and the long-term trends that brought us here.

Dr. Fiona Hill is a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She recently served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. From 2006 to 2009, she served as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at The National Intelligence Council. Her recent book, There is Nothing for You Here, is a memoir that examines the challenges of finding opportunity post-deindustrialization in the West.


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1010 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 516
Washington, DC 20005
Phone 202-833-4557 | Email

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