Great Decisions

What is Great Decisions?

Great Decisions LogoGreat Decisions is a national program of the Foreign Policy Association. In North Carolina, the Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte is the state coordinator. Great Decisions is the largest non-partisan citizen education effort of its kind and has provided quality information and tools for over fifty years.

Each year, the Foreign Policy Association publishes a Great Decisions Briefing Book. The book highlights eight of the year's most significant foreign policy issues. The book provides facts, charts, and nonpartisan analysis of the "great decisions" facing the U.S. public and policy makers. Maps, online services and other resources are available to complement programs. In addition, a DVD series and Teacher's Guide are available for purchase on the Foreign Policy Association's website.

What are the eight topics for 2020?

  1. Climate Change and the Global Order
  2. India and Pakistan
  3. Red Sea Security
  4. Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
  5. U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle
  6. China's Road into Latin America
  7. The Philippines and the U.S.
  8. Artificial Intelligence and Data

What is the Charlotte Lecture Series?

The Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte coordinates a local community lecture series annually. The Charlotte Great Decisions Lecture Series consists of five weekly sessions and is an opportunity for citizens to meet, discuss and learn about some of the issues facing our world.  Each week a local expert from nearby colleges and universities provides additional perspective on the topic of interest and answers questions regarding the information presented in the Briefing Book and through the lecture. A registration form is available below.

Date, Time, and Location

All lectures are scheduled from 6:30pm-8:00pm, please review the list below for 
specific dates, topics, and locations. 

Wednesday, January 22: Climate Change and the Global Order
Dr. Deborah Thomas, Chair and Professor, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte Center City, Room 204 - 320 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Climate change captivates our attention and challenges our understanding and assumptions about human-environment interactions. As increasing global temperatures pose risks to our well-being, we must consider approaches to mitigation and adaptation with the ingenuity of human spirit. But, who is the “we?” In reality, exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity vary by place and community, revealing environmental inequities, climate injustices, and social vulnerability that can lead to instability, conflicts, and security concerns. Using a place-based perspective, this presentation will explore social vulnerability reduction as foundational to climate change solutions.

Wednesday, January 29: U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle
Dr. Margaret Commins, Associate Professor, Political Science and Sociology Department, Queens University
UNC Charlotte Center City, Room 204 - 320 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

As the saying goes, “geography is destiny.” Located beneath the “Colossus of the North”, Central America’s Northern Triangle countries are deeply tied to the United states – historically, economically, politically, and through immigration. When tens of thousands of Central American children and families arrive at the U.S. Southern border we are shocked, some fearing an “invasion.” We do not think about the deep ties – positive and negative – between our regions. Understanding these ties, historically and in the current period, helps us to understand developments on the U.S. border, and to respond to them effectively, humanely, and in the U.S. national interest.

Wednesday, February 5: Artificial Intelligence and Data
Dr. Cheryl Brown, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte Center City, Room 204 - 320 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Dr. Cheryl L. Brown, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, will discuss her research and Susan Ariel Aaronson’s article, "America’s Uneven Approach to AI and its Consequences,” presenting “the benefits and challenges of ‘AI as a public good’ in today’s interdependent, global society.  The U.S. and EU and other governmental and private organizations have introduced regulatory measures to foster collaboration in international research in AI but not without concerns about privacy layers, ethical guidelines, algorithmic bias, and more. How do we address these issues at the domestic and international levels and acknowledge the global competition for development of AI?"

Wednesday, February 12: India and Pakistan
Dr. Ritika Prasad, Associate Professor, Department of History, UNC Charlotte
Charlotte Country Day School - 1440 Carmel Rd, Charlotte, NC 28226

At this juncture, especially for any international audience, thinking of India and Pakistan in the same breath, often conjures up an image of  two nuclear armed nations seemingly poised in a deadlock. Starting with recent events, specifically the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status in August 2019 under the current BJP government, this talk will focus on the historical trajectory of contemporary relations, including the long, shared history of the two nations, the points of contention that emerged in the convoluted negotiations as British colonial rule ended here in 1947,  and the substantive issues that place the two governments at odds with each other and which have adversely the growth prospects of the South Asian region.

Wednesday, February 19: China's Road into Latin America
Dr. Gregory Weeks, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte Center City, Room 204 - 320 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

China has increased its presence in Latin America over the past 20 years, which has important implications both for the region's economic development and for U.S.-Latin American relations. The reaction in Latin America has generally been one of cautious embrace as leaders navigate increased Chinese influence. We will discuss the opportunities and challenges that China's road into Latin America creates.

** This event is sponsored by The Magellan Society, Young Professionals of WACC.**

Wednesday, February 26: Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
Dr. John Cox, Associate Professor of Global Studies and History,
Director of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies, UNC Charlotte

The International House - 1817 Central Ave #215, Charlotte, NC 28205

The term “slavery” evokes images of the long-abolished trade in African slaves. Yet slavery is thriving in new as well as old forms in the twenty-first century. Experts and human-rights advocates estimate that between twenty-five and forty million people in the world today who can be classified as slaves—a greater number than at any time in history. In today’s world slavery takes such forms of forced labor, debt peonage, and human trafficking—often for sexual exploitation, the form of slavery endured by several million girls and women and for which Charlotte is a major center. We will discuss the causes of this terrible blight and highlight efforts to expose and combat it.


UNC Charlotte Center City Building

Parking at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building is not included and attendees should inform themselves about the available options and fees. 

There are a number of pay-to-park options within walking distance of Center City. Seventh Street Parking Deck is a short walk through First Ward Park. Visitors can pay to park by the hour. Additional pay-to-park options can be found on the Preferred Parking website. The closest of these is 422 E 9th Street on the corner of 9th and Brevard Street. Other nearby lots are at 8th & College, 9th & College, and 9th & Tryon. There are metered spaces on Brevard and 8th Street to pay during the day. These meters are free after 6pm weekdays and all day on weekends.

Parking at Charlotte Country Day School

  • The lecture will be held at Cramer Lecture Hall and signage will lead attendees from the visitor's lot
  • Parking in the visitor's lot at Charlotte Country Day School's Cannon Campus is FREE of charge
  • A map of the campus, including where to park and where to find the lecture is available for those who need direction. Additionally, ADA access is available.

Cost Information

Lectures are free. Great Decisions Briefing Books will NOT be available onsite. If you are interested in purchasing a book, please do so online at the Foreign Policy Association's website.


Please RSVP on the online registration form for the 2020 Great Decisions Lecture Series.

Evaluation and Feedback

The online evaluation form for the 2020 lectures will be available following the first lecture of 2020.

For further questions or information, please send an email to