Spring 2018 Events

All events will be held at the Unitarian Universalist church at 10 Higby Rd, Utica, NY from 7:00 - 8:30 pm unless otherwise noted.

China and America: The New Geopolitical Equation

Great Decisions Speaker/Discussion Series

May 17, 2018

In the last 15 years, China has implemented a wide-ranging strategy of economic outreach and expansion of all its national capacities, including military and diplomatic capacities. Where the United States has taken a step back from multilateral trade agreements and discarded the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China has made inroads through efforts like the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). What are Beijing’s geopolitical objectives? What leadership and political conditions in each society underlie growing Sino-American tensions?  What policies might Washington adopt to address this circumstance?

Dr. Jun T. Kwon, professor of Government and Politics at Utica College will be our guest speaker.

Professor Kwon earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Georgia and a master's in Asian studies from Cornell University. Previously he worked as an assistant professor at the University of North Georgia.

Teachers, to earn CTLE credit hours, please pre-register for this event on My Learning Plan.

Russian Gangsterism and the Trump Presidency: The Art of the Murky Deal


April 05, 2018

Note: This talk will be held in the Library Concourse at Utica College.

This talk by Doctor Nancy Ries will look at how the collapse of the Soviet Union fueled a global kleptocracy that helped bring both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to power. This talk provides a road map for understanding the conspiratorial and criminal networks that link Russia and the United States. What tools do democratic societies have to counteract the impacts of transnational gangster-style politics?


Ries is Professor of Anthropology and Peace and Conflict Studies and a member of the Russian and Eurasian Studies Program at Colgate. She has done field research in Russia over many years and is fluent in Russian. For more information on Dr. Ries, please see her profile on Colgate University's website

South Africa's Fragile Democracy

Great Decisions Speaker/Discussion Series

March 22, 2018

The African National Congress (ANC) party has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. But the party today suffers from popular frustration over official corruption and economic stagnation. It faces growing threats from both left and right opposition parties, even as intraparty divisions surface. Given America’s history of opportunistic engagement with Africa, there are few prospects for a closer relationship between the two countries. Meanwhile, a weaker ANC could lead to political fragmentation in this relatively new democracy.

Hamilton College professor of government, Dr. Stephen Orvis, will be our guest speaker.


Dr. Orvis studies comparative politics with an emphasis on Africa. He published (with Carol Ann Drogus) a textbook, Introducing Comparative Politics: Concepts and Cases in Context (CQ Press, 2nd edition, 2011).  His articles on rural development in Kenya and African democratization have appeared in African Studies Review, Africa Today, Studies in Comparative International Development, and Journal of Asian and African Studies. His book, The Agrarian Question in Kenya, is published with University Presses of Florida. He served as an international election observer in Kenya's transitional elections to democratic rule, and led Hamilton students on the Kenya Field School in Summer 2000 and 2004.

Teachers, to earn CTLE credit hours, please pre-register for this event on My Learning Plan.

Media and Foreign Policy from a Polish Perspective

Great Decisions Speaker/Discussion Series

February 15, 2018

​State and non-state actors today must maneuver a complex and rapidly evolving media landscape. Conventional journalism now competes with user-generated content. Official channels of communication can be circumvented through social media. Foreign policy is tweeted from the White House and “fake news” has entered the zeitgeist. Cyberwarfare, hacking and misinformation pose complex security threats. How are actors using media to pursue and defend their interests in the international arena? What are the implications for U.S. policy? 

A professor visiting from Poland, Dr. Rafał Kuś, will deliver his perspective on the influence of media on the development of foreign policy. 

Dr. Kuś is a graduate of Law and Journalism and Social Communication at the Jagiellonian University. He completed Postgraduate Studies for Translators of Specialist Texts – English Language Section (UNESCO Chair of the Jagiellonian University, 2006), Postgraduate Studies in Press, Publishing, and Copyright Law (Faculty of Management and Social Communication of the Jagiellonian University, 2008), and – cum laude – Postgraduate Studies in Rhetoric (Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian Universities, 2011). He graduated from the American Law School (Catholic University of America and Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University, 2007). In 2015, Dr. Kuś completed ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

He graduated from Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in American Studies (Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University, 2011). His Ph.D. thesis "Public Broadcasting Service: the Place of Public Television in the United States Media System" (supervisor: Professor Andrzej Mania) was successfully defended – cum laude – in 2011. He received the Dr. Paweł Stępka Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in the Field of Electronic Media (funded by the National Broadcasting Council and the Faculty of Journalism and Political Science of the University of Warsaw) in 2012.

He has worked as an academic teacher since 2006. He has been professionally affiliated with Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu - National Louis University in Nowy Sącz (2006-2008, 2010-2012), Małopolska Vocational College (2009-2010), Jagiellonian University (since 2010), and Pontifical University of John Paul II (since 2011). Since October 2011, he has worked at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora of the Jagiellonian University. In May 2016, he lectured at the University of Catania (Italy). Since January 2017, he has worked as a lecturer at the Jagiellonian University School of Rhetoric.

He speaks fluent English (Certificate of Proficiency in English, 2006) and French. Dr. Kuś has worked as a language editor for Zeszyty Prasoznawcze since 2012. For more information on Dr. Kuś, please visit his university website profile.

Teachers, to earn CTLE credit hours, please pre-register for this event on My Learning Plan.

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