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The Spring 2013 Great Decisions program saw over 250 students and community members gather together for thought-provoking and exciting foreign policy discussions.  From a a high-ranking NATO officer, to a well-known expatriate Iranian journalist to long-time New York Times reporter Howard French’s discussion of China’s role in Africa, participants gained a strong grasp of global issues from national and international subject matter experts.

Great Decisions is a student organized and led program. The Curriculum in Global Studies sponsors and plans Great Decisions at UNC as part of a national lecture series program under the auspices of the Foreign Policy Association.  Great Decisions also takes UNC to the surrounding communities, running outreach programs at local retirement communities and secondary schools. The motto of the program is critical thinking in a collaborative setting, and the goals include increasing the intellectual climate on campus and engaging tomorrow’s leaders on contemporary events in foreign affairs.

The program receives financial support from the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Global Initiatives.


2013 Great Decisions Lectures

Scott Silliman


The “responsibility to protect” doctrine has become central to modern humanitarian intervention. When should the international community  intervene? Why did the West rush to intervene in Libya but not Syria?

Scott L. Silliman is a Professor of the Practice of Law at Duke Law School and also holds an appointment as an adjunct professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.In addition, he served as Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security from its inception in 1993 until July of 2011, and now serves as its Director Emeritus. On November 10, 2011, President Obama nominated Professor Silliman to be a federal appellate judge on the United States Court of Military Commission Review, and the Senate confirmed him on June 21, 2012. He was formally appointed to the Court by the President on August 30th, 2012, and sworn in 13 days later, on September 12th, 2012. Professor Silliman’s teaching and research interests focus on national security law, military law,and the law of armed conflict. He is widely sought throughout the country as a guest lecturer on national security and the Law of War, and is a frequent commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and other national radio and television news programs on issues involving military law and national security.

Mohamed Elmenshawy


The popular revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 ushered in the promise of radical change. Two years later, what is the state of  Egyptian democracy? How will the military and the civilian government balance power?

Mohamed Elmenshawy is a scholar of the Middle East, with an expertise in topics focusing on Egypt, foreign policy, political Islam. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Cairo University, followed by a M.A. in International Relations and Middle Eastern Politics at University of Akron and an MBA in International Strategy at American University. Elmenshawy is currently the director of the languages and regional studies program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. Additionally, he writes a weekly column for an Egyptian daily newspaper entitled Al-Shorouk News. He served as the editor in chief of Arab insight, a journal communicating Arab perspectives on Middle East issues to the American public. He is also the founding editor of Taqrir Washington, a journal providing Arabic-speaking audiences an understanding of American politics. In August 2009, he was selected to join the U.N. Secretary General’s High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations initiative, as part of its Rapid Response Media Mechanism. He is a regular commentator on international politics on both Arab and American television networks, recent appearances including Al Jazeera TV and CNN International.

Stanley Black


How did the 2008 global recession contribute to the development of the euro crisis? The health of the euro affects and is affected by the state of  the global economy. How can European Union leaders prevent the collapse of the common currency?

Professor Stanley W. Black graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1961 and subsequently received his Ph. D. in Economics from Yale University. Upon graduation, he received a teaching position at Princeton University. In 1983 he returned to the University of North Carolina as the Georges Lurcy Professor of Economics, serving as Department Chairman from 1985 to 1990. He has spent time with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Department of State. He has been a visiting scholar or professor at Yale University, the Brookings Institution, and the International Monetary Fund, among other institutions. Most recently, he was Senior Policy Advisor at the IMF Institute during 2000-2001. Dr. Black’s research relates to the behavior of exchange rates, the international use of currencies, and European economic issues. He teaches undergraduate courses at UNC in advanced international economics and European economic integration.

Andrew Reynolds


The West has welcomed unprecedented democratic reforms made by Myanmar’s government. What challenges must Myanmar overcome before  it can fully join the international community? What role can it play in Southeast Asia?

Andrew Reynolds is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill and the Chair of Global Studies. He received his M.A. from the University of Cape Town and his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. His research and teaching focus on democratization, constitutional design and electoral politics. He is particularly interested in the presence and impact of minorities and marginalized communities. He has worked for the United Nations, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), the UK Department for International Development, the US State Department, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Foundation for Election Systems. He has also served as a consultant on issues of electoral and constitutional design for Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Egypt, Fiji, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and Zimbabwe; most recently in Libya, Egypt and Burma. He has received research awards from the U.S. Institute of Peace, the National Science Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, and the Ford Foundation.

LTC Roland Iffert


How has NATO’s agenda evolved since its inception during the cold war? With its military commitment in Afghanistan winding down and a recent  successful campaign in Libya, what are the Alliance’s present-day security challenges?

LTC Roland Iffert is the Course Director in Policy at the NATO School at Oberammergau. Prior to holding this position, LTC Iffert was a Staff Officer  Electronic Warfare Planner at the Allied Joint Force Command at Brunssum. Additionally, LTC Iffert has worked with the German Air Force Office as  a Staff Officer of Electronic Warfare.

Ali Reza Eshraqhi


Suspicion and a troubled history have blighted U.S.-Iranian relations for three decades. How can the United States and Iran move forward? Is the  existence of Iran’s nuclear program an insurmountable obstacle?

Ali Reza Eshraghi has been working as the editor of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and editor-in-chief of Mianeh website, considered as one of the most respected sources for Information and analyses on Iran which its stories are frequently syndicated and republished in media outlets worldwide. Formerly he was visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism and then the Institute of International Studies. He was also a research fellow at the Religion, Politics and Globalization Program at UC Berkeley. He studied Political Science and Islamic studies in Tehran. During his 13-year career in journalism, he has worked as the senior editor in some of Tehran’s most well-known newspapers, all of which have eventually been banned or shut down by the government. Eshraghi has been placed on the list of famous Iranian Op-Ed piece writers. He has received the Golden Pen Award at Iran’s National Press Festival and has served as a member of the jury of the Festival for several years.

Dr. Alenka Brown-VanHoozer


How can the United States address the challenges of a weak economy, homegrown terrorism and nuclear proliferation? What threats and  opportunities are presented by the ascendancy of China and by regime change in the Middle East.

Dr. Alenka Brown-VanHoozer, the Director of the Information Operations Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has held many impressive  positions within the Department of Defense and other government agencies, and most recently was a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for  Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University.  Her wide-ranging expertise includes “human interoperability dynamics  for sharing of information and behaviors,” asymmetric threats, irregular warfare, and cognitive-behavior and cyber threats.  Dr. Brown-VanHoozer  has a Ph.D. in Human Factors Engineering, M.S. in Electrical Engineering, and B.S. in Computer Science.

Howard French


What interests govern China’s engagement in Africa? Should China’s growing emphasis on political ties and natural resource extraction inform U.S.  relations with African nations?

Howard French is associate professor of journalism at Columbia University. A former New York Times bureau chief in Asia as will as Africa, he is widely published and regularly featured in periodicals such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post.