Great Decisions

Due to COVID 19 there will be no Face to Face meeting for 2022. Great Decisions will be offered by a Virtual format. Please read below for more details.

We are pleased to announce that the North Hills Pittsburgh Branch of American Association of University Women (“AAUW”) will once again be sponsoring its “Great Decisions” program. As you may know, Great Decisions is a non-partisan program developed by the Foreign Policy Association in 1954 that has become America’s largest discussion program. The program model involves reading, meeting to watch a documentary, and discussing the most critical issues facing America today.  Our program will once again include a speaker each week who will share additional information on the topic of the week.

We are excited to once again to provide this opportunity to our community, albeit in a modified fashion. Our 2022 season will begin on Saturday, February 5th, and the following is our schedule for the first three weeks in February 2022. We will update this information every week.

For those interested in purchasing a Great Decisions 2022 book, they will once again be available for purchase at the La Roche University Library.  The books are $30.00, and no cash transactions will be accepted. Please make checks payable to: AAUW North Pittsburgh.

Week 6:

Biden's AgendaBiden’s AgendaThe new administration in Washington promised to reverse many of the policies of the past administration, especially in foreign policy. How will issues such as climate, the pandemic, and alliances be treated under the Biden administration? By John Ikenberry

When – Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Topic – “Biden’s Agenda”

Speaker – Dr. Soren Fanning

Soren Fanning is an Associate Professor of World History at Robert Morris University and is the coordinator of the Social Studies Teacher Education program.  A past winner of the Rufus Z. Smith Award, he has published on the topics of comparative history and the formation of national identity in continental empires.  His current work explores the definition of the culture of empire and the distinction between imperial and national societies.

Where – Zoom registration link below. Registration is required.


  • Changing Demographics (Bonus Article)Changing Demographics (Bonus Article)The world experienced remarkable demographic changes in the 20th century that continue today and have resulted in far-reaching social, economic, political, and environmental consequences all over the globe. These consequences are creating mounting challenges to development efforts, security, the environment, as well as the sustainability of human populations. By Joseph Chamie
  • Outer SpaceOuter SpaceThe launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 marked the beginning of the space era and of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. in the 21st century, there are many more participants in space, including countries such as India and China, and commercial companies such as SpaceX. How will the United States fare in a crowded outer space? By Eric Berger
  • Climate ChangeClimate ChangeThe ideological divide in the United States on the subject of climate change has impeded progress in curbing greenhouse emissions. But extreme weather events at both ends of the thermometer have focused attention on the consequences of inaction. What role will the United States play in future negotiations on climate? By Ron Bee
  • Russia and the U.S.Russia and the U.S.Russia and the United States have many areas of conflict and some possible areas of mutual interest. Arms control, Russian interference in U.S. elections and support of cyberattacks, the status of Ukraine, the fate of opposition politcians in Russia, all continue to be concerning. How will the new administration in Washington approach these issues? By Allen Lynch
  • Myanmar and ASEANMyanmar and ASEANThe situation in Myanmar, including the coup by the military in February 2021 and the ongoing human rights crises, coupled with civil resistance by those opposed to the regime, has led to the chaos in the Southeast Asian country. How are neighboring countries reacting, and what role will ASEAN play? By Hunter Marston
  • Quad AllianceQuad AllianceAs part of the U.S. pivot to Asia, the United States has been in dialogue with Japan, Australia, and India in an effort to contain China. Recently, the Quad countries held joint naval exercises in the South Pacific. How effective will the actions of this alliance be? By Kevin Rudd
  • Drug Policy in Latin AmericaDrug Policy in Latin AmericaThe issue of migration to the United States from Latin America has overshadowed the war on drugs, which has been underway for decades with little signs of progress. What are the roots and the bureaucratic logic behind today’s dominant drug policies in Latin America? Is it time to reconsider punitive drug policies that disrupt supply chains and punish drug possession? By Mónica Serrano
  • Industrial PolicyIndustrial PolicyThe current discussion of industrial policy in the United States is not simply about whether or not to support specific companies or industries, but about trust or mistrust of the government and its ability to manage the economy and deal with a rising China. The upheaval in supply chains during the pandemic exposed weaknesses in the international economy. What policies can the United States implement to deal with trade and the economy? By Jonathan Chanis
  • Biden's AgendaBiden’s AgendaThe new administration in Washington promised to reverse many of the policies of the past administration, especially in foreign policy. How will issues such as climate, the pandemic, and alliances be treated under the Biden administration? By John Ikenberry

Note: Great Decisions’ materials are from: website

Past weeks

Week 1:

Date: Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Time: 10:00am – 11:15am

Where: Zoom. Please Register in advance for this meeting:

Diane Turnshek

Topic: Outer Space/ How will the United States will fare in a crowded outer space?

Speaker: Diane Turnshek, a Pittsburgh based lecturer in the Department of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University, and author. Please see her resume below.

Diane Turnshek is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. She runs the Astronomy Public Lecture Series at Allegheny Observatory. Her love of both astronomy and science fiction led her to crew the Mars Desert Research Station (featured in the documentary “Above and Below”), where she turned her attention to dark sky advocacy and earned an International Dark Sky Association’s Defender Award. She has given over one hundred light pollution talks including one for TEDxPittsburgh, curated a series of space art galleries, and founded the Pennsylvania Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. In 2019, she edited the genre anthology Triangulation: Dark Skies with twenty-one starry night short stories. She has been interviewed by the New York Times, PBS NewsHour, NPR Morning Edition, Canada One Radio, Chinese Global Television Network and 50 more news outlets. She hosted a Dark Skies Conference at CMU and is co-running a two day International Astronomical Union Focus Meeting on light pollution in Busan, South Korea in August of 2022. Her research focuses on measuring the light of cities with drones, aircraft, satellites and astronauts aboard the ISS.

Reference links suggested by the Speaker:

I’m in the process of being filmed in a light pollution documentary now which will be available for free viewing in March.  If people want to watch and listen to more, my TV and radio appearances are updated on my website:

The documentary that was made on “Mars” is called “Above and Below” — the trailer can be watched here: Above and Below

Looks like it’s no longer on Netflix, but can be rented for $4.99 from Amazon Prime Video here: Above and Below from Amazon

Week 2:

Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2022

Time: 10:00am – 11:15am

Where: Zoom registration will be required

Topic: Climate Change/ What role will the United States play in future negotiations on climate?

Dr. Paul Le Blanc

Speaker: Dr. Paul Le Blanc, professor of Political Science at LaRoche University, and author. Paul Le Blanc is a Professor of History at La Roche University, where he has taught for over 20 years.  For several years he served as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at that institution, and later as director of La Roche University’s Rome campus.  He received a PhD. in History at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989.  Among his publications are: A Short History of the U.S. Working Class; Black Liberation and the American Dream; and A Freedom Budget for All Americans.  He has been active for many years in movements for social and economic justice and, most recently, for the preservation of a livable environment.  Among the groups he has been active in are Pittsburghers for Public Transit and the Pittsburgh Green New Deal

Reference links from Dr. Paul Le Blanc

Week 3:

Saturday, February 19th, 2022

Time: 10:00-11:15am

Where: Zoom registration is required

Topic: Russia and the US/ How will US foreign policy engage Russia during the Biden administration?

Speaker: Dr. Jonathan Harris, Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, and author.

Jonathan Harris is Professor Emeritus of Political Science of the University of Pittsburgh and is currently the editor of the Russian and East European Series of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Professor Harris received his BA from Wesleyan University,  his MAs in International Relations and Russian Studies, and Ph.D. from Columbia University. For fifty years he taught courses in international relations, Soviet and Russian politics, American foreign policy, and American policy toward the Middle East at the University of Pittsburgh.

 He first traveled to the USSR in 1956 as an undergraduate, was a participant with his wife in the official Soviet/American exchange of graduate students and faculty in 1965,1970, and 1990. He was an exchange scholar with the Siberian Academy of Sciences in the city of Novosibirsk in the first years after the collapse of the USSR. He also served as a chief researcher for the Eurasia Foundation investigating Russian democracy in the first years of the Putin regime. He has written three books on Soviet domestic politics and numerous articles on Soviet and Russian foreign and domestic policies. While teaching at Pitt he was a frequent speaker for the World Affairs Council, for both public and private high schools and appeared regularly on KDKA/TV. He is currently writing a book on ideological change during the reign of  M.S. Gorbachev

Week 4:

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Topic-“Myanmar and ASEAN”

Where: Zoom registration will be required

Speaker-Professor John Chin

John J. Chin is an assistant teaching professor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, where he has previously served as a research coordinator and post-doctoral fellow. He earned a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame (2006), M.P.P. from the University of Michigan (2008), and Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University (2017). In 2020-2021, he was a non-resident research fellow at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. His research focuses on the politics of unrest — from coups to nonviolent protest to assassinations — and regime change, authoritarian survival, and democratization.

Professor Chin’s first book (co-authored with David Carter and Joseph Wright), an Historical Dictionary of Modern Coups D’état, is being published by Rowman & Littlefield in summer 2022. His work has also been published or is forthcoming in the British Journal of Political ScienceInternational Studies QuarterlyComparative Political StudiesJournal of Chinese Political Science, and Frontiers in Political Science. Professor Chin’s scholarship for a broader general audience has been featured in the Georgetown Journal of International AffairsPolitical Violence at a GlanceThe Monkey Cage, and Washington Post. Before entering academia, he was an international affairs analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.

Week 5:

When – Saturday, March 5th, 2022 10 am

Topic – “Quad Alliance” (“Xi’s China takes on the Quad”)

Speaker – Dr. Thomas Rawski

Where – Zoom registration link below.

<a class="wp-block-button__link" href="<!– wp:paragraph –> <p></p&gt; <!– /wp:paragraph –> <!– wp:paragraph –> <p>After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.</p> Week 5 Registration

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Thomas G. Rawski is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the development and modern history of China’s economy. Recent publications include “China’s Great Boom as a Historical Process,” (with Loren Brandt) in The Cambridge Economic History of China (Cambridge University Press, 2022); Policy, Regulation and Innovation in China’s Electricity and Telecom Industries (2019, co-edited with Brandt); “From Divergence to Convergence: Reexamining the History behind China’s Economic Boom” (with Brandt and Debin Ma), Journal of Economic Literature (2014); Tales from the Development Frontier (with 3 co-authors; World Bank, 2013); and China’s Great Economic Transformation (co-edited with Brandt; 2008).

2021 past programing

GREAT DECISONS 2021 Great Decisions program. As you may or may not know, Great Decisions is a program developed by the Foreign Policy Association that provides all of us and the local community an opportunity to learn about issues of global importance.

This year you can purchase a book through the Great decision website

Topics for this year are listed below

Global supply chains and national security:  The shutdown of global supply chains due to the Covid-19 pandemic brought to the fore an issue with the high level of global economic interdependence: what happens when one country is the main source for an item, say face masks, and then can no longer supply the item? Countries suddenly unable to meet the demand for certain supplies are faced with growing calls for economic nationalism. What are some of the lasting effects that the pandemic could have on global supply chains and trade? How would this affect national security?

Persian Gulf security issues: The Persian Gulf remains tense as the rivalry between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran continues Tensions escalated in early 2020 as the United States began to intervene in the Gulf, launching an airstrike that killed two Iranian military commanders. What are the historical influences that have led to these tensions? What role, if any, should the United States play? Is using military force a viable foreign policy option for 2021 and beyond?

Brexit and the European Union :With the “Brexit transition period” coming to an end this year, the United Kingdom will formally leave the European Union at the start of 2021. With negotiations between the two entities continuing to stall, what does the future of Europe and the UK look like? Will the UK survive a possible Scottish vote to leave? Who will step up and take command of Europe now that Angela Merkel is out of the spotlight?

Struggles over the melting Arctic: U.S. President Donald Trump left many scratching their heads when it was rumored that he was looking to purchase the large island nation of Greenland from Denmark. While any potential deal seems highly unlikely, the event shows the changing opinion within the U.S. government toward engagement with the Arctic region. Because of climate change, large sheets of arctic ice are melting, exposing vast stores of natural gas and oil. With Russia and China already miles ahead with their Arctic strategies, can the U.S. catch up?

China’s role in Africa: The Covid-19 crisis has put a massive strain on what was growing a positive economic and political relationship between China and the continent of Africa. As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s centerpiece “Belt and Road initiative” continues to expand Chinese power, the response to the spread of Covid-19, as well as the African government’s growing debt to China, has seen pushback. What are some of the growing economic and political issues between China and Africa?

The Korean Peninsula :The Korean Peninsula is facing a defining era. Attempts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump to repair the rift between North and South have lost any momentum as Pyongyang continues to test long-range missiles for its nuclear weapons program. As the rift between the U.S. and China grows further, South Korea may end up in the middle of the two superpowers What does the future hold for the U.S. relationship with the ROK?

Roles of international organizations in a global pandemic: The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust the World Health Organization (WHO) into the limelight, for better and for worse. While some of the Trump administration’s criticism of the organization is unfair, the response to the early stages of the pandemic left many experts wanting more from the WHO. What is the WHO’s role in responding to international pandemics? What can be done to improve the WHO’s response to future global health crises?

The end of globalization?: As the United States enters another election season, the merits and drawbacks of globalization are again being debated by the presidential candidates. With the passing of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s America First doctrine, protectionist policies have become more prevalent, challenging globalization. What is globalization and how will it be affected by protectionist trade policies? How will the United States and the world be affected by such policies? Is globalization really at an end, or in need of a refresh?