Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 13, 2013

International Affairs Forum announces season


---- — by Marta hepler drahos

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College’s International Affairs Forum is getting a facelift. The lecture series will celebrate its 20th year with a shorter, more interactive format designed to appeal to younger audiences.

“We joined the IAF about three years ago when we arrived back from overseas,” said Jack Segal, series co-chairman with wife Karen Puschel, both former foreign diplomats with the U.S. State Department. “What we found was a pretty elderly clientele. We’re not spring chickens ourselves, but we wanted to breathe a little more life into the organization.”

Besides adding several NMC faculty to its board, series leaders established a relationship with the college’s International Club and gave talks on international relations and diplomacy to students of Traverse City Area Public Schools.

“Now what we’re trying to do is persuade some of our speakers to move more toward a TED talks-style format: less lecturing and more interaction with the audience,” Segal said. “The model that I use is VlogBrothers,” a YouTube video blog style show created and hosted by brothers John and Hank Green.

“John Green is a very bright young man. He gives you a very high-paced, very funny and, surprisingly, a very accurate explanation on Egypt in eight minutes,” Segal said. “It’s a warning to teachers because this is what kids are watching if they’re watching anything on foreign policy. That’s where we’ve got to go if we want to get a roomful of young professionals.”

The 2013-14 series kicks off Thursday with “Putin’s Russia — Partner or Adversary?” a talk on U.S.-Russian relations by Michigan native John Beyrle.

Beyrle was U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2008 to 2012, during which he led the implementation of policies leading to improved U.S.-Russian relations. Highlights included the signing of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, and liberalized visa formalities.

The event begins at 6 p.m. in the Dennos Museum Center’s Milliken Auditorium, following a reception from 5:15-6 p.m.

Other fall talks feature Iran expert and former U.S. hostage in Tehran, Michael Metrinko, Oct. 17, and cultural attaché to the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C., Robert Rehak, Nov. 21. Rehak also is a scholar of biblical history and of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Segal said the forum’s winter and spring schedule is incomplete but will focus on Asian issues that are of rising importance in 21st century U.S. relations. Speakers will include Lowell Gruman of Frankfort, an expert on Asia-Pacific business development, and a U.S. navy admiral who will discuss security in the Pacific.

The series culminates in northern Michigan’s first conference on China, June 5-6 at the Dennos and the Hagerty Center. Segal said the conference will address education, business and cultural issues that will help northern Michigan understand and benefit from cross-Pacific ties, from tourism to wine and blueberry exports.

“The IAF is a vehicle for improving people’s knowledge of the world,” he said. “But it can be compatible with business and promotional and work opportunities for the area.”

For tickets and more information, visit or call 995-1700.