Great Decisions
Educating young people about world events
Luncheon Lectures
Berks Cable TV Show
Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, December 13th 2017

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7886 or Email

Dr. Paul Esqueda

Venezuela - Derailed Democracy?

Sponsored by PennState University/Berks

Dr. Paul D. Esqueda is the Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Penn State Berks and a Professor of Engineering. His areas of interest are project management, negotiations, and operations management. He has a particular interest in developing negotiation case studies. For the last 30 years, Esqueda has been primarily dedicated to administration in academic institutions. Past positions include Division Head of Engineering, Business, and Computing at Penn State Berks; Dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Administration (IESA) in Caracas, Venezuela and President of the Engineering Research Institute also in Caracas. Esqueda served as a consultant for the European Union to review the European Union Latin American Scholarship Program from 2003-2008. He was part of a 20 expert panel (10 from Europe and 10 from Latin America) that met every year in Brussels to audit the program and advise the EU on the development of the program.

Great Decisions Discussion Groups
Monday, January 1st 2018

Great Decisions 2018

Great Decisions discussion groups for 2018 will be starting at various times after January 1, 2018. 

Discussion topics for 2018 are:

  • The waning of Pax Americana?
  • Russia’s foreign policy
  • China and America: the new geopolitical equation
  • Media and foreign policy
  • Turkey: a partner in crisis
  • U.S. global engagement and the military
  • South Africa’s fragile democracy
  • Global health: progress and challenges

For information and starting times, contact the following:

  • Heritage of Green Hills - contact Cheryl Anderson at 484-269-5145
  • The Highlands at Wyomissing - contact Shirley Riegel-Ferreri at 484-628-7664. Sessons running weekly at 10:00 AM March 4 - April 26.
  • Jewish Community Center - contact Amanda Hornberger at 610-921-0624. Sessions running weekly at 10:00 AM March 5 - April 23.
  • Lititz Group - contact Steve Franz at 717-656-0353
  • Phoebe Berks Village - contact Carol Orts at 610-927-3412. Sessions running weekly at 2:00 PM starting February 6.
  • Wyomissing Library - contact Colleen Stamm at 610-374-4304


Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, January 10th 2018

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Shreeyash Palshikar

Dangerous Neighborhood: A Historical Background of the India-Pakistan Tensions

Sponsored by Weik Capital Management

Dr. Shreeyash Palshikar is an Assistant Professor of History at Albright College. He received his Ph.D. from The University of Chicago, where he received a Fulbright fellowship to research in India. He also holds a B.A. from Amherst College, and did a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University. Before coming to Albright two years ago, he served in the intelligence community as a South Asia political analyst. 

Dr. Palshikar works on language politics and democracy in South Asia, with a focus on modern India. He is currently completing a manuscript analyzing how formation of linguistic states relates to the development of India’s democracy with a special focus on the area around Bombay/Mumbai city. He has previously analyzed how vernacular propaganda helped create emotional appeal for an opposition political coalition, and revealed how a contemporary political party appropriated rhetoric of a 1950s regional-linguistic movement. He teaches courses on World History, South and East Asian History and the global history of magic

Breakfast Meeting
Wednesday, January 17th 2018

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Judge Jeffery Sprecher

Sentencing Reform & Prison Overcrowding

Judge Sprecher will be discussing what improvements have occurred in the six years since the publication of his book, Justice or Just This?. This will be an update on a presentation he delivered to the World Affairs Council several years ago.

Judge Sprecher presides on the Berks County Court of Common Pleas since 1991.

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, February 14th 2018

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservatons: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Nina Kollars

War and Technology

Sponsored by Sam Delal

Dr. Nina Kollars is Assistant Professor of Government at Franklin & Marshall College. As a graduate of Ohio State University’s Department of Political Science, Kollars’ most recently published research has been featured in Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, & Survival. Central themes in her work are innovation, adaptation, and organizational design. She is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on the efforts of war practitioners and organizational responses to their insights and creativity. She is a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point Military Academy, a member of the Committee for the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy, an editorial board member of the Special Operations Journal and a committed professor to her students. Before entering academia, Kollars completed analyses for the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress and the World Bank. 

Breakfast Meeting
Wednesday, February 21st 2018

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Solomon Lausch & Panel

Peace Corps: JFK to Today

Dr. Sol Lausch will be leading off the program with a history and scope of the Peace Corp. A panel of 3 persons will each then relate their personal perspectives as Peace Corp volunteers during the 1960's, 1980, and 1990's.

Dr. Lausch is well known to all of us as a member of the board of directors of our World Affairs Council, as executive director of Berks Business Education Coalition (BBEC) and as past superintendant of the Schuylkill Valley School District.

Breakfast Meeting
Thursday, March 8th 2018

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - INN AT READING
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Susan Markham - USAID

How the Untapped Power of Women and Girls Can End World Poverty

Susan Markham is a passionate advocate for gender equality and female empowerment speaking often about the essential role of women in politics and development. With experience in over 50 countries, she is a strategic leader who is appreciated for her energy, straight talk and insight, connecting academics, activists, implementers and ideas across sectors.

Susan most recently served at the Unites States Agency for International Development (USAID) as the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. In this position, she advised Agency leadership on gender policy issues, led cross-sectoral program efforts in resilience, adolescent girls’ education and energy, and represented the Agency to the White House and other departments, governments, civil society organizations and private partners. Previously, she led the efforts of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) a non-partisan organization, to increase women’s political participation globally as voters, activists, candidates and officeholders. In this role, she was especially proud of her work in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen to help women find and use their voices in their countries.

Susan worked earlier in her career in U.S. politics bringing to life her Master’s thesis that focused on women running for political office. At EMILY’s List, she ran the Political Opportunity Program (POP) that recruited, trained and supported women running for office at the state and local office. She also managed the Campaign Corps program that brought young people into the political process to engage them in elections. 

Susan now works and lives in Washington, DC with her family and two dogs. She’s earned degrees from George Washington University (Master’s of Arts) and THE Ohio State University (Bachelor of Arts, Political Science and International Studies), but looks forward to learning new things every day. 

Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, April 18th 2018

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Thomas Wright

International Order: Trump's Foreign Policy

Sponsored by:
YMCA Diversity, Inclusion & Global Committee

Thomas Wright the director of the Center on the United States and Europe and a fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. He is also a nonresident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. Previously, he was executive director of studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and senior researcher for the Princeton Project on National Security.

Wright works on U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, Donald Trump's worldview, the future of Europe, and Asian security. His book “All Measures Short of War: The Contest For the 21st Century and Future of American Power” will be published by Yale University Press in May 2017.

Wright has a doctorate from Georgetown University, a Master of Philosophy from Cambridge University, and a bachelor's and master's from University College Dublin. He has also held a pre-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a post doctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Wright's writings have appeared in the American Political Science Review, Orbis, Survival, The Washington Quarterly, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, and The Washington Post, as well as a number of international newspapers and media outlets.

Wright’s affiliations include the Fulbright Commission, Ireland, vice chair and board member International Politics Reviews, Palgrave Macmillan, editorial board.

Breakfast Meeting
Wednesday, April 25th 2018

Breakfast Meeting - 7:30 AM - Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Stepanka Magstadt

Human Trafficking

A migration historian educated in the U.K., the United States, and the Czech Republic, she is currently teaching courses dealing with Global Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking and Domestic Violence she developed. Stepanka is the Director of the Center for the Study of Human Trafficking in South-Central Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on identifying vulnerabilities to Sex Trafficking and Domestic Violence.



Luncheon Meeting
Wednesday, May 9th 2018

Luncheon Meeting - 12:00 Noon - Inn at Reading
Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Dr. Tara O

North Korea

Dr. Tara O is an Adjunct Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS. She is the author of The Collapse of North Korea: Challenges, Planning, and Geopolitics of Unification. She serves on the board of directors of the International Council on Korean Studies and was the editor-in-chief of its journal International Journal of Korean Studies (IJKS). A retired Air Force officer, she worked on national security, intelligence, alliance, and political-military issues at the Pentagon, the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea, and the U.S. European Command, as well as intelligence agencies. She also worked counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and satellite issues. She worked in a variety of capacities, including analysis, liaison, and leadership.

As a professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, she taught strategy and military operations. She was a faculty researcher at the Institute of National Security Studies. Her research areas include the Korean contingency and unification, U.S. alliance relationships in Asia, human rights in North Korea, and the social integration of North Korean defectors.

Prior to the military, she also worked in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development in Nairobi, Kenya, working on drought assessment and food aid; the Asia Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand and Vientiane, Laos, assisting the Laos Central Bank as it transitioned from a centrally-planned to a market-oriented economy; Bank of America, managing syndicated loans to Latin America; the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, assessing potential global flash points; and the United Nations Association of the USA in New York,analyzing international economic institutions.

She holds a BA in International Relations from the University of California at Davis, an MPA in Public Policy and International Affairs from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Texas at Austin.

Breakfast Meeting
Thursday, June 21st 2018

Breakfast Meetong - 7:30 AM - Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery

Reservations: Call 610-375-7880 or Email

Brentwood Industries Speaker

International Business