Global migration, climate change, cybersecurity, genocide prevention and normalizing relations with Cuba are a few of the dynamic topics being explored as the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan launches its 2016 Great Decisions Global Discussion Series.

Discussions will take place Feb. 1 through March 28, and feature scholars and experts from around the corner – including George Heartwell and Bing Goei – and around the world – including an Arab cartoonist, American ambassador and former CIA agent.

“The rhetoric surrounding issues from the presidential campaign to immigration seems particularly shrill this year – and the amount of misinformation circulating gives us pause,” said Dixie Anderson, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. “We see Great Decisions as a welcome antidote to this trend, allowing experts to lead a civil discussion about global issues that affect people in every corner of the world – including those living right here in West Michigan.

“Our format allows people to draw close and gain a personal perspective on some of the most pressing issues of the day. As the longest-running discussion series in West Michigan, we make it possible to hear from an impressive group of scholars, researchers and policy makers without ever leaving Grand Rapids.”

The series kicks off Monday, Feb. 1 with Isra El-beshir, representing the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Her presentation, titled “It Isn’t Funny: A Political Cartoonist in the Arab World,” will focus on the political “khartoons” of Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese Muslim living in Qatar. Albaih’s politically charged work rose to prominence in the early stages of the Arab Spring protests of 2011.

Courtesy World Affairs Council of Western Michigan

El-beshir will discuss how Albaih utilized social media to quickly become an artist of the revolution. As his work was shared online and in the streets across Arab nations, he gained international prominence – and feared for his safety. His continuing relevance as an artist is apparent as he thoughtfully tackles issues such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Saudi-Iranian crisis and the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

Each of the eight presentations scheduled for 2016 will also feature an extensive question-answer session that allows speakers to present and then take questions from the audience.

For more information on sessions, dates and times, as well as detailed information on speakers, visit