Great Decisions

Great Decisions

Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. Every year, communities around the country convene to discuss eight international topics chosen by a panel of experts. The topics are summarized by leading scholars in the annual edition of the Great Decisions Briefing Book. Nationally, Great Decisions is sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association. Locally, Great Decisions is provided through a partnership between the Mill Race Center and Indiana University – Purdue University Columbus and sponsored by Innovate Indiana. For additional information, please call the Mill Race Center at 812.376.9241 or visit

Registration is required with the MRC Business Office. $35 for members, $45 for non-members

Week 1: Thursday, March 23, 6:30-8:00


Waging economic warfare consists of a variety of measures from implementing sanctions to fomenting labor strikes. Such tools are utilized by states to hinder their enemies, and in the case of the United States have been used as far back as the early 19th century. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, economic warfare has been the main means for the west to challenge Russia. How effective will these sanctions be at convincing Russia to cease its war?

Speaker: Michael De Groot, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, International Studies, IU Bloomington

Michael De Groot is an assistant professor of international studies in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington. His research focuses on the international, diplomatic and economic history of the Cold War, and the conflict’s enduring influence in world politics. His book on the global economic shocks of the 1970s and the end of the Cold War will appear with Cornell University Press later this year. Before coming to IU, he served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House and as a Henry A. Kissinger Predoctoral Fellow with the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and International Security Studies at Yale University. He received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in history from Stanford University.


Week 2: Thursday, March 30, 6:30-8:00


As climate change accelerates and drought and rising sea levels become more common, millions of people in affected regions must uproot themselves and seek safety elsewhere. Who are these affected individuals, and how might the United States aid them, and be affected by the migration?

Speaker: George Towers, Ph.D., Professor of Geography, IUPUC

George Towers serves as the Head of the Division of Liberal Arts at IUPUC. Since 2017, George has scheduled the speakers for the Great Decisions program at the Mill Race Center. Prior to his arrival at IUPUC in 2013, George spent 21 years on the faculty of Concord University, a public university in southern West Virginia. At Concord, George’s leadership roles included Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Associate Academic Dean. George has taught across the geography curriculum from human geography to cartography and geographic information systems (GIS) to physical geography. He has published research in political geography, GIS, cultural geography, and faculty development. George also conducts community-based geodemographic research on behalf of the Columbus Educational Coalition’s CivicLab.

George is an IU grad with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Spanish. He completed a master’s in Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Arizona.


Week 3: Thursday, April 6, 6:30-8:00


How will changes in the energy industries impact relations between countries?

Access to oil and gas has long held an influence over the politics of individual nations and their relations with others. But as more countries move toward sustainable energy, and supply chain shortages affect the availability of oil and gas, how will this change the way in which the United States interacts with the outside world.

Speaker: Jon Padfield, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management, IUPUC

Dr. Padfield is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with 24 years of experience in industry leading medical device, automotive, and security products companies, 4 years of experience running his own Analytics & Innovation training and consulting business and 8 years of full-time University teaching experience (Organizational Leadership, Supply Chain Management, Project Management, Statistics and Data Analytics). His work experience includes 14 years of Lean Six Sigma project work, teaching and mentoring. He has also designed and delivered corporate training on quality and productivity improvements to over 50 companies across 4 continents.


Week 4: Thursday, April 13, 6:30-8:00


Fears of global food shortages have followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted grain shipments from the major grain producer. But what about countries and regions that were suffering before this impending shortage? How is famine defined, and how is it different from simple food shortages? What if any remedies are there?

Speaker: Dieudonné Baributsa, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Entomology, Purdue University

Dr. Dieudonné Baributsa is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University with more than 20 years of experience in international development. Dr. Baributsa obtained his MSc and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He is the Director of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) Program, aimed at reducing grain postharvest losses in developing countries to improve food security and increase income of smallholder farmers. Dr. Baributsa has managed more than US $30 million in funding to implement projects in 35 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His activities are focused on applied research and innovative extension approaches to commercialize postharvest solutions to smallholder farmers in developing countries. His broad areas of interest include agricultural technology development, dissemination and commercialization; and digital solutions to increase productivity.


Week 5: Thursday, April 20, 6:30-8:00


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in widespread charges of war crimes and calls for justice. But what exactly are war crimes? Opinions of what constitutes a war crime have evolved, as have ways to identify and punish the perpetrators. How will the war crimes committed in Ukraine be dealt with?

Speaker: Timothy William Waters, Ph.D., Professor of Law and Val Nolan Faculty Fellow; Associate Director, Center for Constitutional Democracy, IU Bloomington

Maurer School of Law professor Timothy William Waters’ scholarly interests include the inter-state system, war, and transitional justice. He is the author of Boxing Pandora: Rethinking Borders, States, and Secession in a Democratic World (Yale 2020), and editor of The Milošević Trial – An Autopsy (Oxford, 2013). He has also published in leading journals of international law and international relations at Yale, Harvard, NYU, Virginia, Duke, Stanford, George Washington and others. Waters has served as a consultant for the Open Society Institute and Human Rights Watch, and also worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, where he helped draft the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Hungary.


Week 6: Thursday, April 27, 6:30-8:00


Electoral results in Latin America over the past four years have led many observers of the regional/political scene to discern a left-wing surge in the hemisphere, reminiscent of the so-called “Pink Tide” that swept the area some 20 years ago. But how much do these politicians actually have in common? What implication does their ascendency have for the region?

Speaker: Michael D. Snodgrass, Ph.D., Professor of Latin American History; Director of Global and International Studies, IUPUI

Dr. Snodgrass is a Professor of Latin American History and the co-founder and current director of the Global & International Studies Program in IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts. His research focuses on the histories of migration and labor movements in both Latin America and postwar Europe. He received his PhD in Latin American history from the University of Texas-Austin.


Week 7: Thursday, May 4, 6:30-8:00


For the past ten years, the United States and China have been locked in a competition for who has the greatest global influence. One major point of contention is the status of Taiwanese sovereignty, which has become even more relevant recently with the possibility that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prompt China to take similar action regarding Taiwan. How will the United States engage a China which is increasingly seeking to expand its sphere of influence?

Speaker: Milind Thakar, Ph.D., Professor of International Relations, University of Indianapolis

Dr. Thakar is a Professor of International Relations in the University of Indianapolis’ Department of History and Political Science. His interests are in the areas of democratization and comparative politics, particularly in the region of South Asia. He has published articles in journals such as Asian Survey, India Review and Strategic Analysis. Originally from India, Dr. Thakar holds two master’s degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He earned the Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Georgia.


Week 8: Thursday, May 11, 6:30-8:00


By the fall of 2022, Iran was in a state of turmoil due to widespread protests against government-enforced wearing of the hijab, a failing economy, an ineffective new president, and the looming succession of the country’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Abroad, renewal of the Iran nuclear deal seemed doubtful and tensions remain high between Iran, Israel, and Arab states. Many Iranians have lost hope of a better future, and the country seems at a crossroads. How should the United States deal with it?

Speaker: Douglas Woodwell, Ph.D., Professor of History and Political Science, University of Indianapolis

Dr. Woodwell teaches courses in international conflict, terrorism, research methods, and the history of nuclear weapons and power. Dr. Woodwell has produced several publications and authored two books:  Nationalism in International Relations and Research Foundations: How We Know What We Know. He has served in several prominent university positions including Vice President of the Faculty Senate and Chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee. He is active in the community as well, serving as the regional director for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, as a member of the Indianapolis wheelchair tennis team. He also serves on the Board Directors of Accessibility, a non profit/state partnership focusing on service and advocacy for the disabled, as well as on the board of the Indiana Council of World Affairs, where he plays a major role in setting up the annual Academic World Quest competition for high school students. He holds a Bachelors degree from American University in International Studies, Masters in German and European Studies from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. from Yale University in Political Science.