Great Decisions

What is Great Decisions?

Great Decisions is a national program of the Foreign Policy Association (FPA). In North Carolina, the Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte is the state coordinator. Great Decisions is the largest non-partisan citizen education effort of its kind and has provided quality information and tools for over fifty years.

Each year, the Foreign Policy Association publishes a Great Decisions Briefing Book. The book highlights eight of the year’s most significant foreign policy issues. The book provides facts, charts, and nonpartisan analysis of the “great decisions” facing the U.S. public and policy makers. Maps, online services and other resources are available to complement programs. In addition, a DVD series and Teacher’s Guide are available for purchase on the Foreign Policy Association’s website.

What are the FPA topics for 2024?

  1. Pandemic Preparation
  2. Science across Borders
  3. NATO’s Future
  4. U.S.- China Trade Rivalry
  5. Climate Technology and Competition

What is the Charlotte Lecture Series?

The Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte coordinates a local community lecture series annually. The Charlotte Great Decisions Lecture Series consists of five weekly sessions and is an opportunity for citizens to meet, discuss and learn about some of the issues facing our world. Each week a local expert from UNC Charlotte or nearby colleges and universities provides additional perspective on the topic of interest and answers questions regarding the information presented in the Briefing Book and through the lecture. A registration form is available below.

Date, Time, and Location

All lectures will be held in a hybrid format (virtual or in person) from January 31- February 28th 6:30 pm – 8 pm at the Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, Auditorium 201 -320 E. 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202, unless otherwise noted. You may register for in person or hybrid using the registration form below.

Wednesday, January 31, “Pandemic Preparation”

Daniel Janies, Ph.D., Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics / Co-director for Computational Intelligence to Predict Health and Environmental Risks (CIPHER), UNC Charlotte

In her (FPA)  article “Pandemic Preparedness: ending the deadly cycle of panic and neglect” Claudia Reynolds outlines the experiences of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.  She also reviews the history and future of the role of governments in pandemic preparedness.  I spoke in January 2015 on this same stage about “weather map for infectious diseases”.  Consistent with Claudia Reynolds, I have argued that public health systems can be run with more predictive and preparatory concepts rather than a crisis-on crisis-off mentality.  I will illustrate the biology of spread of pathogens and the progress we have made in making pandemic response more predictive.

Wednesday, February 7th, “Science across Borders”
Damien Williams, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Data Science, UNC Charlotte

In thinking about the possibilities and risks of techno scientific research, we must consider the ways in which our stated desired outcomes conflict with the processes by which we seek to attain them. In particular, when considering the breadth and potential impact of research into so-called artificial intelligence, researchers must consider what it means to ostensibly seek to create systems which can interpret and apply natural human language and concepts, but which are designed, built and trained in ways which almost guarantee that certain kinds of humans will be excluded from and possibly even harmed by these systems. Taking cues from Mila Rosenthal, executive director of International Science Reserve, of how we might engage with climate crisis and climate action across borders, Williams will discuss flaws, benefits and possibilities of the present and future frameworks for artificial intelligence research in academia as well as in the public and private sectors.

Tuesday, February 13th, “NATO’s Future”
Steve Sabol, Ph.D., Professor, Department of History, UNC Charlotte

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2024.  A remarkable achievement considering that its raison d’êtra was to contain Soviet expansion in Europe and provide a mutual framework for defense.  The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, however, did not result in NATO’s demise, but just the opposite.  NATO continues to expand, most recently Finland and Sweden requested membership following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.  One of the goals posited by Sarwar Kashmiri, the briefing book essay’s author, is to trigger “a national discussion that generates ideas to strengthen and maintain NATO’s future role in transatlantic security.”  Sabol’s presentation is designed to provide historical background about NATO from 1992 to today in order to generate discussion about NATO’s continuing role for Europe’s defense, its past and current mission, and possible steps to maintain a viable future the most successful peacetime alliance in modern history. 

Wednesday, February 21, “U.S.-China Trade Rivalry”
Cheryl Brown, Ph.D., Chair & Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration

After President Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China, the official normalization of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) occurred under President Jimmy Carter on January 1, 1979. A major question emerging from the time of normalization until now is one of cooperation or conflict amid rivalrous geopolitical events as Cheryl Brown has witnessed over the years studying and interviewing in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia; serving as a scholar-escort for a delegation sent to China by President Reagan; and researching China’s technological development in healthcare, radio frequency identification (RFID), the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and humanoids. In the AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation sideline meeting on November 15, 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden and PRC President Xi Jinping acknowledged the conflict and the need for cooperation. In “Technology Denial and Sino-American Rivalry,” Jonathan Chanis presents technology denial as a “non-violent strategy” to address conflict. Brown’s presentation is designed to address this option in a socio-geopolitical context.

Wednesday, February 28, “Climate Technology and Competition”
Joshua Miller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration

Historically, the United States and China have led the world in global carbon emissions. Since 2010, China and the United States have also been the world’s leading economies. Given their shared responsibility for contributing to climate change, and their shared means for mitigating its effects, cooperation between the US and China is more important today than it has been in a generation. However, these global powers are also divided over a host of thorny security, humanitarian, diplomatic, and economic issues. This talk will explore the possibilities for Sino-American cooperation in the fight against climate change. After surveying the many stumbling blocks on the road to progress, we will emphasize the many points of agreement between these great powers and show how they can achieve their shared interests.

Cost Information

Lectures are free. Great Decisions Briefing Books will not be available onsite. If you are interested in purchasing a book, please do so online at the Foreign Policy Association’s website.


Indulge in a delightful experience with complimentary tea, coffee, and cookies served during the lectures.


Please utilize the parking facilities at Dubois Center. For detailed information about parking, please visit Dubois Center Parking.

Nearby Restaurants:

Public Transportation:

  • Consider using the Blue Line light rail for a convenient and eco-friendly transportation option that drops you off at 9th street station, ½ block away from the Dubois Center. 


Please submit the registration form for Great Decisions 2024.

Evaluation and Feedback

The online evaluation form for the 2024 lectures:

For further questions or information, please send an email to


The Great Decisions lecture series, offered by the Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte, is co-sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, Charlotte Sister Cities, Young Professionals of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, and the International House.