A world of good: The Western Slope goes globalJul 31, 2017 12:41PM ● By Stephanie Summar
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand how events in one part of the world can affect the Western Slope. That’s where the World Affairs Council of Western Colorado (WACWC) comes in.
WACWC is the brainchild of Grand Junction City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein, former State Department Officer Duane Butcher and Colorado Mesa University Political Science Professor Tim Casey. Affiliated with the World Affairs Council of America, the local chapter aims to expand the conversation around international issues in our area.
“We felt that a lot of the groups in Grand Junction just weren’t creating a venue for this, and [that] it was really important to do so in western Colorado in particular because people can get very isolated out here,” said Casey, president of WACWC’s volunteer board.
It quickly became clear that locals felt the same way. After the council was established in 2014, its membership surged. There are currently about 150 members.
“Really big turnouts at some of our early events gave us encouragement that we were on the right track,” Casey said.
Since it began, the organization has facilitated approximately 30 public events, designed to inform the community, expand its cultural horizons and even inspire.
Speakers have included Nader Hashemi, who discussed the growth of the Islamic State group; Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea; and Rob Buckley, a former Peace Corps member who taught massage therapy to Nepal’s Untouchable caste—providing a valuable skill to a group Casey said “the world has kicked into the corner of a far corner.”
“Some of [the events] rely on local talent because we have some people in the valley that have expertise in certain fields,” he said. “In the early days it was really just the three of us working with the network we had to draw in speakers.”
Sometimes the board draws on its own expertise. For example, Casey partnered with fellow CMU faculty and WACWC member Bill Flanik to give a talk on the rise of Vladimir Putin.
Audience members are drawn to council events based on their individual interests. For example, discussions related to health care around the world typically attract more medical professionals. Every event inspires a sense of connectedness.
“It serves the need of a lot of people in this community who have lived abroad, or really enjoyed traveling abroad,” said Casey. “It allows them to feel that they’re not as isolated. They go to these talks and see a room full of people who are also interested in these questions. I think there are a lot of spillover conversations that carry out into the community.”
More than conversation, WACWC has inspired action, connecting Western Slope audiences with people making a difference around the world.
“People who are filmmakers get in contact with somebody else who has an interest in Russia or whatever it may be, and then they start talking, and before you know it, there’s some collaborative project,” Casey said.
On September 16, Gregory Young, PhD, whose research inspired “The Hunt for Red October,” will discuss the future of democracy in Turkey. The event takes place at 6 p.m. on the CMU campus.
WACWC events are open to the public for a fee of $10. Membership dues are $35 per year. For more information, visit www.wacwc.org.