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Hassan Abbas  
Hassan Abbas, scholar and commentator on international affairs

February 2008

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Eminent speakers offer outlook on the world

A former president of Ecuador and a state department negotiator are among the speakers featured in this year’s Great Decisions lecture series.

Tomorrow’s lecture by Hassan Abbas, a BBC commentator and international scholar at Harvard University, kicks off the series. Abbas will speak on “Iraq: End Game.”

Every spring for the past 17 years, the Great Decisions lectures have drawn to campus eminent speakers who have addressed current issues from around the world and inspired discussion about the challenges of our time. Part of a national program, the series offers a perspective on topics that range across international politics, security and social issues, and the economy.

St. Norbert is one of three institutions of higher education in Wisconsin to host the lectures—only St. Norbert and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offer the complete series.

Great Decisions poses a particular challenge for Joe Tullbane (International Education). The Foreign Policy Association of America sets the topics for the series in November, leaving only a few short weeks to arrange the schedule. It is Tullbane’s job to recruit high quality speakers each year.

“We have had the lectures on campus for many years and I have been able to establish a considerable pool of speakers to contact on various topics,” Tullbane says. “It is relatively easy to find experts within a specific area, but I also want to make sure that we get good speakers who manage to capture the audience and to not talk over people’s heads.”

In order to provide diverse perspectives, Tullbane strives for a balance between male and female speakers, experts from the academic and non-academic spheres, leaders from governmental and other organizations, lecturers from the U.S. and from other countries.

“I generally invite two to three speakers before I confirm one, but it helps that they provide recommendations if they are unable to come themselves,” he explained, and concluded that “this year we have a particularly good line-up.”

The former president of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad, will speak on Feb. 20 on a potential shift to the left in Latin America. U.S. State Department negotiator Stephen Dachi will give a lecture on March 12 about “Talking with the Enemy.”

Tullbane says the series is an important outreach for the college because it invites the community to come and see what St. Norbert has to offer. The lectures serve to offer an outlook on the world and always attract a good audience.

Great Decisions runs Wednesdays Feb. 6 to April 2 (no lecture on March 19). Lectures start at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Howard Theater, within the Bemis International Center on campus.

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