Scranton’s Luncheon Seminars Examine Global Topics with Universal Impact

Feb 10, 2015

During the spring semester, the Schemel Forum’s World Affairs Luncheon Seminars at The University of Scranton will continue to offer area residents the opportunity to keep up with developments around the world and understand how they affect all of us.

“In the process of organizing this semester’s World Affairs seminars, it occurred to me that all six distinguished lecturers are looking for ​better ways to cope with complex and disturbing developments around the world. On the home front, I’m hoping that we can count on our firmly rooted sense of fairness and justice to prevail against the growing and alarming disparity between haves and have-nots,” said Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum.

The series begins on Friday, Feb. 27, with “American Foreign Policy: Is History a Useful Guide?” presented by Fredrik Logevall, Ph.D., professor of history and vice provost for international affairs at Cornell University. Dr. Logevall’s book “Embers of War” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in history.

“It’s been said that those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, but too often leaders who act with history in mind nevertheless repeat it to their disadvantage,” said Dr. Logevall. “This talk will explore how history can be useful, even essential, to understanding the present, while also stressing that knowledge of the past is not enough; it must be supplemented by other approaches.” The luncheon seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall.

On Monday, March 2, Brendan O’Leary, Ph.D., Lauder Professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, will present “The Causes and Resolutions of National and Ethnic Conflicts: A Global Review.” Dr. O’Leary has been the senior advisor on power sharing with the Mediation Support Unit of the Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations, political advisor to British and Irish political parties and governments during the Irish peace process, and a regular advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. His lecture will examine the causes and (intermittently) successful resolutions of national and ethnic conflict across the world, paying special attention to the success (or otherwise) of power-sharing systems.

“I will offer critical evaluations of standard explanations of national and ethnic conflicts in the mass media and academe,” said Dr. O’Leary, “paying particular attention to contemporary Ireland, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.” The seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall.

On Wednesday, March 11, Philip Khoury, Ph.D., associate provost and Ford International Professor of history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will present “The Arab Spring: Why Did it Happen and Where Is it Headed?”

“I am particularly interested in trying to understand why the Arab Spring did not occur much earlier than it actually did, given the deeply authoritarian nature of the regimes, which ultimately experienced major revolts starting in late 2010,” said Dr. Khoury. “I am also interested in explaining why so far these revolts have mainly occurred in republics and not in the monarchies scattered across the Arab world, especially given the anachronistic nature of these monarchies in the early 21st century. Finally, I want to try to explain in particular why the Arab Spring in Egypt has been reversed, why the Syrian regime has survived so far, and the phenomenon of the Islamic State that has emerged in Syria and Iraq.” The luncheon seminar will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall.

Jill Dougherty, public policy fellow at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., will present “De-Coding Putin” on Wednesday, March 18.

“Vladimir Putin’s ideology is key to his actions on the international stage, but few people understand the basis of his thinking,” said Dougherty, former CNN Moscow Bureau chief, who has reported on Russia’s president for more than 15 years. In this talk, she will explain the experiences and forces that shaped Putin’s world view, which has been dubbed “Putinism” – an amalgam of Czarist imperial ambitions, Soviet symbolism, Great-Russian nationalism and elements of a modern society that lives by its own rules.

“Putin was born and raised in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and his mother survived 900 days of starvation and bitter cold during the Nazi siege of the city,” said Dougherty. “Although he was born after World War II, the suffering his family endured scarred him for life. As Russian president, Vladimir Putin has vowed he will not allow Russia to be vulnerable again, and he employs elements of Soviet patriotism to rally Russians to support him and his policies. Putin’s ideology is more malleable – and less defined – than the Marxism/Leninism that formed the conceptual basis of Communism. But it is key to understanding the world according to Putin.” The luncheon seminar will take place in Redington Hall of Collegiate Hall.

On Friday, April 17, David Myers, Ph.D., professor of Jewish history and chair of the History Department at UCLA, will present “A Brief History of the Jews: From Abraham to Scranton.” Dr. Myers will explore the history of one of the most enduring peoples in the world, the Jews, from the time of their founding patriarch, Abraham, to the latest incarnation of Jewish life in 21st-century America.

“In the course of this passage, I will speak about two unlikely keys to the survival of the Jews over the ages: anti-Semitism and assimilation,” said Dr. Myers. “Actually, looking at the big picture, the Jews’ survival is just as unlikely as the keys to it.” The luncheon seminar, which is presented in cooperation with the Judaic Studies Institute at The University of Scranton, will take place in Redington Hall of Collegiate Hall.

The series will conclude on Wednesday, April 29, when William Kiehl, president and CEO of PD Worldwide International consultants, will present “Soft Power for Hard Times.”

“‘Soft power’ is a term popularized by Harvard professor Joseph Nye,” said Kiehl. “In contrast to ‘hard power,’ which is usually thought of as coercive, kinetic or military power, ‘soft power’ employs traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy, and economic and other leverages to entice or persuade interlocutors, rather than using force to accomplish foreign policy goals. Also known as ‘smart power,’ these techniques are far less costly in terms of financial and human resources and, when used effectively, longer lasting as well. While traditional diplomacy involves often-secret negotiations between or among governments, public diplomacy is a more open process of information dissemination and exchange programs, which bypass governments and deal directly with publics.” The lecture will take place in the Rose Room of Brennan Hall.

The World Affairs Luncheon Seminar Series is sponsored by Munley Law.

All Luncheon Seminars run from noon to 1:30 p.m. Participants can register to attend one luncheon for $20 per person or $30 per couple, or for the entire series of six luncheons for $110 per person or $160 per couple (Schemel Forum members attend free). To register, contact Emily Brees, Schemel Forum assistant, at 570-941-6206 or

For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum, at 570-941-4089 or

The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, created by friends of the late Father Schemel in his loving memory, and spearheaded by Harmar Brereton, M.D, the forum has grown from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Through the forum the University offers to the community its most valuable assets — its faculty members and the wealth of knowledge that they possess.

Back to Top