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Great Decisions

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Great Decisions is an annual lecture series hosted by the Tyler Public Library, League of Women Voters, and American Association of University Women. The topics are provided by the Foreign Policy Association each year. 

Great Decisions occurs in January and goes through the beginning of March. It's every Wednesday from 12 - 1 p.m. in the Taylor Auditorium.

Information on the topics below is from the Foreign Policy Association website.

Great Decisions 2020 Speakers & Topics

January 15 | The Philippines and the U.S. presented by Ed. Santos

About the Speaker 

Ed Santos is a proud "American by Choice." Currently on his 28th year of Physical Therapy practice, he
migrated to Tyler from Manila, The Philippines. Now at home in East Texas, he is a business partner with JBC Computers. ed santos

Through the years, he has been active with the Better Business Bureau, Tyler Sunrise Rotary, Tyler YMCA, Diocese of Tyler - Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, and numerous Filipino American Associations. He is a graduate of leadership Tyler Class 14 and a regular participant in Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce programs.

He served for eight years in the US Navy and received his American citizenship in 2010. He has many times been invited to speak in the naturalization ceremonies at the federal courthouse where he has been very well received. Ed Santos lived through the Marcos dictatorship and witnessed the emergence of democracy through the 1986 Peoples Revolution in the Philippine Islands.

About the Topic

The Philippines has had a special relationship with the United States since the islands were ceded by Spain to the United States after the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century.  However, since the election of Rodrigo Duterte, the country has pivoted more toward China, and away from the U.S. Duterte has also launched a large-scale war on drugs that many criticize for its brutality. What does the future hold for U.S, relations with the Philippines?

January 22 | China's Road into Latin America presented by Dr. Colin Snider

About the Speaker

dr. snider

Colin Snider is Associate Professor of Latin American History at the University of Texas-Tyler. He specializes in social movements, military regimes, state-society relations, and human rights & memory in Latin America. He has published articles on Brazil's student movements in the Cold War; on university autonomy and social mobilization in Brazil; on education and student activism in the 2013 Brazilian protests; and on human rights, memory and transitional politics in the 21st century. He has also published book chapters on struggles for university reform in Brazil, and on Catholic student activism in Brazil. Current projects focus on higher education in Brazil in the twentieth century, and on memory struggles over the legacies of the 21-year military dictatorship.

About the Topic

As the Trump administration continues to withdraw from the world stage, China is looking to fill the void. How does Latin America fit into China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan? How will the relationship with China affect the region? Should the U.S. be concerned about China’s growing “sphere of influence?”  

January 29 | Climate Change and the Global Order presented by Dr. Betsy Ott

About the Speaker

Dr. Margaret "Betsy" Ott has taught various Biology courses for Tyler Junior College since she moved to
Tyler in 1982. She primarily teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II and Biology for Science Majors I & II. She earned her doctoral degree in Forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University with a research area of biodiversity in plantation understory. dr. ott

In 2004, Dr. Ott was elected President of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). In 2016, she was given the Honorary Membership Award of NABT. She served as president of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) in 2015-16. She is currently a mentor in an NSF-sponsored HAPS initiative to encourage scholarship in teaching and learning among 2-year college instructors.

Dr. Ott's teaching philosophy is to "make sure you get your money's worth!" She believes that the scope of Anatomy and Physiology, coupled with the critical nature of working in the Health Sciences, requires that students strive to meet a very high level of mastery in this subject. She does her best to help each student reach that high level. For science majors, teaching the nature of science and the skills essential to critical inquiry provide the foundation for the study of life on earth.

Outside of teaching, Dr. Ott's interests include keeping up with environmental issues (biodiversity,
conservation, climate change), the intersection of science and society, mechanisms of evolution, and science education.

About the Topic

Climate change has become one of the defining issues of our time. As much of the world bands together to come up with a plan, the U.S. remains the notable holdout. What is the rest of the world doing to combat climate change? What impact will the effects of climate change have on global geopolitics?

February 5 | Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking presented by Dr. David Scott

About the Speaker

dr. david scottDr. Scott began working at The University of Texas at Tyler in the Fall of 2015 after a thirteen year career in municipal policing in Texas. His research interests focus on criminal justice education, domestic and family violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes, and crimes against children. Dr. Scott teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that focus upon Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Investigations, Criminology, and Criminal Procedures. He is also an undergraduate criminal justice student advisor and serves on graduate level master thesis committees. Dr. Scott earned his Master of Public Affairs and Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas as Tyler. His Ph.D. in Public Affairs is from the University of Texas at Dallas.

About the Topic

Almost every nation has enacted laws criminalizing human trafficking, and international organizations, governments, and NGOs sponsor a large variety of projects to curb trafficking and slavery. Billions of dollars have been allocated to these efforts. What is the international community doing to combat slavery and trafficking? What are the experiences like for those being trafficked?

February 12 | U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle presented by Dr. Colin Snider

See Bio above. 

About the Topic

Combating illegal immigration has become a priority of the Trump administration. The Northern Triangle of Central America, made up of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, is a special target of the administration, which hold the nations responsible for the large flow of migrants from Latin America to the U.S. With funds from the U.S. cut, how can the Northern Triangle countries curtail migration?

February 19 | India and Pakistan presented by Dr. Jeffrey Crean

About the Speaker

Dr. Jeffrey CreanJeffrey Crean is a Professor of History at Tyler Junior College. His dissertation at Texas A&M University, “With Fear and Favor: A Rising China and the Path to Normalization, 1954-1971,” explored the role worries about the future rise of China to great power status played in building public support for Nixon’s outreach to the Chinese Communists. His research focuses on the interactions between diplomacy, domestic politics, and the U.S. military. He has previously taught courses in history, government, and international affairs at Texas A&M, Blinn College, and the Bush School, and published articles in the journals Diplomacy & Statecraft, War & Society, and the Journal of American-East Asian Relations.

About the Topic

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode a wave of Hindu nationalism to a historic reelection in 2019. His first order of business was to revoke the special status granted to the Kashmir region, inflaming the rivalry between India and Pakistan. How will the Kashmir situation affect the region, both economically and politically?

February 26 | Red Sea Security presented by Dr. John Barrett

About the Speaker

john barrettJohn Barrett is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. He has a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a Master of Arts in InternationalRelations/International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a Ph.D. in Religion, Politics and Society from Baylor University. His research focuses on interactions between politics and Christianity and he is the author of, Evangelism and Politics: A Christian Perspective on the Church and the State. Copies are available through his website,

Prior to joining the faculty of LeTourneau University, he worked in the private sector serving as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. He and his wife Karen have seven children: Nissah, Christian, William, Jonah, Annah, David, and Isaac.

About the Topic

The Red Sea has remained vital for global trade since the time of ancient Egypt. Once home to the spice trade, the Red Sea now sees millions of barrels of oil a day transported across its waters. With major nations like China, France, Italy, and the U.S. building large ports and bases in the region, what does the future of the region look like? How important is Red Sea security for global security? Can the region be a place of global cooperation?

March 4 | Artificial Intelligence and Data presented by Dr. Robert Schumaker

About the Speaker

dr. schumakerDr. Schumaker is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler). He received his PhD in Management from the University of Arizona in 2007, an MBA degree in Management and International Business from the University of Akron in 2001, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1997. He is also the Associate Editor for DSS, has authored a book on Sports Data Mining, several book chapters, multiple journal articles in DSS, ACM TOIS, CACM and JASIST as well as had his research featured in the Wall Street Journal and numerous other media outlets.

Dr. Schumaker’s overall research interests involve the uses of technology to acquire, deliver and make predictions in a variety of business-related environments. These interests further branch into computer
mediated communications, data science, human computer interfaces, machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, sentiment analysis and textual data mining. In particular, he focuses on the areas of question/answer systems, textual/financial prediction and sports data analytics.

About the Topic

Policymakers in many countries are developing plans and funding research in artificial intelligence (AI). Global growth is slowing, and not surprisingly, many policymakers hope that AI will provide a magic solution. The EU, Brazil, and other Western countries have adopted regulations that grant users greater control over their data and require that firms using AI be transparent about how they use it. Will the U.S. follow suit?