Each year the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs continues to improve the quantity and caliber of our high-profile panelists. This year is no exception. With over 30 Panel Discussions, the 2019 Conference will feature speakers and panelists of intelligence officials, diplomats, media and academic experts for 3-1/2 days of discussions about critical international issues. Below are the speakers that have confirmed their attendance. Check back often, because more are added right up to the last minute.
Chas Freeman is an eminent diplomat, writer, and educator. He was a career United States diplomat, rising to the highest levels of the foreign policy establishment. Both as ambassador to Saudi Arabia and in high level positions in China, he became a point person for dealing with Middle East and China issues.
Chief Executive Director of The Africa International Media Group, Media Consultant and Adviser on African Affairs. She also heads the "Club Millenium" in Paris. Born in Cameroon, educated in Cote d'Ivoire, France and Austria, she graduated from the universities of Abidjan, La Sorbonne in Paris and Vienna (German Studies, Political Science and History). Ms. Biloa is also an alumni of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, where her name is on the Hall of Fame, and of the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance. Besides being a frequent TV guest ( TV5Monde, France24, Aljazeera, RFI, i-Télé, ARD, ZDF) to comment current news and African politics, she is involved in a hydro energy project in Africa and seeking partners. Ms Biloa is fluent in French, German and English, on top of several African languages
Ambassador Blake served for 31 years in the State Department in a wide range of leadership positions. In 2009, he was nominated by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, serving from 2009-2013, for which he was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award.
Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. His research, writing and teaching focus on state and local government law, the law of the political process, government ethics and property.
Adriaan Hopperus Buma is a public health physician who served in the Netherlands Navy for 38 years in various Fleet, Marine Corps and Joint Command and Staff functions. Among others he served as Medical Plans Officer at NATO HQ in Northwood (UK), Dep. AFOR Medical Advisor (Albania) and Senior Medical Officer on St. Martin after Hurricane Luis. As Senior Fleet Surgeon he was in charge of the national medical planning for UN missions to Eritrea (UNMEE) and Liberia (UNMIL). He was Commanding Officer of the joint deployable surgical teams which brought him to Iraq and Afghanistan. His final position was Inspector-General Military Health Care.
Ambassador (Ret.) Prudence Bushnell is the author of the recently published story, “Terrorism, Betrayal and Resilience: My Story of the 1998 US Embassy Bombings.” In it she recounts policy and leadership lessons acquired as a U.S. foreign service officer in India, Senegal, Kenya, Guatemala and Washington, D.C.
William Dowell spent more than a decade as a foreign correspondent for TIME Magazine in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Prior to that he worked for both NBC and ABC News on a wide range of foreign assignments that included the war in Vietnam, the revolution and post revolution in Iran, the civil war in Lebanon, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, various conflicts in Africa and international terrorism, along with the impact of climate change on developing countries.
Jamison Firestone is a New York attorney and human rights / anti-corruption crusader who inadvertently helped set off a chain of events that caused a Russian government lawyer to walk into Trump Tower. Mr. Firestone founded Russia’s first independent foreign law firm in 1993 with $1,000.
Michele Kidwell Gilbert hails from New York where she taught Ancient and Renaissance art history at The New School for Social Research, New York University, and the College of New Rochelle. A published writer, her lectures have been offered in diverse venues including the United Nations and in association with missions, consulates, cultural centers, charities. She participated with the African Burial Ground National Monument in a Parks Department Long-Range Interpretive Plan and selected for The Congressional Arts Caucus paintings by high school student which temporarily adorned the walls of the United States House of Representatives.
Prior to moving to Miami, Ms. Harper held two consecutive positions in Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa: Director General and Senior Arctic Official (2013-16) and Director General, Trade and Technical Barriers (2009-13). In 2004, she had been posted to the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC, where she became Minister (Economic) in 2008. She ha d previously been Ambassador in Montevideo, Uruguay (2001-04), after having held trade positions in Yaounde’, Paris and Buenos Aires. Before joining the Government of Canada, Ms. Harper taught at both Cambrian College in Sudbury, and George Brown College in Toronto.
Judith M. Heimann is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and a non-fiction writer. One of the first Foreign Service spouses to become a diplomat in her own right, Judy spent most of her adult life abroad — chiefly in Western Europe but also in Southeast Asia (the location of most of her books) and Central Africa.
Vicki J. Huddleston is a distinguished retired U.S. diplomat and expert on U.S.-Cuban relations and African Affairs. Most recently, she is the author of Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba, which focus on her three years as head of the US diplomatic mission in Havana.
Dennis Jett is a founding faculty member and professor of international affairs of the School of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University. A former career diplomat, he served 28 years in the State Department in a wide range of positions including as Ambassador to Peru, Ambassador to Mozambique, on the National Security Council, as Deputy Chief of Mission in Malawi and Liberia, and in Argentina and Israel.
Doctoral student in Linguistics, Atheena Johnson is currently conducting research on the use of new technologies in the language acquisition of second/foreign languages. She is currently based in Paris, France and is both fascinated and concerned by the ample possibilities to incorporate these technologies into teaching English as a second language with a driving question originating from the case of content verses form.
William Jordan served for 30 years (1981-2011) as a political officer in the U.S. Foreign Service specializing in the Arab world and France. His overseas assignments included Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; Tunis, Tunisia; Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; Paris, France; and Algiers, Algeria, where he served in his final posting was as Deputy Chief of Mission. His responsibilities in the Arab world included reporting and analyzing foreign policy trends, especially as they related to the United States, as well as internal politics, human rights conditions, and the rise of radical Islamist forces. From 1997-2001, Mr. Jordan was the reporting officer in Paris for labor issues and internal politics. He returned to Paris in 2007-2009 to work on the Near East and North Africa as well as Russia (including during and after the 2008 Georgia crisis).
Felicien is a refugee from Africa, where for years he and his family struggled to move freely throughout his country to find food and clean water. Felicien lived in a United Nations camp beginning in 1997 and recalls waking up each day feeling sad, as he faced poverty and sickness. In 2015 he and his family received the opportunity to resettle in the United States and his life changed. He was full of “excitement, living a dream come true.”
With almost 40 years of trial experience, Gregory W. Kehoe has a national and international practice focusing on the representation of individuals, corporations and financial institutions in federal and state courts, and international tribunals. Mr. Kehoe worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Defense for over 20 years with postings in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America
Judy Kreith is a professional dance educator and choreographer. She received her MA Degree from Stanford University. Her mother, Marion Finkels Kreith, is the key inspiration for the documentary film, Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: a haven in Havana. Judy has extensively studied Cuban dance and while in Cuba, began research into the Jewish refugees’ diamond polishing industry that flourished in Havana during the Second World War, working on-site with Cuban historians. Judy contributes her research and knowledge, along with her personal connection and passion for this project and its potential impact. She has spoken on this topic to many groups, including a conference at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.
Paul Kubicek is Professor of Political Science and Director of the International Studies Program at Oakland University in Rochester Michigan. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1995. He has also taught in Turkey, Ukraine, and Austria, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Slovenia in 2007. Much of his research is on democratization, the European Union, Turkish politics and foreign policy, and post-communist Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He has published in journals such as Comparative Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Political Studies, and Democratization. His two most recent books are Political Islam and Democratization in the Muslim World (2015) and (co-editor) Democratic Consolidation in Turkey: Micro and Macro Challenges (2016). He also serves as a contributor to Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report and is the editor of Turkish Studies.
Katrina Kubicek is a medical anthropologist and is currently the Associate Director of the Community, Health Outcomes, and Intervention Research (CHOIR) Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She also co-directs the Community Engagement program of the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) at the University of Southern California. She received her doctorate in Health Behavior Research from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Mr. Lohr is the co-founder and partner of EDI Advisory Group, a development and decision support group specializing in global fluency and transnational engagements. The firm helps organizations navigate an increasingly interdependent, multicultural, and changing global marketplace and work environment.
Bruce Mabley is a retired Canadian diplomat having served abroad in Paris, Islamabad, Cairo, Amman and Ankara. Dr. Mabley has also taught Philosophy and Political Science at Laval, McGill, Carleton and Concordia universities. He holds a Doctorat in Philosophy (thesis: La pensée politique d’Albert Camus) from Université Laval in Québec City. In 2003, he was accepted in the Faculty of Law to perform post-doctoral work in Islamic Law and Politics until 2006.
Since retiring as a Senior Foreign Service Officer (Minister-Counselor) in 1995, Ambassador Marks has engaged in consulting, lecturing, and writing, primarily on terrorism, interagency coordination, United Nations affairs, and complex international emergencies. Ambassador Marks was recalled to active duty in 2002-5 to serve as the Department of State’s advisor on terrorism to the United States Pacific Command.
In a long career at TIME magazine, he served as editor of its World section in New York, its Asian edition in Hong Kong and its European edition in London. He has taught at New York University’s London Center, Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Institut d’etudes politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris.
Nabintu Mujambere is a Congolese educator based in Bukavu, Democratic Rep. of Congo (DRC). After completing her university education in Belgium, she returned to Bukavu in 2008 to establish a non-profit education center in Bukavu to serve children, youth and families. In 2012, her work spawned a new faith-based US nonprofit organization, Future Hope Africa, Inc. The Kanega Education Centre provides programs for after-school tutoring, language studies, music and art programs, and youth leadership clubs. The center focuses on children from families that cannot afford public schooling. Ms. Mujambere and her staff also introduced youth environmental programs – coordinated with local schools, and adult entrepreneurial training to Bukavu. She has instituted a nascent micro-loan program to help those who graduate the entrepreneurial training course.
Scott is a lawyer, writer, teacher, and international development professional. She has worked with non-profits for over three decades, living in seven countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and traveling to 35 more. She is especially interested in issues around gender equity and education. Scott created and produced a play, SPOILED, about violence and masculinity in India and the US; designs curricula for an educational venture; and is currently working on a book about the lives of a group of girls and nuns in a shelter home in India. She serves on the board of the US National Committee for UN Women, is President of the Gulf Coast Chapter of UN Women, and is on the Grants Selection Committee for Dining for Women.
Dr. Prager is a marine scientist and author, widely recognized for her expertise and ability to make science entertaining and understandable for people of all ages. She currently works as a freelance writer, consultant, and science advisor to Celebrity Cruises in the Galapagos Islands. She was previously the Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, FL, which includes the world’s only undersea research station, and at one time the Assistant Dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Prager has built a national reputation as a scientist and spokesperson on earth and ocean science issues and is a sought after speaker for public-oriented events. She has appeared on several shows such as: The Today Show and NBC News, Fox News, CNN, the Discovery Channel and was a consultant for the Disney movie, Moana.
Monique Quesada is the Diplomat in Residence (DIR) based in Miami at Florida International University and Miami Dade College. She covers the Florida educational district that spans from Daytona Beach to Key West, as well as Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. As the DIR, she engages with University and High School students, as well as with professional organizations, to raise awareness about careers and internship opportunities in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service and Civil Service corps.
Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs (Netherlands, 1968) was initially educated as a translator at the Brussels State Economics Institute where she majored with honors in French and German Her interest in other cultures as well as her humanitarian drive brought her to Georgia where she initially worked for the International Red Cross and the Dutch Consulate.
As a former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Lynda Schuster began her career in 1980 in the paper’s Dallas bureau, covering agriculture in the Southwest. Soon after, she was named the Central America correspondent, reporting on the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In 1983, she became the Journal’s Mexico bureau chief.
Robin Truesdale is a documentary filmmaker and the founder of Two Hands Films. She brings her storytelling abilities and craft to this project as the cinematographer, editor, and technical director. Robin began her career as a news editor for a Denver television station. After years of constructing news and educational stories through video, she was introduced to documentary film’s powerful potential to communicate deeper stories about people, cultures, and issues of the times. Her work deals primarily with social justice, cultural, and humanitarian issues. Robin received her BS and MS Degrees in Journalism from the University of Colorado.
Linda M. Whiteford holds a PhD and MA in Anthropology, and a Master’s degree in Public Health. She is a Professor of Anthropology and Founding Co-Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Social Marketing for Social Justice at USF. She helped establish the dual degree program between the USF department of anthropology and the College of Public Health; and graduate certificates in ‘Health, Water, and Culture’ with USF anthropology and the Colleges of Engineering and Public Health; a graduate certificate in Medical Anthropology; helped establish the USF Centers for Community and Public Scholarship, Sustainability, and USF World. In addition, she has represented USF internationally in Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Exeter, Dubrovnik, and London.
John Zogby, founder of the “Zogby Poll” and the Zogby companies, is an internationally respected pollster, opinion leader and best-selling author. He has joined with his sons Benjamin and Jeremy in a new company called John Zogby Strategies, a strategic visioning firm specializing in preparing companies and agencies for the coming wave of dynamic changes. A much sought-after speaker, he is represented by the American Program Bureau of Boston. Zogby is also the inaugural Director of the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship at his alma mater, Le Moyne College.
Doug is the instigator of the St Pete Conference on World Affairs, having participated in a similar event last year in Boulder, Colorado. When he moved to St. Petersburg in 2007 to take care of aging parents, he noted that international issues did not get the time and attention in the lives of busy Floridians that they warranted. The presidential elections only reinforced his conviction that an international conference in St. Pete that talked about issues, and unfettered by political rhetoric, would be a true contribution to the community. Doug was a career Foreign Service Officer at the US State Department and retired with the rank of Ambassador after a 34-year career. He served in Europe: Brussels, Rome, Milan, Paris, Lisbon, Sarajevo, and for three years in Cairo. He was the US Deputy Permanent Representative during both the Bosnia and Kosovo wars, and he worked for several years in the late seventies on the negotiations that later resulted in the independence of Namibia. At the Embassy in Cairo, he worked on the peace process as well as liaison with the Egyptian military. As Ambassador to Bosnia, he renegotiated wide changes to the wartime constitution, which in 2006 were ultimately rejected by the ethnically-based parties in power in 2006. He was the Distinguished Ambassador in Residence at the University of Miami from 2008-2012. Ambassador McElhaney is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Diane Seligsohn is an American journalist and university lecturer who has lived in Paris for over 3 decades and now divides her time between France and St Petersburg, Florida. Diane received her BA from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and her MA from NYU. She began her career in journalism at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s New York office, where she worked for 5 years before moving to France.
Thomas W. Smith is professor of political science and director of the Honors Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He co-founded the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs with Ambassador Doug McElhaney. Smith holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the College of William & Mary and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. He has published numerous journal articles in the fields of human rights, international humanitarian law, and Turkish politics and foreign policy. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Contemporary Korean Studies. From 1997-2000 he taught international relations at Koç University in Istanbul. His second book, Human Rights and War Through Civilian Eyes, was just published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.