World Affairs Council of Atlanta sets stage for engaging and promoting global issues
GSU-based nonprofit connects students and alumni with international leaders, diplomats and expertise

Atlanta has long touted itself as a center of international business, and its intellectual hub is becoming the World Affairs Council of Atlanta based at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

Since its formation two years ago as a nonpartisan nonprofit funded through gifts made to the GSU Foundation, the council has gathered worldwide leaders in government, business, academia and nonprofit organizations to share their concerns and knowledge about issues that affect everyone.

In the past six months, council programs focused on emerging markets in Africa; global issues affecting women; President Barack Obama’s foreign policy; famine in Somalia; business competition in China, and more.

“To become a true leader as an international city, we have to be known as a place where a wide-ranging set of leaders are engaged in serious discussion of global issues and international affairs,” said WAC president Wayne Lord, a Ph.D. who teaches international business, commercial diplomacy and corporate social responsibility at Robinson College and who for several decades worked in international agribusiness.

Established in March 2010, the council grew out of the shared vision of GSU President Mark P. Becker, whose five-year strategic plan includes the goal of achieving distinction in globalizing the university, and Robinson College Dean H. Fenwick Huss.

“Wherever our graduates work – whether in Georgia, U.S.A. or the Republic of Georgia – they will be part of the global economy,” Huss said. “Council programming helps them understand the issues they will face through a global lens.”

The March 22 council event focused on Korea and brought together leaders from the U.S. Department of State, South Korea, the Korea–Southeast U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Korea Economic Initiative to discuss “Future of Korea: U.S. Security and Trade.”

The audience ranged from Korean War veterans to local business people to GSU students with an eye to international careers.

“I can meet people and network at these events, and for anyone at large, this is a great opportunity to engage in global affairs with Atlanta business, government and nonprofits,” said T.J. Ertley, a Robinson College graduate student pursuing an M.B.A. with an international business concentration and an M.S. in finance.

The Korea speakers interested him because in May he will join a Robinson College study abroad program to South Korea and Hong Kong.

Ertley, 28, has his tuition paid for through his work as a graduate research assistant at the council. “We are researching country risk, which may be a great career path for me,” he said. “The risk index of a country will show how much risk is involved in doing business there.”

The Korea program took place a week after KORUS, the trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, took effect. Sangmin Lee, the first secretary of South Korea’s embassy in Washington, detailed how Georgia exports, such as carpets, will benefit from the end of tariffs.

Joshua Huck of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Korean Affairs pointed out the significance of President Obama’s upcoming third trip (the most of any president) to South Korea.

This alliance stood as a contrast to the instability in North Korea, described in detail by the former U.S. ambassador to that country, Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard, who visited there 11 times. “This really is an isolated and difficult country to think about in rational terms,” he said.

With funding from Coca-Cola, UPS, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and others, the council has sought to connect and leverage international groups and assets in the city.

These include the 70 consulates, 20 of which have full diplomatic status; more than 150 nationalities in metro Atlanta; Atlanta city government; the city’s stature as the center of global health programs; and the home of the world’s best known commercial brand – Coca-Cola.

One of the council’s target audiences is Atlanta’s large population of young professionals and entrepreneurs, which include students already engaged in the workplace as well as alumni. The Council’s Young Leaders program focuses on growth through collaboration.

“This is Atlanta’s untapped demographic, of the late 20s and 30s, half of whom already have significant international experience,” Lord said. “It’s important for students and young leaders to have the opportunity to hear, see and shake hands with international leaders.”

The World Affairs Council in Atlanta is one of 90 local chapters “dedicated to educating, inspiring and engaging Americans in international affairs and the critical global issues of our times,” according to the website of the World Affairs Councils of America.

At an April 12 breakfast program, the council’s chair – Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta Chairman Dennis Lockhart – will moderate a panel discussion, “Bridging the Border: Reinforcing Ties Between the U.S. and Mexico.” For more information, visit

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424