Fireside Forum

Our annual live lecture series co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pairs national and international guests with Wisconsin-based experts to explore and compare global and local aspects of issues facing our community.

Past Fireside Forums:  


2020 Fireside Forum: Policy & Politics in an Election Year

Domestic Politics and Diplomacy
Domestic political concerns often shape the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The impact of partisan politics on the Trump administration’s Ukraine policy is at the center of the impeachment proceedings. Ambassadors are often appointed from among the ranks of political supporters rather than the professional diplomatic corps. Relations with other nations are shaped by domestic issues driving the next election cycle. Join us for a timely look at what happens when politics does not stop at the water’s edge.

Nicholas Kralev, Author and executive director, Washington International Diplomatic Academy

Ryan Scoville, Professor of Law, Marquette Law School

Safeguarding Elections in a Digital Age
Moscow’s meddling in political contests around the world has been well documented. Wisconsin was among the states targeted by Russia in the 2016 election. As the 2020 campaign heats up, many people worry that not enough is being done to safeguard the integrity of our elections. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a conversation on how best to protect our democratic institutions from outside influence.  
Christian Caryl, Op-Ed/International Editor, The Washington Post
Mark ThomsenWisconsin Elections Commissioner and Partner, Gingras, Thomsen, and Wachs, LLP
Young Mie Kim, Professor of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW-Madison

2018 Fireside Forum: Local Issues, Global Solutions

Good ideas don’t need passports to travel. At this year’s Fireside Forum series, we’ll tackle four issues facing our community and compare how people here and elsewhere are responding to similar challenges.

Prior Experience: Starting a New Life without Starting Over

Being a refugee often means having your life reduced to a case file. Somali-born former refugee Hamse Warfa is using Blockchain (the technology behind Bitcoin) to create a way for refugees to bring their past lives with them as they integrate into their new situation. He’ll be joined by Dawn Tower, an MPS educator whose classroom at Washington High School of Information Technology includes many students from recently arrived refugee families.

Protecting Your Franchise: Election Integrity and Voter Rights

Voter access to the polls and a fair and credible electoral result are cornerstones of democracy. Kenyan lawyer, human rights activist and former UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will discuss responses to situations of voters’ rights under threat. Sachin Chheda, Director and co-founder of the Fair Elections Project, will provide a local perspective

Winning the Opiod War: Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention

As the opioid crisis in Wisconsin rages, Hannah Hetzer, senior international policy manager at the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, will explore how other nations have responded.Jon Richards, Attorney and former member, Wisconsin State Assembly will describe efforts here.

Help Wanted: Developing a 21st Century Workforce

Finding workers to fill job openings is a challenge in most advanced economies. Deputy Consul General Andreas Götze, head of the Economics section at the Consulate of Germany in Chicago will explain his nation’s model for education and workforce development. Marc Levine, Senior Fellow and Founding Director of UWM’s Center for Economic Development will explore the myths and realities of Wisconsin’s so-called skills gap.

Co-sponsored by:  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee PBS

Wisconsin Public Radio

2017 Fireside Forum: Wisconsin and the World in the Trump Era

In his inaugural address, Donald Trump promised an “America first” administration. This year’s four-part Fireside Forum series will explore what that might mean for Wisconsin and the world in three key areas: trade, technology and jobs; immigration; and energy policy. Then, in the final installment, we’ll look at how pushback against globalization and the existing political order influenced the US election and redrew political maps here and around the world.

Rusted Out: Trade, Technology and Jobs

Have bad trade deals undermined American manufacturing jobs, or are deeper structural changes in technology and the global economy to blame? Edward Alden, author of the widely acclaimed new book, Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy, will join UWM Emeritus Economist William Holahan to explore what happened to US manufacturing and what can be done going

Beyond the Wall: Immigration, Refugees and Society

Challenges to Donald Trump’s executive order suspending refugee resettlement and blocking the entry of travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries are working their way through the courts. Regardless of the outcome, however, immigration and refugee policy is likely to remain highly politically charged. Mary Flynn, Refugee Program Director for Lutheran Social Services will provide an update on how federal policies impact Milwaukee’s immigrant and refugee populations. Immigration attorney Kime Abduli will explain the legal issues involved.

Change of Climate: Energy Policy and the Environment

Within seconds of Donald Trump’s swearing in, the White House website page on climate change was replaced with one that emphasizes “vast untapped domestic energy reserves”. Alex Bozmoski from conservative DC think tank RepublicEn will explore free enterprise responses to climate change. Michael Vickerman from Renew Wisconsin will discuss how progressive policy and sound regulation can promote a renewable energy future.

Populist Pushback: Why Voters Are Worried and Mad

Irene Braam, Executive Director of the German Bertelsmann Foundation will discuss how globalization fears are allowing right-wing populist parties to flourish in the EU. Marquette University political scientist Julia Azari will explore how the electoral landscape closer to home fits into this changing global political environment.

Co-sponsored by:  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Additional support from:  Milwaukee PBS, Wisconsin Public Radio, and 89.7 WUWM


2015 Fireside Forum

  • Unsettled, Resettled: Refugees and Their Adopted Communities 
  • Hungry Cities: Urban Food Insecurity in Milwaukee and Around the World
  • Young, Frustrated and Mad: Global Youth Unemployment and Unrest
  • Bringing the Story Home: The Economics of International News

Watch the 2015 series.