8 times a year, IAF brings top foreign policy experts to Traverse City to speak on pressing global issues.  Always the third Thursday of the month at Milliken Auditorium, our 2017-2018 season begins September 21st!  Join us by either becoming a member  or by purchasing tickets at the door.

Reception: 5:15pm

Lecture: 6:00pm
Tickets available at the door: $15
Free for current students and educators
Click here for previous IAF speakers.

U.S.-China Trade: The Economics Behind the Politics

James Levinsohn, Professor of Economics, Yale University

Thursday, February 15, 2018
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

The U.S. and China together represent 40 percent of the world’s trade, but sharp differences persist in how the two countries see the trade relationship. Is it “very one-sided and unfair,” as President Trump called it during his visit to Asia in November, or does it represent “win-win” cooperation as described by Chinese President Xi Jinping?  And what does it mean for the U.S. economy, including jobs here in Michigan? 

Jim Levinsohn is the Charles Goodyear Professor of Global Affairs, Professor of Economics and Management, and the founding Director of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale. His research interests include international economics, industrial organization, economic development, and applied econometrics. 



Levinsohn’s fields of expertise are international economics, industrial organization, economic development, and applied econometrics. His recent academic research has focused on estimating the impacts of internal migration on household well-being in South Africa and estimating the demand for sanitation in Bangladesh. He has published widely on trade policy, youth employment policy, and the global corporation.

Levinsohn is the founding Director of Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. In that capacity, he oversees the Global Affairs major in Yale College, the Global Affairs MA programs, and Yale’s World Fellows Program. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has consulted for many government and non-governmental organizations as well as many multinational corporations.

He has served on the editorial boards of the American Economic Review, the Journal of International Economics, the Review of Economic Studies, and the Journal of Economic Literature. Both his teaching and his research have been recognized with major grants and awards.

“Rohingya Refugees: A Crisis Long in the Making”

Sara R. Curran, Professor of International Studies and Sociology, University of Washington

Thursday, March 15, 2018
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

“Ethnic cleansing” by the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has forced more than half a million Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh since August. Now, regional leaders are trying to arrange the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar, despite the fact that they are denied citizenship, protection, and even the right to travel within the country. Why is this happening in a region that was seen as making real strides toward democracy?  And what will be the ramifications of yet another large ethnic group, like the Palestinians and the Kurds, left stateless in today’s world?

Sara Curran is a professor at University of Washington and a scholar who specializes in internal migration in developing countries. This crisis is a critical topic in Michigan, a state that is home to some 15,000 migrants from Bangladesh as well as Rohingya refugees.


I joined the faculty of the University of Washington‘s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance in 2005.

I am Professor of International Studies, Professor of Public Policy & Governance & Professor of Sociology.   I am an Adjunct Professor of Global Health and affiliate faculty of the Center for Global Studies and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

I hold degrees from the University of Michigan (B.S., Natural Resource Management), North Carolina State University (M.S., Sociology and Economics), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Ph.D., Sociology).

Currently, I serve as director of the UW’s Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology.  Recently and delightedly, I was selected to join the Executive Council of UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s new Population Health Initiative.  This exciting endeavor provides an outstanding opportunity to amplify UW’s substantial health research, training, and applications across the entire campus on behalf of local and global healthy outcomes.

I research gender, migration, and environment in developing countries.  Current projects include social change and migration, climate change and migration, and disaster disparities. I have authored work that appears in ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social SciencesDemographyPopulation and Development ReviewSocial Science ResearchSocial ForcesTeaching SociologyJournal of International Women’s StudiesAmbio, Population & Environment, and Journal of Marriage and the Family.

Most recent c.v. [July 2017]

Call for Papers

I am editing a special issue of Social Sciences.  Please consider submitting a paper by October 1, 2017.

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor 

Professor Sara R. Curran

Special Issue Information

Ever since Ehrlich and Holdren proposed the IPAT model in the early 1970s, social scientists have sought to provide elaborations and evaluate the evidence against their model. However, the onset of global climate change research has overtaken much of the nuanced understandings associated with earlier empirical and theoretical work about population, development, and environment linkages. In this Special Issue, we seek to publish papers that reinvigorate this earlier line of inquiry with data and theories that can do so in the context of also understanding the current and future impact of global climate change. Innovative methodologies and a greater array of data sources at multiple levels of analysis should facilitate the observation and evaluation of linkages across these three domains. This Special Issue welcomes research papers at any scale, from global to local, but these should explicitly observe factors in each domain and the mechanisms linking across domains. Papers should conform to basic social science research expectations and include a theoretical framework and systematic evaluation of evidence.

Recent Talks

On March 14, 2017, I delivered the 10th D.B. Doran Annual Lecture on Population, Resources and Development at the Hebrew University.  You can view the talk here.  The program is hosted by Hebrew University’s Department of Sociologyand Glocal MA Program .

Recent Publications

Fussell, Elizabeth, Sara R. Curran, Matthew Dunbar, Michael A. Babb, and Jacqueline Meijer-Irons. 2017. “Weather-Related Hazards and Population Change: A Study of Hurricanes and Tropical Storms in the United States, 1980-2012.” ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. Volume 669 (1): 146-167.

Curran, Sara R. 2016. “Migration and Development: Virtuous and Vicious Cycles.” in Hooks, Gregory (editor). The Sociology of Development Handbook. Berkeley, CA: UC Press.  Pp. 311-339.

Curran, Sara R., Jacqueline Meijer-Irons & Filiz Garip. 2016. “Economic Shock and Migration: Economic Effects, Migrant Responses, and Migrant Cumulative Causation.” Sociology of Development. 2 (2).

Current Grants

PI, NICHD-R24 Population Research Infrastructure grant

PI, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to study family planning progress.

Current Service


Officer, Association of Population Centers

University of Washington:

Member, Executive Council, Population Health Initiative

Founding Faculty AdvisorJackson School Journal of International Studies, 2009-present

FounderJSIS Applied Research Projects, 2009-present

Member, Carnegie Corporation Grant team, Bridging the Divide. 2014-present.

Member, Admissions Committee, MAIS, Jackson School of International Studies

Member, Admissions Committee, PhD, Department of Sociology

Member, Thomas Francis and Stergachis Fellowship Committee, Department of Global Health


Global Hot Spot Header

Special Academic WorldQuest Fundraiser! 

Ethics and Transparency in Today’s Media” – A Conversation with NPR’s ombudsman, Elizabeth Jensen

Thursday, April 5, 2018
7pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

Presented in partnership with Interlochen Public Radio

It’s easy to criticize the news media. But maintaining impartiality and staying above reproach is more challenging than ever for journalists in our polarized society.

This special interactive presentation with NPR’s ombudsman and IPR’s executive director, Peter Payette, will explore real situations confronting newsrooms in preparing the daily news report.

“America and Iran: Confrontation or Coexistence?”

Reza Marashi, Research Director, National Iranian-American Council

Thursday, April 19, 2018
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

The Trump Administration has pledged to confront Iran and thwart Iranian ambitions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan. To this end, the president has strengthened the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s principle foe, and urged allies to block Iran’s regional expansion. Meanwhile, Russian President Putin’s determination to consolidate Russia’s influence in the region includes selective cooperation with Iran. As Iranian influence grows in the region, where does this leave the U.S.?

The U.S. and Iran have a long history of cooperation and Iranian Americans are one of the most successful immigrant groups in the United States. Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian-American Council and former State Department policymaker, joins IAF to discuss where U.S.-Iranian relations might be headed.


Reza Marashi joined NIAC in 2010 as the organization’s first Research Director. He came to NIAC after serving in the Office of Iranian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to his tenure at the State Department, he was an analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) covering China-Middle East issues, and a Tehran-based private strategic consultant on Iranian political and economic risk. Marashi is frequently consulted by Western governments on Iran-related matters. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He has been a guest contributor to CNN, NPR, the BBC, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times, among other broadcast outlets. Follow Reza on Twitter: @rezamarashi


“On Stage Together:  Ajmal Khan and Rajmohan Gandhi”

Two leading scholars look at the legacy of their families’ search for peace 

Thursday, May 17, 2018
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

When we think of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier, we typically think of the Taliban and other forms of Islamic extremism operating freely across the border with Afghanistan. Professor Ajmal Khan, our special guest visiting from Pakistan, is well acquainted with the harsh violence of the region, having been kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban from 2008 to 2012.

Khan will tell his story together with Professor Rajmohan Gandhi drawing on the lifelong struggle of the Gandhi (Hindu) and Khan (Muslim) families against violence and extremism. While Gandhi’s name is synonymous with non-violent civil disobedience, the story of Professor Khan’s family is equally compelling and includes Ghaffar Khan who became known as the “Frontier” (or Muslim) Gandhi for raising the largest army of nonviolent soldiers the world has ever seen to fight British rule with passive resistance and noncooperation. 

The two families have maintained their friendship for almost a century, but this will be the first opportunity to hear them jointly discuss the struggle for nonviolent solutions, particularly in their homelands.

 Through writing, speaking, public interventions and dialogues, Professor Gandhi has been engaged for 60 years in seeking reconciliation and establishing democratic rights. Professor Khan recently retired as vice chancellor of Islamia University in Peshawar and has been active in the main anti-Taliban party that has ruled northern Pakistan for almost 20 of the last 40 years.




“U.S./Mexico – A Border in Turmoil”

Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga
Two award-winning journalists who call the border “home”

Thursday, June 21, 2018
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

Bringing to a close IAF’s 2017-2018 season, we welcome two seasoned journalists who have been reporting from both sides of the border for more than three decades.

Corchado is the Mexico City bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News, author of two remarkable books about U.S.-Mexican relations, and a noted expert on immigration, drug violence and the myriad issues facing the U.S. and Mexico.

Kocherga has an equally impressive background as a TV journalist reporting from the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border region. She is currently borderlands director of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.