ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2022) – Distinguished speakers across the political spectrum and from a diversity of cultures will convene at the 2022 St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs. The conference will bring together diplomats, scientists, lawyers, journalists and thousands of community members to provide both a global and local perspective on the biggest challenges facing our world.
For the first time, the conference on February 15-18 will be conducted in a hybrid format, with up to 300 people attending in person at USF’s St. Petersburg campus and others tuning in via an interactive virtual component due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Panel talks, discussion sessions and presentations this year are organized under four thematic pillars: climate, corruption, equality and migration.
“In the past, we have always had a smorgasbord of different topics related to global affairs or international issues. But over the past year, if you look at the news on any given day, you will find many of the headlines connected to one of these themes,” said Diane Seligsohn, chair of the conference. “For this year, we made the decision to focus on these four global issues and show the connection at the local and international levels.”
The conference will kick off at the Palladium Theater on February 15 with a conversation on how corruption shapes world affairs. Keynote speaker Sarah Chayes will discuss the effects of corruption on everything from the climate crisis to the halls of Washington, and why it has been a largely underreported story. Chayes served as special assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, spent a decade in Afghanistan where she was a special adviser to two commanders of the international troops in Afghanistan and was a journalist for National Public Radio in Paris.
“You see corruption everywhere, both in terms of money and influence in politics and also the connections between corruption and authoritarianism,” said Thomas Smith, co-founder of the conference and a professor of political science at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “Understanding corruption is important in classic geopolitical terms, but also when it comes to misinformation and climate denial.”
Other speakers include Michela Wrong, a writer who specializes on the issue of corruption in Africa and recently wrote a book about the Rwandan genocide, and Wendy Pearlman, a professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, who focuses on migration as it relates to war and conflict in the Middle East and has conducted interviews with hundreds of Syrians displaced as a result of the Syrian civil war.
The conference will also feature St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, who will help kick off the conference; former Mayor Rick Kriseman, who will discuss cities confronting climate change; and former Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, who will talk about the difference between health equality and health equity.
“I believe the structure of this year’s conference will allow us to bridge these big topics and think about them across boundaries and not just tied to one region,” Smith said.
The hybrid nature of the conference provides organizers with new challenges, such as seamlessly setting up video conferencing technology for those online and those attending in person, and organizing a healthy environment for an in-person event via social distancing and mask wearing.
But it also provides the opportunity for the conference to continue to expand its audience. Last year, more than 3,000 people tuned into the virtual conference, including attendees from Colombia, Sweden, Uzbekistan and 18 other nations.
“Last year allowed us to reach other parts of the country and other parts of the world in a way we never could have before, while bringing in speakers who would have been unable to participate if we had the event in person,” Seligsohn said. “While we are thrilled to bring back an in-person component with speakers and an audience, we will continue to make the Conference on World Affairs as accessible as possible this year and in the future.”
Attendees in Tampa Bay and around the world will be able to tune in virtually via vMix, a live production and streaming platform that looks more like a television-produced news show than a conference call. Those who cannot attend will be able to watch recordings of all the panel discussions afterward on the conference’s website. The virtual aspect of the conference will be run by the St. Petersburg Group.
For more information about the 2022 St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs and to register, visit: worldaffairsconference.org.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success, generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.
About the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs
The St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs is a cooperative venture of a group of civic-minded residents and community supporters. Panels of distinguished diplomats, military, media and academic experts discuss critical international issues of the day at each annual conference. Learn more at worldaffairsconference.org.