World Affairs Council of St. Louis Welcomes New Intern

Ryan Lofton is a senior at Lindenwood University. He is studying Marketing. Currently, he lives in Wildwood, Missouri and enjoys spending time with his family. Ryan is sociable and enjoys interacting with new people and prides himself in making new and meaningful connections. He has traveled within the U.S., Dominican Republic, Mexico and most recently Costa Rica. He is eager to learn as much as possible during his time as an intern with the World Affairs Council of St. Louis and looks forward to further understand the importance of international matters and global culture in relation to the St. Louis metropolitan area. Ryan is excited to apply the knowledge he gains during this internship into a Marketing career in the future.

Join WAC for Future of Korea Program May 20

Three experts on Korea policy will offer perspectives and analysis of the critically important Korean Peninsula on May 20.

The program is presented by the World Affairs Councils of America and the Korean Economic Institute.

Their visit to St. Louis will include a stop at Boeing, including a lunch panel discussion.

Afterward, they will speak at an open forum at St. Louis University, beginning at 5:30 pm. To register for the free event, visit:

Future of Korea, St. Louis Speakers

Ms. Jihyun Lee,  First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea

Recently at North Korea’s Nuclear Negotiation’s Division, she was in charge of bilateral consultations with the U.S. and ASEAN countries on dealing with North Korean nuclear issue and mapping up with strategy for the upcoming denuclearization negotiations. At this job, she has built capability for risk management and negotiation skills while dealing with North Korea’s 5th and 6th nuclear tests and historic inter-Korean talks, which led to US-DPRK summit talks held in Singapore, June 2018.  She has been posted to Korean embassy to the US since Feb, 2019. She is in charge of public diplomacy, mainly focused on ROK government’s foreign policy including on North Korea, ROK-US alliance, and other key security issues.  From 2012-2014, she completed Master’s program in International Relations at Columbia University and Public Policy at Hertie School of Governance (dual degree), where she learned quantitative data analysis, presentation skills, and basic programming capabilities, and applied her knowledge and skills in the fields of geopolitical risk assessment, crisis management and peace-building process in post-conflict areas.

Timothy Johnson, Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State
Tim Johnson is a Foreign Service Officer in the Department of State Office of Korean Affairs.  His prior assignments included Embassy Tokyo, Japan and Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi.  Prior to joining the State Department, Tim was a corporate attorney in private practice working in New York and Tokyo.  He has also served as a Law Clerk to Senior U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  Prior to attending the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, VA, Tim developed and managed programs in support of democratic institutions in Asia for an international non-governmental organization.  Tim holds a B.A. from Carleton College in Northfield, MN.

Mark Tokola, Vice President, Korea Economic Institute of America
Mark Tokola is Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America in Washington, D.C. He retired as a U.S. Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor in September 2014 after a 38-year career. His last posting was as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in London. Previously he had served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassies in Seoul, Republic of Korea; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and Reykjavik, Iceland. Among his other postings were two tours at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at Embassy London, and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in the Hague. He also served as Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO) in Baghdad from 2007-2008.  Mr. Tokola received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for his work on implementing the Dayton Peace Accords while serving as Political Counselor in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1997-1999. He holds a BA in International Relations from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and an LL.M. in European Community Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.







World Affairs Council mourns loss of Robert Fischer

The World Affairs Council of St. Louis mourns the loss of Executive Director Emeritus, Robert Fischer and celebrates his many contributions to the St. Louis region and all those he met.

January 3, 1937-April 28, 2019

Robert A Fischer, Emeritus Director of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis (center), displays a proclamation from the Mayor of St. Louis proclaiming March 2, 2018 as “Robert A Fischer Day” in the City of St. Louis. At left is WAC-STL President Pierce Powers, Jr., and at right is Past President Keepak Kant Vyas.

Robert A. Fischer Sr., a native of St. Louis, dedicated himself to improving the world around him, through industry, philanthropic service and the advancement of understanding among people across cultures.

Bob graduated with a degree in Business from Washington University in 1959 and was a lifetime member of the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity.

For 16 years, Bob served as the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis, a program operated through the U.S. State Department and supported by many leading St. Louis businesses, which connects citizens of the St. Louis region with leaders from across the globe to promote “citizen diplomacy” as well as improving global understanding. Through his efforts at the World Affairs Council, Bob directed a host of programs designed to benefit high school and college students, teachers and college professors, as well as retirees and those of modest means living across the St. Louis region. A central part of these efforts included hosting events for ambassadors from other nations to the United States of America, among whom he has helped forge positive and lifelong friendships.

“Bob was a man for others,” recalled WAC-STL President Pierce Powers. “He never met a stranger and was passionate in keeping St. Louis connected to the world for the greater good. A true friend who contributed greatly to our council, region and country.”

Under Bob’s leadership, the St. Louis Chapter of the World Affairs Council also awarded the “International Humanitarian of the Year” award, recognizing an individual or institution from the St. Louis region that accomplished extraordinary work to favorably impact a global humanitarian crisis. Throughout his work, Bob consistently kept the focus on advancing the prestige and recognition of others rather than drawing the spotlight to himself. In 2018, Bob was named Emeritus Director of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis and March 2, 2018 was declared “Robert A. Fischer Day” by the Mayor of St. Louis.

“Bob Fischer was a dedicated family man who focused his career on representing some of America’s leading companies in Asia,” said Dr. John Lewington, a member of the WAC-STL board.  “After his corporate career, Bob became a dedicated and caring Executive Director for the World Affairs Council in Saint Louis. Bob was a trailblazer whose guidance and advice will be sorely missed.”

Throughout his career before taking over the St. Louis Chapter of the World Affairs Council, Bob served as a leader in cutting-edge industries both in St. Louis and across the nation. Bob rose to the level of President of McDonnell Douglas Automation Company and, within McDonnell Douglas, also served as chairman, CEO and of a member of the executive board of the Information Systems Group, all based in St. Louis. Bob was the corporate vice president for the South Carolina-based Computer Sciences Corporation, corporate vice president for the Ohio-based Structural Dynamics Research Corporation, president and general manager of the Massachusetts-based Computervision, and senior vice president for Dun & Bradstreet in Wilton, Connecticut. Bob spent more than 18 years in sales and marketing for International Business Machines in St. Louis and elsewhere across America where he consistently earned the company’s “Golden Circle” award for outstanding achievements.

Upon graduation from Washington University, Bob joined the Armed Forces, serving in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1961 as a Captain and Nike Hercules Missile Officer.

Among the organizations he served as a member of the board of directors are:

• The World Affairs Councils of America (Board of Directors)
• The World Affairs Councils of South Carolina (Board of Directors)
• Missouri Baptist Hospital, St. Louis (Board of Directors)
• St. Luke’s Health Corporation, St. Louis (Board of Directors)

Bob enjoyed traveling the world—Paris and Tokyo were among his favorite destinations—as well as fishing and building model railroads.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Ervin R.G. Fischer and Minnie (van Berg) Fischer, and brothers, Ervin George Fischer Jr. and Richard Fischer. He is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Annabelle (Cole) Fischer, their five children—John Douglas Fischer, Robert A. Fischer Jr., Gregg Fischer, Holly A. (Fischer) Kramer, and Nancy (Fischer) Gavett—six grandchildren—Virginia “Ginni” Fischer, Erin (Fischer) Turberville, Robert Kramer, Sarah “Bobbi” Fischer, Michael Bradford and Alina (Kramer) DiRito—as well as two greatgrandchildren.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the World Affairs Council of St. Louis.

Price: $ 0.00

Great Decisions: The Rise of Populism in Europe


As the last lecture of the Great Decisions series on April 25, Dr. Costas Azairiadas, Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis, spoke about how recent changes in Europe have led to a rise in populism. He emphasized how drastic changes to the world have left citizens on edge, hoping for a return to stability which many populist leaders promise.

Using history as an example, Dr. Azairiadas explained that populist leaders would not call themselves populists, as the term usually has a negative connotation. However, these leaders appeal to the masses by promising them a voice in the government and solutions to the issues they see in their everyday lives.

In Europe, there have been many changes that are shifting the way that people work and live. First, refugees from Africa have flooded into many southern European countries at the same time that unemployment for young people is at an all time high. Furthermore, technology is changing life as they know it. Therefore, these changes make people worried, leading them to support populist leaders.

Dr. Azairiadas completed his lecture by drawing a comparison to the changes that are happening in the United States today. Although he was reluctant to make predictions, he does believe that populist leaders will affect the future of U.S. politics as well.

Thank you to all of those who have attended the Great Decisions Lecture Series this year. Although this completes the series, please join us for future World Affairs Council of St. Louis events. More details can be found on our website.

Great Decisions: Dr. Richard Millett Discusses U.S. Relationship with Mexico

One of the most talked about bilateral relationships since 2016 has been the U.S. relationship with Mexico.  On April 18, Professor, Author and Perry Award for Excellence in Security and Defense Education recipient Dr. Richard Millett discussed the history of U.S. relations with Mexico as well as where he sees this vital relationship heading amid the tense political climate in the U.S.  Not surprisingly, immigration was a prevalent topic and found Dr. Millett disagreeing with the current administration’s belief that building a wall will solve all of our immigration issues.

Also stressed was the importance of improving economic conditions in not only Mexico but other Latin American countries, specifically those in the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala).  A huge reason so many people in these countries are heading north, Dr. Millett argued, is due to the rampant violence in their own countries.  These individualsIMG_0126 are doing what they must in order to protect and provide for their families.  Dr. Millett also showed how many of the most pertinent issues facing Latin America are connected to one another and that in order to solve one problem, another may have to be solved first.

Please join us this Thursday, April 25 at the Ethical Society of St. Louis for what will be the final Great Decisions lecture of the year when Dr. Costas Azariadis, Professor of Economics at Washington University, presents on the rise of populism in Europe.

Career Foreign Service Officer reflects on work in Africa, Caribbean

As a career foreign service officer, Regina Dennis-Nana was often the person on duty at the embassy when Americans traveled to the Caribbean and Africa.

Her perspective on the importance of the State Department and diplomacy was practical and impassioned, especially when describing the role of the U.S. embassy when earthquakes struck Haiti in 2010.  By having built relationships over time in the country, she was able to find and work effectively with a wide range of colleagues in a chaotic, frantic time.

The presentation also included “The State of the State Department”, a video produced by the Foreign Policy Association.  The message: During the Trump administration, the usual ways of conducting diplomacy have been upended. Many positions in the State Department have never been filled, and meetings with foreign leaders such as Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin have been undertaken with little advance planning. What effect are these changes having now, and how will they affect ongoing relationships between the United States and its allies and adversaries?

Great Decisions is presented every Thursday at the St. Louis Ethical Society and on April 4 at Venture Cafe.  It is made possible through UMSL’s International Studies program.

Great Decisions: Best Nuclear Strategy is Dialogue

Brent Shapiro discusses nuclear strategy

Brent Shapiro outlined the challenges around nuclear arms and the choices confronting policy makers in the Great Decisions lecture series March 21.  Noting that everyone in the room had lived the majority of their lives under the threat of nuclear war, he observed that a combination of luck, communications and good judgment had kept “the genie in the bottle.”

For leaders of nuclear-armed countries, the lessons of Libya and Iraq stand clear, he said.  Once their country gave up nuclear weapons, their grip on power dissipated.  The only country to give up their nukes peacefully, Shapiro noted, was South Africa as a prelude to the end of Apartheid.

When considering nuclear strategy, Shapiro said, the key is to put one in the shoes of a nuclear-owning leader and ask what they fear most – a neighbor, their own population, or a superpower.  By addressing those fears, disarmament may be possible.

As to Russia’s threatened development of hypersonic nuclear weapons, Shapiro expressed skepticism of their reliability.  “It does’t matter how many bullets you have,” he said, “it’s whether you have a way to deliver them.”

Please join UMSL’s International Studies & Programs Department and the World Affairs Council for the fourth segment of the Great Decisions Lecture Series on March 28, 2019. In order to provide insight and perspective on the topic: State of the State Department. Longtime Foreign Service Officer Regina Dennis-Nana  will be moderating the session.

The Great Decisions Lecture Series is free and open to the public. The series entails eight weekly sessions moderated by local experts on the most critical challenges to United States foreign policy. For the complete list of topics, please click here.

This event runs for eight consecutive Thursdays in March and April from 12 – 1:30 PM. Great Decisions will be held at the Ethical Society in Clayton at 9001 Clayton Rd – St. Louis, MO 63124.

Just added! Join us at Venture Cafe on April 4 for a special presentation of “Cyber Conflict and Geopolitics” presented by Kurt Aubuchon of Maryville University.

Russian delegation in St. Louis for review of Journalism and Women’s Issues

Open World Leadership Center, a legislative branch agency, will send a delegation of Russian journalists to St. Louis, MO March 22-30, 2019. While in St. Louis, Open World delegates will be hosted by the World Affairs Council of St. Louis.

The delegation of five includes Ms. Anna Sakharova (freelance journalist, Takie Dela (Such Things)), Ms. Darya Serenko (department head, Peresvetov Lane Gallery), Ms. Elina Ibragimova (Freelance Journalist), Ms. Galina Mosalova (creative producer, Takie Dela (Such Things)), and Ms. Sofya Shimanskaya (self-employed blogger). The group is accompanied by Ms. Polina Nozdrina-Plotnitskaya a bicultural facilitator, and Mrs. Irina Bronstein LaRose, a bilingual translator.

Prior to their arrival in St. Louis, delegates completed an orientation in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill.

In St. Louis, delegates will collaborate on best practices for transparency in journalism, protection of women’s rights, coverage of the #MeToo Movement, and the HIV crisis in Russia. Delegates will meet with staff of Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri, and local leaders in the St. Louis area. Additional activities include KWMU-St. Louis Public Radio, Washington University, St. Louis American newspaper, and other prominent organizations. The delegation will stay in the homes of local residents serving as hospitality hosts.

More than 27,000 current and future leaders from post-Soviet era countries have participated in an Open World exchange program. Open World offers one of the most effective U.S. exchange programs to promote mutually beneficial options for depolarized engagement between future national leaders.

About the World Affairs Council of St. Louis
Founded in 1948, the World Affairs Council of St. Louis is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization that connects the citizens of the Gateway region to the world. The Council’s mission is to sponsor programs that promote understanding, engagement, relationships, and leadership in World Affairs. To learn more, visit

About Open World
Open World Leadership Center, a legislative branch agency, supports Congressional outreach for Members of Congress and conducts exchanges that establish lasting professional relationships between emerging leaders and their U.S. counterparts in democratic institutions. Delegates are provided with extensive exposure to American politics, civic life, and are hosted by American families. In 1999, Congress established Open World. Since then, more than 27,000 Eurasian leaders are alumni of Open World. To learn more about Open World, please click here:


Meet Our Spring 2019 Interns

Each semester, WAC-STL is privileged to host talented students from our local partner universities and colleges.  From designing programs for international visitors, to administrative work, to planning events, we depend on the interns to improve our efficiency, offer new ideas and perspectives and to energize all of us.  

Coral Alonso  is a Mexican student currently enrolled in the last semester of Lindenwood’s MBA program. She completed her BA in International business from LU as well. She used to be a Synchronized Swimmer and belong to Mexico’s National Team where she traveled and visited several countries. That is when she found her passion for International Affairs and economic development research for developing countries. Before this internship, she was an intern for the International Institute where she gave classes to immigrants and refugees. In this new internship, she hopes to learn more about US international relations.

Margaret Kenney is a sophomore at Saint Louis University from St. Paul, MN. She is studying Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. After she receives her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education by pursuing either a J.D. with a concentration in International Law or a Ph.D., in Political Science. Alongside interning with the World Affairs Council, Margaret participates in Model United Nations, Presidential Scholar Society, and the Honors Program at Saint Louis University. She looks forward to expanding her understanding of international relations, particularly in the St. Louis area, during her internship at the World Affairs Council. 

Sierra Taylor is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She is studying International Studies and has a minor in French. Sierra is also a resident assistant at Southern Illinois University. After graduating from SIUE, she plans to start her own translation business. She is originally from the south suburbs of Chicago. She studied Spanish in high school, but French has always been one of her favorite languages. She decided early on in high school that she was going to learn French in college. When she’s not working, Sierra likes to study languages and read. In the future, she hopes to travel to other countries to increase her fluency in French.

Marina Vela is from Barcelona, Spain, but currently studying at Lindenwood University, St. Charles Missouri. She is majoring in International Relations, Political Science, and Public Administration. Currently she is on the water polo team at Lindenwood and loves traveling. She hopes to travel after she finishes her degree.

To learn about interning with WAC-STL, visit our “Get Involved” page.


200 Ring in Year of the Pig

With a sumptuous feast, dancers, musicians and kung fu students, nearly 200 people joined WAC-STL at Mandarin House. 

Thanks to our sponsors and our donors for the silent auction: Jeff and Dayna Morris, Waterway, Rosalita’s Cantina, Bentley Photography, Missouri Botanical Garden, Kaldi’s Coffee, AAA, Parkway Hotel, Purina, Top Golf, Sheldon Concert Hall: Bernstein and Barber, Amp Up, Crystal Barker, SugarFire, Donna Kirtian, Corporate Transportation, Dewey’s Pizza, Omaha Steaks, Flamingo Bowl, Pieology, Chase Park Plaza, Pierce Powers, Cyrano’s, Lona’s Lil Eats, St. Alban’s Country Club, Repertory Theatre, St Louis Regional Chamber, Linda Kurz, Burt Follman, The Hatfield Family, Victor Wang, Schlafly Bottleworks, Parker’s Table, Cheshire Inn, Hi-Pointe Drive-In.

  Check out pictures on our Facebook page and learn about upcoming events at

Also, we depend on membership to help us bring international programming to the community and to develop custom itineraries for international visitors.  Joining as an organizational member or as an individual, retiree, couple or student, is super easy and makes a difference for us all.