We are pleased to announce the keynote & breakout speakers for the 2018 World Affairs Seminar!


Barry Rassin

Barry Rassin

President Elect 18-19, Rotary International

Opening Address: Saturday, June 23rd, 7:00PM

Barry Rassin earned an MBA in health and hospital administration from the University of Florida, and is the first fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives in the Bahamas. He recently retired after 37 years as president of Doctors Hospital Health System and continues as an adviser. He is a lifetime member of the American Hospital Association and has served on several boards, including the Quality Council of the Bahamas, Health Education Council, and Employer’s Confederation.

A Rotarian since 1980, Rassin has served Rotary as director and is vice chair of The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees. He was an RI training leader and the aide to 2015-16 RI President K.R. Ravindran.

Rassin received Rotary’s highest honor, the Service Above Self Award, as well as other humanitarian awards for his work leading Rotary’s relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. He and his wife, Esther, are Major Donors and Benefactors of The Rotary Foundation.

President Rassin will join World Affairs Seminar via video, as he will be in attendance at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada during the seminar.

Neal Patel

Neal Patel

Principal Product Manager, Amazon Headquarters (Seattle)

Keynote #1: Saturday, June 23rd, 8:00PM

Neal Patel is Principal Product Manager for Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Prior to arriving at Amazon, Patel was Head of Human/Social Dynamics at Google, where he led a team of software engineers and data scientists charting the terrain of human emotion: how, why, and what we feel. He is also a computational sociologist. His approach to product management applies advanced empiricalmethods and frameworks for understanding motivation, social structure, and people to connect products with users. Patel founded and was Technical Project Lead with Google’s Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP), developing three hardware and software R&D efforts advancing scientific and business application of emotional processing. He has also authored many research projects including Project Oxygen—a Wiley Award-winning study quantifying the impact of effective management—featured in The New York Times and Harvard Business Review. Patel holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Chuck Quirmbach

Chuck Quirmbach

Reporter, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR)

Keynote #2: Sunday, June 24th, 3:00PM

Chuck Quirmbach is a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio who covers developments and issues in Southeastern Wisconsin that are of statewide interest. He has numerous years of experience covering state government, elections, the environment, energy, racial diversity issues, clergy abuse claims and major baseball stadium doings. He enjoys covering all topics. Chuck is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio and several other regional or national radio outlets. He has won several individual awards, and several as part of a collaboration with other reporters. He will be discussing the limits of innovation, as seen in the way that innovation can often exact a terrible toll on the environment.

Will Allen

Will Allen

Founder & Former CEO, Growing Power

Keynote #3: Sunday, June 24th, 6:30PM

Will Allen founded Growing Power in 1995. He bought property with two rundown greenhouses in 1993 and started to sell his produce. It evolved into the nonprofit Growing Power as Allen brought young people into his farming and started thinking about food as a tool for social change.

Will Allen was a high school state champion in basketball at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Allen played collegiately for the Miami Hurricanes at the University of Miami, where he was on basketball scholarship. He was the first African-American to play basketball for the University of Miami.

After college Allen was selected by the Baltimore Bullets in the 4th round (60th pick overall) of the 1971 NBA draft. He never played in the NBA, but appeared in seven games with The Floridians of the ABA during the 1971–72 season. He also played professionally in Belgium.

Allen retired from basketball in 1977, when he was 28. Upon retirement, Allen moved to his wife Cynthia’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Allen was awarded a $500,000 “genius grant” in 2008 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The award recognizes people with “exceptional creativity, as demonstrated through a track record of significant achievement, and manifest promise for important future advances.”

Allen’s mission has often been to create new infrastructure to grow food to increase access to affordable, healthy food. According to its website, Growing Power works with more than 70 projects and outreach programs in Milwaukee and across the country. Growing Power extends beyond dirt and seeds with vermicomposting and aquaponics.

Alex Runner

Alex Runner

Director of Thought Leadership & Executive Communications, Johnson Controls

Keynote #4: Monday, June 25th, 9:30AM

Alex Runner leads executive communication and thought leadership for the Global Products division of the Johnson Controls Building Technologies & Solutions business. In this role, he helps tens of thousands of product developers, engineers, plant employees and data scientists around the globe share the vision of Johnson Controls – to make a safer, smarter and more sustainable world. Johnson Controls earns approximately $30 billion in revenue through serving customers with industry-leading solutions and technologies. We’ve decreased the carbon footprint of Stanford University, increased energy efficiency for the Sydney Opera House and implemented intelligent video for the city of London. Some of the most trusted brands in building technology belong to Johnson Controls – from YORK and HITACHI to Tyco and SIMPLEX. Alex has worked in communications other Fortune 500 companies, as we all in academia and government. He is a former journalist and a native Milwaukeean.

Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and multi industrial leader serving a wide range of customers in more than 150 countries. Their commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat.

Dr. Jon Riehl

Dr. Jon Riehl

Transportation Systems Engineer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Keynote #5: Monday, June 25, 3:30PM

Dr. Jon Riel is Transportation Systems Engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an expert on transportation systems management and operations (TSM&O), traffic operations, transportation engineering, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), connected and autonomous vehicles, transportation economics. He will be discussing the present and future of autonomous automobiles.

Dawn Borowski, Alice Lundstrom, and Diane Voit

Dawn Borowski, Alice Lundstrom, and Diane Voit

Volunteers, Plowshare Fair Trade Marketplace and Education for Peace Center

Keynote #6: Monday, June 25th, 6:30PM

Borowski, Lundstrom, and Voit are volunteers at the Plowshare Fair Trade Marketplace and Education for Peace Center, located in Waukesha, WI. All three are Members of the Board of Directors for Plowshare, a nonprofit business established in 1989 that sells fair trade products from over 30 economically developing countries. They are excited to have the opportunity to share stories of their innovative artisans.

Dawn Borowski

Dawn Borowski

Ever since I was a young child, I loved learning about different counties and cultures.  I remember my father bringing home a delegation of executives from Japan when I was 9 years old.  I was enthralled asking them tons of questions about Japan.  My interest in diverse cultures and desire to travel began at that moment.

During college, I traveled to Spain, Morocco, and Holland to help quench my thirst for discovery.  After college, I ended up as a AAA Travel Supervisor for 28 years, visiting many countries and learning about their cultures.  I also was an adjunct Travel instructor for MATC where I shared my joy in learning about the world.

When I married my husband Larry (who surprised me with a $10 Plowshare ring when he proposed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) in 2004, he was a big advocate of Plowshare and got me involved with the Farmers’ Market.  So I became a volunteer and regular customer of Plowshare.

Upon retiring in Dec. 2013, I was asked to be on the Plowshare Marketplace Committee and helped to assist with the Fashion Show and Peacebuilder Award Event.   I was delighted when asked to be on the board of this wonderful organization and to be part of the new Speakers Bureau.  In this day and age, Plowshare’s mission is needed more than ever.

Alice Lundstrom

Alice Lundstrom

Haven’t moved far from the family dairy farm in western Waukesha County where I grew up. I’m a very recent retired Medical Technologist or Clinical Scientist as they are called today. Working in the laboratory I used my hands for a lot of my work. So it is not surprising that I consider myself a hands on person.

My list of loves are quilting, crafting, gardening, cooking and traveling. I’m an elder in my church and co-founder of a neighborhood garden. I completed by Master Gardener training and volunteer in various area gardens. Last year was my first year working at Old World Wisconsin. I worked in the German area doing spinning and weaving of flax into linen cloth. I also took one day a week to volunteer as a gardener in the heritage gardens located at Old World.

I have two grown sons. One son lives close by so I get to be Grandmother to two granddaughters. They get cookies, dresses and quilts from me. My oldest son lives in New York so I get to travel and visit the big Apple. He keeps me informed about the latest in the computer world.

My involvement with Plowshare all started because I made coffee. Yes, I was making the coffee last year for the fashion show and Sally asked me if I’d consider joining the Plowshare board. So that conversation is why I came to say yes to another hands on adventure.

Diane Voit

Diane Voit

After 38 years of teaching Business Education at Waukesha North High School, I retired in 2014 to begin a new chapter in my life of service. In September, I traveled with nine others from my church to Tanzania to build our partnership with eight congregations in Maroroni parish. It was a life-changing experience that has prompted me to find ways to offer a “hand up” to many around the world to support varied entrepreneurial endeavors and to seek ways to develop global partnerships. I gladly accepted the invitation to join the Plowshare Marketplace Committee in November to share insights from my business background with our local fair trade retail store. I started 2015 by accepting the invitation to serve on the Plowshare Fair Trade Marketplace and Education for Peace Board of Directors. I enjoy photography, traveling, volunteering in our public schools, and spending time with my family and friends. As a life-long learner, I have enjoyed the time that retirement has allowed to read books and participate in two book discussion groups, and I look forward to being involved in many of the Plowshare outreach and education events.
Dr. John Walz

Dr. John Walz

President of Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)

Keynote #7: Tuesday, June 26th, 9:30AM

Dr. John Y. Walz, was appointed fifth president of MSOE and assumed the role on July 1, 2016. Throughout his career, Walz has had the opportunity to work in industry, at big public schools and also at small private schools.​ He earned his degree in chemical engineering from Tulane University, about an hour from his hometown of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. After graduation Walz was a process support engineer for Shell Oil Co. at a large plant outside of New Orleans.​ During that time, Walz took graduate courses at night at Tulane. It was then that he became interested in the science side of things and the technology.​ ​​

Dr. Walz has taught in the Chemical Engineering Departments at Carnegie Mellon University, Tulane University and Yale University. His first academic leadership role was as chairman of Yale University’s Chemical Engineering Department. From there he went on to Virginia Tech, where he was a professor and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and most recently he served as a professor and dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky.

He will discuss the the various trends and challenges in STEM education

Pete Prodehl

Pete Prodehl

Director of Interactive Media, Brinn Labs

Keynote #8: Tuesday, June 26th, 6:30PM

Pete Prodoehl is Director of Interactive Media at Brinn Labs, where he designs and builds exhibits for the Milwaukee-based Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. These exhibits are displayed not only in Milwaukee; they travel and get sold to institutions across North America. Prodoehl also serves as Communications Director for the Milwaukee Makerspace, a place for people who like to build, invent, tinker and/or learn new skills and expand their minds. He has been involved with Milwaukee Makerspace for the last 8 years and serves on the Board of Directors helping to manage the space. Prodoehl is also a producer of Maker Faire Milwaukee, the largest free Maker Faire in North America, with over 250 makers and 45,000+ attendees. The fifth annual Maker Faire Milwaukee will take place at State Fair Park on September 28-30, 2018.

Michael Barber

Michael Barber

President & CEO Molecular Imaging and Computed Tomography, General Electric (GE) Healthcare

Keynote #9: Wednesday, June 27th, 9:30AM

Starting with GE in 1982, Michael has built his career with an entrepreneurial spirit, a record of innovation, and highly admired leadership skills.  He first addressed the World Affairs Seminar in 2014 when the theme was “World Health.”

Mr. Barber has had a variety of roles in engineering, operations and product management. As the Manager of the Digital X-ray Detector Platform, Michael led a team that eliminated the need for film in X-ray procedures. Michael holds patents for novel X-ray system designs and has been directly involved with many product advances in the field of diagnostic imaging.

The enterprise Mr. Barber currently leads, Molecular Imaging Computed Technology (MICT), is a significant part of GE Healthcare, a company that in Wisconsin employs thousands of people and contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy.

Previously he was Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for GE Healthcare, leading a technology team of more than 7,000 engineers, technologists and scientists working in such diverse fields as MRI, CT, ultrasound, patient monitoring, anesthesia, life sciences, imaging contrast agents and health-related R&D at GE Healthcare.

Michael is a graduate of Milwaukee’s John Marshall High School and earned an electrical engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Six years ago, his alma mater awarded him an honorary doctorate degree citing his professional achievements and his dedication to MSOE.

Michael and his wife, Rotarian Jackie Herd-Barber reside in Mequon and have two children – Dr. Lauren Barber, an orthopedic surgeon resident in New York City and Justin Barber, a Lean Leader in GE Operations Management Leadership Program.

The Rotary Person of the Year Award recognizes individuals, executives and entrepreneurs who, through their profession, are making the Milwaukee community a better place to live and work. The purpose of this award is to highlight the second objective of Rotary: to foster high ethical standards in business and professions, to recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations, and to dignify each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.

View Barber’s 2018 TEDMED Talk, “Can a ‘healthy imagination’ bring life saving innovation?

Maddy Power

Maddy Power

Producer and Visual Journalist

Keynote #10: Wednesday, June 27th, 4:00PM

Maddy Power is a producer and visual journalist working in both traditional film and virtual reality (VR). She has produced for The New York Times, Planned Parenthood, the Washington Post, PBS, Milwaukee Public Radio and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Maddy has been with Custom Reality Services (CRS) since 2015. CRS is a team of award-winning filmmakers, visual artists, technologists, producers and storytellers who are passionate about transformative applied virtual reality technologies and how they can make our world better.

Michael Swedish

Michael Swedish

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)

Keynote #11: Thursday, June 28th, 9:30AM

Michael Swedish is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Professor Swedish has worked with such partners as the City of Milwaukee, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center. With NASA, Professor Swedish worked on lunar lander thermal systems.

Breakout Session Speakers

Session #1 – Monday

  • Tim McCollow: “Innovation and City Government”
  • Dr. Christine Cheng: “Women, Innovation, and Technology”
  • Derek Urben: “Cryptocurrency and the Future of Money”
  • Dr. Susan Lloyd: “Funding Social Change”
  • Aneri Pradhan: “Innovation and Alternative Energy in the Developing World”
  • Darci Malone and Camille Speca: “Innovation and Recreation: The new Milwaukee Bucks Arena”
  • Erik Wolbach: “Innovation and Underwater Robotics”
  • Paul Kjelland and Moriah Iverson: “Innovation and Public Health”

Session #2 – Tuesday

  • Dr. Michael Schlappi: “Innovation, Biology, and Farming”
  • Shelly McClone-Carriere: “Innovation and Economy: The Cooperative Model”
  • Reggie Jackson: “Innovation and the Museum: The Black Holocaust Museum”
  • Fidel Verdin: “Hip Hop, Education, and Innovation”
  • Bridgette Binczak: “Innovation and Education: Addressing Mass Incarceration”
  • Alex Tyink: “Innovation, Education, and the Future of Food”
  • Nick Brnot and Josh Wankowski: “Innovation and Education: Addressing Homelessness”
  • James Davies, “Innovation and Transportation: Rethinking the Bicycle”

Session #3 – Wednesday

  • Justin Hegarty: “Innovation and Water”
  • Ben Koller: “Innovation, Placemaking, and the Power of the Neighborhood”
  • Peter Murphy: “Innovation and Solar Energy”
  • Gregg Wandsneider:  “Technological Innovation for the Visually Impaired & Blind”
  • Jordan Nelson: “Innovation and Architecture”
  • Tyler Weber: “Innovation and Community Redevelopment”
  • Dr. Michael Carriere: “Innovation and the Arts”
  • Marisa Rieponhoff: “Innovation and Literacy”
Rotary District 6270 with Rotary Wheel

A Rotary District 6270 Initiative

World Affairs Seminar
10600 W. Mitchell Street
West Allis, Wisconsin 53214

Privacy Policy:

The World Affairs Seminar does not share or sell personal information about students or sponsors with any other organization except as authorized by signed release. This includes personal, health, financial, or other information. Information you post on public websites and other accessible media is your responsibility.

Refund Policy:

To receive credit after payment has been made, students, sponsors must notify the World Affairs Seminar in writing that their delegate is unable to attend, or if the sponsor is unable to fill a paid for space at the Seminar. (e-mail is considered "in writing" for these purposes as long as the e-mail is acknowledged as having been received.) Full credit applies if notification is received by April 1; 50% credit if application is cancelled between April 1 but prior to May 21; no credit is available if application is cancelled after May 21, unless extraordinary circumstances such as illness, death exist. All cancellation credits are subject to $75.00 processing fee and must be used within one calendar year. Note: in agreeing to attend WAS, parents and students promise to reimburse their sponsor for the full amount of any loss due to cancellation. WAS offices: (414) 453-4984, or contact@worldaffairsseminar.org.

Copyright © 2023 - Wisconsin World Affairs Council, Inc. - All Rights Reserved