Saint Petersburg Conference on World Affairs Returns to USFSP

Moderated panel and crowd at last year's conference.(Feb. 13, 2018) – USF St. Petersburg will once again host the annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs February 20-23. Now in its sixth year, this renowned conference will bring together diplomatic, military and academic experts – along with thousands of citizens – to discuss the issues impacting and influencing the world today. The event is free and open to the public.

“The goal is to bring about provocative but thoughtful analysis of the international issues of the day. This has been our only agenda every year,” said Dr. Thomas Smith, a co-founder of the conference and professor of Political Science and director of the USFSP University Honors Program. “Over these years, the conference has exposed students to people and ideas they wouldn’t otherwise encounter as well as brought the campus and the community closer together.”

The 2018 conference will include more than 35 panel discussions and presentations about key international issues designed to broaden and enhance perspectives on critical world matters. Discussion topics this year will include:

  • Is this a watershed moment for relations between the sexes?
  • Are China and Russia today’s expansionist powers?
  • Arts Mecca: International cultural tourism in the Sunshine City
  • Give Trump a grade on his foreign policy
  • Crimes against humanity: Whatever happened to never again?

“Local, national and international experts from a variety of fields and with distinct experiences will share their insights on complicated issues that have serious consequences to our lives,” said Smith.

Among the featured speakers is Thomas R. Pickering, a U.S. diplomat whose career spans five decades, including ambassador to Russia, India, Israel and the United Nations. Pickering, who will deliver the keynote address, will discuss challenges and opportunities for American foreign policy from international conflicts such as the nuclear ambitions of North Korea to changing attitudes towards U.S. global leadership and influence under the current Administration.

John Zogby, founder of the “Zogby Poll” and the Zogby companies, will talk about his latest book that explores the American people from the vantage point of their attributes and values, not demographics or geography. Zogby is an internationally respected pollster, whose polling remains among the most accurate through the past five elections. He has served as an on-air election analyst for NBC News, BBC and the CBC, and the Zogby Polls have been cited frequently in popular culture, from the West Wing to The Tonight Show.

Other notable speakers include Tonia Van Pelt, a longtime feminist and humanist activist who is the president of the National Organization for Women; David Kramer, an expert on Eastern European diplomacy who has served in a variety of positions in the Department of State, Freedom House and the McCain Institute for International Leadership; and Vickie Huddleston, an American diplomat who was a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense and led American diplomatic missions in Mali, Madagascar, Cuba and Ethiopia.

“It is only natural for our institution, which aims to enhance dialogue regarding international issues while growing our collaborations globally, to host such a vital conference,” said Dr. Martin Tadlock, USFSP Interim Regional Chancellor.

The St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs is sponsored by USF St. Petersburg, Raymond James Financial, WUSF Public Media, the Tampa Bay Times, OPEN Partnership Education Network with the support of the Aresty Family Foundation, Eckerd College Academy of Senior Professionals, Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning, Hyatt Place St. Petersburg Downtown, International Committee of the City of St. Petersburg, Island Flavors and ‘Tings and Englander & Fischer.

“The Conference clearly meets a need in the community, as witnessed by the growing number of attendees each year,” Diane Seligsohn said, president of St. Petersburg in the World, a non-profit that helps to organize the yearly Conference. “Conference organizers have responded to this enthusiasm by increasing the number and kind of events taking place, including a keynote address, book talks and multimedia and film presentations.”

For more information, visit To register, send an email to and be sure to include your name, phone number and the number of people in your party. Walk-in seating will be available on a first-come, first-seated basis.