New CEO Of Cleveland Council On World Affairs On Organization's Legacy And Future

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The Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) last month got a new CEO, after the sudden death of the organization's previous CEO, Maura O'Donnell-McCarthy, in July.

Carina Van Vliet has been in Northeast Ohio about four years having a post with Jones Day, and previously working for the United Nations in New York.

Even before taking the lead at CCWA, Van Vliet helped organize a monthly City Club event on global affairs at the Happy Dog on Cleveland's west side (co-sponsored by ideastream, and moderated by ideastream's Tony Ganzer.)

"I think there is an appetite in the Cleveland community for an engaging discussion on international topics, but I feel that audience is somewhat limited, and I feel that there's a lot of people who live in Northeast Ohio who, for whatever reasons, are not engaging in a conversation about everything international," Van Vliet says during a mid-day interview at CCWA's downtown Cleveland office.

"That's where this organization comes in and tries to offer forums for discussion, and also a series of programs that targets students, that targets professionals, and finds ways to try to engage them and connect with what's going on in the world, but also with people from different countries," she adds.

Northeast Ohio has a number of organizations, cultural associations, non-profits, and the like, that are all catering to aspects of the international community or the interest therein, and that can seem like a competition for audience and funding.

"There's no competition," Van Vliet says. "It's all about seeing a more engaged and globally-engaged Cleveland. And the reason that's so important is because economic development, development in general, in the future is increasingly global, and the kinds of questions that we're faced politically right now also are very global in nature, and we're at this moment in American political history, where we really have to ask ourselves: what is America's role in the world? It's shifting in very complicated ways, there's the traditional geopolitics of it, but there's also this whole host of global issues, whether it's climate change, migration, global pandemics, and all these issues that as humankind we need to deal with, and so it's incredibly important that at this moment in time that educated American citizens need to be informed about these issues and make the best possible choices for our country and for our future."

Even with an eye on the future, Van Vliet says CCWA is also continuing the legacy of O'Donnell-McCarthy.

The Maura O'Donnell-McCarthy Center for Global Understanding is expected to launch in Spring 2019, and will support two adult education initiatives in the realm of global affairs.

"She really had this joy and this personal connection, especially with international exchanges," Van Vliet says. "And we feel that by establishing this new center that's the best possible way we can continue her work."

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