Now in its seventh year, the St. Petersburg Conference of International Affairs is expanding its scope to include local establishments that cater to a global audience.
"We're involving a number of different cultural institutions and businesses in the city,” said conference President Diane Seligsohn. “Mayor Rick Kriseman is going to proclaim international week during our opening event."
The conference will take place on USF St. Petersburg’s campus downtown from Feb. 12 to 15th.
Conference board member, retired U.S. Ambassador Douglas McElhaney, is the instigator behind the inaugural International Week, explained Seligsohn. After retiring from the U.S. State Department, McElhaney began organizing the conference as a way to bring conversations of international interest to the area. The conference, as well as the city of St. Petersburg, have grown exponentially since its inception.
Last year, about 8,000 people attended the three day conference featuring 30 different panels, said McElhaney. “We decided we needed to widen the breadth of the conference and bring in more of the community,” he said.
As St. Petersburg continues to grow, there's an increasing international presence permeating its restaurants, cultural institutions, and surrounding landscape.
International Week, McElhaney said, is a natural fit for the established Conference on World Affairs.
At the event, panelists will discuss a wide range of topics that appeal to an international audience. Conversations will include the ongoing debate over Brexit in the United Kingdom, women in global business, and the relationship between the U.S. and China. It also will include conversations about the city’s murals and art culture, as well as a panel dedicated to St. Petersburg’s international dining scene. That discussion will be featured in an upcoming episode of WUSF's Florida Matters.
The opening event, which will feature keynote speaker Chas Freeman, is set for 5 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Palladium Theater. To view the full schedule and learn more, check out the conference website.