In 1968, the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) was created as the University of Pittsburgh’s encompassing framework for all its multidisciplinary international programs. The design for UCIS was carefully thought out to promote the integration and synthesis of international knowledge, not its splintering into disciplinary islands. When UCIS was created, this design was unique. By today it has been emulated by many research universities and the University of Pittsburgh is recognized as a leading institution in international scholarship and education worldwide.
UCIS is a University-wide matrix organization that encompasses centers for area studies and centers on topical specializations in international studies. It coordinates international education curricula and provides support services such as the Study Abroad Office. It is now a large framework for the multidisciplinary work of the institution with a total of 16 component and affiliated units. Its mission is to integrate and reinforce all the strands of international scholarship in the University in research, teaching and public service.
In order to play such an integrative role, UCIS does not compete with departments or schools. UCIS programs and centers therefore do not give degrees but award certificates of attainment to candidates for academic degrees in the University's departments and schools. UCIS does not appoint its own faculty, but links faculty from departments and schools to their tasks in international scholarship. Thus, the multidisciplinary work in the UCIS Centers is firmly based on disciplinary competence while supporting bridges of scholarly cooperation for international knowledge.
Four of UCIS’ component centers are designated by the federal government as National Resource Centers and are thus among the top few centers of this kind in the nation. These four area studies centers are: the Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for Russian and East European Studies, the European Union Center of Excellence, and the Global Studies Center. The European Union Center of Excellence holds the additional distinction of being one of only eight such centers in the United States, funded by the European Union. UCIS also houses certificate programs in African Studies and Asian Studies.
However, UCIS’ mission has grown beyond the traditional study of world areas and cultures, as the need and demand for international education has expanded dramatically. Rapidly advancing technologies of information, communication, travel and production create more and more interconnected global markets. Turbulent changes in cultures and in the world's political structures create new and difficult threats to international security. International realities deeply influence many aspects of everyday life here at home. Future employers expect our students to be competent in technically demanding international and multicultural contexts. There are many things our students, future leaders, need to know. But certainly among them is knowledge of the world and of the forces that shape its future. It is UCIS’ mission to provide this knowledge.