Pittsburgh is an ideal place for a program devoted to the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. In the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, one of every four people is either an immigrant or the child of one; of those, one in three have roots in East/Central Europe or the former Soviet Union. This rich local heritage provides for regular contacts with the region's history, culture, and languages. It also offers a support system through organizations such as the community-based committees of the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. Nine of the 27 room committees link the University to peoples and cultures of the REES area.
The Center's joint activities with the many local ethnic organizations range from annual cultural heritage festivals, to student programs, to targeted professional development and technical assistance. Organizations such as the Slovak Foundation, the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Croatian Fraternal Union, the Serb National Federation, the Ukrainian Technological Society, and the Ukrainian Cultural and Humanitarian Institute contribute significantly to scholarly activities at the University. REES also cooperates with local arts, business, and other community organizations on diverse programming related to the Center's world area.