Former European Studies Center Director and Longtime Professor Alberta Sbragia Retiring

This originally appeared in an article titled "Retirements represent hundreds of years of service to the University," in University Times, May 30, 2019.

Alberta Sbragia, since 1974
Professor of political science, Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences
Director, Center for West European Studies and European Union Center
Research Professor, University Center for International Studies
Vice provost for graduate studies, 2010-17

Alberta Sbragia received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1974 and came to Pitt’s Department of Political Science that same year.

She said she’s seen the quality of students and the reputation of Pitt improve dramatically in her time here.

“My department at Wisconsin was not thrilled I was coming to the University of Pittsburgh,” Sbragia said. “Now one of my Ph.D. students was hired as a faculty member at Wisconsin.”

She chose to come to Pitt because she wanted to be in a city, but not a big city, “and Pittsburgh seemed like the perfect size.”

One her biggest accomplishments was starting a Center for West European Studies at Pitt. In 1984, the then-head of the University Center for International Studies asked her to organize the center and head it, which she did until 2010, when she became vice provost for graduate studies — a post she held until 2017.

As vice provost, “I learned a lot about the University and about what the resources of Pitt are and how good this University is,” she said. It’s easy to become entrenched in your own research and teaching and “you don’t have an idea of how good the other schools are,” Sbragia continued, particularly citing the stellar reputations of the School of Social Work and the Learning Research and Development Center.

In the 1990s, she began urging her contacts in Brussels to consider funding programs at U.S. universities to build centers of excellence in EU Studies.  The EU Centers of Excellence program began in 1998, and the EU Center at Pitt, which she headed, was born that year. Pitt is one of only three universities in the world to have its EU Center of Excellence status continuously renewed and funded during the entire time of the program, largely due to Sbragia’s leadership.

In 2005, Sbragia was given the lifetime designation of Jean Monnet Chair ad personam by the European Union. The title “is reserved for professors showing evidence of a high level European commitment that is recognized by the academic world, at both national and international levels," the commission said.

She also was the inaugural Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair from 2006 to ‘10. The European Studies Center’s symposium on EU studies in the fall of 2018 was named in Sbragia’s honor.

The Alberta Sbragia Fund was set up in her honor to support dissertation research or publication for current Pitt graduate students interested in Europe.

Sbragia will move to emeritus status but doesn’t really know what she’ll be doing after she leaves her Posvar Hall office at the end of August. She hopes to “take advantage of the marvelous people who come in for lectures” — something she never had time for while working in the Provost’s Office. She’d also like to read more fiction and spend more time with her two grandsons, who live in Chicago.

She and husband, Martin Staniland, who retired last year as a professor from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, may also spend some time in Europe.

— Susan Jones