Japanese Coming of Age Ceremony Covered in Post-Gazette

The recent Japanese Coming of Age Ceremony hosted by the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with Hiroshima's Yasuda University was covered in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read the column here.

Asian Studies Center Organizes Himalayan Environmental Conference

The Asian Studies Center and its director, Professor Joseph S. Alter, organized the Himalayan Environmental Education and Policy Conference Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 2018 in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India. The program brought together more than 75 scholars of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of environmental problems in the Himalayan region, as well as to formulate recommendations and increase public understanding and awareness in India and elsewhere in the world.

In addition to the Asian Studies Center, conference sponsors included the Study Abroad Program, the Year of Pitt Global, and Hanifl Centre in Mussoorie, where three PittGlobal study abroad programs are based.

Learn more about the Asian Studies Center.

Institutional Milestones

Pitt ranked seventh among U.S. universities in employing the most international students with Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization in 2017. OPT is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than three months are permitted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education. Notable top employers included Amazon, Intel, and Google. The six universities employing more OPT-authorized individuals than Pitt were the University of Michigan, Arizona State University, Johns Hopkins University, North Carolina State University, Stanford University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The federal government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program published the 2017 data.

Nationality Rooms Recognized in Nat Geo Traveler UK's Cool List 2019

The University of Pittsburgh's Nationality Rooms got a special mention as the the city of Pittsburgh made the #3 spot on National Geographic Traveler UK's 2019 Cool List. Pittsburgh is the only U.S. location to make the list for 2019. See the entire article and the entry here.

Opinion Piece by Vice Provost Ariel Armony Published in La Nación

Vice Provost of Global Affairs and Director of the University Center for International Studies Ariel Armony wrote the following op-ed in the aftermath of the highly publicized meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the recent G20 summit. Originally published in Spanish by Argentinian newspaper La Nación, the following is an English translation.

A “Cold Fight” Defines the Future of an Uncertain Relationship

Ariel C. Armony, Vice Provost for Global Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

December 2, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA--The meeting between President Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires was anticipated by the global press—and especially North American media—with big expectations. The buildup gave the impression of waiting for a historic “Buenos Aires Summit” that would mark the beginning of a new cold war—or prevent it. Even after the meeting, the future of the relationship between the two superpowers is uncertain.  

The excessive emphasis on the results of the meeting between the two leaders—their first face-to-face in more than a year—overshadowed a fundamental aspect of the conclave: Trump came into it in a position of weakness. Specifically, three factors limited his ability to negotiate. 

First was the United States’ decision to negotiate with China on its own. The United States damaged its own interests by not advancing its trade agenda with its allies, especially the European Union, that would have permitted it to go further than the current commercial dispute defined by tariffs and counter-tariffs. We must not forget that just three days after becoming president, Trump gave China a gift by leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

The TPP, which did not include China, included 40 percent of the world economy and established conditions to create an economic superblock that would have affirmed North American leadership in Asia and the Pacific. In his first month in office, Trump closed the United States off from the world, creating a leadership vacancy that China, with pleasure, jumped into. 

Second, the Trump Administration has not succeeded in defining a coherent approach toward China. While experts debate whether Obama’s policy of dialogue and compromise had been a failure or not, they strongly agree that a new strategy is necessary. 

The Trump Administration is divided between those who want a diplomatic approach of compromise and those who want to apply pressure on China. Both positions have their risks, but regardless of the approach, this period of indecision has hurt the United States’ ability to negotiate. 


Finally, we are living in a moment of fundamental transformation of the world order, marked by a regression of democratic values. In this context, the loss of the United States’ outward-facing legitimacy is important. Beyond the serious problems facing U.S. democracy, the North American superpower represents an alternative political model to the autocracy of the People’s Republic of China. Changes in perception toward the two countries on the world stage are worrying. 

Public opinion surveys show international anxiety regarding the role of the United States on global issues and the consensus of China as a much more important global figure than it was a decade ago. A majority of people in the world believe that the U.S. government does not have the interests of other countries in mind when it makes political decisions. More than 50 percent of Europeans believe that the United States does not respect individual rights, substantially more than just five years ago. 

Although a global majority still prefers the United States as a global leader, a higher percentage express more confidence in Xi Jinping than in Trump. 

This positive perception of China is particularly strong in Africa, the Middle East and parts of the Asian continent. In Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, public opinion shows more confidence in the Chinese government than in the United States. Six years ago, only Argentina held this view. 

Perhaps, as Li Xue of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, these are not the conditions of a new cold war. In his opinion, the United States and China are embroiled in a “cold fight” in that the two powers are competing to establish a new equilibrium. We will see if the United States finds the necessary ability to balance its inconsistent position. 

Nationality Rooms Open House Celebrates Global Customs

(Note: This article originally appeared in Pittwire, November 28. 2018.)

The Nationality Rooms inside the University of Pittsburgh’s iconic Cathedral of Learning are dressed and ready for the holidays. And the annual Holiday Open House, to be held this Sunday, Dec. 2, brings new excitement by revealing the long-awaited Philippine Nationality Room.

Nearly 20 years in the making, the new space marks the 31st Nationality Room. The rooms, which also function as classrooms (except two), are designated Pittsburgh Historic Landmarks that tell the stories of different cultural traditions across the globe, from Poland to Japan, Turkey to Sweden. To celebrate the holidays, each Nationality Room Committee puts on a display of traditional décor.

The Nationality Rooms have hosted the day-long Holiday Open House since 1991. It serves as an “invented holiday” of sorts, said E. Maxine Bruhns, director of Pitt’s Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange programs since 1965. Around 4,000 guests attended last year’s festivities filled with performances, room tours and displays from cultures around the world.

Admission to the event is free to the public, with traditional food and ethnic items available for purchase.

Proceeds from the Holiday Open House help fund the Summer Study Abroad Nationality Rooms Scholarships. Last year, a record-breaking 58 undergraduateand graduate students were able to study abroad because of the funds.

“I have a feeling we’re going to break the record again this year,” Bruhns said.

A look at the new room

Although the Philippine Nationality Room will not officially be complete until its dedication ceremony in June 2019, the Philippine Nationality Room Task Force decided to open its doors early, as a sneak peek, for the holiday season.

“We are very proud to have finally accomplished our goal of raising the funds for the room,” said Justina Purpura, fundraising chair of the Philippine Nationality Room Task Force. “We created the room as a legacy for our children. We are proud of our heritage and want to share it,” said Purpura, who immigrated to Pittsburgh from Manila at the age of 27 in 1981. “We are hoping that people come and visit and feel the Filipino hospitality and culture,” she added.

The Philippine Nationality Room Task Force comprises seven members and represents three Pittsburgh-based Filipino community associations: The Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania and the Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh.

“Every detail of the room has a story,” Purpura said.

The Philippine Room is modeled after the Bahay na bato tradition, which translates to “house of stone,” reflecting the style of the Philippines’ Spanish colonial period. The room’s paneled bay windows are covered in capiz, or oyster shells, which are widely used in the Philippines for window shutters. For the holidays, star-shaped parol lanterns, all made of capiz, will adorn the room, emanating a warm tropical glow of red, orange, yellow and blue.

Visitors will also feel the warmth of traditional family-oriented Filipino culture. On Sunday, guests will watch an enactment of the Christmas tradition of Mano Po, a hand gesture between a child and an elder to signify respect.

“Christmas is really about family,” said Purpura. “When I was growing up in Manila, it was an open house. It was about food also.”

Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy traditional Filipino food, such as pancit, a traditional noodle dish, lumpianitos, mini eggrolls, and biko, a Filipino dessert made of rice and coconut milk.

All Nationality Rooms will feature special decorations and cultural customs at the weekend event. The beloved Commons Room, too, is all dressed up for the holidays.

“It’s just a place of unity,” said first-year chemistry and biology double major Leila Letica as she spent a snowy day studying in the Cathedral of Learning.  “When I walked in today, it was glowing and super friendly and welcoming.”

Dashboard Shows Global Engagement Through Easy-to-Use Data
With the Year of PittGlobal providing a special focus on Pitt’s international partnerships and research, it’s important for University stakeholders to have access to information documenting these many activities. As a result, the University Center for International Studies and Office of the Provost have partnered to develop and release the Pitt Global Analytics and Insight dashboard.
With this new online tool, faculty and staff will have a high-level overview of the engagement Pitt has around the world, as well as summaries of student-centric data.
Data accessible via the dashboard broadly covers:
  • Citizenship locations of international students
  • Destinations for student experiences abroad
  • Inter-institutional international agreements
  • Language department course offerings and enrollments
“The Embracing the World section of the ‘Plan for Pitt’ uses the phrase ‘Pitt to the World, the World to Pitt.’ That philosophy is at the core of the global dashboard,” said Ariel Armony, vice provost for global affairs. “It’s interesting to see something so simple as students’ home countries or their study abroad destinations laid out on a map, but what’s truly exciting are the insights we can glean from the presentation of the data. It’s easier to 
Robust data for practical use
Faculty and staff members will find the dashboard a valuable resource to support a variety of research prompts — particularly during the Year of PittGlobal — including: 
  • Business units or departments looking for data to demonstrate global partnerships they are engaged in
  • Faculty researchers interested in viewing collaborations already in place and identifying new opportunities
“Through the curation and presentation of international activities at Pitt, we are building the type of foundational strength that will allow members of the Pitt community to leverage data to drive decisions, glean insights, form global partnerships and more,” said Stephen Wisniewski, vice provost for data information.
The dashboard’s data is sourced from core University systems including the University Data Warehouse, the Terra Dotta Software study abroad application and the Contraxx contract management platform for international partnership agreements. The dashboard replaces EnCompass, an older system that had limited interactivity, no report generation capability and modest audience awareness.
For more information or answers to questions about the PittGlobal Insights and Analytics Dashboard, email
Accessing PittGlobal Insights and AnalyticsAccessing the dashboard is simple. Faculty and staff members can follow these step-by-step instructions and start exploring:
  1. Log in to
  2. Type “PittGlobal Analytics” into the AskCathy search bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Click on the “PittGlobal Analytics and Insight” button that shows up in the search results.
The dashboard has been developed for use on desktop computers and currently does not work on tablets or smartphones. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found online.
Pitt International Centers Secure More Than $7 Million for Research, Language Acquisition, and Community Engagement

The University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh announced today that its Asian Studies CenterEuropean Studies Center, and Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies have received more than $7 million of funding from the United States Department of Education and other sources to expand the reach of their international work.

The three centers received a total of six awards under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, resulting in National Resource Center designation and Foreign Language Areas Studies (FLAS) fellowships for each, representing more than $5.1 million in funding over four years. The Title VI awards support innovative research, language acquisition, and community engagement initiatives.

“The University of Pittsburgh is a force in global education and engagement,” said Ariel Armony, vice provost of global affairs and director of the University Center for International Studies. “The National Resource Center designation and other funding reflects our commitment to taking Pitt to the world and bringing the world to Pitt.”

Dr. Armony noted that pursuing a wide range of funding for Pitt’s international centers is an important component of making global engagement a part of every student’s experience and expanding University partnerships around the globe.

“The Plan for Pitt calls all of us to embrace the world,” says Dr. Armony. “The University Center for International Studies is the hub for Pitt’s many centers and programs working toward this important goal.”

In addition to the Title VI National Resource Center and FLAS Fellowship funding, Pitt’s Asian Studies Center received grants totaling more than $900,000 in 2018, including significant funding from the Freeman Foundation for the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA). Directed by Department of Anthropology Professor Joseph Alter, the Asian Studies Center offers a range of innovative programs for educators including seminars, short courses, and summer study tours of China for K-12 teachers. The 2018 NCTA grant, the 15th awarded to the Pitt center, allows it to expand Asian studies offerings to serve educators in 11 states.

Pitt’s European Studies Center recently received grants from both the European Union and the European Union Delegation to the U.S.  Led by Associate Professor of Political Science Jae-Jae Spoon, the center’s 2018 awards provide an additional $573,000 and include a grant leveraging Pitt’s growing partnerships on urban and energy-related research with three universities in Europe: Newcastle University (United Kingdom); L’Institut des Études Politiques (Sciences Po Lyon, France); and L’Université Jean Monnet Saint-Étienne (France). The funding allows new collaborations among the three universities and Pitt’s Department of Political Science, Urban Studies Program, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and Swanson School of Engineering’s Center for Energy. In other center news, the European Union recently renewed the European Studies Center’s prestigious designation as a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence in EU Studies, a distinction the center has held since 1998.

In addition to the Title VI National Resource Center and FLAS Fellowship funding, Pitt’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies this year received major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Security Agency (NSA). Led by Slavic Languages & Literatures Professor Nancy Condee, the center secured more than $1.1 million in grant funding to advance research, language training, and other programs.

The NEH Humanities Connections project will develop an interdisciplinary series of undergraduate courses and linked co-curricular experiences on the theme of “Water in Central Asia,” engaging multiple arts and sciences departments and professional schools across Pitt. The DoD-funded Project GO program will provide intensive summer Russian language training to ROTC students from universities throughout the U.S., to be conducted both at the Summer Language Institute on Pitt’s campus and on a custom-designed study abroad program hosted by Narva College in Estonia. Finally, the NSA-funded STARTALK program will provide a four-week summer residential program in Russian language on Pitt’s campus for 20 high school students, the majority of whom will be recruited from schools serving minority and lower-income populations in Chicago and the greater Pittsburgh area.

A Message from Vice Provost Armony

This weekend’s shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue has shaken many of us to the core, as it shook our university and our city. It is truly painful to see a hate crime committed here in Pittsburgh, one of the most progressive, accepting communities that I have had the privilege to be a part of.

Yet it is already clear that Pittsburgh will persevere in the face of this tragedy. We are resilient, and we are united, as Mayor Bill Peduto so aptly says of the Pittsburgh community.

Here at the University of Pittsburgh, we have resources available to students, faculty, and staff impacted in any way by the tragic events. We are a family, and we support each other. Please take a look to the helpful University and community resources that are available to you anytime. And please know that my door is always open to you if you wish to talk.

Most Sincerely,

Ariel C. Armony

International Week at the University of Pittsburgh

Join us for a weeklong celebration of all things international at the University of Pittsburgh. International Week honors international programs and research; students who travel the globe or come here for their education; faculty members and Pitt alumni who are making important contributions across the world; and more. View the International Week schedule of events.