Pitt launches new graduate research center with Koch funding


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Jennifer Murtazashivili will serve as director of the GSPIA’s Center for Governance and Markets in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

By Jon Moss, Assistant News Editor

Pitt announced the launch of a new Center for Governance and Markets in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs Thursday, funded by a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The center will examine policy areas such as international affairs, governance, economic institutions, property rights and emerging technologies from a global standpoint. It will also serve as a hub for an international network of practitioners in areas of governance and institutional analysis, and will support faculty with fieldwork, interdisciplinary research and community engagement.

This builds upon the existing teaching and research of GSPIA faculty members Jennifer and Ilia Murtazashvili, the center’s new director and associate director, respectively, along with School of Computing and Information professor and center Associate Director Martin Weiss.

Center affiliates include faculty from GSPIA, SCI and the School of Law, as well as the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ economics, political science and sociology departments. Ten Ph.D. fellowships and 12 post-doctoral fellowships will be housed in the center.

Jennifer said the center plans to study a wide variety of topics, and how their effects are felt both locally and on the world stage.

“The center’s mission is to create space for scholars to explore diverse ideas and produce rigorous research on the impact of governance institutions, markets and technology on peaceful coexistence, freedom and well-being,” Jennifer said. “That understanding cannot be gained at a distance. We’ll be engaging partners in Pittsburgh and around the world to learn from and with communities.”

Ryan Stowers, the executive director of the Charles Koch Foundation, said the foundation is excited to support the new center.

“We’re thrilled to support scholars who focus their attention on helping people realize their full potential,” Stowers said. “Pitt’s new center provides a critical forum for analysis, reflection and debate on issues related to rapid social and technological innovation that can be applied to improve access to opportunity for all people.”

Pitt is the latest in a line of U.S. universities to receive funding from the Charles Koch Foundation for the establishment of centers related to governance and economics. On some campuses, the foundation has sparked controversy for exerting undue influence over academics affairs. At George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, a representative from the foundation helped choose candidates for a professorship the foundation funded, and donors were included in the decision-making process in economics appointments at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center — an on-campus think tank that studies markets and regulations.

The first stipulation in the grant agreement signed between Pitt and the foundation promoted the idea of academic freedom at the center.

“Academic freedom of the University, the Center, and their faculty, students, and staff is critical to the success of the Center’s research, scholarship, teaching, and service,” the agreement said.