World Politics

The study of world politics in Pitt’s Political Science program combines the benefits of resource-rich areas studies with theoretical and empirical rigor that is at the cutting-edge of the fast changing field.  The program offers courses in international organization and governance, international political economy, and conflict and security. The University community at Pitt provides a wealth of resources for studying world politics.

Students in world politics can take full advantage of the intellectual and financial resources offered by the interdisciplinary University Center for International Studies (UCIS), which houses the Asian Studies Center, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for Russian and East European Studies, and the European Studies Center. In addition, UCIS is home to the European Union Center of Excellence, one of only 11 in the United States designated and funded by the European Union. UCIS also operates programs in African Studies and in Global Studies.

The professional schools at the University of Pittsburgh are also home to several centers for international research, including the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies and the Ford Institute for Human Security (both within the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs), the Center for International Legal Education (School of Law), the Institute for International Studies in Education (School of Education), and the International Business Center (Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business). The Department of History in the School of Arts and Sciences is home to the World History Center.

World Politics: the Undergraduate Level

At the undergraduate level, World Politics (also referred to as “International Relations,” or IR) is the field of political science that explores the international political system and behavior by focusing upon political relationships between states, and between states and other actors in the global arena, such as intergovernmental organizations (like the United Nations or the European Union) or non-governmental organizations (like the Red Cross or Doctors without Borders). Topics of interest to scholars in this field include international relations, the initiation and cessation of conflict, diplomacy and foreign policy, and international trade, to name the most popular subjects of research. There is a vibrant debate within the field of world politics over theories of international relations (IR), International Organization (IO),  and international political economy (IPE), and there is increasing sensitivity across these subfields to the growing influence on international politics of domestic and transnational actors. Our faculty engage these debates in their teaching at the undergraduate level as well as in their own research, and they are open to collaborating with undergraduate students who desire a challenge by overseeing independent student research projects on IR topics or by bringing talented students on board with their own research, for example in the process of data collection. 

World Politics: the Graduate Level

The study of world politics at the graduate level focuses on three areas of concentration: (1) international organization and global governance; (2) international political economy; and (3) conflict and security. In all three areas, the department faculty members are supplemented by professors in the University’s professional schools, primarily the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA).

Regardless of specialization, our faculty members believe that as the line separating domestic from international and transnational politics becomes increasingly tenuous, sophisticated study of politics requires analytical perspectives that cross these divisions. The department’s world politics faculty therefore emphasizes the linkages between international, transnational, and domestic politics.

International Organization and Global Governance (IO) faculty interests focus on regional trade organizations, particularly in developing countries, how international organizations influence domestic politics, and the relations between globalization and international governance. Interests in this topic also shine light on European and comparative regional integration, EU politics and transatlantic relations, and nongovernmental organizations and transparency issues in international organizations.

International Political Economy (IPE) faculty interests focus on economic policy reform and portfolio investment in emerging markets, international political economy, the politics of welfare, and political and economic issues in the European Union.

Conflict and Security (CS) explores questions relating to the onset and escalation of interstate and intrastate violence. Faculty in this field examine how different types of conflict resolution techniques, such as third-party mediation, foreign aid, and agreement design, affect the durability of peace in the aftermath of civil wars. Faculty members also explore the determinants of terrorism, with a particular interest in the relationship between democracy and terrorism.

In keeping with our commitment to bridging the international-domestic divide, the department includes numerous specialists on Europe, Russia, and Latin America.

These examples of concentrations and perspectives, in conjunction with the department's and University's strengths in the study of national and regional politics, provide a unique opportunity for students to acquire the knowledge necessary to analyze the most pressing political issues of the 21st century.