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Pitt’s Center for Governance and Markets was recognized for its work supporting threatened scholars

A portrait of Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili

The Center for Governance and Markets in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs was awarded the 2023 Outstanding Civic Engagement Project Award from the American Political Science Association on Sept. 1 for its continuing work supporting refugees and threatened scholars.

The award comes barely 21 months after the center first launched its Afghan Asylum Project, an effort to help Afghan people who supported American civilian and military efforts in Afghanistan apply for asylum in the United States. This student-led project recruited more than 100 faculty, staff and student volunteers to help more than 6,500 Afghans who approached the center for assistance.

The award also recognized two of the center’s efforts to assist threatened scholars. This includes the Afghanistan Project, an effort to preserve the Afghan intellectual community in exile — some 12 research fellows and associates have come to Pitt from Afghanistan, Iran and more. Scholars are provided at least two years of funding to continue their scholarship. The project’s 2021 launch in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan became a model for other organizations, such as the Institute for International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Center for Governance and Markets mobilized to assist its partners there, raising more than $100,000 to aid Ukrainian scholars. Rather than replicate its program for Afghan scholars, the center moved in a different direction — providing financial support to scholars inside of Ukraine who could not or would not leave the country. Most Ukrainian men are not allowed to leave the country due to military mobilization.

Finally, in partnership with the Center for International Legal Education, the Center for Governance and Markets is providing support to three students from Ukraine and one from Afghanistan to study at the School of Law this year.

Murtazashvili arrived in Ukraine in late August to kick off an initiative on reconstruction and recovery, and she has recruited three other Pitt professors to join these efforts throughout the semester. She is leading this endeavor alongside Tymofiy Mylovanov, associate professor of economics. Right before the war began, Mylovanov returned to his native Ukraine and has remained there to assist with efforts throughout, while still teaching classes at Pitt and devoting time to leading the Kyiv School of Economics. The Center for Governance and Markets and the Kyiv School of Economics are working together to support longer-term efforts to establish a global hub for recovery and reconstruction based in Kyiv.

“We are proud of this recognition that has highlighted the ability of our center to pivot to unique circumstances.” said Jennifer Brick Murtazasvhili, pictured above, who founded the center and its projects. “Rather than apply the same approach to Ukraine that we did for Afghanistan, this award recognized the way we take the context of each conflict seriously and involved students in our efforts. A core value of our center is that public policy should take a bottom-up approach and work with communities in response to their unique needs. We never thought we would be doing this in our own work in this way.  We have seen how hard displacement and war have been for our colleagues who face giving up their dreams to conflict. It is with great compassion that we throw ourselves into this pursuit and accept this recognition.”


— Chuck Finder, photography by Aimee Obidzinski