The Institute for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies (IREES) was founded in 2017 as the USF Institute on Russia. Russian language enrollments among USF students were impressive, as were enrollments in Russian history and culture classes. Several indicators suggested that such an institute would generate considerable university and community support. The institute's name and focus have since expanded to encompass the broader region.

The institute formally launched on October 9, 2017, when Dr. Lilia Shevtsova gave a fascinating talk to over 130 people at the University Club in downtown Tampa. A prominent Russian political analyst and outstanding public speaker, Dr. Shevtsova captivated the audience with her intelligent examination of current events. Her insightful talk inspired a range of audience questions and revealed the tremendous interest in her subject. She also spoke to over 150 students on the USF campus, with many standing in line afterwards to ask her additional questions and to learn more.

This highly successful launch confirmed that the new institute had much to offer USF students, faculty, and the Tampa Bay community. Since that time, IREES has sponsored important events and programs, while support for IREES's work has exceeded expectations.