Thursday, January 13, 2011

The SAIS Podium

The U.S. Treasury Secretary. A former Italian prime minister and European Commission president. A senior U.S. arms control negotiator. A veteran human rights lawyer.

This is not an unusual week at SAIS. But even routine weeks mean exceptional speakers.

A SAIS education is made up of many parts: classroom study, research, discussion with professors and fellow students, internships. One of the outstanding resources outside the classroom is the lineup of speakers who come to the SAIS podium. They include politicians, diplomats, academics, business leaders, representatives of advocacy groups.

Close-up exposure to these thought leaders is part and parcel of SAIS.

Take this week. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, a SAIS alumnus, spoke on Wednesday at SAIS DC on U.S.-China economic relations -- a week before Chinese President Hu Jintao goes to Washington for a bilateral summit.

This evening Romano Prodi -- who served twice as Italian prime minister and also headed the European Commission -- will speak to students in Bologna.

Romano Prodi and SAIS Bologna Director Kenneth Keller
(file photo)
Just before Geithner spoke in Washington, Robert Einhorn, special advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for nonproliferation and arms control, held an informal discussion with students in Bologna. Einhorn is  in Europe to participate in meetings ahead of negotiations with Iran on nuclear issues.

Hours after Einhorn spoke, Bologna students had a chance to interact with William O'Neill, a lawyer specializing in humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. A director at the Social Science Research Council in New York, O'Neill has experience monitoring human rights in countries around the world including Kosovo, Rwanda and Haiti.

The list of speakers is too long to include here. You may recognize some of the names of speakers at SAIS Bologna this academic year: Kenneth Waltz, Gary Sick, Roberto Toscano, Thomas Stelzer, Luca di Montezemolo. For more information on SAIS Bologna speakers this year, click here.

Those who have spoken in Washington include John McCain, Melissa Hathaway, Amartya Sen and Stanley McChrystal. For recordings of recent SAIS DC speakers, click here.

Some of these speakers may make the rounds elsewhere. But SAIS offers a uniquely intimate setting that allows students to rub elbows with thought leaders and to pick their brains. When Thomas Stelzer, another SAIS alumnus and a senior U.N. official involved in climate negotiations, came to Bologna, he made sure to meet separately with our Austrian students before his main speech.

Sometimes it's pure fun. Between classes and speakers today, SAIS Bologna students were able to visit the Ferrari factory down the road in Maranello. Ferrari chairman Montezemolo was there to greet them.

Ferrari Chairman Montezemolo greets SAIS Bologna visitors

Tomorrow: Weekly quiz!

Nelson Graves

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