Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekly quiz

The 2011-12 SAIS Bologna class is starting to come together. The final deadline for U.S. candidates to send in their acceptances is May 1. Already we know the contours of that contingent -- we're excited by the diversity and quality of the candidates who will be coming.

Those who applied through the Bologna Admissions Office -- so the non-U.S. candidates who want to start their SAIS degree on the Italy campus -- have until May 16 to matriculate. To matriculate online and reserve your spot, go here. Thanks to those who have enrolled early as it allows us to get a head start on organizing the next few months and also is a favor to anyone on the wait list.

For the entire admissions packet, non-U.S. candidates can go here. There you can find among other documents the 2011-12 academic calendar, details on pre-term, the student guide book and information on a UniCredit loan for citizens of EU member states.

We are looking forward to Open House at the Bologna Center on May 5&6. For a schedule of the event and a registration form, click here. This is a good way to get to know the Center, its current students and faculty, and to meet some of next year's students as well. Of course we appreciate early registrations as it makes planning easier. If you have any questions about the event, please contact Amina or me.

On to the quiz.

Last week our question proved a real stumper until we added a useful hint. I hope this week's is challenging but achievable -- a bit like an academic course load.

The question: Who is the patron saint at the end of the world's longest arcade?

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A roof over your head

Today we'll take up another burning issue: housing.

Where do students live? Does SAIS Bologna have dormitory rooms?

Bologna Center students live in apartments. There are no dormitories at the Center. We've got a great building that was renovated only a few years ago. But we don't ask that you live in the library stacks or on a classroom table.

How do students find apartments?

We have a consultant who has many years of experience helping students find apartments. (Quiz players: maybe a hint for the future.) Starting in mid-August, he will have several dozen apartments to show students. He handles matters with landlords and generally collects the monthly rent for the landlord. That alone is a huge service.

This year the consultant will be available starting on August 18. If you want to find an apartment before that date, you can find some contacts on page 37 of the Guidebook for Incoming Students.

Students who want to take advantage of the housing service should sign up for an appointment immediately upon arriving in Bologna. He will take groups of students on apartment tours twice a day -- once in the morning, a second time in the afternoon -- visiting as many as 80 apartments a day. Try that on your own, without a consultant.

Most students find something in a day or two. As the apartments are fully furnished -- many have sheets and towels, too -- one can often move in right away.

How does one find roommates?

Many students find their roommates when they go on the apartment visits. I did when I found my apartment -- through the same consultant -- in the autumn of 1981. And I've never regretted it. Indeed, most SAIS students live with other SAIS students.

Where are the apartments?

Most are located within a 10-30 minute walk under the Bologna porticos -- and less on a bike, a common form of transport in the city. (My wife and I have shrunken our carbon footprint by getting rid of our car and doing everything on bike, foot, bus or train. Not a problem.) Some apartments are outside the city walls and might require a 5-15 minute bus trip.

How many people generally live together?

Most apartments have two to six single bedrooms with a common kitchen and bathroom(s). All students can have their own bedroom. The average apartment accommodates three students. Some prefer single apartments; they are available, but -- surprise! -- they cost more.

How much do the apartments cost?

Prices will vary according to size, location, quality of furniture and whether the apartment has been recently renovated. If you choose to share an apartment with one to five roommates, your monthly rent will probably be between 450 and 600 euros, including utilities. If you want to live in a single apartment, count on 600-1,000 per month, excluding utilities.

The average student pays about 450 euros in rent. Some less, some more.

What about utilities?

Sometimes they are included in the rent. If not, then you will be asked to pay a monthly deposit of 100 euros toward utility costs, based on projected costs. At the end of the academic year, when the lease expires, exact utility costs will be calculated. If you have paid too much during the year, you will be reimbursed. And you'll owe more if you kept the iron on too long or ran the washing machine too much.

What is in the apartments?

They come furnished. That means they have living room furniture and beds, usually single but sometimes 1-1/2-sized beds. They will also have washing machines, dishes, pots, pans, an iron and blankets. Some apartments may have sheets, towels and/or other linens.

How long do the leases last?

For the academic year. You start paying when you move in and stop when the school year ends. Try getting that kind of deal from a big city landlord.

If I don't come to pre-term, will any apartments be left for me?

If you are not taking a pre-term course and arrive in September, try to arrive one week before orientation to get settled and organized. We will try to have an adequate number of apartments available for all incoming students. But as we say where I come from in Buffalo, New York: First come, first served.

I'm sure I have not answered anywhere near all of the questions on housing. For more information, consult the Guidebook for Incoming Students, pages 36-40.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Here are some questions and answers about an important topic for students coming to SAIS Bologna from outside of Italy.

Who needs a visa?
Anyone who is not a citizen of a European Union member state needs a visa to study in Italy. If you are a dual citizen, with one citizenship in a EU member state, you will not need a visa.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident you can use the SAIS Washington visa service. This service is available until May 31.

If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and need a visa, we will provide you with a letter that you can present to the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country.

What kind of visa do I need?
You will need a visto per motivi di studio. This is a type-D visa that allows you to stay in Italy for the academic year.

How long should my visa be valid for?
The visa should allow you to stay in Italy for at least the full academic year. In the letter we provide, we ask the authorities to grant you a 12-month visa, leaving you time at the end of the academic year to organize your move to Washington and, in some cases, to work an internship in Europe during the summer between Bologna and Washington. However, whether or not you receive a visa for 12 months depends on your nationality.

Which documents do I need to make the visa request?
The documents can vary from country to country. In most cases you will need to provide a letter of admission, proof that you can support yourself financially, health insurance, passport-size photographs and last but not least: your passport. Please make sure to check the website of the Italian Embassy of your home country to make sure you have the right documents.

When do I receive the Italian visa request letter?
We will send you the visa request letter via email after you matriculate.

What if I am asked to provide proof of accommodation?
Some countries may require you to provide proof of accommodation in Bologna. If that is the case, please contact us as soon as possible.

What if I am not granted the visa?
This is unlikely to happen. But if you have been refused the visa, please contact us.

What if I already have a visa to a Schengen country?
If you currently hold a visa to another Schengen country, you may find getting a visa to Italy difficult. The rule is you cannot have two valid visas at the same time. Thus if you have a visa to a Schengen country valid to, for example, September 2011 you may not be able to get a visa to Italy valid from August 2011. If are in such situation, be sure to contact us as soon as possible.

Can I get a visa if I am not in my home country?
Our experience shows that getting a visa from outside your home country can be complex. Some people have managed to do so, while others have not. The process can take more time. And you face the risk of not obtaining the visa. So it's best to avoid applying from outside your home country if possible. Again, if you have questions on this, please contact us.

What about the second year visa to the U.S.?
We have a consultant come in from Washington every year. He usually comes in late March to advise and help students in getting their visa to the United States. Most students get their visa without travelling back to their home country.

I am sure you will have more questions on visas -- it's a complicated business. If you do, please comment on this post or send us an email and we will respond to your queries.

Amina Abdiuahab 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trying to answer your main questions

Email is a great thing, right?

My inbox and that of Amina are full of questions from admitted candidates. These are important questions, and we need to be clear in our answers. Email is an easy punching bag, but it's also a good way to gauge what the our readers' main concerns are.

(I'm sure you've asked yourself: How did we exist without email? How about existing without the fax -- as I did in my first job after SAIS.)

This week we will try to answer some of the questions we are receiving most frequently from candidates who have been admitted to SAIS Bologna. The beauty of a blog -- even one as modest as ours -- is to be able to address the concerns of a wide community, something email cannot easily do.

So what are the main concerns? They clearly are financial aid, pre-term, housing and visas.

For many candidates, financial aid is the most pressing issue because they have to make ends meet before matriculating. Feel free to read our earlier post on financial aid. In it you'll see links to a number of useful web pages and documents.

You'll also note I make the point in that post that financing a quality education is in many ways an investment, and a sound one. While to some it may seem a leap of faith, it's an investment in your future that will pay off over time.

A last point on financial aid: as we said in a post earlier this month, at the moment we have distributed in awards all of the money available to us for scholarships for candidates who applied through Bologna Admissions. Later in the spring, when we know which admitted candidates will be attending SAIS, if sufficient money is returned to us we may be able to make additional grants, as we have in the past. But it is not something to count on.

We intend to tackle housing in a post later this week. Salvatore, who has helped students find apartments for more than three decades, will not be available until later this week, so we ask readers to wait a few more days. Amina will take up visa issues tomorrow.


First, let me try to clear up a matter that causes some confusion -- the economics requirements.

All students need to have taken introductory courses in both microeconomics and macroeconomics BEFORE starting their course work at SAIS. Many candidates will have satisfied this requirement during their undergraduate studies. For those who have not, SAIS offers an online course. For more information on this, click here. Anyone who has not yet met this requirement will be receiving an email from Amina later this week.

All students also have to pass intermediate micro and macro to graduate. In pre-term, which this year starts on August 29 in Bologna, intensive courses in both intermediate micro and macro are offered. Students who take these courses generally want to accelerate their learning.

I should point out that a pre-term is also offered in Washington, from July 25-August 23, so just ahead of Bologna. For more information on the Washington pre-term, click here. Students headed to SAIS Bologna can participate in both the Washington and the Bologna pre-terms, or in either, but neither is required.

The Bologna pre-term has been expanded this year. It includes, as usual, courses in Italian and, for some non-native English speakers, intensive English. This year, SAIS Bologna is also offering two of the four "core" courses: Theories of International Relations and Comparative National Systems. Registration for pre-term is from May 15 to July 5.

On core courses: to graduate, M.A. candidates must pass written exams in two of four core areas (
except students in European Studies, who take three European Studies comprehensive exams). In addition to the two core courses taught during pre-term, there are core offerings during the academic year in America and the World since 1945 and Evolution of the International System. All four of the core courses are taught in both Bologna and Washington.
For more information on SAIS's core requirements, click here.

You'll note in this information sheet that some combinations of courses during pre-term are possible but that other combinations are discouraged. This is because pre-term courses are intensive by nature -- basically a term's work in four weeks -- and some of the combinations would discourage all but the most masochistic of students.

I have not begun to provide all of the information on pre-term. The information sheet is much more detailed. I might add, however, that for many students pre-term is a great way to start off their SAIS experience. It allows one to get a solid academic start. A student becomes more familiar with SAIS and Bologna. One can settle down early and get to know roommates.

And September is a wonderful month to be in Bologna.

Tomorrow: Visas

Nelson Graves

Monday, April 25, 2011

So many options

Last week, SAIS and INSEAD announced a dual-degree program. INSEAD, as most of you doubtless know, is a business school with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. More on the agreement below.

This new dual degree agreement gives me a chance to remind our readers of a couple of important things.

First, if a candidate is admitted to SAIS Bologna as a master's student, they are automatically admitted to SAIS DC for a second year provided they perform satisfactorily in Bologna. Some of our candidates have asked whether they have been admitted to SAIS DC or not, and whether they would have to apply to Washington from Bologna. The answer is that SAIS Bologna students do not have to apply for Washington.

Most of the Bologna Center students do a second year in Washington and at the end receive a Master's of Arts in International Relations.

This does not apply to MIPP candidates, of course, as they are enrolled for only one year and choose either the DC or the Bologna campus.

Alternatively, SAIS Bologna students may decide to purse an MAIA -- or a Master's of Arts in International Affairs. This is a two-year program with a thesis in the second year and 14 required course credits over the two years instead of 16.

A few students stay in Bologna for two years and receive an MAIA. The MAIA is also offered as part of our dual-degree programs with the Università di Bologna (both the Bologna and Forlì campuses), and with the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. So a student can do one year at one of those universities and a second year at SAIS Bologna and receive two degrees.

We also have an agreement with Sabancı University in Istanbul. A SAIS Bologna student can do a first year in Bologna and a second year at Sabancı, and receive the Bologna Center diploma and a master's from Sabancı. This path could be interesting for someone who wants both exposure to a U.S.-style graduate program with an international perspective and the chance to study in Turkey, which is playing an increasingly important regional and international role.

Many of you know that SAIS has a range of dual-degree programs with U.S. universities. Students can receive a master's from SAIS as well as a business degree from Wharton or Tuck; a public health degree from Johns Hopkins; a juris doctorate degree from Stanford or the University of Virginia; or a public administration degree from Syracuse University.

A student can study at SAIS Bologna and also participate in one of these dual degree programs. Keep in mind that one must apply to both SAIS and the other institution separately to be enrolled.

For more information on these dual-degree options, click here.

Now, back to the INSEAD agreement. As the announcement indicates, students can now receive an M.A. from SAIS and an M.B.A. from INSEAD after 2-1/2 years of study, compared to the three years required if done separately. Students admitted to both programs will spend 1-1/2 years at SAIS and one year at INSEAD. Students can start at either SAIS Bologna or SAIS DC, with the third semester in Washington.

As SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn said: "We are confident that, with INSEAD as our partner, the students who pursue dual degrees will find that the whole is greater than the sum of such excellent parts, and doors will open for superb careers of international engagement.”

If anyone has any questions on these various options -- which together open up a wide range of career options -- please send them along.

Nelson Graves

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekly quiz

Statistics, which of course never lie, show that our readership has tailed off in the past week. This could be because our posts have been bad. It could also be because candidates, many of whom have been wrestling with difficult decisions, are tired of thinking about graduate school -- at least for now. Finally, there are holidays in many countries this time of year, and there might be better things to do on vacation than read this blog.

We do intend to throttle back on the posts after the May 16 deadline for admissions decisions for SAIS Bologna. Until then, we have many questions to answer. Carlos asked earlier this week for more information on housing; we will provide a post next week on that. We are getting quite a few questions about visas and also, of course, about finances. These are issues we need to address. Finally, my inbox is full of queries about pre-term and the economics requirements. We will write about those matters, too.

As you've heard me say many times before, we like feedback on this blog and especially suggestions on topics to cover. We aim to answer any and all questions. If there is something you think we should be discussing, please tell us.

Looking ahead, the Bologna Center's Alumni Weekend is April 29-May 1. We will take advantage of that to talk to alumni about their experiences at SAIS and afterwards. The SAIS Bologna Open House is May 5&6, and we'll give our readers a glimpse of that.

Speaking of Open House, click here if you want to see the program and the registration form. Do think of coming if you can. It's a great way to get to know the Center.

Now, the quiz. This week, a simple question:

An honorific academic title recently cited by Bologna Center Director Kenneth Keller in comments captured on film in this blog. What is the title?

The winner gets, yes, a free lunch at Giulio's -- as soon as Open House, if you come then.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tour of Bologna - Part II

Below is the second and final part of our brief tour of Bologna. It is meant to give those of you who have never been here a feel of the city that has been home to SAIS Bologna since it was started 56 years ago.

Here is a map showing the monuments and places that are identified with captions in yesterday's and today's segments:

View A Tour of Bologna in a larger map

As I note in the video and as is clear from the map, this tour is by no means comprehensive. Compared to a thorough tour, it is no more than a snack to a main dish. But it may give you a taste of the open air museum that is Bologna. Which, after all, is one of Italy's gastronomic capitals.

Tomorrow: weekly quiz

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tour of Bologna - Part I

Our readers have seen SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC. Time, now, to show you the city of Bologna.

I took advantage of the Easter holiday at the Bologna Center to shoot some video of this medieval city that has been host to the Center for 56 years.

A sunny spring day provided the backdrop. I toyed with the idea of adding a music sound track but decided it's best to let the city speak for itself. You may wonder how I got around the entire city center in a morning: by bike and on foot, of course.

There is so much to see in Bologna that I have had to split the video into two parts; we'll post Part II tomorrow. Even so, there is a great deal that I did not have time to tape.

Another time.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More winning photographs

Below are more victorious photos from the Bologna Center competition. Yesterday, we featured a photograph of Morocco by Nicolò Lanciotti, repeated below, which was the overall winner and winner of the Travel Category. Here are the names of the other winners and the categories:

Best in People Category - tie between Eric Leikin and Justin Clark (Morocco)
Best in Bologna Category - Aurélien Billot (Strada Maggiore)
Best in Italy Category - tie between Aurélien Billot and Euri Lee (Venice)

As our readers can see, there is a lot to photograph and film in and around Bologna.

Many thanks to Courtney McCarty, the Student Government Association and the participants.

by Nicolò Lanciotti
by Eric Leikin
by Justin Clark
by Aurélien Billot
by Aurélien Billot
by Euri Lee
Tomorrow and Thursday: a video glimpse of Bologna

Monday, April 18, 2011

Winning photography

Today and tomorrow we will showcase some photography by current Bologna Center students. Below is a note by Courtney McCarty, a current student who helped to organize a photography contest. She provides some details and background on the contest. Below her note is the winning photograph by Nicolò Lanciotti. Tomorrow we will run several others that won different categories in the competition. 

Our SAIS class has a lot of different talents, and we've gotten to see that in many ways this year. We've seen (and heard) our classmates form a rock band, perform in a local orchestra and play various sports with the Bolognese, for example. But I had also noticed many classmates who take excellent photos. Every time I visited Facebook, one classmate or another had posted some amazing shots from their latest weekend trip to Morocco, or Sicily or even here in Bologna. Our student blog has highlighted some of that talent, but I thought it would be a good idea to have a photo contest/exhibit, in print format, to really show it off. 

So, I worked with the Student Government Association and school administration to make it happen. I sent out a call for submissions, asking for photos in the themes of Bologna, Italy, Travel and People, because these are the themes that have really defined our year here. I received 41 entries from 21 students, had them printed in a local photography shop and displayed them in the Library in a competition format.  About 1/4 of the students, plus some staff, participated in the voting, and we named winners last week. We're hoping to display some of the winning photos in different ways throughout SAIS. 

When seen in print format, the photos really were amazing, and it was great to see everyone's experiences in both Bologna and farther afield throughout this year. I have heard from both students and staff how great the photos looked and how impressed they were by the students' work.

Courtney McCarty

Morocco scene
by Nicolò Lanciotti
Nelson Graves

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly quiz

Before we get to the weekly quiz, an update on where we stand. The Bologna Center will be closed April 17-26. We will be checking email during that period, but if you do not hear from us quite as quickly as you normally do, don't worry. We will respond. 

Open House will take place on May 5&6. If you need a visa for Italy, please make sure you plan in advance. Getting a tourist visa is fairly straightforward, but sometimes it can be tricky. Make sure you contact us if you face any difficulties in obtaining your visa.

For candidates who applied to SAIS Bologna through the Bologna Admissions Office, the deadline for matriculation is May 16.

If you have not met the economics entry requirement, you will receive an email soon after April 27. As you know, we offer an online course over the summer  and the deadline to enroll is May 17. We know you'll meet the deadline! 

Now, on to the quiz:

What is the name of the art work in the center of the picture and where exactly is it located?

Picture by Elisabeth Mondl, BC 2011
Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A chat with Professor David Calleo

The Bologna Center was founded in 1955, a decade after the end of World War Two. It was created against a backdrop of political, social and economic upheaval in Europe and mounting tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Relations between Washington and Europe were evolving rapidly.

It's easy with hindsight to see why European Studies was from the start a key component of the Bologna Center curriculum. With the changes since then, foremost among them the disintegration of the Soviet Union, is European Studies still relevant?

Meet David Calleo. Professor Calleo has been teaching at SAIS for more than four decades. He was appointed director of European Studies in 1968, Dean Acheson professor 20 years later and JHU University professor in 2001. You can take a glimpse at his accomplishments and publications here.

If anyone has a perspective on SAIS and European Studies, it is Prof. Calleo. I took advantage of a swing through Washington to chat very briefly with him.

Nelson Graves

A glimpse of the SAIS DC Open House

Today was Open House at SAIS Washington for students who have been admitted to the 2011-12 academic year.

Some of those who have been admitted to next year's program at the Bologna Center were able to attend. But by no means all. So I have filmed a bit of today's event. It is anything but comprehensive. Nonetheless, we thought it would give those who were not able to attend, and also those who might be considering applying for 2012-13, a taste of the event.

A reminder: the Bologna Center Open House is set for May 5&6 in Bologna. We'll be circulating a detailed program in a day or so to admitted candidates. But please mark that on your calendar if there is any chance of your making it. It is a great way to learn more about SAIS Bologna.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where our admitted candidates come from

You've heard us say time and again that we welcome feedback and suggestions. We want to be true to our word.

On Monday, Góes posted this comment on last week's quiz: "Could you make a map like the one in this post featuring where the students admitted to the Center this year come from?" I promised we would do so.

Below you will see a map of the world showing the countries of the candidates who were admitted through our office in Bologna for the 2011-12 academic year. Keep in mind that this map does not include those admitted through our Washington Admissions Office, which handles applications from U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Some of you may remember a post in January with maps showing where this year's students come from and the 110 countries of our alumni.

All of this, of course, underscores the international character of SAIS -- one of our most important characteristics. And we hope a drawing card for our admitted candidates.

View Admitted candidates' countries in a larger map

Nelson Graves

Monday, April 11, 2011

SAIS students and democratic development

Many of our readers will recognize this acronym: CCSDD.

We've had two posts already on the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development. In one,  CCSDD Director Justin Frosini discussed the work of this partnership between SAIS Bologna and the University of Bologna Law School.

Another post examined a two-day seminar on Islam and Europe.

Today at SAIS Bologna, the CCSDD hosted a day-long workshop on electoral management in transitional countries. Here is a program.

We highlight this workshop for two reasons.

First, it drew experts in democratic transitions. Second, it involved SAIS Bologna students in the preparation of the workshop and in case studies on Georgia, South Ossetia, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and Poland.

In the video below, you will see Prof. Erik Jones and Prof. Forsini introduce the workshop. Then I speak with Elizabeth Hegedus-Berthold and Ryan Miller about their work at the CCSDD. Both Elizabeth and Ryan are paid interns at the Center.

We get lots of questions about internships in Bologna. Elizabeth and Ryan are examples of two students who are involved in internships that expand their intellectual horizons and earn them money.

Nelson Graves

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekly quiz

It has been four months, almost to the day, since we launched this blog. It has been fun for us. We hope it has been useful for our readers.

We realize there have been imperfections and we could have done a lot of things much better. ("The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Who said that?) With your help, we will try to be better in the future.

We do feel that it has opened up a line of communication with prospective applicants and, now, with admitted candidates. We realize that some readers will turn to other forms of entertainment as the admissions cycle winds down. Thank you for your loyal readership.

We intend to keep up the pace of daily posts until mid-May. Admitted candidates will have lots of questions until the May 16 deadline for matriculation. Then we will continue posting at a slightly less torrid pace until the summer holidays kick in, when we will taper off somewhat but not completely. Come September, when prospective candidates start scouting for academic opportunities, we'll offer more regular posts.

We'd like to expand the type of posts that we offer and to include more input from readers. We are thinking of polls and consumer-generated content. Your thoughts are welcome, either via the comment space or in an email.

Please remember that you can subscribe to this blog via email by filling out the box on the right-hand side of the page. RSS feeds are also available. SAIS is also present on Facebook and Twitter.

This map shows our blog's readership rankings by countries (I realize that some readers use servers in other countries, so the rankings do not necessarily reflect where the readers live):

View Readership rankings in a larger map

As I write, we have had 17,953 page views.

Now, for the quiz. To keep on the same theme:

Which of our 82 posts has attracted the greatest number of pageviews?

Hint: Some candidates considered the post useful during the final admissions push.

For some reason I am having difficulty publishing a comment at the end of our blog. So be it. Here is what I was trying to say:

I received this from Sophia at 7:02 pm last night: "my answer for Friday quiz is the following - post 'A chance to put your best foot forward' dated March 9, 2011."

Thank you, Góes and Sophia, for your answers. You’re on the right track but not quite there yet. It’s unusual for our readers to be stumped more than 12 hours after we publish the quiz. It’s also ironic that a question about which post has attracted the most attention from our readers would prove so difficult.

So here is a hint: the post in question features Room 216 and a lot of books.

I’ve practically given it away. This week’s prize: a free lunch at Giulio’s and a cappuccino.



I still cannot post a comment. So I will write here ...

Both Anonymous and Fracuo are correct. Well done. It was indeed "Seeing how you think" on February 21, starring Erik Jones, professor of European Studies. Clearly Prof. Jones's insights into interviews attracted attention. I'd love to offer two lunches, but I wouldn't be able to recognize Anonymous, whereas I know who Fracuo is. Thanks to all for playing.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 7, 2011


We promised when we launched this blog in December (how time flies) that it would not only entertain and advise, but also inform.

We will try to be on the entertainment side of the ledger tomorrow with the weekly quiz. We were full of avuncular advice during the application period.

It's about time we informed.

We're getting a lot of questions from admitted candidates, and some from those on the wait list and those who were not offered admission. FAQs might be the last refuge of scoundrels, but they can be useful.

(Did you know that the term "FAQs" is fairly recent? Like the fax machine, it did not exist when I was the age of most of our blog readers.)

Q: I have been offered aid for 2011-12. Will I receive the same amount in 2012-13?

A: There is a pool of aid for students in their second year. Generally the pool is greater in the first year than the second, in part because some special fellowships are available to Bologna Center students. All students in satisfactory academic standing are eligible to apply for aid for the second year. Awards are based mainly on performance during the first semester at the Bologna Center. Need and in some cases fellowship eligibility can also be taken into consideration. Students who perform especially well in Bologna -- whether or not they have received aid in their first year -- can present a strong case for aid in the second year. There is no assurance that a student will receive the same amount of aid the second year -- they can receive more or less. Competition for aid is lively, and we urge students to explore alternative sources for the second year as soon as possible to avoid missing deadlines which can fall one year in advance.

One of the alternative sources of funds for the second year for non-U.S. citizens could be the Fulbright Commission. There is no blanket authorization for the national commissions to accept applications from students who attend the Bologna Center and who are looking for funding for a second year in Washington. Each country applies its own policies. However, a number of commissions in Europe have agreed to accept applications from students for their second year in Washington, and we would encourage those who are interested to try. Please keep us informed of your progress, and if you think that an intervention from us with your local Fulbright Commission might help establish your eligibility (not advance your candidacy), please provide us the name, email and/or telephone number of your contact person, and we will try to help . Also, keep in mind that this applies to funding for a second year in Washington. Fulbright does not offer scholarships to students studying in Bologna.

Q: I received no aid for 2011-12. Can I receive some for 2012-13?

A: Please see the answer to the preceding question. If you perform extremely well in Bologna, you're only doing yourself a favor. Give it a try.

Q: Can I be awarded more financial aid for 2011-12?

A: One of the most difficult aspects of assembling a new class is our inability to fully meet the financial needs of all of the students we would like to welcome. At the moment we have distributed in awards all of the money available to us for scholarships. Later in the spring, when we know which admitted candidates will be attending SAIS, if sufficient money is returned to us we may be able to make additional grants, as we have in the past, but it is not something to count on. We know how difficult the financial challenge is.

Q: Can I defer enrollment?

A: Yes. We ask candidates who wish to defer to write to us, explaining why. You need a good reason to defer. Different people have different reasons for deferring; we will consider each case on its merits. In some cases, it is to work a job that directly enhances your subsequent experience at SAIS. A candidate who defers needs to decide by May 16 to hold down the spot for the following academic year. If you want to defer, let us know as soon as possible.

Q: How do I get a visa to study in Italy?

A: Once you have matriculated (which requires a 385 euro payment), we will send you a letter, in Italian, that allows you to apply for a student visa ("Visto Tipo D" -- in English, Type D visa). You can apply at an Italian embassy or consulate in your home country. From there on, it's pretty straightforward (convicted criminals aside, of course -- just kidding). If you get on this early, you should not lose any sleep. But if you hit a snag, be sure to contact us.

Q: Can I work part-time in Bologna?

A: Italian regulations say full-time students with a visa can work up to 20 hours a week, or 1040 hours a year. There are some jobs in the Bologna Center such as research and teaching assistantships, library employment, the reception. There can be opportunities off campus, especially if you speak some Italian.

Q: When and how do I apply for a job at the Bologna Center?

A: It depends. In general, it's best to wait for jobs to be posted. Some departments send out vacancy announcements over the summer, while others wait until pre-term or the beginning of the academic year to post. In many cases, job openings will be sent to incoming students via email. Research and teaching assistantships are managed by professors themselves, and the processes and timing depend on the individuals. If you are interested in a teaching or research assistantship, have a look at the biographies of professors and consider whether there is someone you would like to work with. Keep in mind that there can be a good deal of competition for these posts.

Q: What if my question is not answered here? Should I dash off an email to the friendly Admissions team?

A: We love email. But could we ask a favor? That you first check out a special page for incoming students. If your answer is not there, try this FAQs page. If you still don't have an answer, please do write or call us.

Q: How do I pronounce "Bologna"?

A: The "g" is soft. If you say "Bo-lon-ya", with the accent on "lon", you're off to a good start.


Tomorrow: Weekly quiz

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sink or swim

Prof. Harper
John Harper has been teaching American Foreign Policy at SAIS Bologna for 30 years. For most of that period, he has taught a debate course that has helped legions of students learn how to research topics, deliver a crisp message and think on their feet.

Today we thought we would take time out from the admissions process and its imperatives to take a peek at Prof. Harper's class.

Last week's debate: "Resolved: The United States should limit China's rise".

Our thanks to the debaters -- Kyle Burgess, Matthew Carroll, Elizabeth Fustos and Meredith Secor -- for allowing us to observe.

Amina Abdiuahab

A reply to a comment

We received a comment from "Anonymous" after publishing yesterday's post, "Striving for excellence".

Here is the comment: "I think that's very helpful, but it would also be good to see some standard indicators e.g. number of applicants to places, median gre, etc"

I tried to post a comment, but it did not load, probably due to space limitations. Here it is:

I’ll do my best to address this question. First, keep in mind that we are discussing applicants to the Bologna Admissions Office, so non-Americans. We do not publish the admissions rate (the percentage of applicants who are admitted). That is not because we like to keep secrets. Like many statistics, it paints a very limited picture. It does not capture the quality of the applicant pool, something that is very important for a small and focused program such as ours. We are very satisfied with the quality of the applicants. As applications were up sharply to our office this year, we have had to turn down more candidates than at any time in the past eight years and so have had to be even more selective. I know – I am reading emails from disappointed candidates every day.

You mention GREs. GREs are required of U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents who apply through our Washington office, but we do not require them of non-U.S. citizens who apply to SAIS Bologna through our office. That is in part because the GRE is not widely used outside the United States. Although our applicants’ transcripts usually capture their GPAs, we do not compile an average GPA because of the wide variety of universities that our candidates attend. Keep in mind that we had applications from 72 countries -- with transcripts from many more universities -- this year. Finally, while we do require English proficiency tests of non-native English speakers, they are used to measure whether a candidate can handle the challenge of studying entirely in English, not as an overall predictor of performance. Publishing average language proficiency scores would not be very meaningful.

I’m not sure this answer will satisfy "Anonymous". How about this: have a look at the profiles of some of our students. Read again the profiles of some of our top admitted candidates in yesterday's post. Take a look at the accomplishments of SAIS alumni.

Do you measure up?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Striving for excellence

How selective is SAIS Bologna?

That's a question we've heard from several quarters since the Admissions Committee issued its decisions yesterday. It's a perfectly fair query. People who were admitted and are weighing other offers want to compare. People on the wait list are wondering whether to wait. And those who fell short want to know why.

As rejected candidates can attest, we receive more applications than spots available. You would expect as much from a program like ours. (Some rejected candidates would like us to be less selective -- one of the ironies of admissions.)

I could list the names of the top undergraduate institutions where our admitted candidates have studied. I could cite their standardized test scores or GPAs. But I won't, because these are measures of excellence that you would expect at SAIS. We need to take into account factors that are not so easily quantified.

So how selective are we?

Age is not a determining factor in our admissions decisions, but maturity can be. Some individuals demonstrate intellectual and professional maturity at a young age, others much later. In general, our strongest candidates have solid undergraduate records and good test scores where relevant, and have exhibited an interest in international relations through their studies, internships, language proficiency -- or a combination.

Consider what some of our admitted candidates have done:
  • One has worked for McKinsey, Goldman Sachs and Grameen Bank; been posted to the U.N.; studied at Harvard and in Hong Kong, and learned three languages.
  • Another has worked at the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Finance in her home country, advised a member of parliament, contributed to two publications and learned four languages.
  • A third has worked for the Economist and a microfinance organization in Africa, and interned on a newspaper in South America.
  • One has interned at the U.N., the UNDP, the German parliament and a newspaper in West Africa, and speaks five languages.
  • An Asian candidate has interned at the European Parliament, been a delegate to two overseas Model U.N. conferences -- and is a swing dancer.
  • One candidate has interned in Jordan researching the economic impact of the Iraqi war on refugees in Jordan, and speaks Arabic and French.
I could go on. My point is not that a candidate wins admission by accumulating internships or languages. But an applicant who boasts a solid undergraduate academic record, has mastered English, has demonstrated a real interest in international affairs and knows how to put their best foot forward -- you get the point.

We are fortunate to have many such applicants. It's a blessing and guarantor of quality that goes beyond percentages.

We're excited by the prospect that we'll have another group of students in the autumn who stand out by virtue of the depth of their knowledge and of the breadth of their experience and curiosity. Such students have built SAIS Bologna's reputation over its 56 years.

Some candidates who fell short may consider whether, with a bit more experience and commitment to international affairs, they could make a successful stab in the future. Our office can provide guidance.

Nelson Graves

Monday, April 4, 2011

This is for all our candidates

Today we have written to all candidates for the 2011-12 academic year. Some have been admitted, others not. A small number were offered spots on a wait list.

I'd like to thank all candidates, regardless of the Admissions Committee's decision, for your applications. Your interest proves that SAIS remains highly relevant, and your questions and prodding have kept us on our toes. As many of you know, I am very new to this job and have found the energy among candidates to be invigorating.

Let me use this space to answer some of the most common questions we've received since sending out those emails this morning.

If you have not been offered admission, we are willing to provide feedback on your application. I feel strongly that one can benefit from such feedback when one falls short. I would ask one thing, however: If you would like such feedback, please drop me an email after April 18 and we will try to set up a time to chat.

If you have been offered a spot on the wait list, please let us know by May 16 if you would like to remain on that list. We will know only after that date if any spots open up. There is no way of knowing now if there will be any openings as it will depend on the acceptance rate among those who were admitted. If there are openings, we will be in touch with those on the wait list as soon as possible after May 16.

If you were offered admission, congratulations. You will be receiving more material in the next few days. If you had requested financial aid, you will be hearing from us on that request. Some of you will receive guidance on Economics and the pre-term English course, and applicants to the International Development concentration will learn if they have been accepted.

Many of those who requested financial aid and are offered either none or less than what they had requested will ask: Is there a chance for more aid? At this point we have allocated all of the aid we can. There is a chance that some of it will be returned to us and that we could reallocate that. However, that possibility is not something to count on, and any further consideration would not occur until after the deadline for responding to our offer.

Admitted candidates: Please note that the deadline for acceptance is May 16, and you will nail down your place by paying a matriculation fee. Of course we would be grateful for early responses as that helps us get organized for the next year. It can also speed up our responses to those on the wait list.

I would ask that admitted candidates read the wealth of material that we will point them to before sending us any questions. As you know, we like to respond promptly to questions. I consider that an important part of our job, and we aim to serve and to set the right example. But many questions will be addressed by the material, and we'll be able to focus on the unique questions if those admitted take the time to read the information packet carefully.

Finally, there will be several events in coming weeks allowing admitted candidates to meet students, faculty, staff and alumni. More on that later.

Nelson Graves

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekly quiz

Many of you have applied to SAIS Bologna for the year starting in October. Next week we'll be sending out emails announcing the decisions of the Admissions Committee, which met this week.

A few comments from someone who is new to the process.

I have been very impressed with the quality of the pool of applicants. It has confirmed my decision to return to education after years as a journalist. The range of interests, talents and experience of the applicants; their academic and professional accomplishments; their commitment to lead meaningful lives on the global stage: the combined potential of the candidates is enormous and reason to feel good about our future.

I've also been impressed that most of the candidates have grasped what makes the Bologna Center experience unique: that students are exposed to points of view here and then, in Washington during the second year, to different perspectives. That combination sets SAIS apart and gives our graduates a leg up.

Increased interest in SAIS Bologna this year has made our admissions process more selective. As I wrote yesterday, some candidates will receive rejection emails. As we note in the letters, that is not a reflection on the potential of those candidates. We are grateful for their interest and wish them the very best in their continued education and eventual careers. If the past is any guide, some will apply again after an interlude working or studying, and present even stronger candidacies. We welcome such commitment.

Those who are admitted can feel proud. But some then have difficult decisions to take. This graduate program or another? How to pay for it? Which program suits my career aims? What are my career aims?

Perhaps we can help answer some of those questions.

We've already had lots of queries from U.S. candidates who have already been admitted. Many focus on financial aid, others on internships and jobs in Bologna. These are issues we will try to tackle next week.

Now, this week's puzzle.

Who is the man in this picture and how long has he been associated with SAIS?

Send in your answers by commenting on this post below or via email.

Nelson Graves