Friday, June 17, 2011

A DVD apology and other odds & ends

It's Friday -- time to tackle housekeeping matters. I'd rather not start with an apology but am compelled to do so.

As everyone knows, SAIS provides each incoming student with DVDs to help them brush up on mathematics. One set has four DVDs with pre-calculus learning modules, while the other has three DVDs with calculus modules. The DVDs complement the SAIS Online Math Tutorial, which is accessed through the Blackboard course website, as John Harrington, dean of Academic Affairs in Washington, explained in an email to all incoming students on May 25.

Some incoming students who applied for admission through Bologna -- all of the non-Americans except a handful -- have received the pre-calculus DVDs but not the calculus cassettes. Yesterday we sent out fresh calculus DVDs to a number of students, and we'll do the same with more on Monday when the Bologna Center reopens (it is closed on Fridays all summer, until mid-August).

A humble bow of apology
If you have received one set and not the other, then you are a victim of the DVD mix-up, which is entirely our fault. If you have not done so already, please send an email to with "Missing DVDs" in the subject line and your your mailing address in the text, stipulating which DVDs you did not receive, and we'll set things right.

If you have received no DVDs whatsoever, please wait until Tuesday, June 21 to see if they arrive. If they have not arrived by then, please send an email to explaining.

My apologies for this glitch and my thanks to all of you for your patience and understanding.

Students coming to SAIS Bologna this autumn from outside the European Union are busy getting their visas. Requirements vary greatly from one Italian diplomatic mission to another. Some consulates or embassies are very familiar with SAIS, others not.

The letters, which all of the non-U.S. incoming students from outside the EU should have received from us and which are written in Italian, are meant to reassure the diplomatic authorities on a few scores:
  • That the student has been admitted to the SAIS Bologna Center, which is recognized by the Italian government;
  • That the student will have the emergency medical insurance that is required of foreign students;
  • That SAIS Bologna is in close contact with the Foreigners Office of the Bologna police (Questura) and will help the student obtain a permesso di soggiorno if needed;
  • That SAIS Bologna has an adequate number of apartments at its disposal and that the student in question will be able to rent one of them;
The letter asks that the authorities consider the letter as a substitute for an apartment rental contract.

In most cases, this letter gives the diplomatic authorities what they need to issue a student visa. If for some reason they read the letter and still balk, please get in touch with us.

If you are a citizen of an EU member state, you do not have to obtain a student visa. (Some might take that for granted, but believe me, it was not that way in my day, when even to cross borders between any two European countries, you had to show your passport.)

We are asking readers of this blog for feedback to help us make it better. Many readers would have received the link to the survey via email. The online survey takes a few minutes to fill out and is anonymous.

If you would like to participate in the survey and have not received the link, please send an email to, with "Blog Survey" in the subject line, and we'll be happy to send the link to you.

Already 58 people have responded to the survey. There is a critical mass of opinion emerging that will help us shape this blog and tailor it to readers' needs. Thank you for your comments, suggestions and criticism.

By the way, in the summer we will share with readers a summary of the results of the survey along with some readership statistics. Transparency is our watchword.

A reminder that the deadline for registering for pre-term in Bologna is July 5. For more information, click here. Pre-term starts on August 29 and runs until September 26.

If you are interested in attending pre-term at SAIS Washington (July 25-August 23), the deadline for registering is Friday, June 24 -- one week from today. For more information, click here.

It is not recommended that students in Bologna pre-term take two economics courses or an economics course and a core course. That would end up being a whopping amount of work. Remember, these are full-term courses squeezed into 4 weeks. However, survival Italian would be an option -- and I would recommend that all students who do not know Italian learn some while they are here. It makes the experience more meaningful.

Some incoming students have asked if they can be in touch with Salvatore, our housing consultant, before he starts showing apartments on August 18. Alas, he is not available. It will be a level playing field from August 18, and he will have enough apartments so that there is no reason to panic. As we've already said, finding an apartment is just about the easiest thing of all thanks to Salvatore's help.

We've also been asked if we will be sending out paper versions of the admissions letter and other admissions materials that admitted students received. I'm afraid not -- we are trying to go almost entirely digital. (Yes, I'd love for the math DVDs to be online, and for us to have a completely digitalized application system -- dreams that may come true next year.)

If you need a paper version, we will leave it to you to print it out your end. If you need an original copy of your admissions letter or some other document in its original form, drop us a line. But even the most bureaucratic of authorities are moving away from paper, although we realize not all.

Next week we'll show you another award-winning piece of academic work and an exam that was taken by students of a popular core course.

Nelson Graves

P.S. I almost forgot. Yes, there is no quiz this week. The feedback on the survey suggests that the weekly quiz has done its part in building readership loyalty but that it's time to think of other approaches. Of course if someone wants to propose a quiz question, we would be delighted to consider it.


NVM said...

Mr. Graves: Thank you for all the updates. I have a quiz question proposal: " What is the English Translation of the word(s) on the piece behind you in the photograph." Maybe an easier one would be distinguishing which syllabary is depicted.

Nelson Graves said...

NVM - You are observant as always. The scroll on the wall behind me was made by my wife, Laure Graves. It is a piece of "Shodo", or Japanese calligraphy, with five "kanji" characters which translated say: warble sings at noon prune tree for a while. I am wearing a "kimono" or "yukata" which I bought in Kyoto while we were living in Japan. As you know, bowing in Japan is very common, and is used for greeting, saying good-bye and, of course, asking for forgiveness or apologizing.

Nelson Graves said...

Shoko Sugai, who graduated from SAIS Bologna last month and will be attending SAIS DC in the autumn, has set me right: in the photo I am actually wearing a "samue", which are made of cotton and traditionally were work clothes in Japan. Thank you, Sugai-san.

NVM said...

Thank you for the response. It is always a blessing to have international siblings because they help us appreciate and learn about the world in its fullness. If it were not for Shoko, we may have never been introduced to the term Samue. Thanks Shoko! :)