Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A summer challenge

When John Harper, professor of American Foreign Policy, spoke to alumni last spring, he sought to sum up why he and other faculty have chosen to "tarry" at SAIS Bologna for many years (or decades, in Prof. Harper's case).

"Those who were associated with the Bologna Center -- from library stack attendants to members of the permanent and visiting faculty -- were all part of an intimate academic community such as one rarely finds today," Prof. Harper told the Alumni Weekend gathering, quoting from a 1977 obituary of the Bologna Center's founder, C. Grove Haines.

The word "community" comes up often when alumni talk about Bologna. SAIS Bologna tends to be an intense year that packs academic challenges, career planning and healthy socializing into a few months.

It may sound ironic, but the diversity of the student body contributes to the sense of togetherness. This coming year we have 202 students enrolled from 44 countries. That means everyone is in a minority of sorts. Even the 87 U.S. citizens are guests in a foreign country. Diversity in a common, intimate setting: it helps bring people together.

Helped by one of our most active alumni, Tom Tesluk (BC81/DC82), SAIS Bologna has decided to tap into that sense of community and at the same time have a bit of fun this summer.

We are asking alumni to show us what they miss most about Bologna -- and to show it to the world.

Starting this Friday, August 19, alumni can upload content capturing their feelings and memories -- text, photos, audio, video -- onto the SAIS Bologna website. The entries will be part of a five-week contest, or mission, with the content that captures the most votes from registered visitors winning a free dinner for six in the Italian restaurant of their choice.

I bring this to the attention of our readers because you may want to check out the content (by going to www.jhubc.it). It will give those of you who are thinking of applying or even those enrolled for 2011-12 an idea of what our 6,700 alumni consider special about the place. I think much of the material will be imaginative and compelling. It should give a unique perspective on the Bologna Center.

Remember: our network of alumni is regularly cited as an advantage for SAIS students looking to plug into opportunities around the world.

Much is made of social media nowadays. This initiative seemed a natural: to harness the power of technology to bring our community even closer together.

Nelson Graves

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