Wednesday, May 30, 2012

House hunting in Bologna

Finding a roof over your head is one of the first things you need to do when you arrive.

How do students nail down apartments?

SAIS Bologna works with a housing consultant, Salvatore, who has helped SAISers find apartments for more than three decades. (You may remember he helped my colleague Nelson Graves find a flat when he was a student at SAIS).

One is not required to use Salvatore's service. You can find accommodation on your own. If you decide to go that route, it's easier if you speak some Italian.

Smile and the world smiles with you
Students can start signing up to visit apartments from August 15; you have to be here in person to sign up. Raffaella at the reception will direct you to the sign-up sheet. Then starting on August 16 Salvatore will take students on tours to look at apartments.

August 15 is a major holiday in Italy -- Ferragosto -- and most bolognesi will be out of town. The city will be very quiet that day and most shops will be closed. Some will remain shuttered for longer that week or perhaps for the entire week. But don't worry because you will find places to do your shopping or to eat.

Housing works on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure you sign up for a housing tour as soon as you arrive. Salvatore normally manages to show students the available rooms within a day or two. Then the ball is in your court.

Once you find the place you like, you'll be required to sign a contract. You will be asked to pay a one-time finder's fee, a deposit and the first month's rent. Be sure you come prepared and that you also bring your passport and visa.

How do students who want to share an apartment find a housemate or housemates?

Some students already know each other, but many don't. Some will meet through the Facebook group that has been formed for the incoming class.

You'd be amazed by the number of life-long friendships that have been formed because people were standing in the line together waiting to view one of Salvatore's apartments.

Here is a video that shows how some of this year's students found accommodation last fall.

The cost of housing is spelled out in our Incoming Student Guidebook. Pretty important reading.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SAIS Bologna Commencement - Part II

Here's a look at the end-of-the year ceremony that took place at SAIS Bologna on Saturday.

In yesterday's post we published two of the speeches that were delivered at the ceremony. In coming days we will publish the three papers that won their authors SAIS Bologna's highest academic awards.

The students:

The program:

The celebration (music courtesy of the BC Fuzz band, featuring Economics Prof. Michael Plummer):

If you are reading this by email, you can see the video here.

Nelson Graves

Monday, May 28, 2012

SAIS Bologna commencement - Part I

SAIS Bologna honored its students on Saturday with an end-of-the-year ceremony that mixed humor with gravitas.

Alexis Piet with her
 crown of laurel leaves
The "commencement" ceremony is a U.S. academic tradition marking the end of one's studies, hence the beginning of a new chapter in a graduate's life. Most of this year's students will be at SAIS DC next year, but those receiving either their MAIA or MIPP degree were given crowns of laurel leaves, in the Italian academic tradition.

Tomorrow we plan to publish a gallery of photographs of the day. Today we feature two of the speeches delivered to the nearly 200 students who attended SAIS Bologna in 2011-12 and the more than 160 guests who came to the ceremony.

Graham Norwood
Graham Norwood, president of the Student Government Association, delivered the student address and saluted his fellow classmates, whom he called "my path to enlightenment".

You can read Norwood's speech here.

Roberto Toscano, a SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC alumnus, delivered the main speech. Toscano is a former Italian ambassador to both India and Iran, and served also in the former Soviet Union and Chile.
Roberto Toscano

The official title of Toscano's talk was "40 Years of Diplomacy: a Profession, a Life". But he offered a substitute title in the speech itself: "To a Young Generation Suspended Between Discouragement and Hope -- With Apologies".

You can read Ambassador Toscano's speech here.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jobs at SAIS Bologna

Graduate school is an investment -- of time, energy and money. Many students need to work a job to make ends meet financially.

There are jobs on and off campus in Bologna. We discuss some of the possibilities below. But first a brief word of caution.

While we know how important it is for many students to hold down a part-time job, it must not jeopardize your academic success.

We recommend that students limit time on a job to about 10 hours a week. Students who work more than that can have trouble keeping up with course work. Remember SAIS has a demanding curriculum that requires solid time-management skills. In addition to classes and homework, there are seminars, career planning and, why not, one's social life.

So what kind of employment opportunities are there at SAIS Bologna?

BIPR employs five student research assistants and three photographers each semester.

Research assistants attend the seminar series and conduct video interviews with guest speakers. They  manage the “BIPR Research Brown Bag” series at which adjunct faculty discuss their research interests with students.

Photographers capture the seminar series and Institute events such as faculty-author book presentations held at Feltrinelli International book store. You may remember our posts on book presentations by Prof. Gilbert and Prof. Harper.

The library hires students to work 8-10 hours a week. Some 4 students are hired for pre-term. Before the start of the academic year in late September, there is a second round of hiring to find around ten students to work during the academic year.

Raffaella Besola will be one of the first people you meet when you arrive. Every year she hires 4  students to work at the reception. Students normally work 6-8 hours a week.

The Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD) hires around 10-15 research assistants. Jobs will be advertized in the summer or at the start of the academic year.

Some professors hire students as research or teaching assistants. To qualify for these jobs, you need to have a background in the subject taught by the professor.

Some offices will hire students to lend them a hand during the year. The number of students and the working hours vary from office to office. Students are hired to work with the IT office, Career Services, Communications and possibly others.

Some students find jobs off campus, often teaching their native language. Some have worked as au pair. Obviously the range of jobs off-campus is larger for those who speak Italian. On a student visa, one can work up to 20 hours a week or 1,040 hours in a year.

I can hear your next question: How do I apply for on-campus jobs?

Some jobs, such as openings at BIPR, are advertized through SAISWorks, the database and research tool used by the Career Services Offices on all three SAIS campuses.

Please pay attention to the welcome email from Career Services over the summer. It will include information about programming and an invitation to craft a resume or CV in the SAIS format before you come to SAIS. That can be helpful if you are interested in an on-campus job as some applications will require this format.

Other jobs, such as those in the library and at the reception, are announced via email in the summer.

The bottom line: If you want a part-time job, keep an eye on your email. There will be opportunities, but you have to seize them.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FAQs we are hearing

It's been a while since our last FAQs post. We do our best to provide answers in our literature. But you may not find all of your answers in our Guidebook for Incoming Students or on the Incoming Student page.

Below are some of questions we've been tackling recently.


Q: I received an email saying I have not met the introductory economics requirement. What do I do?
A: All students must have passed an introductory course in micro- and macroeconomics to start coursework at SAIS. If you have not taken economics before, you need to take and pass a university-level course that will give you the adequate preparation to start classes at SAIS.

Q: I missed the deadline to enroll in the SAIS Online Principles of Economics course. Can I still hope for a spot?
A: The Online Principles of Economics course offered by SAIS is now full. Remember that you can look for an alternative course offered at another institution. Be sure it is a university-level course provided by an accredited institution. Before enrolling, non-U.S. students need to send the course syllabus for approval to

U.S. students should contact the Admissions Office in Washington for guidance.

Q: Can I start coursework at SAIS if I haven't taken exams in principles of micro- and macroeconomics?
A: No. All students must have passed principles of economics to start classes.

Q: Can I take pre-term economics courses instead of a course in principles of economics?
A: No. The micro and macro courses offered in pre-term are at the intermediate level. To take them, one must have already passed introductory micro and introductory macro with a grade of B- or higher. You need to learn how to walk before you can run.

Q: What pre-term courses are available?
A: Information on pre-term courses is available here. In this document you will find a link to the registration form.


Q: How long does it take to obtain a visa?
A: It's difficult to say. If you have not done so already, you should visit the website of the Italian embassy in your home country to understand what the requirements are.

Non-U.S. students should have received a visa request letter in Italian. A hard copy of the visa letter and of your letter of admission will be sent to you.

U.S. students should make use of the Italian visa service offered in Washington.

Q: Can I apply for a visa outside of my home country?
A: Requesting a long-term visa outside of your home country is not easy. In most cases your application will be denied. We strongly recommend that you make your visa application in your native country.

Q: As part of my visa application I have been asked to provide proof of address. What should I do?
A: Please contact us at


Q: I'm a non-European Union national. Do I need health insurance?
A: Yes. If you are not a citizen of a European Union member state, you need to make sure you arrive in Italy with adequate health insurance.

Q: I will apply for the emergency health insurance. Will that be enough?
A: No. The emergency health insurance is useful if one is taken to hospital, but it does not substitute for a general health plan.

Q: I have health insurance. Do I need to buy the emergency health insurance?
A: You are not required to buy the emergency insurance. But we strongly recommend you do. The cost is roughly 100 euros for the whole year. With this insurance you would not have to pay out of your own pocket if you were taken to hospital.

Q: I'm an EU citizen. Should I get health insurance?
A: As an EU citizen, all you need to do is to apply for an international health card in your home country. This  card will give you the same rights to health assistance as Italians.

Got more questions? You know how to find us.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Never a dull moment"

It's my pleasure today to introduce you to Margel Highet, SAIS Bologna's director of Student Affairs.

Margel holds a key post at SAIS Bologna. Students benefit from her guidance and experience in a wide range of areas: she provides academic counsel; serves as the bridge between the Student Government Association and the administration, and helps ensure each student has as fulfilling an experience as possible here.

Margel attended SAIS Bologna and then SAIS DC -- but she's keeping her graduation year a secret. She came to Bologna in February from SAIS DC where she had worked for six years, most recently as associate director of the Energy, Resources and Environment program. Before that she had worked in the environmental non-profit sector.

In the video below Margel discusses her role at SAIS Bologna and why she likes her job.

If you're reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where does the Class of 2013 come from?

Our readers will learn more about our 2012-13 class at SAIS Bologna in coming weeks. In the meantime, the map below shows where they come from.

Candidates holding passports from 42 countries have accepted our offer of admission. They come from every inhabited continent.

The range of national origins contributes to the variety of perspectives and backgrounds that distinguish SAIS Bologna and underpin the learning experience.

View SAIS Bologna 2012-13 in a larger map

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SAIS Bologna students' summer plans

In the past 24 hours I have tapped 16 SAIS Bologna students on the shoulder and asked them what they will be doing this summer.

It amounts to a random survey that depends on the students' goodwill. Perhaps the timing -- at the outset of final exams -- could have been better. But in a mere two weeks this year's students will have graduated and moved on from Bologna to tackle new challenges and make room for next year's class.

You can hear the students discuss their summer plans in the video below. Despite the small sample of students, the destinations and internships reflect their diversity and range of interests.

Many of the jobs were lined up with the help of SAIS Bologna's Career Services Office. These 16 -- a small minority of this year's class -- will be working in:
  • Ethiopia at a school for orphaned girls
  • Ghana at an investment bank
  • New York at Greece's mission to the U.N.
  • Washington at the U.S. Treasury Department, a biotech firm and a conflict-management group
  • Johannesburg and Rome at the World Food Programme
  • Cote d'Ivoire at a peace-building NGO
  • Brussels at the Belgian Foreign Ministry and at Carnegie Europe
  • Germany at an electrical utility
  • Chile at a small-cap equity investment firm
  • Paris at the OECD
Facing what she suspects will be her last free summer for a while, Sofya Nazmetdinova will be returning home to Uzbekistan. "I'm going to have fun," she says.

If you are reading this by email, you can see the video here.

To see what last year's class did in the summer of 2011, click here.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Trip to NATO: Enhancing what you know

SAIS prides itself on the practical application of academic coursework. The Bologna Center is no exception.

Instead of a walk down Massachusetts Avenue to a nearby think thank or a short metro ride to Capitol South to meet legislators, a dozen Bologna Center students recently traveled to Brussels for a day of personalized meetings at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The objective of the April 23 trip, organized by the student-run Defense and Intelligence Club, was to obtain a first-hand perspective of NATO’s mission and operations through briefings with key personnel from a variety of areas.

Our introduction began with a meeting with a fellow SAIS Bologna alum who works within NATO’s Public Diplomacy division. We discussed the history and structure of NATO and major items on NATO’s agenda, particularly the upcoming Chicago Summit and NATO’s strategic framework. Subsequent speakers discussed NATO’s partnerships with non-NATO members, the methodology of NATO’s military operations and the concept of Smart Defense.

At our final meeting of the day, we were given an insider’s view of NATO’s political arm as we met with a diplomat from the U.S. Mission to NATO.

Because the number of participants was limited to our small group and one speaker, we were able to tailor the visit to our personal interests.

In the video below, Elizabeth Alonso-Halifax, Luke Burns and Carolyn Warren share their thoughts on the trip.

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Dominique Mack (BC12)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Your questions deserve answers

Amina and I receive lots of questions about SAIS Bologna. Some come from prospective candidates who may have just started trawling for information about graduate schools. Others come from admitted candidates.

An important part of our job is to make sure the questioners get the answers they deserve. That's not really that difficult, especially as we enjoy our interaction with candidates and also our work at SAIS.

We'd be amiss, however, if we didn't make sure candidates know about repositories of information about our program that are very accessible and very comprehensive.

First, there is our website. There is a wealth of information on our curriculum, the admissions process, students, faculty and alumni. It's the first stop for those with questions about SAIS Bologna.

(The site is in the process of being overhauled. The new site will be unveiled later this year and will include numerous improvements.)

Within the website is our catalog. The booklet was written during the 2011-12 academic year, but much of the information will not go out of date once our current class graduates on May 26. In the catalog you'll find information on life at SAIS Bologna, the courses, the faculty and admissions.

For more of an inside look, there is the guide for incoming students. It's true to its title, but prospective candidates who are still hungry for information after browsing the website and the catalog will want to look at the guidebook.

As our followers know, we are active on Facebook and also on Twitter (@SAISBolognaBlog).

And let's not forget ... this Admissions Journal.

Finally, Amina and I are always glad to handle questions. We can be reached at, by phone at +39 051 29 17 811 or via Skype at jhubc.admissions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Publishing and flourishing at SAIS Bologna

SAIS Bologna Prof. Michael Plummer has edited a new book that reflects his understanding of world trade and makes sense of the complexities of international commercial policy.

Plummer's latest work, The Oxford Handbook of International Commercial Policy, is scheduled to be released next month.

Prof. Michael Plummer
The 432-page volume is another example of the stature that SAIS professors hold in their fields as authors, teachers, policymakers and mentors.

Plummer returned to full-time teaching at SAIS Bologna this year after serving several years as head of the Development Division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

I won't try to summarize Plummer's qualifications, background or publishing track record. This semester at SAIS Bologna he is teaching Asian Economic Development and International Trade Theory. He and I were classmates at SAIS just a few years ago, and he then left me in the dust intellectually.

Oxford University Press says the book provides "comprehensive coverage of commercial policy issues, both theoretical and empirical" and "real-world commercial policies of key players in the global trading system."

I recently sat down with Plummer to discuss the book, co-authored with Prof. Mordchai Kreinin of Michigan State University.

Q: What is your new book about?
Plummer: The book is about various aspects of the evolving international commercial policy that are defining the international market place in the 21st century. It approaches this from a variety of angles, some cross-country thematic chapters such as chapters on regionalism and some on administrative actions, some on international law, some on agriculture. Others essentially look at it from the perspective of nations, such as large nations like the United States, the European Union and Japan, but also small open economies like Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

Q: Is there an overriding theme?
Plummer: It's an edited book, so it has a variety of perspectives from different scholars, some of the best scholars on these different themes. I think its main purpose had been to be used both by graduate students of economics and by policymakers with strong economic background who are interested in these sorts of policy developments.

Q: How did you find this range of contributors?
Plummer: They are some of the best known people in the field. What we did is we identified what we felt would be the most innovative and productive scholars in different fields, and we went after them to see if they would write chapters for us. We were very fortunate to get a very strong response. I am really delighted by the people we had contributing and by the efforts that they made. We really do feel that we have something that is cutting edge and which will be very useful.

Q: Did you write a chapter?
Plummer: Yes, with my co-author, Max Kreinin. We wrote the regionalism chapter as well as the introduction, of course.

Q: So graduate students and policymakers would be your target audience. How do they get ahold of the book?
Plummer: They order if from Oxford University Press.

Q: What's your next writing project?
Plummer: I have a book project that is going to be on emerging trends in Asian economic policy. I've been working on a series of papers dealing with post-Doha issues. I was asked to write it for something the Asian Development Bank is doing. Another is for the publication by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They have an Asian series that they publish, and we have a conference in September where we will present these papers that will eventually be published by them.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ducati: learning outside the classroom

Whatever your professional or academic aspirations, it's important to complement classroom learning with experiences outside the classroom.

With that in mind, the SAIS BC International Finance Club organized a recent visit to the Ducati factory to talk to the motorcycle maker's CFO, Paolo Poma.

Bologna-based Ducati Motor Holding is one of the world’s leading producers of performance motorcycles. Racing is a core part of the company as it subscribes to the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" business model that allocates 10% of revenue to racing.

Europe and the United States are currently Ducati's largest markets, but the company is expanding aggressively in South America and Asia. Ducati bikes aren’t free and typically cost 8,000 to 25,000 euros ($10,400-$32,500).

Our visit to Ducati started with a tour of the factory. Walking around the plant, dodging forklifts carrying  motorcycle parts, we glimpsed Ducati employees assembling all aspects of the bike. The tour guide told us about the firm's philosophy of “just-in-time” production to increase efficiency and speed of assembly. We were able to peek inside the R&D area for the Ducati Racing Team.

Following the factory tour we headed to the Ducati Museum that chronicles the history of the company and its transformation from a diversified electronics company into an iconic motorcycle brand. It was interesting to learn that Ducati got its break after World War Two making small, low-cost push-rod engines for mounting on bicycles. Every successful modern-day performance bike company needs to start somewhere!

Poma then welcomed us into the museum auditorium for a presentation about the company's financial performance, expansion plans and new shareholder Volkswagen. As part of its expansion strategy, Ducati  plans to open new factories in Thailand and Brazil. It hopes eventually to use VW’s distribution channels to drive up sales.

Opening the floor to questions, Poma shifted gears to offer us some career advice.

"As a student interested in governmental energy policies and their impact on private companies, I was fascinated to hear about how Ducati approaches compliance with international standards,” said Polina Bogolomova, a first-year SAIS student concentrating in Energy, Resources and Environment.

Fentress Boyse (BC12)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

SAIS Bologna Open House 2012

Today and tomorrow admitted candidates are visiting SAIS Bologna to learn more about the program and to meet faculty, students and staff.

Many candidates live too far away to come to Bologna in person. Here is a short video that captures some of the first day of Open House.

If you are reading this via email, to see the video click here.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A SAIS education: A resource of growing importance

Here is a report on the types of jobs SAIS students landed after graduating in 2011.

SAIS is considered a professional school, and so careers matter. SAIS prepares its students for a variety of jobs -- the diversity of choices is reflected in the report -- and graduates are able to shift careers throughout their professional lives. This flexibility characterizes SAIS's multidisciplinary approach.

Ronald Lambert, director of Career Services in Washington, says in the report that a SAIS education is more relevant than ever nowadays:

"Whether helping to assess risk for international investment houses, monitoring elections in emerging democracies, or working in concert with development agencies and members of the military on the ground to bring aid assistance to refugees, the SAIS education has emerged as a resource of growing importance to global employers seeking talent to solve the world's most pressing problems and to maximize existing opportunities."

Here are some of the highlights of the report:

  • 41% of the 2011 class went into the private sector, 25% into the public sector, 17% into nonprofit and 13% into multilateral institutions;
  • 84% of the class started their jobs in the United States;
  • of those working outside the United States, 38% started in Asia and another 38% in Europe;
  • the top types of jobs in the private sector were consulting, energy and banking/finance;
  • the top employer in the public sector was the U.S. State Department;
  • of those going to the nonprofit sector, 30% chose international development, 24% think tanks and research and 22% education/training;
  • of those going to the multilateral sector, 46% selected the World Bank, 12% the Inter-American Development Bank and 12% the United Nations;
  • 75% of the class participated in internships during the summer between their first and second year, and half worked internships during the academic year.
For a report on the employment outcomes for the class of 2010, click here.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alumni Weekend: "It changed my trajectory."

Several hundred alumni returned to Bologna this past weekend to catch up with friends, meet current students and reconnect with SAIS Bologna.

Here is how one member of the Class of 1982, only partly in jest, summarized his feelings:

"I remember Alumni Weekend of 1982. I heard alumnus after alumnus say, 'My year in Bologna was the best year of my life.' I thought to myself, 'Are they losers? It's got to get better than this.'

"Now I'm back here 30 years later, and I'm saying to myself, 'You know what? That was the best year of my life.'"

Class of 1982

I was in that Class of 1982. I asked some of my classmates who returned this past weekend to jot down what the Bologna Center experience had meant to them. Here is what they wrote:

My year at the Bologna Center gave depth to my life. The rest was just a matter of trying to stay afloat.

Arriving in Bologna in August 1981, I was struck by a divided Europe -- East and West. By the end of the year I saw how all are one.

Discovering the wild world. Making good friends. I became a shrink.

Pasta, wine, politics and friends -- the important things in life and, in most cases, things that improved with age.

For me as a naive American, coming to Bologna was a revelation. It opened up my world view (which in my East Coast Ivy League experience I thought was a world view) to so many new opinions, experiences and perspectives. What an amazing (and in some ways shocking) experience. It changed my trajectory for sure.

1. It almost made me grow up. Almost.
2. A great place to take off. Into life.

My social, economic and intellectual horizons were expanded immeasurably in wonderful ways by my year in Bologna. Everything that I have done after is connected in some way to my year here.

The meaning to me of our 30-year reunion? The slow unearthing of memories, some indistinct, some sharp -- a flash of ochre and gold, lilting tunes of a street husker, the pungency of pecorino and prosciutto. But much more than these, the surprise of rediscovered friendships, the unveiling of slender shards of our shared history, fragments of a past that took root 3 decades ago and somehow blossom in the present.

Opening up my mind to the world and to different perspectives on life. Even though I went back to what I was preparing to do before coming to Bologna, I definitely became a different person.

When I went to the Bologna Center in 1981, I was catapulted from the cocoonish isolation of California into a microcosm of the world from where I could observe at a safe but surprisingly close distance the still glowing embers of the not so Cold War and was exposed to a range of perspectives that turned me into a hopeless addict of multiculturalism, multilingualism and a multifaceted meditation on the problems of the world. I've loved good red wine, great food and strong coffee ever since.

The magnitude of the learning here stretches over 30 years of my life. The more I think about it, the more I realize the impact on my life.

My year in Bologna opened my mind and heart to a world of opportunities and possibilities. A wonderful combination of intellectual, cultural and social exploration. It was great fun, too.

It confirmed many of my biases about the value of academic "discourse" but contradicted some important ones. It confirmed both my initial thought and the design of economic development that I would pursue.

The standout feature of my year in Bologna was the indelible bonds I have with a very special group of people who all shared the same experience.

By far the most lasting impact for me has been the friendships which began that year and have matured in the 30 years since. Secondly, and important as well, was that SAIS Bologna helped me transition from a domestic career to an international one.

La vita รจ troppo breve per mangiare male.

Amina spoke to some more recent graduates in the brief video below.

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Nelson Graves