Monday, December 30, 2013

Photo Gallery II: Vote for your favorite photo

On December 19 we ran a first batch of 10 photographs by current SAIS Europe students and recent graduates. Today we publish another 10. Now is your chance to vote for your favorite from among the 20 photos. The winner will receive a Bologna Center tee shirt plus a book of their choice from among five written by SAIS Europe professors. Not to mention the honor of being singled out from among 20 outstanding shots.

To cast your anonymous vote, click here. (Before voting, don't forget to view the photos posted on December 19.) The poll will remain open until January 10.

Many thanks again to those who took the trouble to share their photographs with us.

Maxwell Cohen
Turin, Italy

Melanie Wheeler
Bologna, Italy

Nameerah Hameed
Islamabad, Pakistan

Nathan Shepura
Saharan Desert, Morocco

Nicola Hil
Railay, Thailand

Rebecca de Guttry
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Shelley Ranii
El Parque Nacional de los Glacieres, Argentina

Tess Johnson
Sardinia, Italy

Zhaoyin Feng
Shenandoah Park, Virginia

Zhiyi Chen
Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Some tips ahead of the January 7 application deadline

As the January 7 deadline for applications draws near, below are some tips for putting the finishing touches on admissions dossiers for the 2014-15 academic year.

(Before the tips, don't forget to vote for your favorite photo from among those in our end-of-year galleries. We posted 10 photos last week and will publish another 10 on December 30, along with a link to the poll for voting.)

For posts on topics that are particularly popular at this time of year:
- statement of purpose
- analytical essay
letters of recommendation
Some questions we're hearing a lot these days:

Q: Can I email you my undergraduate transcript?
A: No. Transcripts should be mailed or couriered to:
SAIS Admissions
1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
This holds for those applying to start in Bologna or DC. Transcripts will be uploaded into candidates' online applications once they arrive.

Each transcript should be in a sealed envelope. It is easiest for the applicant to have one's university, which is quite accustomed to these things, send the transcript directly to SAIS. Alternatively, the candidate can send the transcript to the above address, but it should be in an unopened envelope.

Q: Can I upload my transcript myself to my application?
A: No. Please follow the directions above.

Q: Should I send you all of my transcripts, including work during an exchange program and in a master's program?
A: We need transcripts for all of your university-level work; if you have not yet finished your undergraduate studies, have your most recent transcript sent to us. The Admissions Committee wants to have as clear an idea as possible of your academic background and preparation.

Q: How should my referees submit their letters of recommendation?
A: As explained in the application instructions, referees can submit their recommendations in one of two ways.
  1. By uploading their signed letter, written on official letterhead, directly to the candidate's application;
  2. By sending a signed copy directly to SAIS Admissions at the above address in Washington, DC.
Q: Can I mail you my letters of recommendation?
A: You can mail them to SAIS Admissions in Washington provided they are in sealed envelopes. Remember, letters of recommendation are confidential.

Q: Can I email you my standardized test scores?
A: You should have the scores sent directly to SAIS via the code that is in the application instructions.

Q: What if I am unable to submit all elements of my application by January 7?
A: In that case, please send an email to explaining what is missing, why and when we can expect to receive it.

Q: Will you be telling me if my application is complete?
A: We will be checking applications after January 7 to see if they are complete. If something is missing from your application, we will get in touch with you. If you have submitted an application and do not hear from us, you can assume your application is complete.

Q: When will we hear about our interview?
A: All non-U.S. applicants who apply to start in Bologna and some non-U.S. citizens who are open to starting at either campus will be interviewed by a member of the Bologna Admissions Committee. Applicants will be notified in the second half of January. Please keep in mind that while Admissions Committee members do conduct fact-to-face interviews in some cities, mostly in Europe, most interviews are done over the telephone or via Skype. There is no advantage one way or the other.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Photo Gallery I: A feast for your eyes

We can't think of a better way to end the year than to showcase photographs submitted by our students and recent graduates. Today we post 10 photos; on December 30 we will post another 10. They underscore the contributors' talents and the global sweep of their travels and interests.

After we have posted all 20 photos, we will publish a link to an anonymous survey so that our readers can vote for their favorite photographs from among the 20. The winner of the contest will receive a Bologna Center tee shirt plus a book of their choice from among five written by SAIS Europe professors.

We will activate the survey when we post the next batch of photos on December 30. Thanks to those who took the trouble to share their photos with us.

Amar Causevic
Gorazde, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Booyoung Jang
Saharan desert, Morocco

Christopher Michael
St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

David Ehle
Bologna, Italy

Joe Geni
Caldera, outside Santa Fe, New Mexico

Johannes Gartner
Montmartre, Paris

Lauren Hartel
Greve, Italy

Marco Steecker
Milan, Italy

Markus Wilthaner
Sparafeld National Park
, Austria

Maximilian Meduna
Varanasi, India

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bridging photography and history

Judith Cohen is director of the photo archive at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This month she delivered a lecture at SAIS Europe bridging photography and history: "Reimagining the Holocaust: Jewish Ghetto Photographers".

We all know the old adage, “seeing is believing,” but when studying photographs, particularly photographs of the Holocaust, how can we be sure that what we see and hence believe is in fact an accurate portrayal of reality?

The fact is that all photographs are double crops -- a photographer not only decides what to include in the frame of his photographs, cropping out everything else around him, but he or she also makes a crop in time. Every photograph captures a unique moment without a before or after and hence leaves out often important context which can better explain what is happening.

Salo Haar takes his son Roman sledding in the
Rzeszow ghetto, 1941; the father was killed one year later.
 U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Courtesy of Roman Haar
If this is true of everyday photos, how much more true is it of photographs taken by members of the German Propaganda Companies (PK), commissioned for the purpose of documenting the Nazi world view.

The vast majority of surviving Holocaust photographs were taken by German photographers, and therefore often unknowingly we imagine the Holocaust through Nazi eyes. Yet there also exists a smaller and lesser known corpus of photographs taken by Jewish photographers which present a very different view of the Nazi ghettos.

These photographs preserve events the Nazis did not record to include everyday Jewish family life, resistance activities and certain atrocities; they depict both joy and anguish. Many of these photos appear at first glance fairly benign, such as a photo of a father and son going sledding. The extreme pathos lies in the extended caption which explains that the father was killed one year later.

For this reason, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is working not only to collect these private photographs but also the stories behind them. We engage in a rush against time to acquire as much information as possible while survivors are still alive so that we can preserve and present as complete a picture of the Holocaust as possible.

Judith Cohen

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shakespeare and politics from an unaccustomed vantage point

A popular seminar at SAIS Europe this autumn was based on four works by an Englishman born in the 16th century, writings that sit comfortably in a literature program. Prof. Eliot Cohen, head of SAIS' Strategic Studies concentration, taught the unusual addition to the Bologna Center's repertoire: "Shakespeare on War and Politics".

Q: How did you get the idea for your seminar, “Shakespeare on War and Politics”?
Cohen: I love Shakespeare and got the idea for beginning to do something like this after my wife and I saw "Henry VIII," which is not often performed. Cardinal Wolsey, who has just been fired by the King, gives a wonderful speech that begins “Farewell. A long farewell to all my greatness.” It struck me then, as now, that Shakespeare gives insights into dimensions of politics that are worth sharing with students. Believe me, there are plenty of Washington figures, including some whom I know personally, who would identify with Wolsey.

Prof. Eliot Cohen
Q: Why would a SAIS student want to devote time to this kind of extra-curricular series?
Cohen: Curiosity. Shakespeare's intoxicating language. A desire to see the world of politics from an unaccustomed vantage point.

Q: How did you choose the four works that were read as part of the series?
Cohen: The theme I wanted to explore was ambition and the dangerous consequences of yielding to it. "Macbeth" is perhaps the darkest of Shakespeare’s plays on that theme and a favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s. "Coriolanus" and "Julius Caesar" are probably the best of his Roman plays, with the former dealing with civil-military relations, among other things, and the latter the way in which different kinds of ambition overwhelm human beings who are neither foolish nor without attractive values. "Richard II" deals with what happens when an illegitimate but highly competent aspirant for power encounters someone who has a legitimate claim on power, but no idea how to use it wisely.

Q: What did you discover as you prepared your series of lectures?
Cohen: One reads much more carefully than on one’s own or when watching a play. I enjoyed most thinking through the questions I would use to get the students thinking, while simply savoring the language.

Q: Will you be using some of what you learned in this lecture series as part of your Strategic Studies courses at SAIS?
Cohen: Shakespeare has shown up in a number of my courses, but the main takeaway is the appeal of this material to students. So I suspect that a noncredit seminar on Shakespeare is going to be part of my teaching repertoire at SAIS for some time. We’re planning another set of plays for SAIS Washington this spring, in fact!

Q: What are the three main lessons for today’s policymakers from the works that were read for the series?
Cohen: That once you launch on a course of action that is violent or illegitimate, you cannot foretell the second and third order consequences that will come your way -- most of which will be bad. That political leaders often deceive themselves about their motives. That leadership which falls back on mere authority, rather than more durable forms of support and acquiescence, will fail. Are these new lessons? No. But are they portrayed more powerfully than anywhere else I know? Indubitably.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Student life: Help for the Philippines in the "Bayanihan" spirit

With song, dance and a silent auction, the SAIS Europe community came together last week to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

Supported by students, faculty and staff, we raised more than 1,000 euros for the Philippine Red Cross during a holiday happy hour planned by the Diplomacy Club, International Development Club and Global Securities and Conflict Management Club.

Hot ticket items at the auction included two seats at a poker night with SAIS Europe Director Kenneth Keller and Economics Prof. Michael Plummer; a coffee date with Prof. Filippo Taddei; two man servants for the day, and a ball gown (for the Austrian ball in February). Not to mention the squash racket, golf club, tea collection, art books and Venezuelan necklace.

Singing stars emerged from the shadows for the karaoke competition. The winning team of Shauna Aron and Nick Van Vliet rapped to the tune of Royals to describe the Bologna Center experience. Check out the video here.
The winning rappers

Late night studying, gotta get that paper done
Few drinks, up all night, end up at Soda Pops

We don’t care
Riding bicycles in the street

Cause everybody knows
Rush to SAIS, late to class
Caffè at Giulio’s
Hit the books, work to do
Lost a night of sleep or two
But, we don’t care
It’s the grind that’s why we’re here…

Thea Dickerman broke it down to Shoop by Salt-N-Pepper, while Kyle Cooke sang Mr. Bombastic by Shaggy. Star duos included Sirtaj Kaur and Jagabanta Ningthoujam, and Philipp Hlatky and Paul Stack. 
Why was the event hosted in "Bayanihan" spirit? "Bayanihan" is Filipino for "community", captured by the tradition of neighbors volunteering to relocate a family by carrying the family's house on their backs to a new location.

SAIS Europe wanted to do its part for the Philippines, in Bayanihan spirit.

Ingat po.

Shauna Aron and Ian Hamilton (BC14/DC15)
Photographs by Jag Ningthoujam (BC14/DC15)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Open Day at SAIS Europe: Questions and nervous excitement

Last week several dozen prospective applicants visited SAIS Europe during its annual Open Day. Irena Grizelj, an MA candidate concentrating in Conflict Management, housed a visitor and participated in a panel that tackled potential applicants' questions -- many of them asked the same queries Irena had when she first visited the Bologna Center.

Facing a sea of expectant faces, I was transported in my mind to the same room two years earlier.

I had sat where they were, full of questions, concerns and nervous excitement that I found hard to contain. It was Open Day at SAIS Europe, a chance for aspiring candidates like myself to see the Bologna Center up close and personal.

Then last week I was at the head table, facing potential applicants, telling them what to expect.
Open Day at SAIS Europe
As a member of this year's Student Government Association (SGA), I participated in a panel last Friday to answer Open Day visitors' questions – the same queries I had asked two years before.
What is student life like in Bologna? What did you do before SAIS? Should I have more work experience before SAIS? How do you find funding?
The similarity of thoughts and concerns was somehow reassuring. Everyone embarking on the application adventure faces the same uncertainties and concerns.

Irena Grizelj
To be honest, when I first visited SAIS Europe my expectations were not fully met. Although I had spoken to alumni and done my research, and I had a grand vision of SAIS that put the school as my top choice, the small Bologna campus did not sweep me off my feet during my first, brief stay.

But I had not had the chance to understand and explore the vast opportunities the program offers: exceptional and focused courses, experienced and approachable professors, countless interesting seminars on topics I would not have thought to explore, career trips, informational panels, social events. The list goes on.

My first semester is now almost over, and my experiences have surpassed my expectations.

We all know that SAIS students are diverse and do not fit into a single mold. But in speaking with some potential students during Open Day, I could not help but think: “You would be a great fit with SAIS.” Call it intuition.

Here are some words for all potential students: “Everything will work out the way it should. Work hard and you will end up where you want to go.” Reflecting on my own application, I’m confident those who are meant to be at SAIS will end up at SAIS.

And I look forward to meeting them.

Irena Grizelj (BC14/DC15)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Looking back: "A tough day in Bologna is better than good ones just about anywhere else."

John Gans offers a unique perspective. He obtained his master's at SAIS, starting in Bologna and then moving to DC, and now is pursuing his PhD from SAIS, splitting time between Washington and Bologna. Before moving back this month to the U.S., John shared some thoughts on his experiences at SAIS.

Q: How did you first learn about SAIS, and how did you end up at SAIS?
Gans: On the application for the SAIS MA there was a box that said something like: “Do you want to go to Bologna or DC or be considered for both?” I checked “both.” In 2007, I had no idea that SAIS had a campus in Italy, which was more a reflection of my poor research than SAIS’s promotion, and no intention of going to it, which was a reflection of my strong DC-focus. But I figured consideration from both campuses would improve my odds of getting in somewhere. It was a fateful choice, but like so many, it did not turn out as expected.

Gans (L) sharing his thoughts with
MA candidate Michael St. Germain
Q: You studied for your master’s in Bologna and then in DC. Why did you decide to do that? Was it a good decision?
Gans: The decision was a great one, but it was not entirely mine. I was accepted into the 2007-08 SAIS Europe class. As I lived three blocks from the Washington campus and thought two years in DC made better sense for my life, I asked at the Open House about being switched to SAIS Washington. A SAIS administrator told me it was possible, but they also put in touch with faculty member John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA. Professor McLaughlin strongly urged me: “You have to go to Bologna.” And I did.
Q: How would you compare the experiences of studying in Bologna and studying in DC?
Gans: The two experiences cannot be compared. Both options offer students unique opportunities. I know two-year Washington graduates who regret not going to Bologna, and I am sure there are Bologna alums who wish they had done two years in DC (I have yet to meet one, however). There is no perfect option. But getting a year at both campuses and really embracing both is as close as one can get to a perfection. Bologna provides a distance and pace that is perfect for the first year. Washington offers access to experts and a location that is perfect for the second year. Bologna’s singular difference is the quality and depth of the relationships that develop among the class. This is more than a networking opportunity. These are friends you will have for the rest of your life.

Q: You have been working on your PhD at SAIS and have spent the past 11 or so months back in Bologna. What is your dissertation about?
Gans: The key question! My dissertation is a comparative study of the wartime decision-making process and strategic decisions of six U.S. presidents with a focus on the impact of the National Security Council Staff. To write it, I reviewed thousands of original documents and conducted interviews with over 40 policymakers -- including seven National Security Advisors, one Vice President, three Secretaries of State and two White House Chiefs of Staff, among others.

Q: Has it been good writing in Bologna?
Gans: Yes, it has been wonderful. I was awarded a very generous Abernethy Fellowship, which provides support for PhD students to write at SAIS Europe. The Abernethy Fellowship is open to both SAIS and non-SAIS students. Writing a dissertation requires time and space to focus and the resources to build one’s cases. SAIS Europe is a wonderful environment for scholarship: just removed enough to encourage writing and just connected enough to make researching easy. The library has always been world class, and today’s technology allows for interviews via Skype, research through electronic databases and access to the SAIS Washington library. Several of my dissertation interviews were conducted over Skype, and few of those interviewed would have been surprised to know I was looking out over the beautiful rooftops of Bologna while I was talking to them.

Q: Any particularly memorable experiences from Bologna?
Gans: Over the twenty months I have studied in Bologna, there have been many. Italy and Bologna are magical places. And SAIS Europe is a vibrant community with a robust offering of discussions, activities and social life. But aside from the wonderful friendships I have developed with SAIS Europe’s faculty, students and staff, the one memory I will always cherish is that no matter how tired or frustrated my dissertation made me, I always felt better while walking through this town’s beautiful streets at dawn or dusk, on the way to or from my desk. A tough day of writing in Bologna is better than good ones just about anywhere else.

Q: What would you say to someone considering applying to SAIS Europe? Anything that makes it different?
Gans: As I was told, “You have to go to Bologna.” And then embrace all that makes SAIS Europe and Bologna unique. Some students try to make Bologna more like DC. That’s a mistake. There are things to be learned here and thoughts to have here that you will never replicate in Washington. And vice versa. Take advantage of both. SAIS and SAIS Europe can change your life -- it  certainly has done so for me -- but only if you let it. As I have learned, trusting SAIS is worth it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Student life: "Put the books down, relax and have some fun"

People often ask why SAIS Europe is located in Bologna, Italy. Doubtless Prof. C. Grove Haines did not have football foremost in mind when he chose Bologna as SAIS's foothold in Europe. But for some Bologna Center students, soccer is part and parcel of the experience, as current student Samuel Semwangu confirms below.

One of the great things about studying at SAIS Europe is our close relationship with the University of Bologna, which is just across the street.

As SAIS students, we can take advantage of the many opportunities and activities the university offers. One such opportunity is the University of Bologna’s 7vs7 footbal (aka soccer) league that plays once a week for four months.
The SAIS Europe team
Samuel Semwangu is back row, 2nd from left
This fall SAIS students put together a team and used their beginner’s Italian to register for the league. Now entering the fifth week of the season, the SAIS team is marching up the standings in the face of very good competition -- not surprising for Italy, where the average technical skill and soccer IQ are quite high.

Yesterday during an especially cold evening the SAIS team rallied from last week’s loss to win 6-2, with Matt Melino (kneeling, far right in the photo) providing a hat-trick. The win and friendly post-game banter with the opposing team marked a fitting end to a busy day. Slightly sore today but with a win in the pocket, the guys are excited for next week.

Playing in the league has enabled SAISers to get to know both the Bologna community and one another better. It has also been a great excuse to put the books down, relax and have some fun.

Samuel Semwangu (BC14/DC15)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's next? Candidates, mark your calendars

Wondering what's next in the application process? If so, carry on reading.

December 12: We will hold our final online information session before the application deadline. We will answer any questions applicants have before they push the submit button in early January.

The special focus will be on the analytical essay, a crucial part of each candidate's dossier. Current student Rebecca De Guttry will share tips in the session, set to start at 4 pm Italy time (1500 GMT).

If you'd like to participate, please send a note to and we will send you the instructions for connecting.

End-of-year holidays: Christmas is only a few weeks away, and SAIS Europe will be closed from December 21 through January 5. SAIS Europe Admissions will check email intermittently the week of December 23. Messages will receive a quicker reply starting the week of December 30. We ask for your patience during the break. Thank you.

January 7, 2014: The deadline for applications for 2014-15. Candidates should submit all required documents by that date. We recommend that you not tempt fate by waiting until the last day to submit your dossier.

Most material, including essays and even letters of recommendation, can be submitted through the online application. Some documents, including undergraduate transcripts, need to be sent via snail mail.

All hard copies should be sent to the same address, where they will be loaded into our computer system:
Admissions Office
Johns Hopkins SAIS
1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
February 15, 2014: The deadline for financial aid applications, which are available as part of the online application. Please follow the instructions on the form to submit your request.

January and February: Non-U.S. candidates whose applications are handled by SAIS Europe Admissions will be interviewed by a member of the Admissions Committee, made up of SAIS Europe faculty and staff.

After the January 7 application deadline, we will contact candidates to inform them of interview dates and times. Interviews will take place between the third week of January and the end of February.

Interviews are conducted in person, over the phone or via Skype. Most of our applicants live far from the few locations we travel to and are interviewed by phone or via Skype. There is no advantage or disadvantage to being interviewed in person -- each interview is a chance for the candidate to put their best foot forward.

Mid-March: Candidates are informed of both the admissions and the financial aid decisions.
April 4: Open House in Bologna for admitted candidates
April 9: Open House in Washington for admitted candidates
April 20: Deadline for admitted candidates who received financial aid or who did not request financial aid to reserve their spot in the SAIS Europe program
May 1: Deadline for all other admitted candidates to reserve their spot.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Student life: Feeling friendship while far away from home

Every year, Bologna Center students organize a gigantic meal to celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Below, current student Xiaoqun Dong reflects on what her first Thanksgiving meant to her.

On a cold winter night in northern Italy, the 30-minute walk from my apartment to SAIS was no joy, and holding two large cans of freezing gelato just made things worse.

But the orange lamplight at the end of via Belmeloro, the welcome hugs from excited friends and long tables covered with dishes of delicious food put an end to any chill I might have felt ahead of my first Thanksgiving dinner.
A packed auditorium listening to Director Kenneth Keller
Photo by Morgan Graham (BC14/DC15)

I should have guessed how important this holiday is in U.S. culture when our director of Finance and Administration, Bart Drakulich, agreed to allow the Thanksgiving feast in the auditorium. (As all Bologna Center students know, the auditorium is Bart’s “baby” and generally no food is allowed there.) In his opening speech, Director Keller told how Thanksgiving started as a celebration by the Pilgrims of their good harvest in New England and how Abraham Lincoln later declared the last Thursday of November a national holiday.

There is always a danger that by celebrating a ritual over and over, we can lose sight of its real meaning.
It seems that today, following the 2008 financial crisis, some holidays are little more than excuses to boost domestic consumption.

But I soon realized Thanksgiving is more than an excuse for eating copious amounts of food: It is a day for counting our blessings. Thanksgiving reminds me of the Spring Festival in China, when families gather and celebrate the good memories of the past year.

Pardoned turkey doing a jig
Photo by Holly Love Deaton
Apparently, SAIS Europe used to hold its Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant. I am thankful that the corn and turkey were overcooked in the restaurant so that now we students prepare the meal and celebrate together at the Center.

I was delighted to line up with friends and to make small talk while locking our eyes on the whipped cream and apple pies and later sitting on a sofa holding our stomachs full of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole.

It was clear, as my flatmates proudly proclaimed, that American food is not just hamburgers and french fries.

I am thankful to be a part of this warm SAIS community. I laughed out loud when Dr Keller pardoned a mock turkey -- student Paul Stack in a rib-splitting costume who later danced among the dining tables. When I dared mention the stress of my studies, my friends simply patted me on the back and piled more pumpkin pie on my plate.

They made me feel at home even though China was 5,600 miles away.

Xiaoqun Dong (BC14/DC15)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Calling all cameras: Send us your best photo

Photographers: Start your cameras.

We'd like to open this blog to all of our readers and showcase their photographic talent.

Is there a photo that you've taken that makes you particularly proud? Send it to us at, and we'll enter it in our end-of-year gallery and photo contest.

Our last photo gallery captured scenes from around the world: a cliff plunging into the Mediterranean, a pine forest in North America, boats on Thai beach, a baby and her mother in sub-Saharan Africa, a snow-capped peak in the Himalyas.

The winning photograph from our last competition
by Jag Ningthoujam (BC14/DC15)
A year ago we ran two galleries, here and here, that captured the stunning diversity of Italy, our students' home while at SAIS Europe.

The winning snap from our end-of-2012 contest
by Maxwell Cohen (BC13/DC14)
This year we'd love to run photos taken by this year's students and as well as by readers. The photographer who takes the winning picture in our contest will win a Bologna Center tee shirt plus a book of their choice from among five written by SAIS Europe professors.

Please send us your favorite snap by Friday, December 15, so that we can feature it in our end-of-the-year gallery.

Don't be shy, now!

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Student life: Vying for Mr. Movember

Movember, or "Mustache-November", is a month-long, international effort to raise money for cancer awareness and research.

SAIS Europe is doing its part.

Three dozen Bologna Center men have grown mustaches this month to help promote three fund-raising initiatives: a Mustachio Bashio party, a calendar (with a special mystery photo) that will make for a perfect stocking stuffer/Valentine's Day gift and a Mr. Movember Contest.

Photo by Benan Berhan (BC14/DC15)
The goal is to match last year's fund-raising effort of $1,450. Three-quarters of all proceeds will go towards the Lega Italiana per la Lotta Contro i Tumori and 25% will go to the Philippine Red Cross to assist with Philippine disaster efforts.

A dozen of the mustachioed men are vying to be chosen by SAIS Europe classmates as Mr. Movember. Here are excerpts from their campaign flyers, circulated before voting today:

- Macho:  "I only watch Westerns, and, yes, I like the word 'saloon.' Paperback books? Don’t buy ‘em. My books are leather-bound or sent back. Finally, I can smoke 12 cigars in one sitting and still smell as fresh as the Andes."

- Modest: "While my fellow competitors have had the pleasure of sporting thick, full and refined mustaches, the likes of which would make even Tom Selleck envious, I have had to endure the pain and humiliation of growing this dirt squirrel for an entire month. For my sacrifice alone, I kindly ask for your vote."

- Poetic: "These mustache weeks have been a real pain,
               So please let this not be totally in vain."

- He-man: "I'm a man who can grow a lush mustache while the boys still look like drug lords."

- Ethereal: "Leaves yellow and red, fall, freeze. Perhaps the door splinters to the fires of homeliness.
Time—yes? It is he. It is I. It is Mr. Movember."

- Metaphoric: "I like my suits the same way I like my bacon: fresh and crisp."

- Suave: "The dried leaves crunching beneath his boots, Mr. Movember ambles leisurely through the crisp fall air in his plaid jacket, pumpkin spice latte in hand."

- Supremely qualified: "I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery and I have spoken with Elvis. But I have not won Mr. Movember."

Paul Stack (BC14/DC15)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Careers: Exploring opportunities close-up in Geneva

To some, Geneva is an alphabet soup of international organizations. To others, it offers exciting and challenging professional opportunities. Below current SAIS Europe student William Schomburg writes about a recent trip to Geneva.

The journey from Bologna to Geneva crosses the Swiss Alps. But we weren’t going there for the panoramic views.

Last week, 20 students from SAIS Europe traveled to the Swiss city to meet representatives of multilateral and non-governmental organizations as part of a professional development trip organized by Career Services.

The dozen organizations we visited focus on trade policy or conflict management. We visited United Nations agencies including the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as well as smaller non-profits such as the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

During the two-day trip organized and led by SAIS Europe Career Services Director Meera Shankar, we were able to discuss key policy themes with senior representatives who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. The trip provided insight into what a career in international policy might look like.

More than a dozen of the practitioners we met at the organizations and during a social event one evening were former SAIS students. It was interesting to learn how alumni have applied the skills they developed at Johns Hopkins to their careers. One former Bologna Center student told us that 20 years on, she remains close to the SAIS network, both professionally and personally.

Our hosts spoke candidly about their working environments and how they can shift under different circumstances. While at the IFRC we heard how the Red Cross coordinated its response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Our presenter described the deployment of staff and resources during the humanitarian response that is being funded through an appeal for 87 million Swiss francs ($95 million) to assist the estimated 10 million people affected by the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in recorded history.

It was interesting to hear about the relationship between headquarters and regional offices, how they coordinate efforts and the challenges this presents. Our hosts stressed the importance of getting as much real-world experience as possible. Maude Morrison, a SAIS student originally from the UK, told me that she is now "inspired to gain experience this summer in the field. Preferably in Asia."

William Schomburg (BC14/DC15)

In Geneva, the SAIS students visited:

- International Trade Centre (ITC)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),
- Geneva Environment Network
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
- International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
- Interpeace
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting to know us: two more information sessions & Open Day

We are holding two more online information sessions before the January deadline for applications.

Here are the details (with the main topic of discussion):

  • Tuesday, November 26 at 10 am Italy time (0900 GMT) (letters of recommendation)
  • Thursday, December 12 at 4 pm Italy time (1500 GMT) (analytical essay)

If you would like to participate in either of these sessions, please send an email to and we will send you the instructions for connecting.

(That is the new email address for Bologna Admissions. The old address -- -- still works and will forward mail to the new one.)

Candidates have lots of questions as they work towards the January 7, 2014 deadline for applications. Amina and I are happy to answer them.

In two weeks, on Friday, December 6, we are holding our annual Open Day. If you are interested in coming and have not yet registered, you can do so here.

Current SAIS Europe student Alex Augustine successfully answered yesterday's quiz question and wins a Bologna Center tee shirt. Bravo, Alex.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Keep the ideas, return the books": advice to generations of Bologna Center students

If those entering Dante's Hell pass beneath an inscription, why not SAIS Europe students, too?

The admonition "Keep the ideas -- return the books" has greeted Bologna Center students entering the Robert H. Evans Library since very nearly the beginning of the program.

A plaque bearing the words overlooks the Libary checkout counter today as it did a half century ago. Fashion and Library staff have changed, but the central role of the Library has not.

Robert H. Evans Library back then - with the plaque
Today's Library staff & the plaque:
John Williams, head librarian Gail Martin, Maria Christina Marcich, Heather Kochevar & Ludovica Barozzi

Here's a quiz:
Who loaned the first books to the Library, and with what stipulation?
Submit your answers via a comment to this post or with an email to This quiz is open to everyone. The winner gets a SAIS Bologna Center tee shirt.

And of course the words in Dante's Inferno are: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SAIS veterans: "Contributing to something larger than yourself"

Students come to SAIS with many different backgrounds. The diverse nationalities, academic credentials, work experiences, ages and cultures foster a sense of community and sharing. Over the years, many in the military have studied at SAIS, adding their unique perspective. Below, John Dellinger and David Collins reflect on a recent gathering of military veterans in Bologna.

Eighteen SAIS Europe students and faculty met recently over dinner, drawn by a common bond: military service.

November 11: Veteran's Day in the United States. Known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day in other countries, it originally commemorated the end of World War One and now serves to recognize the service of all military veterans.

The dinner that evening, organized by Prof. William Belding, was an opportunity to recognize the service of SAIS veterans who sacrificed their time and energy to contribute to something larger than themselves.

Fifteen students from seven countries joined three faculty members, including Director Kenneth Keller, who served as an officer in the early days of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet.

Each veteran stood up to give a brief introduction and speak about what their service meant to them. While no veteran gave the same speech, everyone valued being part of something greater than themselves and was proud of serving their country.

The veterans at the dinner came from Australia, Austria, Finland, Greece, Israel, Nigeria and the United States.
"To me, the day is about remembering the people I served with, especially those who were injured or died in the line of duty," said SAIS Europe student John Dellinger, who was an officer in the U.S. Marines for fifteen years and then served in the Royal Australian Navy. "My military experience provided me with a lot of exposure to the world, and I knew that at SAIS I could consolidate that experience and prepare for a future of service beyond the military."
Many veterans attend SAIS to expand their knowledge base so they can continue to serve their country. Some pursue concentrations such as Conflict Management and International Development, which allow them to leverage their experience in the military to serve the larger international community.

Either way, SAIS is a great opportunity for veterans to expand their intellectual horizons and build on the experience of military service to make the world a better place.

Military service prepares the SAIS veteran in another way. The discipline, dedication, self-sacrifice and teamwork that people learn in the military are directly applicable to life in graduate school. In a rigorous program such as SAIS, these skills are invaluable.

Meanwhile, veterans bring a practical perspective to many of the themes encountered during studies at SAIS, and in that sense they make a valuable contribution to the education of their peers.

David Collins (BC14/DC15)
John Dellinger (MIPP14)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'Rivista' magazine: A glimpse into the complexities of SAIS

SAIS is a community of learners binding students, faculty, staff and alumni around the world who span decades but share common values and experiences.

Some of the complexities are captured in SAIS Europe's magazine, Rivista.

Rivista magazine
The latest edition offers a glimpse into what alumni and current students find alluring about studying at SAIS. Beyond the scholarly expertise of the faculty you will find the unique experience of living in Bologna for a year, the diversity of the students, the evolving curriculum and the commitment of its graduates to contribute to bettering the world.

Director Kenneth Keller, who will be retiring at the end of this academic year, sketches some of the changes he has overseen during his eight years in Bologna: the creation of the Bologna Institute for Policy Research, the movement of the administration of the European Studies concentration to Bologna followed by its merger with Eurasian Studies, the imminent establishment of a chair in Middle East Studies in Bologna and the recognition of the Bologna Center as SAIS Europe.

You will find articles by SAIS Europe professors on corruption in developing countries, the challenge of governing Italy and security and governance concerns in Mali and the Sahel. There are pieces on the city of Bologna, including a gelato museum, on the diversity of the student body and on a recent careers trip to NATO.

The death of SAIS graduate Elif Nazmiye Yavuz (BC03/DC04) in the attack by militants on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September is a reminder of the dangers encountered by many SAIS students, faculty and alumni as they tackle the world's challenges, as well as the sacrifices that many have to make.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life after SAIS: One man's path to the IMF

What do SAIS students do after they finish their studies?

Many different things. Take Justin Tyson as an example.

Tyson graduated from SAIS in 1999. He then worked for the Inter-American Development Bank and later as an economist at the UK Treasury. Currently he is a senior economist with the European Department of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Earlier this week he was back at the Bologna Center to deliver a lecture as part of SAIS Europe's seminar series and to answer some of our questions.

Q: How did you hear about SAIS and when did you attend?
Tyson: I originally heard about SAIS from a professor at Edinburgh University who, knowing of my interest in international affairs, recommended it to me. Still, after graduating from Edinburgh, I wanted to get some work experience and spent most of the next year working in Sudan with an NGO before enrolling in SAIS in 1997.
Justin Tyson (BC98/DC99)
(photo thanks to the Bologna Intitute for Policy Research)

Q: Did you go to Bologna and then Washington? If so, do you think that was a good choice for you?
Tyson: Yes, I did the first year at Bologna. I really enjoyed the sense of close community, intellectual diversity and fun that I found in SAIS Europe.

Q: When you applied to SAIS, did you know what you wanted to do after graduation? If not, when did you settle on a path?
Tyson: Well, I thought I did. When I enrolled in SAIS my idea was that after graduation I would return to work in the NGO world. However, SAIS provided me an introduction to economics, which I ended up enjoying more than I had expected to. After SAIS, I gravitated towards a career that would allow me to continue to explore this field.

Q: You've worked at the UK Treasury, the Inter-American Development Bank and the IMF. Did SAIS prepare you well for these jobs?
Tyson: I found the combination of theoretical preparation and public policy pragmatism that I got from SAIS particularly useful in the jobs I have done.

Q: This week you're speaking at SAIS Europe on "Dealing with High Debt in an Era of Low Growth". Could you summarize your work?
Tyson: Our paper takes a closer look at the historical record and key trade-offs in reducing high public debt levels in advanced economies. The bottom line: It is possible to reduce debt when growth is low, but the burden will fall mostly on the public budget, which is not easy in the best of times. Initially, this might weaken growth even further, but ultimately perseverance should pay off.

Q: Are any of your SAIS classmates also working at the IMF? Other SAISers?
Tyson: Yes – there are a few of us at the IMF.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interested in defense and intelligence? Here's the club for you.

They have a commander-in-chief, secretary of defense and attorney-general. And they serve cookies at every meeting.

The Defense and Intelligence Club is a longstanding fixture among student organizations at SAIS Europe, no surprise given the level of interest here in global security, strategy and intelligence gathering.

"Through educational programs, social events and career panels, the D+I Club strives to be an inclusive meeting place for the open exchange of ideas among members of the SAIS community," said Meaghan Doherty, this year's D&I "commander-in-chief".

The club's first event was a screening of the film classic "La Bataille d'Alger", by Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, followed by a discussion led by Prof. William Belding.

Later this month club members will hold a career "sit-down" session with Prof. Gary Sick, a senior research scholar at Columbia University who is teaching a mini-course at the Bologna Center this autumn. They will be sure to quiz him on his service under U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and his experience as the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

The D&I état-major:
Kandaswamy, Chase, Davie, Doherty, Vanella
The club currently has nearly 60 student members from various concentrations -- "Not just Strategic Studies," Doherty said. It is planning a panel featuring SAIS Europe students with experience in defense and intelligence, regular film nights, aperitivi with faculty and Skype conference calls with industry practitioners.

Joining Doherty in the club's general staff are Deputy Director Alix Davie, Secretary of Defense Jackie Chase, Attorney-General Anand Kandaswamy and General Counsel Mario Vanella.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tips on getting in to SAIS (and a quiz)

Do you want to maximize your chances of admission to SAIS?

We find that candidates who research their options carefully tend to submit the strongest applications. That means understanding why you want to study international relations in graduate school and what SAIS is all about.

Here are some tips:

  • Read this blog regularly. Self-promotion? Maybe. But we strive in this blog to explain admissions procedures and expectations, while conveying what goes on at SAIS. Those who read the blog regularly have a good understanding of the admissions process and the SAIS experience. You don't need a dinosaur like me to tell you how to stay in regular touch with this blog. There's an RSS feed, and it can also be emailed directly to you when we update it three times a week.

Pop quiz: Which browser has been most popular among readers of this blog since it was launched in 2010? (The winner gets a free Bologna Center tee shirt. Want to play? Send in your answer via a comment below or in an email to

  • Ask us questions. We like to speak to prospective applicants. We meet many of them during our travels and in our online information sessions. We are happy to set up phone calls (+39 051 29 17 811) or to speak via Skype (jhubc.admissions). Here are details for the next two online sessions:

- November 26 at 10 am CET (0900 GMT) - letters of recommendation
- December 12 at 4 pm CET (1500 GMT) - analytical essay

If you are interested in participating in either of the online sessions, send an email to, and we'll send you instructions for connecting.
  • Consider visiting us in Bologna or DC. We can organize ad hoc visits that include attending a class or two and meeting students and faculty. A great way to get to know SAIS Europe is to attend our annual Open Day, which this year is on Friday, December 6. To register, click here.