Thursday, March 28, 2013

Student life: Where are you headed?

The SAIS experience is all about expanding one's horizons.

Spring break falls just after mid-term exams as the weather is turning warmer. It's a fine time to take advantage of SAIS Bologna's location to visit Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

In the video below, students tell us where they are heading next week during the break before they return for the final dash to the end of the year.

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

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Academics: Parlare italiano

Today we turn the podium over to Francesco Menonna, a SAIS Bologna student from Rome who  works as an Italian-language teaching assistant. He and his classmate Arianna Ranuschio  support the Language Department by holding weekly Italian conversation classes for students keen to improve their Italian.

SAIS Bologna is right in the heart of Bologna's vibrant university quarter. But sometimes SAISers can feel they are living in a separate world. At SAIS the lingua franca is English, and many students speak little or no Italian. To help students make the most of their year in Bologna, SAIS Bologna offers them the chance to take Italian conversation classes.

Francesco and Arianna
As teaching assistants, Arianna and I help our friends improve their ability to express themselves in the language of Dante.

The classes are structured around a theme that changes every week. Using a document distributed at the beginning of the session as a starting point, students take turns reading and exchanging opinions about the topic. Our role as teachers is to foster discussion and answer questions, ready to introduce new words and concepts and to explain language construction.

Arianna and I choose the topics according to the students' language ability. The aim is to build their vocabulary and facilitate fluency. The topics range from shopping in a grocery store to commenting on Italy's byzantine political situation (which provides an inexhaustible source of speculation), without neglecting techniques for chatting up strangers.

As the teacher of  the more advanced class, I try to give my Italian-learning friends both insight into my country and the tools to move confidently in it. In the beginners class, Arianna does the same while focusing more on strengthening students' grammar.

It is important that the session should be fun, which is why we hold the class between 8:00 and 9:30 pm and order pizza -- accompanied by a quality bottle of red wine that unties tongues and renders the experience truly Italian.

Francesco Menonna

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two SAIS Bologna information sessions set for this week

Admitted students can unload their questions on us during two online information sessions this week.

The first event is set for March 27 at 5 pm Italian time (1600 GMT). The second is on March 28 at 10 am Italian time (0900 GMT).

Both sessions will give admitted candidates the chance to ask any questions they want -- about the SAIS curriculum, student life, finances, the transition to Bologna.

We know many candidates are weighing some difficult decisions, and we want to provide as much information as possible.

All candidates who have been admitted to SAIS Bologna, regardless of their nationality, should have received an email with details on how to connect to the sessions. If you have not received the email or cannot find it, please send a note to and we'll re-send the instructions.

We recommend connecting 15 minutes before the start of the session to allow enough time to familiarize yourself with the Adobe Connect platform.

Current students Nameerah Hameed and Max Cohen, both members of the Student Government Associations, will be with us to help us answer your questions and offer the student perspective.

We look forward to engaging with you in the virtual world.

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Student Life: Picturing that pride

SAIS students will go to great lengths to show their pride in the program.

If you don't believe me, check out this video.

Still don't believe me? Then have a look at the photos below that include the top-rated pic along with other winners in the recent SAIS Pride 2013 contest.

You may notice SAIS Bologna graduates in most of the photos.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where SAIS Bologna's admitted candidates come from

Diversity is in our DNA at SAIS.

You should expect as much from a global program in international relations. We certainly expect it of ourselves.

Below you'll see a map showing the 58 countries of citizenship of the candidates who have been admitted to SAIS Bologna for 2013-14. They come from all of the inhabited continents of the world.

Such a multiplicity of cultures contributes greatly to the unique perspective one can gain by studying on SAIS's European campus.

View SAIS Bologna admitted students' nationalities in a larger map

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Student life: Jocularity for a good cause

Every year SAIS Bologna students showcase their talents during a whimsical evening in support of a worthy cause.

Participants building a human pyramid
Earlier this month 11 students took to the stage at the annual "Mr. and Ms. SAIS" competition to raise money for the Bologna Center journal. Students then bid for an array of donated items --  from a poker night with faculty to a leisurely, terrace-top dinner -- with the proceeds going to the student-run Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs (BCJIA).

Intrepid participants performed Police's "I'll Be Watching You" on cello, the "Star Wars" theme on French Horn, a serenade for Professor Taddei (who was giving a midterm exam on Monday and also happened to be a judge at the event), stand-up comedy, martial arts, poetry, operatic singing and Irish and salsa dancing.

The Winners
Contestants competed in a fashion show dress-off; there was quiz drawing on international themes. Then Felix Neugebauer (cellist) and Madeleine Schnur (serender) were crowned Mr. and Ms. SAIS by the panel of judges.

The auction raised more than 3,000 euros for the BCJIA, which each year publishes papers from leading scholars, international practitioners and graduate students.

Snapped up from the auction block were ginger biscotti, a scooter tour of Rome, library late slips, driving lessons and the annual ride in a sports car to the San Luca basilica overlooking Bologna.

Leslie Yun (BC13)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tackling your questions

It's quite natural that candidates who have been admitted to SAIS will have questions.

In my earlier incarnation as a journalist, I used to say, "There is no such thing as a stupid question. Only stupid answers."

Be that as it may -- funny how some journalists' questions now can seem off the mark to me -- rest assured that we want to answer any question admitted candidates have.

To that end, SAIS is organizing online information sessions: three hosted by our colleagues in Washington, DC, next week, then another two with Amina and me the week of March 25. There will be a sixth session on April 3 with SAIS Dean Vali Nasr.

SAIS will be in touch with admitted candidates via email about these sessions. If you are interested in the ones that Amina and I will be hosting -- we'll be accompanied by current SAIS Bologna students -- and want to mark your calendar, here are the dates and times:
  • Wednesday, March 27 at 5 pm Italy time (1600 GMT)
  • Thursday, March 28 at 10 am Italy time (0900 GMT)
Here are three questions we've heard since admissions letters were sent out earlier this week:

Q: I've been admitted to SAIS Bologna for my first year. Can I study at SAIS DC for my second year?

A: A student who has been admitted to SAIS Bologna in the MA program is automatically admitted to SAIS DC for a second year provided their academic performance is satisfactory in Bologna.

Half of SAIS students start their MA studies in Bologna, the other half in DC. Virtually all of them spend their second year in Washington.

(Some students in Bologna are working towards the MA in International Affairs (MAIA), which is a degree awarded by SAIS Bologna. Some of these students spend two years in Bologna, while others spend one year in Bologna and combine it with a year at one of our partner universities to obtain two master's degrees.)

Q: I was not admitted to the International Development (IDEV) concentration. Do I have to chose another concentration now?

A: IDEV is the only concentration with a cap on enrollment; candidates are required to apply for IDEV as part of their application.

Students who are not enrolled in IDEV can chose any other concentration. The choice does not have to be made now. Students will be assigned a faculty adviser upon arriving at SAIS Bologna, and each student also meets with Margel Highet, who is director of Student Affairs and an academic adviser.

Many students start their studies aiming to complete one concentration and end up switching. The important thing is to make sure you can meet all of the concentration requirements over the two years. (Keep in mind that all students are required to meet the International Economics requirements before graduating.)

Also keep in mind that SAIS has a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Concentrations are not hermetically sealed silos; courses are open to all students who meet the courses' entrance requirements. While students in a concentration may have priority for places in a course that satisfies a requirement for that concentration, most SAIS classes can accommodate all interested students. In Bologna, it is quite rare for students to have to bid for spots.

Q: I'm confused about the economics requirements. Why do you say I need to take economics this summer?

A: All incoming students need to have passed university-level courses in introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics with at least a B- before being able to start any course work at SAIS.

Candidates who have not satisfied this requirement at the time of admission can study during the summer to prepare themselves. SAIS offers an online course in Principles of Economics that is tailored specifically to SAIS students' needs. This summer's course for Bologna students runs from May 22 to August 15. Registration is due by May 15, and tuition for the course is due by May 21. Here is a post featuring prof. Larson who will teach the course in the summer.

We will post more Q&A in coming days and weeks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An end...and a beginning

This week applicants are being informed if they have been admitted to SAIS.

Congratulations to those offered admission. To those who fell short, we hope the experience of pulling together your candidacy taught you something about your values, goals, strengths and weaknesses. If you are better placed to take the next step in your education and careers, it will have been worth it.

Those who were admitted now have several weeks to consider their options. We in Admissions, along with faculty, students, staff and alumni, stand ready to answer whatever questions you might have. We know there will be many.

Several encounters have been planned to give admitted candidates a chance to learn more about what makes SAIS special and what to expect during one's studies here.

Both SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC will open their doors next month to admitted candidates during annual Open House events. The SAIS DC Open House is set for April 10 in Washington; SAIS Bologna's is scheduled for April 15 in Bologna.

We realize most admitted candidates cannot attend either of these events: SAIS students come from all over the world. But if you are in the vicinity, do consider attending one or the other as they are good ways to meet fellow admitted candidates, current students, faculty and staff, and to get answers to your questions about the curriculum, career services, student life and the like.

Admissions will be hosting online information sessions over the next few weeks. SAIS DC has scheduled three for next week, and SAIS Bologna will hold another two during the following week. These are ways to interact with students, staff, alumni and fellow candidates. We'll be sending out information about these sessions by email and on this blog.

As ever, we are happy to field any questions you care to ask over the phone (+39 051 29 17 811), via Skype (jhubc.admissions), by email ( or in person.

We'd like to thank all applicants for their interest in SAIS and for making our jobs as rewarding as they are.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NATO, SHAPE, EUCOM, AFRICOM: Trekking to Brussels

What do Clausewitz, Ronald Reagan, Sun Tzu and Napoleon have in common?

They were all quoted by speakers during the SAIS Bologna Defense and Intelligence Club’s career trek to Brussels.

Following up on the successful career services-led trip to the Belgian capital, the D&I Club sought a trip that focused more specifically on Strategic Studies and took advantage of being on the European continent to visit key defense and military installations in Europe.

From March 4-6, thirteen SAIS students from Bologna and DC and specializing in a range of concentrations (Strategic Studies; European Studies; Middle East Studies; Energy Resources and Environment, and American Foreign Policy) took a whirlwind tour de force, visiting and hearing from experts in Brussels, Mons and Stuttgart.

In Brussels/Mons:
·         North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
o   Public Diplomacy Division,
o   United States Mission to NATO,
o   Director of Arms Control,
o   Director of NATO-Russia and NATO-Ukraine relations, and
o   Human Resources
·         Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE)
o   Public Affairs
o   Human Resources
o   EU Liaison Department

In Stuttgart:
·         U.S. European Command (EUCOM)
o   Head of Intergovernmental Liaison Directorate (J9)
o   Public Affairs
o   George C. Marshall Center Liaison,
o   Head of EUCOM Intern Coordination
o   Chief of Black Sea/Eurasia Policy (J5)
·         U.S. African Command (AFRICOM)
o   Intergovernmental Liaison Directorate (J9)
o   Chief of Policy Planning (J5)
o   Chief of Human Resources and Manpower Directorate (J1/8)
o   Intelligence/Knowledge Development (J2)
o   Public Affairs Office
o   Strategic Communications
o   State Department Liaison

Students had the opportunity to do some networking and to mingle with SAIS alumni during a (delicious) lunch at NATO headquarters and a happy hour in a chic Brussels bar (yes, there is such a thing).

The trip was more than a chance to traipse around Europe, meet up with alumni and eat lots of frites and waffles (although that certainly happened). It was a chance to hear about immediate and longer-term opportunities for internships and employments with organizations that students may not have considered at first, as well as a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of a multilateral organization, a U.S. overseas diplomatic mission and two military bases that are the only U.S. combatant commands located overseas. In short, the trip was an invaluable learning opportunity.

Here’s the best part: all of our hosts said they were very impressed with the group, and they would be happy to host us again next year.

Ann Dailey (BC13)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SAIS Observer: Seeing things from a different perspective

The latest SAIS Observer newspaper does not have a theme, but it might as well have: Travels with SAIS.

Myanmar, Sarajevo, Jaipur, the French Alps, Verona, Prague, Marrakesh, Geneva, Brussels, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai: student contributors write about recent trips to destinations around the globe.

SAIS Observer
Some trips were organized by the Career Services department. In other cases, students sought adventure, new cultures or plain fun.

Mark Boyd, a first-year student, decided to stay put in Bologna with some friends for New Year's. "I was not disappointed," he writes before recounting the countdown to midnight and the burning of a huge wind-up monkey in the city's main square.

Max Cohen, another SAIS Bologna student, went skiing at Les Menuires in France: "After climbing many mountains of exams and papers, a week of skiing is all downhill."

Renee Wynveen writes of "an unforgettable life lesson" she learned on a trip to Sarajevo sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Democracy and Democratic Development (CCSDD).

Tristram Thomas gives seven reasons to visit Prague on a student budget. Monica Wojcik remembers souks, Argan oil, ballerina slippers, the call of the muezzin and mint tea in her piece about Mococco.

Articles not related to travel examine Sino-Japanese relations, artist Ai Weiwei and free electronic resources training at SAIS Bologna.

Joseph Geni compares watching the U.S. Super Bowl football championship to glimpsing Earth from an Apollo space capsule: "You just can't look at the thing quite the same after seeing it from a different perspective."

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coming soon: day of reckoning

Candidates next week will learn the outcome of their applications to SAIS.

Some will be offered admission. Others will not. In both cases it's a time of reckoning.

Those who are accepted will need to mull their options before taking a decision. Our Admissions Offices in Bologna and DC stand ready to answer any questions; numerous events will be offered to admitted candidates to help them take the right decisions.

It's an important moment for those who are not offered admission. Reactions can range from rage to denial. In the end, as noted here and here, it can be a learning experience. As some readers will have heard me say, it's not the destination that counts but the getting there. Graduate school can be one step on the way to one's destination, but it need not be the only path.

(Note that MIPP candidates who applied through SAIS DC will hear later in March whether they were admitted or not.)

So what are the next steps for those who are admitted?

First, candidates should read their acceptance letters very carefully. They are chock full of information, including the campus to which a candidate is admitted. This is especially important for those candidates who on their applications indicated they would be willing to start in either Bologna or DC. All admitted candidates will be offered a spot on one campus or the other, and not to both.

Letters to non-U.S. candidates admitted to Bologna will include details of any financial aid and terms of condition for admission. They will also provide links to a great deal of information on the SAIS website.

Here are some key dates on the calendar:

MARCH & APRIL: Admitted candidates will be invited to online information sessions hosted by both SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC. SAIS Dean Vali Nasr will participate in one of the sessions on April 3.

Dean Vali Nasr
APRIL 15: Admitted candidates will be invited to a day-long Open House at SAIS Bologna. This is a chance to get to know current students, faculty and staff, and to visit the city of Bologna. While all admitted candidates are invited, we understand that most cannot come because of the distance.

Admitted candidates who live in the United States will be invited to the SAIS DC Open House on April 10 in Washington. They will also be invited to a reception with SAIS Bologna alumni, hosted by Bologna Center Director Kenneth Keller, set for the evening of April 11 at SAIS DC.

APRIL 20: Deadline for admitted candidates who have been offered financial aid or who did not request aid to accept the admissions offer.

MAY 1: Deadline for admitted candidates who have not been granted aid to accept the admissions offer.

MID-MAY (date to be determined): Deadline for registering for the online Principles of Economics course. Enrolled students must have passed introductory courses in both micro and macro before being able to start their studies at SAIS; the online course runs in the summer and is specially tailored to these students' needs.

LATE MAY: Closed Facebook group formed for incoming class.

AUGUST 12: SAIS Bologna's housing service begins. Many students take advantage of our housing consultant to line up accommodation and roommates.

AUG 21-SEPT 17: Pre-term in Bologna.

SEPT 18-20: Orientation and registration; all students must be present at school by September 18.

SEPT 23: First day of fall semester classes.

Questions? Send an email to

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dual degrees: Extending your horizons

SAIS has dual-degree agreements that can extend students' academic horizons and prepare them for a host of careers. The agreements allow a student to obtain twin graduate degrees from SAIS and other leading universities in a shorter period of time than would normally be required. Marc Pickering is pursuing dual degrees with the INSEAD business school and SAIS. He arrived in Bologna at mid-term after a year at INSEAD and writes about his transition below.

When I flew in to Bologna in mid-January, a snowstorm was raging and the city was covered in snow. Most students were finishing up their last exams and heading out to exotic destinations for winter break. I gave myself a couple of weeks to discover the city, learn some Italian at a local language school and prepare for waiver exams in economics. From the get-go, the SAIS Bologna community -- students, faculty, administration -- brought me in to the fold.

Marc Pickering
My experience at the Bologna Center has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been almost two months since I arrived in Bologna, and overall it has been an uplifting experience. I was nervous about starting midway in the academic year and a quarter of the way through the MA program. Many of my MBA peers were beginning new jobs or jumping back into their career following our intense, year-long MBA class. I had set out on a different course: more school.

As far as I know, from my MBA graduating class of 500 people, I am the only one who decided to pursue another degree.

I decided to do an MA after my studies at INSEAD because of my interest in the relationship between the policy world and the business world, and how government impacts business. Pairing a business degree with a policy degree made a lot of sense, and the idea had been in the back of my mind for some time. In the end, SAIS alumni and current SAIS/INSEAD dual degree students helped me decide that the program was right for me. They highlighted the complementary aspects of the degrees and shared their own motivations for pursuing the dual degrees.

The INSEAD/SAIS MA/MBA is a relatively new partnership. While more and more people are taking advantage of it, it’s not as established as some other programs linking U.S. business schools and international relations programs. I believe I am the first MA/MBA to go from INSEAD to the SAIS Bologna Center, which is quite a privilege. I hope other students take up the mantle.

SAIS Bologna shares many similarities with INSEAD: the academic standard is very high, the professors are outstanding, the student body is extremely diverse -- not to mention good socializing. SAIS is a bit more academic, so I’m finding I have my head down in books a lot more than at INSEAD, where there is a lot more emphasis on group work.

Bologna is a beautiful city. I've been living out of two suitcases for a little over a year, in France and then Singapore -- great places to live. But Bologna is in a league of its own: the people, the culture, the history and the food. It’s an extremely rich and authentic place. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the city, but there you have it. It’s going to be very hard to leave Bologna in May.

I've already had a few fun trips in Europe -- to Brussels (for a SAIS Career Trek), Vienna (for the Austrian Ball, also with SAIS) and to Switzerland for a ski weekend -- as I am acutely aware I have only a few more months to take advantage of the great traveling one can do from Bologna!

I’m now beginning to prepare for my midterms and firming up my plans for a summer internship.

I’d love to help answer questions if any SAIS or INSEAD student wants to talk about the dual-degree program or anything else.

Do you have a question for Marc? You can send it to or write a comment at the end of this post.