Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Academics: Learning to excel

To help prepare students for the global job market, SAIS offers professional development skills courses that supplement the core academic curriculum. The courses range from practical negotiating to financial accounting. Below, Ann Dailey writes about a skills course that leveraged the expertise of her fellow SAIS Bologna students.

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Bologna, and the computer lab is filled with students participating in a three-hour seminar to learn advanced Microsoft Excel skills.

All year long, the Career Services office has provided free Excel Skills courses, and more than 120 students have participated in one of the 10 courses (five Beginner, five Intermediate).

The Beginner course took students all of the way from finding cell A1 to sorting, graphing, and using logic and financial functions that would help them with their SAIS coursework.

After a quick review of the basics, the Intermediate course teaches more advanced logic and statistical functions as well as advanced formatting and graphing skills to help students prepare professional quality graphs and charts.

Career Services responded to students’ demand for more training by developing Excel Day. Rather than a structured course, Excel Day is a three-hour session where students work on career-focused Excel projects developed by fellow students.

Head Excel instructor Kayoko Lyons, who worked as a financial analyst for JPMorgan Chase, organized the day and helped four student instructors develop the projects.

The finance projects, developed by Brian Ku (who worked for KPMG) and Matt Conn (who worked for Luxor Capital Group) included capital structure, personal portfolio, XIRR and Collateralized Debt Obligation projects.

Ian Muir, who worked for PFC Energy, developed a project that exposed students to a range of exercises one would face in the world of energy and climate change consulting. Finally, Monica Wojcik, who worked for FTI Consulting, built a project that guided students through the creation of a trade profile for Chile by cleaning up and analyzing large datasets.

Max Cohen, who attended Excel Day, said "=if("Max learns a lot","awesome","a shame.")."

Ann Dailey (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Academics: Filling your plate at SAIS Bologna

Imagine a Smörgåsbord table groaning with dozens of dishes. Between the appetizers, main dishes and deserts, you have room on your plate for eight.

Problem or opportunity?

Next year the tentative plan is to offer 77 courses at SAIS Bologna. Each student normally takes eight.

Of the courses on the menu, nearly half -- 35 -- are offered only in Bologna. That is one reason why students are strongly advised to look carefully at the curriculum to make sure they can take advantage of the unique offerings in both Bologna and DC while also keeping an eye on required courses, most of which are taught on both campuses.

Here is a tentative list of the courses offered next fall. To extend the analogy, there are some tried and tested staples: Theories of International Relations, Corporate Finance, Foundations of International Law, Survey of Modern Latin American Politics.

Many of the courses are unique to SAIS Bologna: Western European Political Economies; Science, Technology & International Affairs; The Twin Pillars of the Gulf, to name just a few.

And some are both unique to Bologna and brand new: Weak and Failed States, East Asian Security.

The same for the spring semester's curriculum. SAIS Bologna students can taste The Economies of Central Asia, Europe's Long Peace, Renewable Energy and Development Cooperation.

New next spring will be Constitutional Development & Democratization, Quantitative Methods in International Relations and Major Powers in the Middle East: Turkey.

As the SAIS brochure says: "Our curriculum -- emphasizing interdisciplinary breadth, a solid foundation in economics and deep knowledge of key world regions -- prepares students for a successful career in international relations. The result: innovative thinkers equipped with economic and cultural expertise as well as hands-on experience who are ready to confront complex global challenges."

That's true for all of SAIS -- Bologna, DC and Nanjing.

Buon appetito.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Student Life: Looking beyond the books

SAIS is fundamentally an academic experience. With final examinations on the horizon, it's no wonder coffee consumption and library usage are on the rise.

But SAIS is not only about academics. This blog has highlighted sports, clubs, guest lecturers and social events among ways students enhance their experience in Bologna.

You can add fund-raising to the list. At various points this year, large numbers of SAIS Bologna students have been involved in collecting donations for a wide variety of causes.

Nearly two dozen male students grew moustaches in the fall as part of the Movember movement to raise money for prostate cancer research. Students collected more than $1,000 with a trivia night and sports tournament and by selling calendars ("The Mustached Men of SAIS Bologna 2013").

This month, 17 SAIS Bologna women took time out from their studies to put on a production of "The Vagina Monologues". The sell-out audience awarded the thespians with a standing ovation and more than $1,000 in donations toward the Casa delle Donne, a shelter for abused women in Bologna. A string of other events are being put on this month to raise money for charities combating sexual abuse.
17 actresses for a cause

This post is for those who have dedicated time this year to these and other such events. You are living proof that a year at SAIS Bologna is more transformational than I had dared imagine before coming here.

Felix Amrhein (BC13/DC14)
Photo by Ian Muir (BC13/DC14)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Life in Bologna: Unexpected colors

A cooler and wetter spring than usual has kept many SAIS Bologna students indoors. This year's class may be paying the price for a very dry year in northern Italy in 2012.

But there are upsides to damp weather. It can be easier to study. Bologna has a great many cafés and restaurants where one can take refuge. And the sky can yield unexpected colors such as those captured in a photo this week by current student Tristram Thomas:

Anyone interested in checking out the Bologna weather and skyline can always click on this link to see what the webcam on our penthouse terrace is seeing. Right now it's showing this:

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Student life: the SAIS kaleidoscope

There's hardly a better way to get a feel for student life than to read the student newspaper.

This month's student publication at SAIS -- The SAIS Observer -- captures the complexity of the experience.

There are contributions from SAIS's three campuses: Bologna, DC and Nanjing.

Here are some of the topics: agricultural policy studies, a debating course focusing on U.S. foreign policy, Taiwan-South Korean relations, teaching youth in Bologna and migrants in China, interviews with former Peace Corps volunteers, the Latin Dance Club, a new study area at SAIS Bologna, social entrepreneurship, a debate over democracy in China, the anxiety of career hunting and recipes for students on a stringent budget.

Two items have been covered in this journal: the Austrian ball and the Mr & Ms SAIS Bologna contest.

But try as we might, we can't cover the entire range of student experiences at SAIS spread over three campuses.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Careers: A learning experience in 'The Land of Fire'

Many SAIS students participate in study trips funded by academic concentrations. These trips, often to far-flung destinations, deepen students' understanding of key issues facing industries, institutions and policymakers in the relevant sectors and regions. Below, SAIS Bologna student Julia Heckmann writes about a recent trip she took to Azerbaijan with 13 other SAIS students.

Azerbaijan has both historical and contemporary significance in the upstream oil and gas sector. Its capital, Baku, is one of the birthplaces of the oil industry, and the recent development of the region’s offshore oil and gas fields and pipeline infrastructure has made Azerbaijan a focal point of the global energy market.

So I was very excited to participate in a recent five-day study trip to Baku. The trip was organized by a group of last year’s SAIS Bologna Center students who are concentrating in Energy, Resources and Environment (ERE), and it was funded by the ERE program.

Visiting SOCAR

The 14 of us explored Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector and learned about the political challenges facing the industry by engaging with government institutions, industry representatives, diplomats, lobbyists and academics.

To get the most out of the trip and to prepare ourselves for our meetings, each student prepared background information on a specific topic or stakeholder ahead of the trip.

We started our week with a visit by to the headquarters of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). The meeting gave us insight into the history of oil exploration in Azerbaijan, the prospects for new projects as well as the strategy and drivers that govern the company’s decision-making process.

Other visits included a tour of the Sengachal Terminal where offshore oil and gas is processed and sent off via pipelines, and a meeting with the head investor of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ).

What does that spell?
We met U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar at the U.S. embassy where we discussed geopolitical and diplomatic issues, including the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagrono-Kharabach.

Besides looking at Azerbaijan through the ERE lens, we took in Azerbaijan’s culture, cuisine and natural beauty by visiting ancient rock carvings and mud volcanoes at Gobustan National Park. The natural gas fires around the “Fire Mountain” Yanar Dağ made it clear why Azerbaijan is called “the land of fire”.

The trip was both great fun and a learning experience. After visiting the country in person, experiencing the culture, seeing production sites with my own eyes and talking to stakeholders, I have an understanding of the region that I would not have gained by simply studying a text book.

Julia Heckmann (BC13/DC14)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Open House: SAIS Bologna seen from the inside

Yesterday a number of admitted candidates participated in SAIS Bologna's annual Open House.

The day of information-sharing and encounters followed hard on the heels of SAIS DC's Open House last week, which was attended by candidates admitted to both the Bologna and Washington campuses.

These events provide visitors a chance to get to know students, faculty, staff and, crucially, fellow prospective classmates and to learn what makes SAIS tick. But we realize only a minority of the admitted candidates, who come from dozens of countries around the world, can attend.

Admitted candidates listening to Director Kenneth Keller and faculty

For the benefit of those who could not attend and, why not, for prospective applicants reading this journal, here are some of the key questions that were raised during yesterday's event in sunny Bologna.

Q: When are language proficiency exams offered?
A: Three times a year: at the beginning, middle and end.

Q: What kind of extra-curricular activities are offered at SAIS Bologna?
A: There are many clubs -- the Dance Club, the Defense and Intelligence Club, the Latin American Club, the China Club, the Poker club. The types of clubs that are formed depend on the students' interests. The Student Government Association (SGA) has a budget that helps defray some of the costs.

Q: Is aid available for non-U.S. students during their second year of study while at SAIS DC?
A: Yes. Students interested in receiving aid during their second year of study apply for aid towards the end of their first semester in Bologna. Students are advised to start their search for aid from foundations outside of SAIS as early as possible.

Q: How do students find housing in Bologna?
A: The SAIS Bologna consultant, Salvatore, shows apartments to students on a first come, first served basis. The greatest number of apartments are available before pre-term and then before the first semester starts. Some students decide not to use the Bologna Center's service and find their own places through agents or want ads that are posted in the Center or around the city.

Meeting current students
and faculty
Q: What did you wish you had known before coming but did not know?
Nameerah Hameed (SGA member): "I thought I would not be able to do anything outside of my studies but now realize I could have. I could have applied for an internship post at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research. You can do things outside of class here."

Anika Sellier (SGA member): "I wish I had reached out more to alumni. They are all so excited to hear from us. I did not really know that until I met them."

Q: Are trips organized by Career Services funded by SAIS Bologna?
A: The students generally pay for the trips. The number of students for each trip is limited to 20, and there is a selection process.

Q: Do most students work internships between the first and second years?
A: At least two thirds of the SAIS Bologna students from last year's class and possibly more worked internships last summer. They worked in many different sectors all over the world.

Q: Is a student required to do an internship to graduate?
A: It is not a degree requirement, but some concentrations do require internships.

Q: How quickly do SAIS students find jobs upon graduating?
A: Between 50% and 60% of SAIS students have lined up jobs by the time they graduate. Within six months after graduation, more than 90% have jobs. "The fact is, students do get jobs, but they need to be thinking about it while at SAIS," Meera Shankar, director of SAIS Bologna Career Services.

Nelson Graves
Photos by Marwa Abdou (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stretching your horizons: U.S. Treasury secretary tops slate of SAIS speakers

Interested in the global economy, the Group of 20's policy reforms or U.S. foreign policy?

If so, consider that these leading policymakers will all be speaking at SAIS DC next week:

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
  • Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer
  • Central Bank of Turkey Governor Erdem Başçı

U.S. Treasury Secretary
Jacob Lew
Add to them Mexico's undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Japan's vice minister of Finance for International Affairs, former IMF first managing director John Lipsky and the G20 sherpa for Australia's prime minister.

What is more, SAIS Dean Vali Nasr will be launching his new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat.

Bank of Israel Governor
Stanley Fischer
A meaty lineup of speakers is part and parcel of a SAIS education. Learning goes on inside and outside the classroom, and the diverse selection of speakers stretches a student's horizons.

Take a look at this spring's seminar series at SAIS Bologna. Among the topics: U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, Israel's role in the Middle East, Italian unification, the League of Nations, feminist international relations and the Pussy Riot case and Russia's media.

Four of the SAIS DC events next week will be broadcast over Internet:

  1. Lew on "The State of the Global Economy": http://bit.ly/10K5FIW
  2. Fischer on "The G20's Post-Crisis Policy Reforms": http://bit.ly/XBoQbo
  3. Başçı and Lipsky on "Balanced Growth and Financial Stability in Turkey": http://bit.ly/10QUu2u
  4. Nasr's book launch: http://bit.ly/XoyE8t

For those wishing to attend in person, Lew's speech is open only to the SAIS community and invited guests. But if you are in the DC area and would like to go to any of the other three events, you can register by clicking on the relevant name:

Başçı and Lipsky

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alumni: an invaluable resource for SAIS students

SAIS's network of alumni stretches far and wide.

Alumni are a valuable resource for students looking for advice, mentoring and even a cup of tea.

Amb. Abercrombie-Winstanley flanked by
Dziadkowiec (l) and Evans (r)
Over last week's spring break SAIS Bologna students Evan Davis and Tom Dziadkowiec traveled to Malta where they learned about the Mediterranean archipelago and met a prominent alumna. Below is an account of the trip by Davis, who is on a Thomas R. Pickering fellowship for students interested in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Each year as the weather turns warmer and mid-term exams wind down, students keen to make the most out of Bologna's location turn their sights to traveling over spring break. Last week Tom and I traveled to Malta.

We toured the country, learned about the local culture and history, and tasted some of the local cuisine. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting SAIS alumna Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley (DC84), who is U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta.

The ambassador graciously hosted us at her home. After a brief tour of the official residence, Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley sat down with the two of us over tea to discuss her career as a Foreign Service Officer and her time at SAIS.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Getting to know us and the next steps towards SAIS

Candidates who have been admitted to SAIS and are weighing their options have several opportunities in the next two weeks to learn first-hand what the program is all about.

SAIS Bologna holds its annual Open House for admitted candidates next Monday, April 15. Here is a tentative schedule of the day.

Although all admitted candidates are invited, we realize that most cannot make it. Next week we plan a blog post summarizing the key questions that were asked during the day.

If you'd like to come to the Bologna Open House and have not registered, you can do so here.

SAIS DC will be holding its Open House tomorrow, April 10. Candidates admitted to SAIS Bologna are welcome to attend that event plus a reception with Bologna Center alumni at SAIS DC starting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, April 11.

To register for the DC Open House, click here. If you'd like to attend the reception with SAIS Bologna alumni on April 11, please send an email to admissions@jhubc.it.

Looking further ahead:

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.

ONLINE ECONOMICS: Some admitted candidates will be taking SAIS's Online Principles of Economics (OPE) course this summer. The course gives them the grounding needed in micro and macro to be able to start their SAIS studies.

There will be two sections of OPE:

Session 1: May 1-July 25
Session 2: May 22-Aug 15

Session 1 is intended for students attending SAIS DC pre-term, and they will be given priority enrollment. Tuition for Session 1 is due by April 24.

Session 2 is meant for students attending SAIS Bologna pre-term, and they will be given priority. Tuition for Session 2 is due by May 21.

LATE MAY: Closed Facebook group formed for the incoming SAIS Bologna 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: SAIS Bologna orientation and registration; all students must be present at school by September 18.

SEPT 23: First day of fall semester classes.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Student Life: Making the move to DC (Part II)

How can you find an apartment in DC? Are there internships? How about the food?

SAIS Bologna students have started turning their sights to Washington, DC, where most of them will be spending the second year of their master's program.

Bologna Center graduates Patrick Flanagan and Elan Bar, seconded by Assistant Dean Bonnie Wilson, tackled SAIS Bologna students' questions during a recent information session that was part of a broad effort to ease the transition from Europe to the United States.

"It's hyper competitive," Flanagan said, describing the search for housing in Washington. But he and Bar noted that Washington, with its many students, has an ample stock of apartments near SAIS.

They recommended four neighborhoods near SAIS DC, which is just off of Dupont Circle, provided rent estimates and urged students to jump on housing opportunities as quickly as possible.

Wilson and Flanagan noted that there are myriad internship opportunities in DC but warned students not to get too caught up in work outside of their studies to avoid diluting the educational experience.

Wilson said there were some 40 clubs at SAIS DC covering culture, community outreach, sports, careers, publications and trips. There are athletic facilities 2 blocks from the campus.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bridging policymaking and academia: a SAIS tradition

The scope of SAIS scholarship leapt from the pages of a recent edition of one of the world's leading newspapers.

SAIS's dean, a resident scholar at the Bologna Center and an alumnus of the Bologna program all featured in Financial Times articles touching on U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama's presidency and a late Marxist historian.
SAIS Dean Vali Nasr

The range of expertise reflected SAIS's long tradition of bridging policymaking and academia. Exhibit number one, SAIS Dean Vali Nasr.

Nasr's new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, was reviewed by the FT's chief U.S. commentator, Edward Luce, who says the former U.S. State Department adviser "is capable of making almost Kissinger-like connections – a sophistication that often seems lacking in Obama’s White House."

This is how Nasr put it in speaking to the Johns Hopkins Gazette: "[Diplomacy] has played a very important role in furthering American interests all along, and I’m basically very hopeful about America’s place in the world. It has played a very critical role in stability in the world economically, securitywise and politically, and I hope that this book will be read with the view that that mission has to and will continue.”

The same FT article reviewed a new volume by James Mann, an author-in-residence at SAIS's Foreign Policy Institute who this spring has been the first resident scholar at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research.

In Luce's view, Mann concludes in his book, The Obamians, that "Obama is handling America’s straitened circumstances with growing skill."

Putting both books side by side, Luce says: "(F)or insights readers should turn to Nasr and Mann. Both books come too soon to be definitive. Obama’s presidency is only halfway done. But in their different ways each sheds light on a U.S. whose indispensability much of the world is starting to question."

In the same pages of the FT, SAIS Bologna alumnus Mark Mazower reviews a posthumous volume of essays, lectures and reviews by Eric Hobsbawm, a British historian who influenced generations of students with his works on industrial capitalism and socialism before dying last year.

Mazower, a professor of history at Columbia University, attended SAIS Bologna in 1981-83.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student Life: Making the move to DC

Today we introduce readers to a fountain of knowledge for non-U.S. nationals at SAIS DC, including those who spend their first year in Bologna and second in Washington.

Noppadon Moapichai is director of the International Student and Scholar Services at SAIS. He helps ensure SAIS Bologna students make a smooth transition to Washington. He recently came to Bologna to advise students who are turning their sights already to their year in DC. We asked him what questions he is most frequently asked.

Most questions relate to employment or internship opportunities in the United States and whether U.S. visa regulations allow a non-U.S. student to pursue an off-campus internship or job during the summer between the first two years of study or after graduation from SAIS.

When talking about internships, we have to distinguish between paid and unpaid posts.

Noppadon Moapichai 
First, let's consider unpaid internships in the United States during the summer between Bologna and DC. In general, non-U.S. students in the United States are allowed to pursue unpaid internships. Most non-U.S. students from Bologna come to DC at the beginning of the fall. So the student visa sponsored by SAIS will have a fall semester start date.

Non-U.S. students who want to work an unpaid internship in the United States in the summer before the fall semester can do so as long as they can secure a visa to enter the United States.

It is best if the institution offering the unpaid internship can help the student obtain a U.S. visa for  the summer. However, in many cases the institution cannot help the student obtain a visa. It then becomes the student's responsibility.

In this case there are two ways forward. A non-U.S. student can attend a summer course or courses in DC and thus work the unpaid internship while in summer school. SAIS can help the student obtain a U.S. visa that starts with the summer program and carries through to the fall.

Alternatively, a non-U.S. student can apply for a business/tourist visa at a U.S. Embassy; students from some countries can apply for a visa waiver under the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This type of visa allows students to work an unpaid internship. At the end of the internship, a non-U.S. student must leave the United States and the re-enter before the start of the fall semester on a student visa sponsored by SAIS.

Paid internships are more complicated. To enter the United States, non-U.S. students generally need a U.S. visa that is sponsored by the institution offering the internship. There is a limit on pay if a non-U.S. student enters on a business/tourist visa or under a visa waiver.

A few words of advice: Do your research in advance. Consult Career Services. Don't limit your search for internships to the United States.

Looking past SAIS, a non-U.S. student can apply for authorization to work in the United States after graduation. A student on an F-1 student visa must be enrolled full-time in DC for at least one full academic year, fall and spring, before being eligible to apply for authorization.

Students also ask many questions about jobs on the SAIS DC campus.

A non-U.S. student can work up to 20 hours per week on the SAIS DC campus when school is in session. During school holidays, a non-U.S. student can work full-time. In most cases non-U.S. students are allowed to start working on campus as many as 30 days before the start of the fall semester. There is no guarantee there will be on-campus jobs. On-campus job openings are usually posted with the Career Services Office.

At which U.S. embassies can non-U.S. students apply for student visas?

That depends on the student’s summer travel plans. A non-U.S. student can apply for a student visa in their home country.

But most non-U.S. students at SAIS Bologna can apply for their U.S. student visa at the U.S. consulate in Florence or Milan before leaving Bologna. A non-U.S. student can apply for a student visa as soon as four months before the start of the fall term in DC. A student can enter the United States 30 days before the start of the fall semester. Procedures for applying for a student visa vary by country. A non-U.S. student can go to www.usembassy.gov for more information.

Noppadon Moapichai