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 ├ętat-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.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Prof. Gary Sick on U.S.-Iran relations: "The most promising point we've had."

"It's an historic opportunity."

That is how Prof. Gary Sick characterizes relations today between the United States and Iran.

Prof. Sick had a front-row seat when 52 U.S. diplomats were captured in Tehran and held hostage for 444 days from 1979-81. He is currently in Bologna teaching a four-part lecture series on the United States and the Gulf. He is an example of the intellectual and professional expertise that SAIS students can tap into and which helps set the SAIS experience apart.

Consider Sick's track record: He served on the National Security Council under U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

An adjunct professor and senior research scholar at Columbia University, Sick has worked at the Ford Foundation, is an emeritus member of the board of Human Rights Watch in New York and serves as executive director of Gulf/2000, an international online project on developments in the Gulf.

Sick, who is teaching his mini-course in Bologna for the 4th consecutive year, spoke to us about his course and U.S. relations with Iran in an interview that can be seen below.

Asked if he is more optimistic about relations between Washington and Tehran this year than last, he said, "This is the most promising point we've had between these two countries." Noting that the U.S. and Iran have many converging interests, he said: "If they can't find a way out of this, then perhaps there is no way out."

What he would say to the U.S. and Iranian presidents if he met them in an elevator? "Don't be deflected from your main purpose."

Has SAIS Europe changed since he started teaching here? "As far as I can tell, the school itself has not changed. It's a very happy place."

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

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Careers: Exploring the City and the world of finance

Each year SAIS Europe’s Career Services Office organizes trips that expose students to some of the myriad professional opportunities available to them after graduating.

SAIS students before their meeting at the
Royal Bank of Scotland
The treks allow SAIS students to sit down with industry practitioners at their offices to learn what it is like to work in that profession. Often the practitioners are SAIS graduates themselves. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their time, experience and advice with current students testify to the reach and vigor of the SAIS network.

Last month 19 first- and second-year SAIS students -- 17 from Bologna and two from DC -- traveled to London for the 2013 Finance Career trek.

Students met investment professionals -- many of them SAIS alumni -- from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Rogge Capital, Satya Capital and Fitch Ratings. Our hosts provided a range of perspectives into the world of finance.

After two days of discussion and exploration of the City, students returned to Bologna and Washington with new insight, ready to tackle the internship and job application process.

Samuel Semwangu (BC14/DC15)