Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bologna to Washington to professor -- and back to Bologna

Prof. Jacqueline Mazza brings a special perspective to SAIS. She has studied and taught in both Bologna and Washington. This spring she is back in Bologna, teaching a course on U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. Below she tells us why she chose to study at the Bologna Center and how it feels to be back.

When I first came to Bologna as a student, I never imagined it would become my intellectual and professional center. 

I never imagined that life on two campuses -- Bologna and Washington -- would be ideal, not in spite of the differences between the two campuses but because of the differences.

Prof. Mazza discussing
 U.S. policy towards Cuba under President Kennedy
What I found is that you can choose SAIS for a variety of reasons. In my case I wanted to study international affairs, but I also wanted to come and learn Italian and live in Italy. It was a promise all of us great grandchildren made to la nonna from Calabria, but I was the only one to take it to heart. (Shall we keep it between us? My adventure in Bologna started in 1982.)

SAIS Europe in Bologna has the advantage of a small, compact campus in a medieval city and with a cappuccino bar at every turn. The access to professors and the academic environment of small seminars and discussions combined with caffeine (yes, on the first floor of the SAIS building) ensured not only, as the SAIS cliché goes, the best year of my life (to that time) but a year that changed my life.

Vera Zamagni, a history professor who still teaches at SAIS, provided the example of a woman with a PhD and professional drive. I eventually asked her to write my recommendation when I applied to SAIS Washington for my PhD many years later.

By that time I had worked on Capitol Hill for the U.S. Congress and moved from European Studies to the battlefields of Central America. Today I teach U.S. Foreign Policy towards Latin America and a range of courses in Latin American development as I am also a senior specialist in labor markets and social security at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington.

SAIS Washington offers professional connections, internships and great courses. There I can connect my Latin American studies students to professional opportunities at the IDB, World Bank and think tanks.

Decades later I am back in Bologna this semester and find a group of motivated students experiencing as I did the advantages of Bologna and its close academic community.

Today nearly half of our SAIS Latin American Studies students start in Bologna, have a summer internship in Latin America and then come to Washington for their second year. My SAIS classmates are still both my best friends and my best professional contacts.

I would challenge any other M.A. program in International Relations to provide such a diversity of experiences, one that can keep you engaged literally throughout your professional career.

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