Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thank you from a grateful Admissions officer

Today is my last day at SAIS. I don’t like farewells, so excuse me if I just say thanks.

Thank you to the candidates, students and young alumni who have made my job at Bologna Admissions so rewarding these past four years.

Graves with his Italian permesso di soggiorno from 1981
It was called the Bologna Center when I was a student here three decades ago. It was SAIS Bologna when I started this job in 2010 and is SAIS Europe as I depart.

The name and curriculum may have evolved, but the institution continues to enrich the lives of students from around the world as it has for six decades.

My wonderful Admissions colleague Amina and I can point to some worthy accomplishments since 2010: increased applications to SAIS Europe, a growing number of nationalities in the student body and a string of outstanding classes that make Johns Hopkins proud.

We’ve tried to put a human face on the admissions process, not just because it’s good business but because we understand how much candidates invest of themselves and because we enjoy the interaction.

The acts of gratitude on the part of candidates and students compound our pride: a note from a departing student saying Admissions made a happy difference in her choice of graduate school, an email from a candidate who was rejected but who is still determined to reapply.

I remember the note from an Asian applicant saying how moved he was to see his tiny country on the world map of admitted candidates. The note from a South American candidate who was touched to see a photo from SAIS Europe showing flowers in women students’ mail boxes on Valentine’s Day. And the email from a candidate from the Balkans who was turned down three years ago, who had the pluck to say he was proud to have been part of the application process and then the courage to double down.

He will be attending SAIS Europe next year.

I regret not being able to rub elbows with him and others of the SAIS Europe class of 2014-15 – my timing has never been great. But when I arrived here four years ago I inherited an outstanding class of 2010-11 for no effort of my own. It all comes out in the wash.

Readers of this blog will recognize my favorite bromide: It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the getting there.

SAIS students demonstrate that all the time. They draw important lessons from the very process of applying to graduate school; from their time while at SAIS and with their classmates, and from their search for a career. Rarely do they know where they’ll end up after SAIS – they trust in themselves and grow along the way.

These students give me courage as I, too, turn the page and dive into the unknown. I have an idea and energy, but no guarantee of arriving at a set destination.

Perhaps SAIS and its students helped teach me to trust in myself, too.

Nelson Graves


Anonymous said...


Thank you for being a great mentor and friend. You really enriched my time at the Bologna Center, and you and Amina did a fantastic job with our 2012-2013 class. Congratulations on your new adventure--I can't wait to see where it goes.

Best wishes,

Devon Swezey

Roku Fukui said...

Mr. Graves,

You went above and beyond to help me throughout this admission process. I wish we were meeting at SAIS Europe next year. Thank you for all you have done.

Roku Fukui
(Incoming SAIS Europe class of 2014-15)

Anonymous said...

A beautiful note. Grazie mille Nelson for the wonderful and touching words.

Anonymous said...

It was pleasure working with you, Nelson. Wish you the best with your new endeavours ! -Cigdem Akin