Thursday, December 18, 2014

Learning outside the classroom and meeting Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome

Last week, a group of SAIS Europe students traveled to Rome to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

Laura Saiki Chaves, a current MA student from Peru in the International Development concentration, made it to Rome with her classmates. Below she tells us about her experience at the Summit.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is one of the largest and most influential events in the field of peacemaking, attended by Laureates and students like myself interested in development and humanitarian issues.

It is an annual event that is hosted around the world to focus on issues such as nonviolence, rule of law and environmental and sustainable development.

Originally set to be hosted in Cape Town, the 2014 Summit was relocated to Rome at the last minute
in order to accommodate the XIV Dalai Lama.

Laura (fourth from right) and some of her classmates at the Summit

This was an opportunity I could not miss. Bologna is just over a two-hour train ride from Rome and together with a group of fifty classmates, I traveled to the Italian capital to attend the Summit.

Throughout the three-day conference, I was able to attend panels which featured Laureates such as Tawakkol Karman, David Trimble, Leymah Gbowee, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos-Horta and the Dalai Lama.

The main theme of the Summit this year was “Living Peace". The sessions and workshops were structured to provide us participants with more insight into the topic. Panel discussions ranged from stopping gender and sexual violence, to reconciling communities and promoting social activism.

Not only were we able to attend the panel discussions, many of us also participated in student workshops hosted by different organizations, including the Yunus Centre, the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Refugee Agency, among others.

My classmate Nicole Ahdiyyih said the highlight of the trip for her was meeting one-on-one with Laureate Shirin Ebadi: “Meeting an incredible woman like Shirin Ebadi – someone who fights tirelessly for the promotion of human rights and democracy – was most inspirational and motivating as she is an example of how one should act in serving humanity.”

Like Nicole, I was moved by the female speakers. Listening to Laureate Tawakkol Karman was absolutely inspiring.

For more information about the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, please click here.

Laura Saiki Chaves
(SAIS Europe 2015)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Adding breadth to the SAIS degree

SAIS offers a smörgåsbord of courses. 

Those who take the MA program, one of the several degrees offered at SAIS, pursue a concentration and specialize in an area of their interest. They can choose from regional or policy concentrations and, in some cases, combine the two.

SAIS offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum and students are encouraged to take courses outside of their concentrations.

Most concentrations leave room for several electives, which enable students to take courses across different disciplines.

These courses and professors have such an impact on students because they give insight into topics they may not have previously considered and illustrate that in the field of international relations, everything is related.

Below a few students talk about the courses they are taking outside of their concentrations.

Chelsea Boorman - American Foreign Policy
Though I'm an American Foreign Policy concentrator, I enrolled in Mark Gilbert's course on European Imperialism in the 20th Century. 

In taking the course I realized that without understanding colonial history, it's impossible to understand how the current global political system of states functions. 

The course has given me a new way of thinking about the world -- both in the past and in the present -- and in touching on Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, in addition to themes of conflict, strategy, and history, it's given me a new lens to approach U.S. foreign policy.

Ana Rasmussen - Energy, Resources and Environment
I decided to take Erik Jones's West European Political Economies course because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to study European politics and economics while living in Europe.
SAIS students in Florence with Professor Cavina

As the semester progressed, it became clear that issues of energy, politics, and economics are inextricably linked. This was especially apparent in the cases of oil and power generation and the impact they have on policy making in a globalized economy.

Cara Bragg - Conflict Management
I enrolled in Anna Cavina's Italian Art History & Culture class

It was wonderful to have a change of pace from the traditional SAIS coursework, and being able to witness some of the history and iconic art of the country made me feel more a part of Italy. 

Together with in-class lectures, the walking tours in Bologna and day trips to Florence and Ravenna offered an opportunity to discover some of the great treasures of these cities that I might not have found on my own. 

And to top it off, Professor Cavina invited us to her home for a true cultural experience -- an Italian feast shared among friends.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Speakers: Look who's been at SAIS this fall

Students at SAIS have access to policy-makers and world-class thinkers.

The Bologna Institute for Policy and Research (BIPR), runs the seminar series in Bologna. Student interns interview each speaker after their talk. Click here to view the "Three question interview" series and to read the report of the events.

Below is are some of the policy-makers and intellectuals who have engaged in conversation with students at SAIS in Bologna and in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with SAIS students on U.S. - China relations.

José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, discussed the future of U.S.- Latin American relations.

Souad Mekhennet, fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute and Journalist, discussed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the implications of security for the Middle East and West.

Anis Nacrour, Chargé d'Affaires, European Union Delegation, Syria, provided his expertise on Syria and the Middle East region.
Antonio Missiroli Director, European Union Institute for Security Studies (Euiss), talked about security in Europe.
Antonio Missiroli

Charles P. Ries Vice President, International, RAND Corporation; Former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Washington D.C., U.S., discussed Transatlantic trade and investment partnership.

Alicia Garcia-Herrero Chief Economist for Emerging Markets, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), discussed China's financial reform.

Ishaq Dar, Pakistan's Finance Minister, discussed Pakistan's economic recovery and its emerging role in the region.

Thomas Christiansen Jean Monnet Professor of European Institutional Politics and Co-Director, Maastricht Centre for European Governance, Maastricht University, The Netherlands, discussed China and the European Union.

If you are eager to learn who else has been hosted at SAIS, see the links below:

- Bologna
- DC

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, December 4, 2014

SAIS Europe Celebrates Thanksgiving

Students, friends, and faculty members gathered last Saturday to feast, drink, and celebrate Thanksgiving.

Director Plummer kicked off the festivities with a lighthearted speech on the history of the holiday. In the United States, the President "pardons" a turkey, sparing its life and ensuring it can spend the rest of its days roaming free on a farm. 

In the spirit of this tradition, Plummer also "pardoned" a turkey; given the difficulty of managing a live animal in the auditorium, M.A. student Lindsay Cejka volunteered to play the part and dress in a turkey costume.

The school provided the oven-roasted turkeys -- a rare commodity in Bologna -- while students volunteered to supplement the feast with an assortment of mashed potatoes, vegetables, salads, casseroles, and desserts. With the Macy's Day Parade projected in the background, the scene was nothing short of a traditional American Thanksgiving.

For many students at SAIS Europe, especially those from outside of the United States, this was either their first time celebrating Thanksgiving or celebrating it away from home. 

Martina Improta, a student from Italy celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time said the experience was great. The strangest aspects of the celebration were the early eating time and mashed potatoes -- a dish not usually eaten in Italy.

Anthony Gonzalez, an M.A. student from Oklahoma, shares his thoughts below about spending the holiday away from home:

This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family. It's only natural to feel homesick, especially during the holidays. Though I'm an ocean away from my loved ones in Oklahoma, SAIS truly made me feel as if I'd never left home. Sometimes it's events like the Thanksgiving dinner that make you realize just how close you've become with your peers here in Bologna. SAIS is my international family.

The Movember competition
Following the dinner, students participating in Movember -- a month-long campaign raising awareness for men's health issues -- donned their mustaches on stage in a competition where other students voted by donating money to their favorite look.


Chelsea Boorman
SAIS Europe 2015

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Questions we heard at SAIS Europe's Open Day

Last Friday, SAIS Europe welcomed several dozen prospective students at the Open Day.

Open Day is an opportunity for students to ask questions to faculty, staff and students-- and to hear the answers in real time. We know that most of our applicants live far from Bologna. We also know they have questions, just like those who were at SAIS Europe last Friday.

With this in mind, below are some of the questions that were asked and their answers.

The first panels with faculty were called "The Academic Difference". During these sessions, Director Michel Plummer and SAIS Europe's professors were able to explain what it is that set SAIS and SAIS Europe apart.

SAIS is special because it offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Students take courses in international relations, economics, history and languages, which allow them to better understand global issues.

Q: SAIS emphasizes the importance of economics. I come from an economics background. What are the benefits of attending a program like SAIS for someone who has already done a lot of economics?
A: Students who have an economics background benefit from a program like SAIS because the way economics is taught at SAIS is policy-focused. Students study the theory while learning how it is applied and how it is used by policy-makers.

Q: Are the courses more theoretical or practical?
A: Most courses at SAIS mix theory with practice. Many of our professors are practitioners as well as academicians and they bring to the classroom their practical experience as well as their theoretical knowledge.

Q: Does SAIS provide only a U.S. perspective on international affairs?
A: SAIS is the only U.S. graduate program in international affairs with full-fledged campuses across three continents. Students at SAIS Europe are exposed to different perspectives on international issues. While they are in Bologna, they look at global issues from a European prism. During their second year in DC, they are able to analyze the same issues from a U.S. angle.

Q: How flexible is the curriculum?
A: Students at SAIS are able to tailor their studies around their interests and careers goals. That said, there are requirements they need to fulfill. An example of the flexibility of our curriculum is a course prof. Jones taught last year to accommodate students who were eager to learn more about European financial markets.

The  SGA is the liaison between the student body and the administration. SGA president Andrew Caruso and his teammates, Irene Forzoni, Joana Allamani, Max Beck as well as honorary member Nikhil Gupta, tackled participants' questions.

Q: How do you split the time between your concentration courses and your electives?
A: It depends on the concentration you are pursuing. Some concentrations, International Development for example, have lots of requirements, which leave little room for elective courses. However, most concentrations allow students to take a number of courses outside of their specialization.

A piece of advice: take the courses you like, while keeping requirements in mind. Most of all, take advantage of the courses that are offered only at SAIS Europe.

Q: How are classes structured? 
A: Most classes emphasize class discussion and, for many, class participation counts. There are mid-term exams half way through each course, which count towards your final grade. Some classes don't have mid-term exams, but will require you to write papers.

Students are expected to read a lot material before class so that the time in the classroom is used to discuss and expand on the readings done beforehand. This allows us to learn from one another and it is an opportunity for us to express our opinions and formulate--and re-formulate--our views.

Q: How much time do language classes take? And would you recommend one takes a language class if they are already proficient in a second language?
A: Language classes are held three times a week. Some languages require a bit more time than others. There are teaching assistants --usually classmates who are native speakers of the language-- who hold sessions to help us with our learning.

Virtually everybody takes a language class. It is included in the tuition and it only makes sense to make the most of what is offered.

What is impressive is that students take four courses and a language course. In addition, we can audit up to two classes. Thus, each students could potentially take seven classes at the same cost. This is quite unique as in a number of other programs, students are charged for each course in addition to the tuition fee.

Q: Are there any student clubs?
A: There are several students clubs and the number keeps growing. There are academic clubs,
professional development clubs and social clubs. Some have been at SAIS for a long time(the Careers in Development club, the Defense and Intelligence club and many more), others are specific to a class. In any event, there is plenty of room to express your interests and to share them with others.

Q: Do you interact with the Bologna community?
A: We interact with the community in Bologna in a number of different ways. There are language tandems organized with the Language Department of SAIS and the University of Bologna. In addition, there is a series of movie nights, which allows us to meet students from outside of SAIS.

We meet people outside the SAIS community through sports as well.

What is more, there will be a trip to Bosnia organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD), where students from SAIS and the University of Bologna will study post-conflict reconstruction.

Ann Gagliadi, career counselor, answered questions on the services available to students at SAIS. She explained that SAIS is a professional development program as well as an academic program and that much focus is given to students' professional development.

Q: How long does it take students to find employment after graduation?
A: Over 90% of SAIS graduates are in employment within six months of graduation. The Career Services Office works very closely with each student to ensure they acquire all the tools necessary to help them succeed in their job search as they prepare to leave SAIS.

It can be challenging for students to focus on job searches while they are very busy with academic work. The role of Office is to make sure students keep the focus on career development.

Q: Is there a career fair?
A: We don't have career fairs. However, throughout the year in Bologna, students are able to go on trips to several European cities where they meet alumni and learn about their professional paths. These trips help students understand what types of careers they want to pursue and how to do so.

Q: Are internships required?
A: They are not required, but they are strongly recommended. Over 75% of students work an internship in the summer between their first and second year.

Q: Do students in Bologna have access to Career Services in DC?
A: Our Offices work very closely together and students on each side of the Atlantic have access to both Offices.

Q: Would you recommend one pursues a concentration according to their interests or according to the demand in the job market?
A: SAIS offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum and our graduates can present themselves as specialists in a number of areas because they take courses across different disciplines. The advice we give to students is to take the concentration and the courses they are interested in.

Amina Abdiuahab