Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Happy Holidays from SAIS Bologna Admissions!

Over the last weeks we've published posts on the admission procedure and the different parts of the application. We tried to cover as many topics as possible to help prospective students with their application.

Do you feel we left something out?

If you do, please comment on this post or send us an email at 

SAIS Bologna will be closed from December 22 to January 5, 2012. During the break we'll have limited access to email. We'll do our best to answer to your questions as soon as possible. But, please bear with us if we don't respond as quickly as we normally would.

We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We look forward to keeping in touch in 2012 and to receiving your applications!

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


You've heard us say before that at SAIS students learn inside and outside the classroom. They learn from professors and also from one another. Today, Nicollette Maunganidze, the first student from Zimbabwe to attend SAIS Bologna, will tell us what Global-I, an organization she started three years ago when she was an undergraduate student at Spelman College, Atalanta, GA, aims to accomplish at SAIS.

Global-I board members (from right) Blythe, Nicollette,
Jemila and Ihssane
During my undergraduate studies I became concerned with the inequalities of our world. This awareness encouraged me to start an organization that would help alleviate global inequalities. Thus, Global-I came to life. When I arrived at SAIS Bologna, I decided to continue the work I started in my undergraduate years. I soon found classmates who were eager to help me keep Global-I alive. 

Our mission is two-fold: on one hand we want to raise consciousness of global ills, on the other we want to raise funds to donate to a local or international initiative that encourages self-sufficiency. 

Every year we pick a theme. This year's theme is illiteracy. The events and programming that we will undertake in fulfilling our mission will be centered on raising awareness of different types of illiteracy, as well as fundraising for organizations that help decrease the latter. One such initiative is DessertMANIA, Global-I's inaugural fundraiser. The event took place on December 9 during a special happy hour for prospective students. SAIS students donated desserts from their home countries including Russia, the U.S., Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, Italy and more. The desserts were sold at a small cost and the funds raised will be given to a local and an international charity. 

The next initiative will be SoftwareMANIA - a day where anyone interested can attend workshops to help them improve skills with different software. We'll also do a talent show, a clothing swap and an English Book Club with a local primary school. Each of these events aims at raising awareness of illiteracy as well as raising funds to support the work of local and international non-profit organization. 


Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, 16 December 2011

A holiday quiz

Earlier this week, SAIS Bologna faculty and staff gathered for a Christmas celebration. A special guest, who normally arrives later in December, made an appearance for the children who were at the party:

Who is the man in the picture dressed as Santa Claus and what affiliation does he have with SAIS Bologna? 

This quiz is not open to current members of the SAIS community (students, faculty or staff)

The prize will be a SAIS Bologna tee shirt like this one.

You can send your answer as a comment on this post or by email at  

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, 15 December 2011

All you needed to know about applying to SAIS Bologna

One of our main duties is to spell out clearly how to complete an application for admission to SAIS Bologna.

We have written a series of posts in the past year on various components of the application. Many of our readers have seen these. Today I'd like to pull the various strands together into one post to make it easy for prospective candidates to find what they need.

Before we list the topics and provide links to them, a word on one important aspect of the application.

All applicants to SAIS -- whether they want to study in Bologna, Washington or Nanjing -- use the same online application form. It can be reached by clicking here.

At one point in the application, candidates are asked which campus they would prefer to start at. Non-U.S. nationals who want to start the M.A. program in Bologna should click this option:

Likewise, candidates for the MIPP, Bologna Diploma or MAIA degree should click on the Bologna option and indicate whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

Note: U.S. citizens who have another nationality, ie those with dual nationality, can choose either US. citizen or non-U.S. citizen. Keep in mind that U.S. and non-U.S. applicants to SAIS Bologna face different application procedures: different deadlines, different fees and a different approach to the GRE/GMAT standardized tests.

If anyone has any questions about which office will handle their application, what deadline they face or what they need to submit, drop an email to

Now, links to posts on components of an application:

the CV
the statement of purpose
the analytical essay
letters of recommendation
English proficiency (and also here)
GREs/GMATs (and also here)

Again, any questions? Write to

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

FAQs at Open Day

Missed Open Day at SAIS Bologna last week and wondering what happened?

Worry not. Below are questions that were raised by the several dozen prospective applicants who attended.

Q: Am I required to choose a concentration when I apply?
Prospective students and faculty members enjoy
a coffee break.
A: In the application you are asked to indicate your concentration preference. The choice you make when you apply is not binding, and you can switch to a different concentration when you start your studies at SAIS Bologna. The only concentration one cannot switch into once one has started SAIS is International Development. If you are interested in IDEV (SAIS jargon for International Development), you should indicate it as your first choice on the application. In your letter of admission you'll learn whether or not you have been admitted to the IDEV program.

Q: My undergraduate degree was taught in English but in a country where English is not an official language. Am I required to submit TOEFL or other English proficiency scores?
A: Yes. However, we will consider exceptional circumstances. Keep in mind that strong scores will give you a chance to present the best possible dossier to the Admissions Committee. They look for an indication that a candidate can handle the challenging English curriculum here. The best way to do so is to take the TOEFL,  IELTS or Cambridge Proficiency in English (CPE) exam and perform well. We understand that these tests are not always perfect tools, but they are important benchmarks that can offer you a chance to stand apart.

Prof. Erik Jones presents the European Studies Program.
Q: I understand GRE and GMAT scores are not required for non-U.S. citizens who want to start their studies at SAIS Bologna. However, they are strongly recommended. How much weight do they carry in an application?
A: GRE and GMAT scores can help strengthen your profile. That said, they are not a requirement, and one is not at a disadvantage if GRE or GMAT scores are not submitted. We understand that standardized tests are not a perfect tool, but like TOEFL scores, they can help you put your best foot forward and enable you to stand apart.

Q: How long should my statement of purpose be? 
A: We recommend that you submit a statement of aims between 500 and 600 words. Part of the challenge is to convey concisely to the Committee why you want to study at SAIS, how you would benefit from the program and what you would bring to the Center.

Q: I recently wrote a paper. Can I use that as my analytical essay?
A: It's best not to. A paper is likely to go well over the limit of 600 words. The essay allows the Admissions Committee to see how you write and develop your analytical thinking in a few hundred words. Like the statement of purpose, the challenge is to stick to the word limit while conveying your thoughts. You can use the topic of a paper for your analytical essay -- but keep it tight.

Q: Do I have to convert my overall undergraduate grade into a GPA?
Nelson answers questions from prospective students.
A: No. But we do require a guide to your university's grading system. Here is a link to a website that will help you convert your grades into letter grades. Last year we received applications from 72 countries. You can see how these guides to the different grading systems helps us assess your academic performance.

Q: Do I need to translate my transcripts?
A: We accept transcripts in English and Italian. Transcripts in other languages will need to be translated by an official translator.

Q: How much does a solid academic performance weigh in my application?
A: When we assess your dossier, we will look at your academic performance. However, academic performance, while important, is not be the only thing we take into account. We like to get a 360-degree view of our applicants. Academic performance is a part of the landscape but not the only part.

Q: How important is work experience?
A: Exposure to the job market can help strengthen your profile. However, it is not a requirement, and lack of work experience will not be a deal breaker. If you have undertaken internships in the past, make sure you mention them.

Q: How is financial aid awarded and how do I apply for financial aid?
A: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of need, merit and academic promise. There is a form with instructions included in the application. If you are interested in a specific scholarship administered by SAIS Bologna, be sure to mention it. Please make sure you mention any other scholarships or loans that you are applying for. This will give us a complete picture.

Prospective students listen to the faculty presentations.
Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"A wonderful time taking a break from final exam studying"

Our more loyal readers will remember a contest that SAIS Bologna ran last summer and which generated a stream of memories from alumni.

Natalya (R) and Lisa
 in the winning photo
The contest challenged our former students to show what they missed most about their year in Bologna. A total of 33 alumni submitted content, 7,450 visits were recorded on the "Summer Challenge" page and 566 votes were cast.

Natalya Lyoda of the SAIS Bologna Class of 2011 won first prize for her entry, a photograph of her and classmate Lisa Heinrich "making new friends while learning how to make fresh pasta", as her caption said.

Natalya garnered 266 votes to collect the $600 voucher, good for a feast at an Italian restaurant of her choice.

Last weekend, Natalya cashed in and invited nine friends, including Lisa, to lunch in Washington, DC, where they are studying in their second year at SAIS.

"I chose the place because it is a replica of a restaurant in Florence and ideal for a family-style lunch to recreate the Bologna experience," Natalya said. "We had a wonderful time taking a break from final exam studying."

The contest was a foray by SAIS Bologna into untrod social media terrain. It highlighted the close ties that many of the Center's more than 6,500 alumni feel toward each other and the institution that brought them together in what for many is a life-changing experience.

Nelson Graves

Monday, 12 December 2011

New poll: What determines citizenship?

Diego Tiziani, a loyal blog reader, has taken up the challenge and proposed a new poll for our followers.

Diego is interested in citizenship, what he calls "the state of being vested with the rights, privileges and duties of a citizen."

His interest has been fanned by studying, living and working abroad -- playing a part in the global economy. Many of our students have done the same.

Diego also cites important debates in France and Italy over immigration.

So Diego's question is this: What should be required to obtain citizenship of a country?

Here are the possible answers he proposes (one can choose more than one):

- Be born in the country;
- Have at least one parent with citizenship in the country;
- Be married to a citizen of the country for a minimum period of time;
- Live for a minimum period in the country;
- Live for a minimum period in the country and prove fluency in the main language;
- None of the above.

The poll is anonymous. To participate, all you need to do is to click on one or more of the answers in the top right-hand part of the blog. We'll close the poll on Friday, December 16, noon Italy time.

If you are reading this on email, to go to the blog, click here.

Nelson Graves

Friday, 9 December 2011

Former senior IMF official joins SAIS

John Lipsky, who until recently served as the number two at the International Monetary Fund, is joining SAIS.

Lipsky will start teaching at SAIS from January 1 as a distinguished visiting scholar with the school’s International Economics program.

Lipsky served for five years as the IMF’s first deputy managing director. Most recently, he was a special adviser to Managing Director Christine Lagarde, helping to direct the fund’s preparations for last month’s G20 Leaders Summit in Cannes, France.

"John’s service at the IMF coincided with the most challenging era for the international economy in the past 70 years," SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn said. "During this historic time, he was a dedicated and effective advocate for international cooperation and coordination to heal and restore the global economy."

Before rejoining the IMF in 2006, Lipsky had spent more than 20 years in the private sector, including serving as JPMorgan’s chief economist and Chase Manhattan Bank’s chief economist and director of research. Earlier he had spent a decade at the IMF, where he helped manage the Fund’s exchange rate surveillance procedure and analyzed developments in the international capital market.

Lipsky's appointment underscores SAIS's strong stable of academics and practitioners who know their way around academia and global policy making.

For a copy of the Johns Hopkins press release of Lipsky's appointment, click here. For the IMF's profile of him, click here.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Professor calls SAIS Bologna students "a breed apart"

What do SAIS, economics and global warming have in common? Charles Pearson's expertise.

Pearson studied at SAIS. Later he taught at SAIS and headed the International Economics department for 17 years. He taught at SAIS DC, SAIS Bologna and Hopkins-Nanjing.

We spoke to Prof. Pearson while he was in Bologna this week teaching a three-part seminar on economics and the challenge of global warming. The seminar is one of several "mini courses" that are longer than the traditional 90-minute lecture but more compact than a semester course. His most recent book is "Economics and the Challenge of Global Warming".

In our interview below, Prof. Pearson, who now lives in Thailand and teaches at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, discusses changes at SAIS, his mini course and the connection between economics and climate change.

What has changed most at SAIS since he was a student? A SAIS education now costs more, he says, and students want to make sure it can lead to a good job. Solid training in economics helps land such jobs, he says.

Asked about SAIS Bologna, Prof. Pearson says he has always been envious of Bologna Center students, calling them "a breed apart".

No disagreement there from us in Bologna.

If you are reading this on email, you can view the video here.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What are the next steps in your application?

It may be tomorrow or it may be weeks away, but one day you'll finish your application.

What happens after you click the "submit" button?

Here are key steps in the admissions process for non-U.S. candidates who apply to SAIS Bologna:

This is the broad picture for non-U.S. candidates. (U.S. candidates face a slightly different schedule which you can find on the SAIS DC site.)

You'll be forgiven if you ask why at this point you can mark only two dates (May 3 & 4) on your calendar.

We know we'll be interviewing all of our applicants -- in person, on the phone or via Skype -- but we don't have the exact dates yet. We need to review the pool of applications and determine where to travel to connect with the greatest number of candidates. (We had applications from 72 countries last year.) We'll establish a schedule in early February.

Remember: Although we try to interview as many candidates as possible in person, there is no advantage or disadvantage whether you interview face-to-face, on the phone or via Skype. Each interview is a chance to put your best foot forward and to impress on the interviewer why SAIS Bologna is right for you -- and for SAIS.

When it comes to phone/Skype interviews, we take into account time zones to find something suitable. (If the time does not suit you, please speak up. Sometimes we assume a time zone and it is not quite right.)

The Admissions Committee -- made up of faculty and staff -- will gather at the end of March. The Committee will communicate its decisions by email in early April, and admitted students will then receive an official letter via email shortly after. If you are asking for financial aid, you'll learn the outcome of your request then.

We encourage admitted students to come to Open House in May. Like Open Day this Friday, Open House gives candidates an inside look at SAIS Bologna. It can help them make up their minds. Admitted candidates who are living in the United States will be invited to the SAIS DC Open House in April.

Non-U.S. candidates whose applications are handled by SAIS Bologna will have a mid-May deadline for taking a decision. We'll set the exact date after the coming Christmas break.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post or email us at In the meantime, we look forward to your applications.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What's new? A blog and a catalog

Here are two sources of information on SAIS that you may find useful and even entertaining.

A new blog
First, our colleagues at SAIS DC have launched a blog. You will find theirs a bit different from ours -- here's to diversity -- but similar because it, too, gives voice to students' views and provides practical information, in a friendly way, on applying.

We would encourage prospective applicants to keep tabs on both blogs. Almost all SAIS Bologna students end up spending time studying in Washington before graduating from SAIS, and so it's important for applicants to the Bologna Center to know what goes on in DC.

Permit me to remind our readers that the SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC Admissions offices handle different pools of applications:

  • All U.S. citizens, as well as non-U.S.citizens wishing to start their studies in Washington, have their applications managed by SAIS DC.
  • Non-U.S. citizens who want to start in Bologna have their application managed by SAIS Bologna.

We broached the complicated issue of one program/two Admissions offices in a recent post. If you have questions on the different procedures, you can always drop us a line at

A new catalog
The second new source of information is SAIS Bologna's  academic catalog. If you are considering applying to SAIS Bologna, you might want to download the catalog so you can refer to it from time to time.

The catalog includes information on a range of subjects:

  • SAIS Bologna life
  • SAIS Bologna services
  • Admissions
  • Degrees
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty

Academic catalogs have come a long way from my days as a student (OK -- keep your comments to yourselves). Back in those days, the catalog was a hefty and colorless tome that included fine print on the courses, a word or two on intellectual honesty and, if you were lucky, an academic calendar.

We think the new SAIS Bologna catalog tackles a greater range of issues and gives a more rounded picture of our institution than the run-of-the mill brochure.

(I can hear your question: Why are you publishing the 2011-12 academic catalog now? Here's the short answer: It takes time to edit, synthesize, cut down the number of pages and save trees!)

Last thing: Some of you may have noticed that we have launched a Twitter feed called @SAISBolognaBlog. To follow it, click on this icon in the upper right-hand section of the blog:

Nelson Graves

Monday, 5 December 2011

The euro zone will survive, according to our poll

The euro zone may lose some members in the next year but will survive its current crisis.

That was the predominant view of respondents to our most recent poll.

Three-quarters of those who participated said the euro zone will be intact one year from now. Just over one half of those optimists said that one year from now there would be as many members as today (17) or more. Thirty-five percent said there would be fewer members.

Here are the results:

Will the euro zone be intact one year from now?

  Yes, with the same number of members = 30%
  Yes, with fewer members = 35%
  Yes, with more members = 10%
  No = 25%

We think these polls are fun and hope you do, too.

If you have any suggestions for a subsequent poll, we are all ears. You can send us a comment in response to this post or an email to

We'll be happy to send a SAIS Bologna tee shirt to anyone who proposes a poll that we end up publishing.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 1 December 2011

"La Rivista": Another glimpse into SAIS Bologna

Here's another window on life at SAIS Bologna: La Rivista magazine.

The latest edition -- available online here -- is a special issue that explores the 150 years of Italian unity. If you're interested in learning more about Italy and what goes on at the Bologna Center, it's worth a look.

The four pieces on Italy's 150th anniversary as a nation-state include three by SAIS Bologna professors (Adrian Lyttelton, Vera Negri Zamagni, Gianfranco Pasquino) and a fourth by Federiga Bindi, who is a senior fellow at SAIS's Center for Transatlantic Relations.

Here is Lyttelton on Italy's ambivalence towards its own birthday: "Why is the existence of Italy as a nation-state more subject to criticism than it was at the time of the 50th or 100th anniversaries?"

(Remember the photo of Garibaldi that we featured in last week's quiz? It came from Lyttleton's article.)

Negri Zamagni explores Italy's economic history and concludes: "Italy is now at a crossroads. What is badly needed is a government that has the courage to launch new infrastructure projects, make critical changes in public administration, revitalize innovation and improve the labor market."

Of course the jury is out as to whether the new prime minister, Mario Monti, will be able to do as much.

Last May we published a post on Alumni Weekend that included a video with Prof. John Harper discussing his 30 years at SAIS Bologna. La Rivista prints an abridged version of that talk in which Harper said: "The Center is a bit like the legendary Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo. Someone said that if you sat in the lobby long enough you'd see all the famous people of the age."

Vera Negri Zamagni
Other articles include reflections by second-year SAIS student Lu Zhang, a feature on Bologna's cuisine by second-year student Elizabeth Hegedus-Berthold and an interview with Prof. Winrich Kühne, whom we featured in a recent Dewar's profile.

A list of books and other publications by faculty take up an entire page (page 23) and include new titles written by a half dozen professors teaching at SAIS Bologna this term: Harper, Pasquino, Erik Jones, Stefano Zamagni, Richard Pomfret and David Unger.

(Disclosure: Lyttleton, Harper, Pasquino and Pomfret all taught me when I was a student at SAIS Bologna three decades ago. Seems like yesterday.)

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The SAIS Bologna Seminar Series: an intellectual buffet

SAIS Bologna students hunger for knowledge. To help sate their appetite, they supplement course work with seminars and lectures on a wide range of topics.

Here are some of the subjects that speakers will tackle in December and January at SAIS Bologna:

  • economic integration in Asia
  • economics and global warming
  • the peace movement in Germany in the 1980s
  • Rio +20
  • war, technology and the rise of the West (1450-2011)
  • the Middle East and human trafficking
  • the fall of the Celtic tiger
  • "theory" at SAIS
  • anticipating global challenges
  • Mitterrand and German unification
  • building Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Libya after the fall of Qaddafi

For a peek at the list of speakers for December and January, click here.

For the full list of events at SAIS Bologna for this academic year, go here. For an RSS feed of upcoming events, click here.

Finally, for reports on our speakers, you can turn to the Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR). Interns at BIPR, who are students at SAIS Bologna, churn out the reports, which include a summary of each seminar, a recording of the event as well as a brief interview with the speaker. A tidy way to keep informed.

I attend as many seminars as I can, both for the intellectual content and to observe the widely differing styles that speakers adopt. Call it a form of continuing education.

We consider the seminar series to be a crucial and valuable element of a SAIS education. We think you would too.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Thanksgiving in Bologna

SAIS Bologna celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday last week with a dinner for some 200 students, family members, faculty, staff and children at the Bologna Center.

Below, Briana Thompson, a U.S. national from the state of Massachusetts, shares her thoughts on what it meant to her to spend Thanksgiving here in Italy.

Thanks to the Student Government Association for organizing the feast, to those who prepared the food and to Julie Aaserud of Norway for supplying the photographs for this post.

I have spent almost every Thanksgiving Day in or near Plymouth, Massachusetts -- the site of the original meal between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. From a very young age, I learned all about the struggles of the settlers in this new land and their new friends, and went on countless field trips to see Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower and Plymouth Plantation.

Briana Thompson at the
SAIS Bologna Thanksgiving dinner
The lessons were simple and emphasized sharing, friendship, appreciating different cultures and of course being thankful for what you have. However, when I was younger it was very easy to simply associate Thanksgiving with football, turkey and a long weekend off from school.

Luckily, as I’ve matured, the holiday has become more meaningful. On the one hand, Thanksgiving (Eve, in particular) means reconnecting with hometown friends, regardless of the time and distance that you’ve been apart. I have come to appreciate just how special these people are, and I defer to a quote from the television show "The Wonder Years" to explain: “After all, if growing up is war, then those friends who grew up with you deserve a special respect. The ones who stuck by you shoulder to shoulder in a time when nothing is certain, when all life lay ahead, and every road led home.”

On the other hand, the fundamental aspect of Thanksgiving -- giving thanks for the blessings in one’s life -- has become increasingly important as I’ve gotten older. It is for this reason that spending Thanksgiving here in Bologna was not entirely different.

I will readily admit that I missed my family fighting over drumsticks, monopolizing the gravy, perpetually relegating my adult cousins and me to the kids' table, cuddling up on the couch in various states of delirium from food comas, etc. But I am so grateful that I have them and my friends to miss.

At the same time, sharing a meal with 200 plus SAIS students, faculty and staff this past Saturday was really an attestation to the unique family we’ve become here, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. For me, the spirit of the holiday was present more so this year than ever before as the emphasis was placed on all those lessons I learned as a kid (sharing, friendship, appreciating different cultures, being thankful) and less on football and stuffing my face.

I can’t say I’ll be adding pasta to my Thanksgiving Dinner menu from now on, but the post-meal dance party might just become a tradition.

The Gathering
Matthew Melchiorre
Polina Bogomolova
Geoffrey Levin
Rositsa Georgieva
Lachezar Manasiev
Petra Vujakovic
Nicholas Borroz
Julie Aaserud
Jemilatu Abdulai
Nelson Graves

Monday, 28 November 2011

Poll: Will the euro zone survive?

Here's our latest poll (in the upper right-hand corner of the blog):

Will the euro zone be intact one year from now?

Possible answers:

  • Yes, with the same number of members
  • Yes, with fewer members
  • Yes, with more members
  • No

We ran this poll during our online information session earlier this month, and the distribution of answers more or less mirrored the results of a survey of market professionals conducted the same week. Expert prospective applicants, I'd say.

Answers to our polls are entirely anonymous. It's simple to participate: simply click on the button next to the answer you select.

We look forward to seeing what our readers think.

Nelson Graves

Friday, 25 November 2011

Quiz: Who Was This Man?

It's Friday and once again we can't resist the impulse for a quiz.

Who was this man and why was he important?

Send in your answers via the comment section below. The winner gets a SAIS Bologna tee shirt.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Meet Prof. Mark Gilbert

History. How old fashioned, right?

Well, no.

Just try to make sense of what is happening in the euro zone without knowing some history. How many of you are convinced you have a firm understanding of how the Arab Spring came about without some knowledge of history?

As SAIS, there is no history concentration per se. History is intertwined with just about everything that is studied. It is a thread that stretches through every concentration.

Prof. Mark Gilbert grew up near Lincoln in England. He teaches intellectual and political history at SAIS Bologna. He is the latest professor to be profiled in this blog.

What courses are you teaching?
"Intellectuals & Politics" and "The End of European Imperialism" in the Fall Semester; "Peace & War" and "Europe in the Cold War" in the Spring Semester

Your degrees?
BA in Politics from Durham University; Ph.D in contemporary history from the University of Wales

Where have you taught?
Dickinson College (Pennsylvania), University of Bath (UK), University of Trento (Italy)

How long have you been teaching at SAIS Bologna?
Since 1999 as an adjunct at varous times; since September 2010 as a full-time member of staff

A link to a recent publication/oped/academic work by you?

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
The sense of community, definitely. And not just between current faculty and students. The alumni really care about the Center's future and are a pleasure to meet.

Anything special about Bologna?
The warmth and generosity of the Bolognesi, which belongs to another age. The reds and ochres of the walls at sunset. Mind you, it is less clean and tidy than it used to be.

Your favorite book?
"War and Peace" or "Homage to Catalonia". I can never decide between the two. Anything by Tom Wolfe. Jane Austen, C.P. Snow, Tolkien, Leonardo Sciascia's "Candido", Vaclav Havel. Biographies. The first volume of Robert Skidelsky's biography of Keynes is a marvel. So is Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin, which is a book I should have loved to have written myself.  

Mountain walking, snowshoeing, listening to jazz, theatre, squash before my knees caved in, cycling since. Travelling, of course.

A quote?
I'm doing this from memory, but Giovanni Guareschi, the author of the Don Camillo stories, says somewhere that "people in the city rush everywhere, hastening to save every single second and don't realize they are throwing a lifetime away." I think this is true and it is worse now than when he was writing (the 1950s).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The cost of graduate school: Investing in your future

Graduate school is an investment. The question for you is whether it is worth it.

Let's look at the costs and benefits. First, the costs.

Every graduate student, whether or not they pay tuition, shoulders an opportunity cost of foregoing job earnings for education. If you go to graduate school next year, you will not be pocketing the money you would be earning if you were working a full-time job. I cannot quantify that. Some of our students give up high-paying jobs to come to SAIS. Others not so. But every student could have chosen to work.

In most cases, the opportunity cost of studying far outstrips the price tag of school. And every student bears that cost.

Then there are the outright costs: tuition, books, living expenses, travel. We provide an estimate for incoming students. Here is the estimated budget for 2011-12 at SAIS Bologna.

If you add the opportunity and the real costs, it comes to a chunk of money. No one would deny that. The question then becomes: Is it worth it?

The return on your investment can take many forms. Some are straightforward: SAIS is a professional school, and most of our students use it as a springboard to a career in the international sphere. You may not know what job you will have when you leave SAIS, but you know the choices are exciting. Our alumni are leaders in many fields -- from the private to the public, from corporations to international organizations, from governments to NGOs.

Take my own experience. I was a high school teacher before starting SAIS. I yearned for a job on the global stage. When I finished SAIS, by virtue of my studies there, I was able to make a credible pitch to cover international finance as a journalist in Washington. That led to an unexpected but fulfilling career as a foreign correspondent.

I cite this because it is not atypical of SAIS graduates: There are doors leading to places many can only dream of.

Even before leaving SAIS, when one is at one's studies here, the experience can be gratifying. This blog has featured many students describing the learning experience in and outside the classroom, of deepening their knowledge through course work and by sharing experiences with the diverse student body.

Many readers know that one of my favorite adages is, "It's not the destination that counts but the getting there." At SAIS, the destination does count -- we want our graduates to land the jobs that inspire them. But the "getting there", or the time spent at SAIS, is also extremely satisfying. So the return on investment starts on Day One, not just at graduation.

If we continue to attract top students from around the world, it is because they recognize the benefits of the investment and also know how to make the best use of it.

How do they pay for it? Almost all students combine a mix of resources to make ends meet.

Most receive financial aid from SAIS, and in many cases the aid cuts the tuition cost substantially. For more information on financial aid and fellowships, click here.

Many land scholarships outside SAIS's control from national, international or local foundations. Some of these are well known, others less so. For a partial list of such sources, go here.

Most SAIS students have worked before starting their studies, and they may have set aside some savings to help defray the costs. Many work part-time jobs while studying. Even eight hours a week can help pay a large chunk of the rent.

Finally, some students take out loans. This is very common in the United States where subsidized student loan programs have existed for many years. But not only U.S. students. SAIS Bologna students who are citizens of EU member states are eligible to take out a fixed-rate loan from UniCredit Bank for up to 15,000 euros per year. For more information, click here.

Financing graduate school, wherever one goes, is a complex matter that extends well beyond the headline tuition figure and the size of financial aid packages. For some students it is daunting because it marks their first foray into the full complexities and challenges of personal finance.

But it can be done. You may not feel fully on top of the financial challenge at this point. My recommendation would be to think big: Why do I want to go to graduate school? How will it benefit me? Will it help me be where I want to be in 5, 10, 15 years?

Once you've tackled those questions, the nitty gritty of costs will tend to fall into place because you will see them as an investment that yields benefits far into the future.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Open Day at SAIS Bologna on Dec 9

Are you interested in learning more about SAIS Bologna? In getting an up-close view of who we are and what goes on here?

Then you might be interested in attending Open Day.

Every year we throw our doors open to prospective applicants. This year Open Day is on Friday, December 9. It offers a unique chance to experience what studying at SAIS is like. The registration form and the program are here.

In a previous post, Byron Sacharidis, a current MA student from Greece who attended Open Day last year, offered his thoughts on what it meant to him: "Right away, the feeling of belonging and the discovery of a rare, close-knit community, where diversity and camaraderie thrive, fueled my enthusiasm about what this beautiful city has to offer."

Open Day is a unique opportunity to see the campus; speak to students, professors and staff, and attend classes. You are about to embark on a long journey, and you need to know which ship you might get on.

We understand that many prospective candidates may not be able to attend. Some are too far away and others will have conflicting commitments. If you can't make it and you want to learn more about SAIS, do get in touch. We'll do our best to answer your questions. We are available for chats on the phone (+39 051 29 17 811) or Skype (jhubc.admissions). You can also contact us by email.

Some readers know that we've been holding online information sessions. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 at 12 noon Italy time (1100 GMT) to accommodate prospective applicants in Asian time zones. Please send us an email if you'd like to participate.

We hope to see many of you on December 9.

Amina Abdiuahab

Monday, 21 November 2011

Room 201: an ad hoc quiz

We stopped running a weekly quiz some months ago after readers urged us to spend our energies on other challenges. Fair enough. We do aim to please.

Still, we can't resist running an ad hoc quiz based on the photo below, which was provided to us by a loyal in-house reader.

First, an important ground rule: This quiz is not open to current members of the SAIS community (ie, current students, staff or faculty).

Second, the prize: a SAIS Bologna tee shirt (like the one worn by Maarten Vleeschhouwer in this photo).

The quiz: If you followed this note and went to Room 201, you would see a SAIS Bologna professor. In what country was he born?

You can send in your answers as comments to this post or with an email to

Nelson Graves

Friday, 18 November 2011

Halloween pix

It's midterms at SAIS Bologna. That means some stressed-out students. A good time for some levity.

Below you'll see some pictures of SAIS Bologna students at this year's Halloween party. Next week members of the community will sit down together for a Thanksgiving meal, organized by the Student Government Association. Halloween and Thanksgiving are quite different, but they are both occasions to get together and have some fun.

Staci Raab won first prize for her costume depicting the Arab Spring. Hats, or rather keffiyeh, off to Staci.

(I definitely showed my age when I asked Amina, "Who is Steve Hurkel?" No laughing, now.)

"Arab Spring"
Staci Raab

"The Two Towers"
Katherine Parnell and Graham Norwood

"Prof. John Harper"
Geoffrey Levin

"Rosie the Riveter"
Shelley Ranii

"Steve Hurkel"
Dominique Mack

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Our poll: Papandreou erred. Or did he?

Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou stumbled badly when he called a referendum on the EU financial aid package.

That was the overwhelming view of the participants in our latest poll that ran earlier this month.

Only one respondent to the anonymous survey said the scion of one of Greece's most prominent families had acted correctly in proposing the referendum -- a proposal he quickly withdrew before he was forced to resign in favor of a caretaker government.

No sooner had we posted the question than Papandreou backtracked on his threat, and the notion of a referendum was consigned to the dustbin. The near-unanimous view of our respondents seemed to be borne out by the Greek leader's own actions.

But today's certainties often change color with time. How will history judge Papandreou's move?

What if Papandreou was not interested in surviving politically -- an idea, I know, that is difficult to contemplate when considering modern-day politicians? What if his real intention was to provoke panic in financial markets and force the opposition to accept a unity government for the good of Greece? Did he succeed or fail?

Or what if he wanted to provoke panic in financial markets and thereby increase his leverage in negotiating with the EU -- to reduce the costs on Greece?

Or perhaps the lone respondent who hailed Papandreou's move was short Greek sovereign debt?

You might hear such questions in the halls of SAIS, where our students and faculty love to challenge the views of the many. No sacred cows or easy truths here.

Comments from our readers, Greek or otherwise, most welcome.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Analytical Essay

Applicants to SAIS are asked to submit an analytical essay as part of their dossier.

I can hear our sharpest readers ask: "But did you require that last year?" The answer: SAIS DC did but SAIS Bologna did not.

This year Bologna and DC have aligned many requirements as part of a single, online application. All M.A. applicants are asked to submit an essay that discusses "an issue of national or international importance and its concern to you." The length limit is 600 words.

This kind of essay is as new to Bologna Admissions as it is to our applicants. Who better to tell us how to do it than a current student who has gone through the experience?

Sarah Ralston is a first-year M.A. student at SAIS DC. Before I let you have a glance at the essay that she submitted, consider some of the things she did before she started SAIS:

Sarah Ralston
After she graduated from university (Johns Hopkins), she worked for the U.N. Development Fund for Women in Mexico City. Then, from Washington she helped to support an Iraqi refugee family of three as they navigated the complexities of the U.S. social welfare system. She then started work for the U.S. Treasury Department, first in the International Affairs Department, then in the Financial Management Service.

In the analytical essay that she submitted as part of her application, she discussed an aspect of her work at Treasury. You might admire her grasp of the subject matter. Note also how she mixes her personal experience with the subject.

She packs a lot of information into a mere 572 words. If you're having trouble keeping to 600, get out the editorial scalpel or start over.

Recently we asked Irena Peresa and Sebastian Alexander Ernst to write about the statement of purpose. Here is what Sarah told us when we asked her about the analytical essay:

When it came time for me to write the analytical essay for my SAIS application, I had difficulty narrowing down potential topics. There was no shortage of timely and interesting subjects in the field of international relations to choose from. But I wanted to identify a policy-relevant issue that wouldn’t be too far removed from the themes contained elsewhere in my application.

After much deliberation, I committed to writing about the use of financial inclusion as a tool for development. Aware of the word limit, I took a broad approach to the topic. As is often the case for me, getting the first draft down on paper was the hardest part of the process. I went through several revisions and asked for feedback from two different readers, mostly to ensure that my points were clearly stated without jargon or superfluous detail.

Eventually, my essay became a brief policy summary about the pros and cons of expanding financial inclusion to achieve broader economic development. I also tried to convey to the admissions committee why I thought the issue of financial inclusion was relevant for today’s policy makers, and how the topic related to my own interests and experiences.

When it comes to picking your topic, rest assured that it’s hard to go wrong. If you’re looking for inspiration, try flipping through a recent issue of The Economist.

Don’t feel pressured to reach any earth shattering conclusions. You don’t need to write a 600-word masterpiece. You’re simply using the essay to show the admissions committee that you’re comfortable writing about issues in international affairs. Pick a topic that’s meaningful for you, and if you manage to help the reader understand your connection to the issue, even better.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Meet Prof. Winrich Kühne

SAIS professors are academics, practitioners or both. Today we introduce you to Winrich Kühne, a practitioner par excellence who has a Ph.D and a publishing record to boot.

The latest edition of La Rivista has an interview with Kühne, who is the Steven Muller Professor in German Studies. The article lists some of his many accomplishments: founder and former director of the German Center for International Peace Operations in Berlin; longtime consultant to the German parliament and government; senior adviser to the European Union's former Crisis Prevention Network; member of the international advisory board of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Lessons Learned Unit; a member of election observer missions in Namibia, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa.

Kühne is too modest to mention it, but in 2009 SAIS Bologna students awarded him, together with Thomas Row, the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.


What course are you teaching?
Two courses: "War, Conflict, State Failure and Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa" and "Theory and Practice of Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding". In the courses I link academic teaching very much with real life experience in the field.

Your degrees?
Ph.D in International Law, University of Munich and Tuebingen, Germany

Where have you taught?
My work experience is much more important than my teaching although I taught at the University of Munich for a while and lectured at many German and international academies as well as research and training institutes.

Important stages of my working life:
  • Director of the German Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) 2002-2009
  • Deputy Director of the German Think Tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) 1995-2002; before I was head of its Africa Department
  • many field trips to Africa and other places where conflicts were going on or in the process of being managed or even resolved.

How long have you been teaching at SAIS Bologna?
Since 1991 after former SAIS Bologna Director Steve Low recruited me at a Winston House conference near London. As I enjoyed the Center, the students and the staff so much, not to mention beautiful Bologna, I kept returning although it was not easy in certain phases of my professional life to harmonize the Bologna schedule with tough professional demands, in particular the development of the German Peacekeeping Training Center.

A link to a recent publication/oped/academic work by you?
"Peace Operations and Peacebuilding in the Transatlantic Dialogue" (2009)

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
Great place to teach and to learn!

Anything special about Bologna?
After more than 20 years I still love walking around between teaching hours and exploring its many picturesque "stradine" and corners.

Your favorite book?
Oh God, there is more than one...

Tennis, skiing and being idle whenever possible

A quote?
"While we are planning life it is doing something else." One of my favorite quotes which I learned in Africa.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Online information session: Tuesday, November 22

It's recruiting season, and so over the past few weeks we've connected with prospective applicants, both near and afar. Nelson and I have traveled to a half dozen European cities to meet hundreds of potential candidates.

Still, as much as we like to travel, many applicants are outside of our physical reach.

Luckily, technology is a help. Some readers know that we had our first online information session in October. This month, we'll be holding a second such session. Please mark this date and time in your calendars if you are interested in learning more about SAIS Bologna:

November 22 at 7 p.m. Italy time (1800 GMT or 1 p.m. U.S. East Coast time).

If you'd like to attend, please send a message to and we will send you details on how to connect.

The session, expected to last about 45 minutes, is timed to accommodate applicants based in the Americas. The next session, which will be in December, will keep in mind those located in Asia.

At the start of the session we will introduce you to SAIS and the programs we offer. Alissa Tafti, a first-year student in Bologna, will be with us. Then participants will be able to ask questions, either via the audio connection or chat.

In October, we offered a separate audio connection that ran in parallel with the presentation platform. Participants told us that was awkward, and so this time we will use the audio application inside the web platform, called Adobe Connect. We'll be sure to send you clear instructions ahead of the information session.

We'll be looking for feedback after November's session, too, to help us hone our skills.

Other important dates to remember:

OPEN DAY on Friday, December 9. You can register online here
- Online information session, tentatively set for Tuesday, December 13 and aligned with Asian time zones.
- February 1, 2012: deadline for applications submitted through the Bologna Admissions Office (U.S. citizens and applicants interested in starting in Washington have a January 7, 2012 deadline) 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The CV: an antipasto, not the main dish

How ironic if a blog post on CVs were long and messy. So I'll keep this as tight as a good curriculum vitae.

Your goal is simple: to offer a snapshot of your experience. Like good writing, it is as hard if not harder to write tight than to write long. A CV is not a smörgåsbord or even a main dish. It is an hors d'oeuvre.

Do you know how much time someone generally takes to read the CV of a job or graduate school applicant? I won't dare quantify it. Suffice it to say that it's no longer than the time it takes a harried Italian commuter to down an espresso coffee on the way to work.

Like an antipasto, a CV is meant to whet the reader's appetite. You want to answer some basic questions so that the reader can situate you and, hopefully, be interested in learning more. What are those questions?

- Where have you studied, what did you study and when?
- What kind of work experiences have you had and where?
- Have you received any special awards or recognition?
- What languages do you speak?
- What else makes you truly unique?

The reader should have to take no more than 30 seconds to have a basic idea of your background. The emphasis is on "basic". You will have a chance to delve more deeply into your past and your future in your statement of aims and, if you are applying to SAIS Bologna, your interview. You want the reader to be interested in learning more about you, not to answer any and all questions on the CV.

A few pitfalls:

- If there is a gap of more than 6 months in your academic or professional experiences, you should explain that in your statement of purpose. Experienced readers of CVs spot such gaps immediately. Most everyone has such gaps; they just need to be explained.

- A CV that is too long is a turn-off. What is too long? How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin? I like one-page CVs, but others want more detail. Make the CV as long as it has to be to cover your experiences without inflating them. At some stages of an application or for certain positions, more detail is needed. In any case, make sure each word counts. If a word is not needed, cut it out.

- It can be useful at the top of a CV to summarize your background. But beware of overdoing it or of using wooden or hackneyed language.

- Does anyone nowadays not know basic computer applications like Word, Excel or Powerpoint? It's a given, so no need to mention them.

I know someone out there has this question: What is the difference between a CV and a resume? Some consider the resume to be a compact CV, which they feel should be at least 2 pages. That distinction may hold true for individuals with substantial professional experience. That is not the case with most of our applicants.

A good CV is crisp and clean, easy to read and a help to the reader who wants to know quickly what you've done without wasting time. Don't think you need to put everything except the kitchen sink in your CV. Consider it more the architect's sketch of the kitchen.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


When you start your application to SAIS there are two things you need to have at hand: the application instructions and a checklist.

Most of the fields you'll complete in the online form are intuitive. However, we strongly recommend having instructions close by for reference. Please be sure to go over your application several times before you click on the "submit" button because you will not be able to make further changes once your application has been submitted.

How do you know which application instructions you should look at?

On our website, we devoted a page to instructions for each program. If you select the program you wish to apply for, the relevant instructions will appear. You'll also find instructions on the application form. The system will direct you to the right instructions as you select the program and the campus you'd like to start your SAIS studies at.

A checklist is a good way to make sure no items are missing from your application.

Below is one we made for you. Some of the items listed may not apply to you. For example, if you are in your final year of your undergraduate studies, you will not be required to send us a degree certificate. Likewise, if your native language is English you''ll need not submit TOEFL or similar scores. However, you'll need to prepare most of the documents in the list. Even if you feel you've got a memory like an elephant, please keep this checklist nearby.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We are available on email (, Skype (jhubc.admissions) and telephone +39 051 29 17 811.

Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, 4 November 2011

Our latest poll

More and more of our readers are following this blog via email. It's a convenient way to stay in touch.

However, from time to time we run polls on the blog, and they can be seen only if you view the blog on a browser. When we polled followers earlier this year, asking what kind of surveys they would like to see, they cited polls on SAIS Bologna and also on current events.

With that in mind, we've launched a poll that will run for a few more days:

Did Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou do the right thing in calling a referendum on the EU's latest financial aid package?

We encourage you to vote. It takes little more than a click of the mouse. The votes are anonymous, and it is interesting to hear people's views.

In the future, we'll be sure to announce our polls in separate posts to make sure all readers know about them.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Meeting our faculty: Prof. Jones

Erik Jones is professor of European Studies at SAIS Bologna. He is also the director of the new Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR).

One of the most viewed posts in this blog's 10 months of existence is a video chat with Prof. Jones in which he discussed the interviews that we conduct with all applicants. You might enjoy watching it.

While you're at it, check out Prof. Jones's work on the eurobond proposal.

Your degrees?
AB, Princeton
MA and PhD, SAIS

What courses are you teaching?
West European Political Economies, Central and East European Political Economies, Risk in the International Political Economy, European Research Seminar

Where have you taught?
Central European University, University of Nottingham, SAIS Bologna Center

How long have you been teaching at SAIS Bologna?
Since February 2001 – in residence since September 2002

A link to a recent publication/oped/academic work by you?
See for publications

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
The community atmosphere. I don’t know any place that has as tightly knit a group of students and scholars as we do.

Anything special about Bologna?
The combination of young and old. You have about 100,000 university students living and studying in a place that has a 900 year old university.

Your favorite book?
If you want fiction, then I read a lot of junky sci-fi (Robert Heinlein) and fantasy (Robert Jordan). My reading age varies between 13 and 16. I read the Game of Thrones books in about a month. I am now working on a series by David Weber. If you want non-fiction, then I would probably go with Richard Bookstaber’s Demon of Our Own Design or Robert Schiller and George Akerloff’s Animal Spirits. But I also enjoy books on US foreign policy and am working my way (slowly) through the various Republican candidates.

I like to swim, either long-course or open water. Sometimes I get afraid of what else might be in the open water – particularly when I cannot see the bottom.

A quote?
Churchill was pretty good with the one-liners. Take your pick.

Nelson Graves