Thursday, 31 March 2011

The pain of rejection

Candidates who have applied to attend SAIS Bologna will be told next week if they have been accepted or rejected.

This post is for those fell short.

Rejection is more than a fact of life. It is an enduring feature, a constant challenge, not always predictable but as sure to come about as the four seasons in my home town of Buffalo, New York.

You know when you stretch yourself that there's a chance you'll fail. But it still hurts when you don't succeed.

The Irish writer Samuel Beckett put it well: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Consider these failures:
  • Abraham Lincoln lost in his first try for the Illinois legislature, lost in his first attempt to be nominated for Congress, lost in the senatorial elections of 1854 and 1858.
  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and did not read until he was seven.
  • Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.
  • Winston Churchill failed sixth grade.
  • Elvis Presley was told by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry in 1954: "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck."
  • James Joyce's "The Dubliners" was rejected by 22 publishers.
Some readers of this blog will receive an email next week saying they have not been admitted for next year. It's little solace to be told that it's a competitive process, that we have to be selective, that it's not the end of the world.

How about looking at it this way:
  • You've given it your best shot, which is the best you can do. If you haven't done your best, what could you have done better?
  • Have you learned something about yourself along the way? As I've said before, it's not the destination that counts but the getting there. 
  • What were your strongest points along the way? What are the areas you might work on?
  • Are you as sure as when you started that a master's in international relations is for you? If so, and you have other options, then you have that choice. If you don't have other options, you can start anew and be a stronger candidate if that's what you want. Or perhaps you've decided in the end that you'd like to do something else.
While rejection does hurt, you knew when you applied that admission to SAIS is competitive. You may want to know the reasons you fell short. I think you deserve an answer if you ask the question. We will try to respond to anyone who does ask, although please keep in mind that we are very busy these next few weeks.

Facing the truth can be hard. I remember well a conversation I once had in a hotel in New Delhi, India, with a senior manager for the company I worked for, who very candidly and in excruciating detail laid out my faults. He did it so I could learn. As I trusted him, I listened and learned.

Over time, each of us builds a track record of success and failure. 

Consider this: Michael Jordan was once cut from his high school basketball team.

Even the high and mighty know defeat.

Tomorrow: Weekly quiz

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Internships & jobs

SAIS is a professional program. That means it educates students to take up jobs, most of them after finishing a two-year master's. SAIS graduates find employment all over the world in the public and private sectors, in the non-profit world and with multilateral organizations.

Some students do not wait for graduation to make their mark -- they work while at SAIS. Internships and other jobs can provide valuable experience and also help pay for rent, pizza and the other costs of living in Bologna or Washington.

We get many questions from candidates about internships. You deserve some answers.

First, as Ann Gagliardi of Career Services in Bologna explains in the video below, some students find work while at the Bologna Center. There is a range of jobs at the Center, and students with the appropriate language skills can manage to find work or volunteer opportunities outside the school. Most students do  internships during the summer between their first and second years.

(Career Services provides partial financial assistance to support unpaid full-time summer internships between the first and second year of study. Some academic concentrations also make funds available to students for unpaid summer internships.)

Washington, as many of you know, is a haven for internships. The U.S. government, international organizations, consultancies, think tanks, embassies, corporations: the list of employers is long. Is there another city in the world with as many internship opportunities? Alumni often say that the combination of a strong focus on academics while in Bologna and the professional opportunities available in DC make for the perfect SAIS experience.

Here are some figures on internships that Bologna Center students performed between their first and second years in the summer of 2010 (percentages of reporting students):

private sector
public non-US (percentage of all public)
public US  (percentage of all public)

By location
Latin America
Middle East
United States/Canada

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

From Bologna back to Istanbul

Efsane Aşkin is proof that there is no typical SAIS alumnus.

A Turkish citizen, Efsane studied at the Bologna Center after doing her undergraduate work in the United States. As she recounts in the video below, she took advantage of what she learned at SAIS to carve out a career as an entrepreneur in her home country.

Efsane discusses at some length the textile business that she runs in Istanbul and explains how her understanding of trade helped her stand out in a very competitive industry. As if to prove that monetary matters do not take a back seat to trade at SAIS, she even notes that with a weakening U.S. dollar, her business in Europe has grown. Her clients include some of the biggest names in fashion.

What Efsane does not discuss -- as much out of modesty as for lack of time -- is that she also has a chain of 14 award-winning restaurants spread out in five countries.

In her spare time, Efsane runs the Johns Hopkins alumni chapter in Turkey, a responsibility that brought her back to Bologna this past weekend.

A SAIS degree can prepare you for a wide range of careers. Not everyone has Efsane's entrepreneurial flair. But as she herself notes, the Bologna Center experience very much helped her on her way.

Nelson Graves

Monday, 28 March 2011

Giving back to SAIS Bologna

Students develop strong bonds at SAIS Bologna, both with one another and with the institution. The small size and diversity of the student body and the intensity of the experience create a special atmosphere. When they graduate from SAIS, they often want to give back.

The Advisory Council is made up of distinguished leaders from Europe and the United States who represent both the private and public sectors. The Council plays a major role in the life of the Center by providing operating advice and financial support. Many of the Council members are Bologna Center alumni.

Today we introduce you to Astrid Haas and Patrick Flanagan, who were in Bologna this past weekend attending the Advisory Council's annual meeting as junior members.

Astrid attended the Bologna Center in 2008-09 and then SAIS DC, where she received her master's in 2010. Patrick studied at the Center last year and is currently attending SAIS DC.

In the video below, Astrid and Patrick speak about their experiences at SAIS. In addition, Astrid discusses her current job as an economist in the Ministry of the East African Community, in the government of Kenya. Patrick's concentration at SAIS is International Development.

The overriding theme of their remarks is their desire to give back to SAIS Bologna. As Astrid puts it: "We all have a fantastic experience here, and we would all like to give back as soon as possible once we've graduated. But as a young person who has just started their career, it's not always possible to give back financially, but this way you're given an opportunity as a young member to be part of the Advisory Board for the Bologna Center to look at issues, where it's going in the future."

Nelson Graves

Friday, 25 March 2011

Weekly quiz

Old habits die hard. (No, the quiz is not "Who wrote the lyrics to a 2004 movie of that title?") This blog is hardly three months old, and already I'm accustomed to giving readers an update on our readership each week.

Here is the list of countries with the greatest number of readers to date:

- United States
- Italy
- South Korea
- Greece
- Sri Lanka
- Germany
- United Kingdom
- France
- Brazil
- Japan

Is your country on that list?

Click on the placemarks to see the ranking of the top 10 countries.

We're definitely in the market for ideas for blog posts. We plan posts next week on internship/job opportunities, budgeting for graduate school and a look at a debate course run by American Foreign Policy Professor John Harper.

What would you like to see? We welcome your ideas.

Now, the quiz.

Who is the man in the picture and what does he have to do with SAIS Bologna?

Send in your answers using the comment section below. The winner gets a free lunch at Giulio's caffè.

Ivo, today

Ivo and Giulio

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Concentrate on your future

Before we dive into concentrations, I would like to thank all of our candidates for attending your interviews. Now you can sit back and breathe a sigh of relief. The Admissions Committee will gather next week, and shortly after candidates will be informed.    
All SAIS students take up two concentrations. Each student needs to fulfill the requirements of International Economics. In addition, a student needs to choose either a Regional or Functional program of study.

The Regional programs focus on every area of the globe. The Functional programs include International Relations and its various strands -- conflict management, energy/resources/environment (ERE), international law, global theory and history, strategic studies -- as well as International Development.
If you have applied, you will have indicated either a Regional or Functional concentration on your application. The choice you indicated is not binding. During the first year a student has the chance to think things through, to attend different classes and to make a final choice. Your academic adviser will help you select your concentration and make sure it is aligned with your career goals.

International Development ("IDEV" in SAIS-speak) is the only program with capped enrollment. A limited number of students admitted to SAIS are accepted into IDEV, although courses are open to all SAIS students on a space available basis. Students are admitted directly to IDEV as part of the SAIS application process.

The International Economics concentration requires the successful completion of at least six economic courses. Four are required: intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics, trade theory and monetary theory. The other courses can be chosen from a rather long list covering economic theory, development economics, quantitative methods and international finance.

If you have already taken intermediate micro or macro, or both, you can opt to take a waiver exam to place out of that course and to enroll in higher level courses. If you have not taken intermediate economics, pre- term is a good way to meet some of the requirements before the start of the academic year. 
You have already heard us mention the importance of languages at SAIS. We deem them so important that Regional concentrations require students to demonstrate proficiency in a language of that region, whether or not they have already passed a proficiency exam in a language from outside that region.

A student at SAIS Bologna can pursue any concentration. We recommend that candidates interested in concentrating in Asian Studies consider spending two years in Washington, partly because Asian languages are not taught in Bologna. However, there are some top-notch courses on Asia taught in Bologna. This term, Prof. Plummer is teaching "Asian Economic Development" and Prof. Pomfret is teaching "The Economies of Central Asia".

Any questions? You know how to find us.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Spring at SAIS Bologna

It's that time of the year. Here's a little video, just for the fun of it. Enjoy.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Joint and Cooperative Degrees: Extending your horizon

SAIS's curriculum is deep and broad. There's plenty of bread on the carving board, as the French would say, in both Bologna and Washington.

The curriculum in fact extends well beyond SAIS's walls. Students can pick from an array of joint degrees and cooperative programs.

Aula Magna, University of Bologna
(courtesy of the university)
Master's candidates at SAIS can apply to receive a degree from both SAIS and the following programs:
  • MBA at Wharton
  • MBA at Tuck (Dartmouth)
  • J.D. at Stanford
  • J.D. at University of Virginia
  • Master of Health at Johns Hopkins's Bloomberg School
  • Master of Public Administration at Syracuse University

For more information, click here.

Diplomatic Academy of Vienna
(photo by Peter Burgstaller)
In addition, the Bologna Center offers cooperative programs with the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, the University of Bologna and the University of Bologna-Forli'. A cooperative program with Sabancı University in Istanbul is also available.

University of Bologna-Forli'
(courtesy of university website)
These programs permit reciprocal recognition of work done at the other university, so that qualifying students can earn two master's. For more information, click here.

A word of caution: These joint and cooperative programs have quite specific admissions and graduation requirements, so it's best to read up on them carefully.

But they offer a whole spectrum of opportunities that sets SAIS apart.

Sabancı University
(courtesy of university website)

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Job Interview: "Get those butterflies out"

Sweaty palms? Wooden tongue? A vacuum between your ears?

Welcome to your first job interview. We've all been there. If you've not been there yet, you will some day.

SAIS prepares its students to confront the world's challenges. For many, the first obstacle once one's studies are under control is the job interview. To help SAIS Bologna students ready themselves, the Career Services Office last week helped organize mock job interviews. Call it learning by feeling uncomfortable.

Students rotated from one scenario to the next, with faculty and staff playing the kinds of roles that SAIS students commonly encounter as they turn to the job market.

Bart Drakulich, who in his day job runs SAIS Bologna's finances and administration, was the head of a New York-based investment bank, riding in a fictitious elevator with the SAIS student.

Richard Pomfret, who teaches Economics, was a mock consultant to the OECD, running into students at a coffee break during a conference on the euro zone crisis.

Meera Shankar of Career Services and Alumni Relations was a U.S. senator on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Speak Spanish? Then you might have met Maria Blanco, who teaches that language at SAIS Bologna but for an afternoon was an HR interviewer at a South American company.

As U.S. ambassador to Italy enjoying a cocktail party, I wish I could say I was type-cast. Alas, it was a learning experience for me, too.

The video below gives you a glimpse of the fun and games.

Nelson Graves

Friday, 18 March 2011

Weekly quiz

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I need to thank you for your loyal readership. (Who remembers what a "record" is?)

We have set pageview records for seven straight days. Our readership this month is up more than 50% from last month, which was well up from January. Such participation on your part helps motivate us.

A small request: If you have a question that you think we should examine in a post, consider sending us a note or posting a comment. If there is a technique you think we should use, send us an example. If we are doing something wrong or just badly, tell us. We are brand new at this, and we can learn from your social media expertise.

An update on the admissions process: Many of you have been interviewed already. Some will be interviewed in the next few days. The Bologna Admissions Committee will meet before the end of the month, and all candidates will be notified in the first week of April by email.

Now, the quiz.

What does this photograph depict? And what does it have to do with SAIS?

Next week we hope to have posts on cooperative programs, our various concentrations and a mock interview session held in Bologna this week to help current students prepare for career chats.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Japan and SAIS's raison d'être

Japan's trauma is being felt around the world and of course also at SAIS. We have Japanese students -- two at the Bologna Center this year -- and 42 SAIS Bologna alumni from Japan. Beyond those connections, the suffering and uncertainties have moved the SAIS community.

As a graduate program in international relations, SAIS has always combined the practical with the theoretical and offers  both academics and practitioners. The crisis in Japan has stirred efforts to help those on the ground as well as debate over the future of nuclear energy.

My goal here is neither to raise funds for Japan nor to enter into the nuclear discussion. I merely note that  moments such as this are part of SAIS's raison d'être. We strive to educate individuals who will be able to grapple with the kind of complex issues that have arisen in the past week in Japan: issues pertaining to policymaking, crisis management, preparedness, leadership, communication, energy resources.

Some concrete steps at SAIS:

- SAIS Bologna students have launched a fund-raising effort to support a Japanese NGO called JEN. Shoko Sugai, a Japanese national studying at the Bologna Center, has worked at JEN, which she called "one of the few disaster relief/conflict management NGOs in Japan" with "a fantastic reputation both domestically and with the government."

- Students at SAIS DC have launched a Facebook page called SAIS Japan Relief Team. You can read more about the team here. It aims to inform about the situation on the ground in Japan and on ways of helping. It is raising donations in Washington this week.

- The SAIS Alumni Relations Office has tried to contact all known graduates living in Japan to check on their well-being.

- In Bologna, alumnus Marco Dell'Aquila, who teaches a course on renewable energy, and Director Kenneth Keller, who has extensive experience in nuclear power, led a round-table discussion today on what the crippling of the Fukushima reactors might mean for the global energy industry.

- Mari Tanaka, a 2010 graduate of SAIS, works at The Nippon Foundation, which has set up a special relief fund. Her choice of career is not unusual among alumni.

- SAIS community members are not unaware, either, of some of the donation scams that have emerged or even of the debate over whether Japan needs -- or wants -- donations. It's no use having blinders if you want to tackle international relations.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the U.S. candidates who have been admitted to the Bologna Center for the next academic year. It's been a pleasure following your candidacies, and I look forward to welcoming you in person for what -- judging from the experience of 6,500 of your predecessors-- will be a momentous year for you in Bologna.

Some of you may be wondering, "Candidates have been admitted? I haven't heard anything!"

A word of explanation. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who want to attend SAIS Bologna apply through the Admissions Office in Washington. The admissions procedure and timeline are a bit different. Candidates were notified earlier this week.

Non-U.S. citizens who want to go to the Bologna Center apply through SAIS Bologna. The Bologna Admissions Committee will be meeting at the end of this month, and decisions will be communicated to candidates in early April.

So this post is aimed at those of you who learned earlier this week that you have been accepted to SAIS with the possibility of studying at the Bologna Center starting in the fall.

(I actually don't remember the day I learned I had been admitted to SAIS Bologna. That does not mean it was not an important moment for me. It's simply buried in the mists of time. In hindsight I can say the SAIS experience changed my life. Some of our readers will already know that SAIS was the springboard for my career as a foreign correspondent. The first stop on that career was covering international finance in Washington. Without my two years at SAIS, could I have made a serious stab at that job? No way.)

Enough personal stuff. Those of you who have been admitted -- congratulations and here's to your future.

A couple of housekeeping matters:
  • Admitted candidates, whether they passed through the DC or Bologna offices, will have many questions. Before turning to email or the phone, please read your admissions packet carefully. If you don't find your answer there, do feel free to contact the appropriate office.
  • There will be an Open House for admitted candidates on Wednesday, April 13, at SAIS Washington. Information on this is in the admissions packet.
  • On Thursday, April 14, there will be a reception at SAIS Washington for Bologna Center alumni. Those of you who have been admitted to SAIS Bologna will be invited to the reception. Not everyone lives near DC. But if you've been admitted and are nearby, come meet SAIS Director Kenneth Keller, alumni and fellow admitted candidates at the reception. (I'll be there too ...)
  • On May 5 & 6 in Bologna, we will be holding an Open House for admitted students. Again, not all admitted candidates live near Bologna. But if you can make it, we'd love to have you here. More information will be made available later.
I can't help thinking about those candidates who were not offered admission. I could say a lot of trite things: It happens. Don't take it personally. Keep a stiff upper lip.

But I won't. I do intend, however, to offer a post soon on rejection -- and how to get the most out of it. I know a thing or two about rejection. I'm almost an expert. So I hope my thoughts will be helpful to those who took the trouble to apply, whose desire to attend may be every bit as strong as those who were admitted, but who fell short. Let's make the most out of it.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Academics and practitioners

SAIS faculty and alumni are thinkers, movers and shakers in their fields. You've already seen the guide detailing the faculty's expertise.

Here is some recent activity:

SAIS graduate Abdul Ilah Khatib, former foreign minister of Jordan, was recently named the UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs in Libya.

Abdul Ilah Khatib (r)
 with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
(UN photo)
Prof. Karim Mezran discussed Libya on Italy's leading national talk show Otto e Mezzo.

Prof. Erik Jones and Saskia van Genugten, both SAIS graduates, authored an editorial on Italy in de Volkskrant, in the Netherlands.

Prof. Michael Plummer was noted in Johns Hopkins Gazette for his coming role as a speaker at the Singapore Economic Review Conference to be held in August in Singapore.

Fouad Ajami
In the past two months, Prof. Fouad Ajami has published pieces in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the New York Times and  Foreign Policy magazine.

Prof. Eliot Cohen published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

SAIS Foreign Policy Institute Fellow Josh Muravchik had pieces in both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

Prof. Michael Mandelbaum wrote an editorial for Project Syndicate.

For more information on our faculty, click here.

Nelson Graves

Monday, 14 March 2011

Islam and Europe: a seminar

This week SAIS Bologna is hosting a two-day conference entitled, "Islam and Europe: Religion, Law, Identity".

The conference brings together leading academics from Europe, the United States and Iran. It is sponsored jointly by SAIS Bologna, the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD) and The Protection Project of SAIS Washington.

We highlight this conference as an example of the kind of learning that goes on outside the confines of the classroom at SAIS. It is cutting-edge intellectual dialog, very much open to our students and faculty.

Below you'll see a copy of the seminar program and, below that, a video with CCSDD Director Justin Frosini, whom readers of this blog met last month.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Weekly quiz

We started this blog without quite knowing where it would go. We hope it's been informative and occasionally entertaining. We've noticed a steady rise in readership, followers and comments. Last week we had record readership again, and pageviews were up 27% during the first four days of this week compared to the same period last week, so we were on track to set another record. We have topped 10,000 pageviews since we launched in December.

A number of readers have sent us suggestions. We like to have feedback and comments because they help us know what our mini-community wants to read. It's pretty clear that readers remain focused on the application process, especially the interview. Posts on the interview have drawn the strongest interest.

Remember that there are several ways to keep in regular touch with this blog. You can sign up to have posts emailed to you by filling out the area marked "Subscribe via email" on the right side of the page. You can also receive the blog via RSS feed. To do so, go to the bottom of a post and follow the directions under "Subscribe to".

Feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts so we can tailor this to your wishes.

Our weekly quizzes have been a fun means of engaging readers. We'd like to use other ways of interacting: If you have any suggestions, pass them along.

Week in and week out, readers have found a way to penetrate the mysteries of SAIS to find the answer to the weekly quiz. Last week, Andreas was the first to identify Paul H. Nitze, U.S. statesman and co-founder of        SAIS, in the photograph. Don't ask me how he found out so fast.

So here is this week's teaser.

What is depicted in these pictures, and what does it have to do with SAIS?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A video peek at SAIS DC

Earlier this week we introduced you to Chidiogo Akunyili, a Bologna Center student from Nigeria. Several readers commented on her strong qualifications, including her five languages and substantial work experience.

Today I'd like you to meet Rebekah Lipsky. Rebekah attended the Bologna Center last year and now is at SAIS DC, in her second year. We met up in Washington, where she showed me around the SAIS DC campus and the surrounding area of Dupont Circle.

Rebekah grew up in Seattle and graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree in Communications Studies. She did public relations work in the entertainment industry in California before deciding to apply to SAIS -- and a host of other schools -- with a determination to make a career in international relations. You can read more about her here.

A couple of things to note. First, Rebekah made a radical change in direction when she came from California to SAIS. Not everyone has the willpower or the qualifications to do that, but it is by no means impossible. (A personal note: I taught high school after college, then decided SAIS would be a springboard for an international career. After SAIS, I worked in six different countries as a foreign correspondent. If I can do it, there is certainly hope for others, too.)

Second, Rebekah has not lost her poise in front of a camera despite having left California. Her tour was so flawless, and my video editing skills are so modest, that the video below is quite literally uncut. My apologies to Rebekah for not improving on the unedited version, but in fact I think it's a tribute to her professionalism and love of her studies at SAIS just as it is.

Some of you may remember that we offered a tour of SAIS Bologna in January. Now you have a chance to see SAIS DC, where almost all of the Bologna Center master's candidates spend their second year.

A big thanks to Rebekah for taking time out from her studies to show us around SAIS DC.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A chance to put your best foot forward

We've discussed interviews before in this blog but perhaps did not make one important point clearly enough: Although some applicants interview in person and others do not, it is a level playing field for all.

I can hear you ask: How in the dickens could someone interviewing over the phone from thousands of miles away make as much of an impression as someone who speaks with an interviewer in person?

Very good question. (Have you heard me say before that there are no dumb questions, only dumb answers?)

Let me try to explain.

The Admissions Committee looks at a variety of elements when evaluating candidacies. An applicant's academic record is, of course, crucial. But a host of other aspects can come into play: the candidate's background and experiences; their motivations for applying; the likelihood they will contribute to life at SAIS.

It is not simply a matter of determining whether you are adequately prepared. The Committee wants to be sure you will participate fully, benefit from the SAIS experience and then embark on a fulfilling career.

You have already submitted a wealth of material to the Committee: your undergraduate transcript, a statement of purpose, a CV, letters of recommendation, proof of English proficiency. Many of you have been in touch with us in person, on the phone or via email. We could call it quits there. But we want to know as much as we can about our candidates, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and an interview is an opportunity for us to learn more.

(Keep in mind that we interview candidates who apply through the Admissions Office in Bologna. U.S. citizens, who apply through Washington, are not interviewed.)

From your standpoint, the interview is a chance to put your best foot forward. There will be aspects of your candidacy that you will want to emphasize. There may be gaps in your application that you will want to explain (raise your hand if you're perfect). You want to make sure the Committee has all the elements it needs to evaluate your application fairly.

Whether in person, on the phone or via Skype, the interview is an exchange that adds to your dossier. You have a chance to make the points you want and to ask the questions you want.

There is no denying that a face-to-face interview is different from one on the phone or through cyberspace. But the discussion, I can assure you, will revolve around the same points regardless of the format. I would not want someone who is preparing for a face-to-face encounter to think that they can somehow hoodwink the interviewer through sheer charm. Nor would I want someone interviewing on the phone to think they cannot make the points they want to make.

So please understand that there is no advantage or disadvantage in the format of your interview.

I can hear another question here, this one from candidates who applied through our DC Admissions Office: Are we at a disadvantage because we were not interviewed? The answer, again, is no. The Washington office gathers more information on candidates through their online application than we in Bologna do. Also, it is easier to compare academic performance across candidates who come primarily from the U.S. system.

For more information on interviews, you can read our two previous blog posts: here and here.

Yesterday I received some questions from a loyal reader about the interview. We like to receive questions and feedback. It helps us focus. I'll try to answer the questions here.

Q: Will the interviewer have had an opportunity to review an application before interviewing a candidate?

A: Yes. The interviewer will have read your file, and so there is no need to repeat slavishly what is in there. It's a better strategy to build on what you have already provided and to emphasize what you consider to be your main points. And if you have weak points, don't ignore them either; a person who recognizes their gaps and has a plan for addressing them can still present a strong case.

Q: Are candidates allocated to interviewers according to their intended concentration or geographical interest?

A: No. In some cases interviewers know a good deal about the country of the applicant, including its educational system. That can help the Committee make a fairer decision. But applicants are not divided up according to their preferred fields of study.

One last thing: We feel lucky that we can interview our applicants. It helps us in our work. And the energy  that candidates emit is a powerful reminder of the value of the SAIS education. That helps motivate us even more.

So thank you, candidates!

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

"For me, it was a no-brainer"

Part of our challenge at Bologna Admissions is to show the SAIS program to those of you who do not live near enough to visit. There is only so much that can be captured on paper.

We have found that our students and alumni make outstanding ambassadors. They can relate to prospective candidates who ask themselves: What makes SAIS Bologna different? Would I fit in there? What would it be like to study there?

Chidiogo Akunyili
Below is a video of Chidiogo Akunyili, a first-year SAIS student at the Bologna Center. You may remember that we profiled Chidiogo a while back.

In the video, which is posted on YouTube and the SAIS Bologna website, Chidiogo speaks of her year at the Bologna Center. A Nigerian by birth, Chidiogo studied at the University of Pennsylvania before working for three years in Berlin and Beijing.

Her concentration at SAIS is International Relations. Not a surprising pick for someone who speaks five languages. English and Igbo are her native languages; she is fluent in French and proficient in Mandarin and German.

If you have a question of Chidiogo, feel free to send in a comment at the end of this post. She would enjoy getting back to you.

Tomorrow: A level playing field for interviews

Nelson Graves

Monday, 7 March 2011

Learning outside the classroom

As we've said before, the Bologna Center is fundamentally an academic program, but much learning happens outside the classroom. The Center attracts a large number of guests every year. Some come for a day to deliver a single lecture; others offer seminar series that can span several days or weeks. Speakers come from different fields and backgrounds, exposing students to a variety of viewpoints and specializations. Today our guest writer is Maria Kalina Oroschakoff. Kalina is a current student and an avid participant in the guest lectures and seminar series. Amina Abdiuahab

What do Kenneth Waltz, Gary Sick, Romano Prodi, Wolfgang Ischinger, Lloyd Minor, Mario Draghi, Fawaz A. Gerges and Josef Joffe have in common?

Each of them has come to the Bologna Center this year to give lectures or whole seminar series. They came for us. We did not have to share these speakers with 200 or 300 other listeners whom we did not know. These experts and policy makers came to speak to the Bologna Center and primarily for students.

Kenneth Waltz
 at SAIS Bologna
Since the audience is made up of  fellow students, teachers and staff, you are more comfortable and confident asking questions and engaging with the speakers. The Q&A sessions are an integral part of every lecture and often generate the real debates. Students have priority when it comes to asking questions. When ECB Governing Council member Mario Draghi came, the audience included many guests from outside the Center, but students were given the first crack at questions.

The setting allows personal contact with speakers, who are generally easy to approach after their talks for further questions. Some stay on for drinks at Giulio's bar. Some conversations can lead to long-term contacts and even internships opportunities.

Maria Kalina Oroschakoff
BC Class of 2011
Speakers are often willing to share their thoughts about their career path in more private settings. When Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations, came to the Center last autumn, he met with a small group of students to discuss his professional experience and career path following his graduation from the Bologna Center.

The Guest Lectures and Seminar Series complement and broaden the academic curriculum. Speakers come from a broad spectrum of academic and professional backgrounds, offering food for thought for students pursuing any concentration: global climate change, political and social developments in Yemen, post-conflict state-building in Bosnia, the consequences of the global financial crisis. 

I look forward to lectures on the crisis of authoritarian regimes in North Africa, a round-table on East Asian regional integration and a lecture series on nuclear politics. And these are drawn from the events schedule just for this coming week.

Maria Kalina Oroschakoff

Friday, 4 March 2011

Weekly quiz

We have entered an intense and exciting period in the admissions process. Those of you who are candidates for SAIS Bologna for the academic year starting in October, and who applied through the Bologna admissions office, have just had an interview or will be having one soon.

All candidates who have not yet been notified will be advised soon of the date and time of the interview. Some will be in person; others over the phone or via Skype. There is no advantage one way or the other -- in each case, candidates have a chance to put their best foot (feet?) forward. We have had two posts on interviews (here and here), and next week we plan to offer another.

The Admissions Committee will be meeting at the end of the month, and candidates will be informed of its decisions in early April. Then, the future.

An update on our pageviews: we have surpassed 9,000 since we launched in December. Last week we had record traffic. Thank you all for staying in touch, and please remember, we very much like to receive comments.

On to the quiz.

Last week Steven Arjonilla won the quiz through a bit of computer genius -- he uncovered the file name of the photo, which pointed him to former SAIS Prof. Enzo Grilli.

Live and learn, I say. This week there will be no such clue.

Who is the man in this photograph? And what did he have to do with SAIS?

As usual, the winner gets a free lunch at Giulio's caffè.

Next week we'll offer a video tour of our SAIS DC campus, a post on the importance of visiting speakers at SAIS and another on interviews.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 3 March 2011

"It changed my perspective on the world"

Today our guest is Bonnie Wilson, who is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at SAIS. She is based in Washington but attended the Bologna Center before she received her Ph.D from SAIS.

In addition to SAIS, Bonnie has worked at The Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, the J.W. Rouse Company, the Fund for Fine Arts and The Johns Hopkins University.

Today Bonnie spoke to me about why she decided to attend SAIS Bologna, what it meant for her career and what SAIS is looking for in its students.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The glue that keeps students together

Today our guest writer is Elan Bar, president of the Student Government Administration.  The SGA has five members who are elected by the student body at the beginning of the academic year. The Association has an important role to play: it organizes student clubs and activities, and serves as a link to the faculty and the administration. Although the SGA's members change every year, its essence remains the same -- it gives voice to student views and concerns, and is the glue that keeps the student body together.
Amina Abdiuahab

The Student Government Administration is the elected representative body of each year's class. The SGA reflects the class’s dynamics and personality, and becomes an amalgamation of 200 students.

This year, we have made it our priority to foster initiative among students. We have tried to create an environment in which students seek opportunities for personal enrichment. In our opinion, that enrichment is invaluable to the class in two specific ways:
  • It creates a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment in which different individuals pursue different areas of interest. This has allowed for more intimate discussions and more heated debates.
  • It encourages students to explore the unique opportunities made available to them within Italy and Europe.

The SGA at last week's Student General Meeting

This year we have had a student organize a career trip to Vienna, while another one took charge of our annual trip to Sarajevo. One of our classmates went to a remote locale in the Dolomites to learn about Somali pirates, while another attended the NATO summit in Lisbon. We have three students who are organizing a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories in connection with a course being offered at SAIS BC this semester.

It would be inexcusable to discuss student initiative and not mention our illustrious Austrians. Each year they organize nearly 200 of us (most of whom cannot Sprechen Sie Deutsch), get us up to Vienna, organize sleeping arrangements and plan a night (and early morning) of sophisticated black-tie frivolity at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. This year’s group was no exception -- they were outstanding.

Three of the five SGA members
From right Elan, Tish and John
We feel that student initiative does not need to be only academic in nature. We want students to share their passions, hobbies and esoteric knowledge with the class. These events often take on a more leisurely form. Among other activities, we have had Scotch and wine tastings, yoga classes, cooking courses and trips to vineyards and ski areas organized by our classmates. Just last weekend, 50 of us sat down to dinner together in Venice for Carnevale.

The SGA, in the end, serves two fundamental purposes. First, we try to provide stability. We want students to feel that their needs are being addressed and their desires listened to. Second, we try to enrich the experience of our classmates here in Bologna by encouraging their ideas and supporting their pursuits. 

Elan Bar

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Colorful Carnevale

When in Italy, do as the Italians do.

The SAIS Bologna experience is anchored in the classroom. It is fundamentally an academic program.

But as we've written before, the learning experience extends beyond the classroom walls. There are lectures, job opportunities, exposure to different points of view and of course the attractions of Bologna, the surrounding region and neighboring countries.

Last weekend, many SAIS Bologna students took advantage of the proximity of Venice to participate in the annual Carnevale. It's difficult to find a more colorful tradition among Italy's many rituals.

Started some 900 years ago, Carnival marks the shift from winter to spring. It traditionally lasted from October to Lent and had an important social function: to bring together different social classes. It was a time when rich and poor could mingle freely thanks to the masks on their faces. Today, it is a time to celebrate Venetian culture, to mark the beginning of Lent and of course to dress up.

Our students' photographs have been among our most popular posts since we launched this blog in December. It's little use, then, my continuing to write about Carnevale as these pictures are worth far more than my words.

By Megan Holt

by Elizabeth Fustos

by Megan Holt

by Elizabeth Fustos

by Megan Holt

by Rachel Salerno

by Megan Holt

by Courtney McCarty

by Megan Holt

by Courtney McCarty

by Courtney McCarty

by Rachel Salerno

by Lars Olson
Nelson Graves