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 K├╝hne, 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