Thursday, 29 March 2012

Fundraising, with a twist of humor

Earlier this month the SAIS Bologna student body took a break from weekend trips around Europe and studying to participate in an evening of rollicking entertainment and generous fundraising.

BC Journal Editor-in-Chief
Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie
ran the show
You'd be excused for thinking it's a strange combination, linking a mock beauty pageant with a live auction of often humorous goods and services. But even graduate students deserve a bit of bizarre fun every once and a while.

The annual Mr. and Ms. SAIS Competition and Charity Auction kicked off early in the evening with three men and three women competing for the illustrious titles.

The evening alternated between pageant and live auction. There were segments devoted to “Questions and Answers,” “Talent” and “Formal Wear” in the Mr. and Ms. SAIS pageant, with "Food and Wine” and “Services” in the auction segment.

Having fun
The rules? Contestants had to be students, and auction items had to come from the Bologna and SAIS communities.

During the pageant, contestants wowed the judges, comprised of SAIS staff and Giulio of caffè fame, with answers to hard-hitting questions. “Should Narnia be allowed to go nuclear?” “Is Chris Brown and Rihanna’s new collaboration an example of a rigid alliance with flexible strategies or a flexible alliance with rigid strategies?”

The audience seemed more than impressed with their peers’ talent, including interpretive dance demonstrations, expert shot pouring and the SAIS student band rocking out to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”

With the auction the SAIS Bologna community came together to offer more than 35 items, with proceeds benefiting the student-run Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs.

Mr. & Ms. SAIS
The big ticket items included a poker night at our director’s house with a few notoriously interesting professors, a ride in our resident IR professor’s snazzy Porshe and an African dinner for six prepared by three SAIS students to incorporate the flavors of their respective countries -- Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

The night ended with a newly crowned Mr. and Ms. SAIS -- Staci Raab and James Mina -- who will enjoy the titles until a new royal couple ascends to the throne next year.

Until then, many satisfied students look forward to eating, wearing, drinking, riding, playing and listening to their purchased auction items. And there's a very satisfied BC Journal fundraising team.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A book for the younger generations

You've heard this before: SAIS Bologna students learn inside and outside the classroom. This year the Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR) is teaming up with city's best known international book store to spread the word outside the four walls of via Belmeloro 11.

Earlier this month, SAIS Bologna Prof. John Harper launched his latest book, The Cold War, at an event organized by BIPR and hosted by Feltrinelli International at their teeming book store in the center of Bologna. It followed on the footsteps of the recent launch of Prof. Mark Gilbert's book, European Integration: A Concise History.

Prof. John Harper
A pillar of SAIS Bologna's faculty, Prof. Harper has taught American foreign policy to several generations of students (including my colleague Nelson Graves).

We took the opportunity to ask Prof. Harper some questions.

Q: What is your book about?
Harper: It's a narrative history of the East-West conflict known as the Cold War. That is, it covers the period 1945-90 approximately but includes historical background on the two major protagonists of the story, Russia and the United States.

Q: How did the book come about? 
Harper: The book was commissioned by Oxford University Press in the UK to be part of their new "Oxford Histories" series. I was happy to accept their offer since I have been teaching the subject for many years.

Q: Who would enjoy reading the book?
Harper: The book is mainly designed for students and other young people (like my daughters, aged 19 and 26) for whom the subject is something they heard their parents and grandparents talking about but didn't live first-hand. It tries to explain, among other things, why the world lived on nuclear tenterhooks for much of the 45-50 year period in question, but also why the Cold War remained "cold" at least as far as Europe was concerned.

Q: What role has SAIS played in your book?
Harper: SAIS played a role in that some of the material in the book is based on lectures given in my classes on U.S. foreign policy, and there were a number of students who assisted with the research along the way.

Q: Your next work?
Harper: My next book will be a study focusing on a crucial moment in the Cold War, early 1950, something I did not have sufficient time and space (the book is a compact history) to explore.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The next steps to the finish line

SAIS Bologna candidates are understandably getting itchy as they await the outcome of their applications to study here in 2012-13.

Here are the next steps in the process for non-U.S. candidates (U.S. candidates, who are handled by the DC Admissions Office, have already been contacted):

- Faculty and staff on the SAIS Bologna Admissions Committee have been interviewing candidates and reviewing the dossiers. Their work is about over. The committee will meet next week to take its admissions decisions. We hope to communicate those decisions to all candidates by Friday, April 6.

Some important details such as financial aid grants, economics or English language requirements and admission to the International Development concentration may have to wait a few more days. We are aware that some candidates will be facing deadlines from other programs, and we want to make sure they have time to take the best decision.

We are planning two events to answer any questions from admitted candidates and to enable them to know us better:

1. an online Q&A session planned for April 25;
2. Open House at SAIS Bologna on May 3&4.

We'll be circulating more details on these events later.

- There are two separate deadlines for admitted non-U.S. candidates to matriculate:

May 9 for candidates offered financial aid;
May 16 for all other candidates

- The summer online Principles of Economics course for any incoming students who have not satisfied both the introductory micro and introductory macro requirements starts on May 23.

- The deadline for registering for the SAIS Bologna pre-term is July 2. The pre-term session will run this year from August 27 to September 19.

The pre-term session in Washington will run from July 30 to August 25. The deadline for registering for the DC session is June 29.

If you are a candidate awaiting the Admissions Committee's decision, why not use the next few days to make  a mental note of what you've learned during the process? It could end up helping you in the future.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 22 March 2012

"... a novel experiment in American graduate education"

"The purposes of The Johns Hopkins University are to increase human knowledge, to instruct students and to guide them into the fields of productive scholarship."

So proclaimed a university catalogue written just after the birth of SAIS Bologna in 1955 and devoted to the fledgling graduate program.

The 20-page document gives a glimpse -- all text, no pictures -- into the early days of SAIS Bologna. Much has changed, of course. But all in all, a lot has remained the same.

A year's tuition in 1955 was $800. Living costs for a single student -- room, food and incidentals -- were estimated at $20 a week.

The good old days.

SAIS's mission statement still rings true. "Combining high academic standards with a practical approach to current world problems, the aim of the School is to provide a limited number of qualified students with a type of instruction and training designed to prepare them for careers in the international field."

There was recognition that SAIS was breaking new ground by opening centers in Bologna and Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar).

The catalogue called the centers "a novel experiment in American graduate education inasmuch as they represent physical extensions of an American graduate institution to areas of specialized instruction."

To this day one of SAIS's distinguishing characteristics is the opportunity to pursue its curriculum on several continents. A year of study at SAIS Bologna followed by a year in DC is a unique combination. And SAIS is also present in Nanjing.

(We once held a weekly quiz on the center in Burma -- and on its demise in 1959.)

A career in the international field, the catalogue says, calls for a thorough understanding of international law and organization, international economics, European diplomatic history and the development and administration of American foreign relations.

Naturally SAIS Bologna's curriculum has evolved and grown since the Cold War to adapt to the changed  international landscape. Now students can concentrate in a much wider range of subjects: international development, conflict management, studies of regions well beyond Europe and the United States.

I will note two other things that have changed:

- the student body was capped at 60 back then whereas this year we have some 190 students;
- the lowest passing grade was "B" compared to "B-" today.

Grade deflation -- an unusual notion.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Finance in the real world

Finance is fun. Really.

The BC Finance Club is a 40-member tour-de-force of personality and progress. Finance wasn’t studied at SAIS Bologna at the outset 57 years ago. But in recent years it found its home in the curriculum and is now a specialization under the International Economics concentration.

Pondering higher finance
Why? Because finance plays a key role in the global economy, influencing development, environmental management and myriad other issues of interest to SAISers.

What does the Club do? Answer: Lunch & Learns, Field Trips (including a visit to the Ducati factory), meetings with alumni in finance, tailored career services sessions, online stock market games.

Our members explore what finance means in the real word and get a sense of how learning about finance might change their perspective or future career path. The real draw is that we’re able to provide opportunities that just don’t fit into a Finance class.

Prof. Roger Leeds
The Finance Club is lucky to have the support of Prof. Roger Leeds, whose classes make up the Finance foundation for all SAIS Finance students. At our last meeting he was MC for a a showing of the movie “Inside Job”. Nearly 50 students attended (not in the least lured by pizza and beer). The movie, based on the 2008 financial crisis, was followed by a Q&A session with Prof. Leeds.

The Q&A lasted until the school closed for the night -- and then continued at a local osteria.

We plan to join the Finance Club in DC, and we hope the next group of bolognesi continue the tradition in SAIS Bologna. I mean, why not? Ridiculously popular, lots of fun, and incredibly informative.

Who could resist?

Larissa Muir (BC'12)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"Snug as a bug in a rug"

Students pick up stakes to come study at SAIS Bologna. All eventually find housing. Not all end up featured on television as they search for a roof over their heads.

Michael Anderson; his wife, Paige Crosland Anderson, and their toddler daughter, Ada, moved from Utah to Bologna in September to start a new life.

Their transition from suburban life in the United States to a medieval city in Italy was captured by House Hunters International, a travel program that shows home buyers around the world.

"It was really, really fun," Paige said of the experience of being filmed as she and Michael juggled different options before choosing their apartment. "It was an experience to remember for sure."

Paige & Kirsten
in front of their mural
HGTV found the young couple through Paige's blog. Michael, Paige and Ada were then filmed and recorded as they made the rounds of Bologna before the start of classes last autumn.

They ruled out one apartment with a lovely view and a second with two bathrooms and a dishwasher before settling on a smaller flat with a garden out back.

"I think the small space is doable," Paige says on the show. "And you know what? If we're on top of each other a little bit, so what? We came to Italy to grow closer as a family."

Michael had worked in a tech company in Utah before starting his studies at SAIS Bologna. Paige had finished her undergraduate studies before giving birth to Ada, who was seven months when they moved to Italy.

You may remember Paige as the artist who along with Kirsten Hansen painted the mural in the Bologna Admissions Office.

Here is a condensed version of the HGTV show:

For those reading this on email, here is the video.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Not so trivial pursuits

Who said this:

"If you are asked to play the Chicken Game and decline the invitation, you have just played -- and lost."

That was one of the questions that contestants tackled last week at the first SAIS Bologna Trivia Night.

The Strategic Studies Career Club hosted the event at Giulio’s Bar to raise funds for their coming trip to Brussels to meet NATO officials and SAIS alumni.

To encourage the 13 teams to adopt a "strategic” outlook, questions went well beyond the typical pub trivia fare of science, history, pop culture and sports. Instead, this contest focused on the academic concentrations offered at SAIS.

Dirty Larry
Fourteen professors offered trivia questions related to their fields of expertise. Questions covered the entire spectrum of SAIS concentrations. There were three rounds of nine questions each, with a bonus question at the end of each round.

Here's a question from Prof. Arntraud Hartmann (International Development):

"Which country produced the architect of the Human Development Indicator?"

From Çiğdem Akın (Economics):

"What term in international monetary economics describes a country that is unable to borrow abroad in its own currency?"

The question on the Chicken Game came from Prof. Marco Cesa (International Relations).

Because the questions were so challenging, professors provided hints that teams could purchase to improve their chances of answering correctly.

The winning team, Dirty Larry, proved its superior trivia knowledge, missing only four questions and getting the three bonus questions correct for a final score of 133 points.

The second place team, Los Banditos, put up an impressive fight, trailing Dirty Larry by 32 points.

Regardless of the point spread, spirits were high as the SAIS Bologna community spent an entertaining and enlightening evening together. Students look forward to the next BC trivia night and their chance to become the next SAIS trivia champions.

Rebecca Dash (BC12)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The theoretical and the practical

SAIS Bologna students appreciate the mix of academics and practitioners who make up the faculty.

The faculty's expertise spans the theoretical and the practical, and gives students the grounding they need to make their mark on the world.

Prof. David Unger
David Unger brings a special perspective to SAIS Bologna.

Prof. Unger has been an editorial writer at the New York Times for more than three decades. Since 1977 he has written by his own count more than 3,000 editorials in the newspaper.

Now he has written a book entitled "The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute National Security at All Costs".

"The emergency state is what we use instead of the Constitution in emergencies. And we keep using more and more of it, for example undeclared wars, for example classified information that Congress cannot debate. It has really unbalanced our constitutional system," he told U.S. television station CBS.

In writing the book, Prof. Unger discovered that the emergency state is hardly a new phenomenon.

"This goes way back, and this is what I really learned doing the book. Because it was all the rage to talk about Bush and Cheney and unconstitutional, but very little of what they did was brand new. They put their signature on it, no doubt about it, but it goes back to FDR, it goes back to before Pearl Harbor when he was trying to get the United States into the Atlantic war and bypass Congress and public opinion on that."

To listen to Prof. Unger discuss his book with CBS News, click here.

To hear Prof. Unger in person, come take a class from him at SAIS Bologna. Last term he taught "Policies and Politics of the American Emergency State".

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

"My SAIS education helped"

Last week, Alex Skinner, who attended SAIS Bologna in 2009-10, described how SAIS alumni helped him in his job search once he had graduated. Today we turn the pulpit over to Catherine Morris, who, like Alex, ended up at the World Bank.

Landing a job was a challenge. But my SAIS education surely helped.

Between the poor economy and the fact I was still working part time as a research assistant at my former place of employment, finding a job was stressful. After sending out more than 100 applications and enduring a handful of unsuccessful job interviews, a small light began to flicker though the dark tunnel that was my career at the time.

Catherine Morris
One afternoon I got a call from a fellow SAISer telling me that a friend’s friend’s friend’s (all SAISers) former supervisor was looking for someone to immediately take on a short-term consultancy at the World Bank.

The scope of work focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country I had studied in depth at my job before SAIS. The job would require perfect French, English writing and editing skills (skills I had solidified at SAIS) and solid knowledge of macroeconomics and econometrics, which I had thanks to my international economics concentration and my quantitative methods and economic theory specialization at SAIS.

I got the job the next day.

While finding a job might have been challenging, the level of work I am given on a daily basis and the confidence instilled in me to do it have been very high. I am currently responsible for drafting the same document that I used at my previous job as an important reference.

I have been using my French to contribute edits to a three-volume series of books that will be published in coming weeks. While the learning curve has been steep, it is nothing I can’t handle thanks to my SAIS training.

Pleased with my performance, my supervisor continuously asks me to take on new projects. Next I will be working on analyzing data for a project using STATA, a statistical program I learned entirely at SAIS.

A SAIS degree is not an ordinary international relations master’s degree. The unique mix of economics and international relations in my curriculum ensured my education was as well-rounded as possible and my understanding of international issues as thorough as possible.

My SAIS degree means I don’t just know what is going on in the world; I know how to work with people of all backgrounds (thanks to the broad array of fellow SAIS students I have worked with). I have the skills I need to learn, adapt and grow to understand the complex concepts underlying global issues and to use that understanding to accomplish the tasks and assignments I am given.

The bottom line: I can now work alongside development experts from all over the world and contribute something that is valuable and substantial to the discussion and the work.

That doesn’t just come from the SAIS name. That comes from the SAIS education.

Friday, 9 March 2012


We've published quite a bit of serious matter of late, and candidates deserve a break from the grind.  Time for a quiz.

The prize? A SAIS Bologna tee shirt to the first person to answer correctly.

Question: What is this building's connection to SAIS Bologna?

You can send in your answers via the comment box below or by sending an email to


Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Interviews: the home stretch

Interviews have started and more are planned: we are in the home stretch of the application process.

By the end of this week, all non-American applicants to SAIS Bologna either will have been interviewed or will know when and where their interview will take place.

If by the end of the week you have not been contacted, please get in touch with us ( as soon as possible so we can arrange your interview. There is still time.

We are very fortunate to be able to interview all candidates. It allows us to get to know you better and gives you a chance to convince us that SAIS Bologna is right for you. For me, it is one of the best aspects of working at SAIS Bologna.

(Please remember that we interview candidates with non-U.S. passports who want to come to Bologna. U.S. citizens who want to study in Bologna apply through the DC Admissions Office and are not interviewed.)

At the risk of repeating myself because we've written about interviews quite a few times already, here are a few things to remember:
  • Use the interview to explain why you want to come to SAIS Bologna and why SAIS Bologna would benefit from having you among its students. Hopefully your motivation to attend goes beyond the program's reputation.
  • Find a chance to explain how SAIS fits into your career plans. You may not know what you want to do after graduate school -- don't worry, that is quite common (and was certainly my case when I attended SAIS). But you should be able to discuss why studying international relations and economics makes sense for you and how it might help you live the life you want to lead. How does SAIS Bologna relate to your values?
  • Think of questions you have about SAIS that cannot be answered by our website (or this online journal). Surely there are things you would like to know -- you just need to think hard and dig below the surface.
We will finish the interviews in the next three weeks; then the Admissions Committee will meet.

The admissions decisions will be communicated via email and the ApplyYourself online application system in early April. Candidates who are admitted will have until early May to commit themselves; we will communicate the dates for decisions later.

Admitted candidates living near Washington, DC, will be invited to a day-long Open House at SAIS DC in mid-April and also to a reception with SAIS Bologna alumni the same week.

All admitted candidates will be invited to the SAIS Bologna Open House on May 3 & 4.

We are considering holding an online session with admitted students to tackle the many questions that invariably arise. Do you think such a session would be useful?

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

"A sense of family" - the SAIS Bologna alumni

Today we turn the podium over to Alex Skinner, who attended SAIS Bologna in 2009-10 and then SAIS DC. As he recounts below, after graduating he started a job at the World Bank. He was helped in his search by SAIS's extensive network of alumni, who hold down leadership positions in many leading organizations, governments agencies and corporations.

SAIS’s greatest strength, next to its formidable academic programme, is certainly its alumni network. Particularly amongst the Bologna crowd, a very tight-knit group, there is a sense of family, a feeling of pleasure and joy derived from helping a fellow Bolognesi.

Alex Skinner BC'10
It has been extraordinary to observe the number of cases where that particular connection has led to jobs, not just within SAIS Bologna classes but across them as well.

In my particular case, I had some 15-20 informational interviews before getting a job as a research analyst at the World Development Report 2013, where I currently work. Of these, about 80% were with SAIS Bologna alumni from BC'05 to BC'09, between one and four years before my time. All of them were extremely helpful and even if, as in most cases, they were not able to link me directly to a job, they provided further contacts that have resulted in various offers since.

In the week I got my job, I was on the cusp of another, assisted directly by former Bolognesi. After a few months on the job, I was offered an interview, without having submitted anything myself, for a management position requiring 3-5 years of experience at the International Finance Coroporation (IFC). While I did not end up getting this job, the fact I was interviewed for a position I did not think I would ever attain was thanks to a referral from a BC'09 class member.

In addition, a few weeks after I started my job, my boss informed me that we would be requiring further analysts and asked me if I could recommend anyone. Within a week, I set up five classmates for interviews, two of whom eventually got jobs.

Overall, there are currently about 30 of my classmates working in various capacities at the World Bank and some others at the IMF. I have been personally astounded by how successful the alumni network has been, particularly in a time of economic strife, and would not have believed myself if I were reading this right now, about to embark on my Bologna adventure.

How very good it was that I placed my faith in SAIS nonetheless.

Alex Skinner (BC'10)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The best things about SAIS Bologna career trips

How does SAIS Bologna help students find the careers they want?

Career Services makes sure students can tackle the search for internships and jobs with the skills and know-how they need.

Every year the department organizes trips to European capitals where students meet movers and shakers -- many of them SAIS alumni -- learn about institutions and companies, and explore possible employment opportunities.

This year students have traveled to London, Brussels and Geneva to hear advice from alumni who were in their shoes 2, 5, 10, even 20 years ago.

In the video below, five students discuss the trips they have taken this year.

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Amina Abdiuahab