Friday, 31 August 2012

How to get answers to your questions

We'll be meeting prospective applicants over the next few months, both in person and online.

Here are the dates and times of the next SAIS Bologna online information sessions:

   Sept 18 -  4 pm Italy time (1400 GMT)
   Oct 24  -  noon Italy time (1000 GMT)
   Nov 28 -  5 pm Italy time (1600 GMT)
   Dec 19  - noon Italy time (1100 GMT)

We'll circulate details for connecting to the online sessions via email and on this Journal beforehand.

Amina or I will be present at four graduate school fairs in Europe being organized by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs:

   Nov 10 - London, 1 pm
   Nov 12 - St. Gallen, Switzerland, 6 pm
   Nov 14 - Budapest, 6 pm
   Nov 15 - Paris, 6 pm

Here is the schedule for our colleagues at SAIS DC, who will be crisscrossing the United States and Latin America in coming weeks.

These sessions are great opportunities to learn more about us, ask questions and hear others' queries.

In addition, we are happy to set up one-on-one chats on the phone or via Skype, and prospective applicants can also come visit us in person. Our next Open Day is set for Friday, December 7.

To reach us by email, you can write to

Nelson Graves


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Entering uncharted waters

Natalia Drozdiak is a dual Belgian-American citizen who grew up on both sides of the Atlantic, graduated from Bard College in New York State in 2010 and wrote for a German political magazine and Reuters News before starting SAIS Bologna this month.

Natalia has chosen European Studies as her concentration at SAIS.

"The continent is entering uncharted waters," she  wrote recently. "Europe is undergoing massive political and economic changes and will continue to do so over the next decade, making the continent one of the most interesting areas of study in international relations at the moment."

We asked Natalia, who arrived in Bologna ahead of pre-term, to write about her first impressions.

I stepped off the train in Bologna to a desolate ghost town: window shutters tightly closed, store windows boarded up and only a few stragglers -- maps in hand -- braving the steamy mid-day heat. It was ferragosto -- Italy's national holiday on the 15th of August -- so all was as expected.

I stumbled to my bed & breakfast in a half daze but promptly forgot my heat headache as soon as I looked up at the streets that I will be calling home for the next ten months.

I was enthralled by the caramel and peach-coloured buildings that are bolstered by shady stone porticoes. Almost all of the walls of these attractive buildings are defaced with graffiti. In most cases this might detract from the city’s beauty, but in Bologna it seems to add some sort of quirky charm.

As I continued to drag my mammoth suitcase through the hot streets, I pondered what the artists intended to invoke when they had scrawled “bla bla bla” and other, more vulgar slogans on the ancient city walls.

The next day I headed for the campus center where I met classmates taking advantage of the air conditioning and Internet connection. After building quick bonds over our backgrounds and our shared hunt for an apartment, a group of us spilled out into the sauna-streets and made a beeline for the nearest gelato vendor.

On our walk over, we noted familiar city-street odors  mingling with the smell of garlic wafting down from open windows. Passing by cafés, we noticed well-heeled men pounding down shots of espresso while standing at the bar -- only to enter a cell-phone store hours later where we were greeted with service as slow as molasses.

Later that afternoon, we bid each other good-bye as a classmate and I made plans to take a field trip to Modena the following day.

I met my new friend in front of the campus center the next morning, and we took off for the main train station. On our way, we made a pit stop at the fruit stand around the corner for the day’s provisions of peaches and water. To thank us for our minute purchases, the shop owner served us slices of cool melon, and we sank our teeth into them just outside the store.

After bumping into at least a handful of already familiar faces on our walk through town, we caught the train for a 20-minute ride to Modena.

Back in Bologna by sundown, my peer and I sauntered down to Piazza Verdi where we met colleagues over a few glasses of spumante on tap. We’ve known each other for only a few days, but already the entire group was joking around like old friends, talking about everything under the sun from the city’s best pizzeria to our different takes on the euro-zone debt crisis.

The most animated exchange, though, occurred later that evening.

“Supply and demand, Mohammed, supply and demand!” I heard someone exclaim behind me. I twisted my head to observe the dispute and was convinced I had landed in a special group of people when there I saw my classmate haggling in Hindi with an Indian man over the price of some useful junk he was trying to sell him.

All of this in only the first week. I can’t help but imagine what the rest of this year might bring.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A helping hand ... and giving back to SAIS Bologna

SAIS Bologna students face a host of challenges during their time here, but help is never far away.

There is the academic challenge: SAIS is a rigorous program for even the best prepared. Many students are experiencing for the first time a U.S.-style education, with its premium on class participation and thorough class preparation.

Students need to make fresh friends, familiarize themselves with a new city and, except for those who have lived in Italy before, cope in a new country with its charming but occasionally demanding idiosyncrasies.

Enter Margel Highet, the director of Student Affairs. Below she outlines her role helping ensure students have the most rewarding experience possible while in Bologna. 

Q:  What is your role at SAIS Bologna?
Highet: I work with the students in all aspects of their life here, from academic counseling to helping to deal with any personal issues that might arise during their stay. I also work closely with the Student Government. Together we work to make our students' time in Bologna productive, memorable and really enjoyable.

Q:  What are the key issues for incoming SAIS Bologna students?
Highet: The key issues we are dealing with now are questions about housing, insurance, where to buy a fan and, of course, lots of questions about the program and how to build one's course schedule to get the most out of your time here while preparing for your second year in Washington.

Q:  You worked at SAIS DC before coming here. What are the main differences between the two campuses?
Highet: The main difference between the campuses is the close-knit community of the Bologna Center. In Bologna, the student body is smaller, there is one main classroom building for students to get to know and there are very few jobs outside of the School. All of this means the students tend to focus their social life and and their time in and around the Bologna Center. It is much easier to get to know the other students in this type of environment. I should add that the travel opportunities in Italy might help the general sense of camaraderie as well.

In Washington there are three classroom buildings, many more students, and many of the students have internships off campus so there is not as much opportunity to build a general community feeling. Students typically find their programs to be their central focal point and get to know each other well through classes and other extracurricular activities. The bolognesi returning to Washington, of course, expand their circle to include all of their classmates.

Q: If you had one piece of advice to give to an incoming student, what would it be?
Highet: Take a deep breath and relax. It will all work out, and you will look back on this year as one of the best in your life!

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

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

SAIS Bologna grads tackle tough issues in print

Syria, Kosovo, Mali and the euro zone crisis: recent SAIS Bologna graduates have tackled these thorny and pressing issues in well-known publications this summer before starting their second year of studies in Washington.

Their writing reflects admirable intellectual curiosity, consistent with the breadth and depth of the SAIS curriculum.

Niamh O'Sullivan examines the quandary facing outside powers as they watch fighting rage in Syria. "The dilemma of the Syrian conflict is how much longer the international community can sit by and watch as evidence of the regime's blatant disregard for human rights continues to mount," the 2012 SAIS Bologna graduate writes in a paper published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali.

Niamh O'Sullivan
Applying "Just War theory" to Syria, O'Sullivan concludes bitterly that "the conflict in Syria represents the tragic space between the unacceptable and the impossible."

"It is with heavy heart that I advocate that the international community stay out but that is not to say we should stand idle," she writes, endorsing stepped-up sanctions against the Syrian regime, non-military support for rebel fighters and relief aid to victims.

A 2010 graduate of Trinity College Dublin, O'Sullivan will soon be starting her second year at SAIS in Washington. Her paper -- "The Moral Enigma of an Intervention in Syria: A Just War Analysis" -- was published earlier this month by the Rome-based think tank.

Pasqualina Lepore
Pasqualina Lepore, like O'Sullivan a 2012 graduate of SAIS Bologna, looks at the February 2012 "asterisk agreement" between Serbia and Kosovo that has allowed Pristina to represent itself at regional meetings with the nameplate "Kosovo*".

In a paper also published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Lepore concludes that the agreement has smoothed Kosovo's and Serbia's path towards the European Union but fails to address the key bones of contention between the parties, namely North Kosovo and Pristina's status.

Her paper, entitled "Beyond the Asterisk Agreement", calls on the EU to launch a more comprehensive and ambitious dialogue with Belgrade, Pristina and representatives of North Kosovo.

Lepore received a B.A. from the University of Bologna Forlì in 2009 and a master's in diplomatic and international sciences from the same university two years later before enrolling in SAIS.

Jamie Bouverie looks at the effects that Mali's political crisis is having on Timbuktu -- what he calls "one of the world's most fabled cities."
Jamie Bouverie

"Timbuktu has been gravely and irreversibly affected by Mali's current dual crisis," he writes in "Timbuktu: The End of Tourism?", published by ThinkAfricaPress.

His article concludes that if the Islamist extremist group Ansar Dine retains control of the northern cities, "then Timbuktu will probably wave goodbye to tourism once and for all."

If the Islamist group were evicted by either the Malian army or insurgents, "a slow and difficult recovery may just be possible," the 2011 graduate of Cambridge University writes.

Still, he concludes, "it seems more likely that the Islamists will further assert themselves in northern Mali, making the long term decline of Timbuktu inevitable."

Matthew Melchiorre
Matthew Melchiorre shows scant mercy towards advocates of euro bonds in his article, "Angela Merkel's Bismarckian Euro Diplomacy," published by Forbes.

"Their implementation would signal German support of profligate euro zone governments in perpetuity," he writes.

Pursuing his comparison of the German chancellor with her 19th century counterpart Otto von Bismarck, Melchiorre says, "Just as the Balkan conflict was the bane of Bismarck's careful diplomacy, the inevitability of default in the euro zone periphery is the canary in Merkel's coalmine."

Both Bouverie and Melchiorre will be joining O'Sullivan and Lepore at SAIS DC this fall.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A summer in pictures

Dusty villages, sprawling cities. Arid deserts, verdant fjords. Weaving wool, bungee jumping.

The summer experiences of the incoming SAIS Bologna class were as diverse as the students.

For a glimpse, check out this slideshow:

If you are reading this via email, click here to see the slideshow.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Meeting our faculty: Prof. Plummer

Michael Plummer is a resident faculty member at SAIS Bologna and does some heavy lifting in the Economics Department.

Many incoming students this year will be studying Microeconomics with him in Pre-term. In the fall semester he'll be teaching both International Trade and International Monetary Theory. Then in the spring, in addition to Trade he'll be teaching Asian Economic Development.

Prof. Plummer studied at SAIS Bologna before getting his Ph.D at Michigan State University. In May he spoke to us about his latest publication, the Oxford Handbook of International Commercial Policy.

Last but certainly not least, you can hear his drumming with the BC Fuzz band in this slideshow on the end-of-year ceremony in May.

What courses are you teaching?
International Trade Theory, International Monetary Theory, Asian Economic Development, Microeconomics.

Your degrees?
Ph.D and MA from Michigan State University; Bologna Center Diploma from the Johns Hopkins University Bologna Center; BA, University of Michigan.

Where have you taught?
I have been a professor at many universities. However, before coming to SAIS I was at Brandeis University for 8 years. In terms of visiting/one-year or more appointments, I’ve taught at Kobe University (Japan), the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Albion College. Universities where I’ve taught 1 or more courses:  Sciences Po (Paris), Bocconi University, Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, University of Bologna (Bologna and Forlì campuses), Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, Doshisha University, University of Milano-Politecnico, University of Carlo Cattaneo, Harvard University, University of Hawaii, and Michigan State University.

How long have you been teaching at SAIS Bologna?
12 years, with a two-year leave as Head of the Development Division of the OECD.

A link to a recent publication by you?

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
Great interaction between students and faculty; great colleagues; wonderful academic environment.

Anything special about Bologna?
La dotta, la grassa e la rossa (bricks, that is; not politics).

Your favorite book?
Too many to single out one.

Running, music.

A quote?
"In the long run, we are all dead."

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Finding your apartment in Bologna

Salvatore's keyboard
SAIS Bologna students have started to arrive. It's nice to see them meet and socialize in the hallways, at Giulio's Caffè and at the most prominent gathering point of the moment: Salvatore's office on the second floor.

Every morning and afternoon, groups of students mingle there before venturing out to search for a new home in Bologna.

I decided to follow one of the first groups of students on their tour and captured some of it on video. It was fun and reminded me of how easy the search can be.

SAIS Bologna students live in apartments, and Salvatore has been helping them find flats for more than three decades. He even found my colleague Nelson Graves's apartment in 1981!

Before embarking on the afternoon excursion, Salvatore asked students for their housing preferences. He then started picking keys from the crowded board in the picture.

On the tour we saw some two dozen apartments, about one third of the flats that Salvatore administers. All of them were within 5-to-20 minutes on foot from SAIS Bologna on via Belmeloro. 

We walked to a few apartments on Via Belmeloro before hopping into Salvatore's mini-bus. It was hot, and walking up and down stairs was a challenge. Salvatore got water and ice cream for everyone. He may keep a poker face, but he sure knows how to put a smile on people's faces.

Below is a video that captures moments of the tour. Last year we did the same in this video. You'd be excused if, after watching one or the other, you agreed that finding housing is not something to worry too much about.

If you're reading this via email, you can see this year's video here.

Amina Abdiuahab

Monday, 20 August 2012

Next information session: Tuesday, August 28

Our next monthly online information session is set for:

Tuesday, August 28 at 2 pm Italy time (noon GMT).

These sessions give prospective applicants a chance to learn more about us and to ask any questions they like. We're happy to discuss our academic program, living in Bologna, financial aid, career opportunities, application procedures -- whatever participants want to discuss.

To participate, all you need is an Internet connection, plus a phone line to make a local or toll-free call for the audio portion of the session.

For details on how to connect to the August 28 session, click here. Please read them carefully.

In next week's session we'll give tips on making sure you can complete an application on time.

If you have any questions about the session, feel free to write to or call us at +39 051 29 17 847.

We'll be holding these sessions each month, at different times to accommodate different time zones. Here is our tentative schedule looking ahead and proposed themes; we have not yet set the times of sessions beyond September's:

September 18 at 4 pm Italy time (1400 GMT) - standardized tests
October 24 - letters of recommendation
November 28 - statement of purpose
December 19 - analytical essay

There will be separate instructions for connecting to these sessions between September and December. We'll circulate them via email and also on this Journal.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The early bird gets the worm

Here's a small dose of procedural priming for those considering applying to SAIS Bologna.


Historically SAIS Bologna's deadline for applications has been February 1; you may yet encounter an odd piece of literature that has that date by mistake.

The new deadline for all applicants is January 7. This applies to all degrees and all nationalities.

Keep in mind that with our online system, you can start an application, save it and come back to it later. We're updating the application now and plan to have the revamped form ready by early September.

The earlier you start planning, the better. Some elements of the application take time to pull together: academic transcripts and letters of recommendation come to mind. You will want mull over your ideas for your statement of purpose and analytical essay. Questions you cannot foresee now will occur to you. Finally, you may want to leave yourself enough time to take the standardized tests more than once.

Some candidates can put together a dossier in very little time. But we find that the strongest applications come from those who have thought long and hard about why SAIS Bologna is for them. They have the best chance of getting in, and if they enroll they tend to thrive because they've thought things out in advance.

Mind you, not everyone knows in advance that they want to apply to SAIS. Some learn about us rather late in the process, and others take time to make up their minds. So it is not essential to start months in advance. In any case, we appreciate diversity!

FINANCIAL AID DEADLINE = February 15, 2013

If you want to apply for financial aid from SAIS Bologna, the deadline for requests is February 15. SAIS Bologna manages its own pool of aid, which is allocated on the basis of need and merit.

For more information on financial aid, click here.

Most students mix a variety of sources of funds to underwrite their costs: grants, loans, savings, earnings from part-time work. Rich uncles can help; so does creative thinking.

Candidates are urged to start exploring financing options early. While SAIS has its own pool of aid, many students receive grants from outside sources. For a partial list, click here.

Graduate school -- at SAIS or elsewhere -- is an investment for every student of time, energy and money. The truly determined candidates find a way to manage the challenge. If you have questions, be sure to ask them of us.


While most elements of the application will be sent to us online, including letters of recommendation which can be uploaded by the referees, transcripts need to be sent to us by snail mail.

Our Admissions Office in Washington will be receiving the transcripts and uploading them into our system. Here is the address where they should be mailed:

SAIS DC Admissions Office
1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Questions? You can contact us by sending an email to, calling us at +39 051 29 17 811 or Skyping us at jhubc.admissions. Don't be shy.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The best possible lift-off

Hayat Essakkati attended SAIS Bologna in 2009-10 and graduated from SAIS in Washington in 2011. She is one of a number of SAIS graduates to go on to work at the World Bank. Below she reflects on her SAIS experience and gives some advice to young people like herself who want to change the world, "step by step".

Since childhood I have longed to break free from groups because with time they tend to become homogenized. From the moment I discovered similar speech, style or habits in a group, I would find some way to get out.

Now I understand why I was so anti-group: they weren’t big enough. SAIS is the only place where I have found like-minded people in great numbers.

Hayat in front of the World Bank in Washington
The connectivity doesn’t end with your own class. It extends to all SAIS classes, especially the Bologna classes, whose students went through the same experience, same requirements, same building, in some cases the same professors and most importantly enjoyed the same ambiance that I can’t explain in words but which every SAISer will understand.

As a Dutch national with Moroccan origins, I had no idea how I could go to an American graduate school and never even thought of it until I read “Think Big” by neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The book was more than inspiring; it showed how someone with almost no future prospects grew to become a world famous surgeon.

After watching the Bologna Center video, I knew I had to apply. I have never regretted that decision as it truly changed my life. I had thought I did not want to pursue graduate studies because I believed I wanted to start a company after graduation. During my studies I learned to be humble as change doesn’t happen overnight; sheer idealism was replaced by realistic idealism where you know you can make a difference in the world step by step.

Since childhood I have looked for inspiration, for something greater than the small village in Holland where I grew up or the even smaller village in Morocco where I spent my summers. From a young age I would interview inspirational people who challenged the status quo so I could learn from them.

While at Johns Hopkins, don’t waste your time framing your profile just to land a job; frame it as your own so you land your job. This is what SAIS stands for -- to enable you to fulfill your aspirations.

On a mission in Morocco
I have always wanted to make a difference for the Arab youth as I see their desperation, fears, hopes and above all undiscovered talents. I was lucky to be born in a wealthy country, but I could well have ended up cleaning houses in a village in Morocco.

After graduation from SAIS, I landed a job with the Youth Team of the MENA region at the World Bank thanks to a referral by a SAIS alumnus. Hired by the World Bank office in Marseilles, I now have the opportunity to travel across the Maghreb and the United States. I could not wish for a better job as my heart and soul are with the development of Arab youth as they need it the most; a little push so their wishes become reality as did mine.

The SAIS network does not lose its effectiveness once you get a job. In my work I still benefit from the many contacts I made while at SAIS. SAIS gives the best possible lift-off in one's career -- like the always supportive distant uncle who watches your back.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

"The best year of our lives"

SAIS scholars and alumni are our best ambassadors.

Little wonder then that students looking to embark on the SAIS journey want to hear from current students or those who have recently completed their studies. Enter the Communications Office, which makes sure prospective students can hear alumni and see their faces.

Case in point is the series "One Day at Hopkins SAIS Bologna". Like Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons", there is a video clip for each season: Episode1: Winter featured alumna Chidiogo Akunyili and Episode 2: Spring focused on Mac Broderick.

Just released Episode 3: Summer presents Judit Vasarhelyi-Kondor from Hungary. Judit finished the first year of her MA studies in Bologna in May and is now on her way to DC for her final year.

A European Studies concentrator, Judit chose SAIS to pursue public policy-making. While in Bologna she worked at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR) as a research assistant.

(Some of our readers may recognize Judit from our quiz last week.)

Other SAIS Bologna alumni appear in videos in the "Voices of the Bologna Center"series, which also offers text versions.

Below is Judit's video. Enjoy -- before the cold months of winter arrive.

If you're reading this post on email, click here to view the video.

Amina Abdiuahab

What do you think about our new look?

Participants in the survey we conducted earlier this summer told us we should spruce up this Journal's look and improve its navigability.

We've opted for a different look, not necessarily definitively but as an experiment.

What do you think? Is it easier to read and navigate?

As ever, your comments are welcome, either through the comment box below or with an email to Any comments will confidential.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Quiz: Where is this painting?

Time for a ... quiz.

The winner will get a SAIS Bologna tee shirt.

In the video below, SAIS student Judit Vasarhelyi-Kondor is seated in front of a painting.

Where is the painting located?

(Hint: It's in a building that is part of SAIS Bologna but not the main building on via Belmeloro. It's part of a collection of art put together by a recently founded think tank that is part of SAIS Bologna.)

You can answer using the comment box below or by sending an email to

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

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Our most popular posts and most viewed videos

This is the time of year when many prospective candidates, trawling the Internet for information about graduate programs, discover SAIS Bologna.

With these readers in mind, we offer a list of the most viewed posts since we launched this Journal in December 2010.

1. The Analytical Essay (Nov 16, 2011)
2. The Statement of Purpose (Oct 19, 2011)
3. Seeing how you think (Feb 21, 2011)
4. Standardized tests: No time to wait (Oct 5, 2011)
5. What is in a name? (Dec 9, 2010)
6. Jobs at SAIS Bologna (May 24, 2012)
7. Learning outside the classroom (Mar 7, 2011)
8. A Window on Yourself (Dec 15, 2010)
9. A video peek at SAIS DC (Mar 10, 2011)
10. Your interview (Feb 23, 2012)

Do you have a favorite post that you think should be on this list?

Here's the video that has attracted the most views -- doubtless because we put the name of the ECB president in the title.

The video that is clearly about SAIS that drew the most views is this one, with Rebekah Lipsky giving us a tour of SAIS DC:

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

With these viewing statistics in mind, we will continue in coming months to explain admissions procedures and discuss key elements of the application.

We also think we should provide a new tour of SAIS BC and of the city of Bologna. Stay tuned.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

At the crossroads of politics and law

Run across Justin Frosini on a given day and you can see him wearing any of a number of hats.

At SAIS Bologna Frosini is an adjunct professor of constitutional law. He teaches at Bocconi University, Italy's best-known business school, and also heads the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD), a think tank co-founded by SAIS Bologna and the University of Bologna.

It's not so much that Frosini stands at an intersection connecting SAIS Bologna and two other prominent institutions. He is the intersection.

Frosini has just written a book, "Constitutional Preambles At a Crossroads between Politics and Law", published by Maggioli Editore. Next spring he will teach an international law course at SAIS Bologna called "Constitutional Development and Democratization".

As our readers may know, International Law is one of the concentrations within the International Relations field at SAIS. What is the connection between his new book and SAIS?

Frosini answered our questions, including this last one, before heading to the Caribbean for a conference.

Q: What is your book about?
Frosini: It is about the introductory statements, known as preambles, that you find at the beginning of many constitutions including the American Constitution of 1787. The majority of legal scholars believe that these preambles are not truly operative, and what I have tried to do is verify whether that is really the case by conducting a comparative study examining constitutional preambles across the globe.

Q: How did you get the idea for the book?
Frosini: I first started studying this topic while I was doing my Ph.D in constitutional law. This may sound rather banal but when you are doing research on constitutional systems of the world, inevitably you begin by reading a country's constitution and the first thing you come across is the preamble.

What tickled my curiosity was the fact that the preamble is often the best known part of the constitution -- I'm sure you can recite the American preamble off by heart, Nelson -- and yet it is generally considered to lack legal value. I was not completely convinced that this was always the case, and given the fact that there is very little specialised literature on this topic I was prompted to carry out this study.

Q: Once you started writing it, were you surprised by any of your findings?
Frosini: Yes and no. With regard to the United States and France, which I focus on in the second section of the book, my findings confirmed that the two countries stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. In the States the preamble is not considered to be a source of substantive law, while in France the preamble is on an equal footing with the articled provisions of the 1958 Constitution.

But I was surprised by the number of other countries that consider the preamble to be truly operative. Furthermore, the textual analysis, contained in the first section of the book, provided some unexpected results.

Q: Who should read it?
Frosini: Well, as a preamble (sorry I couldn't resist that) let me say that I don't think this book is going to become a blockbuster (!), but I do believe it will be of interest to anyone studying or doing research in the field of comparative constitutional law and especially those focusing on the case law of Constitutional and Supreme Courts. In fact, as my findings demonstrate, the courts play the role of the protagonist in determining whether the preamble is truly operative or not.

Q: You're an expert in constitutional studies. Is your book relevant to work that is done at SAIS Bologna? If so, how?
Frosini: Yes, it is specifically relevant to the research carried out at the CCSDD and to the course I will be teaching in the second semester (Constitutional Development and Democratisation). But it is also relevant in more general terms with regard to the trends in global constitutionalism which is of the utmost importance for anyone doing advanced international studies.

I firmly believe that the preambles of more recent constitutions can be used as a litmus test to verify what principles and values are actually emerging in different parts of the world today -- the preamble to the new and rather controversial Constitution of Hungary being a good example.

Q: What next?
Frosini: First I have to finish a book I am writing on the 1948 Italian Constitution for Hart Publishing's book series "Constitutional Systems of the World".

Then the idea is to return to my research on constitutional preambles and move from the wide comparative study that I have just completed to more narrowly-focused research on some of the countries where I have found that the preamble to the constitution has a prominent role.

Finally, I will also be closely monitoring the progress of the constitution-drafting process in the countries of North Africa as part of a research project on the Arab Spring currently being conducted by a team of researchers here at the CCSDD.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Why SAIS Bologna? One student's answer

Lisa Heinrich attended SAIS Bologna in 2010-11 and then SAIS DC before graduating this past May. She enrolled at SAIS shortly after finishing her undergraduate studies and so is proof that while many SAIS students work before matriculating, not all do.

Before starting SAIS, Lisa had worked for an online magazine and radio in Germany and also on a documentary about Germans in Georgia. Now she is working for Oxford Analytica.

We asked Lisa to discuss her transitions, first to the U.S. academic system, then to SAIS DC from SAIS Bologna.

During my last year of bachelor’s studies at the University of Bremen, I started thinking about MA programs.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to try to get into an English-language program and to be forced to think, write and speak in English. Although my English was already strong, I felt more comfortable expressing myself in German.

Because I aimed to work in international relations, I wanted to be able to write and speak in English without having to ponder at length. Now, two years later, I can say I have just about succeeded – almost at the expense of my German. But that’s another story.

Lisa at SAIS graduation in May
Why SAIS Bologna?

As a non-U.S. national I had to decide which SAIS campus to apply to – for non-Americans, the DC and Bologna campuses have different application processes. I chose the Bologna campus for several reasons.

First, I had spent my Erasmus semester in Bologna and fallen in love with the city. During my first stint in Bologna I had spent a lot of time with the SAIS crowd and seen first-hand what a great experience it is, especially the mix of nationalities and the community feeling, what some call “the SAIS bubble”.

From a practical standpoint, because I was in the midst of writing my bachelor’s thesis during the application period, I did not have time to take the GRE, which is not required by SAIS Bologna.

Also, I was hopeful I would land financial aid at SAIS Bologna, which has an extensive network of donors, many of them loyal alumni including large numbers of Germans.

Being from Germany, where education is largely free, the monetary factor was clearly important to me as it is for many Europeans. But SAIS was very supportive in that respect, and Germans enjoy many opportunities to receive aid from generous German institutions.

Just about everyone who studies at SAIS Bologna will tell you they spent the best year of their lives in Bologna. Being a cynic, I was sure this was a marketing tool. Best year of their lives? That sounded a bit too much for me.

But now that I have spent a year at SAIS Bologna, I can say with confidence that it is true – at least up to now. If I had to do it all over again, I would pick SAIS Bologna over any other school.


Adapting to the U.S. academic system was a bit difficult at the beginning but totally manageable. There can be a lot of busy work, and I must admit that sometimes I thought to myself: “This is silly and repetitive. Why do they make me do all of this?” But learning to manage a busy schedule has proven very helpful in my new job.

On a SAIS field trip
I was also freaked out that “C” was a failing grade in the U.S. system and that you have only ONE try. In Germany, if you fail an exam (or just didn’t feel like taking it and didn’t show up), you’ll always have a second, third, fourth try without any negative consequences.

But my scholarship at SAIS required that I not fail a single class. If I failed two, I would get kicked out. I admit that freaked me out.


My transfer to DC was fairly smooth. Luckily my roommate was already there over the summer, so he looked for apartments. But choosing classes was not that easy in DC, where there is a wide range of courses. Often several courses that interested me overlapped.

The atmosphere is very different in DC than in Bologna. That is not to say that Bologna is better, but it’s different. DC offers an impressive array of speakers and also interesting people you can meet during luncheon talks all over the city.

Things are not as cozy and you have to work hard to manage to keep your friendships from Bologna alive because DC is bigger, people have friends outside of SAIS and everyone is busier with networking, job hunting and internships.

So the transfer can be harder for non-Americans than it is for Americans, who after all are returning home whereas we have to adapt to a new way of life in a new city and new country. There is less of a comforting community than in Bologna. But you get used to it very quickly, and it is important to expand your horizons and meet the DC students as well because they can be a great asset when it comes to fun things to do in town!

Last but definitely not least, what is special about SAIS is the great support recent graduates get from alumni. I am a prime example of someone who has benefited from what some call “the SAIS mafia”.

Two weeks after graduation I received a job offer from Oxford Analytica, a company I had been introduced to through a SAIS alum – also a bolognese. Thanks to her, I have found my dream job. The help from alumni is just amazing, particularly for the bolognesi, who stick together for generations.

The shared experience of SAIS Bologna creates a very special bond, and a fellow bolognese will always lend a helping hand.