Thursday, 14 November 2013

'Rivista' magazine: A glimpse into the complexities of SAIS

SAIS is a community of learners binding students, faculty, staff and alumni around the world who span decades but share common values and experiences.

Some of the complexities are captured in SAIS Europe's magazine, Rivista.

Rivista magazine
The latest edition offers a glimpse into what alumni and current students find alluring about studying at SAIS. Beyond the scholarly expertise of the faculty you will find the unique experience of living in Bologna for a year, the diversity of the students, the evolving curriculum and the commitment of its graduates to contribute to bettering the world.

Director Kenneth Keller, who will be retiring at the end of this academic year, sketches some of the changes he has overseen during his eight years in Bologna: the creation of the Bologna Institute for Policy Research, the movement of the administration of the European Studies concentration to Bologna followed by its merger with Eurasian Studies, the imminent establishment of a chair in Middle East Studies in Bologna and the recognition of the Bologna Center as SAIS Europe.

You will find articles by SAIS Europe professors on corruption in developing countries, the challenge of governing Italy and security and governance concerns in Mali and the Sahel. There are pieces on the city of Bologna, including a gelato museum, on the diversity of the student body and on a recent careers trip to NATO.

The death of SAIS graduate Elif Nazmiye Yavuz (BC03/DC04) in the attack by militants on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September is a reminder of the dangers encountered by many SAIS students, faculty and alumni as they tackle the world's challenges, as well as the sacrifices that many have to make.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Life after SAIS: One man's path to the IMF

What do SAIS students do after they finish their studies?

Many different things. Take Justin Tyson as an example.

Tyson graduated from SAIS in 1999. He then worked for the Inter-American Development Bank and later as an economist at the UK Treasury. Currently he is a senior economist with the European Department of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Earlier this week he was back at the Bologna Center to deliver a lecture as part of SAIS Europe's seminar series and to answer some of our questions.

Q: How did you hear about SAIS and when did you attend?
Tyson: I originally heard about SAIS from a professor at Edinburgh University who, knowing of my interest in international affairs, recommended it to me. Still, after graduating from Edinburgh, I wanted to get some work experience and spent most of the next year working in Sudan with an NGO before enrolling in SAIS in 1997.
Justin Tyson (BC98/DC99)
(photo thanks to the Bologna Intitute for Policy Research)

Q: Did you go to Bologna and then Washington? If so, do you think that was a good choice for you?
Tyson: Yes, I did the first year at Bologna. I really enjoyed the sense of close community, intellectual diversity and fun that I found in SAIS Europe.

Q: When you applied to SAIS, did you know what you wanted to do after graduation? If not, when did you settle on a path?
Tyson: Well, I thought I did. When I enrolled in SAIS my idea was that after graduation I would return to work in the NGO world. However, SAIS provided me an introduction to economics, which I ended up enjoying more than I had expected to. After SAIS, I gravitated towards a career that would allow me to continue to explore this field.

Q: You've worked at the UK Treasury, the Inter-American Development Bank and the IMF. Did SAIS prepare you well for these jobs?
Tyson: I found the combination of theoretical preparation and public policy pragmatism that I got from SAIS particularly useful in the jobs I have done.

Q: This week you're speaking at SAIS Europe on "Dealing with High Debt in an Era of Low Growth". Could you summarize your work?
Tyson: Our paper takes a closer look at the historical record and key trade-offs in reducing high public debt levels in advanced economies. The bottom line: It is possible to reduce debt when growth is low, but the burden will fall mostly on the public budget, which is not easy in the best of times. Initially, this might weaken growth even further, but ultimately perseverance should pay off.

Q: Are any of your SAIS classmates also working at the IMF? Other SAISers?
Tyson: Yes – there are a few of us at the IMF.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Interested in defense and intelligence? Here's the club for you.

They have a commander-in-chief, secretary of defense and attorney-general. And they serve cookies at every meeting.

The Defense and Intelligence Club is a longstanding fixture among student organizations at SAIS Europe, no surprise given the level of interest here in global security, strategy and intelligence gathering.

"Through educational programs, social events and career panels, the D+I Club strives to be an inclusive meeting place for the open exchange of ideas among members of the SAIS community," said Meaghan Doherty, this year's D&I "commander-in-chief".

The club's first event was a screening of the film classic "La Bataille d'Alger", by Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, followed by a discussion led by Prof. William Belding.

Later this month club members will hold a career "sit-down" session with Prof. Gary Sick, a senior research scholar at Columbia University who is teaching a mini-course at the Bologna Center this autumn. They will be sure to quiz him on his service under U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and his experience as the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

The D&I ├ętat-major:
Kandaswamy, Chase, Davie, Doherty, Vanella
The club currently has nearly 60 student members from various concentrations -- "Not just Strategic Studies," Doherty said. It is planning a panel featuring SAIS Europe students with experience in defense and intelligence, regular film nights, aperitivi with faculty and Skype conference calls with industry practitioners.

Joining Doherty in the club's general staff are Deputy Director Alix Davie, Secretary of Defense Jackie Chase, Attorney-General Anand Kandaswamy and General Counsel Mario Vanella.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tips on getting in to SAIS (and a quiz)

Do you want to maximize your chances of admission to SAIS?

We find that candidates who research their options carefully tend to submit the strongest applications. That means understanding why you want to study international relations in graduate school and what SAIS is all about.

Here are some tips:

  • Read this blog regularly. Self-promotion? Maybe. But we strive in this blog to explain admissions procedures and expectations, while conveying what goes on at SAIS. Those who read the blog regularly have a good understanding of the admissions process and the SAIS experience. You don't need a dinosaur like me to tell you how to stay in regular touch with this blog. There's an RSS feed, and it can also be emailed directly to you when we update it three times a week.

Pop quiz: Which browser has been most popular among readers of this blog since it was launched in 2010? (The winner gets a free Bologna Center tee shirt. Want to play? Send in your answer via a comment below or in an email to

  • Ask us questions. We like to speak to prospective applicants. We meet many of them during our travels and in our online information sessions. We are happy to set up phone calls (+39 051 29 17 811) or to speak via Skype (jhubc.admissions). Here are details for the next two online sessions:

- November 26 at 10 am CET (0900 GMT) - letters of recommendation
- December 12 at 4 pm CET (1500 GMT) - analytical essay

If you are interested in participating in either of the online sessions, send an email to, and we'll send you instructions for connecting.
  • Consider visiting us in Bologna or DC. We can organize ad hoc visits that include attending a class or two and meeting students and faculty. A great way to get to know SAIS Europe is to attend our annual Open Day, which this year is on Friday, December 6. To register, click here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Prof. Gary Sick on U.S.-Iran relations: "The most promising point we've had."

"It's an historic opportunity."

That is how Prof. Gary Sick characterizes relations today between the United States and Iran.

Prof. Sick had a front-row seat when 52 U.S. diplomats were captured in Tehran and held hostage for 444 days from 1979-81. He is currently in Bologna teaching a four-part lecture series on the United States and the Gulf. He is an example of the intellectual and professional expertise that SAIS students can tap into and which helps set the SAIS experience apart.

Consider Sick's track record: He served on the National Security Council under U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the 1979-81 hostage crisis.

An adjunct professor and senior research scholar at Columbia University, Sick has worked at the Ford Foundation, is an emeritus member of the board of Human Rights Watch in New York and serves as executive director of Gulf/2000, an international online project on developments in the Gulf.

Sick, who is teaching his mini-course in Bologna for the 4th consecutive year, spoke to us about his course and U.S. relations with Iran in an interview that can be seen below.

Asked if he is more optimistic about relations between Washington and Tehran this year than last, he said, "This is the most promising point we've had between these two countries." Noting that the U.S. and Iran have many converging interests, he said: "If they can't find a way out of this, then perhaps there is no way out."

What he would say to the U.S. and Iranian presidents if he met them in an elevator? "Don't be deflected from your main purpose."

Has SAIS Europe changed since he started teaching here? "As far as I can tell, the school itself has not changed. It's a very happy place."

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

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Careers: Exploring the City and the world of finance

Each year SAIS Europe’s Career Services Office organizes trips that expose students to some of the myriad professional opportunities available to them after graduating.

SAIS students before their meeting at the
Royal Bank of Scotland
The treks allow SAIS students to sit down with industry practitioners at their offices to learn what it is like to work in that profession. Often the practitioners are SAIS graduates themselves. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their time, experience and advice with current students testify to the reach and vigor of the SAIS network.

Last month 19 first- and second-year SAIS students -- 17 from Bologna and two from DC -- traveled to London for the 2013 Finance Career trek.

Students met investment professionals -- many of them SAIS alumni -- from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Rogge Capital, Satya Capital and Fitch Ratings. Our hosts provided a range of perspectives into the world of finance.

After two days of discussion and exploration of the City, students returned to Bologna and Washington with new insight, ready to tackle the internship and job application process.

Samuel Semwangu (BC14/DC15)