Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meet Prof. Gianfranco Pasquino

What course are you teaching?
Contemporary Italian Politics (Fall semester)
Political Systems of the Developing World (Spring semester)

Your degrees?
SAIS, MA in International Relations, 1967 (very proud of it)

Where have you taught?
U. of Bologna, U. of Florence, UCLA, SAIS DC, SAIS Bologna Center since, at least, 1976

How long have you been teaching at SAIS Bologna?
Hence, about 35 years

A link to a recent publication/oped/academic work by you?
My University of Bologna Profile:

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
Exceptional: it changed my life. I am a SAIS Bologna alumnus from 1966.

Anything special about Bologna?
Small and beautiful with a great University (and the Bologna Center)

Your favorite book?
"Auto da fé," by Elias Canetti

I am a moviegoer.

A quote
"Il cielo stellato sopra di me; la mia coscienza in me." - Immanuel Kant

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is SAIS Bologna for you? Here are ways to find out

This post is for those who are wondering if SAIS Bologna might be for them.

There will be a number of opportunities in coming weeks for you to learn more about our program and to meet some of our students, faculty, alumni and staff. Below is a rundown on the events.

If you have any questions, be sure to write us at


Saturday, October 15 (1030-1300)
SAIS alumni will gather in the morning at the Deutsche Gessellschaft für Aswärtige Politik for a program that will include an address by SAIS Bologna Director Kenneth Keller and a panel discussion. There is also a dinner that evening at 1930.

Monday, October 17 (1800)
A group of current students on a career trip will join SAIS alumni for cocktails.

If you are interested in participating in either the Berlin or the London event, please send an email to and we will follow up.


Alumni will join Amina Abdiuahab and myself at four fairs organized by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA):

Wednesday, November 2 (1800-2000)
The Diplomatic Academy

Thursday, November 3 (1700-2000)
The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Saturday, November 5 (1200-1400)
IE School of Arts and Humanities

Monday, November 7 (1800-2000)
Sciences Po

For more information on these fairs, click here. Please come if you are in the area and meet us.


We will be holding online information sessions. They have been tentatively set for October 25, November 22 and December 13. Prospective candidates will be able to participate via the Internet and/or by phone. More details later.

(By the way, we are conducting a poll on this blog to determine which time slot suits you best for an online information session. Feel free to participate in the poll, which is in the upper right-hand spot on the blog's main page. You'll be helping us set up a suitable schedule.)


SAIS Bologna will open its doors to prospective candidates on Friday, December 9. Open Day is a chance to meet current SAIS Bologna students, faculty and staff; to learn more about our programs; to sit in a class or a seminar. It is an excellent way to get to know us better. More details on Open Day later.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's a look at SAIS Bologna

Today Amal Ali takes us on a tour of SAIS Bologna.

Amal's tour speaks for itself. Some of the sights -- the library, auditorium, Giulio's bar -- will be familiar to many of our readers. But Amal takes the blog video camera to the basement for the first time. (Quiz question: When did we last post an item relating to the basement, and what did it involve? A cappuccino at Giulio's for the winner.)

A word on the building. It was designed by Enzo Zacchiroli, a Bolognese architect who won the National Institute of Architecture's (In/ARCH) top award in 1961 for his design, which managed to integrate the Bologna Center into its distinctive, medieval surroundings while making a modern statement.

View Bologna in a larger map

You may notice in the video three classes taught in Italian. That is because classes on the afternoon that Amal took us on the tour were devoted to languages. There are eight  languages taught at SAIS Bologna, which requires all students to pass a proficiency exam in a foreign language before they can graduate. All classes aside from languages are taught in English, which is why strong skills in that language are required for entry into SAIS.

Follow Amal, who is in our 2011-12 class, on her guided tour:

If you are reading this blog post on email, click here to see the video.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meeting our faculty: Prof. Keller

Kenneth Keller is SAIS Bologna's director and also teaches "Science, Technology and International Affairs". Prof. Keller is proof that many roads can lead to SAIS. Who would have thought a chemical engineer could blaze a trail in international relations?

Your degrees?
AB, liberal arts, Columbia University
BS, chemical engineering, Columbia University
MSE, chemical engineering, Johns Hopkins
PhD, chemical engineering, Johns Hopkins

Where have you taught?
University of Minnesota (Chemical Engineering; Biomedical Engineering; Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs)
Princeton University (Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs)
Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) - I've taught at SAIS Bologna for six years, first on a sabbatical leave from the University of Minnesota (2003-2004) and then during my term as Director (which started in 2006).

Links to a recent article and a speech:

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
What's special about SAIS is SAIS Bologna -- the fact that students, over two years, one in Bologna and one in Washington, see international affairs from two different perspectives, an extraordinary and unique learning experience.

Anything special about Bologna?
What's special about Bologna is its perfect blendings: a medieval city with a vibrant modern life; a small city with the culture and lifestyle of a large city; an Italian "non-touristy" city with the art, music, architecture and spectacular food of the best tourist destinations; a city at the cross-roads of northern Italy with its own well-developed sense of community.

Your favorite book?
My favorite book is Anthony Trollope's "Barchester Towers", but I would be hard pressed to turn my back on any other of Trollope's novels -- or George Eliot's -- or a long list of 19th century English writers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Diversity and careers

Our recent poll gives me a chance to discuss two of SAIS Bologna's distinctive features.

The poll asked readers what they thought was best about SAIS Bologna. Here are the results:

Diverse student body - 36%
Career preparation - 26
Camaraderie - 18
Courses & faculty - 10
City of Bologna - 5
European perspective - 5

That means that more than one third of the respondents consider "diversity" to be SAIS Bologna's key asset.

"Diversity", of course, can mean different things to different people, and it can work in unpredictable ways.

(I have landed two jobs in my life in large part because I happened to be a "diverse" candidate. In one, I had an advantage over another candidate because I did not speak the language of the country where the job was located and so could ostensibly bring an impartial eye to a post that needed it. In another, I was a male applying for a job at a company where there were predominantly women, and the hiring managers wanted more gender balance. Some irony in both cases.)

I think the diversity that respondents to our poll were thinking of stems to a large extent from the range of nationalities. This year we have 43 nationalities (48 including dual passports), up from 34 last year and the largest number of nationalities in the Bologna Center's 57 years.

View SAIS Bologna 2011-12 class in a larger map

With 43 nationalities among 200 students, everyone is in a kind of minority. Even our U.S. students, who make up 44% of the class, are in a minority because they are outnumbered by non-Americans and, of course, are living in a foreign country.

This sense of being in a permanent minority is part of the SAIS Bologna learning experience. One is constantly confronted by different points of view. One's assumptions are regularly challenged. You cannot hide behind conventional wisdom because in such a place, it is neither conventional nor necessarily wisdom.

Students who thrive at SAIS enjoy learning from and about others. They are willing to give of themselves because they understand that others want to learn about them, too. It is one important reason why SAIS students are expected to participate in classes -- because so much of what is learned here comes from sharing experiences from such a wide range of backgrounds.

Of course with the diversity of nationalities comes a mix of religions, beliefs, languages and economic circumstances -- all part of the learning experience. Some of our students have been in the workforce for some years, others are coming directly from undergraduate study.

I'm delighted that our readers recognize that diversity is part and parcel of what makes SAIS Bologna special.

A word on careers: It is true that SAIS considers itself a professional school. Most of our graduates take up jobs after finishing a SAIS master's (but by no means all -- check out the number of SAIS professors who continued studying and got their Ph.Ds at SAIS). Who wants to invest in a graduate school without the prospect of landing a good job afterwards?

While SAIS does not guarantee graduates will get the job of their choice, our students do very well. We like to think that a SAIS education prepares students for a wide range of careers throughout their working lives. You'll see many SAIS graduates during their careers move between the public and private sectors, from one industry into another,  from a multilateral institution into an NGO.

If you are considering applying to SAIS Bologna, think of it as a long-term investment, one that will bring you benefits throughout your working years. Certainly our alumni see it that way.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Your guide to applying to graduate school

For readers considering graduate school, here is a guide to help you get your ducks in order.

1. Research various programs. Keep an open mind -- you no doubt have preconceived notions. They might prove wrong. Test your assumptions.

There is an ocean of information on the Internet. Dig to find answers. Jot down the most common questions and the answers from each institution you are interested in. Check out chat rooms and blogs.

Other ways to get to know institutions: contact the Admissions Office and set up a time for a chat; visit the campus and sit in on a class, listen to a lecture, mingle with students; find out if you can contact an alumnus, a student and/or a faculty member. Attend a graduate school fair -- pick up the literature but also speak to the people at the programs that interest you the most.

(By the way, we at SAIS Bologna will be holding a series of information sessions -- in Bologna, elsewhere in Europe and online -- between now and the end of the calendar year. We'll be posting a schedule soon.)

Important: Try not to ask questions if the answers can be found on the web. Examples: deadlines for applications, number of students, academic requirements. Dig deeper. An obvious question: What sets your institution apart from University X? How do you see your program changing in the future?

Two blog posts you will want to read: First Steps and Why climb the graduate school mountain?

2. It's never too early to start putting together the application puzzle.

- Check out the SAIS application and the directions to our programs. You can browse the application without committing yourself, saving as you go along. The application does not go to SAIS until you press "submit".

SAIS Bologna has a new
online application
- Standardized tests:
  • If you are a non-native English speaker and want to apply to SAIS Bologna, you will have to take the TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge exam. For chapter and verse on the English competence entrance requirements for SAIS Bologna, click here.
  • SAIS Bologna does not require non-U.S. applicants to take the GRE or the GMAT. However, we strongly encourage applicants to take one or the other. However imperfect the exams may be, they provide a guide to both the applicant and the institution on your preparedness for a rigorous graduate program in English. U.S. citizens who apply to SAIS Bologna are required to take either the GRE or the GMAT.
  • You may want to take the standardized tests more than once. In some cases, one has to wait some time between tests. The earlier you get started on these, the better.
- Start thinking about your statement of purpose. This document provides one of the best ways to convince SAIS Bologna (and yourself) that you deserve admission. The best statements of purpose come from candidates who have thought carefully about how they would benefit from SAIS, how they would contribute to the community and how they might make use of a SAIS education. The statement is much more than a list of your accomplishments. Try reading A Window on Yourself.

- Letters of recommendation: The strongest letters will be written by people who have worked closely with you and know why you are applying to SAIS Bologna. Recommendations that read like form letters -- fill-in-the-blank templates that take the author a few minutes -- stand out like a sore thumb. Make sure your referees know about your motivations and aspirations. That takes time and effort.

Recommended reading: Letters of Recommendation.

- Transcripts: You'll need to submit an official transcript of all your college work. This is not so difficult to obtain from your undergraduate institution. Still, the earlier the better.

- Financial aid: If you are planning on requesting financial aid, you'll need to get some documents in order. For non-U.S. citizens, here is the form. Here is the form for U.S. citizens.

While you are thinking about financial aid, consider why an investment in graduate school makes sense for you. Even students who receive a chunk of aid have to contribute to their costs. In the end, everyone has to make some kind of investment.

Be sure to look at this webpage on financial aid and fellowships. While you're at it, try reading this blog post: Financial Aid.

- Deadlines: Here are the application deadlines for candidates wanting to enter SAIS Bologna in the Fall of 2012:
  • Non-U.S. candidates: February 1, 2012
  • U.S. candidates: January 7, 2012
As you move ahead, you'll have questions. Keep in touch with us. You can email us at You can chat with us on Skype (our handle is jhubc.admissions). Our phone number is +39 051 29 17 811 (ask for Admissions).

And of course you can always leave a comment on this blog. We welcome feedback.

Nelson Graves

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meeting our faculty: Prof. Carbonara

Emanuela Carbonara is teaching Microeconomics in pre-term at SAIS Bologna. Like Francesco Moro, Prof. Carbonara has provided us with her version of a Dewar's profile.

Your degrees?
Laurea (MA), Economics, University of Bologna
M.Phil, Economics, University of Oxford
Ph.D, Economics, Bocconi University, Milan
D.Phil, Economics, University of Oxford

Where have you taught?
Oxford University, University of Bologna, University of Amsterdam, University of Haifa

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
I would say SAIS Bologna is a special place for many reasons. Let me just mention two. We are a real team: teachers and students working together, in a very friendly environment, for a common goal, supported by outstanding administrative staff. Plus the numerous opportunities to meet politicians, entrepreneurs, diplomats, and discuss with them on a peer to peer basis.

Anything special about Bologna?
Walking around in those medieval little streets, a unique experience. The idea that anything within the city center is walking distance. Bologna is not a huge town but it is so active on the cultural side, much better than many bigger cities.
Your favorite book?
Too many to recall them all. Recently, António Lobo Antune’s "The Inquisitor’s Manual" but a book that really left a mark is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s "The Idiot".

Travelling and photography.

A quote
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." - Galileo Galilei

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why is SAIS Bologna different?

You don't need an Admissions officer to tell you what makes SAIS Bologna different.

Some of our blog readers know my favorite adage: "It's not the destination that counts but the getting there." My second favorite: "Say, don't tell."

Our students -- current and former -- say it best. Astrid Haas and Patrick Flanagan shared their experiences with us last March. Mary Lee McIntyre and Melanie Standish spanned a half century of SAIS Bologna history when they spoke to us in April. Chidiogo Akunyili and Mac Broderick have shown our readers a day in each of their lives here.

If you are new to this blog and want to learn more about SAIS Bologna, you can start with these two posts: "What is in a name?" and "A Debate Displaced in Time".

Then, if you have a few moments, take a look at this video which captures some of this year's students saying what they find unique about SAIS Bologna:

If you are reading this on email and want to see the video, click here.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why climb the graduate school mountain?

Imagine that you look out your window and you see a mountain towering in the distance.

You've got an inkling to climb it. Something almost inexplicable inside of you is drawn to the idea of clambering up its side and eventually standing on the peak.

Now is not the time to think about what kind of boots you'll buy, what type of crampons to use or how thick the rope will be. Before setting out on the journey, you'll want to ask yourself a one-word question: Why?

You may never formulate a perfectly convincing or articulate answer to that question. The urge to climb may  remain inexplicable. But by trying to answer "why", you'll begin to understand what motivates you. You may decide it's nothing more than a passing fancy and abandon the idea. Or you may set out on the quest.

What does this have to do with SAIS Bologna?

Undertaking graduate study is a bit like climbing a mountain. There's the preparation and training, the beginning, the months of work, the successes and the setbacks, and hopefully your degree.

For our readers who are toying with the idea of applying to graduate school, before you dive into applications and planning, please ask yourself "why".

No two people have the same answer. It's true we have categories of applicants. Some have been working after their undergraduate years and are keen to learn more and turbo-charge their careers. Others are finishing their undergraduate education and want a program of study that will open doors in the international sphere.

Whatever category you fit into, try to find your own answer to the question "why". You probably won't know  right away. You'll need to ask around, speak to people, visit schools. Keep asking yourself the question.

Simply trying to answer the question will make the quest more worthwhile. The challenges of applying, choosing, financing and completing your studies will have more meaning for you. Our readers have heard me say over and over: It is not the destination that counts but the getting there. In your case, each step you take as you climb the graduate mountain will have a purpose.

I write this because I know, from personal and professional experience, that the path to a graduate degree is full of pitfalls. The application process requires tests, a personal statement, recommendations, an interview, often travel; once started, a graduate program requires a significant investment: of time, energy and, yes, money. These are the crampons, the boots, the rope, the harnesses of the climb.

Don't be put off by the challenge. You know that conquering the peak will pose challenges. But if you look inside yourself for the answer to the question "why", you'll be taking the most important first step on your journey. The details will fall into place, and you'll find both the journey and the destination satisfying.

Tomorrow: Why SAIS is unique

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A New Start

We've changed our look.

It's been nine months since we launched this blog. Like midwives, we feel as though we've helped bring a new SAIS Bologna class into the world. The students of 2011-12 have taken their first steps and are beginning an eventful year.

The Old Blog Look
It's time now to turn our attention to the SAIS Bologna students of the future.

(For years while I was a student and even afterwards, my innate annual calendar ran from September to September. That was because my academic year -- right through graduate school -- started in the Northern Hemisphere's autumn. When I was a schoolboy in the United States, the radio would start playing corny "back-to-school" advertisements in late August, in time for the start of school which in that era always came after Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Now most U.S. schools and universities start in August.)
The New Blog Look

We've freshened up the blog's look and feel to inaugurate a new year of communication with prospects. I'm a big believer that change, when managed well, can be positive. We certainly hope this is the case with our blog.

Who is this blog for? Anyone considering studying international relations at the graduate level. Some prospects have a very good idea of what they want; others are simply browsing. All are welcome.

What can you expect? I would divide our content into three categories:
  • Posts about admissions requirements and procedures. This is the nitty-gritty. If you read these posts, welcome to the trenches.
  • An inside look at SAIS Bologna. We strive to give prospects an idea about what goes on here. To do so, we capture students, faculty, staff and alumni. The goal is to move beyond our website into our community.
  • General wisdom. Sometimes we cannot resist conveying our own profound experiences as we describe what SAIS Bologna can mean. If this veers into comedy, it's probably only half intentional.
How might you use the blog? Entirely up to you, of course. Here are a few thoughts:
  • Most of our readers check the blog several times a week. We plan to publish three posts per week on average between now and next May -- generally on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. If we break that pattern, we will tell you. (How many blogs have you read that have intermittent posts, and long, unexplained gaps between them? We don't want that.)
  • We would like the blog to be as interactive as possible. Readers can post comments at the bottom of entries. If you're shy, you can send an email to You can chat with us on Skype (our handle = jhubc.admissions). Or you can call us at +39 051 29 17 811 (and ask for Admissions). Stay in touch.
  • To make sure you see our posts, you can (1) bookmark the blog, (2) click on the "Follow by Email" box at the top of the blog and enter your email address, (3) set up an RSS feed at the bottom of the blog, or (4) find us on the SAIS Admissions Facebook page.
Our next two posts:

Tomorrow: Thinking about graduate school?
Thursday: What makes SAIS different

Finally, if you have any thoughts on our redesign, feel free to share them with us. We like to get feedback.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More first impressions: "So many perspectives to learn from"

Last week Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie, one of our 200 incoming students this year, shared his very first impressions of Bologna.

Jamie arrived in the middle of an August heat wave. Little wonder that the scorching temperatures made an impression on him. He also noted his angst over calculus and the friendliness of his bolognesi hosts.

Today Ana Nadal, another incoming student, shares her early thoughts. Ana is only the third student from the Dominican Republic ever to attend SAIS Bologna. She earned a BA in Economics and International Studies from Manhattanville College in 2010, then worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, before starting SAIS Bologna.

Ana sees herself working in the private sector after finishing SAIS, then working as an economist with a multilateral institution before one day serving as an ambassador for her country -- and in her spare time writing pieces as an op-ed columnist.

Here are Ana's own words:

It would not be fair to write about my first impressions of SAIS Bologna without first talking about our host city. It did not take me a long time to realize that Bologna is magical. After a 24-hour flight from Santo Domingo to Milan, I ended up taking the slow train to Bologna just to talk to the Italian friends I had made on my way. In Italy you don’t need to go out of your way to meet people and have a good laugh, even if the most you can do is communicate in broken Italian.

There are some cities that just “have something” -- and Bologna is one of them. Writing this would be much easier if I could articulate what makes Bologna special. But you see, this is the thing with great cities: you can’t simply explain why everyone falls in love with them. Maybe it is the great food, the friendly people, the beautiful scenery or the wine that is present at every gathering. Whatever it is, I could not be happier being here.

Ana Nadal
Now let me turn to what has impressed me the most: my peers. I feel very lucky being part of such a brilliant class. On my first night, I shared dinner with a restaurant entrepreneur, a former aide on Capitol Hill, an expert on the Balkans, a hedge fund analyst and a former social civilian consultant for Afghanistan. After listening to what my classmates have done, I feel confident saying that we have it all.

Our class is made up of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, who will use their SAIS education to become leaders in their fields. Since I arrived here, stimulating conversation has invariably accompanied the evening wine. There are so many perspectives to learn from. As one of my roommates would say, “It’s a case of mutual admiration.” You cannot help being in awe of my peers’ thrilling experiences.

Diversity is the key. Having a cappuccino can turn into a political economy class just by listening to what people from so many places have to say. This, coupled with their array of interests, enriches the experience. But as diverse as our backgrounds are, there are three common interests: passion for learning, traveling and food. The latter is one good reason to end up in Bologna.

Last year, when I was applying to SAIS, Bologna alumni would spend hours talking to me about how fascinating their experiences had been. I could not quite understand. Two weeks after arriving in this magical city, I’m finally starting to understand why this was the best year of their lives.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meeting our faculty: Prof. Moro

Our readers sent us some clear messages in our poll in June. One of them was that you want to know more about our faculty. That makes sense: faculty form a pillar supporting SAIS Bologna.

Without students, we would not exist. Nor would we without faculty.

Prof. Moro
There are five professors teaching economics and international relations this pre-term. The first to raise his hand when asked to be the object of a Dewar's-like profile was Francesco Moro.

(Dewar's profile? Anyone know what that is?)

What course are you teaching?
Theories of International Relations

Your degrees?
Laurea (MA), Politics, University of Florence (2003)
MA in International Relations, SAIS (BC04/DC06)
Ph.D in Political Science, University of Florence (2008)

Where have you taught?
I have been teaching at the University of Florence and at the Institute of Military Aeronautical Sciences of the Italian Air Force.

Anything special about SAIS Bologna?
Well, many memories of the year I spent at the Bologna Center. I guess above all it is the friendly environment that surrounds a challenging academic experience. It's good to follow a very demanding course, if everyone seems very enthusiastic about it. Of course, the prospects of osteria afterwards help...

Your favorite book?
Very tough. Recently, Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall". I might even like very much David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest", if only I could finish it...

Several. In this season, riding my bike around Chianti.

A quote
"Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity."

Monday, September 5, 2011

A poll: What is best about SAIS Bologna?

What kind of polls do our readers want?

Our poll on polls, which we ran over the past two weeks, showed a fairly clear preference for polls about SAIS Bologna. In second place: polls about international economic issues.

With that, we are launching our first poll today. The question: What's the best thing about SAIS Bologna?

Whether you are a prospective candidate, an incoming student or an alumnus, feel free to participate. You can do so by clicking on one of the choices on the upper left-hand side. Here are the possible choices:
  • Camaraderie
  • Career preparation
  • City of Bologna
  • Courses & faculty
  • Diverse student body
  • European perspective on international issues
(We were tempted to allow participants to list "The Admissions Office", but decided that was self-evident.)

Please take a few minutes to participate in the poll. We'll run it for two weeks, until Sunday, September 18, with the results on September 19.

We hope this is fun.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Students' first impressions

Giacomo, Sarita, Amal and Tessa
at the pre-term opening reception
There are no better ambassadors for SAIS Bologna than our students.

You -- our blog readers -- made it clear in your responses to our survey in June that you want to get to see and hear our students more often.

You don't need me, then, to tell you how students enrolled in pre-term are faring now that they have arrived in Bologna.

In this video, Jonas Brown, Ellen Duwe, Ishan Traxl and Niamh O'Sullivan share some of their first impressions with you.

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

Nelson Graves