Thursday, June 28, 2012

Visas and health insurance

Earlier this week we published a post in which we asked our readers to take part in a survey that will help us improve our journal. Some readers have already responded with very useful feedback. Thank you.

We hope more readers will give their opinion to help us get better. To receive the link to the survey, please send an email to

As the title of this post suggests, today we'll tackle visa and health insurance --important matters for students coming from outside the European Union.

Non-E.U. citizens should have received a visa request letter from the Bologna or the Washington Admissions Offices. If you have not received your letter yet, please send us a note at - we'll make sure you get a copy as soon as possible.

Visa applications are fairly straightforward. You can find information on the website of the Italian embassy of your home country. However, some embassies require information that may not be in the letter we provide. Is this your case? If yes, please get in touch with us as soon as you can. We'll be happy to help.

Upon completion of your application, you should be granted a type-D visa for study purposes (visto per motivi di studio). You should ensure that you receive a multiple-entry visa to Italy and the Schengen area for the duration of your stay. If this is not the case, please contact us.

Health insurance is another important matter for non-E.U. citizens. Even if you feel as healthy as a fiddle, you should make sure you come to Bologna with a good health insurance plan. This will help you save money in case you need medical assistance.

We strongly recommend that you also sign up for the Italian emergency health insurance, which will be useful in the event you are taken to hospital. The Registrar’s Office will provide the application form when you get to Bologna.

E.U. citizens are not required to get health insurance. However, they will need to apply for a European health insurance card to have access to healthcare. In most cases you are asked to complete a form, which you can find online.

Got any questions? You know where to find us.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are some SAIS alumni up to?

What do SAIS students do after they graduate?

That's an important question for prospective applicants, incoming students and current SAISers alike. A SAIS education is a major commitment, and our students are keen for a return on their investment.

Here is a report on the types of jobs last year's graduates took up; we featured the report in a post in May. You'll see that graduates tackled a wide variety of jobs around the world -- not surprising for a multidisciplinary program like ours.

Sometimes examples speak louder than aggregate data. Here are some SAIS graduates who have figured recently in the SAIS Bologna Admissions' Twitter feed (@SAISBolognaBlog):

Thora Arnorsdottir
 with her husband and children
Thora Arnorsdottir, who attended SAIS Bologna in 2002-03 and graduated from SAIS the following year, is running to be president of Iceland.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, has sent a warning to Syria's military via the embassy's Facebook page. Ford graduated from SAIS in 1983.

Timothy Geithner, taking time out from his duties as U.S. Treasury secretary, addressed SAIS graduates last month. Geithner finished SAIS in 1985.

Fabrizio Jacobellis, who finished SAIS in 2003, was named best professor by SAIS Bologna's class of 2012 -- the third time the adjunct professor of international economics has won the award.

Amb. Roberto Toscano
Zach Messitte, who attended SAIS Bologna before graduating from SAIS in 1996, has been named president of Ripon College in Wisconsin state.

President Barack Obama recently named SAIS graduates to be U.S. ambassadors to Cyprus and Bulgaria.

Professors Erik Jones and Michael Plummer, both of whom attended SAIS Bologna, have been busy teaching and publishing.

Roberto Toscano, who attended SAIS before distinguishing himself in Italy's diplomatic service as ambassador to India and Iran, addressed SAIS Bologna's end-of-year ceremony.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Please take part in our survey

This journal -- our name for this blog -- has been up and running for 18 months. We are just shy of 100,000 page views. It's time to take stock of how we are doing.

Help us get better:
participate in our survey
We have put together an online survey to help us better understand who you are, what works and what needs improving. It takes 3-5 minutes to complete and is anonymous. The results will help us make our work more relevant to the needs of our readers: prospective candidates, applicants, incoming students, current students, faculty, staff and alumni.

If you would like to take part in the survey or know someone who would, please send an email to and we will send you the link to the survey.

We'd like to collect a critical mass of responses by mid-July. Then we will publish a summary of the results and our action plan.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New application deadline: January 7, 2013

A very short post today to make a very simple point:

The deadline for applications for the 2013-14 academic year is January 7, 2013.

Mark it on your calendar
This date is a tad earlier than SAIS Bologna's traditional deadline. It means candidates will learn the outcome of their applications a bit earlier. It also means advance planning will pay off. Remember: the early bird gets the worm.

Although we will be touching on all elements of the application in coming months, we are happy to answer questions, whether or not you have decided to apply. You can always reach us at

We will be cutting back on the number of posts in July, when our readership tails off for the holidays. But this journal, like the Admissions Office, never goes to sleep.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

English: SAIS's lingua franca

Johns Hopkins University's motto might be in Latin, but English is the lingua franca at SAIS.

"Veritas vos Liberabit" is written on the Hopkins seal -- "The Truth Will Set You Free". Latin may not be taught at SAIS, but 17 other languages are.

Still, to gain admission and then to graduate, one must master English.

We receive as many questions about the English requirements at SAIS as we do about any other subject. We'll tackle other aspects of the application in later posts, but today let's focus on English.

Prospective applicants should keep one important thing in mind: to thrive at SAIS, a student needs to read hundreds of pages a week (or even day), write long papers, follow complicated class discussions and participate actively -- all in English.

The proficiency requirements for admission are not erected to make life difficult for candidates. They are there to make sure our students can function fully and comfortably in the main language of study.

Last week we announced that our deadline for applications for 2013-14 has been moved up to January 7, 2013. That may seem a long way away, but it will soon be at hand. Now is a great time to start mapping your strategy; for non-native English speakers, that can mean thinking about English competency exams.

How do we define "native English speaker"? At SAIS, a native English speaker meets at least two of the following three criteria:
  • English is the main language of communication between you and one of your caregivers;
  • English is an official language in the community where you grew up (before high school);
  • English is the language of instruction in the high school you attended.
If you do not meet at least two of these criteria, you will have to submit the results of one of these tests:
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)
N.B. If you completed a full undergraduate degree program in English, in an English-speaking country, you are exempt from this rule. Note that it has to be a full degree in an English-speaking country. It is not enough to do a full degree in English in a country where English is not an official language. Or part of a degree in an English-speaking country.

The minimum scores for admission are 100 on TOEFL's Internet-based test, 7.0 on IELTS's academic test and any passing grade on the CPE.

Because these tests may be unfamiliar, you might want to consider taking them more than once to maximize your chances of doing well. If that is the case, you still have time between now and our January 7 application deadline to take the test twice.

Depending on their results, admitted candidates who are non-native English speakers may be required or advised to take intensive English in pre-term.

Then at the beginning of the Fall semester, all non-native English speakers must take the reading and writing sections of the SAIS English Proficiency exam. Those who do not perform satisfactorily will be required to take the Advanced English course or the English Writing workshop.

Finally, non-native speakers must prove their English proficiency to receive some of the SAIS degrees. Why would SAIS  test one's command of English if proficiency is required for admission? That is because SAIS makes sure its graduates are fluent in the vernacular of international relations.

The exit requirements are quite complicated. To read chapter and verse, consult this two-page summary.

Mini quiz for the linguists among you: What does the abbreviation "N.B." (used above) stand for?

Nelson Graves

Friday, June 15, 2012


It's been a while since we held a quiz. With the academic year over at SAIS Bologna and summer on the way, it seems natural to have a bit of fun.

The first person to answer the question correctly will receive a SAIS Bologna tee shirt. To win, you need to tell us who you are. You can send in your answer either by commenting on this post or with an email to

So here we go:

I ride a broomstick and deliver sweets and gifts to children on the eve of the day before the new deadline for applications to SAIS Bologna.

Who am I?


Thursday, June 14, 2012

At the heart of SAIS Bologna: the Library

Most SAIS Bologna students spend at least 15 hours a week there. They are surrounded by one of the continent’s biggest English-language collections in the field of international relations.

Much has changed since SAIS Bologna was founded in 1955. But the Robert H. Evans Library, named after the Center's director from 1992-2003, remains a focal point of any student's work.

Then ...
Gail Martin, the head librarian, has worked here for 30 years. Originally from Bishopbriggs in Scotland, she earned a degree in library studies in Brighton before coming to Bologna. "It seems I have an irresistible attraction for living in towns that begin with 'B'," she said before answering our questions.

Q: How big is the library? How many volumes does it have?
Martin: The library occupies 1,000 square meters of the building, seats around 180 students and is located on the left-hand “wing” of the school. We have a collection of approximately 85,000 volumes, and the library was completely remodeled in 2005. Here’s a link to our catalog.

... and now
Q: Is there something distinctive/unique about the library?
Martin: The building itself is a beautiful example of the work of Enzo Zacchiroli, a famous Bolognese architect. Here you can read a little about it.

Something distinctive about our collection? Amongst other things, we have an excellent collection of English-language materials on Italian government and politics, and our open stacks are quite unusual, here in Italy.

Q: What are the most common ways that students use the library?
Martin: Students often stop off in the library in the morning to quickly check their email before dashing off to class or to drop off their reserve books before they become overdue. The circulation desk gets really busy after classes as students drop off and pick up reserve, or short-loan, books.

Gail Martin
Then in the evenings and at weekends students settle down for long-haul study, either on the ground floor study room or on the mezzanine floor upstairs. Students also come by for one-on-one research assistance with Ludovica, who holds workshops at the beginning of each semester, and before exams begin.

Q: Does anyone know how much time the average students spends in the library?
Martin: Our latest year-end student survey tells us that 45% of the respondents spent up to 15 hours a week in the library, 45% spent from 15-30 hours a week and 10% more than 30 hours.

Q: What is the policy for taking out books? Fines?
Martin: We have three main collection types:
  • Reference books and periodicals, which are for library use only.
  • General circulation books are housed in the open stacks in the basement. SAIS Bologna students can have as many of these books as they need, for a loan period of one month. They are subject to recall by another student, but you are guaranteed two weeks checkout before we ask you to bring the book back.
  • Reserve books are kept behind the circulation desk. This is a non-browseable collection and consists of the books that have been designated required readings for your courses. We purchase them in multiple copies, and they are loaned for 4 hours or overnight. Students can borrow two reserve items at a time, and we also have a "hold" function that allows you to book a reserve reading in advance. We don’t charge fines for overdue reserve books, as we discovered that some students just kept the books and paid the fine, so the reserve system risked collapsing. Instead we devised a penalty scheme, which works far better and helps the reserve system function smoothly and fairly for everyone. We also have an electronic reserves system, called CIAO (Course Items Available Online), which gives 24/7, password-controlled access to syllabi, some required readings and class notes.
Q: Do you hire students to work in the library?
Martin: Yes we do. Each year we hire 8-10 student assistants who keep the library open in the evenings and at weekends and help us with many library housekeeping jobs.

Q: Can people from outside of SAIS use the library? How much do they use it? Is it difficult to find a quiet place to work?
Martin: During the week, from 9 am until 7 pm, the library is open to the general public. Some users come by to browse, read the newspapers or check out books, then they leave. Others spend a few hours studying, but those are in the minority, though we have one user who has been coming almost every weekday for the past 20 years.
Gail Martin with her library staff:
 Maria Christina Marcich, Heather Kochevar, John Williams & Ludovica Barozzi
After 7 pm during the week and at weekends the library is reserved for SAIS Bologna students and faculty. There is normally no problem finding study space, though the library can get quite busy during finals.

Q: How has the library changed over the years? Do you have more changes in store?
Martin: I would say the most important change came thanks to the renovation project. Once upon a time, the book stacks were housed on the mezzanine floor, which is quite beautiful and flooded with light. Student study space was concentrated on the ground floor, which was, and still is, also very nice, and in the basement which was, quite honestly, gloomy.

When we did the reconstruction work, all the book stacks were shifted from the mezzanine down to the basement, and student study space was brought up to the mezzanine and into the light!

More changes? I can see us moving more and more towards electronic provision of materials over the next couple of years. Things are changing so quickly and it’s very exciting.

Q: How many books are you adding every year? What about periodicals?
Martin: Every year we add around 1,000 new books to the collection and though we continue to take some periodicals in hard copy, the trend now is for students and faculty to consult electronic versions of periodicals via the various databases that we have access to.

Questions? Send an email to

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Transforming wealth into development

Lots of people share Frank-Alexander Raabe's career aspiration: to create a better economic environment ultimately spurring human development.

Here is what this SAIS student is doing about it.

Raabe earned a bachelor's degree from a top business school in his native country, Germany, in 2010 after studying at the London School of Economics for a summer and in Paris for a semester.

Raabe receiving his award from
Economics Prof. Michael Plummer
Between 2008 and 2011, he worked internships in Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico and China. Just before starting his studies at SAIS Bologna a year ago as an International Development concentrator, he was working for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in Kuala Lumpur.

Along the way, he picked up fluent English, French and Spanish, and fair Mandarin and Malay.

Given Raabe's background and interests, his choice of essay topic for Prof. Richard Pomfret's "Central Asian Economies" course this past spring comes as no surprise: How to design Mongolia's sovereign wealth fund.

His paper, which you can read here, concludes that a mining boom in Mongolia holds the promise of vastly improving the lives of that nation's people, but only if the boom is well managed. "A sovereign wealth fund is a useful instrument to turn the mineral wealth into development progress," he says.

This might seem an obvious premise. But there are some surprises in Raabe's paper, including his finding that such a fund might perform better, at least in the initial stages, if it were less than perfectly transparent.

Raabe's efforts won him one of the three highest academic awards at last month's end-of-year ceremony. We published posts on the two other C. Grove Haines winners here and here.

What would Alexander like to do after graduating from SAIS next year? He could see himself working as a policy maker for an international or regional development bank or organization. Or working for the German foreign service.

I asked Alexander a few questions after he won his award.

Q: How did you get the idea for your paper?

Raabe: During the second semester I chose Prof. Pomfret's course "Economies of Central Asia". The course covered Central Asia's five "Stans" but not Mongolia.

I considered the final paper a unique chance to learn about Mongolia's economic development challenge. In contrast to the "Stans", Mongolia's mineral wealth remained untapped during the Soviet era. But the mining industry recently started experiencing an unprecedented boom.

In light of the many developing countries such as the Republic of Congo whose citizens do not benefit from mineral wealth, I asked myself how policymakers could transform this underground treasure into development progress. A discussion with Prof. Pomfret revealed that it might be worth looking into sovereign wealth funds as a possible solution. It turned out that this is an actual research niche.

Q: What was the biggest challenge for you?
Raabe: Since the paper is an econometric study, apart from constructing the hypotheses based on literature, finding the data was the biggest challenge. Often the data is not available for free so other proxies have to be developed to circumvent the data availability issue. And even when getting the data it takes ages to slice and dice them into a suitable format to run the regressions.

Q: Were you surprised by your conclusions?
Raabe: In many ways research is like a Kinder Surprise Egg. It takes some effort to obtain the results, but the findings themselves are a huge reward.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there are no other quantitative studies yet on what to take into account when designing a sovereign wealth fund to improve its impact on development. Hence, the innovative approach revealed several surprising findings.

For instance, transparency regarding the investment strategy reduces a sovereign wealth fund's performance. This contrasts with my hypothesis that only a transparent sovereign wealth fund spurs development.

Also, a sovereign wealth fund bears fruit only after more than a decade. This is a surprise and a warning for Mongolian politicians at the same time: patience is required. Politicians should not deplete the fund's resources for clientelistic spending programs in the short run. In essence, the study revealed many findings that might be useful for policy makers in Mongolia.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

IMPORTANT: Deadline for applications = January 7, 2013

Prospective candidates, please take note: We have set our deadline for applications for admission for the 2013-14 year at SAIS Bologna. The deadline is:
January 7, 2013

We've decided to move up our deadline from our traditional date of February 1 for a variety of reasons:

- It aligns us with our colleagues at SAIS DC, underscoring our message that there is one SAIS with several campuses. Our global footprint offers unique opportunities to our students and sets SAIS apart.

- It means candidates will know earlier in 2013 whether or not they have been admitted to the program, making it easier for them to plan ahead.

We encourage anyone who is interested in SAIS Bologna to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Our Admissions Office can help you plan and also point you to resources of information.

If you plan to apply, we would urge you to start the process now. Here are some of the steps:
January 7, 2013 -
mark it on your calendar
  • Information-gathering. You'll want to read up on our program as much as possible. In addition to this Journal, there is our website and our catalog. We will also be holding information sessions in coming months, both in person and online. (We are also on Twitter: @SAISBolognaBlog.)
  • Plan for any standardized tests. Most non-U.S. applicants to SAIS Bologna need to take one of the English competency tests: TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge. We encourage all applicants to take either the GRE or the GMAT. It's best to plan well in advance for these tests; it takes time to prepare, and in some cases candidates may want to take a test more than once to maximize their chances of admission.
  • Contact referees and tell them why you are applying. We require two letters of recommendation. The best letters are written by referees who understand why the candidate wants to come to SAIS, how they will make use of the experience and what unique attributes they will bring to SAIS. For an author to know this, they need to know the candidate's thinking.
  • Plan your finances. If you need financial aid, you can request aid from SAIS Bologna as part of your application. You will also want to explore other resources to maximize your chances of being able to finance your studies. The earlier you start your search, the better. Remember, whether or not you receive financial aid, graduate school -- any graduate school -- is an investment of time, energy and money. We consider SAIS an excellent investment; it's an investment, nonetheless.
  • Speak to Amina and me, and possibly visit SAIS Bologna. Both Amina and I enjoy our contact with prospective applicants: it's one of the best parts of our job. The strongest candidates usually know a great deal about our program and the application procedures before they apply. You will invariably have questions -- most can be answered by reading our literature, but some cannot. Also, it can be immensely valuable to visit SAIS Bologna to meet students and faculty. You are welcome to visit any time that we are in session, and we hold an Open Day for prospective applicants in December.
With summer upon us, it seems early to be thinking about the 2013-14 academic year. We all deserve some down time in coming weeks.

Still, we would encourage anyone who might be considering applying to get an early start. It will make life a lot easier for you and could improve your chances of admission if you do apply.

As usual, Amina and I stand ready to answer any questions you might have. Our email is and our Skype handle jhubc.admissions.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bologna, black swans and preparedness

A region near Bologna was recently struck by a series of earthquakes. The largest, on May 20, was magnitude 6.0.

While Italy, like many parts of the Mediterranean, does experience occasional tremors, they are most frequent in the southern part of the country. Nonetheless, two dozen people were killed in the recent series of quakes, all of them outside of Bologna to the north of the city.

Bart Drakulich
After the quakes, we at SAIS Bologna received numerous notes wishing us well and a few messages of concern. As someone who lived for three years in Tokyo, the most seismically active region in the world, I like to think I know a thing or two about quakes.

But I thought it would be useful to hear from Bart Drakulich, who as director of finance and administration is in charge of our facilities and knows much more than I do about our state of preparedness.

Q: The region near Bologna has recently been hit by some earthquakes. Is it safe to live in Bologna?
Drakulich: Yes. To answer that question you might steal a page from Prof. Jones’s course "Risk in International Political Economy" and talk about probability and bias, the differences between risk and uncertainty, the role of chance and randomness in our lives -- and perhaps even black swans.

Seismicity of the world (1900-2010)
from the
U.S. Geological Survey
From a statistical standpoint you are safer living in Bologna than you would be in most European or American capitals, not to mention other cities of comparable size around the world. For example, the murder rate in Bologna is very low compared to the location of other campuses like ours.

But if you want to isolate earthquakes as a source of danger, the answer to your question about whether Bologna is safe remains a resounding “yes”. Let’s look at some statistics.

There are four categories of earthquake risk. Category one is “high risk”, two is “medium risk”, three is “low risk” and four is “irrelevant”, or no record of earthquakes. Bologna is in a category-three seismic zone. In the last 800 years or so there have been 17 earthquakes in Bologna, and only one of these, in 1365, would have been over 6.0 magnitude.

The last earthquake that caused structural damage to homes was in 1929, and there were no injuries or fatalities. Tragically, the recent earthquakes in the Emilia-Romagna region did cause a number of fatalities. But none were in or near the city of Bologna. The epicenter of these earthquakes was  many miles north of us. The deaths themselves were heartbreaking, but they were almost exclusively caused by ancient churches crumbling or shoddily built factories and warehouse roofs collapsing on workers. The city of Bologna was barely touched, and the SAIS Bologna Center did not have a single crack.

Q: Could you tell what was done during the recent renovation of SAIS Bologna to make it quake-resistant?
Drakulich: Around 2005, just as we were in the final planning stages of the renovation and expansion of our facility in via Belmeloro, Italy tightened its earthquake construction standards. It required that all schools, hospitals, public emergency buildings, etc. with open construction permits bring their facilities up to the highest earthquake engineering standards. We engaged one of Bologna’s most prominent structural engineers and embarked on a major assessment of our building plans.
New wing rests on bedrock
Since our building was constructed in the 1960s, it was already one of the safest buildings in the medieval center of Bologna. But the engineer told us we could make structural improvements during the renovation, about a million euros worth, that would provide us state-of-the-art earthquake protection. While the unexpected costs meant we had to reassess our project budget, the thought of ignoring the engineer’s report never crossed our mind.

We ultimately followed every one of his recommendations, which included dismantling and rebuilding, brick by brick, the main auditorium wall on the east face of our building; reinforcing the central stairwell by doubling the thickness of the walls and building the foundations of the new west wing expansion on steel poles that were drilled so far into the ground that they rest on Bologna’s bedrock.

These reinforcements, along with other safety precautions quite visible throughout our facility, allow me to say with unwavering confidence that, should that black swan event of a major earthquake hit the city of Bologna, there is no place I would rather be than in our building. Hands down.

Q: What kind of safety measures do you generally advise that SAIS Bologna students take?
Drakulich: When it comes to the safety of our students, I’m much more concerned about the everyday dangers of life in the city than I am about natural disasters.

Reinforced auditorium wall
At the beginning of the year I give each class a presentation on security in Bologna, as well as slides with useful information and key contact numbers. After 12 years at the Center, I have a  good sense of what kinds of problems our students may encounter during their time here. These tend to be pick-pocketing, burglaries, traffic accidents and other typical urban incidents.

Awareness of your surroundings, getting to know the city and its different neighborhoods, learning some basic Italian so that you can ask for assistance -- these are keys to having an incident-free and productive (not to mention enjoyable) experience while in Bologna.

That said, that black swan may be waiting around the corner -- by definition, very far around the corner -- so my wish for our incoming students, when it comes to safety, is that you may dwell in the fatty center of the Gaussian distribution of life.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another winning paper: the U.S. GOP's foreign policy shift

How could the U.S. Republican Party shift from an isolationist foreign policy in the interwar years to an internationalist stance that has dominated national politics since President Dwight Eisenhower?

Geoffrey Levin's 52-page answer to that question won him one of the three highest academic awards at SAIS Bologna's end-of-the-year celebration last month.

Levin's paper for a class taught in the 2011 fall term by Prof. David Unger traces the foreign policies of Republican presidential candidates from Teddy Roosevelt through Richard Nixon.

Bit by an intellectual bug, Levin expanded his work in the spring term to include Republican policies through 2003.

Geoffrey Levin receiving his C. Grove Haines
award from Prof. Marco Cesa
Levin's work, which won him one of three C. Grove Haines prizes at the May 26 commencement ceremony, is a tour d'horizon of the Republican Party's transformation in the first seven decades of the 20th Century,  Levin's work stands out as a digestible and relevant thesis that explains the factors that pushed the GOP towards a more internationalist stance: political players, global events, the media and policy papers.

"The changes of that era continue to have profound effects on today, as different forms of internationalism continue to dominate the political debate," Levin writes before concluding that the next big Republican shift would require major global changes, efforts by key actors and "a leader like Eisenhower who facilitates the shift by meeting the most important priorities of the doctrine it hopes to supplant."

To read Geoffrey's paper for Prof. Unger's "Policies and Politics of the American Emergency State" class, click here.

Some of our readers may recognize Geoffrey, a graduate of Michigan State University. We published a post earlier this year after he won first prize in a competition organized by the Atlantic Community and sponsored by NATO and the U.S. mission in Germany. Next year he will be studying political science while on a scholarship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Geoffrey answered some of our questions after winning his award.

Q: How did you get the idea for your paper?
Levin: The paper started with a question. In the course "Policies and Politics of the American Emergency State", I asked how the Republican Party transitioned from championing non-interventionism as late as the 1950s to supporting internationalism and intervention as much as or more than the Democrats by the 1960s. Professor Unger said he did not know the answer, but that the it would be a great research topic. A few weeks later when I needed to decide what to write about, I ultimately chose that. Looks like I made the right decision.

Q: What was the biggest challenge for you?
Levin: Organizing the paper was a challenge. About halfway through, I remember having a moment of crisis; its hard to write for 40+ pages and not feel like you are rambling. I then restructured the paper in a very specific way, into four parts. Once I did that, things became much easier, as it made one giant task into four smaller ones.

Q: Were you surprised by your conclusions?
Levin: When thinking of the decline of American isolationism, Pearl Harbor is usually seen as the definitive moment. As important as Pearl Harbor was, it took decades for attitudes to change fully, starting with the election of 1940 and ending during the Eisenhower Presidency. Events shape perceptions, perceptions shape politics and politics shape events. They usually affect each other in unforeseeable ways.

So while I did not know what to expect when I started my research, I don't know if I would say if I was surprised. But I did find the research so interesting that I expanded the project this semester for my American Foreign Policy thesis, looking at the Republican Party's foreign policy evolution up until 2003. In total, the two-part project, "The Remaking of Republican Foreign Policy: From Isolationism to Iraq", is at 110 pages. The role of domestic politics in foreign policymaking is one of my main interests, so I expect to be writing more on the issue as time goes on.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Planning your career

Students at SAIS Bologna receive expert counseling as they plan their professional careers, and the assistance kicks in immediately after they arrive in Italy.

Ann Gagliardi
How does the Career Services Office work and what can incoming students expect?

Ann Gagliardi works closely with students to make sure they get the most out of the office's expertise and guidance. Below she discusses the role she plays in Bologna, and how counseling starts as soon as pre-term.

(Does Ann look familiar? You may have met her in this post last year.)

Q: What’s your role at SAIS Bologna?
Gagliardi: I am a Career Counselor in the Office of Career Services. In this role I work with students on issues connected to their professional development.

Q: What does a typical academic year look like for you?
Gagliardi: Over the summer, our office sends out information about Career Services programming and resources to the incoming class. Our welcome email also provides access to SAISWorks, the online career database we share with our colleagues in DC and Nanjing, and instructions for creating a SAIS format resume, which is required for some applications managed through SAIS Career Services.

When students arrive on campus, the first thing our office organizes is an orientation to Career Services at SAIS, followed by the Professional Development Course (PDC), which is a series of required modules on topics including self-assessment, career research, crafting convincing resumes and cover letters and networking.

Students who are here for pre-term do the course during pre-term. We run it again for students who arrive for first semester. Our office developed the course in tandem with our colleagues in Washington. The goal is to provide crucial information to students in a group setting.

We work to make the course as interactive as possible, and in the end it’s a great opportunity for me to start getting to know the members of the class – and for students to get to know each other. I also tend to spend a good deal of time early in the year working with students individually on the content of their resumes and CVs.

Once the PDC is finished, I continue running career workshops on many different topics. The bulk of my work with students, however, takes place in individual counseling sessions, which usually start in early October.

People come to SAIS from varied backgrounds and with different levels of previous work experience. Some SAIS students know exactly what they want to do from day one, while self-assessment – that is, figuring out what you want to do, what you need to do and know how to do to get there – is a crucial piece of the picture for many.

So is research – figuring out which organizations might be a good fit. As the year progresses, I spend time coaching students on long-distance networking tactics, preparing for interviews, discussing ways to respond to multiple offers and a number of other things. One-on-one meetings end up being the best format for much of the careers-related work students do during their year at the Bologna Center, the most effective way to support individual students as they work to define what it is they want to do and why.

Q: What and whom do you deal with the most?
Gagliardi: The student body here in Bologna is made up primarily of first-year MA students, and this is reflected in our programming. My own professional background as an editor and translator serves me well in my support of students as they work to develop a narrative about their professional future and past experiences that makes sense to them and will also make sense to potential employers.

Many students decide to seek a summer internship or employment as part of the path towards long-term employment out of SAIS. A good summer internship can provide an opportunity to employ knowledge and skills gained in the classroom in a practical setting, get hands-on experience in a particular region of the world, learn about how specific organizations function, make useful long-term contacts … the list goes on and on.

Students who are here in Bologna for a single year work with me in the same way – the process is simply more condensed.

Amina Abdiuahab