Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conflict Management: the ethical and moral dimension

Are you interested in improving the human condition?

You might be suited for the Conflict Management concentration at SAIS.

In the video below, Prof. Terrence Hopmann, director of SAIS's Conflict Management program, describes why students choose the concentration, what kinds of backgrounds they often have and what they end up doing after SAIS.

Michael Cornish, who is currently a student at SAIS Bologna, in this recent post told us why he chose Conflict Management (CM).

Prof. Hopmann said CM concentrators want an ethically and morally desirable course of study and can come from a variety of backgrounds. They end up in a range of jobs in both the private and public sectors.

His advice to prospective candidates? To get as much international experience as possible, including in the field.

CM concentrators produce an original research project before they graduate. Students generally identify the topic for their research in the first year and complete the project in the second year.

They also can participate in the Peacekidz workshop, which allows SAIS students to teach children from disadvantaged backgrounds how to manage conflict in their daily lives. Second-year SAIS students go on a field trip in a conflict-ridden region.

In previous years, CM concentrators have traveled to Kosovo, Tunisia, Haiti, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. Next year students will go to the Philippines, Myanmar or Thailand and speak to government officials and representatives of organizations that promote conflict resolution.

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

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A trip to DC to discuss the future of Europe

SAIS can help open doors to an impressive range of experiences.

Earlier this month, SAIS students Selim Koru and Martha Simms traveled to Washington, DC to attend a conference hosted by the Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University. During the two-day conference they presented a research paper to a panel. More on their experience below.

Martha and Selim
We got involved with the Georgetown Center for German and European Studies (CGES) Conference through the SAIS European Studies department and their network of graduate-level opportunities in European affairs.

We already had the idea of combining our concentrations (Martha’s in European Studies and Selim’s in Middle Eastern Studies) and developing economics skills in a paper on U.S. and EU economic policies towards the Middle East/North African region.

When this opportunity appeared in our inboxes, we realized we could edit our draft to fit the bill.

Georgetown later contacted us about presenting our paper in their graduate student conference on the future of Europe, and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

Thanks to generous support from both the European Studies and Middle East Studies departments, we were able to make the trek to DC during the first week of the semester.

The conference took place on Friday and Saturday, ending with a dinner for all participants. It was entirely student-run and included participants from the U.S. and Europe.

Key note speaker João Vale de Almeida, the EU ambassador to the United States, gave a solid opening lecture on the continuing importance of the EU.

Students’ topics covered everything from financial regulation to European identity.

We were among the younger participants. Many of the others were PhD students at the beginning of their graduate work and presented preliminary research.

It was the first time either one of us had spoken on a panel, but it went surprisingly smoothly. The audience seemed very excited about our ideas and gave us great feedback.

We flew back to Bologna Sunday night, just in time for Monetary Theory with Professor Taddei at 8:30 am on Monday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Combining the abstract and the practical

Since its inception, SAIS has combined the theoretical and the practical to educate leaders able to tackle a range of challenges. It is in its DNA.

In January, 15 SAIS students traveled to Honduras to help build classrooms for an elementary school in a small town. The trip was one of many organized by students to complement learning in the SAIS classroom.

"Service trips are a perfect way of turning what we learn in the classroom into real-life experiences," Rose Stratmeyer, a first-year SAIS student, told the bimonthly publication SAIS Reports.

During this year's winter break, students from the Bologna, DC and Nanjing campuses traveled to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia, Britain, China, Hong Kong, India, Netherlands, South Africa and several Southeast Asian countries to participate in study and career development programs.

The same issue of SAIS Reports explores work by the International Reporting Project, which for 15 years, while many mainstream media organizations cut back foreign coverage and bureaus, has been encouraging media coverage of global issues.

Interested in summer courses at SAIS? On the last page of SAIS Reports you can read about the kinds of courses offered in June and July.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Summer internships: a fantastic way to begin to explore options

Most students at SAIS Bologna work an internship in the summer between their first and second year of study. 

The range of activities and destinations is as diverse as the student body itself. Click here to watch a video in which last year's students talk about their summer plans.

Today, we asked Kathryn Knowles, associate director of European Studies, to tell us about some of the new internship opportunities for SAIS Bologna students.

(Quiz: In which European capital would you see the cathedral pictured below? First person to answer correctly wins a SAIS Bologna tee shirt. You can respond by commenting on this post or via email to

Summer 2013 in Brussels, Copenhagen or Istanbul? How about Paris, Warsaw or Zagreb?

These are a few of the European destinations where more than a dozen SAIS students will be spending the summer as interns at a variety of organizations across the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

The unique SAIS model of providing a trans-Atlantic education means that students have the opportunity to study international relations first from a European perspective in Bologna and then from an American one in Washington DC.

One of the goals of the SAIS European Studies program in particular is to provide a “third country experience” during the summer between the first and second years of study, allowing program concentrators to experience living and working in yet another European capital.

The program has teamed up with Career Services in Bologna to provide a number of new opportunities for the summer of 2013. Students interested in gaining private sector experience in public affairs consulting will head to Acumen Public Affairs or FIPRA in Brussels or the Vlahovic Group in Zagreb.

Kathryn Knowles
Those interested in designing their own research projects will go to Copenhagen to work with the Danish Emergency Management Agency or to Warsaw to the Polish Institute for International Affairs.

Trans-atlanticists can explore their interest in EU-US relations at the German Marshall Fund or the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, both in Brussels; another will go to Washington DC to work with the Transatlantic Academy.

Understand Russian? How about a business development internship with Fox International Channels in Istanbul focused on markets in the Caucuses?

Parlez-vous français?  That will come in handy at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris or Brussels.

One lucky student will even get to continue his or her Bologna experience by working with CRIF, the market leader in continental Europe in the field of banking credit information based right here in town.

All internships are posted in SAISworks and are open to students in every concentration. The diversity of internship opportunities reflects the vastness of career choices for SAIS students after graduation - a summer internship is a fantastic way to begin to explore these options.

Kathryn Knowles

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Photo gallery: The Austrian Ball

Among SAIS Bologna's most venerable traditions is the Austrian Ball.

Generations of Bologna Center students have donned their finest garb on a Saturday evening in February and then thrown themselves into a Viennese waltz and the odd tango beneath the frescoed ceilings of the Hofburg Palace.

Last weekend most of this year's class piled into three buses for the trip to Vienna for this year's Ball.

The annual rite underscores SAIS Bologna's longstanding ties with Austria, which has sent nearly 400 students to the program since its inception in 1955. That makes Austria the 4th largest nationality among SAIS Bologna's more than 7,000 alumni.

(Can you guess what the three leading nationalities are?)

Thanks to Marwa Abdou, Veronika Bauer, Tendai Madenyika, Markus Tozman and Guli Du for providing us with these pictures.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How cities transform international relations

Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and in the next decades the number will rise.

"With most people living in urban areas, what happens in and between cities will shape the world of the future -- and transform international relations", writes SAIS Dean Vali Nasr in the latest edition of SAISPHERE, the journal for alumni and friends of the SAIS community.

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York and a Johns Hopkins alumnus, discusses the challenges facing New York and how cities can address some of today's most critical global issues.

Kenneth Keller, SAIS Bologna Director and professor of Science and Technology Policy, explains the term "smart city" and discusses how "properly employed information and communication technology can enhance physical community and hence its role in creating smart cities".

Seth G. Jones, professorial lecturer in the Strategic Studies Program at SAIS and associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND, looks at how "the trend towards urban insurgencies will have an impact on the nature of insurgency -- and counterinsurgency".

Erik Jones, director of SAIS's European Studies Program, and second year MA student Jozefien Willemen look at whether London or New York is the world's financial capital.

Inside the magazine, more on cities from all around the world and views from experts across SAIS.

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Travel: the transformative power of the SAIS experience

Before coming to SAIS Bologna, I knew the experience would transform my intellectual landscape. I was not quite prepared for another powerful aspect of the experience.

Castelo da Pena taken from Castelo dos Mouros (Portugal)
by David Gorgani
If you come to SAIS, it will change you, and not just academically speaking. You will leave SAIS a different person. Here's what I mean.

Before arriving at SAIS Bologna, I considered myself relatively well traveled for my age. I had lived in New Zealand for six months during high school; visited Washington, DC, New York City and the U.S. West Coast, and traveled through large parts of Europe.

Most readers will be familiar with the uneasiness one can feel during one's first days abroad, the sense of being lost and a vague desire for the comforts of home. I am fortunate enough to be able to return to a loving family in Germany and great friends. But now that is no longer enough.

I have become a travel and culture enthusiast thanks to my fellow SAIS Bologna students who have traveled through the remote areas of the Baltic states, hopped through European capitals and trekked through the deserts of Morocco. Like them, I want to venture forth, log my own experiences and make the absolute best use of my time by travelling to far-flung places.

Relaxing in Fez
by Marina Grushin
At SAIS you are almost sure to have someone in your class who has been to those destinations and who can help you with contacts and advice, and perhaps even find you a travel companion. Bologna is a travel hub, with convenient train connections to the rest of Italy and Europe, and an airport that is served by two low-budget airlines -- much appreciated by budget-conscious students -- plus the major carriers.

SAIS has transformed me into a travel enthusiast who is eager to expand his horizons with friends from all over the world. It took only one semester.

This is part of the power of the SAIS experience.

Felix Amrhein (BC13)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Careers: the world is a SAIS graduate's oyster

What do SAIS students do after they graduate?

Here's a report on the types of jobs last year's SAIS graduates landed after they had finished their studies.

You might be struck by the range of sectors and the geographic spread. Consulting, banking, energy, government, diplomacy, international development, think tanks, multilateral organizations. All inhabited continents of the world.

To read the report, click here

"SAIS is renowned for its emphasis on international economics, regional and functional studies, and foreign languages, making our graduates valued commodities in the public, private and nonprofit sectors," Ronald Lambert, director of Career Services, says in the report.

Ronald Lambert
On top of the academic and language courses, SAIS offers professional skills courses in  accounting, finance, corporate valuation, financial modeling, public speaking, business writing, leadership, consulting skills, negotiations, Excel and STATA.

SAIS's more than 16,000 alumni form a valuable network for learning about careers and opportunities. Yesterday, SAIS Bologna student Katerina Lovtchinova wrote about how SAIS Bologna alumni helped make a recent trip to Brussels, organized by Career Services, a success. SAIS students visit cities such as New York, London, Geneva, Hong Kong and Beijing every year.

Most SAIS students participate in summer internships between their first and second years, and nearly half do so during their second year of study.

Every fall SAIS hosts a career fair that attracts a large number of employers. And students participate in a variety of sector-specific career clubs that range from development to defence and intelligence.

Noting that many countries and regions faced unprecedented challenges in 2012, the report concludes: "From the fiscal crisis in Europe to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, SAIS graduates have been involved and have contributed in significant ways, whether the issues involved global economics, refugee relief efforts or exploring ways to develop renewable energy resources."

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Careers: a trip to the European Union's capital

Streets, buildings and gardens covered with snow; restaurants offering seafood delicacies and local pubs serving 200 types of beer; chocolate fountains and abundant selections of cacao products; the smell of freshly baked Belgian waffles in the metro station.

A fairytale? No. That is what we discovered on a trip to Brussels during the semester break this winter.

The journey did not aim merely to unravel the culinary and cultural secrets of the European Union’s capital. We traveled north to Brussels to get a taste of the lobbying and policy-making at the heart of the EU. The Brussels career trip, organized annually by the Career Services Office at SAIS Bologna, offers a great opportunity to all EU and non-EU citizens to discover first-hand what it feels like to work in an EU institution, an NGO or a think tank.

Meera Shankar, director of Career Services, likes to arrange the trip so it falls right after first semester finals. That way students interested in doing an internship in Brussels over the summer can have an adequate amount of time to gather information and plan applications to the institutions of their choice.

We had a pretty tight agenda for our two-day trip. We visited eight organizations:

  • European External Action Service
  • European Policy Center
  • International Crisis Group
  • NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • Fipra
  • Burson-Marsteller
  • Bruegel
  • European Union Institute for Security Studies

This gave us insight into an amalgam of organizations operating in different spheres: policy-makers, lobbyists, consultants and conflict management experts.

As a European Studies concentrator at SAIS, I was most interested in the European External Action Service. I had researched the Service and presented my findings to my SAIS peers before the trip -- just as they researched the other organizations and shared their summaries.

I very much appreciated this part of the preparation process as it gave me a good sense of how each of the different organizations operate, increasing my confidence during the meetings and allowing me to ask good questions. And as future SAISers will understand, learning how to ask the right questions is a crucial skill for a graduate student.

Katerina in front of the European Commission
In addition to the meetings with the organizations, we were able to meet SAIS alumni who organized a special dinner for us. Many alumni from the SAIS chapter in Brussels came, providing us with a good networking opportunity. It was helpful and more than a bit of a relief to hear others’ success stories and tips on how to climb the ladder once graduate school is over.

We current SAISers were happy to hear from others who were in our shoes only a few years ago and who had got off on the right foot in their professions. We left Brussels convinced we will be able to do the same.

Everyone could use a bit of reassurance once in a while, right?

Katerina Lovtchinova (BC13)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Keeping in touch with this Journal -- and a quiz

There are many ways to keep in touch with this Journal.

Perhaps the easiest is to subscribe by email or RSS feed. To do so, click on the icon that looks like this:

Where is this icon?

  • If you are reading the Journal on a computer, the icon slides out of the side of the home page when you move your cursor to the far right.
  • If you are reading the Journal on a smart phone, the icon is on the right-hand side of the home page.

We also publish links to all of the posts on Facebook and Twitter (@SAISBolognaBlog). Feel free to "like" the Facebook page and to follow our Twitter feed.

Recently we ran a list of the most popular posts since we launched the Journal in late 2010.

Now a pop quiz for our readers. The first reader to answer both questions correctly will win a SAIS Bologna tee shirt:
  • Which Internet browser has been most used by readers since the Journal was launched?
  • Which operating system has been most used?
You can send in your answers either through the comment box at the bottom of this post or by sending an email to

(Mark got the right browser in his answer in the comments below. Now, what has the most popular operating system been if not the one he guessed? Put the two together, and the tee shirt is yours.)

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Economics: getting up to speed

Economics is one of SAIS's distinguishing features.

Each SAIS student graduates with a solid understanding of international economics. It starts even before SAIS: each admitted candidate must have passed both introductory micro and macro before being able to take any courses at SAIS.

Of course not all applicants have a background in economics. We appreciate diversity in all of its forms, including the varied educational backgrounds of our students.

To prepare themselves for the challenge, many students without substantial training in economics take our Online Principles of Economics course taught by Prof. Dale Larson in the summer before the start of pre-term classes.

Prof. Larson has taught the "dismal science" for most of his career and the Principles of Economics at SAIS since 2005. Currently he teaches the course from Kabul, where he also instructs at the American University in Afghanistan.

(I took Prof. Larson's online course last fall and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the first time I had taken an online course and would recommend following Prof. Larson's advice to students who've never taken a virtual course.)

We receive many questions on the introductory economics course. We thought we'd ask some of Prof. Larson himself.

Q: What’s the goal of the course?
Larson: The primary goal of the course is to prepare students for required economics courses at SAIS and other graduate schools. It is the equivalent of a two-semester undergraduate introduction and survey of almost the entire field of economics.

Q: What’s its general structure?
Prof. Dale Larson
Larson: The course spans 12 weeks. The course material is divided into ten weekly modules, and one week each is devoted to a midterm and a final examination. For each module, a student must read textbook assignments, view narrated PowerPoint slides, and complete both a graded quiz on that week’s material and post two responses to a discussion question.

Q: How is the course tailored to SAIS’s needs?
Larson: The course is designed to prepare students for the SAIS curriculum in microeconomics and macroeconomics. It provides the basic tools needed to succeed in these graduate-level courses.

Most SAIS students are particularly interested in international trade and investment, and in economic development in less developed countries. A grounding in microeconomics is necessary to understand international trade, and a grounding in macroeconomics is necessary to understand international finance. Both international trade and finance are important for understanding policies to promote economic development.

Q: What would you say are the key differences with an in situ course? 
Larson: The most obvious difference is the lack of face-to-face interaction, both between the instructor and students and among the students, and the competitive motivation that face-to-face interaction often arouses in students. The course tries to compensate for the lack of face-to-face interaction by requiring students to introduce themselves to their classmates during the first few days, which often leads to student-to-student interaction. As the instructor I am available via email seven days a week, and on three days hold “office hours” in the form of a chat room. This provides what is probably more individual attention than students get in a traditional classroom. For the discussion question, the students work in groups.

An advantage of an online course is that students may take the course from anywhere in the world as long as they have Internet service. Students need not be physically present at a particular time and a particular place. Although the course is not entirely self-paced, the students do have a few days within which to complete each assignment. Students can travel while completing all the assignments.

Q: What advice would you give to those who are taking an online course for the first time?
Larson: A student must realize that this is a serious course. It is not self-paced but has frequent assignments due each Thursday and Saturday. Each term a few students are slow to begin the first week, but thereafter they realize that the course requires almost daily effort.

Q: How much time should one invest in the course to do well?
Larson: This of course depends on each student’s background. For some students, 10 hours per week would suffice, but other students would need more time. Although the only mathematics required for this course is arithmetic, students who have studied more mathematics usually are able to acquire economics concepts more quickly.

Q: Any advice for students about to have their first encounter with economics?
Larson: First, do not judge the field of economics immediately. Students sometimes begin by complaining that the assumptions on which economic models are based are too simple, and later complain that economics is very complicated.

Second, economics is both abstract and logical. The abstraction lies in economic models’ simplifying assumptions, which are like premises in a logical syllogism.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Looking ahead: the next steps in the admissions process

Candidates are asking us what the next steps in the admissions process will be after interviews.

Quite right: it's always good to have a positive attitude and never too early to think ahead.

Here's a timeline from now until the SAIS Bologna Class of 2014 starts the fall term:

FEBRUARY 15: Deadline for applications for financial aid. Non-U.S. citizens who want to start their SAIS studies in Bologna should use this form and email the form and supporting documents to

Other candidates should use this form.

MID-MARCH: Candidates will be told if they are admitted or not. Candidates who are admitted and who had asked for financial aid will be informed in the same communication whether they received aid and, if so, how much.

APRIL 15: Admitted candidates will be invited to Open House at SAIS Bologna. This is an opportunity for the candidates to meet students and faculty and to see the Bologna Center and the city for themselves. While all admitted candidates are invited, we understand that most live simply too far away and will not be able to come. That is why Amina and I stand ready to answer questions at any time.

Admitted candidates who live in the United States will be invited to the SAIS DC Open House, which will be held in Washington on April 10.

APRIL 20: Deadline for admitted candidates who have been granted aid or who did not request aid to accept the admissions offer.

MAY 1: Deadline for admitted candidates who have not been granted aid to accept the admissions offer.

MID-MAY (date to be determined): Deadline for registering for the online Principles of Economics course. Enrolled students must have passed introductory courses in both micro and macro before being able to start their studies at SAIS; the online course is specially tailored to these students' needs.

LATE MAY: Closed Facebook group formed for incoming class.

AUGUST 12 (tentative): SAIS Bologna's housing service begins. Many students take advantage of our housing consultant to line up accommodation and roommates.

AUG 21-SEPT 17: Pre-term in Bologna.

SEPT 18-20: Orientation and registration; all students must be present at school by September 18.

SEPT 23: First day of fall semester classes.

Nelson Graves