Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crisis simulations: No easy answers at NATO exercise

How should NATO respond if a vessel carrying weapons and sea mines were hijacked in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait?

If a cyber attack triggered the collapse of Europe's financial system and set off street protests, what should NATO do?

Two fellow SAIS Bologna students and I tackled those and other questions during a recent two-day crisis management simulation organized by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We were joined by 31 students from seven other universities at the event in Forli' near Bologna.

Panagiotis, Ally and David with NATO's representatives
Organized by the University of Bologna in collaboration with NATO's Allied Command Transformation, the exercise exposed students to the challenges of decision-making within the 28-nation military alliance.

Ally Carragher, David Vaino and I were among students representing nations within the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest decision-making body. Other participants covered the deliberations as representatives of the media.

Two NATO representatives helped lead the crisis simulations, which took us away from our studies for finals but gave us a glimpse into the challenge of reaching a consensus in the face of complex security threats. All of this while addressing the concerns of the press and, by extension, public opinion.

Ally, David and I represented, respectively, Denmark, Spain and Iceland. With no army and only limited financial resources, I faced the challenge of persuading the other member states to intervene in a crisis in Somalia -- at their cost, not mine.

What did we decide to do in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait exercise? We dispatched a NATO Response Force unit to seize the ship. To calm financial markets after the cyber attack, we evoked Article 5 of the NATO charter, declaring the attack an act of war. Both moves were successful.

The exercise taught me two lessons. First, NATO -- which was formed at the start of the Cold War -- remains relevant today as it faces new security threats in an increasingly interdependent world.

Second, there are no easy answers to new security threats such as cyber attacks -- threats we will have to deal with as future professionals.

Panagiotis Olympiou (BC13/DC14)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Graduation 2013: a bittersweet farewell

We salute the SAIS Bologna Class of 2013, who finished the year in style and celebrated with faculty, staff, families and friends at the end-of-year ceremony on Saturday.

Most of the class will be going to Washington for the next academic year before graduating from SAIS with a Master of Arts in International Relations a year from now.

Eleven of this year's class graduated on Saturday: eight recipients of the Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA) and three with the Master of International Public Policy (MIPP).

The MAIA candidates were Daniela Beyer, Nilshan Fonseka, Bouchra Ibn Chakroune, Saša Kulenovic, Maëlle Lena, Maximilian Meduna, Arianna Ranuschio and Martin Vladimirov.

Receiving their MIPP degrees were Anthony Bonanno, Eilidh MacRae and Megan Rhodes.

The winners of the C. Grove Haines Awards for academic excellence were:
  • Rebecca Freeman and Andreas Glossner in International Economics
  • Harald Edinger in Global Themes
  • Natalia Drozdiak in Regional Studies
  • Martin Vladimirov for his MAIA thesis
Student Government President Matthew Conn addressed the packed auditorium before the guest speaker, Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, took the podium. He said Florence historically nurtured  innovators, artists and leaders because it understood the value of education and he urged SAIS students to embrace positive political change.

Renzi, who is considered a potential prime minister on Italy, was besieged by the press as he entered SAIS Bologna and as he departed, and was featured on regional and national television news bulletins that day.

Here is a video peak of the bittersweet event:

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

Nelson Graves

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Student life: Partners for progress at SAIS Bologna

Caitlin Geraghty has spent the past 10 months in Bologna with her financé, Matthew Conn. Like Paige, Michael and Ada Anderson last year, Caitlin and Matt have both thrived here while Matt studies for his SAIS M.A. Below she discusses what it is like to come to Bologna as the partner of a student.


That was the text message my fiancé, Matt, sent me in April 2012 after he learned he had been admitted to SAIS Bologna.

My response: “WHAT????????”

A million thoughts ran through my mind. "THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!" Then reality set in.

Priscilla and Caitlin
at the Greek amphitheater at Segreto, Sicily ...
"I have to quit my job," I thought. "I have to say goodbye to my friends and family for a year. What am I going to do there while Matt is studying? Will I make friends? Will I get bored? Aarrgghhh!"

As I wrap up my last week as a SAIS spouse in Bologna, I can look back at this year and say I have had the time of my life. My worries were valid, but I could not be happier that I came to Italy.

I have traveled to 12 countries, made friends who will last a lifetime and had some of the best experiences of my life.

I became part of the SAIS community and felt welcomed from all angles. I have been treated just the same as full-time students -- only I have not had to worry about that whole "school work" thing.

... while Simon and Matt
study for final exams.
In the past 10 months I have taken Italian classes; been a member of a cappella singing group; participated in the "Vagina Monologues"; taken dance classes; played in football, volleyball and kickball tournaments, and celebrated a variety of international holidays. I became part of the SAIS community and immediately felt as though I belonged.

I have not only made friends with students but also bonded with the other spouses. I just returned from a week-long trip to Sicily with Priscilla Tran: we ditched our men while they studied hard for finals.

If you are a potential SAIS spouse and you’re questioning whether you should come to Bologna, the answer is YES!

Caitlin Geraghty

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Academics: Navigating SAIS Bologna's Library

SAIS Bologna's library has one of Europe's largest English-language collections in the field of international relations.

What exactly is available to students and outside users, and how can they learn to use the vast material?

I spoke with Ludovica Barozzi, the library's public services coordinator, one year after a post featuring head librarian Gail Martin.

Ludovica Barozzi
Q: What resources are available to students?
Barozzi: Students have access to resources both on paper and in electronic format.

In terms of paper materials, we have around 85,000 books and periodicals on international relations, economics and history. We hold several copies of all required readings for courses which students can take out on short loan.

In terms of electronic materials, our resources include thousands of e-books and CIAO, which stands for Course Items Available Online. CIAO is an online repository where students can find documents for their classes: journal articles, reports and parts of books -- within the limits of copyright.

Students have access also to hundreds of online databases that provide journal articles, policies, statistics, papers and much more including maps, pictures and speeches.

Another tool used for some classes is Blackboard, which allows for interactive communication between professors and students.

Q: How do you help students familiarize themselves with the library and its resources?
Barozzi: At the beginning of the year we hold library information sessions. During these sessions we give general information on how the library works and the services we provide. We also explain how the short loan reserve system works.
The Robert H. Evans Library

We offer one-hour training sessions on electronic resources. Here we combine some theory and practice. The theoretical part helps students understand the logic behind databases. Once you get the gist, you learn how to use most databases.

We hold around 10  sessions during the academic year, and upon request I've set up ad hoc training with interested students.

We also provide students individual help with using the different databases and finding materials for their papers including books, articles and specific data.

Q: Why should students come to the training sessions?
Barozzi: All students have used a library before and most know how to use a database. However, with the training sessions they have the opportunity to become familiar with some specific SAIS tools that are of great help in optimizing the research process and saving time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SAIS's new logo: "Telling a more cohesive and powerful story"

What's in a logo?
SAIS's new logo

Johns Hopkins and SAIS are complicated institutions with many moving parts around the globe. Recently the university took a look at itself with a view to simplifying  the message.

The result is a set of new logos that seek to capture the essence of Johns Hopkins in a visually attractive way.

Logos by definition compress and simplify. In the case of Hopkins, its new logo seeks to capture four distinguishing features: research, world, community and excellence.

The branding exercise started with the realization that while certain parts of Johns Hopkins were well known, the university's collective identity was lost in its many departments and schools. Institutions and companies are little greater than the sum of their individual parts unless they harness their collective energy.

The goal was "to create a shared visual for the entire university that allows us to begin telling a more cohesive and powerful story," according to the authors of the initiative.

The university's new logo depicts an open book (knowledge and discovery), a globe (worldwide impact) and the crest of Lord Baltimore (Johns Hopkins's attachment to its community).

SAIS's logo has also undergone change. Instead of the acronym SAIS inside a circle formed by the names of its campuses' three host cities, the new logo features the letters "SAIS" above the globe and placed within the shape of a shield traditionally used for university seals.

SAIS's commitment to excellence and its historic mission remain unchanged by the re-branding exercise.

But SAIS's new logo is a reminder that it is part of a preeminent research university with a global reach and strong local roots. A message that is familiar to SAIS students and graduates, and worth spreading to prospective candidates around the world.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Careers: What are SAIS Bologna students doing this summer?

Most SAIS students work internships during the summer after their year in Bologna.

Career Services and SAIS Bologna alumni help students explore opportunities that can take them to points around the globe before they start their second year in DC.

I collared some students in the hallways this week as they prepared for exams and put the finishing touches on term papers.

In the video below, they discuss their plans to work in South America, Africa, Europe, the United States and Asia.

While most will be working, some will relax with family and friends after a challenging year before hitting the books again.

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

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Student publications: Combining the intellectual and the practical

Are you looking to put your ideas into print so they reach those who share your interests?

SAIS students have multiple writing outlets that accommodate serious academic prose to comic relief.

SAIS Bologna's flagship student publication, the Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs (BCJIA), offers its editors the chance to contribute to the global public policy debate.

This year's edition -- the 16th since the Journal was founded -- addresses the theme of "Revisions" through articles by leading academics and SAIS Bologna students, interviews, commentary and graphics.

SAIS Dean Vali Nasr discusses Egypt, Libya, the Arab Spring and U.S. foreign policy in an interview. There are articles on U.S.-Iran relations, IR theory, NATO, the euro crisis, transatlantic relations, drought in Africa and global labor regulations, among other topics.

As SAIS Bologna Director Kenneth Keller notes in his forward, the Journal "reflects a goal of SAIS itself: to combine the intellectual analytical tools of graduate study with the practical focus of a professional school."

Last week, we showcased SAIS Perspectives, a student-run publication of the International Development program.

The SAIS Observer newspaper provides a glimpse of student life on all three campuses. The lead story in the May edition takes readers into the urban park next to the SAIS Bologna Center to meet the indomitable Signora Anna, who runs the garden with an iron fist.

Other articles explore a trip by SAIS students to North Korea, a walk on the Nanjing wall, salsa dancing in Bologna, the SAIS Toastmasters Club and the first SAIS Global Women in Leadership Conference.

The newspaper finishes with a quote by Prof. Marco Cesa: "I've taught you everything I know, so goodbye."

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Student life: Raising awareness for a global cause

Today we turn the podium over to Brenna Allen (BC13/DC14) for the latest post in our series on students' civic engagement beyond the classroom.

One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten during her lifetime.

We assume we don’t know many of these women, that our friends, neighbors, sisters and mothers aren’t the victims. Sadly this isn’t the case, and we cannot begin to fight sexual assault until we acknowledge that it is a problem.

And so we acknowledged it. To raise awareness of the problem of sexual assault, a group of five SAIS Bologna students organized a campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Rupi Rai quizzes Lulu Farias in the monologue
"I asked a six-year-old girl."
Throughout April, we arranged a series of events to encourage discussion among classmates. Nearly the whole student body participated, either as volunteers for the events or by donating money to the Casa delle Donne, a battered women’s shelter in Bologna.

The highlight was a production of "The Vagina Monologues" featuring a cast of SAIS women. As this was the acting debut for most of us, we rehearsed for several weeks.

Some students couldn’t wait to see us on stage while others were understandably apprehensive considering the nature of the play. In the end, students stuck together, and about 130 of our classmates filled the audience.

It’s not easy to muster the courage to act out having an orgasm on stage, but luckily the audience rolled in the aisles with laughter.

We accomplished what we had hoped for: to get everyone talking about sexual assault, how it has affected us and why this problem needs to be addressed.

Through ticket sales and proceeds raised from a kickball tournament, trivia night and poker game, we raised almost 1200 euros for Casa delle Donne. But just as important as helping bolognesi women in need, we threw a spotlight on a problem that many would rather ignore. Together we took a small step in the fight against sexual violence against women.

Brenna Allen (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Student Life: Rising to the occasion outside of SAIS

Last week Martha Simms told us how she has discovered a world outside of SAIS Bologna this year. This week it's the turn of Caitlin Geraghty, who was surprised to find her own outlet in a familiar pastime.

Italy, and Bologna in particular, offers no shortage of world-class cuisine.

And while the pasta, pizza and vino rosso are great for your taste buds, they can take a toll on your waistline.

Caitlin's smashing
Personally, I find the lasagna at Drogheria della Rosa, the pizza at Beppe’s and the house wine at Trattoria Belle Arti just too good to resist. To balance my indulgent eating habits, I take runs through the park, do Jillian Michaels's work-out videos in my kitchen and -- my favorite -- play on an Italian volleyball team.

As a former college volleyball player, I thought I would have to give up playing my favorite sport during my year in Bologna. "I don’t speak the language," I surmised. "There’s no way I could play on a team when I can’t even communicate with the players."

As it turns out, I was wrong.

Sure, I’ve learned a bit of Italian along the way, but volleyball is volleyball; the rules are the same, the game is the same and the players still want to win. Your teammates still cheer for you when you get a game-winning block and get mad when you miss a serve.

These girls have become more than just teammates; they’ve become my new Italian friends. We have bonded during car rides to away games, gone to late-night bakeries (not helping the waist line) and celebrated together at their graduation parties -- even though my Italian is still sub par.
The Santa Maria di Fossolo squad
After playing twice a week for more than six months (with the exception of a few games I missed to travel all over Europe), my team, Santa Maria di Fossolo, has made the playoffs. The finals are the day before I leave Italy to return home to the U.S. of A., and one final victory would be a nice way to leave my stamp on Italia.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Concentrations: Shedding perspective on development and SAIS

"International development is the work of the practical idealist."

So writes Carolyn Nash at the outset of "Perspectives", a magazine published by the SAIS International Development (IDEV) program.

The latest issue of "Perspectives" provides a window both on changes in the development world and on SAIS.
Marwa Abdou (BC13/DC14)
shot the cover photo while in
Ras al-Khaimah

The publication challenges conventional development strategies which, as editor-in-chief Nash puts it, throw up "economic prescriptions imposed on developing countries from one decade's botched philosophies to the next."

Individual articles examine:
  • the likelihood of an international body to promote government transparency;
  • security challenges facing aid workers in the developing world;
  • the fashion industry as a vehicle for change in Ethiopia.
What does this say about SAIS?

First, consider that several of the authors are not from the IDEV concentration. Evan Fowler, a current SAIS Bologna student, is a Middle East Studies concentrator who writes about the future of Somalia in light of the country's new constitution.

Fellow SAIS Bologna students Martha Simms (European Studies) and Selim Koru (Middle East Studies) discuss how European trade policy can strengthen the economies of new Middle Eastern and North African democracies.

This cross-pollination is characteristic of SAIS's multi-disciplinary approach. Development issues are not the exclusive domain of IDEV. Nor are they exclusive to SAIS DC; as Allison Carragher, the first Bologna based editor of "Perspectives", notes, about half the IDEV class does their first year in Bologna.

You might want to read an interview with SAIS Dean Vali Nasr, who connects the dots linking global security and development, and concludes that the focus of development may be shifting from outsiders trying to protect those at the bottom to outsiders building the state.

There is even a poem by Prof. William Douglas, "The New Frontier Is Finally Here":

The field of development is evolving;
Old dilemmas we're close to solving.
Years of trials and errors provide us
With "best practices" to guide us....

So, as new ideas abound,
Our efforts year-by-year gain ground
So we'll see in each developing nation,
More popular participation.

"Perspectives," like SAIS, pushes our intellectual boundaries.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Students from 49 countries have enrolled in SAIS Bologna for 2013-14

Students with passports from 49 countries have enrolled to attend SAIS Bologna in 2013-14.

They represent 42 primary nationalities and carry passports from another 7 countries.

Below is a map that shows the countries and captures in part the diversity that distinguishes our student body. The diversity is also reflected in the different backgrounds, experiences and interests of our students, who come from all of the inhabited continents of the world.

View SAIS Bologna Class of 2014 in a larger map

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

Nelson Graves

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Alumni: Kindred spirits around the world

Ever since I started working at SAIS Bologna I've been aware of the program's strong sense of community. But it wasn't until I  attended alumni weekend that I realized how enduring the ties can be. Each year hundreds of alumni fly to Bologna from all over the world. They put their careers on hold for a weekend to re-live what for many was one of the best years of their lives.

Last year, Nelson Graves talked about his class's 30th reunion
This year, we asked John Gans, a SAIS alumnus and current Ph.D student, to tell us about his class's fifth reunion. (Amina Abdiuahab)

More than 350 SAISers returned to Bologna this past weekend to catch up with each other, support the Center and revisit this city’s educational, culinary and architectural treasures.

The alumni and their families enjoyed receptions and lectures arranged by Center staff, as well as dinners and aperitivi organized by class committees.

John (far right) with classmates
Class of 2008 
The fifth reunion of the BC Class of 2008 brought back nearly 80 of our classmates. Just as we arrived in Bologna for pre-term of our first year, we came from different places, in different shape and with different plans.

Some joined an organized bike ride from Rome while others recognized, bleary-eyed, their classmates on red-eyes from Washington. I walked the three blocks from my apartment off Piazza Aldrovandi where I am finishing my dissertation in the SAIS Ph.D program, fortunate for a second stay in Bologna due to the generosity of one of the Center’s Abernathy grants.

We came together at a number of events organized formally by our reunion committee and informally by groups of friends, former study partners and roommates. A Friday night dinner at Quindici on Via Marasole allowed us to reintroduce ourselves to each other and the mysteries of mortadella. The class photo on Saturday, the reunion of the class band – the "Perfect Substitutes" – and the boozy walk between that night’s class dinner on Strada Maggiore and the BC Fuzz concert reminded us we can somehow organize ourselves with and for purpose, especially one as important as a nightcap at Arteria. The wine tasting and gastro-tour of Corte D’Aibo outside Bologna on Sunday reminded us that the good life does not preclude good argument. The amici di Bologna know that good wine and good food only fuel it.

Why reunion matters to SAIS
Some left on flights first thing on Sunday. Others continued the reunion trip with a Tuscan tour. And some of us stayed on in Bologna, to study, to remember and to use the city as a base for jumping off to Europe.

Many suggested our days are busier since our last exams in Bologna five years ago this month. With BlackBerries in pockets, family time to treasure and our own interests to pursue – not to mention those of the countries and causes so many of us serve – it can be hard to muster the empathy that comes so easily when sitting in a class or a café with so many and such passionate voices. It is hard to forget the views of others because they so willingly state them in class discussions, at dinner parties and on train trips around Italy.

What makes SAIS special to so many is the realization that our classmates are the ones we have been looking for. For years BB (before Bologna), many of us dreamed about the world, studied on our own and looked for those who shared our passions. We found ourselves, but almost as important, we found each other on via Belmeloro.

A reunion means different things to different people. A reunion can frustrate, inspire, upset and soothe. But like the rest of the SAIS experience and much in life, it is always a product of the people we meet along the way. The weekend reconnected friends and introduced new ones, but, most importantly, it recharged the empathy and understanding we develop at SAIS. We are reminded in the “hellos” on Friday, but most by Sunday’s “goodbyes,” how much it means to have kindred spirits around the world.

Johns Gans (BC08/DC09)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Student life: A world outside of SAIS Bologna

Martha Simms has discovered a world outside of SAIS Bologna and, like other students who engage with the Bologna community, broadened her horizons. Below she describes her experiences and provides us with a video of her choir.

Having worked a time-demanding job for the last two years, I was excited to involve myself again in a singing group when I arrived at SAIS.

Martha Simms
I discovered the Collegium Musicum, a musical organization under the umbrella of the University of Bologna, and auditioned in the spring. I was accepted as a provisional member for the fall semester and am now an official member of two choirs, the Coro Femminile and the Coro Misto.

The group turned out to be a more demanding organization than I originally thought.

We rehearse several times a week and sing often. The singers, both students at the University of Bologna and residents of Bologna, are seriously committed to the group and spend a good deal of time outside rehearsals at social events organized by the Collegium Musicum.

It has been a real challenge to understand the Italian, not to mention keeping up with the group musically, but has been a tremendously rewarding experience. I've made many new friends and developed a decent understanding of Italian. I have also gained a better sense of Bologna and the bolognesi than I might otherwise have.

I really recommend that future SAIS students involve themselves in local activities. It will completely reshape and enhance your SAIS experience.

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

Martha Simms (BC13/DC14)