Thursday, June 27, 2013

Academics: The challenge of reining in cyber attacks

Cyber security has been very much in the news of late, but as Harald Edinger (BC13/DC14) explains in an award-winning paper he wrote at SAIS Bologna this year, there are few international laws to control cyber attacks and a global treaty to do so looks unlikely.

Harald won a C. Grove Haines Award -- SAIS Bologna's highest academic achievement -- for his paper, "Stuxnet and the Treatment of Cyber Attacks under International Law". Below he explains how he choose the topic and what his main challenges were.

Q: How did you choose the topic? What are the main themes?
Harald Edinger
A: The course ‘Foundations of International Law’ equipped us with valuable tools to frame some of the most pressing issues in International Relations. Especially when there is armed conflict (and its possible justification), scholars often turn to international law for answers. As Professor Cesa commented so wittingly and poignantly during our end-of-the-year ceremony when discussing the concept of just war, he said he would “reluctantly take the side of the lawyers. Granted, lawyers may be as sinister and as threatening as the others (ecclesiastics and moralists), but at least their way of thinking, being rather logical, sounds plausible.”

While the course dealt mostly with legal regimes and precedents that were established to address more "conventional" hostilities as they arose in a historical context, working on the term paper gave me a chance to do research on a very slippery and new issue: Cyber warfare.

Legal scholars have taken up the new topic, and there are some opinions out there. My goal was to develop a good understanding of the different legal views on cyber warfare, and bring all those patches together to provide a comprehensive legal context for the most disruptive (certainly the most prominent) cyber attack of recent years -– the Stuxnet attack on the Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

Q: What were the biggest challenges?
A: Before taking this course, I had had little exposure to legal matters. A main challenge in doing research for and writing this paper was therefore to familiarize myself and to be able to use the vernacular of international law.

Organizing my findings in a clear and succinct way was an issue too. As I mentioned, there is no single legal framework to apply to cyber warfare but rather many different views and components. What I hope to have done in the paper is bring existing opinions together and, by looking at Stuxnet, provide an analytical starting point for looking at these kinds of cyber attacks going forward.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Student life: Experiencing ever-changing Berlin

For the past four years, Prof. Winrich Kühne, who holds the Steven Muller chair at SAIS Bologna, has invited students to a five-day trip to Berlin at the end of the academic year. Below Svenja Heins recounts this year's trip.

This year a group of 20 students -- many of whom had never been to Berlin or even Germany -- arrived in time for a Rhinelandian dinner at the Staendige Vertretung, a favorite of Prof. Kühne's.

Schloss Cecilienhoff
Throughout the week we experienced the contradictory nature of Berlin. We saw a vibrant, modern and fun city, but at the same time we were confronted with its indisputably dark past.

This was especially apparent in a trip to the former concentration camp of Sachsenhausen -- only a 40-minute train ride from the center of the city -- and of course also when we saw the physical manifestation of Berlin's separation: the Wall. Or as tour guide Nigel taught us: antifaschistische Schutzmauer (German words are notoriously long and difficult).

There were pleasant destinations as well. At the "Schloss Cecilienhof", the venue of the Potsdam Conference, students were in awe of former statesmen like Churchill and Truman. Upon entering the conference room, one student exclaimed: "I can't believe Stalin sat in that chair!"

A segment of the Berlin Wall
We were able to engage in some very interesting discussions at the Koerber Institute, where we debated the potential outcomes of German elections in the fall of 2013. At the German Foreign Office we learned of Germany's foreign policy challenges, especially as regards the crisis in Syria.

One evening we met fellow SAIS Bologna alumni for a rainy barbeque and learned about the career opportunities that lie in store for a SAISer in Berlin. We spent a morning at the Center for International Peacekeeping, which was founded by our host, Prof. Kühne.

The trip was a great way to learn about Berlin and Germany, and we participants are very grateful to Prof. Kühne who year in, year out, gives SAIS Bologna students a chance to experience the vibrant and ever-changing city of Berlin.

Svenja Heins (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Academics: Following one's passion and reaping awards

Rebecca Freeman and Andreas Glossner won one of SAIS Bologna's top academic awards at last month's end-of-the-year ceremony for a paper they wrote on international economics. Below they tell us how they got their idea for the paper and what they examined. Generally we like to print links to papers like Rebecca's and Andreas's that win a C. Grove Haines award, but they expect to publish it this summer -- and so we'll have to wait before we can read the full work. Here's an aperitivo.

Q: How did you get the idea for the paper?
A: The idea came about in the context of our course on Empirical Methods and International Trade. We recognized that non-tariff and behind-the-border barriers prevent both industrialized and developing countries from realizing potential benefits of trade. This negatively impacts conceivable efficiency gains, productivity improvements and subsequent growth possibilities that derive from increased exports and imports. There is a role for trade facilitation in easing trade costs by improving efficiency throughout the international trade chain.
Andreas and Rebecca after winning their award
Q: What was the main point?
A: Given our awareness of the role for trade facilitation, we aimed to quantify the impact of trade facilitation on gross trade flows and exports of value-added. Trade in value-added is increasingly important in the context of globalization as many countries are involved in fragmented production chains.

Q: What was the hardest part of your work on the paper?
A: The most challenging part of the work was constructing a database comprising indicators on trade facilitation. The data came from diverse sources and as such we coded and standardized variables to be able to use them consistently in our analysis.

Q: What tips would you give to incoming students as they prepare to write papers here?
A: We would suggest being creative and pursuing topics you are passionate about. This will make the work much more rewarding!


This paper employs a gravity-model approach to investigate the links between trade facilitation and exports of value-added. For the first time, to our knowledge, we draw upon the newly released OECD-WTO Trade in Value-Added (TiVA) Database to add to the existing literature on trade facilitation and gross trade flows. First, we demonstrate that standard trade facilitation indicators are significant not only for gross trade but for value-added trade flows as well. Second, notwithstanding possible endogeneity bias, it is shown that regional trade agreements strongly impact both gross and value-added trade. Lastly, we find that trade flows depend positively on the extent to which importing and exporting countries’ companies are present in value-chains.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Student life: Top 50 tips for navigating Bologna

Travel. Bring layered clothing. Look up when walking through Bologna. Those are some of the tips that the SAIS Bologna Class of 2013 put together before packing their bags at the end of the year. Hilary Kinka, who helped spearhead the initiative, discusses the advice her class bequeaths to its successors.

Before scattering across the globe for summer internships, jobs and travel, our class collectively brainstormed about how to get the most out of living in Bologna. The result was a list of 50 top tips for extracting the most out of your time at SAIS Bologna.

Bologna "La Rossa"
Responses ranged from the specific -- avoid bolognese bread -- to the more general -- drink as much caffeine as possible. The overarching message from the Class of 2013 was the importance of integrating into local culture.

A recurring theme was the importance of breaking away from one's studies at the Bologna Center to explore the city and Italy as much as possible.

Many suggested that traveling within Italy, as opposed to internationally, is a great way to get to know the country and region in which you will be living for an academic year. Taking advantage of freer schedules during the first semester is advisable to fit in weekend and day trips, as it can be shocking how busy second semester gets.

Although it may require going out of your comfort zone, getting to know Italians can be very rewarding. While many Italians speak English, a working knowledge of Italian helps one dig behind the surface and relate better to locals.

Hilary (2nd from left) with classmates
in the Dolomites
There are many approaches to meeting Italians: chat with a vendor at a farmer’s market, start up a conversation with a café owner, share an apartment with Italian students, utilize Facebook meet-up groups.  Choose the method easiest for you.

At times, school work can seem all encompassing. In these moments, take a step back and reassess the bigger picture -- you are living in Italy! Bologna has a lot to offer, so do some research and take study breaks to enjoy festivals, local events, café culture, excellent restaurants, beautiful hikes, fresh produce from farmer’s markets and delicious gelato. Enjoy all of the benefits of living in a medieval city while you can.

We hope these tips will help future classes to settle into their new home.

Hilary Kinka (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Admissions: Get the ball rolling early

Advice to prospective SAIS Bologna candidates: The earlier you get on top of the application process, the better your chances of being admitted.

The strongest applications come from candidates who offer a solid academic track record and who also spend time making sure their dossier is as good as possible.

Get the ball rolling
An application to SAIS Bologna is made up of many different parts, which together give the Admissions Committee -- made up primarily of resident faculty members -- the broadest and most detailed view possible of the candidate.

So an application is not something to be thrown together at the last minute. Like a fine wine (excuse the simile), it takes time to mature.

With those general points in mind, what can an aspiring applicant do now to get the ball rolling? Here is a checklist:

1. Read up on SAIS. Peruse our catalog and website, and check in on this Admissions Journal regularly (you can subscribe to the Journal by either email or RSS feed).

2. Familiarize yourself with the application process. Check out this web page and register yourself here.

3. English competency. Are you a non-native speaker of English? If so, you will have to submit the results of an English competency test. Here are the requirements for non-native English speakers.

We accept results from three tests: TOEFL, IELTS and Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English. You might like to take one of these tests more than once to maximize your chances of getting a good score, so the earlier you start planning, the better.

4. GREs or GMATs. We do not require non-U.S. students who want to start their studies in Bologna to submit GRE or GMAT scores. But we do recommend they do so. A higher than average score can help a candidate; a sub-par score can be a warning flag. Scores very rarely make or break an application, but they help round out an application. Get on top of these standardized tests early as you might want to take them more than once.

It takes time to mature
5. Referees. Letters of recommendation constitute one of the most important elements of an application. The choice of referees is important. Once you've chosen them, it's important that they understand what SAIS is, why you want to study there, what you would contribute that is unique and how the experience would benefit you. It can take time to explain that to the referees. Plus you want to leave them enough time to draft their letters, which need to be confidential.

6. Statements. The statement of purpose and analytical essay provide two opportunities to put your best foot forward in your application. You will want to let your ideas for each germinate before you start writing.

7. Finances. A SAIS education is an investment in your future. SAIS offers financial aid to many students, but just about all of them have to finance at least part of the cost. The earlier you start mapping a strategy, the better. For a list of alternative sources, click here. For information on a special loan facility offered to some incoming SAIS Bologna students, click here.

As we wrote last year, the early bird gets the worm. The deadline for applications for 2014-15 -- January 7, 2014 -- may seem a long way away. It's time well spent by candidates keen to maximize their chances of success.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Out and about in Bologna: Culture under every portico (Part II)

Last week Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14) provided an overview of the classical music scene in Bologna, which has a long and rich cultural history and where at age 14 Mozart studied for several months. Today Eugene shifts his sights to the contemporary scene. Home to some 100,000 students, Bologna has a bustling nightlife that the aesthete Eugene explored while a student at SAIS Bologna.


There are a great many musical happenings around via Rizzoli and Piazza Maggiore throughout the year including Red Bull DJs playing outside of hotel balconies over busy shopping streets.

The RoBOt Festival
You mustn’t miss the RoBOt Festival, a cross-genre collaboration across the city encompassing fine digital art, electronic music and film. It’s early on, so make sure to purchase tickets at Bologna Welcome.

One of the best events was the opening night which had visual artists mixed with DJ sets at Palazzo Re Enzo’s ballroom. The lights and people were truly a sight -- pure anachronism with futuristic visuals against an ancient palace backdrop.

I was lucky to attend another evening at TPO (via Cassarini 17/5) for multiple DJ sets including an indoor wallpaper-clad Russiandisko room and a main stage with local bands. Outside were picnic tables. This and Spazio Indue are as close to the Warschauerstrasse/Schlesisches Tor scene of today's Berlin that Bologna has.


Bologna is not only culturally rich -- with exotic artifacts once owned by Charlemagne in the crypts of its churches, the incomparable Cineteca (via Azzo Gardino 65) or thrilling exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MAMBo, via Don Minzoni 14). It is also a young, vibrant city where Italy doesn’t feel at all demographically tilted towards the aged.

Aperitivi at Giulio’s or elsewhere mark the start of Friday or Saturday night, followed by dinner at one of the city’s venerable osterie or trattorie. Then the crowd splits into the bars or clubs. Ultimately everyone comes back together at the late-night bars or simply on the piazza to watch the sun set and take in the architecture without the masses of year-long tourists. I’ve even seen medieval/baroque dancing in Piazza Maggiore at 4 am -– the tarantella and allemande with 18 couples and a boom box.


Italy's version of the American "happy hour" is alive and well in Bologna. Patrons typically pay an additional euro above drink prices to have full access to delectable buffet-style small plates that can include cured meats and cheeses, couscous and other rices, crudités and canapés.

My favorite aperitivi are served on Via Mascarella next to Taverna Mascarella. The place does not have a name but you literally sit on crate boxes if it’s spring or summer and eat awesome English afternoon tea-style sandwiches.

The favorite drink for most is an Aperol Spritz, which is essentially a shot of Aperol, some prosecco or pignoletto, with a garnish of lemon or orange for flavor.

Places like Swine Bar (via Augusto Righi 24) or Nu Lounge (via de Musei 6) offer New York-style mixology with Mai Tai’s, Old Fashioned’s and Whiskey Sours.

Wherever you go, whether it’s Caffé Zamboni with its mountain of couscous and Italian natives or Café Zanarini (Piazza Galvani 1) with its fashonista jetsetters, you will have a nice start to the weekend or take a break with your favorite SAISer mid-week.


Bologna has two kinds of clubs -- those in the centro storico and those elsewhere. Elsewhere can include anywhere in Emilia Romagna that people will gravitate towards for a good night out.

Favorites in the center that are consistently good are: Kinki (via Zamboni 1), Kindergarten (via A. Calzoni 6), Spazio In Due (vicolo Broglio 1/F), Arteria (vicolo Broglio 1/E), Club BenTiVoglio (Piazza Verdi 2) and Lord Lister (via Zamboni 56A).

If you want warehouses and Berlin-style DJ sets, you must head to Modena, Parma or Padova for Kitsuné and Ed Banger records parties. If that’s too far, you’ve got an impressive lineup at places like LINK (via Fantoni 21), which is a long cab ride away but delivered acts to us like Massive Attack, Moby, Boyz Noize, Benny Benassi, Erol Akan and Jamie Jones. LINK focuses on minimal house and progressive electronica whereas the city center clubs cater more to the Top 40/fusion music crowd. The best information can be obtained on the ads that wallpaper Piazza Verdi. That’s how I found out about a Gorillaz DJ set at Club BenTiVoglio whose front doubles as Scuderia during the day.


Students fairly quickly develop their favorite spots but most  would agree that the late-night owl hangs are few and far between.

L’Infedele (via Gerusalemme 5A) has been in the SAIS family for years so it’s not uncommon to see alumni hobnobbing with current students. The owner really caters to SAISers with late hours, excellent beer offerings and a chill décor. When you walk in and see everyone you know from school, it’s reminiscent of a dining club in 1960s Yale.

Le Stanze (via Borgo di San Pietro 1,) or "church bar", is one of the chicer spots in town and offers great cocktails, an anachronistic but very futuristic décor and awesome homespun music. Erasmus students tend to congregate at the Irish pubs near Piazza Verdi where they tandem exchange evenings and soccer viewing parties.

Learning that occurs outside of the classroom will be accentuated by experiences with others at the opera, over wine at dinner or over cocktails at a nice bar in a refashioned 16th-century church. I encourage you to take advantage of what you have outside of via Belmeloro 11 as it reinforces your friendships, cultural affinity for Italy and enjoyment of this remarkable year in Europe.

Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Online information session set for June 19

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Bologna Center will hold an online information session on Wednesday, June 19, at 4 pm Italy time (1400 GMT).

These sessions are great ways to learn more about our graduate program in international relations and international economics. We use an online platform that allows participants to ask questions through the chat function or by speaking.

As this session is the first ahead of the 2014-15 academic year, my colleague Amina Abdiuahab and I will give a general overview of SAIS Bologna and its distinguishing features. We’ll try to answer any and all questions.

The sessions generally last 45 minutes to one hour. All you need to participate is a computer and an Internet connection. You can log in and out of the session whenever you like. We plan to record the session so that anyone missing it can watch it later.

If you are interested in participating, please send an email to, and we’ll send you details on how to connect.

In the meantime, here is a link to our 2013-14 catalog:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

SAIS Bologna's new catalog: Answers to your questions

Whether you are an incoming student or prospective applicant shopping for a graduate program, you might like to bookmark our new catalog.

SAIS Bologna 2013-14 catalog
"Catalog", from Greek katalegein meaning "to list", is perhaps a misnomer. The 52-page document provides an overview of SAIS Bologna spanning admissions procedures, academics, student life, faculty and career services.

Because SAIS Bologna remains true to its 58-year-old mission, some of the material is old wine in a new bottle. But the catalog offers revised, up-to-date information on courses, student leadership opportunities and of course the academic calendar.

Interested in SAIS Bologna's roots? There's a section on its history and founder, Prof. C. Grove Haines.

The catalog will help newcomers digest the alphabet soup of SAIS Bologna's degrees or organize a visit to our campus. Incoming students might want a reminder of when the Winter Break starts (December 21) and finishes (January 5).

Along with the SAIS brochure and this Admissions Journal, the new catalog provides answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about SAIS Bologna and what sets our program apart.

Many of our incoming students are starting to focus on the finer points of attending SAIS Bologna starting in the fall. Their new, private Facebook group is a vibrant forum for interchange. Anyone with questions about finances, visas, health insurance, housing and the like should be sure to consult the web page for incoming students.

You're an incoming student and still stumped about courses, registration, academic advising and the transition to Bologna? You can contact either our Registrar, Bernadette O'Toole (, or our Director of Student Affairs, Margel Highet (

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Out and about in Bologna: Culture under every portico (Part I)

Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14) took the trouble to provide us with a sweeping rundown of night life in Bologna before finishing his year of studies at SAIS Bologna. Eugene gives new meaning to multi-disciplinary learning: His account is so packed with detail and covers so much ground that we will offer it in two parts. Today he takes a look at the the classical music scene. Next week he'll fill us in on hot spots for aperitivi, bars, clubs and festivals.

Bologna has dozens of classical music institutions ranging from small churches to madrigal societies to full-scale opera productions to chamber ensembles.

Some students join choirs and chamber ensembles; others bring their keyboards and instruments to school and jam in jazz, opera and other genres.

The two most prominent fixtures on the professional scene are the Teatro Comunale, which has its own philharmonic and opera seasons, and Orchestra Mozart, which travels Europe with its unique and exemplary evenings of musical traditions.

Before arriving in the fall of 2012, I had heard some impressive opera recordings made at the Teatro Comunale (, Largo Respighi, 1) under the conductorship of Jesus Lopez-Cobos and more recently Roberto Abbado.

I enjoyed every production from the season opener of "Pagliacci - Cavalleria rusticana" through "Il Trionfo di Clelia", with the highlights being Verdi’s "MacBeth" and Wagner’s "Der Fliegende Holländer". After all, this was the 200-year anniversary of the births of both Verdi and Wagner, and opera houses throughout Europe paid their respects.

Opera in Bologna is more enjoyable for students when compared with the Teatro alla Scala in Milano because it’s more financially accessible, the quality of the set design and costumes is equally world class and fewer works are performed. Anyone under 30 can purchase a ticket for anywhere in the house for 25 euros before the performance.

It’s quite typical that young patrons such as us sit in the first two rows and get a chance to speak with SAIS alumni and professors. I met an alumnus from the Class of 1957 and often compared notes with Director Kenneth Keller in the elegant ante room, which, by the way, offers aperitivi superior to those at La Scala.

Ottorino Respighi is Bologna’s most famous homegrown composer, and he is commemorated with a statue in the foyer of the Teatro Comunale and by the name of Largo Respighi street, which faces Piazza Verdi.
"Der Fliegende Holländer" in Bologna
The Orchestra Mozart Bologna (, via Dè Monari, 1/2) performs select concerts throughout the year in its centro storico home of Teatro Manzoni. The concerts conducted by Claudio Abbado sell out literally in minutes, but students can take advantage of fantastic evenings with guest conductors such as Diego Matheuz or James Conlon or guest soloists like Emanuel Ax or Maria João Pires.

The orchestra was formed in 2004 and has already become one of the most esteemed in Italy’s classical music scene. It performed at the inauguration of the Auditorium L’Aquila in Fall 2012 in a moment of musical ambassadorship as the town’s former auditorium had been destroyed by an earthquake in 2009.

The highlight of the year for me was seeing the rarely performed "Kammersymphonie" by Austrian composer Franz Schreker, directed by James Conlon, who is the artistic director of the Los Angeles Opera.

I learned about the OMB by walking down via Guerrazzi to school every day. It turns out that the OMB was formed and still practices in the same philharmonic academy where a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received a certificate in 1771.

- Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri (BC13/DC14)