Thursday, February 27, 2014

Student life: Building the SAIS Family

Nora Brito was a student at SAIS Europe last year and is studying in Washington this year. She serves on the Student Government Association (SGA) in DC as the Bologna representative. Below she discusses the transition from Bologna to the U.S. capital and her work on the SGA.

Studying one year in Bologna and one in Washington has offered me rich and rewarding experiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

In both Bologna and Washington, I've benefited from the challenging academic curriculum, lecture series and career support services. In Bologna I enjoyed the excellent cuisine and Europe's beauty, while in DC I have taken advantage of the conventions and balls hosted by embassies in DC while getting to know the entire SAIS Class of 2014 in a city where U.S. foreign policy is shaped.
The SAIS DC Student Government Association.
Nora Brito is on the far right, next to Vice President Ally Carragher, who also studied in Bologna last year.
In Washington, I am part of a team that works to ensure students who started in Bologna are integrated into the SAIS DC community.

As the SAIS Europe representative on the SGA and president of the International Students Committee, I’ve been focusing on facilitating the transition between Bologna and DC. As a first step, the SGAs in both DC and Bologna are trying to work from a common agenda. As Johns Hopkins becomes a more unified entity, so do our SGAs. Through Skype sessions, we know what each SGA is doing and how to join forces to create a smother transition.

Last year, the DC SGA launched the SAIS Family. Second-year students volunteered to be "parents" and adopted first-year students in DC and second-year bolognesi who had moved to Washington. The families started communicating in the summer, providing a forum for questions about DC and SAIS.

The SGA hosts the Italian Dinner for second-year students. This is the first event where the bolognesi get to meet the rest of their graduating class. Students share pictures and videos of what they did during the summer and exchange stories with the DC crowd.

This semester we plan to change the structure of student-run clubs by mandating a leadership slot for students from Bologna and first-year students. To improve communication, the Peer Counseling program involving both first- and second-year students will be ready to answer any questions from the current bolognesi, for example how to adapt to a new country and culture.

We are doing our best to serve our fellow classmates in DC, Bologna and Nanjing. Being part of the SGA has not only given me the opportunity to work with other students who want to contribute to improving our school but also allowed me to engage with an administration that constantly looks for SGA involvement in the decision-making process.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Keeping with tradition: the Austrian Ball

Some traditions endure through thick and thin. Among them, the Austrian Ball.

Every year SAIS Europe students travel to Vienna, put on their finest frocks and swirl the night away in the birth city of Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert.

Last weekend Bologna Center students kept with tradition and attended an annual ball hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Here is a slide show that captures some of the the beauty of this longstanding tradition.

If you are reading this on email, you can see the slideshow here.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One SAIS, one newspaper

SAIS students have plenty of outlets for their creative instincts, including writing, film and journalism. Below, Michael St. Germain and Karishma Chanrai discuss their work on the multi-media school newspaper, The SAIS Observer.

Q: What is the Observer and what purpose does it serve at SAIS?
Michael: The SAIS Observer is the international student newspaper that aims to culturally connect all 3 campuses and aims to keep students updated on all inter-campus news. Current events, opinions and freedom of speech are important facets of being good citizens and students of international relations. 

Q: Why did you decide to work for the Observer? What do you do?
Karishma: Because of my background in documentary and news production, the Observer was an opportunity for me to practice my production skills as well as learn more about the SAIS community.

Michael: I applied for the Assistant Editor position because I wanted to learn about the most serious issues facing the school on all three continents. 
The SAIS Observer team at the Bologna Center
Q: How is the experience benefiting you?
Karishma: It’s great being able to meet more people in the SAIS community through interviews and through learning more about the issues facing the school. The SAIS Observer staff is really creative and great to learn from.

Q: What’s the favorite piece you’ve worked on this year? Why?
Karishma: I filmed a short film on refugees in Italy after the tragedy in Lampedusa this past year. One of the goals this year for the Observer is to try and report on local news and current Italian affairs. 

Michael: I really enjoyed spending time with Bart Drakulich, the SAIS Europe Director of Finance and Administration, becoming familiar with SAIS’s finances and reporting on what drives our tuition cost and where the tuition dollars go.  

Q: What are the goals for the Observer?
Karishma: It is really exciting working on a school newspaper that is still in its beginning stages. We’re planning on holding events and debates to greater involve the SAIS community. 

Michael: The other big thing we’re doing is improving our simultaneous publishing capability. It’s not easy coordinating across all three campuses!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Getting close to the finish line

The deadline for financial aid applications passed last week. Now you should have finished completing any forms and documents for SAIS. It must be a relief.

This time next week the interviews will be over.

SAIS will communicate decisions relating to both admissions and financial aid in mid-March.

In April, there will be several events – both in-person and online – which will allow admitted students to
become more familiar with SAIS and to meet people within the SAIS community: students, professors, alumni and staff.

The deadline for enrollment will be April 20 for those who receive scholarships. Those who do not receive funds have until May 1.

What to do between now and mid-March?

If you need financial support, you should use the time to search for options outside of SAIS. As you know, we do offer scholarships, but you might need additional funds to make ends meet. The earlier you get started, the better.

Those who have not taken introductory microeconomics or macroeconomics, or who have not received the required grades in those courses, might consider looking for courses that will allow them to meet the requirement.

SAIS offers an online course that starts in late May and runs through most of the summer. Alternatively, students are welcome to look for other courses. To make sure the course covers the required contents, we ask that you send us the syllabus of the course you intend to take before enrolling.

Last but not least, you should continue to read this blog.

Do you have questions? If you do, you know how to reach us.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quiz: What is in the statue's hand?

Time to step back from the admissions process and challenge yourself with a ...


The first person to answer the question correctly will win a Bologna Center tee shirt and a copy of the picture by current student Johannes Gartner that won our end-of-the-year photo contest.

Question: There is a statue at the top of a column in a central square in the city where one of Europe's greatest statesmen of the 20th century was born. The square is named after the statesman. What is in the statue's hand?

Hint: You can see the statue in this photo:

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Building a more disaster-resilient India

Ally Carragher studied at the Bologna Center in 2012-13 and like most MA candidates is spending her second and final year at SAIS DC. An International Development concentrator, Ally recently traveled to India for her IDEV practicum.

Every four minutes a person is killed on India’s roads.

India holds the dismal distinction of being number one in the world for road fatalities. The deadliest roads are in the southern state of Kerala.

Those statistics haunted me as I loaded onto a tuk-tuk in Kerala as part of my International Development Practicum.

Ally's first tuk-tuk ride in Kerala
As a second-year IDEV student, I’m part of the inaugural practicum class. Three classmates and I are working on a year-long project, including two weeks in India, to address the strategic challenges of a real-world client: the Indian Institute of Emergency Medical Services (IIEMS).

The tragedy of India’s roads is not merely a consequence of chaotic drivers and congested roads. It also stems from a severely underdeveloped emergency medicine system.

When an accident occurs, few bystanders know how to react. A good Samaritan who wants to call an ambulance not only needs to know the number -- India lacks a national emergency number such as 911 in the U.S. -- but also must be living in a part of the country with ambulance service. Three out of every 10 accident victims die before reaching a hospital. Those who make it become patients of doctors who are not required to be trained in emergency medicine or trauma care.

It’s a terrifying prospect.

Spreading the word for IIEMS
This is where IIEMS comes in. The non-profit, founded by an Indian-American emergency medicine physician who splits his time between Kerala and Pennsylvania, and is supporting the development of India’s emergency medical system every step of the way: training medical professionals in life support and trauma, operating an ambulance service that helps patients regardless of their ability to pay and conducting public outreach events that equip community members with practical life-saving skills. It’s a small but dedicated team motivated by a commitment to saving lives.

So what does IIEMS want with four SAIS students? Despite the great work the staff is doing, funding is a constant concern, and they need help navigating the web of international donors, lenders and corporations that might be willing to support their efforts.

What is more, IIEMS is confronting a new challenge: how to increase India’s resilience through disaster-response capacity building and drill facilitation. India’s geography, climate, population density and infrastructure make it one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, yet there is no comprehensive disaster response mechanism.

Our practicum team is designing a branding strategy, developing targeted promotional materials and presenting a plan for identifying new partnerships and funds to help the organization expand into the disaster space.

If all goes well, the next time I climb into a tuk-tuk in India I’ll be able to breathe just a little bit easier.

Ally Carragher (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Admissions timeline: the next steps

Are you wondering what’s next in the application process? 

Candidates whose dossiers are being handled by the SAIS Europe Admissions Office are now at the interview stage.

If you have had your interview, we hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.

If you’re waiting to have your interview, here’s a post from January. It offers tips and an important message: “Don’t worry, be happy”.

The deadline to submit financial aid applications is February 15, 2014. Applicants whose dossiers are handled by the SAIS Europe Admissions Office should submit this form with the supporting documents to the email address indicated in the form.

This is a good time to give finances some thought. Students make ends meet in a number of ways. Those who have pondered how to finance their studies are best prepared when it comes time to take a decision.

We will communicate decisions regarding both admission and financial aid in mid-March.

As admitted candidates think about their options, we want to make sure they have as much information on SAIS as possible. To that end, we will be holding in-person events and virtual information sessions.

We will hold two online information sessions: on March 26 at 4 pm Italy time (1500 GMT) and April 8 at 10 am Italy time (0800 GMT).

For those who are near Bologna or Washington, there will be Open House events at both campuses. The event in Bologna will be on April 4. The one in DC will be on April 9, followed by a cocktail reception with Bologna Center alumni on April 10.

Students who receive financial support will be asked to enroll by paying their matriculation fee by April 20, while others will have until May 1 to weigh their options.

For those who need to meet the introductory economics requirement, the deadline to enroll in the Online Principles of Economics course taught by Prof. Dale Larson will be in mid-May.

Do you have any questions? If you do, please submit a comment to this blog or write to us at

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bologna to Washington to professor -- and back to Bologna

Prof. Jacqueline Mazza brings a special perspective to SAIS. She has studied and taught in both Bologna and Washington. This spring she is back in Bologna, teaching a course on U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. Below she tells us why she chose to study at the Bologna Center and how it feels to be back.

When I first came to Bologna as a student, I never imagined it would become my intellectual and professional center. 

I never imagined that life on two campuses -- Bologna and Washington -- would be ideal, not in spite of the differences between the two campuses but because of the differences.

Prof. Mazza discussing
 U.S. policy towards Cuba under President Kennedy
What I found is that you can choose SAIS for a variety of reasons. In my case I wanted to study international affairs, but I also wanted to come and learn Italian and live in Italy. It was a promise all of us great grandchildren made to la nonna from Calabria, but I was the only one to take it to heart. (Shall we keep it between us? My adventure in Bologna started in 1982.)

SAIS Europe in Bologna has the advantage of a small, compact campus in a medieval city and with a cappuccino bar at every turn. The access to professors and the academic environment of small seminars and discussions combined with caffeine (yes, on the first floor of the SAIS building) ensured not only, as the SAIS cliché goes, the best year of my life (to that time) but a year that changed my life.

Vera Zamagni, a history professor who still teaches at SAIS, provided the example of a woman with a PhD and professional drive. I eventually asked her to write my recommendation when I applied to SAIS Washington for my PhD many years later.

By that time I had worked on Capitol Hill for the U.S. Congress and moved from European Studies to the battlefields of Central America. Today I teach U.S. Foreign Policy towards Latin America and a range of courses in Latin American development as I am also a senior specialist in labor markets and social security at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington.

SAIS Washington offers professional connections, internships and great courses. There I can connect my Latin American studies students to professional opportunities at the IDB, World Bank and think tanks.

Decades later I am back in Bologna this semester and find a group of motivated students experiencing as I did the advantages of Bologna and its close academic community.

Today nearly half of our SAIS Latin American Studies students start in Bologna, have a summer internship in Latin America and then come to Washington for their second year. My SAIS classmates are still both my best friends and my best professional contacts.

I would challenge any other M.A. program in International Relations to provide such a diversity of experiences, one that can keep you engaged literally throughout your professional career.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bologna: A cultural crossroads

What do Charlie Chaplin, Vermeer and Mozart have in common?


Guidebooks and newpaper travel sections gush about Bologna's food, its architecture, university and arcades. There is more.

The Cineteca di Bologna is an arts cinema, restoration institute and multimedia resource. Now it has released an unpublished novella by Charles Chaplin that inspired his 1952 film, "Limelight".

The Cineteca was authorized by the Chaplin family to digitize the work, which was reconstructed by the actor/director's biographer David Robertson and Cineteca researchers. The release of "Limelight" the novella kicks off the Chaplin centennial commemorating 100 years since he first appeared on film.

In a recent article, the New York Times called the Cineteca's restoration unit, L'Immagine Ritrovata, "one of the world's best restoration centers." The Chaplin family has entrusted the Cineteca with the restoration of Chaplin's more than 70 films.

Bolognesi including SAIS students can take advantage of the Cineteca's plentiful and varied diet of films, ranging from silent movies to recent offerings, both blockbusters and out-of-the-mainstream.

The British newspaper The Independent ran an article earlier this month on how one might spend 48 hours visiting Bologna. "The medieval arcades of this northern Italian city make it a good bet in the winter -- and a blockbuster exhibition bolsters the appeal," the newspaper said.

The broadsheet was referring to the exhibition, "The Myth of the Golden Age: From Vermeer to Rembrandt" which will run in Bologna until May 25 and which includes Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring".

Other recommendations by The Independent included a visit to a medieval shopping mall, a "harrowing terracotta Deposition tableau" in the Santa Maria della Vita church, scultptures by Michelangelo on San Domenico's tomb in the church with the saint's name and the Medieval Museum with its "jaunty sarcophagi of university lecturers".

Finally, El Pais recommended Bologna for music lovers, saying it "breathes music". As Bologna Center graduate Eugene Karl Montoya Alessandri wrote last year in two posts, the music scene in Bologna is varied and dynamic. That was the case when 14-year-old Mozart studied at the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna in 1770 -- 104 years after the founding of the institution.

Last month famous Italian orchestra conductor Claudio Abbado passed away in his home in Bologna. In addition to serving as music director at the Orchestra Mozart in Bologna, Abbado had worked at La Scala in Milan, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quiz: Name that SAIS Europe course

Our most loyal readers deserve a favor.

We'd like to reward every single one of you. But there are limits to our largesse, so just two winners to this quiz.

One prize will go to the first SAIS student or alumnus to answer correctly; the other will go to the first person with no such association with our program.

Each will receive two prizes: a Bologna Center tee shirt plus an autographed print of the photograph by current student Johannes Gartner that won our recent contest.


What is the name of the course taught at SAIS Europe this spring that is based on the work of a scholar who wrote about a war between two leagues?

You can send in your answer in the comment section below this post or with an email to

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Student Life: An "unforgettable" Chinese New Year's Eve in Bologna

SAIS Europe students form a community of learners who share experiences, backgrounds and cultures. Last week a group of students gathered to celebrate Chinese New Year and welcome the Year of the Horse. Lihan Chen spearheaded organization of the evening, making sure she and her fellow Chinese classmates were not alone on the important night. Here is Lihan's tale.

My parents were worried that their only girl on the other side of Eurasia would feel lonely, homesick and miserable on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

But now I can proudly tell them: Together with more than 70 SAISers, I enjoyed the most unforgettable and meaningful New Year’s Eve here in Bologna, thousands of miles from home.

When I started organizing the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner for fellow SAIS Europe students, I never anticipated such immediate and warm feedback. Soon after the post in our Facebook group went up, the number of participants surpassed the capacity of the restaurant where we had reserved seats. Each Chinese student took an active part in the organization, and we moved the reservation to the biggest Chinese restaurant in Bologna as the number of participants continued to grow.

On New Year’s Eve, everyone looked so happy. In the restaurant, the red lanterns, embroidered tablecloths, familiar folk music and Chinese knots transported us to my homeland. We were served fantastic Chinese wine, desserts and more than 10 courses of Chinese food, including toasted ducks, dumplings, steamed fish and spring rolls. While enjoying the delicious food, guests shared stories about the Chinese Year of the Horse and fun Chinese proverbs. Novice speakers were eager to show off the Mandarin they had just learned, and 15 lucky winners were awarded Chinese knots and fancy chopsticks.

What made this dinner special was the diversity of the participants and the mix of perspectives. From different vantage points, the guests shared stories about their New Year’s cultures, discussed the growth and gains of the last semester and exchanged good wishes for the next year.

“This event is wonderful!" one U.S. student exclaimed. "It reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, but a special Chinese version.”

Yes, SAIS is more than a school but also a family, with faithful, knowledgeable and creative SAISers growing together.

Lihan Chen (BC14/DC15)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"The students make it all worthwhile": new SAIS Europe Director Plummer

What is SAIS Europe's number one priority?

The student experience, says the next director of the Bologna Center.

Prof. Michael Plummer spelled out his priorities and challenges in an interview, six months before he takes over from Dr. Kenneth Keller as director of SAIS Europe.

Prof. Michael Plummer
Plummer listed his priorities: improving the student experience, raising SAIS's profile, deepening relations with partner institutions and remaining close to alumni.

What sets SAIS Europe apart? Its academic environment, the chance to study one year in Europe and a second in the United States, and the diversity of the Bologna Center community, he said.

A Bologna Center alumnus, Plummer said the integration of SAIS DC and SAIS Europe would benefit students and faculty, and he predicted "a very exciting menu of concentrations in the future."

He had never expected to be a professor at SAIS Europe, not to mention being director. "We have great staff to work with here, we have wonderful colleagues, and the students, of course, make it all worthwhile."

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

Nelson Graves