Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What are you doing this summer?

Most SAIS MA candidates hold down internships between their first and second years, and the jobs can be all over the world.

This week I randomly asked 18 students at SAIS Europe where they will be working this summer and what they will be doing. Here are the answers:
  • Brussels, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Washington, Scowcroft Group
  • Milan, German firm organizing fairs in Italy
  • Brussels, European People's Party
  • Washington, Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection
  • Ljubljana, Slovenian central bank
  • Quito, Inter-American Development Bank
  • Chennai, Boston Consulting Group
  • Brussels, GPlus Europe
  • Washington, Commerce Department
  • Prague, energy research for a consulting firm
  • Ghana, micro-finance project
  • Frankfurt, development bank internship
  • Hamburg, U.S. Consulate
  • Brussels, NATO (3 of the 18)
  • Bologna, research on Turkey for an energy consulting company
  • Washington, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Career Services Office and SAIS academic programs help students explore summer internship opportunities.

In this video, the students tell us what they will be up to.

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

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bologna to Florence on the Way of the Gods

I have a new appreciation for Italian trains.

Five SAIS students including myself spent Easter weekend hiking from Bologna to Florence along the Via Degli Dei (Way of the Gods), a road dating from the Roman Empire.
Martin House, Ben West, Jag Ningthoujam, Brian Fox and Fritz Lodge on the road

Starting at 5:30 Saturday morning in Bologna and ending Monday evening at the Duomo in Florence, we covered more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) in three days of hiking through the Emilia-Romagnan and Tuscan country and over the Appennine mountains.

We enjoyed country cooking, got lost, found our path and then got lost again, all the while walking back through history along this ancient route.

From Etruscan hunters to the Allied invasion of Italy, the Via Degli Dei has connected Bologna and Florence over difficult terrain for thousands of years.
Now, of course, one can go from a bottle of San Giovese to a glass of Chianti in under 30 minutes by train. But there's surely something special about doing it on foot.

Ben West (BC14/DC15)
(Photographs by Jag Ningthoujam)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

SAIS Europe's Journal: Tackling the world's intractable problems

The new edition of SAIS Europe's flagship revue explores the theme of "stalemates". The motif characterizes many of the world's most difficult issues: climate change, civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among others.

But as the editor-in-chief of the Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs, Jeffrey Wright, points out in his preface to the 154-page volume, the notion of stalemate suggests the possibility of breakthrough. "A SAIS education aims to prepare students of international affairs to help resolve these stalemates," Wright says.

SAIS Europe Director Kenneth Keller notes in his preface that the Journal combines regional expertise and analytical focus, capturing one of the organizing elements of a SAIS education. Below, the Journal's managing editor for Web, Laura Mojonnier, reflects on her experience helping to manage the student-run publication.

As the Journal's managing editor for Web, I have had the pleasure of running the website, which includes a blog where I have been publishing commentaries by fellow SAISers on the most pressing issues of international affairs.

Our writers have focused on everything from blood diamonds to drug wars in Mexico to the efficacy of Chinese communist rule. It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with my classmates and see what they have to say about major world events and critical policy dilemmas. The quality of their arguments has continuously impressed me, and I have learned a lot.
BCJIA editorial team (L to R): Matthew Melino, Alix Davie, Jeffrey Wright, Laura Mojonnier, Kshitij Neelakantan
I particularly remember a post about the connection between ivory poaching and the East African terrorist group al-Shabaab that opened my eyes to the political and economic complexities of that region.

In terms of the print edition, we set a record for submissions this year, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our Editor-in-Chief Jeff Wright in publicizing the deadline for submissions. We consequently had no problem finding excellent articles to publish, both by fellow SAISers and outside contributors.

Editing these longer pieces gave me the chance to engage with writers on an even deeper level, fine-tuning their arguments and tightening their prose to get the articles fit for print.

I have enjoyed helping create a space where we, as students, can display our engagement with these issues. The blog has become a great platform to showcase our ideas.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SAIS history club prompts campaign to preserve vestiges of Bologna's liberation

A study tour organized by inquisitive SAIS Europe students has prompted one of Italy's top magazines to question whether the city of Bologna should do more to conserve traces of the city's liberation from German forces in World War Two.
Names of Allied leaders on a wall in Bologna

Earlier this month, members of the SAIS Europe WWII History Club visited sites of events connected to the liberation of the city in 1945, re-enacting scenes from the war and drawing crowds of curious onlookers. The tour was written up in La Repubblica newspaper.

Now L'Espresso online magazine has published an article mentioning the SAIS study tour and asking whether local authorities are doing enough to protect the remaining vestiges of the war, including the names of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin stenciled on city walls. "The outward signs of the Liberation are fading so much they are disappearing," it says.

Meanwhile, 21 members of the Club continued probing the past with a visit to Munich over Easter weekend to study the rise of National Socialism. Club chief John Dellinger recounts the trip below.

Student Wenxin Lin role-playing
a tourist guide at the
"Degenerate Art" exhibit ...
Our train from Bologna arrived in Munich on Saturday afternoon, and less than an hour later the walking tour had already begun. For the next five hours, we were taken back in time through a series of presentations covering life and politics during the Third Reich.

At the site where Munich’s main synagogue once stood, a student delivered a moving presentation from the perspective of a Jewish girl affected by the events of Kristallnacht. In a nearby music school classroom that was once Hitler’s office, another group re-enacted the signing of the Munich Agreement at the exact spot where it took place in 1938.
... that was held at this site in 1937.

The next day, we visited the former Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg. One student evoked the euphoria of the era by recounting it from the perspective of a German youth who participated in the rallies. Later that day in a nearby courtroom the group was transported back in time to postwar Germany when another student read aloud excerpts from the prosecutor’s opening statement at the Nuremberg Trials.

The weekend concluded with an early morning guided visit to Dachau. By early afternoon we were on our way back to Bologna, worn out but enriched by the chance to study history in a truly unique way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SAIS' seminar series: the icing on the intellectual cake

To grasp the intellectual breadth of the SAIS experience, consider its lecture series.

Speeches and seminars by prominent policymakers, officials and academics expose SAIS students to a wide range of topics, perspectives and delivery styles that complement the classroom experience.

This month Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, delivered her views on the global economy from the SAIS DC platform.

In Bologna this month, speakers have tackled issues as varied as transatlantic politics, China's expansion in Latin America, why peace fails, the European social model, the global challenge of slums, nuclear non-proliferation and the U.S. decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003.

For a quick look, here is the Bologna line-up for the past month. For the DC calendar, click here.

The Bologna Institute for Policy Research oversees the seminar series at SAIS Europe. You might like to check out their website to see the breadth of interdisciplinary research done in Bologna.

Solid attendance by students at these lectures and seminars underscores their intellectual commitment and desire to gain the most out of the SAIS opportunity.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A window on SAIS, new development publication asks: What next?

A new SAIS student publication underscores two key features of the graduate program: its global reach and multi-faceted perspective.

This year's edition of SAIS Perspectives focuses on the global development agenda beyond 2015. Produced by students in the International Development (IDEV) program, the magazine asks the question: What's next?

True to IDEV's mission, the magazine explores the economic, political and social challenges one year before the U.N. Millennium Development Goals expire.

The publication is proof that students concentrating in IDEV can start their SAIS studies in either Bologna or DC. Editor-in-chief Hilary Kinka studied at SAIS Europe last year, as did Senior Editor Ally Carragher. Another editor, Jenny Lu, is currently in Bologna. And Jennifer Ottolino, who took the photographs on the front and back covers, was an MIPP student in Bologna last year.

Several writers from SAIS Europe's current class contributed to this edition. Lauren Hartel proposes an index for measuring health inequality; Mitchell Delaney and Irena Grizelj ​advocate for the inclusion of left-out groups in the development agenda; Ayso Van Eysinga discusses the role of institutions through the lens of the Côte d'Ivoire experience.

Bottom line: SAIS Europe upholds the same academic standards as SAIS DC and is a critical part of the institution's global footprint.

Like the range of articles, a poem in the publication underlines the multi-disciplinary nature of the SAIS program, which mixes economics, regional expertise, policy insight and language proficiency to enable graduates to tackle a variety of professions.

In "Prioritization for a Developing Nation", Prof. William Douglas writes that development is "a drama with numerous actors":

Economics is only one part of the game;
Politics, too, can be partly to blame....
The environment, too, cannot be ignored --
As rich nations grew, earth's temperature soared.

Without institutions, the market can't function.
And, exports may drop at that critical junction...
And policies must also be gotten "right"
Both slumps and inflation, the central banks fight....

Today, what criteria can the experts now find
To show where priorities should be assigned?
The effort to find them usually ends
With the conclusion: "It all just depends...."

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Learning beyond the classroom at SAIS Europe

One of Italy's biggest daily newspapers, La Repubblica, covered an unusual SAIS event this past weekend which it said sparked "flash mobs" in Bologna.

A group of 50 SAIS students, staff and guests gathered at one of Bologna’s medieval city gates on Sunday to participate in a history tour.

Display of WWII items collected from
fields and houses around Bologna
A student stood up on a ledge overlooking the crowd and addressed them in German. Another student translated. The message was clear: no partisans were to be allowed into the city! Inspect the baggage and documents of all persons entering or leaving the historic center!

This was no ordinary tour. This was an interactive event in which students provided presentations at World War Two-related sites throughout the historic city center.

Nathan Shepura presents on Partisans
in front of Wall of Martyrs in Bologna
The first stop recreated the scene at Porta Santo Stefano 70 years ago, when Bologna was occupied by the Germans. Other stops included battle-damaged buildings, the site of a failed assassination attempt on Mussolini, and a former German prison attacked by partisans who liberated more than 300 people in 1944. At each stop a student or group of students stepped forward to present the subject matter, often in a creative manner, telling a story or role playing.

The idea for the tour was inspired by the staff rides run by the Strategic Studies program in Washington, DC, which contributed funds to the SAIS Europe WWII History Club for similar activities here in Europe.

Last weekend’s WWII Bologna tour was a fund raiser for a similar event in Germany over Easter weekend, when 22 students will be visiting Munich and Nuremberg to study the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

John Dellinger (MIPP'14)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Discovering a secret side of Bologna

Bologna is a rich source of knowledge for SAIS students, who for six decades have participated in the life of the medieval city, learning about Europe and practicing Italian along the way. Recently three students -- Maude Morrison, Lisa Pflaum and Ayso Van Eysinga -- accompanied the nearby greengrocer on his morning expedition to Bologna's wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

It’s 4:30 am on a Tuesday, and we are waiting outside school. Only this is not an early morning study group but a glimpse into the life of a beloved Bologna Center neighbor: Kastriot Gjoka, the greengrocer.
Lisa, Kastriot, Maude and Ayso at the wholesale market
Since the week we arrived in moribund Bologna during the hot August holidays, Kastriot has helped us practice our broken Italian, boosted our nutritional intake and put a smile on our faces. From his tidy shop around the corner from SAIS Europe, he provided us with the ingredients for wholesome soup during winter and now in spring with the fresh asparagus and strawberries that would make our grandmothers proud.

But none of us can fathom the lengths Kastriot goes to to make sure our food is tasty and healthy.

"fiori di zucca"
Waking up so early was not easy, but it was worth the early start and the bleary eyes to get into his van and drive 10 minutes to the sprawling wholesale market on the outskirts of Bologna where he sources his produce.

The market is huge, a heaving metropolis of fruit stalls, vegetable stands, a bar, a barber and even an automatic bank teller. Wandering around and helping Kastriot load his trolley and van, we felt privileged to view a slice of life that passes us by as we sleep. We helped him load up on strawberries, oranges, nuts, asparagus, leeks, salads and artichokes.

Later that day, seeing the fruit we had picked that morning on his shelves, we were proud to have been part of his secret early morning life. And now we appreciate his cheerful demeanor even more.

Maude Morrison (BC14/DC15)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

SAIS to offer new summer program in English at Nanjing campus

Are you interested in China but do not speak Chinese? SAIS has an opportunity for you.

Starting in June, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) will be offering a new summer program that caters to those who may not speak Chinese but who are keen to learn more about the country and the region.

The summer courses focus on economic, political and environmental issues in East Asia. The full-time residential program combines English-language SAIS course work with guided regional excursions.
HNC's new building

“The program is designed for people who have an interest in China and building their China-related academic credentials, but don’t necessarily have the language or experience with the country to do an immersive program independently,” Academic Affairs Program Coordinator at SAIS DC, Kaelyn Lowmaster, told the SAIS Observer student newspaper.
The courses are open to students of all backgrounds, from rising college seniors to mid-career professionals. Classes can count toward requirements at HNC or toward area studies requirements at SAIS DC.
It will be the first time that that professors from HNC and SAIS team up to teach courses side-by-side in English. SAIS DC professors David Lampton and Kent E. Calder, as well as former SAIS professor Bo Kong and seven HNC professors including professor William Fowler, will teach this summer.
For alumni interested in enrolling, the new Nanjing program will offer a discount on tuition, increasing the accessibility of HNC to the SAIS community in Asia, the United States and Europe.

Meanwhile, summer courses in Washington are offered in international relations, policy studies, development, conflict management, strategic and regional studies. Structured for the working professional, classes are scheduled two evenings each week.

If you are interested in learning more, click here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SAIS concentrations: an intellectual framework for understanding the world

Regional focus or international policy? That is the question.

The SAIS program is multidisciplinary, so the courses interlock to support a coherent framework for understanding the world. The program requirements are designed to strengthen that framework.

Still, each student pursuing the MA degree must choose a concentration in either Regions of the World or International Policy Areas. Like picking and choosing from a menu at a fine restaurant, the decision can be difficult.

Do you want to focus on a particular region that has piqued your interest? SAIS offers concentrations in African, Asian, Canadian, European & Eurasian, Latin American and Middle East Studies.

Keen to dig into an international policy area? The menu features American Foreign Policy; Conflict Management; Energy, Resources and Environment; General International Relations; Global Theory and History; International Law and Organizations; Strategic Studies, and International Development.

Many students take their time to make up their minds. Roughly half of SAIS' students change their minds about which concentration they prefer between the time they apply and when they graduate.

Concentrations, including International Economics, which is required of all students, aim to provide the intellectual framework for asking a broad range of questions that underpin international relations. They are not meant to be straightjackets. Many courses are cross-listed in more than one concentration, and students are by no means confined to courses in their own concentration.

The Latin American Studies program has prepared a short video (below) that highlights how that program helps students understand global challenges through a regional experience.

The combination of regional expertise within an intellectual framework; economics, and cultural and political sensitivity through language proficiency are what set SAIS students apart when they tackle the careers of their choice.

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

Nelson Graves

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Biking in Bologna & feeling like a local

Arriving bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Bologna last August, I was determined to get a bicycle.

When I heard about an auction where you could buy refurbished bikes for about 50 euros each, I set off eagerly with my best bidding face on.

At the auction site I was faced with a throng of people brandishing hats, banners, flags, signs and party costumes. It was only when I saw the bikes, hundreds of them lined up, that I realized I was in the right place.
Check out those wheels
I eyed the first bike and raised my hand, set to bid. But it turns out that at a bolognese auction, the bikes go not to the highest bidder, but to the audience member who manages to attract the attention of the auctioneer.

Armed with my voice and another SAISer of considerable height, Roy Martin, I sat on his shoulders, waved my arms wildly and screamed at the top of my lungs. To no avail. It wasn’t until I found a discarded balloon and he found a box to wear on his head that we tasted success: two beautifully refurbished, vintage bikes.

Our lap of honor around Piazza Maggiore was jubilant, to say the least.
The Bologna bike auction

I was so pleased to have "won" a bike that I took to the streets immediately and have been cycling around Bologna (in a very leisurely fashion) ever since. It’s a great city to bike in. Distances are short so you can get pretty much anywhere within 10 minutes, and having a bike definitely makes you feel more like a local bolognese. Outside the city walls there are plenty of opportunities for the more serious cyclists, as well.

Now that the year is nearly over those of us with bikes are starting to think about how to pass them on. The Student Government Association has been working with a local project to come up with a handy solution for next year’s SAISers.

A group of local bike enthusiasts are developing a project that would allow students to rent bikes for the duration of their stay in Bologna, complete with equipment and a repair scheme. This would avoid the traumatic bicycle search at the beginning of the year and the dilemma over what to do with bikes at the end. And remove the temptation to go to the thriving black market for bikes.

Maude Morrison (BC14/DC15)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SAIS students tackle irrigation challenge in India -- and seek your vote

Four SAIS students have a plan to help 70 million Indian farmers.

The four have put together a project that could raise farmers' incomes, save the Indian government money, increase agricultural productivity and protect the environment.

The plan is the brainchild of Mallory Baxter, Michael Eschmann, Markus Wilthanner and Nick Luter, students who were inspired by a course taught by SAIS Prof. Jonathan Brooks called "Agricultural Development, Poverty Reduction and Food Security".

The project, named HELIOS-I, addresses problems facing Indian farmers who rely on diesel-powered irrigation systems for their livelihood. The farmers shoulder high operational costs that crimp family income, are exposed to oil price fluctuations and generate carbon emissions.

Mallory Baxter
HELIOS-I aims to leverage technology, distribution and financing partners to enable farmers to switch from diesel- to solar-powered irrigation. It uses an innovative financing vehicle to promote the shift from diesel to solar by encouraging micro-finance institutions and rural banks to extend credit to small-holder farms. The large Indian market would provide a model that could later be expanded into East Africa and other South Asian countries.

Baxter, Eschmann and Wilthanner were students at SAIS Europe last year, while Nick Luter is doing both of his years at SAIS DC to obtain his MA.

HELIOS-I was recently selected as a finalist in the Agricultural Innovation Challenge, organized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

To vote for HELIOS-I in the competition, click on this link, "like" the page and then vote for HELIOS-I.

Mallory Baxter (BO13/DC14)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SAIS: Learning by doing with a band of adventurers

Before coming to SAIS, Nicolaas Van Vliet had helped respond to a cholera epidemic in Haiti, built solar latrines in Chile and reported on Dutch foreign aid at the United Nations.

In SAIS he sees the chance "to gain the practical tools needed to help build new models for sustainable development in underserved countries."

A dual Dutch-U.S. citizen, Nick is concentrating in International Development and International Finance, spending his first year at SAIS Europe in Bologna. In the video below, he discusses his experience so far at SAIS and what he feels sets it apart.

Kudos to SAIS Europe students Brittney Johnson and Kia Guarino for producing the video.

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

Nelson Graves