Thursday, May 29, 2014

The rewards of guiding the debate: SAIS Europe Director Keller bids farewell

Dr. Kenneth Keller will hand over the reins of SAIS Europe to Prof. Michael Plummer this summer after eight years as director of the oldest U.S. international affairs graduate program in Europe. Prof. Keller, former president of the University of Minnesota, will continue teaching a course in science, technology and international affairs at SAIS Europe. Below he reflects on what the Bologna Center experience means to himself and to the students.

Two weeks ago, we ended our academic year at the Bologna Center; a special time in university life.

For students, of course, it was a celebration of personal success, accomplishment, coupled with the anticipation -- that rich mixture of hope and anxiety -- about the next stage. For most it meant taking off for summer internships around the world and then on to our Washington campus in the fall.
Dr. Kenneth Keller

But it was also a special time for faculty members like myself, perhaps this year especially for me, finishing my eighth and last year as Director of the Bologna Center, and my 50th year of teaching; a different rite of passage!

So what was on my mind as I looked out at our 200 students and almost as many friends and relatives?

Enormous pride in the present moment; inexorable reflection on what we’re about as an institution; satisfaction about the value of what we do and how we do it; gratitude at the opportunity to be part of it all. Since this is a mid-point for most of our students rather than a final graduation, they don’t wear caps and gowns, but that meant the individuality of the class was the more apparent, the great and beautiful diversity in dress reflecting the diversity in backgrounds, in culture, in interests.

But they shared a lot: the smiles, the joy, the humor, the warmth of a group that, like those who came before them for the 59 years in which the Bologna Center has been around, has built a community, has formed bonds that will last a lifetime. In fact, we deal with the most serious issues in the world, but our lives are lived in the comfortable ambiance of personal friendships, informality and mutual support.

Diversity, community, perspective. When verbal, engaged students from 35 or 40 countries come ready to duke it out about urgent global issues, the reward is trustful, respectful appreciation of different viewpoints. When a year of studying global problems in a European context is coupled with a year of studying them in an American context, the reward is a unique, enriching educational experience in international affairs.

When year after year, as a teacher, you get to be present at the debate, to stir it up, to guide it a bit, then teaching merges with learning, and the reward is the sense of a professional life well-spent.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Economics: developing the tools that will boost your future

SAIS is a graduate program in International Relations. Why, then, are students required to take Economics?

Put simply, because we believe a solid understanding of Economics is needed to understand the complexities of the world and to play a role in solving its most intractable problems.

Economics is part of the multidisciplinary approach at SAIS, along with languages and expertise in regions of the world and in international policy. This approach prepares SAIS students for the impressive range of careers available to our graduates.

What, then, are the Economics requirements?

Candidates are not required to have studied Economics before submitting an application. It's important that applicants should understand the importance of Economics and be comfortable with quantitative work. But there is no formal requirement to have studied Economics before applying.

The requirements kick in after admission, and it's important to distinguish between the entry and graduation requirements.

Before students can start studying at SAIS, they have to have mastered the principles of both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Many admitted candidates will already have taken principles of Economics. Incoming students who have not taken introduction to both Micro and Macro before being admitted use the summer before classes start to get up to speed.

The graduation requirement is a bit more complicated.

During two-year master's programs at SAIS, students must take at least four courses in Economics. They must demonstrate mastery of intermediate Microeconomics, intermediate Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory and International Monetary Theory, either by taking the courses or by passing waiver exams in the subjects. More information on waiver exams is available here.

In addition, students must take at least one course in quantitative reasoning, such as Statistics, Econometrics or Corporate Finance, among others.

Many students start their Economics course work during the four-week pre-term period that precedes each academic year. To learn more about pre-term, you can read this post.

During pre-term we offer courses in intermediate Micro and intermediate Macro. Students who take one of these courses in pre-term tick off one of their graduation requirements. They do not have to take that course during the regular academic year, although they are still required to take at least four Economics courses during their regular semesters at SAIS.

On average SAIS students take seven Economics courses over two years, an indication of the quality of the teaching and the relevance of Economics to the overall curriculum. Students soon discover that the strong policy focus of our courses provides them with the breadth and understanding they need in their future careers.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The law of the stronger: a winning paper at SAIS Europe

Shawn Finlen examines the fraught question of who in the United States has the authority to declare war in a paper that won SAIS Europe's highest academic award this spring. He notes that the 1973 War Powers Resolution failed in its goal to rein in presidential war power, and he argues for muscular legislation to reassert Congress's authority in declaring war.

Shawn, who will spend his second year at SAIS in DC next year, was one of four students to receive C. Grove Haines Awards for academic excellence at this year's commencement ceremony. You can read Shawn's paper here. Below, he answers some of our questions about his paper.

Q: How did you get the idea for the paper?
Finlen: The idea came from discussions and readings in Professor David Unger’s course, "Policies and Politics of the American Emergency State." It seemed like a good time to write on the topic, given that Senators Tim Kaine and John McCain had recently proposed the War Powers Consultation Act of 2014 to replace the original 1973 War Powers Resolution.

Q: What was the main point?
Shawn Finlen
Finlen: The War Powers Resolution has not worked as intended. Presidents since 1973 have used military force without Congressional approval on numerous occasions, and the Resolution has actually given them more freedom to act independently of Congress.

The War Powers Consultation Act of 2014 is the latest attempt to reform the original law, but it is my opinion that, if passed, it would fail to alter the fundamental relationship between the Executive and Legislative branches vis-à-vis war powers. My paper examines cases where presidents initiated the use of force without Congress’s approval and attempts to draw lessons for reform efforts.

Q: What was the hardest part of your work on the paper?
Finlen: There is a great deal of literature on the War Powers Resolution, so it was time-consuming to sift through the background material and determine what was relevant for the paper. Also, with so much written on the topic, especially from constitutional scholar Louis Fisher, I had to find something new to say. With the recent proposal of the reform bill, I think that provided a different angle from which I could examine the issue.

Q: What tips would you give to incoming students as they prepare to write papers here?
Finlen: Write about something that interests you, otherwise the research will be tedious. I enjoyed scrutinizing the nuances of legislative language, so the background reading was engaging.

Second, come up with a clear research question before diving into the paper. My research question set my outline and determined the relevant research I needed to conduct. Academic writing seminars at SAIS were instrumental in this process.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Returning to Bologna and feeling energized

Recently we received a note from Carmela Vetri, who attended the Bologna Center in 1982-83. She had recently returned to Bologna to meet classmates and relive memories of their time together. Her note sums up the feelings of many alumni, old and young.

I have just returned from the 31st reunion of my class in Bologna. One of my dear classmates from that academic year had returned to Bologna to teach for the spring semester, so I just had to go. What a magical time!
Members of the Bologna Center Class of 1983. Carmela Vetri is 5th from the left.
I had gone the year before for our 30th reunion. That was the year of "30s":  the 30th reunion, 32+ participants, 30% of our class. It could not have been more exciting.

We remembered Ivo's bar (now Giulio's bar). We remembered all of the fun times having fabulous dinners at each other's homes. We remembered with amazement that back then there were no computers, let alone mobile phones. When we made a date to gather, we kept to it. This, of course, made us feel old. Yet very energized.

During these alumni weekends, we were different generations with different stories, but we had one important thing in common: being part of an international community in the incredibly charming city of Bologna.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting the competitive edge with languages

Languages are in SAIS's DNA.

Seventeen languages are taught at SAIS. To graduate, each student must demonstrate proficiency in at least one modern language other than their native tongue. Why the emphasis on languages?

"Foreign language proficiency gives our graduates a competitive edge," according to a SAIS informational brochure that says the language programs "prepare students to converse across borders and cultures -- whether negotiating an international treaty or a corporate contract."

Languages are taught in such a way that a student can start tackling one on the first day of classes and after two years of study be ready for the proficiency exam. By that time the student is prepared to function in a professional capacity in a country where the language is spoken.

Leah Ewald, Clara Cheilan and Jasmin Yu
Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish are taught in both Bologna and Washington. SAIS DC also offers Burmese, Chinese, Hindi-Urdu, Japanese, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Farsi), Thai and Vietnamese.

Clara Cheilan teaches French at SAIS Europe. She shared some essays recently written by her first-year students, who started studying French only last autumn. Here are extracts from three of the essays. Bonne lecture.

(Don't read French? You can try this translation tool.)

«J’ai vécu à Bologne cette année pour neuf mois et j’ai beaucoup aimé mon séjour ici. Quand je suis arrivée en août j’ai trouvé un appartement en un jour avec Salvatore, l’homme qui aide tous les étudiants à chercher un appartement.

J’ai suivi beaucoup de cours différents (…) J’ai préféré surtout le cours sur le conflit israélo-palestinien parce que nous sommes allés en Israël-Cisjordanie avec la classe, où nous avons rencontré beaucoup d’hommes politiques, des ONG, et d’autres organisations.

Je suis globalement très satisfaite de cette expérience et je pense que j’ai amélioré ma connaissance du développement et des relations internationales. L’année prochaine je continuerai mes études à SAIS Washington et je travaillerai pour une ONG dans le développement.

Cette année était vraiment une expérience très belle ! Je ne regretterai rien de cette année à Bologne.»

- Jasmin Yu

«Quand je suis arrivée à Bologne, j’étais très fatiguée et je suis allée au restaurant pour manger de la pizza. Il était 19 heures et j’étais la seule personne dans le restaurant. J’étais fatiguée pendant mes premiers jours en Italie, mais ce n’était pas difficile. C’est facile de chercher un appartement avec Salvatore et toutes les personnes qui travaillent ici sont très sympathiques.

J’ai suivi beaucoup de cours d’économie et de droit international. J’ai beaucoup aimé le cours sur les migrants économiques et le cours sur les systèmes politiques des pays en voie de développement.(…) En novembre je suis allée à Genève pour un voyage professionnel organisé par l’université. J’ai visité les bureaux des Nation Unies et j’ai parlé avec nos alunni : j’ai beaucoup appris. (…)

L’année prochaine, je serai triste de ne plus pouvoir aller à Rome pour le week-end !»

- Leah Ewald

Edward Landreth

«Quand je suis arrivé à Bologne, il faisait très chaud. La ville était très tranquille. Je pensais que Bologne était très belle et ancienne. J’ai rencontré les autres étudiants de SAIS dans un café pour boire une bière italienne. (…)

Le meilleur voyage de SAIS a été le bal de Vienne. Nous nous sommes habillés très formels et chic et nous avons dansé toute la nuit. Je suis totalement satisfait de cette expérience de Johns Hopkins à Bologne. L’année prochaine nous retournons aux Etats-Unis. Nous sommes un grand groupe d’amis et de collègues.»

- Edward Landreth

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bidding farewell to the SAIS Europe Class of 2014 and passing the baton

"The most practical education is the one that prepares you for tomorrow rather than today."

With those words, outgoing SAIS Director Kenneth Keller bid farewell last week to 212 members of the Bologna Center Class of 2014.

The end-of-year ceremony mixed recognition of academic achievement with good humor, as conveyed in a video that Student Government President Kristo Kentala showed to the students, faculty, staff and visiting family members.

Francesco Cenedese, Shawn Finlen, Andreas Glossner and Lauren Hartel won C. Grove Haines Awards, named after the Bologna Center founder, for outstanding academic work. Twenty students earned master's degrees and crowns of laurel leaves -- the tradition among graduates in Italy -- while most of the other students will conclude their studies at SAIS DC next year.

Prof. Arntraud Hartmann, an adjunct professor of International Development, won the excellence in teaching award, attributed by student vote. Prof. Michael Plummer offered the closing remarks in a symbolic passing of the baton before he takes over as SAIS Director on August 1.

Prof. Plummer, who teaches economics, praised this year's class for its academic curiosity, esprit de corps and "happy equilibrium", which, tongue firmly in cheek, he said suggests that "your endogenous variables form a stable system."

Director Keller's speech can be read here, while Kristo Kentala's is here. You can view the two sides of the ceremony's program here and here.

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

Nelson Graves

Thursday, May 15, 2014

And the winners are ...

This year's SAIS Europe class has chosen.

Last week we published a series of photographs that our students felt captured the gist of their experience here in Bologna. Today we post the four pictures that the Class of 2014 voted as their favorites. We post four because of the quality of the photos and because the vote, by members of the class, was excruciatingly close.

The winning entry was shot by Samuel Semwangu, whose photo will be framed and mounted in the Bologna Center building for posterity. And he will receive a framed copy.

Samuel Semwangu
Here is what Samuel had to say about the photo: "It was one of those great spring Saturdays in Bologna. Six of us decided to hike into the hills south of the city to make the most of it. An hour or so in, we found in Parco Villa Ghighi the ideal spot for lunch outside. The company, the food and the surroundings came together to form a lasting experience. The photo, which was taken with an iPhone 5, I think captures the essence of the day and what we as SAIS students will remember most from our time together in this wonderful place."

There are two first runner-up photos (the vote was a tie), one by Alexandra Queirolo and the other by Jag Ningthoujam. They will receive framed copies of their photographs -- both of which were shot in black and white.
Alexandra Queirolo
Jag Ningthoujam
The second runner-up photo was taken by Alix Davie, who like Alexandra focused on the friendship theme. Alix will also receive a framed copy of her picture.

Alix Davie
Thanks to all of the photographers who participated and who submitted such fine photos. All the best to the Class of 2014.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pre-term, or no pre-term?

That is the question.

We are often asked whether or not one should come to pre-term.

Just what is pre-term? It is a four-week period before the start of the academic year during which students can take classes in intermediate micro and macroeconomics, Italian and English.

In general, pre-term helps students, who come from very divergent backgrounds, get on track, grow comfortable with the challenging academic curriculum and strike up friendships with classmates.

Economics is an important component of the curriculum at SAIS, and all students are required to pass exams in at least four economics courses. Students who take an economics class in pre-term begin ticking off the economics requirements early on.

Note that we don't recommend that you take more than one of the economics courses. This is because they are intensive -- a semester's worth of work is compressed into four weeks -- and you risk being worn out before the start of the academic year.

Italian language courses are very popular. After all, Italy will be your home for the next nine months, and learning how to communicate in Italian will help you make the most of your year.

Some students take the intensive Italian course. Others combine an economics course with the "survival" Italian course. The latter can only be taken along with an economics course.

The intensive English course is taken by non-native English speakers who are keen to strengthen their English language skills. The courses are at the advanced level and tailored to what one studies at SAIS.

For those who've been away from school for a while, pre-term is a great way to ease back into studying. It is also a time when many students travel on weekends. You will be busy, but you will have time for one or more weekend trips.

We feel there are many reasons why one should at least consider coming to pre-term. Our alumni agree: each year about two thirds of the class enrolls in pre-term.

This year pre-term will run from August 20 through September 16. Registrations will be open from May 19 through June 30. More information on the courses and the registration procedure is available here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where does the SAIS Europe Class of 2015 come from?

Every year students come from all four corners of the world and 2014-15 will be no exception.

Diversity is one of the key distinguishing features of SAIS Europe.

It comes in different forms. Students hail from different educational, professional, cultural and religious backgrounds. The wealth of experiences and perspectives they bring adds to the classroom discussion and provides the opportunity to learn from one another.

Below is a map showing the countries the students who make up the Class of 2015 are from.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Learning the importance of diplomacy

Today Urvashi Bundel, a first year student at SAIS Europe in the International Law concentration, tells us about her experience at the Rome Model United Nations (MUN). Urvashi, from India, took part in the five-day simulation with students from all over the world. 

Participating in the Rome Model United Nations put to the test what I had learned during my classes. Diplomacy and speech-making are of prime importance, whether we choose to enter foreign services or consulting.

Urvashi Bundel (right) and her teammate
RomeMUN has become one of the biggest UN simulations in the world. These Model UN training programs are mainly designed for students, and aim to enhance their understanding of the roles and procedures that characterize an international organization like the United Nations.

Between 13-17 March 2014, 1500 participants from around the world gathered to represent UN member countries in a simulation of diplomatic debates in various different UN Committees.

The opening ceremony took place at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations headquarters in Rome, with dignitaries such as Minister Stefano Baldi, Director of the Diplomatic Institute of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Palestinian Ambassador to Italy in attendence.

The purpose of this experience-based program was to find common and effective solutions to various issues by drawing up and approving a number of resolutions. The participants could participate as delegates; as journalists representing networks such as Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, France24, Rainews International and Russia Today; or as language experts interpreting in and out of Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and French. RomeMUN delegates worked for different UN bodies, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, FAO and various UN agencies.

I represented the delegation from the Republic of Kuwait at the United Nations Human Rights Council. We debated topics ranging from indigenous peoples’ rights/minority rights to grave human rights abuses at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay.

Kuwait was selected to be one of five members of an investigation committee whose presentations would be heard at the International Court of Justice. Eventually, due to the popularity of Kuwait’s speeches, it was voted “most popular delegation” in the Human Rights Council.

It was a truly profound experience - an experience that spanned five days of public speaking and diplomatic debates. To borrow from Joseph Nye, “getting others to want the outcome that you want” is a skill that students master during their time at SAIS.

Urvashi Bundel 
(BC14 / DC15)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Answers to your questions

We know that as you start preparing yourself for the next academic year there are a lot of questions that come to your mind. Economics, visa, housing, health insurance, concentration…and the list goes on.

We thought it’s time for a question and answer session.

Q: How do I meet the introductory economics requirement mentioned in my letter of admission?
A: You can take the Online Principles of Economics (OPE) course we offer during the summer, or you can take a similar course at another institution. If you decide to take a course elsewhere, we would ask you to send us the course description so that we can make sure the course is at the correct level.

More information on the course we offer is available here. Please note that enrollments are on a first-come-first-served basis, and you should make sure to register as soon as possible to secure your spot.

Q: What should I do if I don't get a place in the SAIS OPE?
A: You should look for a course outside of SAIS. There are several institutions that offer courses, online and in-situ, which will help you get a solid understanding of the principles of micro and macroeconomics.

Q: Can I substitute the OPE with the pre-term courses?
A: No. The economics courses offered in pre-term are at the intermediate-level. To be able to start those classes you must have completed the introductory courses. It makes sense: you need to be able to walk before you can run.

Q: I would like to pursue a different concentration than the one I indicated in my application. Can I change?
A: Yes, you can choose from any of the concentrations we offer with the exception of International Development, which has capped enrollment.

Q: Where can I see the list of courses that will be offered at SAIS Europe in 2014-15?
A: Information on the course offerings at SAIS Europe is available here.

Q: What type of visa should I apply for?
A: Non-European Union citizens need a visa to study in Italy. The visa you should apply for is the type D student visa (visto per motivi di studio), which will allow you to stay in Italy and travel within the Schengen area.

Q: How do I apply for a visa?
A: The first step is to check the requirements on the website of the Italian Embassy in your home country and follow the instructions listed there. We will provide you with a visa request letter, which you will need to attach to your other documents.

Very important: You should make sure your visa lasts at least for the duration of the academic year. The reason it is important is because your permesso di soggiorno (residence permit) will have the same duration as your visa. If your visa does not cover the entire academic year, please be sure to send us a message at

Q: Who can use the visa service offered by Admissions Office in DC?
A: Anyone who is currently residing in the U.S. can use the visa service offered in Washington. More information on the service is available here.

Q: How long does it take to receive the visa?
A: It depends on the Embassy and their workload. It's best to start as early as possible.

Q: Do I need health insurance while I am in Italy?
A: Non-EU students need to have a health insurance plan that will give them access to health care while they are in Italy. You can buy insurance through SAIS or you can purchase a plan in your home country that is equivalent to the SAIS insurance plan.

Q: I am a dual national and I hold an EU passport. Do I need health insurance?
A: If you are not a resident of the EU, it is likely that you will need health insurance. EU residents can apply for a European Health Card which will give them the same access to health care as Italian citizens.

Q: When does the housing service begin?
A: Salvatore, our housing consultant, will start showing apartments on August 11. Finding a roof over your head can be a daunting thought when you move to a different country. But worry not, Salvatore will make it easy for you.

Students generally manage to find a place very quickly, often a day or two after their arrival. Please make sure you have booked yourself a hotel room for your first night in Bologna.

More information on housing is available here.

If you have questions, please comment on this post or send us an email at

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The SAIS Europe experience through the eyes of our students

We asked this year's students to send us the photographs that best sum up their year at SAIS Europe. Not an easy task, given the complex nature of an experience that mixes academics, culture, history, debate, travel and friendship. Below are their submissions, with the name of the photographer below each picture. Thanks to the Bologna Center Class of 2014.

Anthea Blaikie
Alix Davie
Alexandra Queirolo
Benan Berhan
Camilla Scassellati Sforzolini
Jag Ningthoujam
John Dellinger
Kristo Kentala
Laura Andersen
Logan Finucan
Lauren Hartel
Marco Steecker
Nikki Deutsch
Philipp Hlatky
Sasha Milentey
Samuel Semwangu
Shauna Aron
Virgil Doyle
Vanessa Roy

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The pull of Bologna and making connections

Some 300 alumni returned to SAIS Europe this past weekend to reconnect with classmates and faculty, rediscover the charms of Bologna in the spring and meet current students. Below, Leah Ewald writes about one of the highlights of the weekend -- career panels hosted by alumni and attended by students keen to widen their horizons and learn about job opportunities.

The noise level in the lobby was deafening.

SAIS Europe alumni and students were congregating before heading to classrooms for career chats. Fifty-one alumni had volunteered to speak to students about their career experiences, and we had to turn away many more due to lack of space. More than half the student body had signed up for the sessions.

As Career Services student assistants helping to set up the sessions, four of us set a record for the number of hours on our time sheets that week.

Alumnus Brano Kralik (BC09/DC10) leading a session on 
"International Development - Monitoring and Evaluation"
I learned three things from the experience:

  1. Kathleen, our student Excel instructor, is some kind of wizard. Figuring out how to get 200 people into the right place at the right time requires a lot of math and a vector map. Squinting at her jumble of dots, squares and tangled black lines, we managed to sort all the students into the panels they requested -- seven hours later.
  2. As spacious and shiny as this building is, there are not quite enough rooms to comfortably host 26 panels. So we began cramming as many people as we could into the offices of our professors and administrative staff. Accessing your seat required yoga pants in some cases. At one point Kathleen and I considered how many people we might fit into a closet.
  3. Our alumni are wonderful. In the weeks leading up to the panels, we emailed them a thousand times requesting biographical information, schedule information and requests that they get out of bed at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning to talk to us. We folded them into small spaces and changed the schedule twice, and no one had a single complaint. I attended two panels -- one on Global Health & Development and one on Development & Access to Water in Conflict Zones -- and was met with frank guidance, smiling faces and warm handshakes. I was told I could always ask a bolognese alumnus for advice. From the encounters I have had, I earnestly believe it.

   "Italy exists in my mind as a whirl of madness."

Leah Ewald above Bologna
Saturday night, students and alumni piled into a cafe to listen to future Director of SAIS Europe Dr. Michael Plummer’s band perform. Sunglasses and a leather coat were involved.

Italy exists in my mind as a whirl of madness -- crisscrossing medieval roads and slightly tilting buildings, irregular train schedules, historical eras stacked on top of each other with a light coating of graffiti, packed gelato shops, a teetering pile of homework, a garble of foreign languages, a sea of economic symbols that make slightly more sense to me than they did a year ago, the ever-present internship applications, a heating system in my apartment that I still haven’t figured out how to use, a million emails and, once in a while, a shady, quiet afternoon in the park … the sharp scent of incense in a dark cathedral.

Soon we will disperse from here. In another year we will scatter across the globe. I picture it like Kathleen’s vector map: 200 blue dots and a wild hatch of crisscrossing black lines, all zigzagging back and forth before radiating inward toward a central point in the heart of the madness, steady as it is pulled taut in all directions.

All vectors lead to Bologna.

Leah Ewald (BC14/DC15)