Associate Editor for SAIS Europe
First-year MA candidate at SAIS Europe
On July 16 SAIS Dean Vali Nasr announced the renaming of the SAIS Bologna Center to SAIS Europe.
Dean Nasr said the new name was not meant to usher in a new mission for the institution. Instead it is meant to effectively convey changes and evolutions that have already occurred. The new name emphasizes the campus’ standing as a European center of intellectual excellence as well as the broad global standing of SAIS itself.
At its founding in 1955, the center’s placement in Bologna in particular was worth highlighting. At the time, Italy played an important role in the rebuilding of post-war Europe and offered an ideal platform for studying and understanding the region as it emerged as a powerful and increasingly integrated world presence.
Moreover, Bologna, home to the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe, is a richly academic city, and seemed an obvious place to build a world-class academic institution.
Yet, as global politics shifted during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and global attention broadened outside of Europe, the SAIS Europe campus responded. Academics expanded their focuses to include other
regions; the Center developed Functional Studies programs that matched those offered in DC; it began to draw professors and students from all over the world; and it gained increasingly equal footing with its DC-based parent institution.
“The new name is meant to convey these adaptations to a new global context and reflect the value they have added to the SAIS Bologna experience,” says Director of Recruiting and Admissions Nelson Graves.
The name change also comes on the heels of the SAIS administration’s decision to relocate the European Studies headquarters to Bologna from DC and the European Union’s recognition of SAIS Europe as a European Institution, a classification that opens opportunities for grants and other benefits and underscores SAIS’ growing significance in the region.
“SAIS Europe more appropriately captures the institution’s evolved and evolving mission, its more global reach and more equal footing with the DC campus,” says SAIS Europe Director Kenmeth Keller.
The re-branding also serves as a marketing and outreach strategy, something that became especially important in light of the financial crisis, according to Director of Finance and Administration Bart Drakulich.
“Italy’s and Bologna’s post-war significance not only have less relevance to the institution’s curriculum and mission but also have less resonance with today’s prospective students,” Drakulich said.
‘SAIS Europe’ will underscore the comparative advantage of SAIS’ global footprint, which Keller and Drakulich agree lies in the European and global — not just Italian or Bolognese — perspective SAIS Europe students gain.
“‘SAIS Bologna’ was a physical description, but it didn’t capture what we do or who are: a serious institution embedded in Europe that brings a new perspective to bear on international affairs and offers students a European perspective on issues many of them will go on to explore from different angles during their second year in Washington,” Keller said.
The decision to drop ‘Bologna’ from the Center’s title faced some resistance from alumni, who were reluctant to loosen ties to the city and country they had grown to love.
But Keller maintains that the re-branding under SAIS Europe does not distance SAIS from Bologna, but rather it highlights other growing regional ties.
“Unfortunately, we can’t bottle and market nostalgia to students who have never heard of Bologna,” added Drakulich. “’SAIS Europe’ suggests a broader reach and more effectively conveys the institution’s global mission and added value.”
Although the new name primarily reflects changes that have already taken place, Keller hopes it will also stimulate new ideas on how SAIS Europe can take advantage of its unique geographic location.
Some ideas that are already in the works include plans to establish a Middle East Studies Program based at SAIS Europe — both geographically and culturally closer to the Middle East and more accessible to Middle Eastern Students; plans to bolster the Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR), SAIS Europe’s research arm and think tank; and possibly expanding opportunities to convene foreign policy leaders and thinkers from Europe and around the world.