SAIS Europe Turns 61 Years Old
BY PATRICK KELLEY
SAIS Europe turned 61 in February, and the campus marked the occasion with a speech from Italy’s Minister for Constitutional Reform and Relations with Parliament Maria Elena Boschi on Feb. 19, when she lectured on the opportunities and challenges of her post to a standing-room-only crowd in the campus’ auditorium.
The talk was open to the public and Boschi’s presence required heavy security presence, including more than 50 Carabinieri and police as well as a police helicopter that circled above the campus. Students were also required to wear their SAIS IDs on lanyards around their necks for the duration of the event.
The decades-old tradition of welcoming Italian dignitaries to SAIS began during SAIS Europe’s inaugural year in 1955, when founder and then-U.S. Ambassador to Italy C. Grove Haines hosted the Rector of the University of Bologna at the SAIS Europe campus. In recent years, Italian elites including President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (who visited SAIS while he was mayor of Florence) and Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan have spoken at the campus.
Even though SAIS Europe is in its 61st year of continuous operation, it is in the nascent stages of many adjustments implemented by SAIS Dean Vali Nasr. Of these changes, one of the most visible is the rebranding effort.
“[The name] Bologna Center did not fully reflect that this was a European center of intellectual excellence,” Nasr told The Hub last year. “It’s a branch of SAIS that approaches global issues from a European perspective—not just an Italian one, as some people may have thought—in complement with the American/global perspective we do in SAIS Washington. That’s what makes this combined program so unique. And I think ‘SAIS Europe’ resonates better with audiences we are trying to attract in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.'”
Along with the name change came a logo change. The former logo – with the name “SAIS” encircled by the school’s three locations – still lingers on library bookmarks and other old paper documents around SAIS Europe, but official markings on doors and windows now feature the SAIS shield.
Substantive changes to the academics at SAIS Europe have recently been implemented as well. SAIS Europe diversified its faculty with the hiring of professors Raffaella Del Sarto and Masha Hedberg at the beginning of the academic year, and, pending a hiring search, will welcome a new professor with funding from SAIS’s new Kissinger Center.
SAIS Europe’s 61st year is also the first year of SAIS’s Global Risk Master’s program. The degree program – a 13-month Master’s program based exclusively at SAIS Europe – will begin in the fall of 2016.
While SAIS Europe has undergone many official changes in its history, the campus’ founding is still the subject of numerous rumors. Earlier in the year, a 2009 story from The Daily Beast, in which SAIS Europe alum Tom Murray profiles his time learning under Cuban Spy Walter Kendall Myers, was widely shared on Facebook by SAIS Europe students.
Murray wrote, “Students at the school’s Bologna Center, where I spent my first two semesters, accepted as fact that our program had been founded in the mid-1950s as a front for CIA operatives keen for a legitimate perch at the capital of Italy’s ‘red’ movement.”
To this day, no official acknowledgement has been made regarding this claim, adding to the lore of SAIS’s presence in Europe.
Ana Vasudevan contributed to this article.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Title of the article altered at 16:19 on 2 March 2016.