Spring 2021
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Shape the World
Renata Zilli Montero
Andreas Baum
Isabel Studer
Opening the Door to International Education
Data helps Renata Zilli Montero, MA ’21, dream big.
“Thanks to advances in technology, we are starting to measure and quantify, in large proportions, human behavior at every level, from small localities to global environments,” says Zilli Montero, who researches international political economies, specifically North American international commercial relations, for her SAIS degree in International Economics and Latin American Studies.

“We have more elements to understand more about our quality as human beings. And the more we learn from ourselves, the more opportunity we have to provide solutions to improve our quality of life,” adds Zilli Montero, who holds a BA and MA in International Relations from the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico, her home country, and an MA in International Trade from Sydney’s Macquarie University.

It is SAIS’ strength in quantitative reasoning that inspired her to enroll, and it’s the driver for her dreams post-graduation this May. “Economies are becoming more data-centric, and I knew that I needed to integrate more quantitative analytic skills to excel as a social scientist,” she explains of her plans to enroll in a PhD program in the United States and continue her career in academia and research.

In 2019, before she began the SAIS program, Zilli Montero founded the Global Dreamers Project, a pro-bono mentorship program focused on advising students and young professionals from the southern (and typically less affluent) Mexican states with their applications to international scholarships or fellowships. To date, she’s shepherded 14 people to receiving scholarships to study abroad and hopes to ramp up her mentoring program after graduation.

“Having the opportunity to receive an international education contributes to building better societies and creates better and resilient professionals, who become more conscious of the global society in which we live,” she says.

This is precisely the “pay-it-forward” inspiration that Ambassador Andreas Baum, MA ’90, currently the Swiss ambassador to Japan, hoped for when he established the Andreas Baum Fellowship to support exceptional international MA students like Zilli Montero.

“Back in 1988, SAIS admitted me, a foreigner with an improbable medical education,” shared Baum, who arrived at SAIS with a medical degree from the University of Lausanne, in a recent email exchange. “It was an exciting period, marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, a time of hopes and possibilities. Because SAIS gave me a chance, because of my parents’ generosity and patience, I discovered my professional calling. Today, I want to give others such a chance.”

During Baum’s 30-year diplomatic career, he has served Switzerland as Ambassador to Nigeria, Israel, India, and since 2020, Japan. He appreciates that similar threads are woven through Zilli Montero’s SAIS experience and his own. “I learned to analyze rationally, rigorously, critically, with openness and curiosity, thus becoming a generalist with a taste for learning always,” he says. “Renata and the other [Baum] recipients want to work hard at making their countries and the world a better place. This makes me truly hopeful.”

During her time at SAIS, Zilli Montero pursued internships that further honed her analytic skills. With the NAFTA office in the Mexican Embassy of Mexico, she researched international trade data. At Mexico’s Sostenibilidad Global — a nonprofit creating sustainable solutions to address the climate crisis — Zilli Montero focused on urban public policy. Founded by Isabel Studer, who received her MA and PhD from SAIS, Sostenibilidad Global uses a data-driven “bottom-up” model to drive systemic transformation.

At the Geneva Trade Week 2020, she served on a trade and gender panel with her fellow female TradeTankMX (TTMX) colleagues. Zilli Montero is a founding partner and chair of the Strategic Planning Committee TTMX think tank comprising young, passionate global leaders.

“This was my first opportunity to share my ideas on the importance of having inclusive trade with a gender perspective,” she says. “I could not have excelled at this conference if it were not for the knowledge and experiences I have acquired at SAIS.” Sarah Achenbach

Alethia Tilford
Annual Gifts Make a Lasting Impact on Students
Second-year student Alethia Tilford plans to become a Foreign Service officer specializing in public diplomacy for the U.S. Department of State. During her two years at SAIS, Tilford, a MA candidate in Latin American Studies, has received several fellowships made possible by alumni through annual gifts, all of which have played a vital role in bringing her closer to this goal.

“As a first-generation college graduate, finances were tight in undergrad and even tighter now that I’m in graduate school,” says Tilford, who most recently received the Christian Herter Society (CHS) Fellowship, which is providing her with $5,000 in financial aid during her last semester. “I am so grateful for the generosity of alumni and their willingness to give back.”

The CHS Fellowship — named after Christian Herter, the co-founder of SAIS and a former U.S. Secretary of State, and funded through gifts including those of $2,500 and above — represents one of several annual giving streams that collectively generated $2.4 million last year for essential student financial aid, internships, research trips, and more.

Gifts at each level are making a tangible difference for students. A $250 gift can cover living expenses for a student who is facing unexpected financial hardship, while a $1,500 gift allows a student to take part in a career-changing internship. Smaller gifts have a big impact, too: Last fiscal year, contributions between $1 and $100 made through the annual fund added up to more than $40,000 that was put toward financial aid for students.

During her time at SAIS, Tilford — a U.S. Presidential Scholar during her last year of high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the recipient of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee 2015 Youth of the Year Award — has received a fellowship every semester.

With this support, shortly after graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with degrees in management communications and Spanish, Tilford studied at the SAIS campus in Bologna, Italy, during her first year. There, she connected with the African migrant population — a defining opportunity since she also hopes to work with migrants and asylum seekers in the future. A fellowship also led her to intern with the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), where she got hands-on experience working with Black people impacted by internal displacement in Colombia.

“These fellowships have given me the opportunity to focus on my education,” says Tilford, adding that alumni also give their time at events like career panels and talks, in addition to monetary contributions. “Alumni support is what makes SAIS such a special institution,” she says. “They have inspired me to ensure that I give back to this institution in the best way I can after graduation.”

Tilford’s most recent fellowship, the CHS Fellowship in honor of the Class of 1994, was made possible by alumnus Bruce Comer ’94, who was once a recipient of financial aid himself during his time at SAIS. “It makes a big difference,” says Comer, founder and managing director of Ocean Park Advisors, an investment bank in Los Angeles, California. “It’s great to see the energy and vision that SAIS students bring to the world, [and] I’m glad that I’m able to give back.” Jennifer Walker

SAIS Europe: The Power of Philanthropy
Thanks to a transformational $10 million gift, James Anderson, B ’81 — Johns Hopkins University trustee and SAIS Europe council chairman — turned what could have been a terrible year for the Bologna Center into the top fundraising year in its history.

Coming at the peak of the pandemic, Anderson’s gift not only offered relief funding for the COVID emergency and funds to support faculty and students, it also helped mark SAIS’ 65th anniversary with a more hopeful look to its future. What’s more, to double the impact of his gift, Anderson offered an unprecedented $4 million matching funds program. As of May 16, 2021, 40% (about $1.6 million) of the matching funds have been used to match an equivalent amount in new gifts from more than 400 donors (of which 17% are first-time donors).

We would like to thank all of our supporters who have responded so generously to this incredible act of generosity. A full list of donors is available at this Honor Roll. Among others, we want to acknowledge several Bolognese couples who have responded to the initiative:

  • Barbara and Raffaele Santoro (Bologna, 1960) for the establishment and continuing support of the Santoro Fellowship, which has helped fund 26 students in Bologna.
  • Naneen and Axel Neubohn (Bologna, 1963) for their support of the Grove Haines Chair, noting that“without Grove Haines there would be no Bologna Center.”
  • Erika and Hasan Teoman (Bologna, 1980–82) and Daniela and Ajay Kaisth (Bologna, 1989) for the establishment of the Amaduzzi-Aragno Internship Fund, who observed “Success is important but kindness matters!”
  • Zach and Julia Messitte (Bologna, 1994) for the establishment of the Class of 1994 Fellowship Fund, stating that “a year in Bologna should be an opportunity open to all students.”
  • Michiel Vriens and Midori Tanaka (Bologna, 2019) for their support of the Amici di Bologna Student Fund, who commented that “our year at SAIS Europe was truly transformative, from living in Bologna to forging long-lasting relationships with our peers and professors. We wanted to give back to offer future students the opportunity to experience the same.”

The matching program runs until matching funds are entirely utilized and no later than June 2023. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to double up the impact of your gift to SAIS Europe. Up to $2.2 million in matching funds are still available for the following areas:

Professorships Sustainability Fund: Faculty members are key to any academic institution, and this is particularly true for the intimate SAIS Europe community. Support of the Kenneth H. Keller Chair and the C. Grove Haines Chair offers much deserved recognition and celebration to resident faculty members for their dedication and accomplishments. Read more

COVID Emergency Relief Fund: With the primary goals of ensuring safety while offering the best possible educational experience, the COVID-19 Emergency Fund alleviates the financial burden on SAIS Europe resources and allows the school to offer immediate relief to its community members and to offset the increased pandemic management costs, including necessary technical infrastructure and required measures to resume normal operations. Read more

Programmatic Integration Fund: Academic integration paves the way for growth of new ideas and new courses to help SAIS students anticipate and face new challenges worldwide. SAIS Europe is the ideal location for faculty exchange across SAIS and Johns Hopkins University, and development of new virtual learning opportunities and new master’s programs. Read more

We are also excited to announce that matching funds for the Student Opportunity Fund (including new and existing student fellowships, internships, and experiential learning opportunities) are almost entirely utilized, up to a total of about $1,310,000 in new gifts, leaving only $140,000 available for additional new gifts (as of May 16, 2021).

Some of the new gifts that benefited from the match have supported the creation of new endowed fellowships at SAIS Europe, which will have a perpetual impact on the life of its students. Kudos to the Bologna Classes of 1980, 1982, and 1994 for their tireless dedication to this endeavor.

If you are interested in establishing your named matching program to stimulate additional gifts to the SAIS Europe Student Opportunity Fund, please contact the SAIS Europe Office of Development.

Picture of Orme Wilson Jr. (on the right shaking hands), American Consul General in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, welcoming Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia (shaking hands on the left), to the United States Pavilion at the Zagreb Fair in September 1970. Directly to the right of Orme Wilson Jr. is his wife Mildred Wilson, and directly to the left of President Tito is his wife Madame Broz.
Picture of Orme Wilson Jr. meeting President Jimmy Carter in 1977 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Directly to Wilson’s left and Carter’s right is Richard Holbrooke, then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. At that time Wilson was posted to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City.
Orme Wilson Sr.
Addressing Inequity through Education

Orme Wilson III, MA ’79, understands that inspiration can span generations.

In 2020, Wilson and his wife, Mary Hilliard Wilson, established the Orme Wilson Fellowship to honor his father and grandfather, Orme Wilson Jr. and Orme Wilson, both of whom had long careers as U.S. Foreign Service officers. The fellowship supports the next generation of global leaders, specifically SAIS students from underrepresented communities.

Providing affordable access to education has been the Wilson family’s philanthropic focus for three generations. They established scholarships at Harvard — all three are graduates — and at Yale, where Wilson’s maternal grandfather, William McKee Dunn, a U.S. Army officer who served in both world wars, attended. Today, Wilson’s work on the board of the Thomas D. Clark Foundation includes helping to launch the foundation’s new program to promote accurate, comprehensive Black history in Kentucky’s public schools.

It was a convergence of events last year, including renewed focus on social justice at the national level and SAIS’ Propel Initiative to attract and support diverse candidates, that sparked the Wilson Fellowship, Wilson says.

“My own experiences studying and working with people of all backgrounds, and the events that have unfolded in my home city, specifically the killing of Breonna Taylor, and the aftermath of that tragic event, inspired our gift,” says Wilson. “Addressing the serious inequities in our country and world is a compelling need. One way to help do that is by making top-quality education more affordable to students in underrepresented groups.”

The Wilson men have a history of being in parts of the world when justice is needed. The senior Orme Wilson joined the U.S. Diplomatic Service in 1920, becoming one of the first career Foreign Service officers. “He served in places as the world was changing,” says Wilson. Among his grandfather’s posts were Berlin in 1933 to 1934 when Hitler rose to power, and Brussels as the Germans invaded and occupied Belgium. “My grandfather and father were so disgusted by the growing Nazi party strutting around [in Berlin],” Wilson recalls.

Wilson recalls his father’s story of attending the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a 16-year-old boy: “When Hitler came into the stadium, everyone in the crowd, including those in the diplomatic box, rose to their feet but my father and his best friend. My grandmother made them stand to avoid a diplomatic incident.”

His father, Orme Wilson Jr., was a World War II aviator and later a pilot for Pan Am, who joined the Foreign Service in 1950. Among his numerous posts were post-war Germany in Frankfurt, both Belgrade and Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia, and the Air War College in Alabama, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. “We lived in Montgomery during the Selma marches in 1965,” Wilson says.

“As public servants and American diplomats, my grandfather and father understood the challenges that the world presented as it changed and became increasingly interconnected,” Wilson adds. And he says that traveling the globe as a “Foreign Service kid” made an impact: “The world is extraordinarily diverse, and we have to embrace that diversity. Everyone at SAIS benefits from different perspectives, which provide a richer texture and environment for learning.”

Wilson briefly considered the family business. He even passed the rigorous Foreign Service exams and interned at the American Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, following his graduation from Harvard. At SAIS, he immersed himself in African studies, American foreign policy, and international economics. “One particularly valuable experience was serving as a researcher for Professor David Calleo on his well-received book on U.S. foreign economic policy, The Imperious Economy (1982),” Wilson remembers.

After SAIS, though, he chose another path: banking and then an entrepreneurial career as the owner of a Louisville commercial printing and graphics company. His international experience and education provided a competitive edge when dealing with foreign companies, but it was his hands-on experience as a business owner that reinforced his family’s legacy of creating educational opportunities.

“This was the greatest education I ever had,” Wilson says proudly. “I became very aware of people’s circumstances. I had almost no college graduates among my employees, and yet there were many who were extraordinarily brilliant but just had never been able to afford higher education.”

He and his wife are thrilled that their gift, which includes a multiyear pledge and a bequest, is matched by the Michael D. White Endowed Scholar Fund and the Flaherty Match at SAIS.

“This makes what we are doing to support the Propel Initiative so much more robust,” he adds. “My hope is that partly through the Orme Wilson Fellowship, the body of SAIS graduate students will be a rich reflection of the composition of our country and world.” Sarah Achenbach

Ways to Give

Your annual gift makes a difference! Make your tax-deductible gift online today.

Make a lasting impact at SAIS by establishing an endowment or legacy gift. Email for more information.

To learn more about the Christian Herter Society, visit

To learn more about SAIS Europe Special Initiatives and Class Initiatives visit