Julia Romano, Morgan Flume and Sara Konoe in laurel wreaths marking the completion of their degrees.
At SAIS' Bologna Center, laurel wreaths cap the graduates' achievements
By Karen Riedel, SAIS Bologna
The original Greek Olympians wore them, as did Roman conquerors, the orator Cicero and the
poet Dante. And we derive the word laureate from them, the wreaths of laurel leaves that signify
wisdom, victory and success.
Six graduates of SAIS' Bologna Center joined the long tradition on May 29, when they, too,
were crowned with the aromatic green wreaths.
The tradition of awarding laurel wreaths at the Bologna Center began in 2004. "The majority of
our students are only halfway through their studies, so the Bologna Center commencement is an
informal occasion," says Veronica Pye, academic and student affairs coordinator, who wanted to make
the ceremony special for the half-dozen or so students who actually complete their studies at the
center. "I was looking for a distinguishing sign to make up for the fact that we do not use gowns,
hoods and mortar boards like a traditional ceremony does," she says. "The wreaths were an obvious
Pye orders the wreaths from a flower stall in the city's ancient marketplace. The florist makes
the circle from fresh laurel branches and decorates them with a bow of electric blue and gold, the
colors of the School of Advanced International Studies. During the ceremony at the Bologna Center,
the director crowns each graduate with the wreath, which he or she wears for the evening.
Throughout the ages, academic laurel wreaths have usually been reserved for students earning
the master's degree, but the Bologna Center broke with tradition this year when it wreathed Sara
Konoe, who completed the last year of her doctoral program at the center, thus becoming the school's
Julia Romano, Jeffrey Brown, Morgan Fiume, Director Kenneth H.
Keller, academic and student affairs coordinator Veronica Pye, Thomas
Furcher, Richard Lechowick and Sara Konoe. Konoe is the Bologna
Center's first PhD.
The recent Bologna Center tradition also reflects the larger academic community in which it
resides. In the Italian university system, students graduate individually and throughout the year.
Almost daily the streets of the university quarter ring with the singsong "dottore, dottore" as a newly
crowned laureate from the University of Bologna leads a procession of friends and family to a local
restaurant or bar for celebration.
"It is only fitting that the Bologna Center honors its graduates in this way," says Kenneth H.
Keller, director. "After all, we are located in the heart of the University of Bologna complex, the
oldest continually operating university in the world."
In addition to Konoe, the students who earned their graduate degrees at the Bologna Center
were Morgan Fiume and Jeffrey Brown (MIPP), Thomas Furcher (MAIA/DA joint degree) and Richard
Lechowick and Julia Romano (MA).
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