Friday, February 1, 2013

Student Spotlight: Byron Sacharidis

For our spotlight today, we’ve interviewed Byron Sacharidis.  Byron is a second-year MA student concentrating in Energy, Resources and Environment, and he is a recipient of the Niarchos Foundation Fellowship.  Byron received his BA in business administration from University of Piraeus in 2004, and his LL.B (Juris Doctorate) from University of Athens in 2009.  Prior to coming to SAIS, Byron practiced as a freelance attorney-at-law.
When considering graduate school, what was appealing about SAIS?
I started my research for graduate schools by visiting the APSIA site. SAIS became my top choice, not only because of its reputation and strong alumni network, but also because it offered the opportunity to study in three different campuses. As a European, I was particularly interested in starting out at the Bologna campus, before smoothly transitioning to Washington DC, which is the center of the policy world. When I later visited the Bologna campus during an Open Day event I only had good impressions by the faculty, the administration and the students alike. The Niarchos Fellowship and the advice I received from my mentor, a former US Commercial Counselor, in combination with my discussions with alumni, made my choice a no-brainer. I eventually chose SAIS over a number of other US graduate schools that offered me admission. 
Tell us about your concentration and why you chose it.
Being an attorney-at-law with a business background, I chose a concentration in Energy, Resources and Environment because I was looking to enhance my understanding of the field. By studying international relations I wanted to integrate my previous academic and professional experiences into a comprehensive skill set and ERE looked ideal in my eyes, because it dealt with topics, which currently constitute distinct priorities throughout the policy world. Regardless of concentrations, the course selection is great and it is further enriched with skills courses and workshops. Seeking advice and examining all options is part of the game here at SAIS, but there are always people with clear-cut objectives.
How do you see the economics component complementing your concentration/IR studies?
The economics component is indispensable. While one can go almost as much in depth as he or she desires with the economics courses at SAIS, there are mandatory ones, but also opportunities to waive a couple of the requirements. Any approach, debate or argument made in an academic paper can become more complete with a good knowledge of economics and this is something I very soon discovered myself. Some professors favor the ability to conduct quantitative analysis and I surely cannot imagine becoming a professional of the field without studying economics. 
You’re a recipient of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Fellowship. Can you tell us a little bit more about the foundation and the fellowship?  How has the support of the Niarchos Foundation helped realize your dream of studying at SAIS?
Coming from Greece, I was facing some borrowing constraints due to the debt crisis that perturbed the country. I did have some savings and support from family and friends, but the Niarchos Foundation fellowship I was offered has been an important form of aid and a great honor. I have met with people of the Foundation and as a recipient of a named fellowship I have also expressed my gratitude to them with a thanking letter. Without their support, realizing my dream of studying at my dream School would have been extremely challenging. I feel privileged to have joined the community of the Niarchos Fellows; there is a sense of belonging and a personal motivation to give back. I do expect more initiatives in the near future, by both the Foundation and the small but growing community of the Niarchos Fellows.
What are your plans for your career post-SAIS?
I am highly committed to becoming a policy expert, who will assume challenging roles with Governments or International Institutions. At some point, I would like to help both my country and Europe to overcome their difficulties and I also hope to be able to give back to the community of SAIS, which has been very supportive.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Fellowship was established in 2004 by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. It supports students undertaking their first year of M.A. study in Bologna, Italy and second year in Washington, D.C. Preference is given to students from Greece, with back-up authority for those from the European Union. For more information about the Niarchos Foundation Fellowship as SAIS, please visit
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.