Returning to the Class of 2017, we’ll hear today from Karla Schiaffino Pérez, who completed the MALD program.  Karla’s trek to her current position wandered geographically through three countries, but reflected a relatively straight-line career path.

Karla, second from right, with Fletcher friends in Mexico City.

I cannot believe it’s been a year since I graduated from Fletcher!  Choosing a school for graduate studies took a lot of thinking and a good amount of luck.  Today, I can confidently say that I made the best decision for my personal and professional growth.

After college, I joined the London-based security consultancy Control Risks as a Research Analyst in their corporate investigations department.  Working for Control Risks provided me with a comprehensive overview of the security situation in Mexico, which made me realize the importance of gaining more knowledge and analytical tools in that area.  I received my acceptance letter from Fletcher and, as I looked into the depth and breadth requirements, I realized that the MALD program was a unique opportunity to obtain a comprehensive and inclusive education in security and human security.

During my time at Fletcher I chose classes that allowed me to look at my Fields of Study from a holistic perspective.  I gained solid knowledge of traditional security theories and complemented it with studies on negotiations and conflict resolution.  Fletcher also enabled me to learn how to apply a gender perspective to the issues I was analyzing in all my classes, which was something new for me.  I enhanced my quantitative skills by taking classes like Econometrics and Microeconomics, which made for a well-rounded and comprehensive program.

Fletcher has an incomparable faculty — truly committed to the development of students as professionals and human beings.  However, many of the most important lessons I took with me after graduation were those I received from my classmates.  Soon after starting the program I realized I was surrounded by an incredible group of committed and accomplished people from all over the world.  Apart from their impressive academic and professional achievements, what distinguished the Fletcher students I was privileged enough to meet was their passion and unwavering commitment to serving others.  Today, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to call some of these amazing human beings my lifelong friends.

I graduated from Fletcher in a year of political turmoil, not only in the United States, but also back home in Mexico.  Many people I consulted after returning home advised me to be prepared to wait until the July 2018 presidential elections at home to start a job that would appeal to my academic and professional interests.  Nevertheless, I knew my qualifications at Fletcher would help me navigate this difficult time and find the right organization to work for.  Soon after returning to Mexico, I started to work at a U.S.-based compliance company.  I saw this as a good opportunity to go back to an area I had experience in and to learn more about the anti-corruption and anti-money laundering framework in Latin America.

After a few months of working for this company, I realized I wanted to explore more opportunities that would allow me to better use the knowledge and analytical tools I had gained at Fletcher.  Two of my Fletcher classmates sent me a posting for a Politics Analyst position at a political risk consultancy and I decided to apply.  I recently joined the Americas team of Verisk Maplecroft and I am certain my Fletcher education will allow me to develop my career in this organization in a meaningful way.

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Today’s alumni update also serves as a conclusion to the story shared from 2015-17 by McKenzie Smith, who completed the MIB program.  While still in her final semester, about a year ago, McKenzie hadn’t nailed down her post-Fletcher job securely enough to write about it and her story remained unfinished on the blog.  Today’s post wraps it all up!

In March 2017, just two months before graduating, I signed an offer to join Omidyar Network upon graduating from Fletcher.  At the time, it was a huge relief.  Like many of my classmates, I’d made a bet on Fletcher and the MIB program — a relatively new, non-traditional business program — and up until that moment, I wasn’t 100% positive it would pay off.  Thankfully, it certainly did!

Today, as a member of Omidyar Network’s impact investment team, I spend much of my time addressing the biggest opportunities and barriers to accelerating the growth of impact investing.  What this means in practice is that my work is spread across a diverse array of influence projects; research initiatives; and sourcing, due diligence, and evaluation of investments in organizations helping the impact market function more efficiently.  I’ve just passed my one-year mark, and already it’s been an exhilarating experience.

On the personal side, I’ve had the flexibility to travel back and forth between my new home in San Francisco and Washington, DC, where in addition to working with Omidyar Network teams there, I get to catch up with many friends from Fletcher who moved to DC after graduation.  Back in California, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to be outside year-round and see much of the natural beauty that the Bay Area has to offer.

Looking back, I’m convinced that none of this would have been possible had I chosen not to take a chance on Fletcher.  As I mentioned in my annotated curriculum, I pursued courses and activities that complemented my pre-Fletcher background and ultimately positioned me to join an amazing team.  I walked the Fletcher halls and sat in classes alongside aid workers, bankers, veterans, entrepreneurs, consultants, and development practitioners, whose diverse experiences armed them with insights and opinions that pushed my thinking.  I seized opportunities and built relationships with professors who wouldn’t have been as accessible at a large, traditional MBA program.  In fact, it was a relationship with a professor that I forged through my role leading the Fletcher Social Investment Group that ultimately helped me land the job at Omidyar Network.

Since joining, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with pioneers in the impact investing field.  And increasingly, those helping drive the industry forward are not only people I know from industry events and partnerships, but more and more, they’re also my Fletcher classmates!  Which brings me to my last reflection: Fletcher alumni working in impact investing are a small but slowly growing group.  Each of us took a chance on Fletcher and leaned in to make the most of our time there — and like any grad student, at some point or another, each of us probably wondered whether that chance would be worth it.  For me, Fletcher’s unique blend of business and international affairs, the opportunities to lead student teams and organizations, and the flexibility of the curriculum helped me make my degree work for me.  There’s a saying that Fletcher helps you get your dream job…five jobs in.  If this is what my first job out of school is like, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

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Back in the spring, I shared a few updates from the Class of 2017 — from Sydney, Ammar, and Dan.  This week I’ll return to the 2017s with additional updates.  It’s hard to believe that a full year has now passed since their graduation and that members of the Class of 2018 have joined them as alumni!

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I’m far from a consistent profiler of alumni (or faculty, for that matter) writing, but I’m going to use this post to bring your attention to a recently released book from Patrick Kabanda, a 2013 Fletcher graduate.  Patrick first came to my attention several years before he applied to Fletcher.  He was working nearby and he stopped in for one of several conversations through which I got to know him before he even enrolled.  Having followed his trajectory for all that time, it is a pleasure for me to note that his book, The Creative Wealth of Nations, was published this spring by Cambridge University Press.  Following the book’s launch, a Cambridge University economist shared these thoughts about it.  Note that her blog post captures part of Patrick’s background, which can be described as a most unlikely path from Kampala, Uganda, to The Juilliard School to study organ, to Fletcher, to the World Bank, to published author.

I’m a big fan of Patrick’s and it gives me real pleasure to be able to introduce him to you.  If you’re interested in the economics of creativity and the arts, I hope you’ll check out his new book.

Patrick described his Fletcher experience in this 2017 video.

 

One of our students, Rami, who is also a Rangel Fellow, wrote this week to make me aware of a change to another fellowship program.  For this year, the application calendar for the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program has changed.  Applications are now due on September 20 and the 2019 fellows will be notified in November.  SEPTEMBER 20!  That’s soon, people!  But the November 20 notification date will be a huge help for both applicants and graduate schools.

Of course, if you already had your eye on the application for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, you’re probably in good shape, as the Rangel application deadline is September 17 and has been following that calendar for a while now.

Both the Pickering and Rangel fellowships provide generous support for students interested in U.S. Foreign Service careers.  If that’s true for you, I strongly encourage you to apply to one or both of the programs.  They are both long-time partners of Fletcher (and not only because Ambassador Pickering is a Fletcher graduate).

 

As I mentioned last week, I joined colleagues from our closest peer schools at a Summerfest event hosted by Georgetown MSFS on Wednesday.  With nearly 150 prospective students attending and only five schools to chat with, one Fletcher rep would never have been enough.  I recruited a happy band of alumni and current-student volunteers to help me out.  Here’s the team, just before the evening ended:

Grace, Ishan (who turned up without my even having asked), Mariya (F18), Akshobh, Harsha (F14), Kelsey, and Katie all answered questions on a very wide range of topics (research on Russia, the Map Your Future pathway, the PhD program, joining the Foreign Service, self-designed Fields of Study, to name only a few).  Harsha did double duty — he was the alumnus representing Fletcher for a panel discussion and then he joined us at the table.

At Fletcher, we talk endlessly about the community, but I never find the endless talk to be an exaggeration.  All these folks gave up a lovely summer evening to stand in a noisy meeting room and answer question after question and — let’s be honest — represent the student experience far better than I can.  They also make every event more fun!

There are two more Summerfests coming up, in New York and a second evening in DC.  I hope you’ll join us — one of my Admissions pals and a group of student volunteers — on one of those dates.

 

For the final Qs&As, the Admissions Graduate Assistants will turn to locations — on-campus and off-campus, for study, housing, or simply learning about the area.  Don’t miss their previous advice on preparing for Fletcher generally and preparing for Orientation and classes.

What is your favorite place at Fletcher or elsewhere on the Tufts campus?

Brooklyn: Ginn Library has a no-food policy, which I wholeheartedly endorse because nothing is worse than trying to read for class with someone crunching in your ear.  However, there are times when I get really busy and it would be great to be able to do some work while I eat.  This is where the Mugar Computer Lab comes in!  Obviously, if you’re going to eat a whole meal, you might as well go to the café, but for snacking while reading, Mugar Computer Lab is the place to go.

Cece: My favorite place on campus is the roof area of the Tisch Library, called “Alex’s Place.”  It offers a gorgeous view of the Boston skyline and the Medford/Somerville neighborhoods since Tufts sits on top of a hill.  It makes a great reading spot or just a place to take a calming break from the library below.

Cindy: To be honest, I spend pretty much all of my time in or around the Fletcher building, but I don’t have a particular favorite place.  I guess I’d say my favorite is anywhere I’m hanging out with friends.  There is, however, a restaurant on the Tufts campus called Semolina Kitchen and Bar which has excellent food!

John: Hall of Flags during Social Hours — free food and great company — what could be better?

Do you have any tips for finding housing?

Cece: Fletcher Facebook pages and the Social List, Fletcher’s informal student listserv, are a good place to start a housing hunt if you are looking for places around Fletcher.  Alums, current students, and incoming students all post housing-related messages all the way up to mid-August, so don’t panic if you are not successful early on.  I would also say that living close to Fletcher is not the only housing option.  Many students live in other parts of Medford or even in neighboring cities like Cambridge.  The options are wide, based on what logistical arrangements you are comfortable with.  I live 25 minutes away from campus but I took the distance as an opportunity to get back to cycling and it has worked out.  Do keep the winter weather in mind as well — the cold and snow can complicate long commutes.

Cindy: I am in an unusual situation compared to most Fletcher students: I am married and have a dog and guinea pig.  Roommates were not the best option for us to keep our rent costs down.  I would highly recommend taking a trip to visit the area and search for housing on your own, or connect with other students on the Facebook group.  If you cannot visit, get in touch with current Fletcher students who have used trusted realtors, and maybe they can help you find a place.  Keep in mind that realtors typically charge fees.

John: The Social List and the Facebook group are both great resources for incoming students, but more important than the search medium is that you really think about what you want out of your housing in terms of price, roommates, and proximity to campus.  There are a lot of options that come online throughout the summer so you can afford to be a little picky, but I would also recommend being open to new experiences that may be different from your ideal housing situation.

Brooklyn: Coming from Washington, DC, I had gotten used to looking for housing closer to the move-in date, probably 30 to 45 days out.  In the greater Boston area, this is not how things work!  Because something like 90% of leases in the metro area start September 1, people will start looking for housing as early as March/April.  While you don’t need to start that early, the earlier you can start looking the better!

What location in the Boston area should students be sure to visit?

John: Beacon Hill is a cool historic district in downtown Boston.  It’s very close to other noteworthy spots, including the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Common, and Newbury Street.  Chinatown is a nice change of pace; there are some great restaurants and it’s a fun way to see a different side of Boston.  I also really enjoy Harpoon Brewery in the Seaport District.  Be sure to order one of their famed pretzels while you’re enjoying a beer!

Cindy: I love to sing, so I would recommend going to any of the karaoke bars in downtown Boston with your friends.  There are also some excellent local breweries if you’re into trying interesting beers, such as Slumbrew and Aeronaut.

Cece: The Boston waterfront (while the warm weather lasts) or any neighborhood near the Charles River is where Boston feels complete to me.  I love that this city has a great balance of urban and nature.  If you don’t feel like going as far as downtown Boston, you’ll find a lot to explore in Medford, Somerville, and Cambridge, all of which have their own vibe and charms.  Anybody new to Boston should definitely go on the Freedom Trail as well, to learn about the rich history of this city.

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Today’s Q&A with the Office of Admissions 2017-18 Graduate Assistants (GAs) zeroes in on Orientation and the start of classes.

What tips do you have for after classes start?

Cindy: Get organized quickly!  I use a planner that I refer to when I need to check what readings or assignments I have coming up, and I use Google Calendar to alert me where I need to be.  This has been extremely helpful for me because I can always be thinking ahead, and it has helped me make tough choices about whether to attend events or focus on coursework that is due soon.

I have also found that forming reading groups early on will help you be on top of your classes and help you meet new people.  It is a fact that you will not read everything for your classes, but it’s more manageable if you’re splitting things up and sharing notes.  Those notes also come in handy during exam time. 🙂

John: I agree that it’s really helpful to try and form a study group/reading group, especially with classes that have a heavy reading load.  I would also say that it’s important to find that balance of activities early on in the semester.  It’s easier to start this early in the year and you’ll thank yourself when things get crazier later on.  Finally, don’t forget to get involved!  Classes can take over your life, but one of the best things about Fletcher is the exchange of ideas that happens outside of the classroom through organizations, conferences, and social events.  Dive right in and get involved in something that you’re passionate about, but also don’t be afraid to try some new things.

Brooklyn: After classes start, but BEFORE the end of the add-drop period, make sure to check the work required for each class by taking a look at the syllabi.  Some classes will require more written paper assignments while others will be more exam based.  It’s good to select classes that are a mixture of the two.  You don’t want to end up writing five papers or have five exams at the end of the semester!

Cece: Enjoy learning and don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of reading or assignments.  You’ll get used to the flow of graduate school and learn to balance academics and your social/professional sphere.  It is important to apply your professional lens to what you are learning as well, so take time to think about what you learn in class and consider how it might be relevant for you professionally in the future.  You will find that the Fletcher calendar is filled with numerous exciting events, guest speakers, lectures, and student-run club events.  It can feel like a lot, but you will soon learn that it is not humanly possible to attend everything and meet everyone in the first semester.  It’s okay to take some time just settling in.  I would still recommend making the best use of all the extra resources Fletcher provides outside of the classroom and begin building a network that will stay with you even after you leave Fletcher.

If you could speak to your pre-Orientation self, what would you say?

John: Take a deep breath.  You’ll receive a lot of information during Orientation.  It takes time to process it and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed.  Make sure to pay attention to these sessions, but also take the time to get to know your classmates and the rest of the Fletcher community.

Cece: Make the most of your first week by attending the social hours held during orientation.  Orientation is a gateway to meeting a lot of amazing people you will call classmates for the rest of your Fletcher experience.

Cindy: Graduate school will go by so fast, so make sure to try new things, get involved in opportunities that come your way, meet and connect with others, and enjoy the experience!

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Hey DC-based readers!  I’ll be at the Summerfest event tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, 5:30-8:00, along with reps from our friendly competitors.  Get all the details and then, if you’re there, be sure to say hello!  I’m going to be joined at the info table by several continuing students and at least three alumni, including past bloggers (but always part of the blog family) Adnan and Mariya.

I hope you’ve had a chance to check out our travel and coffee hour options for this summer.  Boston Summerfest last week was a success and we’re looking forward to the remaining summer events at which we’ll get to meet the future applicants for 2019 enrollment.

 

The Graduate Assistants (GAs) who work in the Office of Admissions are a great resource for prospective students.  Not only do they have their own experience to draw on, but they have also learned about the experience of other applicants and incoming students through their work.  (Answering dozens of calls and emails each shift will do that for you.)  Two of the 2017-18 GAs — Brooklyn and Cindy — are newly graduated and have moved on to new vistas, while two — John and Cece — will return in September.  Before they all left campus in May, I asked for their tips for incoming students.  Today and later this week, I’ll share their responses, in Q&A format, starting today with the big picture.  (Note that there are some recurring themes, which should reinforce their importance.)

Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?

Brooklyn: I would suggest taking the time to study for the equivalency exams.  The two years at Fletcher go by fast and there is a limited number of credits you can take, so you do not want to waste them on classes that you have already taken.  If it’s been a few years since your last economics or statistics class, it might take a few hours of studying to prep for the equivalency exams, but it will be worth it when you can skip basic classes and take ones that are more focused and challenging.

Cece: Go through the course listing on the Fletcher website and map out your next one or two years very roughly.  I would suggest incoming students do that during the summer, as it can be overwhelming to select classes at the last minute and most students panic initially, even by sheer excitement about all the choices.

I would also recommend students orient themselves to the faculty, if they have not already, as making early connections with a faculty member from your field of study can really help you shape your academic experience and build a professional track for after Fletcher.  Student-faculty relationships at Fletcher can be very informal and professors and administrators really care about the success of their students.  Start the process of becoming familiar with Fletcher and the opportunities you may want to pursue once you are here.

Cindy: If you know that you might need to brush up on your second language skills, it’s better to do it early on than after your classes start.  Take some time over the summer to practice on your own or enroll in a class/program if you have the resources to do so.  Once classes start, try to take your reading and oral exams as early as you can, and definitely don’t leave them until your last semester!

Second, take some time to RELAX over the summer.  Read books that you haven’t had the chance to read, travel, visit family and friends, or take up a hobby.  Once school starts, your calendar will fill up very quickly and you will be incredibly busy with classes, meeting new people, exploring the area, and getting involved in Fletcher events and clubs.

John: While I don’t recommend planning out every facet of your Fletcher experience, I do think that it’s useful to consider the bigger picture of how Fletcher fits into your plans and where you want your degree to take you.  This answer will likely change during your time at Fletcher, but it’s a useful question that can help frame your experience and what you want to get out of it.

If you plan on taking equivalency exams for economics or quant in August, make sure to study a little bit over the summer.  The tests are offered during Orientation, when there are a lot of different activities happening, so it’s important to plan ahead.  I would also recommend brushing up on your language skills.  I remember thinking that I would have time during the semester to do this, but that hasn’t proven true thus far.  If you can get the requirements out of the way, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.

More than anything, I think it’s important to rest and recharge before you begin school again.  Transitioning to graduate school is challenging under the best of circumstances.  Give yourself space and time to tie up loose ends in whichever city you’re coming from, visit family and friends you haven’t seen for a while, and mentally prepare for the journey ahead.

Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?

Cece: I would say do not NOT connect or NOT familiarize yourself with Fletcher, thinking you’ll figure it out all when you’re on campus.  Read all the materials the school sends, because it has a lot of useful information that you will need while transitioning to graduate school.  Even if you are a local student, still make time to orient yourself to Fletcher.

Cindy: Do not assume that you will come to Fletcher with your classes planned out for every semester.  It is good to do your research, chat with current or former students, and have a rough plan.  Every semester, however, has a “Shopping Day,” when you get to shop around for interesting classes, hear quick pitches from the professor about a particular class, and ask questions.  Almost every semester, I attended Shopping Day and changed my initial plans for what I thought I would be taking.

John: Don’t stress yourself out!  There are some things in your control and some things that are not.  For the things out of your control, don’t worry.  Everything will line up eventually.  In that same line of thought, don’t feel like you have to plan out your entire career at Fletcher.  You’ll probably change your concentrations, much less your class schedule, multiple times during your first semester.  That’s one of the benefits of having such a flexible Fletcher curriculum.  Additionally, Shopping Days at the beginning of the semester, where professors give a brief description of their course, is a great resource to get a better feel for which classes you’d be interested in taking.  All this to say, your schedule may come together last minute and that’s perfectly normal for Fletcher.

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