From the monthly archives: February 2007

Another new member of our staff, Peter VanDerwater, has also been figuring out how to keep up the application-review pace. Here he describes some of his challenges.

While those of us on the admissions committee put on our warm slippers, drink exotic tea, or settle into our most comfortable chairs to help block out the world outside and focus on the important task of reading applications, life at Fletcher – and in the extended Fletcher community – goes on, enticing us (almost) to distraction.

A few recent observations while strolling through the hallways during breaks from reading:

• New Mexico Governor, and Fletcher Alumnus, Bill Richardson entered the 2008 presidential race .

• The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies brought together experts on international security, politics, religion, and social issues to assess the causes, current state, and impact of the war on terrorism and potential solutions in a two-day conference, entitled: The War on Terrorism: Where Do We Stand?

• Students gathered to celebrate African culture with food, music, theatre, and dance during Africana Night, one of the more popular cultural events of the year at Fletcher.

• The first significant “wintry mix” of the year finally started falling on the Boston area, wreaking havoc on travel plans…

• …as Fletcher students descended on Washington, D.C. en masse for the two-day career trip. With a combination of will, perseverance, and travel ingenuity, most students managed to make it there (by plane, train, or bus) and the event proved well worth the effort. This annual trip, organized by Fletcher’s Office of Career Services, consisted of panel discussions, site visits, and a student/alumni reception at the German Ambassador’s residence.

• A constant stream of guests continued to pass through our doors, including: economists, ambassadors, business leaders, filmmakers, authors, journalists, and prominent members of international organizations and NGOs. These speakers gave talks on issues including: social entrepreneurship, Romania and the EU, human trafficking, security in Northern Uganda, the nexus between private equity and development in Pakistan, and strengthening civil society in conflict areas.

So, how do I focus on the task at hand when all of this is going on around me? I haven’t quite figured out the perfect formula yet, but I’m sure it somehow involves coffee, a closed door, and soft background music. Though I must say, I have enjoyed the occasional distraction.

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On to another topic entirely. Some of you may wonder about my references, as well as those in the student blogs, to the construction at Fletcher. If you visited any time in the last three years, but especially last fall, you know that the School has undergone a major project to update classrooms, increase the amount of space we have for classrooms, student meeting rooms, and offices, and make some necessary repairs. Despite having added so much usable space, the “footprint” of the School has remained the same. Much squeezing to optimize use: this office goes that way, and that office goes this way. The major construction has been done during summers, but work never completely stopped during the academic year.

The Hall of Flags was essentially closed last semester. We could walk through but not hang out, leaving students with no obvious place to congregate (congregating being an important part of the Fletcher student experience). The admissions office spent two summers in Blakeley Dorm (a quirky but fun place to work), and one semester sweating in our windowless air-conditioningless office, which is another reason we’re happy to know that everything is nearly done.

Those of us who have been here longer than the construction workers tend to say things like: “The dean’s office is where the admissions office used to be.” Like this is at all relevant to (or useful for) current students! But we’re all enjoying the newly created spaces, and I’m sure we’ll eventually stop visualizing the School the way it used to be. Each morning, when I come in, I see the Hall of Flags in full use again, as if the flag-less phase had never happened.

As ever, we welcome your visit. You may pass a painter, and there’s landscaping still to be done, but the flags await and you’ll find the students congregating, just as they should.


Laurie Hurley is the director of admissions at Fletcher. Here, she shares thoughts on the process of reading applications.

While our applicants are busy traveling the globe, your applications do a bit of traveling as well. A main component of admissions work is the reading, analysis, and selection of the very best candidates for admission. The irony is that none of this work actually takes place in the office between 9 and 5. Rather, the members of the Admissions Committee complete most of their reading at night and on weekends. So while you’re consulting to businesses in Europe, coordinating development aid projects in South America, teaching English in Asia, serving in Iraq, or combating global warming around the world, here are some of the places your applications have visited.

For the last three weeks, I have done some very productive reading during my daughter’s swimming lessons. While I normally prefer absolute quiet to read and concentrate, I’ve found that the din from splashing at the local YMCA pool is ideal. Not to mention the very tropical temperature!

On the last two Saturdays, I have cozied up by the fireplace at my favorite café. The trick is to arrive after the morning caffeine-dependent crowd, and leave before all the leisurely Saturday lunchers. The bonus of this location is the absolutely sinful Mocha Latte which only comes in large. (Oh darn.)

A benefit of working for years in the field of admissions is that I have many friends (and a spouse) who do the same kind of work. From time to time there is the occasional, “Let’s get together and read at my house.” While there is not much said during these reading marathons, the post-reading glass of wine reflecting on the day’s work is a great reward.

More likely than not, your applications are welcomed to the comfort of my home where I spend many early mornings, long afternoons, and late evenings reading in my favorite chair, at the kitchen counter, or on the floor.

While reading applications is stressful, demanding, and sedentary, it is still the part of my work that I look forward to the most. I truly appreciate the opportunity I have to understand the world through your eyes and experiences. I laugh and cry with you, and share your frustrations, defining moments, and remarkable achievements. My goal and purpose is to bring the best of you to Fletcher to learn from each other, while you build your skills and explore solutions to the most challenging problems in the world. I look forward to introducing you to each other. Please keep doing all of the amazing and meaningful things you are doing, and I am happy to continue reading in all my favorite places.

My ten minute break is over. I need to get back to an essay about peace in the Middle East.

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My day so far:

7:20 – Say goodbye to the rest of the family and send them off to work or school. Pile applications on kitchen table and arrange them in groups of five.

Read five applications.

Check email. Don’t send any messages in return.

Read five applications.

Fill the kettle and boil water for tea.

Read one application while waiting for water to boil.

Make mint tea. (Kristen is not the only tea drinker on the staff.) Fill hot water bottle – an effective tool in the fight against cold feet.

Read nine applications. (Double batch fueled by mint tea.)

Take break for a quick lunch. (Thinking about lunch distracts me from applications.)

Try to read five applications, but get bogged down with a complicated second-time applicant.

Succeed in regaining momentum and read five applications.

Bring in the mail – but don’t take time to read it.

Read ten applications (YAY!).

Post details of my day on the web site.

Read five applications…

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