From the monthly archives: May 2008

I posted the professors’ reading list yesterday and then, last night, thought a little more clarification might have been beneficial. Wouldn’t want anyone to think this is a mandatory reading list!

I had asked the profs to recommend books that they might suggest to incoming students over casual conversation. Along the lines of: “Professor X, I’d like to do some reading to prepare for starting at Fletcher in September. What would you suggest?”

So, these are not required readings by any definition — just suggestions to get your minds moving, whether you’ll be joining us in September, or are thinking of applying, or will attend another grad school, or are just looking for something to read and glad to have someone else choose the book.

And, by the way, the suggestion to post a reading list this year came from one of our incoming students. Thanks, Hana!

 

It’s time for a summer reading list from Fletcher professors. Whereas last year’s recommendations stayed close to the professors’ areas of expertise, this year the books span the distance from class reading lists to general interest.

Eileen Babbitt, our negotiation and conflict management guru suggests a book for each of her classes. For D220 (Processes of International Negotiation), she suggests the classic, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury. For D221 (International Mediation), she picks Herding Cats: Multiparty Mediation in a Complex World, edited by Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall, published by U.S. Institute of Peace Press. And, for D223 (Conflict Resolution Theory) she suggests Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies, by John-Paul Lederach.

In truth, Eileen sent me those suggestions last summer, when I thought I’d post a second list of professors’ picks. Fortunately, she has confirmed that they’re still her picks for this year.

Daniel Drezner, Fletcher’s professor of international politics who has just completed his second year here, selected Robert Gilpin’s Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order and Jeffry Frieden’s Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century.

Academic Dean and Professor of International Humanitarian Studies Peter Uvin provides numerous suggestions that take you from the area of his research to subjects beyond. He starts with The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It, by Paul Collier. Never one to miss a chance to kid his colleagues, Prof. Uvin says, “For a book written by an economist, this is not half-bad.”

Moving further afield, he tells me (via email), “I love reading science. I think everyone should understand — or at least feel wonder about — how our world functions. Great books include The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, by Brian Greene; A Briefer History of Time, by Steven Hawkins and Leonard Mlodinow, which has really nice pictures; Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick, which is a lot of fun to read, and is directly relevant to social thinking as well; and Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century by Michio Kaku. The last book is particularly interesting as he describes the likely technological breakthroughs for the next 50 years in each field — and how they may affect your life. And then you should read something about our global environment, but I am sure Bill Moomaw will tell you better what that ought to be.” (Note from your blogger — I’ll try to get Prof. Moomaw to weigh in soon.)

Finally, looking after the whole student, Prof. Uvin’s emailed list concludes with Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society by Peter Senge and colleagues, and says it “is really useful to help you manage your life in every way.”

It’s still early in the summer, and I hope to post another list soon.

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Following up on a previous post, I thought I’d mention that Bernie Kelley-Leccese, a long-time member of Fletcher’s staff, will receive one of this year’s Tufts Distinction Awards at next week’s ceremony. These are the awards for which I was reading nominations in April, so I’m particularly excited that a member of the Fletcher community will be recognized. The staff had a little celebration for Bernie on Friday. It’s so nice when we can celebrate one of our own!

And Fletcher professor Leila Fawaz was recognized for her scholarship when she was named a Carnegie Scholar. You can read more in this article in the Tufts Daily, or on the Carnegie Corporation’s own site. It’s a great honor for Leila, and a wonderful opportunity for her to focus on her research.

 

A few times a year, the Admissions Office staff meets off site to have all those discussions that are too time consuming for an average day. Since my house is conveniently located for nearly everyone, we usually meet in my living room. After our most recent meeting last Thursday, we took a minute to snap a picture for the blog. To be more precise, we all piled onto the front steps and Kristen ran into the middle of the street to stop an unsuspecting passerby. The newly appointed photographer looked confused but took the picture anyway. So here we are! Up front (the place he also occupies in the office) is Justin. In the top row (left to right) are Kristen, Laurie, and Roxana. I’m on the left of the middle row, next to Peter and Kate.

 

We plan to post our fall interview schedule soon, and I’ll let blog readers know when it’s in place. Meanwhile, what if your only choice is to visit this summer? What will you find?

Last summer, when I went up and down the East Coast with my son, we were welcomed by universities with a full schedule of info sessions, tours, and interviews. At Fletcher, we don’t offer the full array of options. We find that most of our applicants want to visit while classes are in session. It’s really the best way to get a sense of what your Fletcher experience will be like. As a result, there isn’t great demand for summer information sessions, and to be truthful, we don’t have a large enough staff to run sessions for only one or two people at a time.

But sometimes prospective students don’t have any choice. This is the one time they can visit. If you’re one of those people, what should you do?

Well, you should visit, of course! But you should keep your expectations realistic. The School is very quiet. There are few students around, and professors come and go, but they don’t keep regular office hours. The Admissions Office is generally open Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 5:00, but it’s best to call first to be sure there hasn’t been a change to our schedule. We have a few appointments on the schedule each week for evaluative interviews, and we’ll try to accommodate your requests. If you applied this past year, you don’t need to stick to the interview appointments, but please do tell us you’re coming. That way we can be sure there will be someone here to meet with you.

So if this is your one opportunity, come visit! But be realistic about what you’ll find here — a warm welcome from the Admissions Office, but not a lot of activity.

 

Graduation yesterday was wonderful! Corey did a great job on his speech, as did the other presenters. Best of all, the weather was fantastic. Crystal clear and just warm enough. Fletcher holds ceremonies in the late morning, following the all-university event. Details on the Fletcher ceremony will go up on the web site soon.

(Unrelated to this year’s graduation, the Boston Globe ran a wonderful story on Saturday about one of our alums, Farah Pandith, who graduated in 1995.)

But back to this year’s graduates. At our thank-you lunch last week, some students were talking about the reading they were doing. Specifically, they were saying how remarkable it was to be reading something that they had chosen themselves, and that had no relevance to any academic work they had done or would do. So I asked around to see what everyone was reading. This can serve as the first of the summer’s recommended reading lists. I’ll stick to using their first names only.

Corey, seeking diversion from his speech-writing, turned to a fantasy novel, and then to his stack of unread New Yorker magazines. He says, “I started with the cartoons.”

David recommends Les Particules Elémentaires by the French writer Michel Houellebecq, which he calls a “controversial but very interesting book.”

Evelyne tells me that sometimes reading is just too exhausting and, as a result, she has been “reading” the same book all semester:  Where’s Bin Laden? by Xavier Waterkeyn.  

Drew breaks down his reading by categories.

Non-fiction: When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin
Fiction: Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
Poetry: Mark Strand’s latest Selected Poems

And, he says he has been “cycling through art critic David Hickey’s essays in the book Air Guitar for the last few years. Can’t recommend that book enough.”

Josh told me he just finished reading Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor.

And, last, Steve is reading Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, and recommends it “to all who might be interested in the adventurous search for love and wine by a group of down-and-out figures living on the fringes of society in Monterrey, California.”

If you find yourself looking for the books that people with tired but newly educated minds turn to, you could do worse than to choose something from this list.

 

Yes, it’s happening. My favorite students (2008 variety) are graduating on Sunday. Just like last year!

At one level, graduation represents the culmination of all the efforts that faculty and staff have put forth on behalf of a group of students. At another level, it means saying goodbye to people we have come to know and like, and to consider as friends. The friendship often continues, but it’s never the same. The ease of contact is gone, and our newly minted alumni will be focused on their new homes, their new jobs, their new lives.

Among this year’s graduates are many students who I first met pre-application. Omar Dia and I talked by phone several times in the year he applied. His pre-Fletcher professional experience made him a typical applicant only in the sense that we have so many atypical applicants. But he is nonetheless highly characteristic of our students, with family links to three continents. Watching him settle into the community, take part in a U.N. internship last summer, and get ready to launch himself in a new career, is the kind of experience that makes Admissions work very satisfying. We haven’t had steady contact while he has been here, but we had a chance to catch up last week when he turned up (quite unexpectedly) with a bouquet of flowers for me. Unnecessary (just doin’ my job), but appreciated!

Our office has been fortunate to have a great staff of students who are both hard-working and fun to be around. We’ll be so sorry to see them move along. (Of course, we would be even sorrier if they couldn’t move along — one of the paradoxes of life.) Our graduating Admissions staff members include N. Rashad Jones who came fresh from Georgetown and, with his Pickering Fellowship, has known all along that his next stop will be with the Department of State. And there’s Giselle Michel, who came to us from the Dominican Republic, but who will be moving to New York, and Corinne Onetto, who came to us from London, where much of her work had been in the art world. I can remember reading all of their applications — sadly rare for me and my limited memory! Not only are Giselle, Corinne, and Rashad talented (and also great at mundane tasks such as data entry), but they helped us out by offering information sessions. You may have met them if you visited on a Monday or Friday.

I met student-staffer Michael-John Myette at an admissions interview. In this case, his appointment wasn’t quite assigned by chance. One evening, I was standing on the sidelines with my son’s teacher and adviser, watching the school’s basketball game. We were chit-chatting about a little of this and a little of that, when I happened to mention that her alma mater, Notre Dame, was well-represented in that year’s applicant pool. Suddenly, she realized that she hadn’t previously made the link between my work and the application to Fletcher of her friend Michael-John. A couple of weeks later, on January 2nd, Michael-John was sitting in my office, sleep-deprived as a result of his trip from Honduras to the U.S. and of the brand-new baby accompanying him, talking about his goals. It has been great to get to know him and his family, and we’re all excited on his behalf that he’ll be returning to Honduras, this time with the CRS International Development Fellowship. Michael-John is happy to have you keep up with his post-Fletcher activities via his blog.

On Monday, we celebrated all of our beloved graduating admissions helpers — student staff, members of the admissions committee, and interviewers. We didn’t do much speechifying, but I hope they left the luncheon with full bellies and the knowledge that their work for us was greatly appreciated.

The fact is that there are more favorites than I could possibly include in one entry — more admissions staffers, interviewees, applicants whose applications interested me, Admissions Committee student members, and people who just made their mark on the school. But I’ll describe only one more: my last favorite is Corey O’Hara, who I also met in an admissions interview. Talk about atypical applicants! Corey certainly had the smarts. But his work, however it drew on his undergraduate education, didn’t provide him with a clear path to Fletcher. What it gave him, though, was exposure. Working with delegations of Italian officials as a contract interpreter for the State Department convinced him that he wanted to stop translating and start making policy. For many people, that leap would be impossible to make. But armed with the knowledge gained through joint-degree study at both Fletcher and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, off he goes to do just that. But before he goes, he has been selected by graduating students to give one of the two student speeches at graduation.

It’s a bittersweet time for Fletcher staff — for all of us who benefit from the students and all they bring to our community. Congratulations, graduates! We’ll miss you!

 

Davis Square, site of many of the Admissions Staff’s favorite restaurants, was featured in a Boston Globe story on Sunday, about “Go Green Davis Square,” the community’s efforts to be more environmentally aware.

 

Let’s just say that I’m not the most likely candidate to write a blog. I don’t read them in general (except for the ones on cooking that Kristen recommends to me), and I’m not cyber-inclined. But here’s the history.

About three years ago at our office retreat, Fletcher’s web-mistress, Liz (since departed for new vistas in California), told us about a new phenomenon — admissions offices were starting blogs. We all stared at our shoes, and pretended not to hear her suggestion for an additional to-do-list item.

But Liz is persuasive and, in the end, we agreed to the proposed experiment, deciding to share the responsibility for posting. Anyone who has worked in an office can predict how that went — maybe five posts in the year. At the next summer’s retreat, Liz admonished us that if we weren’t going to do it right, we shouldn’t do it at all. More staring at shoes.

By then, though, we knew that more and more applicants were shying away from contact with the office before they sent an application. We couldn’t ignore the fact that the blog would be a way to “talk” to some of those applicants, as well as others. We decided to carry the experiment forward another year, and I agreed to manage the blog. Now, two years later, writing for it is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning.

Along the way, I needed to gain basic familiarity with a blog publishing system. We’re using WordPress, and I’m gradually learning how to find the information I need. But the operative word is “gradually.” Since the job I’m paid for is admissions work, not IT work, I need to keep to a minimum the amount of time I spend tinkering with the blog. So no bells and whistles for me.

But, in a small step, I’ve been playing with images and plan to post some soon. And, if you’re on the front page of the blog, glance off to the left of this post. You’ll see that (thanks to Michael-John, my new WordPress guru), you can now review past posts by clicking on the category. That way, when you want to peruse our handy admissions tips (for example), you can find them all in one relatively neat little folder. Happy perusing to all!

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My 17-year-old turns 18 today. Happy Birthday, Josh!

 

I wasn’t at Fletcher yesterday. On Tuesday when I arrived, there was a steady hum of conversation in the Hall of Flags, and a line of students outside the registrar’s office waiting to pick up exams. This morning, there was one student in the Hall of Flags, and the coffee supply had been halved.

Graduating students are busy making final plans, packing, and attending “Dis-Orientation” activities. Dis-Orientation was started two years ago by students who believed they needed a week of full-class togetherness to balance the Orientation program they attended before their first semester. There are student-led picnics, museum visits, softball games, swing dancing, a brewery tour, movies, and an all-day luau. And parties. Lots of parties. Daily parties.

Students finishing their first year are heading off for internships. I’m looking at a partial list and I count seven United Nations internships (with the Secretariat and a variety of agencies), six interns at the State Department, several at NGOs (African Wildlife Foundation, Save the Children to name just two) and a bunch at private sector organizations (Yahoo!, ExxonMobil, BNP Paribas, and others). Sometimes they go to Dis-Orientation parties before leaving town.

Summer is generally pretty quiet at Fletcher. A summer school session, which draws students from within and outside the community, will begin at the end of the month, but it doesn’t create the same level of activity as the regular program. Most staff members are on a twelve-month work calendar, but professors are not in the building quite as regularly as during the fall or spring. It’s a good time for us to catch up on the work that doesn’t get done during the admissions frenzy. And, it’s when we transition to full attention on future students. That shift will soon be reflected in the blog, too.

 

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