From the monthly archives: August 2008

We saw this ad at London’s Heathrow Airport last week. The New Yorker (i.e. bagel purist) in me doesn’t know what to think. Whether you see a Ploughman’s Bagel as a gentle melding of cultures, or a violation of bagel purity, U.S.-based readers will want to note the price: more than $10 at current exchange rates! Of course, that’s with a side salad and an apple.

 

The majority of Fletcher’s newest students arrived over the weekend and started Orientation at 8:00 a.m. yesterday. (No chance to nurse jet-lag around here!) I’ll have my first opportunity to interact with the group today at lunch, but Kristen already has two weeks of contact with the MIB students behind her. Here are Kristen’s thoughts about the two-week MIB accounting “boot camp.”

On Friday, we wrapped up the first-ever pre-session for our new MIB program, so now I can finally take a breather to reflect on the experience. For the past two weeks, 33 new MIB students (plus a few MALDs and MAs as well) spent their days in an intensive Financial Statement Management class. For you business-minded individuals, it may be obvious that this, decoded, means accounting. But before you jump to any conclusions about accounting, let me disabuse you of your notions …

This was an action-packed two weeks, with the action coming from a number of directions. In addition to the twice-daily class sessions, the students had many social events, including lunches with professors, a barbeque with our alumni office, and a boat cruise in the Boston Harbor. As is typical for Fletcher, this group seemed to bond quickly, and so there were also plenty of “unofficial” social events (the details of which I wasn’t privy to).

The class sessions themselves also captured the attention of the group, due in no small part to the high energy level of Professor Weiss. From his booming hello on the morning of day one, to his outing for Mexican food with the group at the end, Prof. Weiss made sure that the class was fully engaged. What he did was to bring both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of accounting to life, so that the class understood not only the nuts and bolts of accounting tools, but also how to demystify a financial statement. He has a knack for bringing the subject to life, and this is critical as the course is a key foundation piece for the corporate finance and strategy classes that lie ahead.

For me personally, the best part of the pre-session was the chance to meet all of the students and see them work as a group. This program has been the focus of my work over the past year-and-a-half, so seeing it come together is particularly gratifying. As always, I am amazed at the way the diversity at Fletcher translates into a cohesive whole. We have students from countries as disparate as Moldova, Kenya, China, England, and Colombia, and they are pursuing careers that range from sustainable development to corporate finance. But together, they create a vibrant and engaged group, and that is what Fletcher is all about.

 

I wasn’t always an Anglophile, but I do enjoy our family visits to see the relatives in England. Over the years, I’ve developed a mental list of things I like to do there, and I tick them off as I take care of them. Eat a “cheddar ploughman’s” for lunch at a pub. Tick. Have a yummy cup of tea at some downmarket establishment. Tick. Read The Independent. Tick.

I’ve been travelling “across the pond” for more than twenty years but I still manage to learn something new on each visit. This trip, I found out that for taxation and insurance purposes, cars are assessed on the basis of their engine size. (This makes clearer the fundraising scheme described by the Sandbox Savants.) I also learned a new word. More specifically, the commonly used abbreviation to a word I already knew. (Brits are wild about abbreviations: telly for television; uni for university; bickies for biscuits; rellies for relatives; and, I discovered, rota, for shift rotation, as in the weekly schedule my niece kept at her job.) And even after twenty years, I still face the occasional challenges of a citizen of one of the two countries (as George Bernard Shaw put it) “separated by a common language.” I managed to completely confuse my mother-in-law with my pronunciation of the name of the Olympic sport in which players use long-handled rackets. Am I the only American who says “bad-mitten”? Well, the English render a more precise badminton, with a clear middle “n,” as it is spelled. Badminton confusion aside, I’m generally pretty good about adjusting my vocabulary and, when necessary, pronunciation, to ensure I’m understood. For example, I’m from New York, where the aunts and the ants are homophonous. In England, I remember that the ants are one thing and the aunties are another.

No matter how often I visit, I remain bewildered about the national identity. After crossing immigration into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we learned about England’s results in “the cricket,” in which for international competition, the different nations composing the U.K. field separate teams. But where the Olympics are concerned, the team name is Great Britain, with residents of Northern Ireland apparently invited to compete for “Team GB” or for Ireland. It’s a far more muddled identity than citizens of most countries experience, and that’s before we even consider the relationship of the U.K. to the European Union.

But now I’m back to work, and Fletcher is starting to hum. The new MIB students have arrived and are participating in their pre-session course focussed on financial statement management. Finishing touches are being put on plans for new-student Orientation, which will start on Sunday. And we’re all wrapping up those summer projects that keep us busy when we have less day-to-day contact with students or applicants.

We always enjoy those first days after graduation — a quiet time to motor through some work. But, by the middle of August, we feel ready for the return of the students and the liveliness they bring with them. I’m looking forward to next week and to welcoming new members of the Fletcher community.

 

The Admissions Office has been lucky all summer to have an eager incoming student working with us. Hania contacted Roxana in the spring to say she would relocate early to the area and was looking for work. Our lucky day! It has been great to get to know her while there are so few students around, and while she is getting to know the area. Here, Hania shares details of her regional adjustment.

I first came to Fletcher in April of this year to attend the Open House for admitted students. I had been living in Lebanon where April already felt like summer. The chilling air of the frosty Northeast hit me like a ton of bricks. I immediately caught a horrible cold and spent the entire weekend trying to socialize without sneezing on people. But even though my experience was slightly tainted by this flaw in my immune system coupled with the extremely cold weather, I still found a kind of warmth at Fletcher that led me to know that this is where I belong.

At the Open House we had a chance to sit in on a few classes (something visiting prospective students can do at any time, by the way), and despite my weakened constitution, I could tell that there was a spark in the classrooms. The students were excited to participate, while the professors were surprisingly personable. They wandered around the Hall of Flags (commonly referred to as the “HoF”), and mingled with the newly admitted students as though they were one of us. There was no sense of superiority or of an intimidating distance that I was initially worried about.

I know what you’re thinking, though: this was Open House and everybody was on their best behavior. That may be so, but I have now been working at the Admissions Office for two months and it continues to be true that every person I meet at Fletcher is genuinely pleasant. They refer to themselves as the “Fletcher Mafia,” the “Fletcher Family,” or just plain “Fletcherites,” and I’ve found that’s exactly how they see themselves and treat each other. Everybody who knows I’m an incoming student is quick to give me tips and insight into Fletcher classes. They seem generally concerned for me, as any “family” would be.

Still, there are a few things that continue to make me giggle about this place I’m slowly discovering. First, Bostonians have their own language. (Some call it an accent). Don’t dare pronounce the names of the cities the way they’re actually spelled. For example Worcester isn’t pronounced “Wor-cester” but instead “Woousta,” not “Glou-cester” but “Glosta,” and “Pea-body” is “Peebdy.” And please do not pronounce the “r” unless you want to add it to the end of a word ending in an “a” sound. Also, everything seems to be a “square” around here. We have a few squares where I grew up in Texas, but those “squares” are actually square in shape. Here you’ll just come to any intersection and it’s called “Powder House Square,” “Ball Square,” “Teele Square,” Davis, Porter, or Harvard Square etc… But because none of them are actually square, and it doesn’t really help you find your direction, I wonder what this fascination is with squares. Is it just because it’s a geometrically perfect shape?

These days I’m enjoying just letting Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Fletcher sink into me. As a native and huge fan of warm environments, I find Boston’s “summer” to be quite mild (80 to 90 degrees is euphoria to me) and even tropical at times. I’ve been told the monsoon-like torrential rain and floods that have been spoiling my otherwise lovely summer days are not typical. But when it’s not flooding, and the sun comes out to play, so does all of Boston. That’s one thing about Boston I can’t get enough of. People love their outdoor activities. They love their sports, their dog-walking, their lake activities, their festivals, and outdoor patio seating. When the city is alive, I feel at home.

So to conclude my musings of a newborn Fletcherite, I’m happy and excited to be carving out my own place here in this city and school. I impatiently look forward to Orientation and classes starting in just a few short weeks!

 

The first of the guest bloggers this month is Ian Pilarczyk, the Associate Director of Fletcher’s new LL.M. Program in International Law. Though the Admissions Office handles most of the administrative process for LL.M. applicants, Ian also connects with prospective students through interviews and visits. In today’s blog, Ian introduces himself and describes his work.

I spent a few days this summer in the Adirondack Mountains: swimming, reading by the lake, and reflecting on the academic year that is rapidly approaching. There’s something about the lapping of water on the shore as one sits, engrossed in a book, that makes time seem to stand still! T.S. Eliot, an old favorite, was on my reading list, which is perhaps why “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has been wafting through my mind, and has made its way into this blog entry, my first.

And how should I begin?

I will begin by stating a truism, that vacations are always too short and time sprints on. I scarcely know where the past six months have gone since I joined the Fletcher community, but it has been a marvelous experience. I came by way of a rather circuitous route that took me through McGill University several times, as a student, researcher, and adjunct faculty member. Being a graduate of the LL.M. and Doctor of Civil Law programs at McGill, I am keenly aware that programs such as these can be a remarkable learning experience.

At Fletcher, I hope to contribute my background as we establish what we intend will be one of the most highly regarded LL.M. programs in the world. A tall order to be sure, but I think eminently achievable given Fletcher’s strengths. My first few weeks were, in a word, overwhelming…but now I’m watching things fall into place. I admit to occasional bursts of near-panic about overlooked details or over whether things will go smoothly. No doubt there will be hiccups along the way, but I’m confident that the students in this inaugural class will have a truly exemplary learning experience. I look forward to interacting with them, answering their questions, putting faces to the names.

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.

Every hour seems to bring a new challenge and a new opportunity. Among them, a partner at a downtown law firm has just offered to host our first welcome reception for the LL.M. students and the Tufts Lawyers Association, and after a flurry of emails we finalize the details. I learn by email that a leading human rights advocate and constitutional expert, who has spear-headed the legal challenges to the Guantanamo Bay detentions, will be in Boston in October and would love to speak to our students, so we begin discussing possible dates.

The two-day conference we are organizing in November in conjunction with Paris II, the American Society of International Law, and the French Embassy has come together nicely, and will include many leading luminaries in the field of international criminal justice and human rights. This morning, LL.M. director Michael Glennon forwarded a note from a long-time UN official who has recently retired. I invite him to speak at the conference and he warmly accepts.

I am finalizing a schedule for the LL.M. High Table, a semi-monthly luncheon series, trying to work around the many conflicting activities.

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

We decide to have the inaugural High Table as a dinner during Orientation Week, which will be a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other; I am sure that the High Table will become an honored tradition at Fletcher. Many ideas for the Capstone in France in May 2009 are swirling about, but that must remain a project for another day.

And soon, we will gear up for the flood of new applications, which I await with a marvelous sense of expectancy. I look forward to reading the essays, immersing myself in the fascinating life stories so many of them reflect. I receive a considerable number of inquiries from prospective applicants, giving me a précis of their background and asking if they are competitive candidates.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

I don’t blame people for asking – no one wishes to invest time and effort in a fruitless endeavor, after all – but I find these the most difficult questions with which I have to grapple. Each application is read in detail by Admissions Office staff, as well as by the LL.M. Admissions Committee, and I certainly wouldn’t substitute my judgment for theirs, so I am never quite sure what to say. I usually suggest that if Fletcher seems like a good fit, then they should apply. I also encourage applicants to schedule an interview if they are able, as they are wonderful ways to learn more about each other.

Oh, do not ask “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

I keep interviews informal and conversational, and so far have enjoyed all of them – and I hope the applicants would say the same.

Time to turn back and descend the stair…

Thanks for reading, and to Jessica for inviting me, and I look forward to popping in again.

 

I ordinarily work a part-time schedule, but for the next three weeks, I’ll be at Fletcher only part-part-time. My family and I will be away for about a week in England, where we’ll have a chance to meet my new (not yet two-months-old) niece in London, and take a trip to see my brother-in-law in Cornwall. But the remainder of the three weeks, aside from a few days in the office, will be spent at home, tied up in part with getting my kids ready for school. My daughter, Kayla, and I have already picked up new soccer cleats that accommodate all ten of her toes (unlike the pair she had just outgrown), which leaves pencils, notebooks, etc., as the main as-yet-unpurchased items. She starts soccer team tryouts more than a week before school begins, which I suppose is a nice entryway into the large community she’ll be joining.

The more formidable task I face is getting Josh ready for college. So far we have picked up the size “twin extra-long” sheets required for dormitory living, and we’ve agreed he’ll grab out of his room the things he already owns (lamp, alarm clock, etc.), so that we can avoid extra shopping. He knows the name of his advisor and of his roommate, and it’s all becoming very real!

I’m excited about Josh’s coming college career — more excited, probably, than he is. I’m also nervous for him — possibly less nervous than he is. And I’m a little sad, though ready, to experience the change in our family structure that launching a child will entail.

I’ll continue to write something for the blog whenever I’m in the office this month. And I have some guest bloggers lined up! Regular admissions-newsy posts will pick up again on September 2, when all our students are in place for “shopping day,” the precursor to classes, which start on the 3rd.

 

We’re really excited to be back up to full staff, in plenty of time for the new academic year. Visitors to Fletcher Admissions this fall will be greeted by Liz, the new “face” of our office. For now, Liz is getting oriented (both through an official University program, and unofficially by each of us in the office), but she’ll soon be taking your calls and checking you in if you come for a visit.  Liz worked in student services when she was in college, but comes to us following a detour through customer service in the private sector.  She brings great skills to the office, and we’re happy to help her transition back to the university setting.

When you meet her or speak to her, please join us in welcoming Liz to Fletcher.

 

I had mentioned in a previous post that the students at Fletcher this summer included women from Saudi Arabia who are pursuing diplomatic training.  You can read about the program in this article from Saturday’s Boston Globe.

 

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