From the monthly archives: April 2009

This spring, I’m participating for the second time on the selection committee for the Tufts Distinction Awards.  I wrote about this last year, when the awards were brand new.  Whereas last year’s committee had the chance to create a new University tradition, this year we’re helping to shepherd the program to a more established and mature place.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be limited to two years on the committee, which seems about right.  Next year it will be someone else’s turn.

A couple of weeks back I read the nominations, about 75 in total, that my subcommittee will consider.  (There are four award categories, and two subcommittees that consider two categories each.) After working through the pages and pages of nominations, I took away an observation and a lesson.

First the observation:  There are a whole lot of members of the University community who want their colleagues to receive wider recognition for their work, particularly those who have been doing good work for a long time.  Longevity itself is an accomplishment.  It’s especially gratifying when the professors in a certain department recognize that they couldn’t do their work without the support of the department’s administrators, many of whom have been toiling away for years and years.

And now, since many blog readers are in the early stages of their careers, I want to share the chief lesson I took away from the process:  Employees stand out when they do their jobs well, and do them with grace and a sense of humor.  That’s it.  The key to being appreciated in your workplace.

Sounds too simple?  Maybe, but reading the nominators’ comments, I was struck both last year and this, that people at the University value working with supervisors, peers, and employees who, in the words of one nominator, do “many things, all of them well, all of them cheerfully.”  Or, as another nominator describes a nominee, “at the same time a gentle presence in our lives and a tornado of sheer effectiveness.”

I have definitely taken the nominations’ lessons to heart.  Not all of us can be a tornado of effectiveness, but we can all afford to work a little harder and cheer our colleagues a little more.  It’s a workplace lesson to live by.

 

We are having CRAZY good weather.  The weekend was fantastic.  The campus is all abloom.  It’s a beautiful spring week.

Which makes it a good time to answer the question:  How terrible is the weather in the Medford/Somerville metro area?

Let me start with the bad news.  We have a long winter.  It can be consistently cold in January and February, and chilly from December to March, meaning that snow sometimes (but not always!) hangs around for that entire time.  And our spring comes late.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem to come at all — we just jump from winter to summer.

But really, when comparing Boston to other cities on the East Coast, that’s about the limit of the bad news.  This is hardly the far north, and the nearby ocean helps regulate the temperature, keeping us a little warmer in winter and cooler in summer.  The temperatures may differ by a few degrees, but when it’s cold in Boston, it’s cold in New York, and probably cold in D.C., too.  Not enough of a difference to choose a grad school by.  I know I’m not alone in preferring the best of our winters — cold but bright — to the damp and dreary winters in many other locations.  And we have fabulous weather in late spring and in the fall.

So, incoming students and prospective applicants, fear not the weather!  Bring a warm coat and gloves, and you’ll be fine!  It’s always warm here at Fletcher.

 

At any point in the process, lots of our applicants and newly-admitted students are quite sensibly looking ahead to their post-Fletcher job search.  We, in Admissions, do our best to answer questions, on the basis of past observation.  But once students arrive (and I do mean, from the minute they arrive), the Office of Career Services leads the way.  Meet the OCS staff, as they tell us what they enjoy about their work:

Helen Anderson writes:  I was initially hired by Fletcher on a part-time, nine-month basis. I had previously worked in the healthcare industry, so this was a significant career shift, and I was uncertain as to whether I would like working in an academic environment.  Well, that was 16 years ago, and I’m still here, which must say something! For me, the most satisfying part of the job is working with students who are smart, diverse, interesting, and (most importantly!) appreciative of what we do. I also enjoy tremendously keeping in touch (personally, as well as professionally) with alumni whom I knew as students. They are wonderful at giving back to the School — helping with internships and full-time jobs — because they are grateful for the help they received from OCS while they were students.

Cynthia Dantas says: I work at Fletcher because the values of the community align well with my personal values,  particularly the idea that we should all strive to make the world a better place by getting involved and taking action. In this regard, I’m constantly amazed and impressed by Fletcher students and alumni. They are not only intelligent and talented, but also hold strong personal convictions.  And, they are willing to make sacrifices for the wide range of issues/causes in which they believe. We have alums around the world, who put up with difficult working environments, separation from family, and other challenges, all in the hope of making a difference.  It’s very motivating to assist these students achieve their career goals, and to hear about their accomplishments. The quality and diversity of students and their professional interests also means that there is always a new challenge around the corner. After almost five years at Fletcher, I’ve found that this environment continues to help me learn and grow professionally.

Sarah Stockwell is one of those Tufts alumni who have found a way to return to campus in professional positions.  She tells us:  I really enjoy working at Fletcher because I can help such a diversity of students prepare for their careers post-Fletcher. At this stage in my life, I know I won’t be moving to Africa to work for an NGO, but I love the fact that I can help students meld their interests, experiences, and Fletcher education into passionate life-long careers.

Finally, OCS director Phillip McMullen writes:  The Fletcher students, staff, and faculty are what keep me engaged in this school.  The students are eclectically fascinating, with varied and unique backgrounds, yet with one common theme — they share an innate interest in all things international.  I think it is ironic that, as connected as the world is purported to have become, it often seems that global communities have become more insular and isolated.  Fletcher is one community that refuses to see the world through that lens — we do not fear “different” and, in fact, embrace it.  I often describe Fletcher to outsiders as a rare community that wants to change the world for the better, with members who view that desire as being realistic, not idealistic.

Two years ago, three members of the Admissions staff left simultaneously to pursue graduate studies.  OCS is going through a similar transition this year, and new staff members will soon join the office.  For now, Helen, Sarah, Cynthia, and Phillip will be doing all that summer-time work that sets them up to meet with new students during Orientation week (no ignoring the career development process here!) and throughout the coming academic year.

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Anyone who met Kristen lately may share our interest in the email news flash she and her husband, Sam, just sent:

It is with overwhelming happiness that we introduce our daughter, Lucia Patricia. Lucia was born at 1:03 a.m. on April 22.  All three of us are doing great — in fact, life couldn’t be better.

Congratulations, Kristen and Sam!

 

I haven’t had a chance to chat with Han Kim since he ran the Boston Marathon on Monday, but he told me by email that he was feeling good, if a bit worn out from the hills on the course.  In a burst of school pride, he pulled a Fletcher flag out of his pack when he reached the end of the race.  The photo is included in the Tufts web story about the Marathon, and was the front page of the Tufts site this week.  Here he is:

Congratulations, Han!

 

Although there are many days in the calendar year when students are off but staffers are working, it’s rare for students to be in class while the administration is off.  Today is one of those days.  For Massachusetts, it’s the public holiday of Patriot’s Day.  The Admissions Office (like the rest of the University’s offices) is closed.  We’ll be back tomorrow, the day when most newly admitted students need to submit their enrollment decision.

Clear skies and cool temperatures, today.  Great weather for a marathon!

 

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how the Fletcher community had rallied behind one of our students, Erica Murray.  Last December, we received the incredibly sad news that Erica had lost her battle with leukemia.  Incredible because of Erica’s amazing vitality, all the way to the end.  Today, the community will come together again.  First, with a bone marrow drive in Erica’s honor.  And then, with a celebration of her life.  The Student Council sent this message of invitation:

Dear Friends,

There comes a time in the life of a community when all else must pause so together we can re-affirm the values and causes that unite us and set us apart.

One such time is tomorrow, April 17th, 2009; we will all gather to celebrate the life of Erica Murray our departed friend and colleague. Erica walked our corridors, dreamed our dreams, and stood tall in the face of adversity. You may not have known her personally, but she was and always will be one of us.  Her strength and spirit has touched us all.

We gather to celebrate Erica’s strength and convictions, and also to affirm our common creed of service to humanity. We are running a bone marrow drive in the basement of Cabot Hall as part of the celebrations. It promises to be a sunny day tomorrow — so come to Fletcher and play soccer and frisbee on the lawn, read a book on a bench while enjoying the sunshine, and stop inside to participate in the activities honoring a beautiful student from our Fletcher Family.

What: Celebrating Erica Murray’s Life and Bone Marrow Drive

When: April 17th, 2009

Time: 11:00AM – 3pm Bone Marrow Drive in the Cabot Basement

3:30PM – Actual Ceremony Starts in the ASEAN Auditorium, All are encouraged to attend.

Thanks for helping make Fletcher the amazing community that is!

Sincerely,

The Student Council

 

First-year MALD student Han Kim is one of those great Fletcher guys.  Very involved in the community (Student Council, Admissions interviewer, etc.) and always eager to help.  This week, he offered to contact all of the incoming students from his home country of Korea, despite the fact that (1)He had just finished  hosting two newly-admitted students here for the Open House, and (2)He has told me that he’s swamped with course work, and (3)He’s preparing to run in the Boston Marathon on Monday!

I asked him to describe his preparation for the Marathon, and his participation in the President’s Marathon Challenge. The PMC fields a team of 200 Tufts students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends from around the country, who train for the Marathon while raising funds to support nutrition, medical, and fitness programs.  Here’s Han’s story:

Just a few days till the Boston Marathon.  April 20, 2009 is the day I test my physical and mental endurance.  I am looking forward to it.

I started running marathons because I wanted to keep fit and, also, to bond with my father, who was also a runner.  Running a marathon gives you a feeling of freedom and, oddly, flight.  I can still remember my first bite at a half marathon. It was a snowy day and my result was not fabulous, but it felt good.  My muscles were aching, but I could not get rid of my smile — I had completed it.

My first full marathon was even more fulfilling.  At the start, I was not in a good condition, because I had been drinking with my buddies and I overslept. As I started to run, it was painful, but I soon felt better.  With all the cheering and my body recovering, my energy started to build, so much so that I had to work just to control my pace.  I struggled after the half line, getting cramps in my legs and my neck.  The other runners helped me — they gave me a Korean version of Bengay, and told me not to raise my legs so high.  With their help, I completed the challenge.  I finished with a time of 4:18 — O.K. for a first try.  Considering that I still had a slight hangover and had slept only four hours, I was happy with my result.

This experience really changed my view of the marathon and of people.  Many think of marathon running as a lonely sport.  I found out it was not.  Pacing with other runners, helping and encouraging others, even physically supporting them, it is a sport of cooperation.  I saw runners stop to help others apply medicine, share their nutrition snacks, and push people from the back to get up a steep hill.  Yes, they were keeping their own running time in mind, but they still chose to offer help. It was an inspiring sight for me.

Another reason why I like running marathons is that you get to RUN through a city with no traffic.  How awesome is that!!

At Fletcher, I have been practicing with the Tufts PMC team and also on my own.  I heard about the President’s Marathon Challenge during Orientation from President Bacow.  I thought, “Hmmm.  I am in Boston.  I should do it!  When will I ever get another chance?”  I signed up, practiced with the team, raised my required donation, practiced some more, and befriended many other teammates.  I’m finally going to run with them in a few days. The team members are great and Coach Don Megerle is awesome! This year we have 10 Fletcher students running, including me.  I am sure they are all well prepared, and we are enthusiastic to run for Tufts and, of course, our beloved Fletcher.

I am personally pretty confident at this time, but still the burden of the Boston Marathon (known to be one of the most challenging of all international marathons) is still with me.  My time on my last long run of 20 miles was 3:20, so I am targeting 4 hours for Monday, but we will have to see.  I am a bit sad that Fletcher is having classes that day, because I will be missing classes and because my friends will not be able to come and cheer.  Nonetheless, I have waited for this day anxiously and I hope to do my best.

I hope you will decide to come to Fletcher and run with the team and me.  It will be an amazing experience — I promise you that.

Take care, and wherever you go to graduate school, be active and experience life!  You only have one chance (unless, depending on your religion, you may have more).  Make it worth it!!!

 

Nearly 150 admitted students joined the Fletcher community at Monday’s Open House.  It’s a frenzied day for everyone, but enjoyable, too!  All the sessions went smoothly, thanks to the efforts and organization of Kate who, I’m sorry to say, is moving on after this week.

Before starting at Fletcher, Kate had explored the admissions process from two other directions:  first as an undergraduate admissions officer at Union College in New York, and then as a college counselor at a private high school in Massachusetts.  Her work at Fletcher was her first foray into graduate education, but she jumped right in and looked like a veteran in no time.

Kate’s office is next to mine, and like all Admissions staff members, we like to talk about restaurants, food, and movies.  She also offered me sage advice last year, as I attempted to guide my son through his college application process.  This winter, I tried (unsuccessfully) to convince her to describe her reading days at home for the admissions blog.   I enjoyed the tales of how she explained her reading methods and routines to her husband, Scott, who was also working from their apartment.  She replayed conversations that went like this:

Scott:  I’m hungry.  Want to have lunch?

Kate:  No, Scott.  I can’t have lunch yet.  I haven’t read enough applications.

(Note:  As Kate says it in these stories, “no” rhymes with too — a nice long oooo for emphasis!)

Scott:  Well, you can read them after lunch.

Kate:  Noooo — I have to stay focused.

Now Scott’s job is taking them to Virginia, where applicants to some other school will benefit from Kate’s kind and patient guidance.

Kate’s last day will be tomorrow (Thursday).  I know there are blog readers who have met her during the past year’s application process, or even on Monday at the Open House.  If you’d like to wish her well, send her a note by email or with a comment to today’s blog entry.  We’ll miss her, and wish her all the best!

 

Every day, I take a few minutes to check the boxes of applications on counters throughout our office.  At this point in the enrollment process, I can see the gradual shifting of files from the “admitted” box to the “enrolling” box.  Occasionally, they move to the “deferring” box and, sadly but inevitably, some move on to “not enrolling.”

I’ll take a peek in the files to remind myself who everyone is.  (We often refer to applicants by their characteristics, rather than their names, as in, “Remember the guy who walked from Kenya to Uganda?” or “You know that reapplicant who spent two summers in Antarctica?” so I have to check the file to remind myself who’s who.)  There are many applicants whose files never go past me, but then there are those I have interviewed, or whose applications I have read, and I experience a few seconds of happiness when I figure out who’s joining us at Fletcher.

Just about two weeks from now, the gradual shift will turn into a more pronounced migration, as we reach enrollment decision deadlines.  I can’t deny that there’s always a bit of disappointment for the Admissions staff in this process, when we find out that an applicant we liked won’t enroll, but those feelings are far outweighed by the happy anticipation of a new class in September.

 

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