From the monthly archives: May 2009

Today’s advice is again in answer to the question:  What do you wish you had known before coming to Fletcher?  What would you recommend incoming students do in the summer before their first semester (eg., go to the beach, read novels, take statistics, travel around the world, sleep, etc.)? This time, I selected the thoughts of two students on how to get “mentally” ready.

First, Hana Ryba Cervenka, our Norwegian MALD student writes directly to our blog readers:

Dear incoming students!

I understand that you are psyched about coming to Fletcher — you have all the reason in the world to be! — and I understand that you want to prepare.  I am sure you feel you should spend the summer reviewing all those negotiation theories, stats and econ, and whatnot.  About a year ago, I felt the same way; I even asked for summer reading suggestions from the professors.

My advice is simple:  Don’t do it!  Take a break and get some “you-time” instead!  All of you — I repeat: all of you — are qualified to go to Fletcher.  You have excellent academic records and amazing experience.  That’s why you’ve been admitted, so don’t feel like you have to add further stress to your life by preparing academically, or by taking on another five internships this summer.

Fletcher is intense and you’ll need a lot of energy to keep up.  Most people who come here have led intense lives for as long as they can remember.  So take my advice, and take a break!  Be nice to yourself, allow yourself to recharge so that you are fit and ready to go when you get here.

Have a wonderful summer, I look forward to meeting you all, fresh and well-rested, in the fall!

Januarian Erika Tabacniks echoes Hana’s thoughts, and writes:  “Before coming to Fletcher, have fun.  See your family.  Hang out with your friends.  Do what you love to do the most.  Drive your car.  See everyone you love.  Enjoy your bed and your sofa.  Watch TV.  Talk about unimportant things.  Go out and stay out all night.  Hug everyone you know.  Take your parents out for dinner.  Pack light.”

So, for now, that’s the students’ advice.  Next week, I’ll turn to some recommendations from the professors.  And this isn’t the last word from the students, who will turn up now and then throughout the summer with additional thoughts.


The next topic on which current Fletcher students supplied advice for incoming students was:

What do you wish you had known before coming to Fletcher?  What would you recommend incoming students do in the summer before their first semester (eg., go to the beach, read novels, take statistics, travel around the world, sleep, etc.)?

Responses were wide-ranging!  Today, I’ll start with some of the nitty-gritty suggestions.  PhD student Tom McCarthy focused on your IT needs:  “If you do not already have a lap-top computer with word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet programs that you are familiar with, buy it now and have it set up before you arrive.  This helps you jump into class without fighting the computer system during a time that you need to be minimizing other distractions.  Most people do not take written notes, everything is done on a computer.”

Lesley Young, who just completed her first year in the MALD program, thought about pre-semester prep, and suggests preparedness as a way to fight nerves.  She said, “I wouldn’t stress out too much about the language requirement.  If you’re rusty  like me and have a few extra weeks free this summer, look into language courses at local community colleges.  They’re cheap and can provide a good brush-up before Fall semester.”

Non-native speakers may be thinking about their English language skills.  Norwegian MALD student Hana Ryba Cervenka suggests you learn from her experience:  “Personally I had no problems with the English language until I took Comparative Legal Systems in my second semester.  All of a sudden I was studying complicated legal matters in different countries and I just found my legal vocabulary was too weak.  My advice, if you plan on emphasizing law at Fletcher, is to find an article in English about your own country’s legal system. That way you can develop your vocabulary by reading about something that is familiar to you.”

And Filipa Jorge provides a general suggestion that, “If you’re not fully comfortable with English, then some classes or increased familiarity with the language through movies, music, books, etc. may help ease anxiety at the start of the semester.”

There’s still a little student-offered advice coming up.  And then…the professors provide some reading suggestions.


Continuing with the advice offered up by Fletcher students, answers to the next question turned out to be a mix of strictly practical and more philosophical tips.  The question:

Describe your experiences with course registration, shopping day, etc., particularly given that registration takes place after students are on campus.  Did you buy your textbooks on campus or online?

(First, a note.  “Shopping Day” takes place one day before classes actually begin.  Professors offer mini sessions (with several running concurrently) so that students can knowledgeably select the classes that best meet their schedule and intellectual needs.  Students don’t submit registration materials until after Shopping Day.)

Januarian Erika Tabacniks provides comprehensive advice, as she did in Tuesday’s Advice post.  She writes:  “Shopping day is important, fun, and tiring.  Look over the schedule and know exactly where you are going.  Student evaluations of the courses are available online and in the library.  They are very helpful when deciding what classes to take.  You can see the students’ opinions, as well as how many students were in the class.

“Pick up the class syllabi.  They’re important for the following reasons:  They let you know how much reading a class requires; they give you a sense of the professor; and they tell you whether you will have to write a paper or take an exam, the due dates, and the weights given to assignments.  Try to balance your classes so that you don’t have an overload of work all at once.”

Fellow Januarian MALD student Filipa Azevedo Jorge, also has only one course registration period under her belt:  “I chose the courses I wanted to take before the semester began.  During shopping period, however, I changed the courses based on the professors and my interests.  I found shopping period a little overwhelming but helpful.”

Harvey Beasley, now entering his second year as a MALD student, also reflects on that typical student problem — it can be hard to do too much planning before you’re actually on campus:  “I had picked out the classes I thought I was going to take in my first two semesters before getting to campus.  That entire plan went straight out the window on shopping day.  Courses had been added that I just couldn’t miss.  Some classes weren’t offered that I thought would be, and the personality of some professors just changed my mind about some classes (in both positive and negative ways).  Then there is the input from fellow classmates and second years….My advice is to take a look at the course offerings before you come to campus, but don’t spend too much time mapping out your time at Fletcher.  Shopping day can change everything.”

PhD student Tom McCarthy takes a practical look at the second part of the question:  “You can buy used textbooks online or even online through the campus store once you get here (they have them boxed up for your pick-up).  Many classes have all the readings online and downloadable in PDF format, which supplements the books you buy.  If you know which classes you will take, get the books early to hit the ground running.  If you do not, then wait until after shopping day.  Many classes have the first readings (even if they are books) online, so that you can attend the initial session without having to buy the text.”

Harvey Beasley agrees:  “I bought almost all of my textbooks online.  Options for used books online are often so much cheaper than buying them on campus.  If you know that you absolutely will be taking a certain class, see if you can get used textbooks from another Fletcher student.  There is always a mad sale of books at the end of each semester and it’s good to take advantage of it.”

And Erika adds an additional option for finding course books, the library:  “Instead of buying the books, a good option is to read them in the library.  Most books from your classes are “on-reserve”; this means that you ask for them at the library counter and you have to give them back after two hours (or check them out again).  Good news:  If you check it out late at night you can keep the book until the next morning.  (Don’t be late, or you will pay $1.00 for each hour.)  Everyone in the library is very nice and will be glad to answer any questions you may have.”

The practical and the philosophical.  Might be a way of capturing the Fletcher experience!  There’s still more advice to come.  Tune in again next week!


A feature on the work of Fletcher Professor John Hammock appears in this week’s on-line Tufts Journal.  In writing his recent book, Practical Idealists:  Changing the World and Getting Paid, Prof. Hammock worked with Fletcher alum Alissa Wilson.  Alissa is an old Admissions favorite.  She served two years on the Admissions Committee, conducted interviews, and just hung around here being helpful whenever she could.  I should also note that Prof. Hammock is a Fletcher alum, and the parent of a Fletcher alum.


Just before everyone headed out of town, I asked our students, those graduating and those just completing their first year of studies, for advice they’d like to share with incoming students via the blog.  The idea came from a student who will join us in September.  He’s a friend of Peter’s and he supplied a list of the questions that keep him up at night.  I’m going to pull together the students’ responses today and continue in a few future blog posts.  First up — the question that, until recently, also kept our first-year students awake all night, which is:

Summer internships:  How are they arranged? When do students start moving on setting those up?  Did you receive formal support on the search from Fletcher, or just informal networking, for example with your professors or fellow students?

First-year MALD student Christine Martin said:  “I found my internship through an unusual route.  While applying through formal mechanisms, I also sent an email to a non-profit that was advertising for full-time employees in The Economist.  The organization, Twaweza, was exactly what I was looking for:  based in Tanzania, small, and committed to community-based development and engagement with the private sector.  In my email, I outlined two very specific areas that I could help them with, based on my experiences and interests, and my proposal was accepted.  The Office of Career Services and my professors at Fletcher taught me how valuable and effective it can be to take initiative and create your own position.”

MALD student Filipa Azevedo Jorge, who just started at Fletcher in January 2009, echoed Christine’s point:  ” I believe Career Services does a great job in posting available internships and coaching students on how to apply.  However, students need to be proactive.”

Erika Tabacniks (who also started in January 2009) wrote in that:  “As a Januarian, things move quite fast.  In your first week of school you are already told to start looking for internships. Pressure is on.  I actually spent the first six weeks of school doing research on websites, going through the postings on our Office of Career Services website, writing cover letters and sending resumes.  Don’t do that.  Well, do that, but don’t forget about your classes.  Doing the readings and keeping up with them is more important.  That said, be alert.  Some deadlines come by really fast.  You will also learn how to write a cover letter and a resume – it might seem useless at first, but this is quite helpful.

Fletcher helps, but most of the work is accomplished through your own connections.  Talk to friends, professors, friends of friends.  Try different ways of reaching the organization you want to work at.  If you don’t know where you want to work … well, they know what they are looking for.  Things happen when they are supposed to.  Be patient.  Oh, and Januarians get to do two internships as we are in school for two summers.”

Stay tuned for future installments of Advice from the Students!


Though the solstice is a month away, and today’s weather is cool and damp, it’s definitely summer at Fletcher.  Commencement took place yesterday and Summer School starts this evening.  When I arrived on campus this morning, the only activity I saw involved taxis and newly-minted graduates on their way out of town.

In the Office, our attention is primarily turned toward summer projects.  (Writing for the blog represents a bit of procrastination from the summer to-do list.)  But we’re also meeting incoming students and prospective applicants.

This morning, I talked with two visitors on a road trip.  They don’t plan to apply to Fletcher for at least a couple of years, but they came by as part of their scouting mission.  In fact, many of our summer visitors won’t apply in 2009, but they’re traveling around and gathering information on possible grad schools.  As I’ve mentioned previously, we welcome you to visit during the summer, if that’s when a visit is convenient for you.  Starting June 1, we’re going to offer weekly information sessions, and you may want to plan your visit so that you can attend one.  If you’re ready for an interview, we can set one up for you.  A visit in the fall would give you a better sense of the community, but we’d rather have you visit in the summer than not visit at all.

Note for the advance planners out there, the fall interview schedule should be in place by next week when you can call or email to set an appointment.


Commencement takes place on Sunday.  There’s a busy weekend ahead, with clam bakes, champagne toasts, and the usual pomp and circumstance.  The schedule is further complicated by the return of Fletcher alumni for reunion.  The School will be hopping!

At this time of year, my thoughts inevitably turn to the students who are graduating.  There are always a few with whom I have a close relationship, though that relationship doesn’t always involve actually meeting the student!  I think that all of us in Admissions have a special fondness for applicants we champion, either because we see something special in the application, or because we met them in an interview.  One of those students this year is Tarek Zeidan.  I was a reader on Tarek’s application, and I remember well the warmth of his recommenders’ letters.

Tarek graduated from American University of Beirut with a solid academic profile, but he still wasn’t the most obvious admit.  He had a little less work experience than most of our students, and his experience wasn’t in a perfect line with his goals.  But we took a chance and offered him admission, and I don’t think there’s anyone at Fletcher who would argue with that decision.  Tarek has been a warm and engaging presence in the Fletcher community for his two years here.  He participated in conferences, served on the Fletcher Forum staff, and conducted Admissions interviews.  And now…Now he’s got a great job with the Brookings Institution, working on Middle East Policy.

Deep down, my Admissions pals and I know that most of our students would do fine at any graduate school.  But sometimes it seems there’s just the perfect fit between Fletcher and a student — the student adds to the community, and Fletcher makes a strong mark on the student.  Tarek is an example.

I’m very happy that Tarek has landed a position that’s so perfect for him.  Still, though I hardly had daily contact with him, I’ll miss Tarek’s presence at Fletcher.  And that’s the way it is every May.  The Admissions staff feels an uncomfortable mixture of pride in our students, hope as they head off to do great things, and sadness that they’re moving on.

Congratulations, Tarek, and everyone in the Fletcher Class of 2009!


Early last week, I was sitting on the sidelines watching my daughter’s spirited lacrosse team strive to avoid losing every game of their “rebuilding” season.  The conversation among devoted fans (i.e., the girls’ parents) turned to college admissions.  One of the fans, worn out by the college application process her daughter had just completed, asked why schools build long wait lists when they may not admit anyone off them.

Fletcher relies on the wait list in the same way most schools do — as a safeguard against lower than predicted enrollment.  We don’t intentionally under-admit the first time around, and figuring out when to turn to the wait list depends on the conclusion of several processes.

First, wait-listed applicants had until May 1 to let us know they wish to hold their place on the list.  Now that everyone has been heard from, we have set aside the applications of those who want to wait.  About half of the original list will keep waiting.

At the same time, we’re figuring out our enrollment results.  The final response deadline for admitted applicants was also May 1.

Admitted students who were awarded scholarships had an earlier deadline, and the third simultaneous process is to figure out if there are any scholarship funds remaining.

Once we finish crunching all the numbers, if there are spaces left in the enrolling class, we’ll turn to the wait list.  There’s one list for the MALD and MA programs, and separate lists for the MIB and LLM programs.  Since the majority of our applicants have applied to the MALD, I want readers to know that we have not yet considered wait-listed MA/MALD applicants for admission.  It’s always our goal to complete the process quickly, but we don’t always succeed in wrapping it up in May or early June.  All I can say is that we do our best.   (We know that none of the prospective students want the process dragged out either — an example of when our interests are in perfect harmony!)

If you have been thinking about sending a supplement to your application, don’t hold off any longer.  I’ll try to post wait-list updates whenever there’s something useful to say.


The first-year results on the Tufts Loan Repayment Assistance Program appeared in the on-line Tufts Journal yesterday.  Fletcher has had a similar program on a smaller scale for several years, but this year we rolled it into the larger University program.  Read about it here.

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Last year, I described my daughter Kayla’s back-and-forth decision-making process when she needed to select the language she would study in high school.  She’s an eight-month veteran of the ninth grade now but, because the school is a little unusual and organizes classes in a semester format, she only started her study of Chinese (Mandarin) in January.

Kayla’s an independent learner and she rarely turns to me for help with homework, so I have enjoyed sitting with her to go over Chinese vocabulary.  She has learned a lot already, and she sounds great!  We also review the dialogues, which, like many that are typical of beginner textbooks, can be entertaining.  (Such as the one in which a student tries to entice a friend to join her in an activity, only to discover that the “friend” doesn’t like going to the movies, watching TV, going to restaurants, or anything else, until finally, “Suanle!” — forget about it, I’ll go out with someone else.  What a loser that friend turned out to be!)

My vocabulary has dwindled a bit over the years:  I sometimes need the textbook to refresh my memory, and I find myself relying on the pinyin (Romanization) to be sure my “tones” are nice and sharp.  My own linguistic shortcomings aside, it’s very satisfying to observe her as she expands her knowledge of the world by learning a new language.

There’s another month or so when we can “yiqi xue Zhongwen” — study Chinese together — and then I’ll look forward to her second-year class.  When it came time to put together her 2009-2010 schedule, Kayla surprised me again, this time by adding Arabic to her linguistic plans.  That’s a subject with which I’ll be no help at all!


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