From the monthly archives: June 2009

Last fall, I wrote about alum Charles Scott and his plan to bicycle the length of Japan with his son, Sho.  They had been thinking about the ride for some time, but the plans were still in the earliest phase then.  Now they’re on the road!

To recap the Fletcher angle on all of this:  Charles graduated 15 years ago, along with his wife Eiko.  He works at Intel; she works for the UN.  A perfect Fletcher couple.

The bike ride evolved in complexity over the course of the year, particularly with its tie-in to the UN Environment Programme.  Check out the web site Charles and Sho set up to describe (in English and Japanese) their planning.  (Note that their FAQs page specifically addresses the question, “Are you crazy?”)  Or find out why UNEP included Charles and Sho among their Climate Heroes!

To share the adventure from the comfort of your computer, check out their blog, or follow them on twitter.  They’re only a few days into the two-month ride, but you can already get a sense of what’s ahead of them.


This year has been unpredictable for us from start to finish.  We didn’t know how the economy would affect the number or quality of applications.  We didn’t know how many students would accept our offer of admission, given the widespread economic uncertainty.  And we didn’t know how many students would change their minds after first saying they’d enroll.

And now, for the first time since I joined the Admissions staff in 1999, May and June will pass without our making an offer of MALD admission to a wait-listed applicant.

So here is where things stand.  Last week, we told some wait-listed applicants that they will not be admitted this year.  The decision on which applicants to let go was made essentially for pragmatic reasons.  A prime example:  If we were to admit students at the end of July, there wouldn’t be enough time to arrange a visa for an international student.  And it may well be late July before we will see the need to admit more students.

If you haven’t yet heard from us, we’d like to hear from you.  Are you really still waiting for Fletcher?  If so, how late into the summer would you be willing to change your plans and accept an offer of admission.  Send a note to FletcherAdmissions and let us know where your plans stand.

As I’ve said, we hate to drag this process out for the applicants who remain on the Wait List.  I don’t think any of us would have guessed that we’d be (ever so slightly) over-enrolled on June 29, but that’s how things have turned out.  From experience, we know that a few more students will change their plans before Orientation, and drawing from the Wait List remains a possibility.  But we want to keep the process transparent, and we can certainly say that there will be no early Wait List activity.


Last week I put out the call via the student email list.  I asked students keeping a blog this summer to send me a link.  In true Fletcher fashion, the first responses popped into my inbox mere minutes later.  The blogs included on even this short list provide a great picture of the scope of students’ activities:  Some are project oriented, others travel oriented, and still others are academic.  I asked the students (all of whom will be back at Fletcher in the coming year) to provide any detail they thought would be useful.  Here’s what I’ve collected so far:

Hana Ryba Cervenka
Greetings from Malawi!  I am one of four Fletcher students doing an internship with Advancing Girls’ Education (AGE) in Malawi this summer.  The organization itself is an outgrowth of Fletcher, started by PhD-student Xanthe Ackerman some years back.  We are keeping a blog featuring stories of what we do, see, hear, and experience.  Quite a bit about food on there, too!  And Christin, the photographer among us, is posting photos.  The four interns are Christin McConnell, Anna Wolf, Rebecca Perlmutter, and me.

Beka Feathers
I’m interning for the National Democratic Institute, and my blog is (mostly) about the work I’m doing there.

Joshua Haynes

Joshua, who is spending the summer in Niger, was the last to send the link to his blog.  He said the delay was because he was putting the final touches on the design, and it is quite nice looking!  The site also includes entries from some of his previous travels.

Emily Huston
I am writing for during my summer internship in Hargeisa, Somaliland.  My first two articles are up.

Ben Mazzotta (PhD student)
Mine is neither a travelogue nor descriptive of student life.  I was writing about cyber risk until about March, and then I did post a couple of entries about my May trip to the University of Duhok, Iraq.

Patrick Meier (PhD student)
I blog about crisis mapping, conflict early warning, civil resistance, digital activism and complex systems.

Erika (Kika) Tabacniks
I am writing a blog and posting some videos about my experience in New Delhi, India. I am living with two other Fletcherites, Ted Mathys and Brian Heilman, so there are pictures and posts about our lives here.  Jenny Marron, also from Fletcher, will join us for the remaining two months. The blog is written in Portuguese, but I plan to translate it soon.

For those who can not only ler em português but can also entender português, Erika also provides a link to her youtube videos.

Jessica Varat
I’m keeping a blog for my internship in Peru, working with the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team through the Advocacy Project.  I’m based in Lima, but traveling around a bit as well.  I write mostly about the team, but also add news from Peru, when I can.

Note that there are several other Fletcher students among the Advocacy Project bloggers.

Finally, not exactly a student blog, but an event blog written by students.  In late May, Fletcher’s Center for Emerging Market Enterprises partnered with the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Central Bank of Kenya to co-host the conference “M-Banking 2009:  Balancing Innovation and Regulation.”  There was a conference blog, and in addition, Joshua Goldstein included info in his own blog.


In the summer, our attention is pulled in many different directions.  Each of us is working on some special projects — the type that require a little more time and a little more focus than we have at other points in the year — but we are also starting up the day-to-day nitty-gritty admissions work for the next cycle, even as we conclude our work with September’s incoming students.  That workplace schizophrenia will show through in the blog, too.

Today’s post is the first of the 2009-2010 admissions cycle.  While Roxana finalizes changes to our application for 2010 admission, I thought future applicants might want to take a peek at the application essays.  Before you peek, note that now is NOT a good time to start your application.  What you’ll find on the Admissions web site today is the past year’s application.  We’ll switch over to the new application in August.

The changes to the Personal Statement aren’t major, though we’ve increased the word limit a bit.  But we made significant changes to the Supplemental Essays.  Every few years, we need to shake things up — there are only so many hundred essays on the same topic we can enjoy reading.  So here you go:

Personal Statement (600 to 800 words. Times New Roman, 12 point font)

Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.  Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career.  Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals?  Why have you selected the degree program to which you’re applying?  If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Supplemental Essay — Choose one of the following essay topics to tell the Admissions Committee something about you that does not fit elsewhere in the application. (500 words (maximum) Times New Roman, 12 point font)

-Share something about yourself to help the Admissions Committee develop a more complete picture of who you are.

-Tell us more about how you first became interested in international affairs, or in pursuing an international career.

-Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.

As you think about the questions, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1.  Make sure you answer the question.  Might seem obvious, but every year there are applicants who miss the mark.

2.  Keep to the word limit, and use the type size/font we request.  Really, this is a very small techno-task for you, but it is a huge help in saving our eyes and paper.

3.  Don’t waste space in the Personal Statement with information that would fit nicely into one of the Supplemental Essays.

4.  Remember that these essays are about YOU.  Don’t waste space with details about your university professors, famous world leaders, or anyone else.  Everything you write should point straight at you.  When we ask why Fletcher is “the right place,” we want to know what makes it best for you — there’s not much value in quoting our own marketing language back at us.

We’ll have more tips for you during the year, but these should help you get started.  Go ahead and write a draft of the essays.  I’ll try to post a note when the new application is up and ready for you to upload what you have written.

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My last three posts included all the professors’ suggested reading, but before I had even finished putting the list together, another suggestion came in.  This one is from new MALD graduate (and recent thesis survivor) Anne Dwojeski.  Anne has put in two years of Admissions Committee service and is well-connected to all our work.  Here’s the email she sent me last week.

Hi Jessica,

I know you’d talked about putting suggested reading lists on the admissions blog.  I’ve recently come across a book I wish I had read at the beginning of my Fletcher career — and wanted to let you know about it!  It’s: The Craft of Research, by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams.

I picked it up at the suggestion of a friend when I was hitting a writer’s block with my thesis, and it has changed everything.  It’s helping me enjoy the process more.  The authors articulate strategies and approaches to research and writing that I think a lot of us have a sort of vague sense about, but which (in my experience and the experiences of a lot of my Fletcher friends) we might not implement as systematically as they suggest.  For example, we know how to find sources to incorporate into a paper, but the authors offer strategies for how to sort through the overwhelming number of possible resources more systematically, efficiently and productively. (The strategies I was taught in my freshman writing class 13 years ago didn’t prepare me to weed through the seemingly unlimited online-database resources we can now access!)

It’s written so that college freshmen could use it, but it also has extremely useful suggestions for people (like myself) who’ve done a lot of research and writing — in college, in professional careers, and even in grad school.  Ultimately, much of what they say we pick up over the course of our writing careers, but incoming students — especially those who have been out of school for awhile — might appreciate the book for saving them from that trial-and-error process, allowing them to delve into their research and writing more fully earlier on.

I have to stop myself from raving more…



By alphabetic coincidence, today’s list of book picks includes two on economic issues — but also two books perfect for airplane reading.

Laurent Jacque suggests When Genius Failed:  The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management, by Roger Lowenstein.

Michael Klein also points us toward books that can help us understand the current economy.  He wrote:  “I hesitate a bit to recommend anything on the financial crisis, since it is such a fluid situation, but a good background to it can be gained by reading  Financial Shock: Global Panic and Government Bailouts — How We Got Here and What Must Be Done to Fix It, by Mark Zandi.  Also, at this time when finance is seen as a problem, it is useful to remember how well-functioning financial markets can help, so I also recommend Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales.”

Julie Schaffner offers the first of the airplane-worthy picks for today:  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, which tells the story of Paul Farmer.  (Dr. Farmer also has local roots.)

Peter Uvin, who also offered picks last year, offers an engaging summer read, What is the What, by Dave Eggers.

Finally, alphabetically last but not least, Alexandros Yannis makes two suggestions:  Democracy: A History, by John Dunn, and Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, by Tony Judt.

As I said in the first picks post, there’s something here for everyone, even if you want to rest your brain this summer.  (Though I also hasten to add that NOTHING is required and brain-resters need not worry.)  I’d love to hear your reaction to the list.  Post your comments — which books have you read?  Any that you particularly recommend to fellow students?  Chime in!

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Doing a little pre-Fletcher reading doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in the library.  Some of the professors’ picks are beach-worthy!  No matter where (or whether) you decide to read, here’s Part II of the professors’ suggestion list.

Michael Glennon offers an array of choices, from a variety of time periods and genres.  Something for every reader!  He lists:

1.    Groupthink, by Irving Janus.
2.    The Arrogance of Power, by J. William Fulbright
3.    The Metaphysical Club, by Louis Menand
4.    Memoirs: 1925-1950, by George F. Kennan
5.    West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
6.    Age of Extremes, by Eric Hobsbawm
7.    Imperium, by Robert Harris

I’m going to try to pick up West with the Night for my daughter — looks like her kind of book, and I might well borrow it back from her.

Donald Gonson not only makes suggestions but provides context for the choices:  “I have two books that might be good for your summer reading list.  One is The New Financial Order: Risk in the 21st Century by Robert J. Shiller.  The focus of corporate governance is increasingly about management of risk these days.  Corporate failure to manage risk has not only put the existence of business institutions in jeopardy, but has threatened the entire global financial system!  With his usual prescience — he wrote widely read and widely admired books about the and housing bubbles before they burst — Shiller looks at the challenge of managing risk in the modern world.  Other books focus on the specific issues of the current market meltdowns, but this book is useful in that it provides a broader context for our current difficulties.  (It also suggests extremely relevant reforms which could have mitigated our current crisis, if only….)

“The other book I recommend is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.  This is a fascinating look at the evolution of societies, politically and economically, from earliest days.  In fact, the book could well have been subtitled “Early History as a Study in Political Economy,” although that would have been a surprise for two reasons:  Diamond is an anthropologist, and the book is too much fun for such a sober title.  It presents a great analysis of the rise of the rule of law and of the economic forces that shape the law (both very relevant to the study of corporate governance).”

The last picks for today come from Hurst Hannum.  His first suggestion is Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.  His second suggestion is possibly the most intriguing of this year’s list.  He chooses The Plague by Albert Camus.  Certainly a book you can slip in your bag and that will engage you while you wait for your vacation flight.

The final selections, from professors whose last names start with I through Z, will appear next week.  Stay tuned!

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Just before classes ended, I sent a note to the faculty asking for summer reading suggestions for incoming students.  (I like to think that this list will be useful for our newest Fletcher students, as well as anyone still reading the blog who will attend a different grad school.)  I’ve collected suggestions before, and ran short lists last summer, and in 2007.  This year I modified my request slightly:  Instead of asking the professors to suggest books that incoming students could read to prepare, I asked them instead for the books they might pass along to a family member who wanted to learn about their area of expertise.  I hoped it would result in some “lighter” reading, and I think it did.

Of course, suggesting that you do preparatory reading contradicts the students’ advice, posted recently.  I’ll just need to leave it to you to decide whether you should follow the advice to relax and recharge, or read one of the books listed below.

One final note:  I only asked the profs for their picks.  I didn’t ask them to elaborate on their choices.  I regret that now, though I think the simplicity of the assignment led to the high number of responses.  I’ll include any comments they happened to send.

So, with no further discussion, here (alphabetically by the professors’ last names) are the first of the book picks.

First, Richard Blackhurst, who teaches the mid-career folk in the GMAP program, suggests Paul Krugman’s Pop Internationalism.  He notes:  “The students will, of course, recognize Paul Krugman’s name. However, this collection of economic essays pre-dates his much more political New York Times weekly columns, and is both very entertaining, accessible, and directly relevant to many — if not all — of the economics and political science courses they will take at Tufts.”

Antonia Chayes gives a little shout-out to her daughter, when she says, “I would add  first and foremost, Sarah Chayes, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban.”  Prof. Chayes also suggests Tom Ricks’s new book on Iraq, The Gamble:  General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, as well as A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah’s memoir on child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

Leila Fawaz sends her choice of reading in an area of great interest to many of our students:  Juan Cole’s Engaging the Muslim World.

And last (for today), Brian Ganson suggests Kings of Peace, Pawns of War: The Untold Story of Peace-Making by Harriet Martin (with a foreward by Kofi Annan), and Making Social Science Matter:  Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again by Bent Flyvbjerg (translated by Steven Sampson).

That should keep you all busy for the week. 🙂    More to come soon!

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So, I have to admit:  I was the lucky recipient of a tip earlier this week on Joshua Haynes and Yanina Seltzer’s award.  The tip came from my chief newshound, Jessie Evans, and without her, I would have needed to think of my own topic for a blog post.  Jessie and I go way back to her pre-enrollment days, when I wrote a few posts about her Sandbox Savants adventure.  Strangely, she was at Fletcher for half the year before we finally met, but we’ve been in semi-regular contact.  So, with Jessie’s permission, I thought I’d share the email message in which she followed up on my thanks for the tip, and described her summer activities.  Here it is:

Ah well, it’s all thanks to technology.  Between Twitter, Facebook, my RSS feed, and e-mails and Skype chats with friends all around the globe, I’m able to pretty much keep up on Fletcher news.  🙂

I must say, I’m a little jealous to hear that the Admissions Office is quiet.  Here in D.C., things are moving at typical D.C. pace (really, really fast!).  I’ve been working long, long days at my summer internship at the Pentagon.  I really like my colleagues and the work!  I’m not sure if it’s just my office (the policy shop working on African Affairs), but even as an intern, I’ve got substantive work and I’m having fun!  It turns out there are a lot of good people here who are interested in creative and peaceful solutions to conflict.  They placed me with the East Africa and Sudan Desk, and I have primarily been working on Somalia and Sudan issues.  Hmmmm, maybe that’s why I am so busy?

Besides work, I try to squeeze in happy hours with Fletcher friends and other folks from my past.  I’m still doing some work on an evaluation for Professor Church, but I hope to wrap that up soon, so I can get more sleep in the coming months. 🙂

I’ll get to visit Reuben (Reuben Levy, whom I think you know from his work over in the Registrar’s office) in Jakarta/Bali in August, at the end of his internship with the ILO in Jakarta.  While I love my summer internship, I can’t WAIT for two weeks of UNCONNECTED vacation!

That’s it from me.  The ever-so-typical, atypical life of a Fletcher student on her summer break!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer and finding ways to escape outside and play in the sun!



MIB student, Joshua Haynes, who has written previously for the blog, along with teammate and recent MALD alum Yanina Seltzer, recently received an Outstanding Commitment Award from CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) University.  Their commitment project, in the Poverty Alleviation category, was entitled:  Masawa-Using Mobile Phones to Connect Savings Groups to the World.

Congratulations, Joshua and Yanina!


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