I asked Ian Pilarczyk, the associate director of Fletcher’s LL.M. program, to send me an update on how the year went.  Here, he reflects on a few lovely days in France, during the program’s “capstone.”

From May 5th to 10th the LL.M. program held its inaugural Talloires Capstone at the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France. The swine flu had been the lead news item for the past few weeks, which was not the most auspicious beginning to our trip.  On the plus side, it resulted in Logan, Heathrow, and Geneva airports all being unusually quiet, and in much less competition for space in the overhead bins!  We were virtually the only tourists in the usually-bustling resort town of Talloires — even more striking on a holiday weekend that coincided with Victory in Europe Day — which just added to the spirit of tranquility.

The Tufts European Center is located in a former priory, dating from the 11th century, nestled against the backdrop of the Alps and Lake Annecy in Talloires, France.  Talloires had been described to me in enthusiastic terms, and as an admirer of Paul Cezanne I was familiar with his 1896 masterpiece, “Lac d’Annecy.”  I have always been struck how reproductions of Cezanne’s painting cannot do justice to the rich blue hues he used in that work; I was likewise struck that, despite the superlatives I had heard, the area’s beauty almost defies description.  It is eminently fitting that the Talloires Declaration, an attempt to facilitate environmental sustainability in higher education, was formulated there at the behest of Tufts University in 1990.  Talloires and Lake Annecy are, in a word, bucolic.

The Talloires Capstone was designed as a time for reflection coupled with opportunities for discussion, networking, celebrating, and relaxing.  Our proximity to Geneva allowed us to tap into Fletcher’s rich network of alumni and friends working in international organizations.  We invited eight distinguished guests to join us, including Gian Luca Burci, Legal Counsel to the World Health Organization (who had many interesting things to say about the developing pandemic) and Alejandro Jara, Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organization.  The opportunity our students had to engage in informal discussion with experts — from the European Court of Human Rights, Paris II, the Swiss-Africa Business Roundtable, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner, and other agencies — was one of the defining characteristics of the Capstone experience.

During one of the free-time blocks in the afternoon on the last day, a group of hardy students went paragliding; they described it in glowing terms as a life-long memory.  I was reminded of a poem by Canadian poet F.R. Scott, “Three Days in October,” that he wrote as he watched a trio of students parachuting down on McGill’s campus during its sesquicentennial celebrations; he described them as moving “with swinging skill/and speaking no language/save the language of motion.”  His poem’s conclusion provides the most fitting end to this blog, as it captures my feelings as I watched Fletcher’s LL.M. students (from a safe distance):

As they floated down

we were all lifted up.

Many thanks to the sixteen students in our inaugural class for being such an inspired, and inspiring, class.  I look forward to welcoming them into Fletcher’s alumni family.  Onward and upward!


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