About a week ago, Kristen and I spoke to a group of Tufts undergraduate IR majors.  We brought along three “double Jumbos,” who could easily remember when they were undergrads, not necessarily knowing they would someday return to Fletcher.

One of those bright undergrads asked a question that I don’t hear as much as I feel I should:  Why would I pursue graduate work in international relations?  The context in which the student put the question was that while some careers require a graduate degree as a credential (such as a U.S. law degree or a medical degree), no such requirement exists for those who wish to be international affairs practitioners.

So it’s a really good question, and I asked Fletcher students to describe the thinking that preceded their enrollment.  Here are some of their answers.

Elise (first-year MALD student):  My recent position as representative of Project Syndicate, an international association of newspapers, was pretty ideal.  I was based in Prague, traveled to more than 30 countries for meetings with newspaper editors, and rubbed elbows with such bigwigs as George Soros, Peter Singer and Shashi Tharoor.  It was a difficult job to leave, but as we face pressing and complex global challenges, I feel that graduate study is necessary to more deeply inform my existing interests and prepare me for a meaningful career that will address those challenges.  Though a master’s degree isn’t a required qualification for many careers in international relations, I strongly believe that the skills and connections provided by the Fletcher experience will enhance my opportunities down the road and eventual job satisfaction.  I’m only two months into the experience, but I haven’t regretted my decision to come to Fletcher for one second.

Erika (second-year MALD student):  My goal is to be able to assess and deal with business challenges and opportunities that will help emerging countries achieve and maintain sustainable development in future years.  As an IR student, I hope to gain international knowledge and different perspectives from global students and professors about current trends, topics, and issues, especially in finance and economic policies.

Luis (second-year MALD student):  I chose a multidisciplinary IR degree because it gives you the ability to tailor your academic experience to your specific international career interests.  The international and multidisciplinary perspective changes your way of thinking and of analyzing problems, while giving you the flexibility to build on your areas of weakness.  Post Fletcher, I wanted to consult for an organization or government working to develop microfinance programs for demobilized combatants in conflict zones.  At Fletcher, I have been able to develop a framework for my future career through consulting and policy analysis courses, while improving my knowledge of the field through a series of microfinance, conflict, and development courses.

Chris (first-year MALD student):  When I was an undergraduate, I assumed I was going to earn a master’s degree in the future; it was just a matter of deciding which field to pursue.  After working for a couple of years in the private sector, and already having a bachelor’s degree in finance, I determined that pursuing an MBA was not the right direction for me.  When one of my coworkers left the company to pursue a PhD in political science, I started looking at international affairs programs.  I was drawn to Fletcher primarily because it offers International Security Studies and Pacific Asia as Fields of Study, something I’ve always had an interest in.  Location was a plus, too.  At the end of the program I’ll be able to combine my undergraduate studies with the Fletcher experience and have a greater diversity of skills and knowledge to use in pursuit of my career goals.  And I can say with confidence that, although I’m only half way through my first semester, I’ve made the right choice.


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