From the monthly archives: June 2010

I’ve been putting together summer reading lists for the blog for the last few years now.  Scroll down through the posts in the Our Faculty category and you’ll see the previous compilations. I hasten to add that you are not, in any way, obligated to do any summer reading!  Feel 100% comfortable sitting on the beach with your favorite Calvin and Hobbes collection!  But I know that some students want a little something more, and my goal is to provide it.

This year, I may have presented the professors with a tougher assignment than I realized.  I had thought it would be a nice complement to previous lists if we went with a new theme.  I gave them two choices:  to suggest something newly published; or to suggest a work of fiction.  I think that’s where I lost them.  Even several reminders didn’t (with a few exceptions) shake works of fiction out of their collective brains.  So here’s the short list I was able to pull together this year.

First, on the new publications theme, Michael Klein came through right away, writing, “There have been a spate of books this year about the financial crisis.  I would recommend:  Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; and In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel.  I’ve not read Simon Johnson’s book 13 Bankers, but it has gotten a lot of press, and is less complimentary of the efforts to combat the crisis than the other two books.  I also enjoyed the book The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox, which is more broadly about the development of the field of financial economics.”

Sticking with new non-fiction, Kim Wilson suggests an upcoming book on which she served as co-editor:  Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings, along with 2009′s Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day.

And then, after a wee bit of pestering on my part, I did receive a trickle of fiction suggestions.  None other than Dean Stephen Bosworth came through for me with a few picks.  On the fiction side, he suggests a series of North Korea-centered mysteries by James Church, which he describes as “written by a westerner but one with a remarkable feel for life in North Korea.”  Dean Bosworth also threw in a non-fiction selection:  Nothing to Envy:  Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick.  Finally, he wrote that “students interested in Asia might enjoy the book I wrote with Morton Abramawitz:  Chasing the Sun, a series of essays on the U.S. and East Asia.”

John Perry suggested a book that was later suggested by a student and included in the list I posted earlier.  He told me, “I would recommend Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brooks.  It is a beautifully written account, using some of Vermeer’s paintings to provide a window into the world of the 17th century.  Both Andy Hess, as I hear, and I are using it in classes.”

And, last, Bill Martel, who so kindly stopped by the office to apologize for failing to send me a selection, not knowing that I would bar the door until he came up with something.  He finally chose The Kite Runner, for its portrayal of society in Afghanistan.

So that’s this summer’s list from the professors.  Next year, I’ll define their assignment differently so that I can develop a longer list.  Meanwhile, a little bit of fiction could be just the thing for a summer day.

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Ten years ago, my husband, Paul, stood before a judge and dozens of witnesses and took the oath required to become a citizen of the United States.  I didn’t notice, as I looked on with Josh and Kayla, that the foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty he forswore must have a fine-print exemption for the English national soccer team.

Fast forward to yesterday and we find Paul at home, watching the England-Slovenia World Cup match with his buddy, Steve (who bleeds Chelsea blue).  Meanwhile, I was in front of another t.v., keeping appropriate distance in the interest of marital harmony.  While they stressed over England’s 1-0 win, I actively willed the U.S. to score so that England’s single goal wouldn’t prevent the U.S. from advancing.  Household peace prevails!  Our weekend will include Saturday’s U.S. game against Ghana, and Sunday’s England-Germany match-up.  Thankfully, we should be safe from another situation where the England team will have the ability to spoil the U.S. team’s future, or vice versa.

Frankly, I’m not always such a sports nut, a title held in our family only by Josh, who brings knowledge and a solid statistical understanding to his love of sport.  But events such as the World Cup can find their way onto my radar screen.  Around here, with such a large immigrant community, it’s a fantastic conversation starter.  Before the U.S.-Algeria match yesterday, I was chatting with someone originally from Nigeria, and we shared a little happiness for South Africa over its defeat of France, and a little frustration that all the African countries (aside from Algeria) felt they needed European coaches to compete.

More matches, and more conversations, coming up in the next few weeks.  Get the vuvuzelas ready!

 

No vacation from thought for Fletcher students and new alums.  Or, at least, a good number are continuing to think, and reflect their thoughts through their blogs.  I asked them to point me toward their blog sites, and here’s a sample of what they’re writing:

Jeremy White, David Reidy, Beau Barnes, and Jeff Schneider are jointly writing Demagogues and Dictators, which David describes simply as an international affairs blog.  For his portion, Jeremy adds:  “I am currently writing from Afghanistan with observations on my work conducting a study of information operations performed by the coalition.”

Elise Crane is a Huffington Post blogger.  She explains that the “general theme is media framing and analysis, but I try to keep it diverse.”

Continuing with the serious content, Rizwan Ladha describes his summer blog:

This blog primarily examines the role of nuclear weapons in today’s world, where we face security threats from non-state actors and must address issues related to asymmetric warfare. Specific topics of discussion/analysis include the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence; the feasibility of global disarmament; civilian nuclear power; consequences of nuclear war; North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions; and the role of the United States in non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives.

Last (for today), Erika (Kika) Tabacniks writes a sunny summer blog that provides its own description:

As the new “Masters” throw their caps into the air, I land in a new territory.  My story takes place in sunny Raleigh, North Carolina where I will be working at Genworth Financial. And yes, it is time to update the blog with my summer job adventures.

Not so much international affairs content from Kika, but a fun picture of what happens when a woman from Brazil lands in North Carolina.

I hope you’ll enjoy these examples of the writing that students assign to themselves.

 

Students here pursue all the usual procrastination activities, but occasionally they delay their work with yet other scholarly interests.  Early in May, when everyone surely had all they needed on their plates already, Josh Gross (since graduated) presented just such a distraction via the student elist:

Want to procrastinate? I know I do. Wouldn’t it be cool (in the way that can only be cool within these walls) to have a “Best of Fletcher Homework” list?  Send along your favorite assigned books or articles from the last year or two.  It might be a nice reflection of what makes us all tick collectively, and an opportunity to get a window into all of the classes that we wanted to take, but couldn’t.  At the very least, it will make for good summer reading.  I’ll start the ball off with Michael Glennon:  “The Blank-Prose Crime of Aggression.”

And thus started the conversation that Josh called “What was your favorite reading at Fletcher?  OR I got an MA in Law in Diplomacy and all I got was this lousy PDF,” but which another student (who nonetheless contributed his own choice) relabeled “Keeping Josh Gross’ nerdy thread alive…”  Around here, we all embrace our inner nerd!

So, future students and friends, here are the procrastination results — links to books and articles, with the students’ comments included, but with their names omitted:

I am adding a couple of suggestions to the list, just so that Josh doesn’t feel too lonely:  1) Michael J. Glennon (yet again): “How International Rules Die” and 2) Johan Galtung: “Violence, Peace and Peace Research”.

I love this idea!  I highly recommend  these books:  A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner;  Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott (esp. chapters 1 and 9); The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando de Soto.

For a little MIB perspective, on the morality of microfinance, I recommend:  “Chu vs. Yunus – Is it Fair to do Business with the Poor?” Also, as a more basic overview of the role of finance in development, and in particular, whether firm size matters, I quite like Levine et al.  “Finance, Firm Size and Growth”.  Go Finance Go!  ;)

At the risk of sounding like a psychopath, Hugo Slim’s Killing Civilians:  Method, Madness, and Morality in War was one of my faves.  Not to be read after dark!

Timothy Brook:  Vermeer’s Hat:  The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World — my pick for book of the year.  The author deciphers Johannes Vermeer’s paintings to reveal how the 17th century world was already globally connected.  For a starter: Why was Jean Nicollet, a French explorer, wearing a Chinese robe when he met the chief of the Winnebago native Americans in 1634?  Read chapter two to find out.

From D264 with Professor Hess, The History of the Turks.

“Electoral Systems and Conflict in Divided Societies,” by Ben Reilly and Andrew Reynolds  in International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War.  This is one of the clearest, most comprehensive pieces about electoral systems I’ve ever read.  If you ever want to know how electoral design can mitigate or exacerbate conflict, this is the piece you want.  Not surprisingly, it’s from Professor Babbitt’s Conflict Resolution Theory class.

I liked “Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases” by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which Prof. Gideon assigned in Analytic Frameworks.  Behavioral economics is pretty hot right now, and this is one of the founding documents.

There you have it, blog readers.  The students’ picks for your summer reading.  Is this required for those of you about to start your Fletcher studies?  Definitely not!  (Unless, of course, you’re at work and want to procrastinate.)  But I hope the list gives you a sense of the breadth of students’ interests, as well as their engagement with the subject matter.  Happy reading!

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Much of the summer is taken up with preparing for the coming admissions cycle.  We met as a group for a half day yesterday to talk about our policies and procedures, and to figure out what we should be working on.  There’s plenty to keep us busy!

But, meanwhile, there’s also a little bit of the work that characterizes fall in the admissions office.  We have our Monday information sessions, and we’ve done some interviewing on an as-needed basis.  And this week, we’ve sent Jeff out on the road.  You’ll find him tonight behind the Fletcher table at the Idealist Fair in New York, and tomorrow he’ll be behind a similar table in D.C.

If you’re just beginning your grad school research, consider attending one of the Idealist fairs.  Even when they’re a little crazy, the fairs are an efficient way for you to pick up a lot of information in a short period of time.  We’ll be participating in more Idealist and APSIA fairs in the fall, but if you happen to attend this week, be sure to stop by and say hi to Jeff while you’re there.

 

There are 32 countries participating in the World Cup – why does the U.S. have to play England in their first match?  With three dual U.S.-U.K. citizens in my household, no one knows whom to root for.  Some lines have been drawn:  Paul and Josh have their competing t-shirts — Josh’s U.S. shirt supporting Landon Donovan, and Paul’s U.K. shirt for Wayne Rooney.  Can family harmony prevail?  Fortunately, two teams can go through from this group, so we’ll hope that both subjects of our fandom will move to the next round.

Soccer/football fans out there — I know you’ll be very busy for the next few weeks.  Enjoy the matches!

 

Last month, just before students finished exams, I sent out a request for advice for incoming students.  Specifically, I asked them to complete one of these sentences:

Something I did right at Fletcher is…
Something I wish I had done differently at Fletcher is…

The responses are interesting.  First, nearly everyone completed both phrases, when I would have been happy with one response.  (Fletcher students are diligent!)  Second, there are connections among the responses that I hadn’t expected.  Finally, the answers are very sincere, which I appreciated and which reminded me why I like these people.

I think of these tips as most helpful for incoming students.  But if you’re an applicant, these are ideas to consider as you ponder your future graduate studies.  So here goes:  A list of reflections from continuing or newly graduated students, in no logical order.

Lilian Lehmann, newly graduated MALD
Something I did right is… followed new and random opportunities and interests that I stumbled across, both in class and through classmates. They expanded my horizons exponentially.
Something I wish I had done differently is… not worried as much about whether it would all work out.  It always does.

Kristy Bohling, continuing MALD
Something I wish I had done differently is… go to lots of classes during the first week of the semester to get a broader understanding of all the options out there.
Something else I wish I had done differently is… meet with someone (e.g., the Registrar’s office, students, faculty) at the beginning of my first semester to talk about my goals, and which classes I should take to meet those goals.

Chris Murray, continuing MALD
Something I did right is… spent a little extra time in Mugar Café talking with my friends.  There are always things to do at Fletcher.  But I’ve never regretted taking a few extra minutes (or, in a few cases, an extra hour) talking with my friends about politics or life, over a cup of coffee.

Hana Cervenka, newly graduated MALD
Two things I did right are…
1) Auditing Swahili:  Tufts has pretty impressive language offerings, and I’m grateful that I got to take Swahili for free during my degree.  Of course, it made my crazy schedule even a little bit crazier, but…oh, well….
2) Taking at least one class each semester focused on developing crucial professional skills, “Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation” with Prof. Scharbatke-Church being a great example. That class pretty much landed me my summer internship in Malawi, and I find that the skills I have gained from it keep opening doors.
Something I did wrong at Fletcher is… I got overwhelmed.  The workload is intense, but it turns out things go much, much smoother if you do not allow yourself get stressed and overwhelmed, and if you get enough sleep.

Christina Liberati, newly graduated MALD
Something I did right is… take the language proficiency exams in my first semester!
Something I wish I had done differently is… take at least one class outside the school for another perspective, or take more skills classes (like “Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation”), or take theory classes in the first year instead of second year!

Nick Davidson, newly graduated MALD
Something I did right is… taking or auditing a class every semester outside of my two areas of study that I really enjoyed.  There is always time to fulfill requirements, and you prevent doors from closing on you later.
Something I wish I had done differently is… write my thesis early and use it to create networking and job opportunities.

Greg Bertleff, newly graduated MALD
I agree 100% with Nick on these two items.  Auditing classes was one of the best things I did, and I wish I had used my thesis better for job hunting.

Anthony Sung, newly graduated MALD
Something I did right is… gathering up the courage to drop in during a professor’s office hours with no plans except to chat.
Something I wish I had done differently is… to spend too much time studying instead of meeting new people during my first semester.

Erika Tabacniks (Kika), newly graduated MALD
Something I did right is… cross-registering for classes at other nearby grad schools.
Something I wish I had done differently is… talking more to professors during their office hours.

Rizwan Ladha, continuing MALD

Something I did right is… subscribing to the Social List (student elist) — not only for social events, but also for unique internship and other opportunities that would otherwise be slightly more obscure. Two of the great things about Fletcher are that (1) the community is tight-knit, and we go out of our way to help each other; and that (2) because of the diversity of background and experience, all students have something unique to share with the community.  As a result, through the Social List I learned of, and was subsequently accepted to present at, a nuclear weapons conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in D.C. — in my first semester at Fletcher! Also through the Social List, I found out about a research opportunity for this summer.
Something I wish I had done differently is…
to take a class outside of Fletcher. I will be sure to take advantage of these cross-registration opportunities next year!

Elise Crane, continuing MALD
Something I did right is… get involved in a bunch of different activities. Fletcher is a goldmine of extracurriculars and opportunities for outside projects that complement the academic component.
Something I could have done differently is… not signed up for quite so much!  But, actually, juggling so many different balls has, counterintuitively, kept me sane.

 

This week is slipping past me and I haven’t been able to make time to write.  Plus, I’m short of inspiration, but my creativity block provides a good opening for a simple update.  Readers at different phases of their application process may be waiting for us to provide information of some sort.  Please find, below, a list (in no particular order) of things for which you may be waiting, along with a prediction of when your wait will be over.

If you’re waiting for news on the waitlist:  I’m afraid I don’t have anything new to report, except that we’re going to contact everyone on the list to see who’s truly waiting.  (Some people said in April that they’d wait, but they have made alternate arrangements by now.)  We’ll be sending out an email within the next week.

If you’re waiting for our new application:  It’s in the works and should be in place in August.  If you’re planning to apply for January or September 2011 enrollment, please don’t start an application using the 2010 form.  Wondering if we’ll be changing the essay topics?  We’ve decided to keep the essays the same for master’s program applicants, but we have added an additional question for PhD applicants.

If you’re waiting for us to respond to your request for feedback:  Please know that we’re working our way through the requests.

If you’re waiting for us to post our fall travel schedule:  We should have a fairly complete version this summer, probably by the beginning of August.

If you’re waiting for this year’s reading lists on the admissions blog:  While I pull this year’s list together, you can check out previous years’ recommendations within the Our Faculty page of the blog.  (Scroll down and you’ll find lists for 2007, 2008, and 2009.)   Professors have recently made some interesting suggestions, which I’ll post soon.

If you’re one of the continuing Fletcher students who still reads the blog (I know there are a few of you out there), and if you’re waiting for information on your scholarship for 2010-2011:  We hope to notify students in the next two weeks.  (Your award letter will be sent by email.)

Waiting for something not in the list?  Let me know and I’ll try to get you the information you need.

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One Saturday in January, I drove to Hartford, Connecticut to see my friends Joann (from the New York area) and David (from Washington, DC).  Joann and I had long talked about meeting at a point halfway between our homes, and David decided to join us.  We all gathered at the Mark Twain House, which none of us had visited before.  It’s a grand place, and surprising:  If Mark Twain is associated with a river, most people would say it’s the Mississippi, not the Connecticut.  In fact, Twain spent quite a bit of time in Hartford, and a visit to the house gave context to at least one of his well known works.

This past weekend, my husband, Paul, and I took a short drive to Duxbury, Massachusetts.  It’s a quintessential Massachusetts seaside town, but one we had never visited.  The day was beautiful and sunny, and we sat on the beach for a while after visiting yet another surprising museum.  In this case, it was the location that made the family-endowed Art Complex Museum a surprise.  Before we visited, I hadn’t even known of the museum’s existence.  Now I hope to get back there in the fall for an exhibit of Shaker furniture.

I’ve lived around here for a long time, but there’s still a long list of New England sights and sites that await my visit.  The region is marked by its rich history, one that’s well worth exploring.

 

When last I wrote about my daughter Kayla’s trip to Turkey, it was to say that the Icelandic volcano wasn’t interested in allowing her and 20 of her classmates to have this exciting experience.  I’m happy to report that nature finally cooperated, and the group traveled over on Friday, May 21st.  They returned on Sunday, filled with stories of their adventures.

And now, internationalist blog readers, you know what will happen.  Where Turkey was, only a few months ago, just an abstract notion to these 16-year-olds, it will now be a place to which they’ll always feel a connection.  Their ears will perk up a bit at news from Turkey, or they’ll wonder if a person they’ve spotted on the street might be from there.  Maybe they’ll arrange to meet in Teele Square (super close to Fletcher) for dinner at the brand new restaurant, Istanbul’lu.  And I’ve already been warned that Kayla offered our house to all the families who hosted the group for home stays.  You know the deal.  Visiting a place enables a level of understanding that’s nearly unattainable without the visit.

When they received news of the cancellation of the trip in April, their teacher, Mr. N, taught them the phrase hayirlisi olsun.  He also said that, when they finally reached Turkey, he would teach them the meaning of kolay gelsin.  Not wanting to wait for the translation, I reached out to Fletcher students, who explained that the phrase literally means may it come easily.  In fact, the second scheduling of the trip did come easily.  And there’s no easier way to learn about a culture than to visit.

One of the great things about Fletcher is the amazing assortment of places for which students can provide cultural interpretation.  They’ve lived in or visited so many nooks and corners of the globe.  (In fact, the first students to respond to my request for translation help were all non-native speakers of Turkish.)  Now my daughter and her friends are on their way to becoming cultural interpreters.  That’s a gift from their teachers that goes far beyond the week of travel.

 

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