From the monthly archives: July 2010

Jeff and I chat often about commuting by bicycle, in which we’re joined by student staffers Hania and Virginia.  He has a far longer ride than I do, so I’ll let him spread the word on two-wheeled transport in the area.

Have you thought about bringing a bicycle to campus?  If you have one hanging around, and can easily get it here, you should.  If you don’t have one, consider buying one when you arrive – there are plenty of bike shops in the area, or you can find great inexpensive bikes at a yard sale or through craigslist.  Many students live within a 15-minute walk of campus, but no matter where you are, a bike ride will cut your travel time or expense.  Plus, it’s greener and a great way to exercise.

In an effort to stay active this spring, I decided to start riding my bike to work.  I don’t live too far from Fletcher (about 9 miles) and I figured it would be a good way to wake up and burn some calories in the morning, and to decompress in the afternoon.  I still drive sometimes, or take the T, but I’ve found that I really enjoy cycling.

My bike is fine, but nothing special.  I got it when I was 15, but then I started driving and never used it again.  Recently, I returned home and grabbed it from my mother’s garage.  (It had been sitting there for 15 years and still looks like new.)  I commute through Boston, primarily on Mass Ave., which can be both interesting and intense, and then through Cambridge where the bike lanes begin. At that point, the ride gets a bit more relaxed (though I still have to watch out for opening doors on parked cars).

Boston is becoming more bike friendly by adding bike lanes, installing racks, and allowing bikes on public transportation.  I think Cambridge is ahead of the curve in that regard.  Regardless, I was shocked by how many people I notice biking each morning and afternoon.  To assist with city riding, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville have maps detailing bike routes and cautionary areas.  (Note the steep hill markings by Tufts on the Somerville map.)

Aside from the commute to school, there are many ways to enjoy biking in the area, from the Minuteman Bikeway (an 11 mile trail), to the Charles River Bikeway (18 mile loop), to the Bay Circuit (150 miles winding its way around the Emerald Necklace), to the Middlesex Fells Reservation (numerous trails throughout the 2060 acres). They all contain both walking and riding trails (some also have hiking and cross country skiing), and are quite beautiful any time of year.  Enjoy the weather and the beauty that the area has to offer by taking a bike ride.  If you aren’t yet into cycling, give it a try — you may just end up hooked!

 

I’ve added a new category to the blog page.  Organizing posts on the topic of Paying for Grad School seemed long overdue.  Just knowing the category is there might prompt me to write more on the topic, and not necessarily only about Fletcher policy.  Sometimes it will be more along the lines of, “Stop ignoring this big issue.  Let’s talk about it.”

And here’s the first bit of info.  A short while back, the Admissions staff sat down with our contact in the University’s Student Financial Services office.  She helped us understand better how she puts together a student’s overall financial aid package.  (Within Fletcher, we only award Fletcher scholarships, and have no official responsibility for loan programs.)  She said she often refers students to finaid.org, specifically because of the site’s useful calculators.  Check it out soon!  If you’re just getting started on applying to grad school, now is also the perfect time to start thinking about how you’ll pay for your education.

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Lunch today will be with the staff from the Office of Career Services (OCS).  We like to connect with them periodically to find out what they’re thinking.  The Admissions Office is the first point of contact for students, while the partnership with Career Services continues through to the end of a student’s Fletcher experience and beyond.  Together, we confront an interesting challenge.  A key measure that OCS uses in evaluating itself is through students’ success in finding internships and permanent jobs.  But Admissions needs to select students who both have the potential for employment and, also, will succeed academically during the in-class time leading to graduation.  This is one of the points that keeps our admissions process from becoming formulaic.

Beyond the general content of today’s conversation, we’ll also talk about LLM and MIB, our newest degree programs, and how we work with their applicants/students/alumni.  The first MIB and second LLM classes just graduated, so it’s time to break out the pencils and start analyzing the data they left behind.

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Before the judges even had a chance to rule on the Dessert Baking Contest, I had heard from Kristen that yesterday wasn’t a good day for baking because little Lucia isn’t well.  Maybe it wasn’t a good day for Jeff, either, but he certainly had tons of time to bake:   cupcakes (didn’t release from pan), cookies (several batches — one that melted into a mega cookie, one that the dog ruined, and one that he almost left behind, but threw onto a plate at the last minute), and a rum cake.

As you might guess from Kristen’s unhappy comment on my earlier post, her cookies were delicious but, well, not delicious enough.

Jeff, on the other hand, snagged third prize with the cookies he managed to keep out of the mouth of the dog.

First prize (mini chocolate cake balls) and second prize (strawberry-rhubarb pie) went to other members of the Fletcher staff.

If I’m a lucky blogger, Kristen and Jeff will spend the coming year plotting their revenge.

 

Bored with writing blog posts about appropriate admissions topics, I decided to see if I could goad Kristen and Jeff into a little tiff over who will win today’s Annual Fletcher Barbecue Dessert Baking Contest.  I sent an innocent message to both of them, and here’s the transcript that ensued.  (Kristen works on the fourth floor.  Jeff works right next to me.  Email was the best medium for their trash talk.)

Me: How about a baked-goods smackdown in the blog? Whaddya think?

Kristen: I can’t do that.  I’ve never had a baked good made by Jeff.  He’s all talk.

Me: Sounds like the smackdown is ON!!  (Or will be, once Jeff gets back to the office.)

Kristen: I mean, I think it’s on. Who even knows if Jeff really knows how to cook?  In fact, he should submit a video of himself making the recipe as proof.

Jeff: I got you beat, Zecchi.  I cook, and I cook quite well (although I do ask for guidance and suggestions from time to time — I like to ensure others are happy).  But, as for the cookies, it’s on!  My only question is:  Who will the judges be, and are we allowed to poll them first to ensure we make the cookies to their liking?  Or should we start with the same basic recipe and put our own twist to it?  I will have pictures taken of me in the kitchen. Oh, and if you hadn’t given up sweets last spring, you could have tried the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake I made.  Remember???

Kristen: YOU didn’t make that. You told me Archie did.  But then again, you said it wasn’t great, and if that’s the case, you MUST have been the one who made it.

Jeff: That is a lie!  I totally made it and I take credit for it.  I did say it wasn’t that great, because I forgot it in the oven and may have overcooked it a bit.  Nonetheless, it was still quite tasty, just not as moist as I would have liked.  Oh, I also used the wrong kind of yeast, so the base didn’t rise and was quite dense – hahaha…

Me: Ooooo, Kristen – he accused you of lying!  Are you going to let him get away with that?

Kristen: Jessica, the poker.  You know, what makes this hard is that I really want to say, “Oh, you used the wrong yeast?  Tell me more.  I sometimes overbake things, too.”  But instead I have to say, “What kind of ‘baker’ would use the wrong kind of yeast?”

I do not lie.  Ever.  In fact, I introduced Jeff to our mutual favorite cooking blog. That shows you the kind and generous person that I am.  What does he do?  Bring in something delicious-looking when he KNOWS I can’t eat it.

Jeff: Hmmm.  So, yes, we have both active and instant yeast, and I didn’t look at the label.  I have learned my lesson and shall not make that mistake again.  I shouldn’t have called you a liar; you are in fact a very truthful and generous person.  Thank you for all you do.  However, it’s not my problem that you chose to abstain from sweets.  Also, if I recall correctly, you didn’t even see the delicious treats as you had some lame excuse (my child fell, blah blah) as to why you weren’t able to join us for a fun-filled Saturday of working on financial aid.

Kristen: So typical. I bring my child to the emergency room, and Jeff tries to make me feel bad about it.  THAT’S IT, CARBONE. You’re going DOWN!

Jeff: O.K., reverse.  Let’s take kids out of it.… Zecchi, my cookies are better than your cookies.  My cookies bring all the boys to the yard.

Kristen: Like this?  I’m making it today.

Jeff: Wow.  I can’t write any more, because I can only think of mean things that totally aren’t true.  I can’t even say the other mean things.

Kristen: I’m laughing out loud now.  Not LOL.  Actually laughing.

There you have it, blog readers.  Peace restored to the Admissions staff.  All that remains now is to find out who wins the bake-off:  Kristen?  Jeff?  Or another member of the Fletcher community?  Stay tuned for the results.

 

I’m wrapping up the photo essays today.  First, let’s hear from Roxana, whose Tufts roots run deep:

ASEAN

My photo is of ASEAN Auditorium, one of my favorite spots at Fletcher.  My first exposure to ASEAN was as an undergrad when I took Introduction to International Relations.  (I still remember the course number — PS 151!)  It was one of my first college courses and the first time I had ever taken a class that large.  The auditorium was a different color then (blue, I think), and the seats not as comfortable.  Working at Fletcher now, ASEAN reminds me of Open House and the first day of Orientation, when the first-years file in for a welcome from Dean Bosworth. It also reminds me of Fletcher Follies, when Fletcher students, staff, and faculty have a great time watching skits and videos.  ASEAN is where important lectures, guest speakers, and some classes are held.  It’s a great space and recent renovations made it even better.

As for me, I was among the last to snap my photo.  I’ve worked here for a loooooong time and I knew I could easily think of a bunch of special spots.  I gave everyone else first chance to claim their favorite locations, and lucky for me, no one snagged my top choice.

Leo, no frame

This is a photo of a photo, from among a few dozen that are displayed (thanks to a recent graduating class) on a hallway wall.  The subject of the photo is Professor Leo Gross.  When I first started work at Fletcher, many many moons ago, Prof. Gross was still teaching.  He was my link to Fletcher’s earliest days, as he had joined the faculty in 1944, only 11 years after the School’s founding.  By the time we met, I knew he was no spring chicken, but I didn’t know how far into his 80s he was (and I certainly didn’t know he had been “retired” for many years).  I would hear the enthusiasm of students who studied with him, and I was aware that his scholarly work was well celebrated.  Now that I have worked here for so long, it feels very special to have this connection to Fletcher’s early history, and I’m glad that he’s remembered by students, faculty, and staff who pass his photograph each day.

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Day after summer day, it’s easy for us to run only into other members of the staff (and not many of them).  We might see the occasional student or alum who’s in the building to get something done, or maybe a professor (though I don’t think I’ve seen any member of the faculty in about three weeks).  But, mostly, we feel like we’re alone in the building, just getting our work done.

In fact, though, there has been quite a bit going on here — if not always in full view.  Summer School ran from May 24 to July 2, but with most of the classes starting late in the day, there wasn’t much opportunity to bump into the Summer School students.

Also in June, for a week Fletcher was the site of the Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict. The participants were so busy that we didn’t see them, either — except as they crossed the building en route from classroom to lunch or back.

For the past few weeks, there was a group from Mexico attending the Comparative Program on Adversarial Criminal Justice Systems, a specially organized executive education program in comparative law.  I asked around before writing this, and found out that it’s quite the cool program.  Prof. Basáñez and Prof. Aucoin are the resident faculty, but the group has heard from local judges and court personnel, as well as law faculty from Fletcher and other local law schools.  A big part of the program involved site visits to local courtrooms.  There were a total of 113 participants, primarily judges with a few other employees of the Mexican Supreme Court.  The goal was to help them prepare for impending reforms to Mexico’s judicial system, by exposing them to the workings of adversarial criminal justice systems in other parts of the world.  Interesting!  I saw members of the group chatting happily during lunch a couple of times, but we didn’t have any professional contact.

Finally, this week, there’s a group of GMAPers attending their final residency.  They’ll be here for a couple of weeks, but the program keeps them pretty busy during my working day.  I’ve been catching some early-bird studiers in the Hall of Flags as I come into work in the morning.

None of these groups or programs has brought a crowd into the building, but knowing they’re around keeps us from feeling too lonely.  Personally, I’m nearly at the point when I feel ready for students to return.  I still have a lot on my to-do list and I’ll need more time to get it done.  But I know that, come September, it will be nice to have a more populated building.

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I’ll continue, today, with staff answers to the applicationesque question:

Take a photograph of a spot at Fletcher that is important to you.  Describe the spot, and tell us why you chose it (200 words or less).

Liz tells us:

Liz

I chose to take a picture of the table outside Ginn Library as one of my favorite places at Fletcher.  As with any New England town, Medford experiences its  share of cold, snow, sleet, and ice in the winter months.  Come spring, though, along with beautiful weather, budding trees and sunny skies, also comes the ability to eat lunch outside, which my fellow co-workers and I, along with Fletcher students, take advantage of.  There’s nothing better than being able to take some time from a busy day to go outside and decompress a bit.

Jeff chooses to take a photo of photos in the Fletcher Perspectives Gallery.

THIS ONE!!!

The Perspectives Gallery is one of my favorite places to visit at Fletcher.  This hallway truly embodies the spirit of the community.  Students, faculty, and staff create photo journals of their time in various parts of the world while studying, working, or traveling for pleasure.  When visiting the gallery I always learn something new and also reminisce about my own experiences.  The same is true when speaking with current Fletcher students.  Everyone I meet, through the admissions process or on campus, has inspiring stories to share.  Fletcher is such a diverse place, and the Perspectives Gallery provides a glimpse into why the community is so special.  Take a look at the Fletcher Perspectives website to see for yourself!  Photographs from the exhibit can be purchased for $20, and all of the proceeds are donated to the UN Office of Children and Armed Conflict to assist with the rehabilitation of child soldiers.

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When Laurie and I first joined the Fletcher Admissions Office, the application included an essay question that went more or less like this:

Imagine you have taken a picture of something that will help the Admissions Committee learn about you.  Describe the item in the photograph.  (250 words or less)

With that essay in mind, I gave my Admissions pals an assignment:

Take a photograph of a spot at Fletcher that is important to you.  Describe the spot, and tell us why you chose it (200 words or less).

I hope the photos and descriptions will give you a little insight into us and our work.  I’ll start them off today and continue in posts for the next week or so.  First up, Peter, because his favorite spot connects to his earliest days at Fletcher.

Murrow 130

The Edward R. Murrow Room featured prominently in my first impression of Fletcher, as it was where my interview was held almost four years ago, and it continues to be an integral part of my Fletcher experience.  We hold most of our Admissions Information Sessions there and, in the winter, the Committee on Admissions spends the bulk of our Friday mornings discussing applications around the room’s big wooden table.  We’re surrounded by Mr. Murrow’s plaques, awards, pictures, books, news clippings, and furniture — including my favorite item:  his old leather massage chair.  There’s a lot of history represented in this dark, cozy room and much to be learned from browsing the walls and bookcases.  (Did you know that the term “Public Diplomacy” was actually coined at Fletcher?)  Unfortunately for the photography portion of my blog assignment, the Edward R. Murrow Room at Fletcher is currently undergoing a major renovation:  one that involves temporary removal of nearly everything (alas, even the chair), and covering the windows, walls, and light fixtures in plastic sheets.

Next up, Kristen:

Kristen will use this one

This bland little corner and empty table aren’t very visually compelling, but they do represent something important about my work here and the culture of Fletcher more generally: our collaborative, personal approach to education.  This is the meeting table in my office, and I spend a lot of time here.  Very often, I will first meet around the table with students when they are just beginning to learn about Fletcher, and then again for a formal interview, and then many times more during their years at Fletcher.  It’s a pleasure for me to be able to be a part of their graduate school process, from beginning to end, and I know my colleagues feel the same.

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Yesterday I received a note from an incoming student who included a link to his blog.  Great idea!  It would be wonderful to feature the pre-Fletcher work that readers are doing, and I’d love to post some links.

So…if you’ll be starting at Fletcher in September (or if you have deferred your enrollment to January or September 2011), please send me a link to your blog by email.  Include your first and last names, along with a sentence or two that tells me what you’re writing about.  Looking forward to hearing from you and reading your blog!

 

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