From the monthly archives: December 2010

Every so often, I ask students for blog input — sometimes in the form of their own post, but other times I only want a sentence or two.  That’s when I’m most likely to be surprised and impressed at how much energy they’ll put into something that advances my work but, to be honest, doesn’t do as much for them.

A week or so ago, via the Social List, I asked student organization leaders to tell me what their groups have been up to.  An applicant had asked me about student groups, and I felt that what you could find on the web site or the the calendar listings doesn’t do justice to the richness of Fletcher student life.

This is the first of the posts in which I’ll share the responses I received, with credit to the student who sent each update.  They’re in no particular order, but I hope that together they’ll give blog readers an idea of the many activities that enrich the academic and social life of Fletcher students.

The Fletcher Youth Initiative is focused on youth development and education issues both locally, here in Somerville/Boston, and throughout the world.  This Spring we are extremely excited to be hosting our annual youth conference through which we reach out to local high school students and invite them to come to Fletcher, learn about the field of International Relations, and engage with current Fletcherites about how this diverse and dynamic field can impact their lives.

Seth describes two organizations:
This semester, the Social Business Club conducted a workshop on models for social businesses from around the world, and discussed their relative strengths and weaknesses.  We hosted Daniel Fireside from Equal Exchange (oldest and largest Fair Trade company in the United States) at Fletcher for a discussion on financing and operations.  Looking ahead to the Spring, students are organizing to participate in the Tufts Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Contest, with $50,000 available in prize money.

Students in the Fletcher International Law Society are writing an amicus curiae brief for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, focusing on the construction of dialogues in consultation as a means to resolve the conflicting obligations of protection for foreign investment and indigenous peoples.

The Latin America Group has been very active.  First we organized a Symposium on Colombia and Venezuela Affairs with lots of great speakers, including Michael Shifter, the President of the Inter-American Dialogue.  We also had a Latin American wine and cheese night attended by about 40 students.  We hosted a talk by a Colombian labor leader about poor conditions at a mine in northern Colombia, run by a major foreign company, that provides much of the coal that fuels Massachusetts.  Last, we screened the film Oscar’s Cuba, about Cuban prisoner of conscience Oscar Biscet and the human rights situation on the island, which included a live Q&A with the film’s director.  Next semester we organize and host Latin Night!

The Foreign Language Conversation Club coordinates language tables for students who want to practice their conversation skills in English, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese.  The Latin America Group coordinates the Spanish and Portuguese sessions.

Jeffrey also writes about two groups:
The Fletcher Foreign Service Club (AKA Fletcher Diplomacy Club) meets to discuss the Foreign Service Exam process.  Many of the Pickering Fellows and those who have passed the exam make it much less intimidating for us hopefuls.  We even have practice sessions, and share knowledge on the career.

Tufts University Water Polo Club: Yes, it is the U, and not Fletcher-only, but it’s a club sport, so grad students are eligible.  I’m passionate about the sport, and it helps keep me balanced against the academic load.  Plus, the undergrads here love our involvement and it’s a great way to branch out into the greater Tufts community.

That’s all for today’s installment.  More to follow later this week!

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The following comes from Peter, who organizes our online chats:

As winter approaches and our various application deadlines grow near, you might be thinking more seriously about graduate school and starting to pull together the various pieces of your application to Fletcher.  You may have a few questions to which you can’t quite locate an answer on our website, or perhaps you’d like to get a current student’s perspective on Fletcher life.

This week, we’re bringing together members of the Fletcher community to help answer your questions in two online forums.  Joining those of us from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be staff members from the Office of Career Services and the Office of Student Academic Programs.  We’ll also have a small group of current students on hand, eager to tell you about their experiences at Fletcher.

To participate, visit this page at the dates and times listed below:

Tuesday, December 7th, 9:30 to 10:30 AM (EST)
Thursday, December 9th, 12:30 to 1:30 PM (EST)

If you are unable to participate this time around, don’t worry — we will hold additional chats in January.  The dates and times for future chats will be announced via e-mail, so if you haven’t already connected with us, we encourage you to sign up here.

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We don’t usually have the luxury of counting on student readers when we review applications for January enrollment, and the Admissions Committee meets only in small groups throughout the fall.  It isn’t until we start the Early Notification process that we bring in our full forces — this year including the Admissions staff, three professors, and eight students — and we’re just about to have our inaugural meeting.

I look forward to the first meeting every year.  It’s my chance to see how everyone gets along, who is going to be forthcoming with comments and who is going to hold back a bit.  It’s also a golden opportunity for the students to figure out if they’re picking up on the right points and to make mental notes to adjust their criteria for the future.  (Fortunately, having multiple layers of student, staff, and faculty review, particularly on these first applications, we can be sure that no applicants suffer for having their materials reviewed by a newbie.)

So now I’m ready with all the essential equipment for a four-hour meeting — my cup of tea, my water bottle, my blue and red pens, and the papers I need to distribute.  I’m off to Committee!


Most students apply to Fletcher for the semester they intend to start their studies.  For some, more time elapses between the application and enrollment.  But few have quite as long a relationship with Fletcher’s Admissions Office as Ho-Ming.  Here’s her story:

Hello.  I’m Ho-Ming, a first-year MALD candidate.  My Fields of Study will likely be Public International Law and Human Security.  I have the pleasure of volunteering as a student interviewer and, at Jessica’s suggestion, am taking this opportunity to share a little bit about the long route that brought me to Fletcher.

Growing up in East and Southeast Asia, I had always been interested in the intersection between public sector service delivery and governance.  I came to the U.S. for undergraduate studies and majored in Chinese Politics.  Though interested in international development, I felt I should complete some necessary schooling first and explore career trajectories after.  After graduating, I spent a year researching China, both there and in the U.S., and applied to PhD programs in political science.  While I waited for decisions, though, I had realized that it made little sense to return to grad school in the U.S., when I could be working in the places and on the issues I wanted to study.  I deferred indefinitely with no idea what I wanted to do, or what a development career would actually mean.  After an additional year of indecision, I decided that I would apply to Fletcher, complete my professional degree, and then (I thought) doors would open up and life would solve the mystery of what to do, and how to do it.

Then I learned I was denied admission to Fletcher.  Since I was in the area, I stopped by the Admissions Office to chat with Jessica and to get feedback on my application.  Our conversation was key in encouraging me to take crucial steps to figure out my interests, so that I could shape my career and life to answer the questions so integral to the Fletcher community: What is my part in the world, and how can I make it, and the world, better?

Even while waiting for my admission decision, I was applying for opportunities to gain work experience in international development, and an INGO in Vietnam offered me a position. I reapplied to Fletcher after a year working in Vietnam, during which I met mentors, colleagues, and friends who continue to be some of the most thought-provoking and thoughtful people I know.  I also met Fletcher alumni and a former professor, all of whom reflected a caliber of idealism and pragmatism that continue to inspire me.  I finally received notification in winter 2008 that I had been admitted, but, wanting to follow through on what I had learned so far, deferred my enrollment for a year to continue working.

After all this time, I finally matriculated this fall.  I would not trade for anything the three years between my first application and starting classes.  Working in the field has been invaluable, and it helps me contextualize my courses and my fellow students’ experiences in a way that I couldn’t have, had I not taken the time to venture off into — what had seemed at the time to be — the unknown.  Not unrelated, I met my three roommates while we were all working in Vietnam.  That they all reflect the intelligence and thoughtfulness widespread at Fletcher goes without saying.  That they happen to be some of my favorite people in this world is an added bonus.

Wherever you are in your application process, I know that all the paperwork can be daunting and frustrating.  And being asked repeatedly what you have done and what you want to do for the rest of your life just adds to that frustration.  But, truthfully, that is one of the things I have come to appreciate most:  If you choose Fletcher, you’ll find a place that supports thoughtful formulation of answers to these questions.  Better yet, it is a place that expects you to keep asking them.


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