From the monthly archives: June 2011

It’s a hot day around here — a good one for thinking about summer reading, even though spending a day with a book isn’t on the Admissions Office agenda.  For blog readers, the first suggestion list-within-a-list for today comes from Prof. Hess, who’s got you covered if you may be taking his DHP D260 or D267 class this September.  Prof. Hess suggests:

Jihad in Saudi Arabia:  Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979, by Thomas Hegghammer 
The Long Divergence:  How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East
, by Timur Kuran 
The Iran Primer:  Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
, by Robin Wright 
Afghanistan:  A Cultural and Political History
, by Thomas Barfield 
A World Without Islam
, by Graham E. Fuller 
How Capitalism Was Built:  The Transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia
, by Anders Aslund 
Black Garden:  Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
, by Thomas de Waal

In response to my request, Prof. Perry told me the first book that came to mind is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which he said is, “appropriate for Fletcher because it is cross-disciplinary — an anthropologist takes up an historical subject — and because it is jargon-free, a relief from so much that students must read.”

Finally (for today), Prof. Chayes keeps her recommendation in the family, by “heartily” recommending The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, by Sarah Chayes.  She notes that, “It has been much used by military and civilians alike in Afghanistan.”  And then Prof. Chayes offers an antidote for all this serious reading — a fiction selection:   Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.  “Fascinating on the intrigues of government in the era of Henry VIII — much has not changed!”

Next week, I’ll point you toward some new work by the professors themselves.

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In an annual ritual, a few weeks ago I asked the Fletcher faculty to recommend books for those who may want to pack a little preparatory reading into their pre-Fletcher summer.  There’s really no obligation to cast aside your beach-worthy paperbacks!  But, for those who want to feel more firmly on the grad school train, I’m happy to pass along some picks from the professors.

I’ll start with Prof. Uvin, who always comes through with some out-of-the-box choices.  He wrote:

The best books I have read this year are Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (a novel of the Vietnam War that brings war to life in a direct way I have never read before) and K Blows Top by Peter Carlson (a hysterically funny non-fiction book of Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S. in 1959 — pure Vonnegut, but all real!).  I am currently reading The Information by James Gleick, which is a stunningly ambitious, well-written and interesting book so far.  I am drowning in information already, and yet this book is a true pleasure in getting me to think differently about the flood I am in….

Next, even before I asked the professors, students were asking, and I happened to see the response of Prof. Fawaz to an inquiry about books on Syria’s politics, foreign policy, or history.  (Timely reading for any of us right now.)  Rather than provide a limited book list, Prof. Fawaz pointed the student toward several authors:  Abdul-Karim Rafeq, Hanna Batatu, Patrick Seale, Raymond Hinnebusch, and Steve Heydeman.

And, in response to my request, Prof. Blackhurst (who teaches in Fletcher’s GMAP program) reaffirmed a choice from last year, Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman.  Prof. Blackhurst calls it “easy-to-understand economics,” and said, “Every essay in the book is very relevant to the Fletcher program.”

I’ll pass along the remaining suggestions in the next week or two.  Meanwhile, you can find previous years’ lists in the archives:  2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.  (There is more than one post in some years.  You can scroll through all the choices by going to the Our Faculty category.)

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Applicants and incoming students often ask about the opportunity to find teaching assistant positions while at Fletcher.  One of our newly-minted alumni, Amy Patanasinth, shares her reflections on working as a teaching assistant this past semester.  As you’ll see, she has followed the common protocol of using TA as a verb, with TAed being the past tense.

This past spring semester, I was a Teaching Assistant with the History Department.  I TAed for Professor Jeanne Penvenne’s course “Historical Perspectives on Contemporary African Crises.”  As a double Jumbo, I had stayed in touch with some professors from my days as a Tufts history and international relations major, and one of them recommended me for the TA position.  For most Fletcher students, the best way to find a TA position is to email the chair of the department in which you’re interested.  Fletcher students have TAed for the History, Political Science, and Peace and Justice Studies departments, among others, in the past.  Different departments have different application processes; however, most consist simply of sending off your resume — be sure to highlight any teaching experience you may have.

At Fletcher, one of the areas that I studied was Africa, so the course was a great fit.  I was responsible for a quarter of all of the grading for a 74-person class and for holding weekly office hours.  Since I couldn’t attend the class sessions (due to a conflict with one of my own classes), the office hours were a great way to connect with really bright undergraduates.

TAing was a lot of work, and the timing (my last semester at Fletcher) may not have been the best for me (though professors seem to prefer second-year students).  Still, I really enjoyed working closely with the professor, and I learned a lot.

 

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