From the monthly archives: November 2011

Fletcher is a busy place and blog readers are busy people.  How to keep up with everything going on here?  Well, there are many different sources, and the best one depends on how you prefer to receive your news.

For starters, there’s the front page of the Fletcher web site.  The Communications folk put newsworthy stuff up there regularly, and you can find more details on their web page.  For general university info, which may include stories on Fletcher, check out the news page of the Tufts University site, or for a student perspective, the Tufts Daily.  As a former college newspaper writer myself, I’d say the Daily staff does a good job, particularly for a small university with a limited pool of journalists.

Those who prefer to have their news fed to them can “like” Fletcher, as well as Fletcher Admissions, on Facebook.  Once you’re a student, you can even join me and 960+ others by friending Tufts President Anthony MonacoHe tweets, too   As does Fletcher.

If measuring thoughts by character, Twitter style, doesn’t appeal to you, check out Fletcher’s publications to find out what our best student and faculty minds are thinking.  There’s the Fletcher Forum, Praxis, and Al Nakhlah.  For that matter, Praxis and the Fletcher Forum have their own Facebook pages.

Naturally, I want to remind you to read the Admissions Blog regularly.  In fact, you should arrange to keep up with the blog via email or RSS feed.  (Shift your eyes over to the left, and you’ll see the Feedburner box where you can sign up.)  If you’re a Fletcher applicant, the blog is your best source of relevant news.

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We try to keep our application requirements and policies clear, but there are always gray areas, some of which we discover only after launching a new policy.  There’s nothing new about our requirement for an English language assessment as part of the application of non-native speakers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some murky edges to it.  The policy, in the wording of our application instructions, is:

If your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree or graduate degree lasting two or more years) where English was the language of instruction, you are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). A score of 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT), 7 on the IELTS, or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at The Fletcher School.

Seems straightforward enough, but we continue to hear from people whose profiles make the policy seem less than clear.  The first gray-area group includes those who study in their home countries, but English is the language of instruction  When it comes to applicants (such as many from India) whose entire education was in English, there’s nothing to be gained by submitting a score report.  The score is likely to be very high, but won’t provide any new information, and you can save a little money (and paper) when you don’t have a score report sent to us.  On the flip side are those (such as many from Turkey), who have been taught in English only at the university level.  Some of those applicants will still score relatively low on the verbal portion of the GRE or GMAT.  In that case, they would certainly benefit from sending along a TOEFL/IELTS/PTE score.

Another murky area of the policy turns up when we make our admission decisions.  Not infrequently, we’ll require supplemental English study from enrolling applicants who have scored a 102 on the iBT.  The 102 should do the trick for them, but it may not if the subscores are uneven.  We’ll worry about the ability to contribute in class of someone with top scores on reading and writing, but low scores on speaking and listening.  We’ll also worry about someone whose conversation skills are strong, but whose reading and writing are weaker.  Students need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

As an applicant, you should follow the rules.  If we don’t ask for a test score, you don’t need to send one.  But…if you feel that a score on an English assessment will help clarify an aspect of your application, feel free to send it along.  So long as your score is strong enough, you’re all set.  Except…if your skills are not consistent across the four categories, in which case we may ask you to brush up before starting your studies.  Clear or murky?  How you see the policy probably depends on your background.

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I love Thanksgiving, and I always appreciate the extra long holiday weekend.  But meeting our Early Notification goals means reading applications at some point before Monday.  I have a couple of dozen applications — enough to need some time and focus, but not as many as I’ll bring home on a typical February weekend.  So I’ll probably read a few tonight.  Maybe a few tomorrow, while we’re waiting for my cousins to arrive.  The rest?  Well, knowing myself, I predict that Sunday will be organized around application reading.

But first the holiday.  I’ll spend this afternoon baking more than is reasonable, which will put me in a Thanksgiving frame of mind.  I’m trying a new pumpkin pie recipe, as well as some old favorites.  Paul will demonstrate his expertise with stuffing and I’ll cook up the sweet potatoes.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll pursue one of my favorite pre-meal traditions and take a walk.  I live in a busy neighborhood, and I enjoy the quiet that comes when nearly everyone is inside preparing or socializing.  Around 4:00, a cousin who lives locally will arrive at our house with a turkey and everything else that goes with it.  Our annual ritual of food, family, and friends.

Wherever you are, and whatever your holiday traditions may be (or even if you didn’t realize the U.S. is celebrating a holiday this week), I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

(Please note that the Admissions Office will be closed from Thursday through Sunday.)

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With Egypt back in the news, We are Egypt, a documentary film by 2008 Fletcher graduate Lillie Paquette is very timely.  She describes the film as the back-story to the Egyptian revolution, and she has offered screenings throughout the U.S., even as she’s raising funds for post-production and distribution expenses.  Check it out.

 

No.  There is no Fletcher admissions advantage for athletes.  I want to end that rumor right now, despite dramatic successes for three of our teams. Playing in the Tufts intramural league, facing undergraduate (i.e. younger) legs, both the basketball team:

and the volleyball team:

won in their divisions.  Congratulations teams!

Capping off a week of sports action, legendary Fletcher fútbol achieved a top-of-its group win (3-1!) over Harvard Kennedy School in the regional graduate school league.  The Fletcher fútbolers will soon play in the championship tournament, ably captained by second-year MALD students Amos and Sebastián.  First time to the tournament in Fletcher Fútbol history!  Let’s hope that Amos and Sebastián can count on three more goals from first-year MALD students Elia and Christian, as well as one from Sebastián himself.

If you play a little basketball, volleyball, or soccer/fútbol, consider joining your team of choice next fall.  While admission for athletes rests on their experience and academic ability, the same as for anyone else, we’re glad to know that some of the applications we read are from students who will contribute to a winning team.

For the time this fall, I’ll head home today with a small batch of applications to read over the weekend.  Once the files are in my kitchen, I’ll need to remind myself to open them.  It’s easy to forget when they’re conveniently stowed in a bag in the corner.  It’s a whole different situation by February, when the stack of applications piled on a counter will call to me each time I pass by.  I’ve already read a few of the Early Notification applications, and they remind me how much I enjoy this part of my work each year.

 

Early Notification deadline aside, I know it’s November when Fletcher men start sprouting moustaches.  A relatively new Fletcher tradition, first- and second-year students compete to raise funds for men’s health during “Movember.”  As an impartial bystander, I think there’s a little competition for nuttiest approach to fundraising and the ‘stache itself.  There’s even some Mo trash talk, both between the classes of 2012 and 2013, and as the two classes unite to taunt their less successful (by moustache and fundraising standards) peers at the Kennedy School.

While waiting for full moustache splendor to emerge, Movemberists at Fletcher have raised funds through a 15-minute dance party, by sponsoring “design my moustache” auctions, and by patronizing local taverns that offer to donate back a portion of their proceeds for an evening.  All very creative, and for a good cause!  There are still two weeks left in Movember.  Who knows what these moustachioed Fletcher men will do next to boost their fundraising, and in their quest for the perfect mo.

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I’m still having trouble believing that October is over, so imagine my surprise that the first application deadline for September 2012 admission is tomorrow!  Our newly selected student members of the Admissions Committee are already busy reading files, grabbing two last week and two today — a pace that will soon be unsustainably (laughably) slow.  (I think they know that, but we’re glad to allow them to breathe for a few days more.)  Time for me to get going, too!

For the majority of you who have not yet submitted your EN application, it’s not too late to avoid running up against the precise deadline of Tuesday, November 15, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT -5).  Submit your application today, and you can pat yourself on the head that you were early.  Note that the piece that must arrive by the deadline is your online application.  It’s preferred that your recommendations, transcripts, and test scores arrive by tomorrow, too, but please don’t hold your application simply because your professor hasn’t zapped through a letter.

Once you’ve submitted your part of the total file, you can monitor our work through the Graduate Application Management System (find details here).  Fortunately for you ENers, we’ll receive a very manageable number of applications tomorrow, and we can compile files much more quickly than in January.  In fact, the whole turnaround for the EN process is super rapid.  You’ll hear from us well before the end of December (exact date still TBD).

Finally, the decision options for Early Notification fall in three groups.  We may choose to admit applicants (occasionally with a condition, such as additional foreign language study); to defer the decision to the spring, when we’ll look at the application in the context of the larger pile; or to deny.  Last year was the first year we denied some applicants and, while I appreciate how disappointing this is, we believe it’s better for the applicant to have clear information that can be used in deciding which other schools to apply to in January.

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Tuesday’s post, listing all the events I’ll be missing this week, still succeeded in omitting a few.  Because several of the originally included items have a connection to the Security Studies program, I want to correct my error of omission and give readers a better sense of the broad scope of activities each week.

I’ll start with Tuesday evening, when members of the community were invited to participate in an “interdisciplinary, interactive conversation” with Dean Peter Uvin and Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti.  The forum considered, “Navigating Political Risk – Can UNICEF teach Unilever how to succeed in Emerging Markets?

And on Wednesday evening, the Fletcher Seminar on International Conflict presented “Mediating Sudan’s Conflicts: An Inside View from the African Union High Level Panel in the Sudan,” a talk by Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation, which is newly located at Fletcher.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Vana Raye Müller, an organizer of the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, offered an information session about the Symposium.  St. Gallen University is a partner of Fletcher.

Finally, in addition to all those special events, the last in the list of things I did not do this week was to have lunch with our own Dean Jerry Sheehan, who periodically invites students to join him for pizza and a chat about the School.

With these additions to the longer list, it’s no wonder that students and staff alike are ready for the weekend.

 

Here’s one of those little things that pass my inbox and warm my heart.  It was a message to the Social List from a first-year student I’ll call Inquiring Mind (IM).  So IM is new to the U.S. and was curious about an aspect of American culture.  What did he do?  He sent the question out to his crack team of cultural interpreters — the Social List.  IM wrote:

Social List!
I recently became aware of a cross-cultural academic nuance that I had to share.  Apparently it is inappropriate to ask fellow students about their grades here in the U.S.  This is in complete contrast to my educational experience in India where, not only is this a very fair question, you almost never had to ask to find out.  That is because a lot of schools would post the results of the entire student body on public notice boards for everyone to see.  I distinctly remember learning about my grades from friends who had a knack of getting to those notice boards before I did.

There are probably deeper social values at play here that define what is appropriate, and I would like to know your thoughts on it, particularly about the “appropriateness’” of this question.

I love the fact that someone can ask a question like this, with confidence that supportive classmates will help him out.  The answers poured in right away.

Cultural Interpreter #1 wrote:

I wish I had an explanation why.  Maybe it’s because we’re over-achievers and either embarrassed by a bad grade or feel like we’re flaunting our good grades, if we tell others.  But whoever gave you that pearl of wisdom, it’s definitely true.  Unless someone offers to tell you his grade, I wouldn’t ask.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and in some instances — maybe among your study group where you all worked really hard together, or if you know someone was particularly worried about an exam — it would not be inappropriate to ask.  But I’ll bet that if you ask people how they did on an exam or paper, the general response will be, “I did fine” (which I would correlate with an A or A-).  “Not my best work, but it will do,” probably equals an A- or B, depending on the person.  But “Damn, that teacher totally has it out for me” points to less than a B. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

An additional curious international student then wrote:

I’d really be interested to hear more about this.  I am in my fifth academic year as a student in this country, and I’ve noticed many thought-provoking aspects of youth in this society, of social norms and customs both inside and outside the classroom.  I’d love to hear what graduate-level, older students have to say, especially as almost everyone here has had international experience and so many Fletcher students are not American.  Is it really a no-no to reveal one’s grades in the U.S.?

Cultural Interpreter #2 jumped in to say:

I have always assumed it had something to do with the Protestant Work Ethic vibe/Puritan roots of the U.S.:  Hard work is a duty; humility is absolute; privacy is supreme.  Many people don’t abide by those same rules in their day-to-day life, of course, but I recall being told early on in my (public) school never to discuss our academic achievements publicly.  It might be similar to how we don’t talk about money (“How much did your condo cost?”  “How much do you make yearly?”), which in some countries is totally o.k.

Cultural Interpreter #3 took the conversation further, and also added a cultural reference:

Although not officially publicized, everyone knew everyone’s grades among my high school friends.  (Less so in college.)  Yet if the information was not offered and you had to ask, it was awkward.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps the aversion to making grades public has to do with the spirit of promoting self-esteem and eternal optimism that is particularly strong in some American circles?  Taken to its extreme, it’s as if we can’t puncture the illusion that “of course we’re all above average!”

Finally, Cultural Interpreter #4 concluded the conversation:

I think part of it, as well, might have to do with the fact that a lot of us were always conscious that families had different expectations re: what was an “acceptable” grade vs. an “achievement” vs. a “failure” — differences that correspond pretty closely with the cultural diversity found in much of America.  Kids learn early that some families celebrate what other families want to see improve, and discussing grades only reinforces that.  No one wants to hear, “Your parents are rewarding you for a B?  Mine would hire a tutor.”  (Not that I ever said that, but my family was definitely in the latter camp.)  Neither is right or wrong, but as a kid it’s difficult to understand, which means that the question often gets circumvented.

Of course, these are only anecdotal responses, and a future thesis on the topic will require more research.  Still, I feel good when I see this type of connection among students, to the benefit of all.

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