From the monthly archives: January 2012

Blog readers already know that Fletcher students have talents that extend way beyond the classroom.  Today, allow me to introduce Los Fletcheros.  More accurately, I’ll let second-year student and part-time musician Jeffrey Fine do the introduction.  He was writing in answer to my question, “Are you a Fletchero?” and to my request for information about the group:

I am a Fletchero — trumpet.

As a least-common-denominator, we are all from Fletcher, we like to play music to blow off steam, and we have a propensity for throwing epic musical bashes that attract a broad sampling of Fletcher students.  More specifically, Los Fletcheros is an eight-piece band that has its roots in Fletcher’s cultural nights, but has since morphed into a venue-filling ensemble playing cover music from the jazz, funk, classic rock, pop, and alternative genres.  We now have about five shows in the academic year, plus one epic gala at the annual ski trip.  After graduating much talent last year, we recruited two new first-years who will be press-ganging new Fletcheros after six of us graduate in May.

Have musical talent?  Keep the Fletcheros in mind when you’re deciding if Fletcher is the grad school for you.  Otherwise, there may be pressure on the faculty to agree to the request from first-year Fletchero, Joe, to fail Jeff and other second-years Claire, Sam, Fred, Andrew, and Nick.  Joe writes, “I mean, I wish them all the best, of course, but this is rock and roll!”  Don’t let it come to this, future students.  Instead, help out by joining Los Fletcheros in September.

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This time of year can be a challenge for an admissions blogger.  With the need to read applications whenever I can clear a block of time, but with other tasks still drawing my attention, I find it hard to sit down and generate a creative blog post.  I’ve even asked students to report on a few events — but I don’t have time to look at what they’ve sent me right now.  (That’s an indication of how overstretched my brain is feeling — that I don’t have energy to let other people do my work.)

So today’s post will just be a quick update on the topic at the forefront of most readers’ minds:  Are we making progress in compiling and evaluative applications?  And the answer is:  Yes!  Our crack team of student interns and the steady presence of a temporary staffer have resulted in a cleared table in our back office.  No backlog of unopened mail — everything has been opened and filed, either in an alphabetical waiting area, or in your application folder.  No backlog of applications waiting to be updated, either — if your application has been printed and your standardized test score report has arrived, that information has been added to your GAMS record.  There are hundreds of applications ready for our student readers, and they’ve been maintaining a steady flow for us.  We’re in good shape!

The lack of a backlog is particular good news for you.  This is the point when those of you whose application was complete on January 15 will be able to find accurate information on GAMS.  But please note that, if your online recommenders only submitted their letters today, you’ll still need to give us some time to print and update your file.

A very quick word to PhD applicants.  Your applications are well down the pipeline.  The Admissions Committee has completed its first round of evaluation and professors are reviewing dissertation proposals.  Final evaluation will start in February and continue until March.

I’ll be back next week with, I hope, restored creativity.


Vacationing students kept busy on their winter breaks by hosting coffee hours.  Extending the reach of the community, we’re thrilled at how successful the coffee hours have been.  Here are a few reports from the hosts.

MA student Aaron drank coffee in Portland.
I hosted my coffee hour at the Public Domain in Portland, Oregon.  Seeing as how it was on the West Coast of the U.S., some of the folks who attended drove an hour or two to make it, including me.  I was expecting three prospective students, but five showed up and a few folks stopped by my table to check out the brochures and Fletcher name tent I had set up.

The biggest question from my prospective applicants was about the Fletcher “profile.”  Not an easy answer, since I’d say there isn’t one — we’ve got musicians, engineers, athletes, lawyers, military officers, journalists, NGO/Peace Corps volunteers, etc.  Your studies and experience are what count, not where you’re from or what you look like.  Another important point of discussion concerned what people do after Fletcher, and my suggestion was to check the list of Prominent Alumni on Wikipedia — you can get a pretty good idea of the alumni network and career fields, and where you think they fit in with your personal goals.

LLM student Chris drank his coffee in Berlin, Germany.
My coffee hour took place in the center of Berlin, at Café Humboldterrassen overlooking the Berlin Dome and the Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The island’s most famous museum, the Pergamon Museum, shares something important with Fletcher — it was completed in 1933, just when our school was founded.  Three people showed up at the gathering, including Tufts alum.  After a brief introduction, I kicked off the evening with some insights from campus life and what makes our school a very special one.  And to be sure, sitting there, telling the others about Fletcher made me realize once again what an extraordinary experience it is to be part of the Fletcher community.  Where else can you have breakfast with a Pakistani, lunch with a Kenyan, go for dinner with a French student, and party with a Chinese, all while your Australian study group fellow is complaining about the winter weather?

MALD student Kate and MIB student Michael joined forces to drink coffee in Minneapolis.
Kate reports, “We had a great group of engaged, curious prospective students, including a sophomore in college.  Pretty impressive to see a young Fletcherite in training.  I really enjoyed sharing our personal stories about how we chose Fletcher, as it reminded me yet again why this is the place for me. It made me excited and anxious to get back to campus.”

And Michael added that, “Nearly the entire groups of six prospective students stayed for the full two hours.  I’ve fielded several follow-up questions from individuals and have made introductions to other Fletcher students as well.”

Sooyeon met students in Seoul.
I took my laptop with me to the Fletcher Coffee Hour, Seoul edition, half expecting to keep myself busy for the next two hours.  To my pleasant surprise, the first prospective student introduced herself three minutes before the scheduled start time, and five others joined her soon thereafter.  The students didn’t come and go, they came and stayed.  Most of the visitors were in the process of finishing up their application (as the deadline was less than two weeks away), but some were considering applying to Fletcher a year or two in the future. They came with many questions, and as I was sharing my personal experience and views of Fletcher, it was a pleasant reminder to me that Fletcher was where I belonged.  For those who came to learn more about Fletcher, I hope I was able to offer some insights that may not come across while looking at a web page, and I hope they were able to gauge whether Fletcher is a good fit for them.

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This is a Fletcher story:  Of the community that connects us, and about one person’s achievement in uniting the community while improving the world.

The guy on the left in the photo above is Ben Sklaver.  Ben graduated from Fletcher in 2003 and, having volunteered for the Army Reserve, was commissioned when he graduated.  While on active duty in the Horn of Africa, Ben spent considerable time in northern Uganda, where his work often focused on improving access to safe drinking water.  Upon his return to the U.S. in 2007, he founded a non-profit, ClearWater Initiative, to continue that work. ClearWater says that, in its first two years, Ben’s efforts helped provide clean water to several thousand Ugandans, prompting many in the region to refer to him as “Moses Ben.”

In 2009, Ben was redeployed, this time to Afghanistan, where he worked in a civil affairs unit performing work similar to what he had done in Uganda.  On October 2, 2009, at age 32, he was killed by a suicide bomber while on foot patrol in in Kandahar province.

The loss of its visionary leader didn’t stop ClearWater.  The organization says that:

Since Ben’s death, we have worked to fulfill his vision of compassion and hope for those whose lives are challenged by strife and uncertainty.  Our goal has remained the same: to bring water and, ultimately, health and opportunity to those far less fortunate than we are, and in doing this, we have facilitated access to clean water for nearly 7,000 people.  ClearWater Initiative is now a full-time operation with staff in the U.S. and Uganda.  For our fifth anniversary year, we will implement 20 projects in hard-to-reach areas of northern Uganda.  We are proud of all we have accomplished and know that Ben would be amazed to see how far ClearWater has come.

People who have been around Fletcher for a while haven’t forgotten Ben or his story, but he and ClearWater were brought back to my attention recently via a letter from ClearWater’s (volunteer) CEO (and Ben’s classmate), David Abraham ’03.  About Ben, David wrote:

I admired him for his integrity, his respect for others and his decency that sprung from deep within.  He was younger than me, but still would act as an older brother.  He had a wisdom and also a vision of how he could make the world a better place, but never grandiose visions of curing the world of all its ills — just the part he touched.  He searched for creative yet simple solutions to solve complex and seemingly intractable problems in remote parts of the globe.  Inaction was anathema to Ben.  While others talked, he acted.

Along the way, Ben’s Fletcher peers have stepped forward to support, many in a highly active way, his vision.  David’s letter mentions classmates who volunteer as trustees, fundraisers, technical advisors, and overall enthusiastic supporters.  The most recent newsletter highlights a Fletcher alum volunteering in Uganda.  Finally, David goes on to say, “ClearWater is the embodiment of the Fletcher ethos, that through compassion, understanding and dialogue, we can make the world that much better.  ClearWater is a piece of us all.  And I hope you will continue to support us, and help forward Ben’s legacy.”

You can read more about ClearWater’s recent work in its 2010 annual report.  General information is, of course, available on ClearWater’s website.


Whether you submitted your application this past weekend or earlier, the pressure of the deadline probably weighed upon you.  Now, for better or worse, there’s not much you can do but wait.  (I say “not much” rather than “nothing” because, of course, you should make sure your application materials were received and that your file is complete.  Check your GAMS account to be sure.)

We’re making good progress in compiling application files.  From my desk I can see three mounds of applications in some state of completeness — probably about 300 in total.  Time to call our student Committee members in to grab their reading for the weekend.

Meanwhile, you can sit back and put all thoughts of graduate school out of your mind.  More productively, you can use the next two-plus months to continue to learn about the schools to which you’ve applied.  That way, in the spring, you’ll be in a good position to make a decision on where to enroll.  To that end, today I want to point you toward Fletcher’s facebook page, where several students shared photos from their winter break.


This was my weekend for remembering that the Boston area can have a small-town feel. Everywhere I went, I ran into people:  on Saturday at the winter farmers’ market (one of two in Somerville and Cambridge) and, later, at the movies; on Sunday, when we went to see Red at the SpeakEasy Stage Company and then at dinner, when we met Anne, one of last year’s Januarians, and her family.  But funniest was bumping into both Laurie and Kristen at the mall yesterday, when we were all taking care of a few shopping errands.

Now we’re back to work and compiling applications is the theme of the day.  We’re fortunate to have had a crack team of student interns working through the break, with the satisfying result that we’re up to date on processing mail (until a big bag of envelopes arrives later today).  But just printing the applications that were ready on Sunday took two hours, and we know it will be days before all the materials in the office (the applications and their corresponding transcripts, etc.) will be united in a folder.

But being realistic, I know you’re primarily concerned with the progress your own materials are making.  So here’s a summary of how everything happens.  Note that many of these steps (some done by machine and others by humans) are taking place simultaneously:

1.  You hit the online “submit” button.  Your application was “stamped” with the date and time, and will wait within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to submit their letters.  If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program.  (If your recommenders haven’t done their part, it’s your responsibility to remind them that the deadline has passed.)

2.  When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials.  (Note that this means that you don’t receive the email if the application is still waiting for recommendations.)  The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS).  GAMS is the best way to track your application throughout the process.  We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password!

3.   Uploaded applications are printed in batches.  Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you.  (A big moment in the life of your application!)

4.  Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will risk paper cuts and worse while they open an endless stream of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc.  We sort and file the mail.  If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.

5.  Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it.  Then we manually update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail.  You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing.  Emailing a member of the Admissions staff will, at this point in the process, give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS.  And I want to stress here that the aforementioned ten business days are the period during which the humans will be entering information into GAMS.  Keep on top of things, but remember that the registering of your materials won’t happen immediately.

6.  Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.

The bottom line:  Pressing submit is the easy part for you, and receiving online materials is the easy part for us.  The challenge is that most applicants submitted their applications during this past weekend, and it will take us a couple of weeks of mad scrambling to clear the instant backlog and create a thousand-plus application files.

Be sure to stay on top of the status of your application, but try to give us a little time to pull everything together.  By early February (only two weeks away, though we know it can feel like forever), everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.

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Listen up, last minute applicants.  Unless you’re going to do yourself a favor and submit the application today, you’re going to be sending it along while no one is in the Admissions Office.  Please don’t assume this means you have extra time — the applications are “date stamped” when submitted, and you should submit yours by 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5) on Sunday, January 15, if you’re interested in scholarship consideration.

But what happens if you have a technical problem on Sunday?  Step one would be to consult the Application Support page of the Embark website.  Maybe one of their FAQs will have the answer you need.  As it happens, we virtually never hear that someone was unable to submit an application, so I’m sure you’ll be successful with a little perseverance.  But if problems continue, send us an email.  We’ll get back to you as soon as we can on Tuesday.  Yes, that’s right — Tuesday — because the office, along with the rest of Tufts University, is closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. public holiday.

Good luck, everyone.  Looking forward to seeing your applications soon!


Orientation started yesterday for a fresh crop of new students — a small group of Januarians.  A student years ago coined our term for midyear additions to Fletcher, and it has stuck ever since.  The Januarians will have three days of Orientation — a compressed version of the week of activities that precedes the start of classes for new students in September.  (No special name for those students, beyond “Almost Everybody.”)

Newbies or not, it’s still very quiet around here.  And while the Januarians may have arrived, most continuing students will be leaving town for several days of research and networking on the New York Career Trip organized by the Office of Career Services.

Normal Fletcher life will resume on Tuesday.  Of course, normal life for most of Fletcher coincides with our zaniness, as we receive and compile applications for September enrollment.

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I love going to the movies, and my husband, Paul, and I had a two-movie weekend, with our selections representing the yin and the yang of current offerings.  On Saturday, we went to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (for which I settled into my theater seat, knowing I would need a post-film debrief to understand the plot), and on Sunday, we saw The Muppets (no debrief needed).  Suffice it to say, more Muppets than spies were happy at the conclusion of their respective films.

Back at work today, I find the Office of Admissions is also experiencing both yin and yang.  On the one hand, we’re moving into the frenzied pace that marks the heart of the admissions cycle.  There’s the application processing, which is building toward its annual crescendo.  With the new Map Your Future program, we’re also midway through an admissions mini-cycle, figuring out where to fit a January reading and discussion process, having promised MYF applicants a February 1 decision.

On the other hand are the tasks and projects that we expect to complete during the two months following Early Notification and leading to the January 15 deadline.  Our next opportunity to work at a reasonable pace doesn’t come until May, and most projects will be set aside for a while.  Next week we’ll all join in to process applications, with deadline-orientated activities dominating the rest of the winter and early spring.

Having said all of that, the concept of yin and yang calls for a balance between the two, and I appreciate the yin-yang balance of Admissions work.  I value the opportunity to pause, think, and complete long-term projects, but I also look forward to the four fast-action months when we’re getting to know new people through their applications, and to building the class we’ll meet in the fall.


The Admissions Staff will be out of the office today (Thursday) for an all-day meeting at which we’ll plan our activities for the next few months until we can breathe freely again in May.  Students working in the office will be available to answer your questions by phone or email.


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