From the monthly archives: June 2012

Just when we had become accustomed to seeing vast areas of Fletcher unpopulated by students, along comes a group of eager learners sporting name tags.  They’re here this week for a Summer Institute that Fletcher offers jointly with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict.  I’ll let the Institute organizers describe the program:

The Fletcher Summer Institute is an intensive one-week executive education program on the advanced study of nonviolent conflict and civil resistance. The program is held annually at the Fletcher School for a variety of international professionals, journalists, campaign organizers, coordinators, scholars, and policy analysts.

As cases of civil resistance multiply, it is essential that international professionals, journalists, scholars, and policy analysts understand how this form of struggle is generated, the strategies that make it effective, and how it can be fostered and learned.  The Institute will address these and other issues, such as: How are nonviolent movements sustained and democratic transitions completed? How do movements deal with violent flanks as well as extreme repression? Historical and contemporary cases will be examined, including campaigns for social and environmental rights as well as political struggles against foreign occupiers and authoritarian rulers.

Both the participants’ presence at Fletcher and the Institute content seem very timely!


In Bangkok?  Join a Fletcher student for coffee tonight.  Or, if you’re in Istanbul, have a Turkish coffee with a student tomorrow (Wednesday) night.  The Coffee Hours are off and perking, with Frankfurt rounding out the first week.

(Note that we used to call these events Summer Coffee Hours, but in recognition that it’s winter in many Coffee Hour locations, we’ve gone season-neutral.)

Not sure whether you should attend a Coffee Hour?  Thinking that you haven’t researched your grad school options enough?  Or maybe you’ve researched them too much?  Or even that you’re an admitted student, so what could be gained?  Fear not!  These are super casual conversations that can range from Fletcher’s curricular offerings to where to find a good burrito near Tufts.  There’s no set agenda — just a conversation between prospective grad school classmates.  I hope you’ll want to join in, wherever you are!

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It is hot hot hot today, but on another day, when a walk outside would be more enjoyable, I’m going to saunter over to the gallery at the Aidekman Arts Center to check out two new exhibits.  The first is The Boston–Jo’burg Connection — interesting art with an interesting back-story.

Rounding out my cultural field trip will be a second exhibit — photographs by university photographers.  Though most of the pix are not closely linked to Fletcher life, I like to imagine that our students get out into the greater community now and then.

If you visit Fletcher this summer, consider leaving a little time to wander around the Tufts campus and check out the Arts Center.  But if you don’t have time to cross campus, you don’t need to go culture-free.  The Fletcher Perspectives exhibit of student photography is conveniently located in Ginn Library.

Perspectives is a student-run organization and it has just emerged from a year’s hiatus.  The photos currently on display represent a variety of styles and locations, including this one from Turkey.

No plans for a visit this summer?  Check out the complete collection online.

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Personally, I don’t quite feel ready to start a new admissions cycle, but my foot-dragging doesn’t mean that we’re not there already.  Members of our staff are already on the road, and I’ve answered quite a few questions from proactive 2013 applicants.  Thus reminded that other people are thinking about their futures, now seems like a good time to offer a few suggestions.  For those who are trying to gear up their own graduate school application process, what’s worth doing in the summer?

First, if now’s the best time for you to do your research, consider attending one of the fairs at which Fletcher will be represented, or join us for coffee, or come to campus for an information session and a look around.  I always want to be honest and say that Fletcher is a much more dynamic place in September than in July, but schedules are what they are, and you shouldn’t skip a visit in July if it’s your only opportunity.

Second, you can kick off your application preparation.  Don’t start the online application yet — the new app won’t be available until later this summer — but you can get ready.  If you haven’t taken your standardized tests yet, get them on the calendar, and then start to practice for them.  I generally think people don’t get smarter just because they study for the GRE, but they do become better prepared for the GRE — and that counts for a lot in a timed test.  The more practice you do, the more confident you’ll feel in the test environment.  Same for the TOEFL, IELTS, or GMAT.

And speaking of the GMAT, there have been some changes to the exam.  If you’ve taken the GMAT before, you’ll want to make sure you know how it has changed.  Fortunately for us, the changes are not as dramatic as those we endured last year with the GRE.  No chaos expected.

Next, it’s a good time to pour yourself a nice glass of iced tea, park yourself under a tree, and think about why you want to attend a graduate professional school of international affairs.  Most schools you’ll apply to will ask you about your professional and academic objectives, and you should have a nice crisp answer to the question, however it is worded.  Also think about your personal story and what makes you prepared for graduate studies.  Once you have it all thought out, you’ll be able to answer most of the essay questions you confront without much further thought.

I don’t want to overwork you in the summer (assuming it’s summer where you are), so I’ll stop here for now.  Just a little preparatory work that will help you out when it’s time to put together your applications.

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A nice little note came our way recently from the University.  Here’s how it started:

The Office of the Vice Provost is pleased to announce the 2012 recipients of Tufts Collaborates! seed grants. This program, introduced by the Office of the Vice Provost in December 2010, is designed to spark scholarship, research and creative work resulting from cross-disciplinary faculty collaboration. The goal of this program is to establish collaborative research efforts that will likely result in competitive research proposals to federal and foundation granting agencies, and enhance interdisciplinary research across Tufts University for years to come.

Funding decisions were made through a peer review process including faculty and administrative staff and were based on several criteria, including the intellectual merits of the project, potential impact on interdisciplinary research at Tufts University, and the likelihood of the proposed project enabling the collaborators to submit a competitive grant proposal.

It’s impossible not to like the idea of interdisciplinary research, given that Fletcher is just that kind of cross-disciplinary place.  Many of the grant recipients were in the sciences.  Here are some examples of grants, and their objectives, that are a distance from what people do at Fletcher:

Crystallization Trials on the Vacuolar ATPase (Determine the high resolution structure by X-ray crystallography of the V-ATPase complex, an ATP-dependent proton pump that plays a role in both normal physiology and human disease. )
Calpain-1 Inhibition for the Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease (Determine if pharmacological inhibition of calpain-1 by a novel membrane-permeable inhibitor, BDA-410, will reduce the calcium-induced cellular damage in sickle red blood cells. )
Interactions between Pharmaceuticals and Microbes in the Environment: Population Dynamics, Enzyme Regulation and Contaminant Degradation (Discover how pharmaceuticals and microbes influence one another in the environment using a combination of high throughput DNA sequencing and chemical analyses.)

As I mentioned last week, Tufts is a University with a broad reach.

But closer to home, I’m happy to note that Fletcher’s Academic Dean, Prof. Peter Uvin, is a member of a collaborating team.  The topic, the team, and the objectives are:

An Inquiry into the Historical and Ideological Roots of Development and Humanitarianism
David Ekbladh, History, Arts and Sciences
Heather Curtis, Religion, Arts and Sciences
Peter Uvin, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Implement an extended workshop at Tufts to bring leading figures from a range of disciplines who focus on elements critical to the history, constitution, and practice of humanitarianism and development.

Congratulations, Dean Uvin and team!


Kristen has been hard at work recruiting students who would like to meet prospective applicants wherever they’re spending the summer.  This “coffee hour” model has been really successful, enabling us to extend Fletcher’s reach in a simple (and enjoyable) way.  Check out the growing list of cities, and book yourself in.  Note that if the city name is not yet linked to a sign-up page, we’re still ironing out details — check back again soon!  We’ll also post updates on the Admissions facebook page whenever we add locations or times.

Once you sign up, you just wait for the day, head on over, pick up a cup of coffee, and learn more about Fletcher from our best ambassadors — our students!

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In just a few minutes, I’ll be heading across campus to a university-wide event celebrating the recipients of the 2012 Tufts Distinction Awards.  And one of the awardees this year is Fletcher Admissions’s own Laurie Hurley, who has been recognized in the Extra Mile category.  Laurie is truly an Extra Miler — a double Jumbo with a special dedication to Tufts!  And Fletcher applicants benefit annually from the tone Laurie sets for our work.

The complete list of recipients shows the breadth of Tufts University.  With each year’s awards (particularly the three years that I served on the selection committee), I have learned something new about running a veterinary school, providing dental care from an academic setting, guiding future doctors, or supporting undergraduates.  By U.S. standards, Tufts is a small university, but it is one with unusual reach.

So off we go to celebrate Laurie’s accomplishments!  Congratulations, Laurie!!


On Monday, I noted that most of the students’ advice fell neatly into several categories, but there are some odds and ends that are still worth passing along.  For example, on financial readiness:

Save money because funds get depleted faster than you can imagine as a student.

Save a bit more more money for unexpected expenses.

I invested some of my money, so I could “earn” some returns….I bought a new lighter computer, as I would have to carry it all around campus.  I financed it by selling my old laptop.

On a few practical matters:

I looked at moving options. Because there were many of us coming from D.C., we were able to split the moving fees.

In general, any time-consuming task that can be done in advance, I recommend it doing it and getting it out of the way. You’ll need all the time you can get at Fletcher.

On pre-Fletcher reading:

I wish I had spent more time reading fiction.

I recommend reading many books that do not seem to relate our field of study.  You might not have much time to read books out of the IR field after the fall semester starts.

Enjoy reading a good novel since you won’t be reading much besides journal articles, assigned books and texts for the next nine months!  Although all those readings will be very interesting, I wish I had more time to read fun books :).

On not preparing (and an appropriate final suggestion):

Don’t do anything.  Just relax and have a good summer.  You’ll be fine.

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One area of advice I didn’t anticipate from students, but which makes total sense, was that incoming students should step back and evaluate their goals for Fletcher.  Those who focused their advice in this area said:

I wrote down a list of personal goals for the two years.  Academic and professional goals are pretty easy to come by, and you’ll get a lot of structured support at Fletcher in those areas.  But I definitely recommend thinking about what you personally want to get out of the experience.  I refer back to that list I wrote two years ago all the time as I try to prioritize, or just to get some perspective.

Set goals that you want to accomplish during your Fletcher education (specific skills to be gained, etc.).  Identify the skills you will need to pursue the career you want after graduation.  Talk to current Fletcher students, Fletcher alumni, AND alumni of the other APSIA schools (so that you know who you will be competing against when you graduate!).

I wish that I had taken the time to sit down and bullet-point my goals for grad school. What skills do I want to get out of this?  What do I want to improve/work on?  What do I want to learn that is completely new to me?  Yes, all of these things change and evolve, but once you’re in it, you’re so caught up in the excitement that it is hard to extract yourself back to that initial bird’s-eye view.

There were also a few students who wished they had done a little more internship/job/career planning in the summer before they enrolled:

I wish I had made a greater effort to connect with Fletcher grads in the D.C. area (where I was based prior to Fletcher). Having connections helps a lot with internship leads.

If you have a sense of what kind of internship you want to do in the summer between the first and second years, start gathering information early.  The more you wait, the more stressful it will get, as you’ll have to deal with many other obligations: papers, exams, etc…

It would be a great use of time to get in touch with people in the fields that you might be interested in working in, and do informational interviews by phone or in person. This would help guide your studies at Fletcher (very helpful given that the flexible curriculum offers options that can be hard to choose between), and the networking you do now would probably set you up well for getting back in touch regarding an internship or a job later on.

Tomorrow…the rest of the advice.

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Continuing with the theme of this week, today’s post includes the advice that current students offered incoming students regarding improving specific skills.  Here’s what they said:

If you need to, consider doing some language immersion to prepare for the foreign language exam, and take the test as soon as possible.

Bone up on your language and get the oral and written exams out of the way. This is especially true if you do not feel confident in your language skills.

I brushed up on foreign language skills using “TellMeMore,” which I think is better than Rosetta Stone if you already have some knowledge of the language.  I also reviewed economics as well.

To prepare for my language exam, I read the news in my language every day.  The content of a high quality newspaper is similar to what you’ll see on the written part of the exam, so I found that hugely helpful.

I took an intensive language course — it was a great experience (in Guatemala) and helped me to pass both written & oral exams the first time.

During Orientation week, the workshop on the citation software RefWorks was interesting, but also overwhelming. Using RefWorks is not absolutely necessary at Fletcher, though it can be helpful. However, it requires an initial investment in learning how to use it.  I would recommend either getting familiar with it before Orientation at Fletcher, or disregarding it.

For non-native English speakers, or those unfamiliar with the education system in the U.S.:

I looked more into what it means to write research papers, attend large classes, and aspects of the system of grading such as “grading on a curve” — in a word, facets of student life in the United States with which I was not so familiar.

1. I suggest English preparation, especially writing.  2. I researched Fletcher, Tufts, Boston and Somerville/Medford.  3. I talked to my undergraduate professors who studied in the U.S. to get a sense of what it would be like to study abroad and to plan my study fields.

But there will always be those who disagree.  Among those who wouldn’t do the prep work again, are two who said:

It wasn’t necessary to try to fill gaps in my skills — there were plenty of opportunities to do that at Fletcher.

If you’re planning on taking the Economics 201 placement exam, don’t spend too much time studying for it — it’s really easy.  A couple of weeks reviewing some very basic concepts should do it.

Of course, blog readers, that last comment might come from an economics whiz so, as with all this advice, keep your own situation in mind before deciding what to do.

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