Here we are — January 8.  Already a full week into 2013!  And though the blog has been busy for the past two-plus weeks, I have been out of the office for that time, mostly on a lovely family trip to London, with a short add-on chocolate/waffle-fest in Brussels.  Yesterday, I hosted the Admissions staff in my living room/conference center for our office retreat, but today I finally return to a more typical work day.

Though our focus is on the applications that are currently keeping the printer humming, I thought I’d kick off the new semester by closing out the last one.  During exams (i.e. at an unreasonably inconvenient time), I asked students to answer two questions for me.  Though I only received about a dozen responses, I still want to share them with you.  Even a small sample of Fletcher students can demonstrate the breadth of interests in the community.

My first question:   Did you have a favorite class this semester?  If so, what was it, and what made it a favorite?  The answers:

  • Politics of Violent Conflict in Africa” was a fantastic class.  It was taught by Alex de Waal, one of the world’s foremost experts on East Africa, and the blend between theory and case studies was very powerful.  I could feel my mind being stretched while sitting in it.
  • Professor Klein’s “International Economic Policy Analysis.”  Who knew writing policy memos based on econometric analysis could be so much fun?
  • Prof. Basanez’s “Cultural, Human Values and Development,” was thought provoking and enlightening.  The elements of culture and human values are often forgotten by policymakers in the process of drafting developmental policies.  Even when implementing the same policy in two different countries, the differences in culture will lead to different outcomes.
  • Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance.”  It was a great learning experience to study corporate finance at a school like Fletcher, where people bring in different perspectives to the classroom and study groups, leading to rich discussion on financial transactions compared to a typical finance class at an MBA program.
  • Prof. Martel’s “Foundations of Policy Analysis.”  This class was high energy, covered an important area for future policy makers, and taught me how to write a memo.
  • Prof. Gideon’s, “International Communication” class.  I loved the dynamics between the students, and how comfortable everyone was to throw out witty, sometimes provocative remarks.  Prof. Gideon clearly tries to make the class experience enjoyable without being fluffy.
  • International Negotiations.”  We took part in several simulation exercises that were not only fun, but also intellectually challenging and great learning experiences.  During a day-long simulation, we negotiated the terms of a civil war peace agreement, and my group came up with a Peace Accord that incorporated the interests and positions of both sides.  It was a great way to put in practice what we had learned and to understand from a real-world perspective how I will use these critical skills in my future career.
  • Peace Operations” with Prof. Johnstone.  I love him! and his classes….he is enthusiastic and a great professor.
  • It was a tie between “Role of Force” and “Maritime History and Globalization.”  Both classes were great because of the professors (Shultz and Perry).  They have different styles, but are equally engaging and passionate.
  • I loved Professor Martel’s “Foundations of Policy Analysis.”  He made the class so engaging and interactive, using real life examples and experiences.  Every day I learned something I could directly apply to my career.

If you’d like to read descriptions of each of the courses, you can find them (as well as all the other classes not captured by my limited survey) listed on the pages for each division:  Diplomacy, History and Politics; Economics and International Business; and International Law and Organizations.  My second question to the students was:  Did you learn something special this semester?  Something surprising, or that will be particularly valuable in your future career?  Their answers:

  • The framing of a problem is critical to how you think about it and how you solve it!
  • To ensure sustainability, it is important to seek a balance between the cultures of joy and performance.  Although the World Values Survey is very subjective, its contribution to social sciences is far greater than I would have expected.
  • I learned invaluable quantitative skills in my “Statistical Methods” class with Prof. Nakosteen.  I was anxious about taking the class, since I had no prior academic experience in statistics, but Prof. Nakosteen was a phenomenal teacher, and he made the subject matter engaging and fun.  I’ve gained a whole new set of useful tools that will be of great use in my future career, and I know how to apply them in the real world.
  • I learned to always have an opinion in class and that I need to be able to defend my opinion.
  • I will definitely go back to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations time and again.  Our discussion of it in Prof. Henrikson’s course made me realize just how important it is.
  • I learned that International Law is precarious at best.  I had always assumed that some sort of enforcement bound the law of nations, but found that goodwill is the glue that holds the International Court of Justice together.
  • I feel even more grateful about being at Fletcher this semester — the fact that I am surrounded by these incredibly smart and talented classmates makes my life here really special.  (Sorry if I’m not answering the question…)
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