From the monthly archives: April 2013

Today is the last day of classes for the spring 2013 semester, and it’s also the last day of Fletcher classes for (Dear) Ariel.  There are many second-year students I will wish to thank in person or in the blog for their contributions to the community, and Ariel will be the first.

Ariel started work as an Admissions Intern in September 2011 and she is the quiet super-charged engine of the student staff.  There’s no task that she doesn’t complete efficiently, and that includes writing a Dear Ariel column.  A typical week had me sauntering over to her on a Tuesday at noon and asking if, based on questions turning up by email, she had any ideas for a blog post.  By 12:30, a perfect piece of writing was in my inbox.

Ariel’s final column today returns to the basics of advising prospective applicants.  Next year I’ll face the challenge of finding another writer who may come close to Ariel’s efficiency and skill.  For now:  Thanks, Dear Ariel!

Dear Ariel: Is my GPA competitive for Fletcher?

ArielEvery student admitted by Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions must be able to succeed in Fletcher classes, and the applicant’s academic profile is the most important aspect of an application.  But academic potential (which is indicated primarily by GPA, test scores, and recommendations) is still only one part of the application.  We seek students who, by virtue of their background, achievement, and experience, can contribute to the education of their peers and to the scholarship and practice of international relations.  Even a strong GPA, in the absence of international and professional experience, does not guarantee admission.  Since Fletcher students come from a broad range of educational backgrounds that utilize different grading scales, calculating an average GPA for all admitted students is impossible.  Among admitted students who attended colleges or universities using a 4.0 scale, the middle fifty percent of GPAs has fallen in the range of 3.4 to 3.8 in recent years.

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Returning to the questions blog readers asked me to cover this spring, Mirza is going to describe options for cross-registration.  The opportunity to cross-register for up to a quarter of the classes a student takes toward a Fletcher degree is one of the factors that makes us say that no two students graduate with exactly the same curriculum.

One of the many great options at Fletcher is cross-registering at other graduate units of Tufts or Harvard University, or even beyond.  (Keep in mind that MALD or MIB students are allowed to cross-register for four classes total during the two years at Fletcher.)  With so many great higher education institutions in Boston, such cooperation and sharing of resources among different schools makes sense and you should by all means take full advantage.

Currently, in my second semester at Fletcher, I am taking two classes at Harvard — one at Harvard Kennedy School (Values, Interests and the Crafting of U.S. Foreign Policy) and one at Harvard Law School (Political Economy After the Crisis).  They have both been challenging but intellectually rewarding, and have offered a slightly different perspective and learning environment from Fletcher.  Combining such outside academic experience with the Fletcher experience has been, at least for me, extremely valuable.

Not everyone, however, will find cross-registering beneficial to their academic and professional path.  For some, Fletcher offers exactly what they need, and this is perfectly fine.  It can also be overwhelming to browse through hundreds of captivating courses at other schools, in addition to over a hundred amazing courses at Fletcher.  Still, it is an option well worth keeping in mind as you think about the courses and fields that you’d like to pursue while in graduate school.  One piece of advice is that you should not cross-register during your first semester at Fletcher.  The incipient relationships that you form with your classmates are quite important, and you don’t want to hinder that vital component of the graduate school experience.  As you settle in, however, venturing outside of Fletcher and Tufts will not be a problem, and will likely add considerable value to your academic growth.

Like almost everything in life, there are pros and cons to cross-registering.  Here are a few tips, based on my experience, to keep in mind should you wish to cross-register:

  • A different perspective (Always a good thing.)
  • A new network (Also always a good thing.)
  • A better awareness of the many free events, lectures, and seminars in the area.  (These are the activities from which you will learn a whole lot — really worth exploring, and Harvard offers a great deal of them, all throughout the academic year.)
  • Harvard Square (It’s quite lovely, but bring waterproof boots in the winter.)
  • Access to the beautiful Harvard libraries (They are, indeed, quite nice.)
  • Time spent traveling to Harvard Square (Not so bad, but in the rain and during midterms/finals… it can become a drag.)
  • Group work taking place outside of Fletcher (So even more time spent traveling.)
  • Conflicting class schedules between Fletcher and Harvard (Not usually a problem, but HBS especially can be tricky.)
  • Nostalgia for Fletcher (It’s true — we’re all at Fletcher because we love it for one reason or another, so it’s possible to start missing your “real” home even if you’re away for just a short while.)

Overall, cross-registration is not a biggie, and there are so many great courses that it’s worth at least a quick look to see if something strikes you.  The rest is just logistics — a bit annoying, but not enough to prevent you from taking a great class.  A quick note regarding MIT, Boston University, and other Boston-area schools: they do not participate in the official cross-registration process with Fletcher, but it’s possible to take classes there with the instructor’s permission and a couple of logistical “tricks.”  Feel free to talk to me about it if you wish to find out more — I’ll be taking classes at both MIT and BU next year.

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Some readers (specifically, those who have decided to accept a spot on the waitlist) may be wondering about the current state of the enrollment process, and I’m here to report.  Most of our admitted applicants were required to make their decisions on enrolling by April 20, this past Saturday.  A few have until May 1, but the class is starting to take shape.  In the coming week, we’ll be doing some clean-up work and counting enrolling students.

Does this represent new information for those on the waitlist?  Not really, but I know that the correspondence vacuum can be hard to deal with.  And there is something that you can do.  First, if you plan to remain on the waitlist, please be sure that you have indicated that decision to us.  Your deadline is technically May 1, but why wait?  Second, if you or your pal have accepted a place on the waitlist but no longer want to wait, it would be great if you would communicate that decision to us, too.

Please contact us if you have questions.  I’ll be back with more information whenever there is some, most likely not until May.

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Going to be in town this summer, and thinking of getting a jump on your Fletcher studies?  You may be interested in our summer school.  Open to those who have completed their undergraduate education, as well as rising seniors, here are the details:

Summer SchoolAnd if you’re in town today, stop by the Information Session that will be taking place in the Hall of Flags from noon to 1:30.

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I’m going to kick off the week with a new Five-Year Update.  Jason is a thoroughly memorable member of the Fletcher community, and particularly of the Admissions student staff.  He both worked in the office and also served a year on the Admissions Committee.  Here’s his update.

I was still in the Peace Corps when I first visited the Fletcher website.  On it was a short account of one student’s Fletcher summer.  I remember reading with a mix of envy and awe.  The student had done seemingly everything — traveling to several Asian countries doing development work, thesis research, and some other adventures on the side.  She seemed to embody everything I hoped to be: a restless mind in the thick of it, who was using grad study to actively and deliberately lay the groundwork for a future career.  From that point on, Fletcher became my first choice in graduate schools.  I wanted to be surrounded by students like that person.  Heck, I wanted to be that person.  Every Fletcher interaction that followed confirmed that Fletcher was where I wanted to be.  My communication with the Admissions Office.  My first visit to the Hall of Flags.  I was so sure about Fletcher that it ended up being the only school I applied to.  If graduate school isn’t Fletcher, I thought, then I don’t want graduate school.

Not long after, I was in the thick of my own Fletcher summer.  I did project work in the bush of Uganda, followed by refugee thesis research in Central America.  I finished with a leadership conference in France.  I’d visited three continents in three months and got to focus on everything from activity design, to policy formation, to the dynamics of international negotiation.  I’m not rich.  All of this was mostly funded by Fletcher-related sources.  That summer was a microcosm of the Fletcher experience itself.  It’s as diverse as you want it to be.  There are no limits.  Fletcher gave me the freedom to mold my degree as I went along; my degree, rather than feeling like an exercise in path dependence, felt like it was in a constant, enthralling state of becoming.  The rigor of study exposed my weaknesses, and the support of the School and community gave me the confidence to address them.  I left Fletcher with a clear vision of the impact I wanted to make and the confidence that I had the skills to be successful.

Following Fletcher, I became a Presidential Management Fellow and worked at USAID on humanitarian food assistance programs.  During my first years I worked on the Haiti earthquake response and Madagascar during a coup, and I covered Sudan during the referendum that created South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.  Two years ago I converted to the USAID foreign service and am the deputy chief of the food assistance office in Ethiopia — the largest of its kind in the world.  It’s a tough job but I love it.  I think back often to what I learned at Fletcher and I know that the School’s equal emphasis on skill building and community were the perfect preparation for my work.  My days are a jumble of activity management, policy advocacy, and negotiation — all the things that made that summer so interesting.  I feel like the work I do is important and that my personal role in unfolding events matters.  I took a few Peace Corps volunteers out to dinner the other night.  I listened to them talk about their projects and admired their enthusiasm.  Some were thinking about careers in this field.  For me, Fletcher was the bridge between being a relative beginner and being a professional.  I know I wasn’t the first to cross that bridge and I certainly won’t be the last.

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This has been a very strange and sad week in the Boston area, but I was determined to close out the week on a positive note.  Tomorrow is the deadline for making enrollment decisions for most of our admitted students, which means that we’ll soon welcome a new class to Fletcher (YAY!), but also say goodbye to many applicants who have made the decision to pursue another opportunity.  (We wish you all the best in your future studies!)

But even as we try to answer the last minute questions of applicants making their final decision, our work is interrupted by the events of the week.  Tufts University is closed today while law enforcement officials pursue suspects in Monday’s crime.  Admissions staffers will try to keep up with your questions by email.

I want to revisit the terrific positive spirit that usually surrounds the Boston Marathon.  Our two-year Admissions intern and friend, Hillary, took pictures from the post where she and other Boston-area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers distribute water at each year’s event.  Here’s a photo that another RPCV took of Hillary.

Hillary

And then there’s the spirit that accompanied the unexpected events of the day.  This article features Brennan Mullaney, MALD student.  Maybe Brennan was your interviewer if you visited last fall!

Brennan

In such a strange week, I’m grateful for my long connection to Fletcher and all the fantastic students, such as Brennan and Hillary, who make every day interesting.  As Dean Bosworth wrote to the community earlier this week:

Yesterday’s events remind us, in an all too poignant and tragic fashion, of the important work that lies ahead for all of you (and us) in advancing Fletcher’s mission of understanding and mutual respect, and making our interdependent world more safe and secure.

We look forward to resuming Fletcher’s mission on Monday.

 

Continuing the internship theme that Roxanne kicked off for us yesterday, today we’ll consider the question of internships during the academic year.  We’re often asked about the opportunity to pursue an internship alongside classes, and it’s slightly tricky to answer.  On the one hand, YES, you certainly may pursue an internship!  Absolutely!  And many students do.  On the other hand, it’s not the culture at Fletcher to push students out the door to those internships (except during the summer, of course).  Like so many choices students make (Should I pursue a dual degree?  Exchange semester?  Language study?  Cross-registration?), the decision on an internship depends completely on the individual student’s academic and professional objectives.  There’s plenty going on at Fletcher and elsewhere on the Tufts campus — you won’t be bored if you commit yourself to two years of doing everything there is to do here.  On the other hand, if you tell us you have an internship, we’ll tell you that we’re glad to hear you’re taking advantage of that opportunity!

All of that said, I asked current students about their academic-year internships, and here’s what I found out:

Bob, first-year MALD:  I work as an intern with the Tufts Office of Sustainability, which is located just a short walk from the Fletcher School in Tufts’ Miller Hall.  I spend around 10-15 hours here per week, and some of my work can be completed at home.

Nathan, second-year MALD:  I have done work for two outside organizations while at Fletcher.  The first, in my first year, was at a small governance and peacebuilding organization in Cambridge, about a 30-minute walk from campus.  I worked 16-20 hours during the fall, and scaled back to 8-10 during the spring.  It was enriching to combine the academic environment with a more applied one, but I had to work during normal business hours, which was inconvenient for scheduling study groups and meant missing other opportunities at Fletcher.  This type of work comes down to balancing the experience (and need for extra income!) with the opportunities and community available on campus.  I decided not to continue this during my second year.  My second internship, which I’m doing currently, is a long-distance, on-my-own-time consultancy.  This, of course, means more flexibility but less direct engagement with the organization and the material.  It still involves sacrifice, but it’s less a cause of stress in my life, and I do appreciate having at least one toe in the real world while at an academic institution.

Justin, second-year MIB:  I worked at Converse in Latin America strategy 18-20 hours per week this year.  I was able to do my capstone on Converse’s three-year strategy for Brazil.

Marie, second-year MALD:  I worked at Conflict Dynamics International for about 9 hours a week last fall and this spring.

Katie, first-year MALD:  I have had an internship for both the fall and spring semesters of this year.  It is at WorldTeach, an international education nonprofit in Cambridge (it was formerly affiliated with Harvard).  The internship is 10 hours per week, or 40 hours per month.

John, first-year MIB:  I intern with the U.S. Commercial Service (a division of the Department of Commerce).  I intern at the downtown Boston office, 10-15 hours a week.  My responsibilities include market research and creating market entry strategies for Massachusetts companies to export and expand operations overseas.

Michael, first-year MIB:  I have been working at State Street this semester.  I am in the enterprise risk management division, in the probability of default group.  My group worked on calculating the counter-party risk of broker-dealers for regulatory purposes.  It is very quantitative.  I work approximately 15 hours a week, all on-site in downtown Boston.  The internship is paid on an hourly basis, and I found it through a posting from Fletcher OCS.

Leila, second-year MALD:  Last spring I did an internship at Mercy Corps’ Cambridge office.  I worked 10-12 hours a week with the Director of Governance and Partnerships.  My main tasks were to help with logistics for their Partnerships summit in Bangkok, and to conduct research for an internal paper on private-sector partnerships.  I found out about the internship through an OCS email.

Albert, second-year MALD:  I’ve been interning on the Governance and Peacebuilding team at Conflict Dynamics International both this past summer and during the year.  The internship is focused almost entirely on research in the areas of governance and peacebuilding, particularly in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia.  I worked 16 hours a week last semester and am working 12 hours a week this semester, paid on an hourly basis.

Cherrica, first-year MALD, and Chris, first-year MALD both intern at CargoMetrics, downtown Boston, 10-15 hours each week, paid, and say:  It’s a technology-enabled hedge fund founded by Fletcher alums.  They prefer you to work in the office but on occasion they are flexible and allow you to work from home.  Great office with several Fletcher grads and students.

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My thanks to Roxanne for her comprehensive description of the process.  Take it away, Roxanne!

First of all, it was so wonderful to meet many of the prospective members of the incoming class last week! We are sad to part with our second-year students soon, and getting to hear the stories of the incoming class gave many of us a lot to look forward to! One of the questions that emerged through these conversations was about the Fletcher summer internship search process. While it is very challenging to speak about a universal Fletcher experience, given that interests vary widely in this diverse community, I would like to shed some light on how some Fletcher students begin to think about their summer internships. Feel free to also browse the post I wrote about this topic in February, right before the DC Career Trip.

Setting goals for the summer: The first, and perhaps hardest, step in the internship search process is defining the summer experience we each wish to have. Some Fletcher students consider themselves “career changers,” shifting away from the professional field in which they worked prior to Fletcher and towards new endeavors. Other Fletcher students wish to use the summer to build their international or field experience, so they are explicitly looking for opportunities outside the United States. Yet other students wish to conduct research that will culminate in a capstone project, thesis, PhD proposal, or other document — either in parallel to an internship or instead of one. Some classmates wish to obtain or apply particular skills, such as quantitative analysis, crisis mapping, or practicing a language. Yet others want to remain in the same sector they were in prior to Fletcher, but wish to diversify the organizations and partners with which they have worked by building new institutional relationships over the summer. As you can see, there is no pattern that defines every Fletcher summer experience: The locales that host us for the summer range from Boston to Japan, from the public to private sector, from paid consultancies to research initiatives, and from entirely new endeavors to a return to beloved projects.

The critical role of mentorship: Mentorship is a critical component of developing a clearer sense of our goals for the summer. Conversations with professors or guest speakers at Fletcher events, as well as informational interviews with alumni, help us clarify our vision for what we seek to accomplish over the summer. Prior to both the New York City and DC career trips, the Office of Career Services compiles a lengthy list of alumni, including their professional affiliations and contact information. Students arrange many chats with alumni both during the Career Trips and outside of them in order to better understand potential summer opportunities. Informational interviews continue through the spring and they often end with a clearer “next step” for the students or an introduction to someone who may be of further help.

The Fletcher network does not just consist of faculty, staff, and alumni; rather, students themselves are an invaluable resource to their peers. During the second semester, many emails are sent on the Social List (our beloved and informal email list) asking if fellow students have worked in X country or with Y organization or if they know a particular individual. Many coffee chats emerge from these emails and it is always a delight to put each other in touch with people we have met or places we have worked, in the hope that we can create more opportunities for our peers.

Applying to summer positions: The Office of Career Services plays an instrumental role in coaching students through the application process. Once we have identified the types of opportunities we wish to apply to, we can make appointments with Career Services staff to review our résumés and cover letters, conduct mock interviews, receive assistance in negotiating potential compensation — or even in proofreading our communications with potential employers! For students who wish to conduct research or work on a Fletcher-affiliated project, whether in the Boston area or beyond, conversations with professors and campus centers that are supervising these initiatives are an important part of building future relationships.

Funding the summer experience: The availability of funding differs greatly among the various sectors in which Fletcher students immerse themselves for the summer. There are many opportunities to fund the summer experience for those who have received an unpaid internship. The Office of Career Services has a simple application for summer funding, and these resources are supplemented by other research centers on campus that can provide financial support, such as the Tisch Active Citizenship Fellowship Program or the Feinstein International Center. Some professors  and departments make grants available for language study or for internships in a specific sector or region of the world. Additionally, there are Boston-area resources, such as the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School Summer Fellowships, that are accessible to Fletcher students because of the partnerships between Fletcher and the funding institutions. Students in the private sector or those who have secured paid consultancies for the summer may follow a slightly different process.

Pre-departure preparations: There is never a dull moment at Fletcher, even with an internship and funding secured! The months prior to departing for the summer are filled with building skills that may be essential for our research or employment, from training ourselves in statistics or ethnographic interviewing to brushing up on language skills and conducting pre-thesis research. In the next month, I will also be offering a “blogging and social media” workshop for Fletcher students, so we  can compile a document of our online presence, enabling us to follow each other’s summer journeys and learning. A classmate is in the process of compiling a Google Map with Fletcher summer internship locations, so we can find community wherever we go. The bottom line is that this is an exciting, exhilarating process, which — like most other processes at Fletcher — requires putting ourselves out there, being curious and open to learning, and leveraging the power of this community to create opportunities for all.

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I’m writing at about 10:30, the time when Fletcher starts to buzz each day.  There were students in Mugar Café when I grabbed my coffee at 10, and I’ve already met with a visitor.  In other words, Fletcher is back to normal.  But it’s hard for me to have the blog ignore what happened yesterday and carry on as usual.  I think I’ll hold off one more day before returning to more admissions-ish topics.

For now, I’ll acknowledge that yesterday was a sad day indeed.  Patriots’ Day, with the annual running of the Boston Marathon, is generally a happy day.  Whether we know someone running the race or not, we celebrate this long-lived event and its annual demonstration of athleticism, perseverance, and strength of will.

Today, while we keep those wounded by the attack in mind, for most of us it’s a sunny day like many others, at least at the surface.  Our lovely Boston, and its surrounding cities such as Somerville and Medford, is the home of a million people and the temporary home of thousands and thousands of students.  Yesterday we experienced a temporary discontinuity in our easy love of this beautiful city.  Today, we’re back to express our affection for our interesting, historical, international, diverse, intellectual, technological, fun home.  Those of you who live nearby know that Boston is already moving forward.  Those of you who are farther away should know that this is a strong place that will not be defined by a single event, however sad.

Finally, a word about the University’s response.  With a large number of runners in the Tufts Marathon Team, there was an intense effort to ensure the well-being of all students and members of the community.  Two students, not from Fletcher, were injured but are reported to be recovering.  The University arranged transportation from Boston to the Medford campus, and notified us of its availability through the excellent emergency notification system that has been in place for several years.  Fletcher students, many having experienced emergencies in other locations, quickly established a mechanism to account for each other.  An interfaith gathering took place on campus last night, and students and staff have learned of the availability of counseling.  All in all, a quick and thorough response to the events, which makes us proud to be part of Tufts.

Boston viewArial view of the Medford/Somerville campus and Boston skyline, with Fletcher near the bottom right corner, taken by photographer Steve Eliopoulos for Tufts University.

 

What started out as a lovely cool and sunny marathon day has ended with sadness.  Blog readers might want to know that all Fletcher runners have been heard from.  Students established a google doc on which they reported back about themselves or on classmates they have heard from.  The Tufts University Medical Center is attending to many of the wounded, and the University is working to contact all Tufts runners.

Thank you to friends around the world who are thinking of Boston right now.

 

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