Recently two new (first-year) MALD students, Aditi Patel and Miranda Bogen, contacted me to ask if they might write about their interest in technology fields and their decision to attend Fletcher.  Today I’m sharing their great introduction to the field at Fletcher.  I should note briefly that while Aditi and Miranda are writing about their experience as MALD students, the opportunity to build in technology content is available to all students, especially those in the MIB and PhD programs.

We came to Fletcher because it is one of the leading schools of international affairs — but we also chose Fletcher because of its forward-thinking attitude toward technology, and its willingness to adapt its curriculum and resources to a changing world.

For us, it was critical to find a school that recognized the importance of technology in international affairs; from policy decision making, to crisis mapping, to the facilitation of international business.  It is almost certain that at some point in our careers, we will need the skills and vocabulary to communicate with both engineers and clients to ensure that technology is deployed correctly, regardless of whether these clients are governments, non-profits, or businesses.

Fletcher has ample opportunities for students interested in technology in international affairs.  Having recently created Tech @ Fletcher, the student club of the Hitachi Center for Technology and International Affairs, we decided to help students uncover those opportunities by gathering together some of the tech-related resources that we’ve discovered in our own application process and in our first few months on campus.

Fletcher’s flexible curriculum is ideal for “Tech MALDs” — students who are interested in focusing on technology.  Students can choose to complete one or both Fields of Study in a related discipline (International Information & Communications is a good place to start), you can focus on a different primary Field of Study with a technology angle by petitioning for tech-related coursework to count for your Fields (or using them as electives), or you can petition to create your own field of study.

Courses that have a significant technology component include International Communication (which includes a heavy dose of internet infrastructure and governance, digital media, and intellectual property), Social Networks in Organizations (this is hard-core social network analysis, not Facebook 101), GIS for International Applications (mapping technology), Foundations of International Cybersecurity, Innovation for Sustainable Prosperity, Financial Inclusion – A Method for Development, and others that are added from semester to semester depending on visiting faculty.

Fletcher students can also cross-register for courses at Harvard Business School like Launching Technology Ventures, Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education, and Strategy and Technology, or take advantage of the proximity to MIT with courses such as Corporate Entrepreneurship: Strategies for Technology-Based New Business Development or Fundamentals of Digital Business Strategy.

At Fletcher, we’re lucky to have the Hitachi Center for Technology in International Affairs, which acts as a hub for tech-related events and resources.  The center is very responsive to student involvement and will happily support student-proposed events that have something to do with technology.  The Hitachi Center hosts lectures, film screenings and even brought Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen to discuss “The New Digital Age” last spring.  The Hitachi Center also offers summer funding for students and faculty researching topics related to technology, which is a great resource for students looking to write their capstone on a topic in the field.

We were overwhelmed by the support we received from our professors and the administration to think about technology in the field of international affairs.  Professor Carolyn Gideon, who teaches International Communications and manages the Hitachi Center, focuses on information and telecommunications policy; Professor Jenny Aker is the deputy director of the Hitachi Center and studies the impact of information/information technology on development outcomes; and Dean Stavridis even moderated a panel of Fletcher alumni at the South by Southwest conference on “Foreign Policy in the Digital Age.”

All of our fellow students we’ve met have slightly different interests (technology and governance, cybersecurity, ICT4D) and we are excited to be bringing these quickly-evolving issues into the wider Fletcher community.  Over the rest of the year, we plan to use Tech @ Fletcher as a platform to create a curriculum guide for students hoping to create their own field or simply to build a solid foundation in tech as a part of other fields, work with the Office of Career Services to create more resources for students interested in a career involving technology, provide workshops and discussions on the tools we will need to manage technology-related issues in our future jobs, and communicate with our classmates and professors about the importance of technology, no matter what their main fields of study.

We both came to graduate school because we were convinced that we needed to better understand the implications of technology in our areas of study.  With all the support and encouragement we have received from Fletcher, we know we made a great choice in picking a school that meets these needs!

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