Continuing to shamelessly take advantage of the rare summer when we have a student or recent graduate working in the office, I asked Rafael to tell us about his experience with the International Security Studies Program.  Here’s what he had to say.  (Note that we all use “international security studies” to refer, alternately and confusingly, to both the Field of Study and the program that offers out-of-class programming.)


Jessica asked me to write about security studies at Fletcher, and this is a great opportunity for me to reflect upon my 21 months as a MALD student.  One thing to note, though, is that I can provide only my own perspective, simply because there is so much to experience and learn here in security studies and related fields.

But first a little bit of history.

Though the study of peace and security had been part of the Fletcher curriculum since its founding in 1933, the International Security Studies Program (ISSP) was formally established only in 1971, at a time when the U.S. was deeply divided by the Vietnam War.  Since then, course offerings and research interests have evolved as the global political landscape has changed.  Professor Richard Shultz, Director of the ISSP, and Professor Robert Pfaltzgraff reflected on the ISSP’s history in a special edition of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs on the School’s 80th anniversary back in 2013.

In 2000, under the leadership of then Dean John Galvin, who, like the current Dean James Stavridis, held the post of Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Fletcher founded the Institute for Human Security (IHS), currently led by Professor Eileen Babbitt.  IHS brings together students and faculty specializing in areas as diverse as law, politics, public health, psychology, and economics to conduct cutting edge research, education, and policy engagement on today’s global challenges, with an ultimate focus on the well-being of all human beings.

The most recent institutional addition to security studies at Fletcher is the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS).  Established just this year by Professor Monica Toft, CSS aims to generate cutting-edge scholarly analysis that broadens the U.S. foreign policy debate.  Having just graduated, I will sadly miss the great research and programming through which CSS will enrich the Fletcher community.  Fortunately, during my last semester, I had the pleasure of participating in Professor Toft’s half-semester seminar on Current Topics in International Relations and Security Policy.  Because the course allowed me to revisit many topics I had studied over the prior two years, it provided a nice conclusion to my career in security studies at Fletcher.

But as for so many ISSP folks, it all began on a Monday morning at 7:45 a.m. in The Role of Force in International Politics, the core course of the International Security Studies Field of Study taught by Professor Shultz, and a tour de force through the conceptual foundations and history of security studies as well as an introduction to U.S. security policy.  The following spring, I audited Policy and Strategy in the Origins, Conduct, and Termination of War (commonly known here as “Shultz II”), a history of war from Thucydides to Frederick C. Weyand.

To complete and complement my security studies curriculum, I took The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs, which teaches students empathy, detachment, and skepticism in their reading of historical events, Religion and Politics, and Nuclear Dossiers: U.S. Priorities, Dilemmas and Challenges in a Time of Nuclear Disorder.  I also took the opportunity to venture beyond Fletcher and cross-registered for several courses at Harvard.

While the above-mentioned courses fulfill International Security Studies Field requirements, others allowed me to tailor the curriculum to my interests.  In Gender Theory and Praxis, I researched masculinities and private military and security companies.  In The Art and Science of Statecraft, with a group of fellow students, I developed an index to predict state instability in light of refugee flows.

The extensive course offerings, however, reflect only one aspect of the Fletcher experience.  The ISSP, IHS, and soon, the CSS also provide opportunities for experiential learning and interaction with seasoned practitioners.  For example, Fletcher is home to an annual crisis simulation, SIMULEX, where student teams, mentored by senior military officers, manage various conflicts that compete for their attention.  ISSP also hosts several military fellows from throughout the U.S. armed forces, and organizes regular luncheons on all things security.  Students themselves run several organizations such as Fletcher Students in Security, Fletcher Veterans, the New England chapter of Women In International Security, and the Fletcher Security Review.  And finally, Fletcher is the home for the World Peace Foundation, which conducts research and offers programming of interest to security studies students.

Additionally, students may work with professors as research or teaching assistants.  I had the pleasure of supporting the ISSP as a research assistant throughout my time at Fletcher, examining conflict escalation and coalition management in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific-Asia region.  I also got to serve as a teaching assistant for Professors Shultz and Pfaltzgraff’s GMAP course on Security Studies and Crisis Management — a terrific opportunity to interact with senior-level practitioners from all over the world — and Professor Pfaltzgraff’s International Relations: Theory and Practice.  Though I was lucky to find a job at Fletcher right after arriving here, many students eventually, for a semester or two, work as research or teaching assistants.  Whether the positions are formally announced or informally arranged, if you are interested in working at Fletcher, be pro-active about it and ask.  Even if nothing is available at the time, at least professors will remember you and might get back to you when an opportunity arises.

When it came time for me to decide which graduate school I wanted to attend, Fletcher’s diverse and flexible curriculum, the School’s location, and the strong sense of community ultimately led me to Medford.  I believe that these aspects are equally reflected in security studies at Fletcher, with its close relationship with other schools in the area, and the friendships that emerge between students, faculty, administrators, and military fellows.

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