The Admissions Blog’s Student Stories writers are busy with their summer activities, but I have end-of-year reports from them to share. I’ll start with this post from Mariya, who pursued an outrageously busy schedule during the spring semester.
It’s hard to believe that my first year at Fletcher has come to an end. It feels like yesterday that I was meeting new people at Orientation, figuring out my classes, and making sense of my new community. Over the last ten months, a lot has happened; at Fletcher, in the United States, and around the world. The frequency of breaking news buzzing on my phone made it difficult at times to focus on my studies, but as any student or professor would tell you, consuming articles from a variety of sources is an important part of a Fletcher education. These unofficial “supplemental readings” became topics of discussion in classes and our homes, in the Mugar Café and on the Social List. In these spaces, we analyzed and debated world events in a way that challenged our long-held beliefs and pushed us outside our comfort zones. At those moments, I couldn’t help but be grateful. What a privilege it is to be a student now — to study history, to discuss the present, to prepare for the future, to think out loud and debate different ideas.
While the real world seemed to be in disarray, I was struggling to manage my own world at Fletcher. My second semester was especially challenging because I took six half- or full-semester courses including two at Harvard, audited three classes including intermediate Spanish, and was an active leader of three campus clubs. In this post, I’d like to highlight one of those clubs: The Fletcher Islamic Society (FIS).
When I arrived at Fletcher in September, I learned that FIS was not an active group. With others, I applied for club funding and we were able to re-charter it. The purpose of the Fletcher Islamic Society is to create a space that furthers the understanding of Islam in different social, cultural, political, ethnic, and spiritual contexts. By hosting speakers, engaging in community service, and facilitating open dialogue, our hope is to foster an environment where Islam can be understood in all its complexity and diversity. We collaborate with the Tufts Muslim Chaplaincy and the Tufts Muslim Student Association student group for recurring events such as Jummah (Friday) prayers and Quran recitation circles. This year, FIS was one of the direct beneficiaries of a new prayer room that allows Muslim students to pray in a convenient space and for others to meditate.
I would like to highlight a few events that FIS organized to give you an idea of the types of student-inspired programming that is a norm at Fletcher.
- In sponsorship with the Fares Center, we hosted Pakistani Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Rizwan Shiekh, who spoke to an audience of about 40 students about the “knowns and unknowns” of Pakistan from a security perspective. Pakistan is often a case study in Fletcher courses, and it was refreshing to hear a different perspective from a career diplomat about the role of the military in public life and foreign policy, as well as in diplomatic initiatives.
- Shortly after the 2016 election and the highlighting of the Khizr Khan family, FIS leaders sought to bring attention to Muslims serving in the armed forces. In partnership with the International Security Studies Program (ISSP), FIS invited to campus MIT Professor of Military Science Captain Nadi Kassim who delivered an engaging luncheon talk titled “Muslim Americans in the Armed Forces: The Story of a 1st Generation Palestinian-American.” This event was highlighted in the Muslim Chaplaincy’s Spring newsletter.
- Another popular event that FIS sponsored this semester was a panel discussion titled “Spooks Islam: Reflection on Intelligence, Counterterrorism and the American Muslim Experience.” In addition to sharing their experiences of working in counterterrorism as black Muslims, Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Yaya Fanusie engaged students with career advice — and some students even landed summer internships with their organizations!
- In late April, FIS hosted an intimate coffee discussion with one of Fletcher’s distinguished alums, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, F90. Once the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Mr. Chaudhary shared anecdotes of his time at Fletcher and his diplomatic journey and advice for students as we navigate our futures.
Of course, there’s never a shortage of events to attend at Fletcher. But what I love about being a student club leader is the flexibility and discretion afforded to us in creating programming that we feel benefits the community. If there is something you want to see at campus, you can make it happen.
Aside from organizing and attending events, I had the opportunity to participate in some, too. For example, I performed my values speech from the Arts of Communication course at the spring Fletcher Faces of Community, presented my undergraduate research at Tufts’ South Asian Political Action Committee Symposium, and shared my poem titled “The Dream That Is” at the Spring Recital. The semester ended with the annual Diplomats Ball (or “Dip Ball” for short), which was the perfect way to top off the year. I’ve had an incredible time at Fletcher so far, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to enroll here. I’m spending the summer in Taiwan and Thailand — I look forward to writing to you from there!