Today, with less than a week until new students arrive for Orientation, Colin Steele offers his perspective on Fletcher’s special qualities. Colin will soon start his second year in the MALD program and you may recall that he provided reading suggestions earlier this summer.
If you’re looking at Fletcher, you’re looking at a lot of reading. However, while it’s certain that you’ll read, there’s some room to choose what you read — and that decision can make an enormous difference in the course of your education. More than perhaps any other school, the most valuable syllabus at Fletcher is the one you assemble and assign yourself.
Let me give you an example. On a recent Sunday morning, I started the day as usual, with a cup of coffee and a book. Now, I have a few bookcases’ worth of good options in my room and a handful of books in progress scattered throughout the house, but I’ve always had a wandering literary eye. Sure enough, while the coffee was brewing, I cast a glance through the cabinet of previous students’ left-behind books and found one with a subtitle I couldn’t resist: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy.
As an international security student with a particular interest in strategy, this book instantly proved to be right up my alley. As I tore through it, though, I realized I likely would never have discovered it had I not come to Fletcher: however “essential” to understanding competition and strategy, Understanding Michael Porter is a business book — the sort of book I least expected to be reading in graduate school.
Like many Fletcher students, I investigated plenty of international affairs, law, and business programs before ultimately settling on the MALD program. Interesting and useful as those fields are, none of them alone seemed to be asking or answering the kinds of questions that I wanted to tackle. In contrast, the more I got to know Fletcher, the more eager I became to go to a school where I could pursue my own field of interest while also being exposed to others: to take classes with people of different backgrounds, to read their books, and to learn something about how they see and interact with the world.
This sort of variety is quintessentially Fletcher, and, one year in, I consider it (in Michael Porter’s terms) the most uniquely valuable part of a Fletcher education. Many very good schools read Porter or Clausewitz; here, I’ve had a chance to read both. And, whereas much of that (like Understanding Michael Porter) was purely fortuitous during my first year, capturing more value from Fletcher’s variety has become central to my strategy for my second year and beyond.
So, if you’re looking at Fletcher — as an incoming or continuing student about to return to campus, or as a prospective student still considering an application — I encourage you to develop your own strategy to make Fletcher work for you. Where do you need to go deeper? Where do you want to get broader? Which peers, professors, or authors can help you get where you want to go?
Get a cup of coffee with someone, or crack open a new book. You never know where it might take you.
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