Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Launching the Student Stories feature for 2015-16 is second-year MIB student, Alex, who is reporting on his summer internship in the Boston area.

Alex SFletcher is not the type of school where everyone hopes to spend the summer as a consultant or banker in New York.  Ask a dozen people here what they did for their summer internship, and I bet you will get a dozen completely different answers.  With people scattered across the world doing everything under the sun, it would be quite difficult for me to describe the average Fletcher internship.  Instead, I can at least provide you with one data point by telling you about my summer, spent in the most unlikely of places for a Fletcher student: Boston.

My internship was with a rapidly growing solar energy project development company in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, which I secured with the help of one of my professors.  I worked to build out their “Community Solar” offering, which is the hot new thing in the industry: instead of mounting panels on their roofs, anyone can subscribe to centralized solar installations, effectively opening up the market for the 80% of people who could not go solar previously.  As you may remember from earlier blog posts, I am interested in innovative business models and financing mechanisms for clean energy infrastructure, so this was right up my alley.  Furthermore, working on the development side provided a good experiential addition to my internship with the wind energy private equity firm last semester; now I know both the money side and the project side of the deal.

Actually getting to build out a new product offering, with all the requisite business processes, was a great opportunity as well.  In my previous role as a strategy consultant, I was generally looking at the bigger picture instead of tackling all the nitty-gritty pieces of building something new.  It was an eye-opening experience, which brought some concreteness to my thinking.

The size of the company was another aspect I enjoyed: at 45 employees, it was much smaller than Monitor Deloitte and much bigger than some of the start-ups I have worked with in the past.  At this size, a company has the expertise and basic processes in place, but does not yet have the silos that beset many larger organizations.  I felt empowered to reach across the organization, make decisions, and execute as I saw fit, which I greatly enjoyed.  Also, I was excited to be surrounded by experts in all aspects of building our energy sources of the future.

So, while I have to admit I was jealous at first of all my friends jetting off to cool and exotic places for their summers, I ended up being happy that I kept mine local.  One of the great perks was my commute, which included biking along charming Charles Street in Beacon Hill, through the verdant Public Gardens, and then down bustling Newbury Street in Back Bay.  I feel lucky that I was one of the few who got to stay in Boston, and appreciate the opportunities and beauty of the great city in which we live.

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One of my favorite aspects of overseeing the Fletcher Admissions Blog is working with students and alumni to share their stories with future students/alumni.  I’m happy to say that tomorrow’s post will be from one of our returning Student Stories writers, Alex.  This is the fourth year of the Student Stories feature and applicants tell me that reading about the student writers’ paths is especially helpful as they chart their own.

My instructions for the Student Stories writers are relatively loose.  They agree to write four posts each year, divided roughly into the two semesters (though some slipping into the winter or summer break is o.k.).  Whatever topics are interesting or important to them are fine with me, too.  I should note that the student writers are volunteers, and I hugely appreciate the time and effort they put into their writing.

I’m still working with the new student volunteers, but the three returning students, Ali, Alex, and Aditi have all agreed to keep writing this year.  Ali is an MIB student who applied to Fletcher through the Map Your Future pathway.  Alex is also an MIB student, and Aditi is a MALD student, originally from India.  Tomorrow, Alex will share details from his summer internship.

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Just a quick post as I finally settle down to catch up with email, etc., this morning.  The two-plus hours since I arrived today have flashed by.  At 8:30, the first of our 35 Visit Day attendees came by to sign in, and we’ve been setting them up for the day’s activities ever since.  Some will participate in an interview.  Others will head off to a class.  At 11:00, everyone will come together for an Information Session, and then for lunch.  Aside from the lunch, all of the Visit Day activities can be done on any day we offer an Information Session, but it works really well when everything comes together in a tidy package.  We’ll offer one more Visit Day this fall, on November 16.

On a related note, today is Day 6 of the interview program, and just about everything has been going well.  A few dropped connections during Skype interviews, but nothing that upset the interviewer or applicant too much.  At the risk of repeating myself, if you’re interested in having an interview as part of your application process, I encourage you to sign up as soon as possible.  (Remember that Fletcher interviews take place before your chosen application deadline.)  There is plenty of availability now, but the schedule will fill in soon and it may be hard to score an appointment on the day/time you want.  And consider a Friday visit!  For reasons unknown, our Fridays are filling in very slowly.  Fewer classes are offered on Friday than on other days of the week, but the classes that are offered are among the most popular at Fletcher, and you’re welcome to attend one.

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I work pretty closely with applicants to the PhD program, and I should write more to help them.  The deadline for applications is December 20.  That’s a little less than three months off and, given the requirements of the application, it’s definitely not too late to get started.  There’s only one deadline each year, and only September enrollment is possible.

The PhD application requires all the usual elements (transcripts, test scores, essays, etc.), but applicants must also submit a master’s thesis (or major research paper) and a preliminary dissertation proposal.  While the proposal should be well developed, it’s understood that a student’s ultimate dissertation will reflect learning and growth from three semesters of Fletcher classes.  Though it is not required that applicants contact members of the Fletcher faculty before applying, I can say that nearly all of our successful applicants have done so.  Reaching out to Fletcher professors gives you a chance to confirm that your interests are aligned with theirs.  All admitted PhD students are assigned an advisor, and the expectation is that students will stick with that advisor all the way through.

Beyond that, most successful PhD applicants will include two recommendations from professors who can reflect on their work, and most will be asking professors from their master’s-level work to write the recommendations.

I should pause to note that applying directly to the PhD program requires a master’s degree.  Students without a master’s degree, or those who have a degree that lasted only one year, need to start with the MALD (usually) or MIB (also possible) degree.

We’ll be conducting two virtual information sessions, on October 15 and November 16.  There’s also more information that I can pass along.  If you’re interested, please contact us!

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Angela StentWhile I’m at the Boston Idealist grad school fair tonight, I’ll be missing the fall’s Community Book Talk on The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, by Angela Stent.  The event is open to all of us in the community, and copies of the book were provided.  I enjoy these common reading projects, and if last year’s two book talks were any indication, this will be an interesting evening.

Here’s the information we received about Dr. Stent and her book:

Angela Stent is a leading expert on U.S. and European relations with Russia and on Russian Foreign Policy.  She has served as an advisor under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and maintains close ties with key policymakers in both countries.

Dr. Stent is Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies and Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She is also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-chairs its Hewett Forum on Post-Soviet Affairs.

The Limits of Partnership, winner of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Douglas Dillon prize for the best book on the practice of American Diplomacy, offers a riveting narrative on U.S.-Russian relations since the Soviet collapse and on the challenges ahead. It reflects the unique perspective of an insider recognized as a leading expert on this troubled relationship.  American presidents have repeatedly attempted to forge a strong and productive partnership only to be held hostage to the deep mistrust born of the Cold War.  For the United States, Russia remains a priority because of its nuclear weapons arsenal, its strategic location bordering Europe and Asia, and its ability to support — or thwart — American interests.  Why has it been so difficult to move the relationship forward?  What are the prospects for doing so in the future?  Is the effort doomed to fail again and again? Join us for answers to these questions and others.


Our interview program started up yesterday, with the result that a steady stream of applicants and volunteer student interviewers are in and out of the office.  It’s both really nice and also a big increase in the level of background energy, as we try to do our work.  While I’m writing, our very first Skype interview is taking place.  The student interviewer seemed comfortable being the pioneer in this new (but overdue) effort.

Classes have been in session for only three weeks, but I’m already hearing students talk about exams, review sessions, study groups, etc.  And this past Saturday, the first Foreign Language Reading Comprehension exams were offered.  Bright and early on a beautiful fall morning, hundreds of students filed into a nearby building for their exams in the language of their choice.  The options were Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (from 9:00 a.m. to noon); Bosnian, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, and Urdu (from 9:15 to 11:15); and French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili (from 9:30-11:00).  The time allowed for the exam corresponds (more or less) to language difficulty.  Arrangements can be made for those who wish to test in a different language.  Bi-lingual dictionaries are allowed, including traditional paper dictionaries, electronic dictionaries, and dictionary applications that have been downloaded onto a cell phone.  No internet.  You can find sample exams if you scroll down on this page.

Admissions travel continues!  While Liz tours New England colleges and universities with some of our APSIA peers, I’m doing my own mini-tour.  Kristen and I joined forces yesterday for an information session for Tufts undergraduates (ably assisted by two “Double Jumbos” — Fletcher students who graduated from the undergraduate program at Tufts).  This afternoon, I’m taking part in a panel on international development down the road at Harvard, and tomorrow I’ll be at the Idealist fair in Boston (with a 2015 Fletcher graduate, who will help extend the life of my voice in that noisy setting).

Next week will be the first week since August when I’ll simply be in the office with no travel, visits, holidays, vacation, or other special activities.  I’m looking forward to it!  If nothing else, I’ll have a little more time for the blog.  New posts from our students are coming!


♦  Come up with a plan for fall interviews, including NEW Skype interviews: CHECK
♦  Train students volunteers to conduct interviews: CHECK
♦  Assign students to each of the 35+ interview timeslots each week: CHECK
♦  Dust off the furniture in the interview rooms: CHECK

I guess we’re just about ready to kick-off the fall interview program on Monday.  “Just about” ready, because I haven’t yet identified the inevitable glitches that will occur.  But we’re excited to get started, especially as the interview calendar is filling up nicely!  We were fully booked for the first two Mondays until we added a few extra appointments yesterday.  (Please grab one of those new slots if you were disappointed to have been closed out!)

As I always hasten to say, interviews are an optional part of the application process, but now that applicants have the choice of both on-campus and Skype interviews, I hope that many applications for January or September 2016 enrollment will include an interview report.  It’s a great opportunity for applicants to share a little of their own story.  And through the conversation, they can hear about the experience of their student interviewer, too.


There’s a nice article in Tufts Now (our online university news source) about Rizwan Ladha, F12, and his perspective on the multinational deal around Iran’s nuclear program.  (Rizwan completed the MALD program and is now a Fletcher PhD candidate.)  As you might expect, the deal has been the source of a lot of discussion at Fletcher, both informally and through formal events.  The perspective that Rizwan shares in the article is good background for further discussion.


For the second year, one of our alumni, Rockford Weitz is supporting entrepreneurial students, alumni, and faculty as Fletcher’s Entrepreneur Coach in Residence.  Through planned activities and his scheduled office hours, Rocky is bringing entrepreneurship to the front of student career planning.

Here (from an email to the community) is how Rocky describes his role at Fletcher:

What is Entrepreneurship?

Good question.  Entrepreneurship means different things to different people.  I define entrepreneurship as “problem solving with limited resources and an unclear path forward.”  By this definition, most of you will likely be entrepreneurs at some point during your career.

The entrepreneurial approach works well in many Fletcher career trajectories, including social entrepreneurship, tech-driven entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship (using entrepreneurship techniques to succeed as a change agent in large organizations in the private, public, non-profit, intergovernmental and academic sectors).

Fletcher students and alumni have launched and scaled numerous enterprises, including non-profits, technology startups, and new offices within larger organizations, such as the United Nations or the U.S. State Department.

Entrepreneur Coaching

As Entrepreneur Coach, I help Fletcher students, faculty, staff and alumni:

  • Connect with potential customers, potential investors and service providers that could help aspiring Fletcher entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable enterprises.
  • Think through business, social, and policy ideas where entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship could be part of the solution.
  • Create business plans, go-to-market strategies, and presentations to potential customers and investors.

There are two events today linked to entrepreneurship at Fletcher.  First, Rocky will be providing an “Overview of the Tufts and Boston Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”  He describes it as:

At this event, I will provide an overview of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and support network available at Fletcher, Tufts, and the Greater Boston area.  Topics will include startup prizes (such as Fletcher D-Prize and Tufts $100K), startup accelerators, including those that do not take equity (such as MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator, located in downtown Boston) and other support resources for aspiring entrepreneurs (such as Demeter, FinTech Sandbox, District Hall, and the Venture Cafe).  Special attention will be given to resources available to aspiring social entrepreneurs and those Fletcherites interested in entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship in emerging markets.

Later in the day, Gerry Ford, F84, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Caffè Nero will speak on “The Journey of an Entrepreneur: From Start-up to Billion Dollar Company.”  Here’s the description of his talk:

Gerry Ford is Chairman and Chief Executive of Caffè Nero Group Limited, Europe’s largest independent coffee house group.  Gerry founded Caffè Nero in 1997.  He later listed Caffè Nero on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2001-2007.  In 2005, Dr. Ford was named the UK’s Entrepreneur of the Year by the Financial Times and The London Stock Exchange.  In 2007, Gerry took Caffè Nero private and today he remains the majority shareholder of the company. Currently, Caffè Nero has more than 5,500 employees in 700 stores across seven countries.  The company continues to open at a pace of a new store every four days somewhere in the world. Dr. Ford has a BA from Stanford University, a MALD from The Fletcher School/Tufts University, a MBA from INSEAD and a PhD from Oxford University.  He sits on the boards of several consumer goods businesses throughout Europe and the USA, and is a frequent speaker internationally on the topics of developing consumer brands and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is an area that has long interested Fletcher students, many of whom wish to start their own organizations.  Having Rocky Weitz has increased the available resources, both through his time and the activities that result from his residency here.

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Today I want to point blog friends to a site you shouldn’t miss.  The School has been compiling short video stories that answer the question, “Why Fletcher?”  They’re mixed among all the videos on the Fletcher YouTube page, but the easiest way to find them is to check out #whyfletcher on Facebook.  Here’s a sample:


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