Posts by: Jessica Daniels
Given that it’s been almost three months since graduation, I realize that my “farewell” post for the Fletcher Admissions blog is coming a little late. The past three months seem like a whirlwind, and I haven’t yet had a chance to take a breath and fully process them or reflect on my time at Fletcher as much as I would like. This is because, in addition to graduation, a lot of other things have changed for me — I got married, started a new job, temporarily moved back home, and am now preparing to move to a new city.
Graduation weekend was a great opportunity to meet everyone’s families and raise a champagne toast (or several!) to the past two years. The speakers were all incredible, and it was amazing to see some of my classmates stand in front of hundreds of people and deliver inspiring speeches about our time at Fletcher. As fun as the weekend was, it was also bittersweet: saying goodbye to friends and professors and leaving my home for the past two years wasn’t easy. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel very excited for the next phase of my life, and everything I had to look forward to, including a new job, a new city, and a new husband!
After graduation weekend and my wedding, I headed home to Mumbai, where I was fortunate to start my new job at Vera Solutions while I wait for approval of my paperwork to move to Geneva, Switzerland. Vera Solutions is a consulting company that builds technology solutions for social sector clients. Given that it has offices in both Mumbai and Geneva, it was a perfect opportunity for me to learn the ropes, with the added bonus of getting to spend time with family and friends at home. I also had the chance to connect with some Fletcher folk living in Mumbai, as well as to represent Fletcher at a coffee hour for prospective students.
Although I still feel as though the full impact of my time at Fletcher hasn’t sunk in, I’m glad that I was able to find a job using the skill sets — in technology, monitoring and evaluation, public speaking and presentation, and accurate data analysis — that I had wanted to gain from my MALD. The past two years weren’t easy, and definitely came with their fair share of stress and anxiety, but I feel that my experience at Fletcher was all that I had hoped for in the beginning, giving me solid technical skills, amazing learning opportunities both in the classroom and outside, and a wonderful set of friends all over the world.
Returning to the tips that the Admissions staff offered this summer at my request, Liz, Theresa, Laurie, Lucas, and Kristen build on Dan’s tip from last week. As a reminder, I asked my Admissions family to complete the sentence, Something I would want Fletcher applicants to know is…
Liz: Use Your Resources
As an applicant to Fletcher, you likely have a lot of resources for gathering information about the School. You may have personal connections (professors, friends, mentors) who suggest Fletcher as a good fit for your goals and interests. You may also have access to our social media channels, this blog, for example! — not to mention Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube. You also have our print publications (which you can download here) and the Fletcher website. We even have a “frequently asked questions” section, which ideally will answer many of the questions you have. Something, I’d like Fletcher applicants to know is that we hope that you’ll use these resources! Of course we welcome questions by phone or email, but with all these good sources of information, a little “research” may help you find the answer to simple questions such as “when is the deadline?” That way, when you do email us (which we hope you will) you can ask us questions that aren’t easily answered with a quick check of our website. So please, if you can’t find what you’re looking for when gathering info about Fletcher, contact us!! But don’t forget to use your resources first!
Theresa: Prepare for your Admissions interview
Once you’ve made the decision to visit the Admissions Office for an interview, there are things that should be top of mind prior to your arrival. First, remember that you are coming to the Admissions Office for an evaluative interview — which means that, through your conversation, you are being evaluated. While we are not expecting you to arrive dressed for a Hollywood red carpet event, we also think you can do better than showing up in athletic gear or sleepwear type clothing and sneakers. The sweet spot is normally categorized as business casual — a step down from business formal but not completely casual. My second suggestion, perhaps obvious, is that you should be prepared for the interview. This means being ready to discuss the finer points of your background and experience. Remember, too, that your résumé is a concise summary of your skills and experience and should not go much beyond two pages. (If it’s currently significantly longer than that, you should seriously consider a revision. Overly long résumés stand out for the wrong reasons.) Last, try to relax. There is no trickery involved in the interview. We are genuinely interested in hearing about what makes you a good match for Fletcher! And all of these tips apply to interviews via Skype, too!
Laurie: The spring is a window of opportunity
There is no question that the admissions process is time consuming and at times a bit overwhelming for both applicants and the Admissions Committee. We know (and very much appreciate!) that applicants spend an enormous amount of time writing personal statements, chasing recommenders, taking standardized tests, collecting transcripts, and filling out forms. As a result, there is a natural tendency to breathe a sigh of relief and take a break after submitting applications. But don’t relax for too long. What some candidates underestimate is the amount of time it may take to make a final enrollment decision. The time in between submitting your applications and waiting to hear from schools is a tremendous window of opportunity to research and plan. Admissions decisions are typically released in mid-to-late March and candidates have roughly a month to select the graduate program at which they’ll enroll. That month often involves campus visits, many conversations and emails, tons of research, and ironing out financial aid details. While this should be a time of happiness and celebration, I have often witnessed stressed-out admitted students who find themselves scrambling during this period. Therefore, my advice to all candidates is to really take advantage of the down-time between submitting your applications in January and receiving your admissions decision in March, to continue your research, plan your finances, and be prepared to make an important decision.
Lucas: Call on the experts to find the right fit
Something I would want Fletcher applicants to know is… one of the best ways to determine if our program is a good fit for your personal and professional goals is to hear from a variety of people with differing perspectives on Fletcher. Current students, alumni, faculty, and staff members will all have unique insight into the Fletcher experience. Just as our team evaluates each applicant to Fletcher, you should also use these and other resources to assess how Fletcher aligns with your personal goals, curricular interests, and professional aspirations. Take advantage of a campus visit to grab coffee with a student and sit in on a class, or seek out alumni to shed light on their experience here!
Kristen: There’s no such thing as a perfect applicant!
I’ve been working here at Fletcher for over a decade now (yikes!), and through the process of reading lots of people’s stories, I can tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect applicant. Because of that, we don’t judge people against a single yardstick of perfection, but rather try to understand what makes YOU tick, and what qualities YOU bring to the table. What this means is that while very, very good applicants may still have weaknesses, they don’t try to hide them or make excuses, but rather thoroughly and efficiently give us a straightforward explanation. In many cases, the best applications aren’t fancy, aren’t overly sales-y, and don’t strive to make the applicants look perfect. Rather, they answer the questions, provide the information, and show a thoughtfulness in explaining the many sides — professional, academic, and personal — of the applicant. What am I trying to say here? Don’t try to trick us or become someone you are not! Be you. That’s what we’re looking for in the application.
I’m just back from a few days away and while I scramble to take care of those matters that await me, I will put the blog aside for one more day. Except…I love sharing pix of my local vacations. So here’s what we found at low tide at Cape Cod National Seashore’s Coast Guard Beach:
Seals! I was standing quite a distance away because the seals were on a patch of sand surrounded by water, but what you’re seeing in the photo is a continuous blanket of seals relaxing on a sandbar. Cape Cod is the summer home of ever-growing colonies of harbor seals and grey seals.
Cape Cod is easily reached by mass transportation. There’s a ferry from Boston to Provincetown, at the very tip of the Cape. Then there are buses that run through the various towns. Alternatively, there are both buses and a train from Boston to Hyannis. With both history and natural beauty going for it, the Cape is on my short list of places students should visit while they are at Fletcher. But why wait? Plan a day trip to follow your visit to Fletcher during this application season.
Every summer, I cook up some blog assignment for my admissions pals, generally designed to shed light on the people applicants will be interacting with throughout the year. This year, I thought: what better way to have the staff introduce themselves than by offering a bit of advice. So I gave them the prompt: Something I would want applicants to know is… And then I got out of the way and let them send me anything they wanted.
I’m going to start with Dan’s advice, because it gets at the foundation of an application to Fletcher. That makes sense, since Dan is our resident staff member/alumnus. I’ll follow up next week with thoughts from the rest of the team. Here’s what Dan wants you to know:
“International Affairs” is not a field.
As you can imagine, there are certain application tropes we in admissions see frequently. Goals of working in the Foreign Service or the UN are common, as are formative brushes with seminal political and social moments (“I remember watching 9/11 on TV,” “I was studying in Cairo during the Arab Spring,” etc.). These can be effective, or not; regular readers will know that the curious alchemy behind a strong application involves many ingredients, and that the same thing can strike different readers in distinct ways. A familiar one I hereby discourage goes something like this: “I aspire to a career in the field of international affairs.” What’s the big deal, you ask? Isn’t Fletcher an international affairs school, after all? Don’t you admissions types always harp on the importance of professional goals? And aren’t you the guy who lets his dog read applications?
It is, we do, and he mostly writes blog posts (dogs are famously poor readers, and demonstrate questionable judgment). The issue is that “International Affairs” is not itself a field, but rather an inter-related group of fields. Microfinance, monitoring & evaluation, social entrepreneurship, development aid policy, national security law, international climate change negotiations, EU monetary policy, mobile banking, maritime policy, and nuclear non-proliferation are all fields (along with dozens of others) that have an equal claim for inclusion under the “international affairs” umbrella. Essays that include phrases like “the field of international affairs” often signal that an applicant hasn’t quite identified a sufficiently specific set of interests or professional objectives that often translate to success both at Fletcher and with career development afterwards. The fact that you’ve submitted an application tells us you’re interested in “international affairs,” but we want to hear more! Tell us what field or fields interest you most, and try to identify some of the linkages between them. This shows us that you’re ready to construct a coherent course of study from Fletcher’s famously flexible curriculum. The more you can do so the stronger your case for admission, and the less you need to worry that your application is maybe being read by a dog.
Tagged with: Murray
Tufts University undergraduates are encouraged to participate in a Common Reading program, which this year features the book Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America, by Roberto G. Gonzales. Fletcher students are invited to participate, too. Maybe you’d like to read the book, or maybe you have already read it. Either way, watch the program page for notices on related activities. The author will be speaking on campus in October, and the topic of his talk and of the book is relevant to many Fletcher students’ interests.
Tagged with: Tisch College
In the first phase of returning to the student-filled place that Fletcher usually is, the students taking pre-session classes start their 2016-17 studies today! Two classes are offered: Strategic Management (required for MIB students, open to all others) and Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, which is the first in a three-course Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation series.
Pre-session students are busy. We won’t find them hanging out much in the Hall of Flags. But welcoming them is a significant step toward the fall semester.
I’m informed by Ginn Library’s Ellen McDonald that today is World Elephant Day and Tufts is joining the fight to stop poaching and ivory trafficking. A new initiative, Jumbos for Jumbos, seeks “to achieve tangible outcomes that will advance elephant conservation, as well as educate the university and community at large.” Ellen also wrote about the challenges faced by elephants for the Fletcher Forum.
With the resources of our veterinary college and with an elephant (Jumbo, of course) as the university mascot, supporting the conservation of elephants is a natural cause for Tufts University.
Like Tatsuo’s post from last week, this one, from Adnan, has been awaiting action from me for a little while. But at the same time as Adnan describes wrapping up his own first year, his focus in the post is to offer suggestions for incoming students, and I decided to hold it until closer to the arrival of the newest members of our community. With that said, I’ll let Adnan take us back two months to Commencement at the end of May.
One of the great things about sticking around in Somerville after finals ended was getting to attend Commencement weekend. It was wonderful to celebrate with members of the Class of 2016, many of whom I’m not just good friends with, but had also learned to rely on for all sorts of advice as I navigated my way through my first year. Saying goodbye is never fun, and thinking about how quickly time had flown bummed me out a little. Listening to Commencement speeches by Dean Stavridis, Arianna Huffington, Fletcher alumna Susan Livingston, Professor Schaffner and the graduates themselves, however, was quite uplifting. It reminded me of everything that makes Fletcher amazing, and left me feeling grateful that I have one whole year to go. Officially “half a master of law and diplomacy” now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far, and hope it helps new students make the most of your limited time here.
First, prepare to be swamped. Between readings, assignments, papers, extra-curricular activities, events, part-time jobs, and trying to build a social life, you’ll wonder how to juggle time. It’ll often feel overwhelming, sometimes even unmanageable. And you know what will make it worse? Stressing about it. The sooner you learn to take it easy, the happier and more productive you’ll be. That does not mean sitting back and letting Fletcher pass you by. Rather, remind yourself that you’ve got what it takes, and you’re not here only to do as much as you can, but also to have fun while doing it.
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do in preparation for Fletcher — and life — is to know yourself. You’ll have a dizzying number of options. Picking what’s best for you will require having a clear idea of your interests and goals, one you should revisit and refresh frequently. Furthermore, the more clarity you have about what you want, the easier it will be for your professors and peers to guide you. For every class you enroll in, think about what you’ll take from it and how it will help you reach your goal. Be strategic about complementing fields of study with the right extra curricular activities. Think about the professional and personal narrative you are building. Have a roadmap — a sense of your bigger picture — and know that what works for someone else may not be the best for you. Every Fletcher student is unique. That being said, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to trying new things. If you’ve discovered a new interest, which you probably will, dare to pursue it. It’s all about finding the right balance, and that’s always easier said than done.
When you get caught up with Fletcher life, you may not always remember all the resources available to you, but it’s important to use them! One that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is Fletcher’s alumni network. Fletcher graduates are doing great things, and as a student, you have access to them. Look up alums working in areas you wish to join and reach out to them. In my experience, they’re always happy to provide guidance and help. Don’t miss the chance to meet them during the New York and Washington DC career trips, and other alumni networking events. Also, visit the Office of Career Services frequently. Make an appointment to review your resume, or practice your interview skills. The OCS also arranges events and workshops that you want to keep an eye out for. And don’t forget that you have the option to cross-register at Harvard and can also access classes at MIT. Use this opportunity to experience what they have to offer and tap into their networks.
Lastly, always stay on top of your game. Manage your time well, and hustle. Don’t let things pile up, and keep clearing your plate as you go. So take those equivalency exams before classes start, get your second language proficiency requirement out of the way as soon as you can, and go to PDP. Plan ahead to the best of your ability. Try to get a head start on your capstone project so you can use your summer to travel and do field work for it, if necessary. Start applying for summer internships as early as you can. The more effectively you manage your time, the more of it you’ll have to spend with your friends and have fun. And you’ll want a lot of that, because, in my experience, those moments are the ones you’ll cherish the most.
The Tufts Digital Library each year collects and catalogues Fletcher students’ capstone projects, which can then be found from the research section of the Fletcher web site. Each year I see the call for capstones, but fail to note when they are available online. So with considerable delay, let me point you toward the capstones for the class of 2015 and earlier. With topics ranging from South-South Technology Cooperation to Terrorism and Freedom of Expression: An Econometric Analysis, the titles provide a nice picture of the scope of interests among Fletcher students.
I’ll try to link to the most recent capstones as soon as they’re available later this fall.
Due to a little disorganization on my part, I’m only now sharing a wrap-up of the spring semester that Tatsuo sent me in June. With apologies for my delay, let’s revisit Tatsuo’s extremely busy semester.
My second semester at Fletcher is over and half of my study in Medford/Somerville has quickly passed. I realize that the phrase “time flies” is true.
Many friends in the MA and LLM programs and second-years in the MALD have left the School. I was a little surprised that few first-year students were at commencement. In my home country, first-years would also attend such an event to say goodbye to students who are leaving. Maybe Americans like more casual opportunities to say goodbye to their friends and they think formal events like commencement are mainly for families. On the other hand, we Japanese (and other East Asians?), think that formal events such as commencement are good opportunities to say farewell to each other. For our families, we like more casual settings.
Looking back, this semester was very fruitful for me.
My first Field of Study is Law and Development; however, I am also interested in another area of international relations, Maritime Affairs. The economic and cultural prosperity of Japan largely depends on the sea surrounding our country. The ministry that I work for is also responsible for the vast area of maritime issues, from the shipping industry to marine leisure to maritime security conflicts.
Unfortunately, Fletcher does not offer a Field of Study in Maritime Studies, even though the school has some highly experienced professors in the area. Fortunately, the School allows students to design their own Field of Study. Thus, I combined some relevant courses and designed my tailor-made Field of Study, “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy.”
I took four and half a credits this semester: Global Maritime Affairs, which was the core of my self-designed Field of Study; Science Diplomacy, another course for my Maritime Studies Field; The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917, which was the last class for Professor Henrikson; International Investment Law; and Islamic World (0.5 credit). I took the last two courses for my interest in development studies.
For non-native English speakers, especially Japanese students who were accustomed to a more passive style of study in our college and high school education, it’s difficult to join the discussion in large classes (although at Fletcher, “large” means only 20 to 30 students in a class), so I try to take at least one small discussion class each semester. Science Diplomacy, led by Professor Berkman, had only around ten students, and the lectures and discussions were friendly and easy to join. The class focused on issues concerning the Arctic Ocean and the relationship between science and diplomacy.
Fletcher offers a lot of courses dealing with diplomacy or negotiation, but Science Diplomacy was unique for two reasons. First, the course dealt with scientific results and methods to use them in diplomatic negotiations. Most of us at Fletcher are not scientists and do not have science backgrounds. At least in my country of Japan, we (political or legal professionals) tend to think that scientists live in a different world. When I was a college student, I was interested in connecting people and studies in the arts and sciences. I helped to organize a forum on outer space development that gathered many researchers and students with different backgrounds, to improve exchange among them. The perspectives in Science Diplomacy at Fletcher awoke that interest again.
Additionally, Science Diplomacy focused on “common interests” for all the participants. In most diplomacy case studies, we have to define certain interests for each participant in the negotiations, even if these negotiations are not zero-sum games. However, this course provided another perspective on participants’ interests, by introducing the context of science. It was thought provoking for those of us struggling over global issues with many deeply intertwined interests.
Outside of classes, I joined a project led by Harvard Law School’s Law and International Development Society (LIDS). For the project, our team drafted policy guidelines for local stakeholders in Afghanistan seeking to promote community development in resource-rich areas cooperating with local government and mining companies. It was a very interesting practical opportunity to learn how we could use legal skills to tackle issues of international development. Thanks to the instruction and support of CLDP, the U.S. agency that provided the project to LIDS, I learned a lot, from Afghanistan’s unique practices to global issues for mining-community development. On the other hand, I was afraid that our work could deprive Afghan stakeholders of an opportunity to develop legal and policy skills. When I was a young officer of the Japanese Government, I drafted a lot of policy papers and guidelines. I could not complete the work alone because of my inexperience, and I had to draw on support from my boss and colleagues. As a result, over time, I acquired the skills I needed to be effective in my work. With that history in mind, the project was a very thought provoking opportunity for me.
For recreation between studies, I took part in a Fletcher student activity, Fletcher Strategic Simulation Society (FS3), where we mainly enjoyed playing board games. In Japan, most board games are for family parties. especially including small children, and the rules tend to be simple. When I asked my Japanese classmates to join FS3, they worried it would be a little childish. But in the U.S., college students enjoy many board games and the rules can be very complex, requiring strategy to win. This cultural difference is the mirror image of the perspective on manga or anime. Many Americans think that comics and cartoons are not appropriate for intellectual adults. By contrast, in Japan, even old or well-educated people like manga and anime, because many are very literary and include social satire.
I like to play strategic simulation games with Fletcher’s future diplomats, officers, and negotiators. In particular, I was very excited to play “Diplomacy,” which is a classic game dealing with World War I. Players negotiated, allied, and deceived each other, posing as great powers of the era. It took more than four hours to complete a game, but I truly enjoyed playing “Diplomacy” with the people of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Also outside of classes, I tried to organize a Japanese Table. At Fletcher, there are many language and culture tables, and I wanted to make my contribution to the cultural diversity of Fletcher. Additionally, I wanted to find people who are interested in Japanese language and culture, and to increase the number of interested students. One of the reasons is that I work for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. I regretted that I could not organize the table too many times. The number of students who participated was not too large — except when we served Japanese cuisines and drinks! On the other hand, I realized that there are a good number of Fletcher students who are learning Japanese, although the Japanese presence in the U.S. has been dramatically decreasing over the past few decades, compared with that of China and other emerging countries. I think one of the reasons that it continues as an interest at Fletcher is that many students are focused on security studies.
We also have Japanese students at the School, and most of us have worked for the government. I think it should be our role to build, strengthen, and deepen the community to benefit both our country and international society, by staying connected to people from other countries who are interested in our culture.
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