Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Yesterday, the Faculty Spotlight shone on Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who teaches the series of classes on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME or DM&E).  As Prof. Scharbatke-Church mentioned, she frequently runs into alumni in her travels and work.  I’m delighted that she has shared with me brief introductions to some of those Fletcher graduates who took one or more of her classes.  She developed these introductions to help students understand whether the classes are right for them.  As currently configured, the classes are Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.  For blog readers, there is additional value in noting the careers in which DME concepts can be applied.

Lisa InksLisa Inks F10
Current Position/Organization: Director of Conflict Management Programs, Mercy Corps Nigeria.  I oversee Mercy Corps’ conflict management division in Nigeria, composed of various donor-funded programs integrating peacebuilding, economic development, and governance.  I am responsible for setting our conflict management strategy, ensuring the programs’ success against our objectives, and leading research and M&E initiatives.

Professional interests and passions: Integrated peacebuilding and economic development programming; research on conflict/poverty linkages; governance and peacebuilding; monitoring, evaluation, and learning of conflict mitigation programs.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: This will be your chance to soak up theory.  After Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s classes you will never feel like you have enough time to absorb the great wisdom of the M&E giants.  Read every word and reflect on what you think your personal approach to DME is, and how you see this playing into your work.  If you go into the rest of your career with a clear understanding of how you see yourself in the DME world and what your ideals are, you’ll be more effective.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: What I learned in that class was more than a collection of tools, strategies, and facts: I adopted a completely new mindset for how to implement development and peacebuilding programs.  Constant iteration is absolutely necessary for programming effectiveness.  The way Prof. Scharbatke-Church modeled continuous learning and improvement is the way we should all run our programs.  I think about that often: how I need to stop, evaluate, and reflect after each step of an activity — and always get the direct input of participants.  (This seems obvious, but it wasn’t until I took the class that I truly internalized the importance of direct feedback and closing the feedback loop.)  Also, through the class, I learned how to think logically and precisely to develop a program with a clear and testable theory of change and to monitor its effectiveness.  A year after graduating I was training people throughout my previous organization in how to develop DME systems.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: If you plan to work in development at all, take this course.  This class should be a “must” for anyone who wants to work in an NGO or for a donor.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s class is rigorous, challenging, and humbling, but if you are serious about development — and are serious about doing high-quality development work that responds to the needs of those you are trying to serve, and that is based on evidence and learning — you should take it.

Brian Heilman F10

Brian HeilmanCurrent Position/Organization: Independent M&E Consultant. Prior: Gender and Evaluation Specialist, International Center for Research on Women (2010-2015).

Professional interests and passions: Gender equality; prevention of all forms of violence against women; engaging men and boys in efforts to advance gender quality; utilization-focused evaluation; quantitative data analysis and visualization.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: Honestly, the professional value of these courses is about triple that of the average Fletcher course…with a workload to match!  Also, despite the modules’ titles — and I suppose not all incoming first years are immediately familiar with DM&E concepts — these courses were the most fertile ground at Fletcher for deep discussion and analysis on the ethics and effectiveness of international development and peacebuilding programming.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: These courses taught me:

  • To demand clarity and logic from international development program designs — but not by sacrificing imagination.
  • To demand and uncover evidence of these programs’ relevance, effectiveness, and/or sustainability prior to large-scale investment — but not by allegiance to methodological “rigor” as narrowly understood.
  • To demand that we value usefulness over interestingness in the application of precious program, evaluation and research resources.

These and other insights from the courses — as well as from Professor Scharbatke-Church’s broader mentorship and support — helped me come into my own as a professional evaluator, a career path that honestly I hadn’t imagined for myself prior to attending Fletcher.  I have now collaborated on and led a range of evaluations and M&E collaborations in diverse settings, from the Pacific Islands to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, and I apply principles from these courses throughout.  I am still so grateful that I took a chance on the first DME course in my first semester — it changed everything!

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series:  These courses are fantastic for the Fletcher student with broad interests in international development practice.  If you’re like I was, you’ve got some constellation of interests including: human rights, grassroots programming/activism, data collection and analysis, development/foreign aid policy, and/or others.  You can take many classes at Fletcher that dig into these areas individually but that conveniently ignore the implications of the others — especially the crucial question of how best to ensure that your program/practice/policy continues to learn from itself and improve over time.

These courses bring all of those topics together, but perhaps more importantly, they do so while also taking the notion of the “professional degree” very seriously.  They are designed and taught very thoughtfully as preparatory courses for professionals.  The projects and work you undertake mirror the projects and work you will undertake after graduating:  Teamwork. Project designs and proposals. M&E plans. Data collection guides.

Jessie EvansJessie Evans F10

Current Position/Organization: Conflict Stabilization Specialist, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, U.S. State Department.

I support broader State Department and interagency efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy by applying conflict expertise and supporting embassies in countries and regions affected by conflict.  I design and implement conflict prevention and stabilization programs and advise on U.S. government policy.  I am expected to quickly gain familiarity with specific conflict-impacted countries to identify gaps where my Bureau’s tools, including strategic planning, conflict assessment, financial assistance, and deployable staff, can enable the U.S. government to develop better policy and programs leading to improved outcomes.  I’ve served in Afghanistan, Burma, and Bangladesh.

Professional interests and passions: Countries transitioning from conflict to peace, conflict prevention, reconciliation mechanisms, trust-building, civil-military relations, gender.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: I wish I had known the DM&E classes I took at Fletcher would be by far the most practical, relevant courses I would take in graduate school.  I also wish I knew more M&E vocabulary before starting the course.  I had only been in the workforce for a few years before Fletcher, with limited program design experience, so much of the lingo was new to me.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: I am more strategic, always asking myself what changes I would need to see, in individuals and societies I work in, to determine whether the money, time, and effort we spent was “worth it.”  The course also taught me the importance of going beyond calling an intervention a success solely because it met its originally stated objectives and goal.  I learned to ask the even tougher question, like … was it the right intervention in the first place?  Did it have the intended outcomes and do those outcomes amount to something greater, a larger impact?  Could it have been done more efficiently?  Will it be sustainable?  I just wrote an evaluation scope of work for one of our projects and I relied heavily on what I learned in DM&E class – looking back at course material as I drafted it!

Jennifer Catalano F11

Jennifer CatalanoCurrent Position/Organization: Director, Youth Economic Participation Initiative at the Talloires Network (Tufts University).

I oversee a 4.5-year demonstration grant program at the Talloires Network, an international association of universities committed to civic engagement.  This program provides sub-grants to eight universities in the global south in order to expand and learn from their efforts to prepare students for entrepreneurship and employment.  Additional program elements include a learning partnership with the University of Minnesota and a global community of practice around the topic of higher education and youth employment/entrepreneurship.

Professional interests and passions: Gender, youth, ethics, the aid system, higher education.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: It’s rather intense, and has a significant workload, but I had heard that through the grapevine.  Actually the intensity set me up well for the rest of grad school.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: So many things…I drew on Program Design skills during the first phase of my post-Fletcher work, which involved coordinating the process of designing the program I now work for.

The M&E knowledge has been extraordinarily helpful during the past year.  The program I work on includes a significant multi-year monitoring/learning effort.  My M&E studies helped with the process of selecting an evaluation team and working with them to set up the collaboration.  The whole process would have been daunting if I hadn’t known how to create a TOR, the right language to use, what to look for in evaluators, etc.  Knowing this process so well also helped me to advocate for decisions that were in line with my values.

Now as we move into a phase of active collaboration with our learning partners, my M&E skills enable me to contribute in a far more substantive and meaningful way to the process.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: This is one of the most practical and useful courses you could take at Fletcher if you intend to work anywhere in the aid chain. I highly recommend it.

 

Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, lecturer in Human Security.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church teaches a series of intensive short-term classes, including Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.

Cheyanne ChurchColleagues sometimes ask me why I stopped working in peacebuilding to be an evaluator.  I respond by asking: how is determining the dynamics of a conflict and its actors, and the ability of an intervention to catalyze change, anything but peacebuilding?  Understanding how change happens in complex conflict and fragile affected states, be it on issues related to corruption, rule of law, or conflict, has been the focus of my career as a practitioner-scholar.  In my opinion, this is the crux of all forms of international development and peacebuilding.

As a practitioner-scholar I purposefully straddle the theory and practice communities.  The issues, challenges, or questions I identify on the ground when working with partners such as the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), or the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) directly feed my research and, by extension, my teaching.  Real cases are always part of class discussions to bring to light the complexity of issues.  In addition, through my organization Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, students have the opportunity to engage in projects that are committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues.

Equally, my academic work influences my practice as it enables me to not only stay current, but to critically assess the potential value of theory against real challenges.  For instance, I am leading a project, funded by the Department of State, that seeks to operationalize new approaches to corruption in the justice sector in conflict affected states.  The impetus for the project came from teaching a course on Corruption and Conflict where it was clear that the proposed solutions in academia were not bounded by the practical realities of the contexts in which these responses need to be implemented.

The courses that I teach at the School are unique in a number of ways, primarily because they emphasize skills development and are offered in a three-part series taught in an intensive format.  Working daily with students who are exclusively committed to the course creates a unique classroom experience characterized by camaraderie and a dedication to understanding how and why change happens.  This camaraderie and engagement often lead to long-term relationships with students.

As a result I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with and learn from the alumni of my classes.  Fletcher alumni now include a growing cadre of professionals who call the discipline of evaluation their profession.  At the 2013 American Evaluation Association conference, over 30 alumni were in attendance in their professional capacity.  They are found working throughout implementing actors and donors in the international community.  I am proud to say they are advancing the practice of evaluation, from which the School in turn benefits, as they act as guest speakers, offer topics for capstones, and establish internships.

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From the number of notices that pop into my inbox every day, you’d never guess that February is the shortest month of the year.  I can barely keep up, and I know that students do some serious prioritizing when it comes to deciding which events they’ll attend.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been storing the notices in a folder, and I thought I’d just list the various events.  Of course, you can find this information on the Fletcher calendar, but it still seemed blog-worthy to create a master list, including a few that aren’t listed in the calendar.  Despite the length of the list, I know I’ve missed some, but I think you’ll get the idea — there’s a lot happening here every weekday, and some weekends, too!

February 3: Egypt’s Turn? A Day in the Life of a Democracy Activist turned Entrepreneur.  An off-the-record discussion with Wael Ghonim, Internet Activist & Author of “Revolution 2.0.”

February 4: Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Laureates of African Descent.  Book Discussion with Dr. Adekeye Adebajo, Professor Pearl Robinson and Lee Daniels

February 6: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) at Tufts will feature a panel on Mass Atrocities and the Response to their Public Health Consequences.  This panel will be comprised of four Tufts faculty members from across schools and disciplines.

February 9:  International Security Studies presents The Middle East in Transition: 2011-2015, Brigadier General Itai Brun.  Brigadier General Brun will present an off-the-record lecture to a Fletcher audience of faculty, staff, and students.

February 10-11:  A Taste of Ginn Library.  Come enjoy some refreshments and morsels of information on JumboSearch, citation tools, WebEx, and more. Drop-in or stay — we’ll rotate through topics every 10 minutes.

February 11: Charles Francis Adams Lecture, featuring Sarah Chayes: Corruption: The Unrecognized Global Security Threat.

February 12: Human Security Speaker Series, A Brown Bag Lunch with Professor Karen Jacobsen: How Many IDPs? Where are They? Information Challenges in Urban Displacement Settings.

February 12: “Fletcher Reads” Community Book Discussion, featuring Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan.

February 12: International Security Studies presents Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster: Future Challenges.

February 12:  Charles Francis Adams Lecture:  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, 2009-14; Prime Minister of Denmark, 2001-09: NATO: The Indispensable Transatlantic Alliance.

February 17: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) talk and book signing by Thomas de Waal — Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, expert on the South Caucasus region, and brother of Fletcher Professor Alex de Waal — on his new book: Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide.

February 17:  The 31st Diplomatic Studies Roundtable: The Energetic Ambassador: U.S. Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Remarks by and conversation with Alan Solomont, United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, (2009-2013), currently the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

February 17: Mexico’s Energy Reform: Regulatory Policy, its Execution and International Perspective.  The Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) and FLEEC are inviting you to a luncheon and conversation with a distinguished panel.

February 18: CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training) workshop for international students.

February 18: Optimizing Emerging Market Strategies: How to Manage Financial Risks & Rewards, with Dan Brennan, EVP & CFO, Boston Scientific.

February 19: The Inaugural lecture of the Shelby Cullom Davis Professorship in International Business: Visible Hands: Government Regulation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Global Business, by Jette Steen Knudsen, Associate Professor of International Business and The Shelby Cullom Davis Chair in International Business.

February 19:  H.E. Mr. Nikolay Mladenov,  UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and newly appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority, Iraq:  The Way Forward.

February 19: The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies presents: Sectarian Dynamics and National Reconciliation in the Middle East, a seminar discussion with  Mr. Miroslav Zafirov, Bulgarian Diplomat; Political Advisor to the United Nations Assistance MIssion in Iraq (UNAMI), Associate Professor and Member of the Advisory Board, Centre for Middle Eastern and Gulf Studies, New Bulgarian University and Director, Middle Eastern Program, Sofia Security Forum

February 19: Ebola fundraiser & positive vibrations party at Johnny D’s.  Headlining will be SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS, a world renowned roots reggae-inspired band out of West Africa. Opening things up will be Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate (Kouyate is a kora virtuoso) and DJ Afro-Marc spinning on the one’s and two’s before, after, and in between sets.  100% of ticket sales proceeds will b​e donated to Doctors Without Borders to aid their Ebola relief effort in West Africa. Additional donations will be accepted at the door.

February 20:  Coffee and chat with MALD student Chris Maroshegyi.

February 20: In the Library Office — drop-in anytime between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. to hear about quick-start tools for researching your Capstone topic.

February 21: The 10th Annual Tufts Energy Conference, to be held at the Fletcher School.  The theme this year is “Breaking Barriers to a Clean Energy Future,” a solutions-oriented look at how to tackle the world’s most pressing energy challenges as we move toward a greener future.

February 23: The North Korea Strategy Center & North Korea Working Group at Fletcher presents: NK Information Highway: Driving Change in North Korea.

February 23: The Institute for Business in the Global Context Speaker Series presents: Evolving Role of The World Bank: The Next Decade, with Michael Goldberg Senior Financial Specialist, World Bank.

February 24:  Book Talk: Green on Blue, Elliot Ackerman F’03, Fletcher Writer-in-Residence

February 24:  BRICS as a Global Legal Actor: From Regulatory Innovation to BRICS Law? with Prof. Mihaela Papa

February 25: Human Security Speaker Series, a brown bag lunch with Oliver Bakewell, Co-Director of the International Migration Institute, Associate Professor, Department of International Development, University of Oxford: Looking Beyond Conflict as a Determinant of Mobility in the African Great Lakes.

February 25: Award winning author, Harvard Professor of History, and Tufts alumna Jill Lepore, will deliver a guest lecture on her New York Times bestselling book The Secret History of Wonder Woman. This exciting lecture is open to the entire Tufts community and is sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25: Lost in Translation: Effective communication workshop for international students, sponsored by the Tufts Counseling Center and International Center.

February 25:  Tufts University Forum on Race, Inequality, and Action, sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25-March 1:  Russia in the 21st Century, sponsored by Tufts University Institute for Global Leadership

February 26-27:  Office of Career Services trip to Washington, DC.

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The Office of Career Services (OCS)-organized trip to Washington, DC is taking place today and tomorrow.  While the staff takes advantage of a quiet day at Fletcher to catch up with work, the students have donned their best business attire and are making the rounds in DC, visiting their choice of potential employers.  Among the options are panel discussions on Think Tanks and Policy Research; Humanitarian Assistance, Human Rights, Refugees; International Trade & Commerce; U.S. Security and Intelligence; International Communications and Media; International Development; and Energy and Environment.

And here’s a (very) partial list of organizations with which students will be interacting, either meetings with alumni, informational interviews, or receptions.  I’ve included organizations that, I hope, will give readers a sense of the breadth of the offerings, but there are more options than I’m able to capture here.

Abt Associates
Albright Stonebridge Group
Cato Institute
American Friends Service Committee
Chemonics
Cohen Group
DAI
Dalberg
Eurasia Group
FINCA
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Democratic Institute
The Roosevelt Group
Search for Common Ground
Social Impact Inc.
Stimson Center
USAID
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of Treasury
UNHCR
World Bank

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In the last few days I’ve contacted several applicants by email and haven’t heard anything in return.  I wish I could say that this has never happened before, but it’s sadly not unheard of.  In an age of Twitter, Snap Chat, and all kinds of other communications pathways, I know that email may not be your preferred medium.  On the other hand, it’s the way that Fletcher, and many (most?) other graduate schools will communicate with you.

All of that means that:

1) You should check your email every day and answer questions from your graduate schools immediately.

2) This is true even if you created your email address only for the purposes of applying to graduate school.  I appreciate that many people set up a new email address and folders for the application process, but you can’t simply enter the address in your application and then abandon the account.

3) There are people out there who might have been admitted, but who won’t be, because they haven’t sent along a certain key piece of information when we have requested it.

So, my friends, check your email daily.  Most days there will be nothing there from Fletcher or your other graduate schools, but some days you’ll find a message with a question.  And, eventually (next month — not right away), your email inbox is where you’ll find the news that your admissions decision is ready.

 

Returning to the students writing about their Fletcher experience, today Liam describes his progress on developing his Capstone Project, which is both a graduation requirement and an opportunity for students to build a curriculum that meets their individual needs.  New students arrive at Fletcher with the full range of thinking on their capstones — from no idea whatsoever what they’ll write, to perfect clarity on their topic and planned field research.  All have the option of selecting an “incubator” course, which is designed to help them develop their ideas and research.  Liam has opted to write a traditional academic thesis, but other project formats are also options.

As I begin to wind down my time at Fletcher — and thus have to start ramping up my capstone efforts — I thought a post about lessons I’ve learned regarding the capstone process could be useful.

First, it’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you want to do for your capstone when you come to Fletcher, or really even through the first semester.  I spent my entire first year thinking about a topic for my thesis that, at year’s end, I ultimately decided just wasn’t where I wanted to go.  That’s okay.  I found that meeting about twice a semester with Professor Shultz, my advisor, was a lifesaver, because as we began a dialogue about what I was planning and where I had trouble, he asked good questions that prompted me to think about what it was I really wanted to get out of the experience.  Shifting gears at the end of my second semester meant that I had more of a focus over the summer to do research.

One thing I wish I had done better throughout my first three semesters was to tie term papers to my thesis topic.  I’m writing about the U.S. Army’s security force assistance efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to compile best practices on what works going forward, but the only course for which I’ve written a paper relevant to that topic was for Internal Conflicts and War, my capstone “incubator” class.

Obviously, not every class is going to be a good option for writing a paper that pertains to your thesis.  But instead of writing papers on the Iran Hostage Crisis (Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies), the U.S. mission in Somalia in the 1990s (Peace Operations), or right wing terror groups in the U.S. (Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism), I probably could have chosen topics for those classes that, while not fitting perfectly into my thesis, were at least relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I certainly learned a lot in the research and writing of those papers, but I probably could have been more strategic in picking topics that would support the research for my thesis.

Another thing that is important to note is that if you want to do any type of interviews, you need to put in for an institutional review board.  It’s not that big of a deal, but even if you’re requesting a waiver, it’s still a process through Tufts that takes some time, so I would recommend doing it as soon as you have an idea what you want to research.

Your capstone really is what you make of it.  In my experience, I feel I missed a chance to tie more papers to my thesis, especially since I knew my topic by my second semester.  However, the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is to sit down with your capstone advisor early, and then at least once or so a semester, to just spitball ideas on what you are thinking and where you want the process to go.  I’ve gotten a hold of some great resources that way, and it has kept me on track as I try to finish up one of the last remaining milestones of my Fletcher experience.

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First, a note.  I’ve received emails from quite a few people in the last two weeks wondering when they’ll hear from us with the decision on their applications.  The answer is: not for a while!  We’re still mid-process — seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for sure, but far from done.  Hang tight!

Liz and I are both at home reading today.  More accurately, Liz is reading, and I’m reading when I’m not writing a blog post.  Dan and I have already told you about our reading days.  Today the rest of the staff chimes in, survey style.  (Thank you to Kristen for providing the survey questions!)

Do you listen to music while reading?

Christine: Yes, something that is not distracting, though. Taylor Swift’s “1989″ has been great background noise!  I’m also a fan of the iPod Genius mixes for anything moody and 90s (Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls, etc.).

Kristen: On and off.  I find that some well-timed lively Latin American pop can help get me through a long afternoon.

Laurie: I find music very distracting when I am reading applications (or reading anything for that matter).  However, I do like the steady hum of my space heater.  The extra heat is a real plus as well.

Liz: I actually don’t.  I like silence, though sometimes a little background noise is nice.  More recently I’ve been reading during “snow days,” when Tufts has closed due to inclement weather, which normally is a rare occasion.  Given the weather, lately I’ve had the news on in the background while reading to keep up with the storm!  But usually, I don’t have any music, etc.

Favorite beverage to accompany your reading?

Kristen: Coffee, followed by some more coffee and perhaps a cup of coffee after that.

Laurie: I alternate between hot and cold beverages all day long.  Coffee in the morning (of course), cold water throughout the day, and then tea in the afternoon.

Liz: This depends a bit on the time of day! I’m a big fan of hydration, so I tend to have a large water bottle that I refill throughout the day.  In the morning I also will have a nice hot cup of coffee, and in the afternoon, I sometimes will make a fruit smoothie.  It breaks up the day and is a nice treat to look forward to!

Christine: Water, always water.  Sometimes a nice hot tea when the mood strikes.

Pet peeve while reading applications?

Laurie: My biggest pet peeve is when I misspell or mistype words when I am writing my notes.  Our new system does not have an auto correct and I always need to go back and edit my work.

Liz: My biggest pet peeve when reading is when an applicant doesn’t follow directions or pay attention to details within the essays.  We’ve seen it all as readers — including applicants whose essays are written for other schools.  A word to the wise: stick to the word limit, answer the questions we have asked and read through your essays to ensure you’ve uploaded the essay for the right school!  Attention to detail is important, and is something we keep our eye on.

Christine: Applicants not filling out their academic information completely.

Kristen: A cold room and a shoddy application.

What incentive do you give yourself to help make it through a pile of applications?

Liz: For me, my incentive is always food!  I won’t let myself eat breakfast until I’ve read at least a few files on a long read day.  The same thing is true for eating lunch or a snack.  I always make a “hot” lunch on read days as well, since I don’t normally do that during the week.  I usually will give myself a goal and when I meet that goal, my reward is a tasty treat.

Christine: If I get through five applications, I can take a stretch break.  If I get through 10, I can have a snack break!

Kristen: Coffee. Is the coffee thing coming through?

Laurie: Reading days are all about incentives!  Throughout the day I set reading goals to meet before getting a drink, eating lunch, moving to a new reading location, taking a shower, etc.

Your reading “mascot”?

Christine: Not really a mascot, but reading means I can cuddle up in my favorite blanket on the couch, and have the fire on when it is chilly.  It is especially idyllic when the snow is falling, which has happened a lot this reading season!

Kristen:  I’ve got two little kiddos, so seeing them (or even a picture of them) livens up the day.

Laurie: I do not have any mascots, but I do need my reading space organized to maximize comfort and efficiency before I can start.  I need pillows, a blanket, a place for my water, a stool for my feet and a surface for my mouse.  I rarely read at a desk or on a table because it is uncomfortable and slows me down.

Liz: I unfortunately don’t have a reading mascot; I do however have a favorite chair I sit in with my lap top.  The key to a great reading day is yummy food, a good lap desk, a warm blanket and cozy socks.  Reading days are one of my favorite things about my job!  We get to learn all about amazing applicants and help build, what we hope will be, a truly remarkable Fletcher class!

Since none of us have mascots that can top Murray for cuteness, here he is again:

Murray sunbathing

 

Time to hear from another Class of 2014 graduate.  Yuko Hirose was one of those students who are organized and systematic in their approach to their studies, but who still maintain an open mind toward post-Fletcher opportunities.  Here she describes her three-year path from Tokyo, through Medford/Somerville, to Nairobi.

YukoHirose_Ethiopia_Michiti_Coop_CloseupIt’s been more than seven months since I graduated from Fletcher, and I find myself writing this from Nairobi, Kenya where I have been living for the past four months.  If someone had told me three years ago that I would find myself working as a global development consultant in Nairobi, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it!  Life throws you wonderful opportunities when you least expect them, and Fletcher has played a tremendous role in helping me get here.

Three years ago, I was working as a management consultant in Tokyo, knowing that I eventually wanted to transition to working on global development issues.  My passion for working in developing countries grew through meeting microfinance clients in the slums of Mumbai and Dhaka and a homestay in a rural village in Thailand during my undergraduate years.  A study abroad at UC Berkeley exposed me to the world of social innovation, and I devoured books and other opportunities to learn about harnessing market approaches to improving the lives of marginalized populations.  This was also when I first learned about Fletcher; a trusted friend and mentor attending Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy mentioned that her fiancé was attending Fletcher and loved the school’s strong curriculum in international affairs, as well as the warm and passionate community.  Going to Fletcher became a dream of mine.

After university, I wanted to quickly build my skills in problem-solving and management, and I decided to join a consulting firm.  There I met wonderful mentors and developed business skills that would eventually help me be effective in development projects.  Though I had opportunities to work on pro bono projects with Japanese non-profits after the March 2011 earthquake in northern Japan, I still craved the opportunity to more directly apply the skills I had gained to the issues that I cared about.  I started taking steps realize this dream, using any time I could carve out to apply to graduate school.

I was ecstatic when I received my admission letter from Fletcher in late 2011.  Fletcher provided the perfect blend of development economics and international business courses that could help me transition from a career in the private sector to one in global development.  In the end, what finalized my decision to join the MALD program was the warm alumni community I met during a reception hosted for admitted students at the residence of a Fletcher alum, Mark Davidson F86, who was then serving as U.S. Minster-Counsel of Public Affairs to Japan.  I remember riding the train home that evening in awe of how humble the Fletcher alums were, despite their countless accomplishments, and touched by how fondly they spoke of their experiences at Fletcher and the friendships they developed there, even after many decades.  If I was taking a leap into an uncertain future, I knew I wanted to spend the two years of my master’s program in a warm community of peers who are passionate about changing the world — as cliché as that sounds — and helping each other in the process, and Fletcher turned out to be exactly that.

After two years there, I can honestly say that going to Fletcher was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.  Not only did the courses help me to better understand development issues and tools such as impact evaluation and development finance, but Fletcher alums were extremely supportive in helping me transition my career.  My summer internship was with an inspiring Fletcher alum at the International Finance Corporation, working on how to incorporate a gender lens into IFC’s investments.  This internship helped me to work with TechnoServe in Ethiopia over the winter break of my second year, assessing the successes and challenges of a guarantee facility between IFC and a local bank.  Seeing I was both nervous and excited about this trip, an Ethiopian Fletcher friend and other Fletcherites who had spent time in the country readily shared advice and introduced friends.  My month in Ethiopia and a weekend in Nairobi to visit a close Kenyan Fletcher friend exposed me to the excitement of working in East Africa and supporting private sector development in the region.  During the DC Career Trip organized by OCS, I attended a site visit at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, hosted by a Fletcher alum, and found out about an opportunity to work on exactly this topic.  I hadn’t considered going back to consulting when I left Deloitte, but each case interview with Dalberg made me more excited about their work and I joined their Nairobi office six months after that visit.

YukoHirose_DesignWorkshopWorking as a consultant at Dalberg has been an amazing experience.  The firm provides strategic advice to leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to accelerate their impact on issues such as access to finance, health, education, energy, and inclusive business.  My most recent project was with the MasterCard Foundation on setting a learning agenda and designing a learning lab to enhance access to finance for smallholder farmers in Africa.  My next one will be a project revamping the CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy of a large Kenyan financial company.  As one of three Japanese in the firm, I am also helping drive business development in Japan to encourage Japanese businesses to engage with the continent in a way that meets the needs of local marginalized populations.

I am fully using everything I learned at Fletcher and Deloitte on a daily basis, and am grateful to be surrounded by a passionate and capable team that is as diverse and loving as Fletcher was.  The Fletcher community in Nairobi has also been a huge source of support, as I navigated my way in a new city.  More than ten recent Fletcher grads gathered for lunch during my second weekend in Nairobi, and that is when I realized that it is really true that you can find a Fletcherite anywhere in the world (and they will gladly take you in)!  I’ve kept in close contact with Fletcher friends who are now working in places like Kabul, Yangon, Delhi, Juba, and NYC.  While we are scattered across the globe, we support each other virtually as we navigate new cities, careers, and life events.

I am grateful to Fletcher for giving me the opportunity to be part of this warm community that inspires me to strive to create positive change.  I hope potential applicants with a thirst for engaging deeply with global issues consider joining the Fletcher family — you will find a community of fellow students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to helping you succeed in this quest and who will continue to inspire you for a long time to come!

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Just a short post today, but I wanted to bring your attention to Green on Blue, the newly released novel from Elliot Ackerman F03.  Of course, we always take some measure of pride when an alum publishes a book.  This time I learned about Elliot’s novel from a front-of-the-Arts-Section review in The New York Times.  The review notes:

In fact, this novel as a whole attests to Mr. Ackerman’s breadth of understanding — an understanding not just of the seasonal rhythms of war in Afghanistan and the harsh, unforgiving beauty of that land, not just of the hardships of being a soldier there, but a bone-deep understanding of the toll that a seemingly endless war has taken on ordinary Afghans who have known no other reality for decades.

A great review, and quite an honor for a first-time novelist.  Congratulations to Elliot!

 

Today is a public (and University) holiday, but I know one group of people who are likely to be working hard today — the students in the International Business Club organizing the Tufts Innovation Symposium, which will take place on Thursday.  Last week, second-year MALD student, Owen, saw the notice about the Africana Conference and sent along the information below about the Symposium. 

Innovative ideas hold the potential to widen access and to open economies, but innovation is meaningless if it is not responsive to the end user’s needs.  Today, more than ever, the ability to approach innovation from a customer-driven perspective is critical to a successful and adaptive enterprise.  This year, the Tufts Innovation Symposium will place YOU, the customer, in the driver’s seat to develop a comprehensive framework for inclusive innovation.

Learn more on Facebook and we hope you’ll register to attend.

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