Posts by: Jessica Daniels

I received a quick note this week from Marlene Houngbedji, who made an appearance on the blog earlier this year.  She told me that she was just about to climb on a plane to Ireland to attend a conference at the National University of Ireland-Galway.  Not just attend the conference, but present a paper she wrote for Prof. Mazurana’s class, which earned her an invitation to participate.  Marlene is listed among the Parallel Session Speakers in the conference agenda, where you can also find the abstract of her talk.

Marlene completed the one-year LLM program in May, and she is currently working as a summer legal researcher for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative-Harvard Humanitarian Academy.  She will start a permanent position in the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Division of the Department of Homeland Security later this summer.

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Earlier this spring I had contacted MALD student Kamil Pawlowski with a question.  We exchanged a round of emails, and only then did I learn that he was not responding from campus, but rather from Yangon, Myanmar.  I asked him if he would write something for the blog, and he kindly agreed.  Here’s his report about his year on leave from Fletcher.

KamilOne year ago this week I arrived in Myanmar to begin my summer internship with UNICEF.  I had finished my first year at Fletcher, and was excited to go to a country I’d been studying for nearly a decade, and especially to put into practice some of the knowledge and skills I’d acquired over the previous year.  Four other classmates were interning in Yangon that summer, and we all shared a cheap flat downtown.  It was so cheap, though, that since I was the last of the crew to arrive and I got last pick of the rooms, I ended up without a door or air-conditioning.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a comfortable summer, but it proved to be worth the discomfort in ways I hadn’t expected.  A few weeks before my internship was over, I was offered a temporary position as Emergency and Reporting Officer with UNICEF Myanmar!

I debated what to do for a long time while I went through the official hiring process.  I was worried about interrupting my two-year degree, about how removing myself from graduate school for a year would affect my academic motivation, and about not graduating with the group of friends and colleagues with whom I’d begun the Fletcher journey.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to further my career goals and to gain more experience in what I had wanted to accomplish with my degree in the first place.  Ultimately I succeeded in the required external candidate hiring process and decided to take the posting.  Fletcher was gracious enough to grant me a leave-of-absence for the duration of the appointment, and while the decision to delay the completion of my MALD was difficult, I am happy with the choice I made.  Fortunately, I’m now living in a nice flat with doors, air-conditioning, and even wireless internet — a luxury here, and a huge upgrade from last summer!

As an Emergency and Reporting Officer, I work on the coordination and monitoring of UNICEF’s humanitarian intervention in two on-going emergency settings.  In Kachin State, around 91,000 people have been newly displaced by a decades-long civil war that resurged in 2011, while in Rakhine State, around 140,000 people have been displaced, and an additional 170,000 have been otherwise affected by communal violence since 2012.  I primarily work in Yangon, but have gone on missions to both areas to provide technical assistance to field staff in monitoring, as well as to conduct emergency preparedness and response trainings, including refreshers on humanitarian principles.  Most of my work focuses on organizing information and reporting on UNICEF’s interventions in both states.  The work is difficult, though at times exciting, especially when I see the implementation of recommendations I make and their positive outcomes.  It is also increasingly challenging, due to a shrinking humanitarian space as a result of communal conflict and misunderstandings, or misrepresentation about how aid is delivered.  This has resulted in targeted attacks against humanitarian offices in Rakhine State, and has restricted access to many areas.  While solutions are not readily available, we have been able to make some progress to address these challenges, influenced in part by my own research and study at Fletcher.

I came to Fletcher to earn a MALD through the study of humanitarian assistance, minority rights, and forced migration.  My academic work has routinely focused around how a particular population in Myanmar, the Rohingya, have been affected by these issues.  During my first year at Fletcher I took courses that strengthened both my contextual and practical understanding of how to provide effective humanitarian assistance, while upholding and respecting the basic human rights of displaced peoples and conflict-affected people.  At UNICEF I have been constantly applying things I absorbed through courses during my first year at Fletcher, especially from Hurst Hannum’s Nationalism, Self-Determination and Minority Rights, Dan Maxwell’s Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies, Cheyenne Scharbatke-Church’s Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, and Dyan Mazurana’s Gender, Culture and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies.   These courses have provided tangible tools and ways of thinking to address many of the issues we face here in Myanmar, particularly more thoughtful and impact-driven program design and evaluation, gender and conflict analysis, and a key understanding of the human rights and humanitarian assistance polemics that have direct application to the conflict environment in Myanmar.  I am especially grateful to the professors and atmosphere at Fletcher for fostering knowledge through the study, analysis, and practice of real-world cases and debates.  This academic experience has had great impact on my ability to maneuver and succeed in this complex environment.

I am excited to return to Fletcher when I finish my appointment.  I will go back with a fresh understanding of the skills I still need to acquire through coursework, to better do the job I want to do.  I will also bring with me an experience that will be extremely valuable for connecting the issues discussed in Fletcher courses with their practice in the fields of humanitarianism and human rights.  Just as importantly, I’ll meet a whole new group of wonderful, talented, exciting individuals with whom to share the next step of our journey.

Kamil, temple

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There was so much excitement coming out of Brazil this weekend, but I’m still surprised at how caught up I’ve been in World Cup results.  If nothing else, it’s a great way to connect with people.

On my way into work this morning, I chatted with Jean-Yves, a 2014 graduate who will be in town for a few more weeks, and we compared notes.  He’s been organizing his time around each day’s game schedule.  Needless to say, he’ll be watching this afternoon’s match between France and Nigeria.

On Saturday, we were at our favorite beach in Revere, a town that is home to many people who hail from somewhere else, and yellow jerseys were the attire of choice.  I didn’t realize initially that the sea of yellow was divided between supporters of Brazil and Colombia — plenty of celebrating going on.

BicyclesOn Sunday, a friend posted a photo from the downtown watering hole where she had joined other former residents of the Netherlands to watch the game against Mexico.  She pointed to the typically Dutch collection of bicycles parked outside.

Of course, the Netherlands won, but I was torn in my friendly loyalties, and I also felt the pain of friends (and Fletcher grads) from Mexico.

Around the office, Dan has strong connections to Latin America (where he just returned from a trip to Guatemala) and we chatted this morning about various moments of happiness and heartbreak as he cheered on his teams.  Christine is dressed in red, white, and blue to show her dedication to the U.S. squad.

At home, enthusiasm for England’s chances waned quickly, and naturally we’ll all plan to watch the U.S. play Belgium tomorrow.  But, between living in an area that draws people from around the world, and working at a graduate school that has a multinational population as an aspect of its core mission, it’s easy to find myself cheering for someone else’s preferred team.  It’s a soccer/fútbol tournament, but it’s also an opportunity for each nation’s fans and dual citizens in the local area to share their cheer and sadness following each game.

 

The reason why the Fletcher staff is lonely all summer long is that our students are so successful in finding internships that meet their career objectives, with the result that they’re generally out of town.  Diane, our student blogger, tells us about her internship search, and shares a couple of photos from her summer post.

At Fletcher, the summer between the first and second years of the MALD or MIB program is open for students to use as they wish.  While internships are not required, students are encouraged to pursue one, and most do.  Others may prefer to use the time to develop their language skills, research or prepare their Capstone Project, or travel.

Ghana market Coming into Fletcher I knew the biggest gap on my résumé was my lack of field experience.  Therefore my goal for the summer revolved around going to a developing country to work.  I was hoping to find a research project that fit at least one of my interests: food security, mobile technology, or impact evaluations.

In January I began my search, reaching out to alumni at the DC Career Trip, speaking with second years about their experiences, and doing a lot of internet research.  My best resource became my professors, who were able to put me in touch with some of their contacts.  I sent a lot of emails, and got a few great leads; however, as the months went on, I still didn’t have an offer.

One organization that interested me and that I had identified early on was Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).  Friends at Fletcher who had either previously worked or interned with IPA in the past informed me that the organization advertises internships quite late, so I kept an eye on the website, and applied while still continuing my search through my networks.

Right before exams I had a flurry of interviews for different opportunities, and on the day of my last exams, I received an offer to spend my summer in Tamale, Ghana with IPA.  As I had already planned to head home in a week, I packed my stuff the next day and flew to Australia where, in amongst catching up with family and friends, I organized my visa, booked flights, got immunizations and anti-malarial tablets, searched for a mosquito net, packed for some very warm weather, and got on a plane (or four planes, to be exact).

IPA designs and evaluates potential solutions to poverty using randomized evaluations and is based out of Yale University with offices across the world.  I am working on a project that involves offering rainfall insurance to farmers and I will be investigating whether this insurance can be made available through other organizations once the project is complete.  I am sure it is going to be a great summer, and look forward to returning to Fletcher in the fall to apply what I have learnt.

Ghana huts

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Every year, Fletcher students are invited to submit their Capstone Projects to the Tufts Digital Library’s E-Scholarship collection.  The 2014 collection hasn’t been posted yet, but there’s certainly no shortage of reading material.  Most of the submissions are traditional theses, but I’m sure that, over time, we’ll be seeing some Capstones in different formats.

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Here’s a bit of news worth noting, both because it’s about an honor received by two of our students, and because incoming students may also want to be considered for this honor in future years.  To borrow the introductory paragraph from the website of APSIA, the consortium of schools to which Fletcher belongs:

The Harold W. Rosenthal Fellowship in International Relations and its partner, the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), announce the selection of thirty fellows for Summer 2014.  The Fellowship provides graduate students at APSIA member schools the opportunity to spend a summer working on international relations related issues in the U.S. government Executive Branch or the Congress.

And here are the Fellowship program’s descriptions of the two Fletcher recipients:

Emily Cole is working on a MALD degree at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, where she is a Seth E. Frank ’55 Fellowship recipient.  Her concentrations are in human security and international environmental policy.  In addition to her graduate work, Emily works on international food security, land grab, and agriculture policy issues at the Global Development and Environment Institute. She has also worked as a Peace Corps program assistant in Senegal and a senior associate at a consulting firm in DC. Emily’s undergraduate degree, cum laude, in political science and French, with a certificate in African studies, is from Amherst College.  Emily will be hosted this summer by the U.S. House of Representatives, Ways and Means Committee.

Mark Hoover is enrolled in the MALD program at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, with a concentration in international negotiations and conflict resolution.  He has worked as a translator for PACT-Building Capacity Worldwide in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo and as an economics intern at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.  He was a Fulbright Fellow, working as a teacher at Escola Andorrana de Segona Ensenyanca d’Encamp, Andorra.  Mark studied for a semester at the University of Burgundy Centre International d’Etudes Francaises, in Dijon, France, and his BA in political science and French studies, magna cum laude, is from Wake Forest University.  Mark is spending the summer working for the U.S. Department of State, Embassy of the United States, Burkina Faso.

Congratulations to Mark and Emily!

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Are you in Nairobi, Dakar, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, New York, San Francisco, Bangalore, Delhi, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Seoul, Colombo, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Beirut, Lausanne, Istanbul, or London?  Yes?  Then you’ll want to check our list of Coffee Hours to be hosted this summer by current students, and add the date to your calendar.  Every year our students volunteer to meet up with incoming and prospective students in the locations where they are spending the summer.  And this is a double win, because while the Admissions team will not be in Kathmandu (or most of these cities) this year, prospective students there still have the opportunity to connect with Fletcher from the convenience of their hometowns.

So note the date and time of the Coffee Hour near you, and look forward to talking Fletcher over your preferred hot beverage.

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It has been good to have the 15 Armenian students keeping us company at Fletcher for the past few weeks.  Yesterday a new, and larger, group moved in to ensure that the building remains vibrant:  the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Non-Violent Conflict.  The Institute is organized jointly by Fletcher and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

Those who want to connect with the ideas being presented and discussed can review presentations from 2013, and can keep up with this year’s program via the FSI Twitter feed.

 

This past year, my role as Fletcher Admissions blogger has involved a great deal of wrangling — convincing students, alumni, and professors to write interesting things that will benefit readers.  In general, the writers receive nothing in return except my thanks.  Despite all this cajoling, I feel pretty good about what we’ve all been able to share, and I have ideas for content in the year to come, both new ideas and additions to some of this year’s.  Details to follow throughout 2014-2015.

But my list of ideas only goes so far, and I still need suggestions!  To help me create content that meets your needs, blog friend, please complete this super quick survey — just a few questions that will point me in the right direction.  I would especially like to hear from incoming students and current Fletcher students who can tell me what they most appreciated throughout their application process.

Thanks, in advance!  I look forward to seeing what you would like to read in the Fletcher Admissions Blog!

 

Even with 1,100 Admissions Blog posts behind me, there are always topics I regret not having written about.  To correct for one of those omissions, I asked Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, a current student in the Tavitian Scholarship Program, to write about his experience.  Hovhannes and I were connected by blog friend Amy Tan, and Hovhannes graciously agreed to share information about his time at Fletcher.  I should note that this is the 15th year when Fletcher has hosted Tavitian Scholars and, as background, Hovhannes told me that all the participants in this special six-month program are Armenian government employees with a minimum of three years, and an average of six years, of professional experience, with prior graduate education.  They represent various government agencies, the Central Bank, and the President’s Administration.  This year, the class also includes a Member of Parliament.   Here is Hovhannes’s story.

Hovhannes Nikoghosyan Fletcher 2014It was a hot summer evening in Yerevan, late August 2013.  I was sipping an icy gin and tonic, when I received a call from Dr. Ara Barsam, who has been skillfully administering the application process for the Tavitian Scholarship Program for a number of years.  He was calling to tell me that I had been selected for the Class of 2014.  I don’t exactly remember the part of the conversation that followed the words, “I congratulate you,” (Sorry, Ara!), but after that lucky day I lived in anticipation of my Fletcher dream coming true.

The academic wonderland of the Fletcher School embraced all 15 students in the Class of 2014 as we landed at Boston Logan Airport and found ourselves in the caring hands of Dr. Joyce Barsam — the Vice President of the Tavitian Foundation — who supported us from our arrival in Boston and through the six months to follow.

Following a few days of jet lag recovery, and a few more days of orientation, classes started and we were injected into Fletcher life — I think with an even heavier curriculum than regular students experience.  With the program designed to offer coursework equivalent to a full academic year, Tavitian Scholars complete four or five classes every five weeks, each of them ending with a final exam — take-home or in-class — which puts extraordinary pressure on each student.

One of the strengths of the Tavitian Scholarship Program that I would highlight is that the fellows soon become knitted into the Fletcher Community, and experience the life of a typical student in a leading American university — anything from enjoying a fresh morning coffee in Mugar Café to finding ourselves in the library at 12:50 a.m., ten minutes before it closes.  True, the Tavitian groups are in their own classes, yet there is hardly any difference with regard to workload or grading system, including the professors showing no mercy for late exam submissions!  Also, group work and in-class activities create an atmosphere of academic exchange and interaction between the fellows themselves, which is enriching not only within the academic process, but far beyond it — creating the fabric of a future network throughout the public service in Armenia.  In classes, we observe that this is how a diplomat learns the basics of public finance, or how an economist learns the difference between the Cold War and “Game of Thrones,” or those small differences between a “House of Cards” plot and real-life political campaigning.

More seriously, through all the disciplines we are taught here, we learn to look at our local problems in perspective, which makes them seem smaller and not really unprecedented.  Rather than blaming Armenia’s geography or destiny, we learn to roll up our sleeves and meet the challenges.  And this is perhaps the greatest strength of the program, which was originally created more than a decade ago to support and educate tomorrow’s decision-makers in the Armenian government.

Extracurricular activities are where students may find additional value from their time in Boston.  Not only the Museum of Fine Arts or whale watching tours, but also auditing extra classes at Fletcher and other world-leading universities and schools in town are opportunities not to be missed.  As in previous years, most of our Class of 2014 has chosen to audit courses at Fletcher, MIT, and Harvard’s Kennedy, Business, and Law Schools.

Outside the classroom, I am exceptionally glad we succeeded in putting together a roundtable discussion on April 28, “In the Pursuit of Peace,” looking from an academic perspective at the 20-year-long peace process that has followed the ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh.  The keynote speech by Nagorno Karabakh Republic Representative Robert Avetisyan, unparalleled and as-always-thought-provoking remarks by Professor Michael Glennon and Ambassador Rouben Shougarian — moderated by Professor Alan Henrikson and Associate Dean Deborah Nutter — have not only enriched our understanding of the smoldering conflict, but also benefited the wider Fletcher community.

As we are now approaching the end of our journey, the 2014 Tavitian Scholars thank The Fletcher School for maintaining and supporting our educational “moveable feast.”  Of course, all this would remain a distant dream for many of us without the true generosity of Mr. Aso Tavitian, who teaches perhaps the most important lesson to each of us — that offering opportunity to those who cannot afford it themselves is the ultimate form of humanitarianism, and I thank him for this lesson from the bottom of my Armenian heart.

Now, as we will graduate in a week, the life-long mission for each of us in the Class of 2014 resumes with greater responsibility:  to bring more good, and change, through our service to the Republic of Armenia.

 

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