Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Whether on paper or online, reading the newspaper is nothing new to Fletcher, but the MIB program has recently given new meaning to the phrase.  Kristen tells us more.

This academic year, the MIB program has launched a new lecture series called Fletcher Reads the Newspaper.  The series gathers Fletcher faculty and guests to debate, from an interdisciplinary perspective, several sides of a recent business-connected news item. Topics this year ranged from the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh to Edward Snowden’s impact on Google.

The goal of Fletcher Reads the Newspaper is to bring the faculty’s multiple viewpoints together for students in a way that doesn’t always happen in a classroom setting.  Once the professors have established the context for the problem, Dean Chakravorti runs a case-style discussion through which student attendees solve a problem related to the challenge.  These sessions give students the opportunity to be analytical and thoughtful about the headlines we see every day.

You can read more about recent sessions, including full event reports, on our website.

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When I put out my call for students to tell me about the cool stuff they’re doing, I learned about several new or fledgling student organizations.  Today, Katherine tells us about Fletcher Cares.

Taking it to the Streets: Fletcher’s Newest Student Organization Redefines the Call to Serve

Fletcher students are well known for their commitment to making the world a better place, and many enter their first year with impressive international experiences in public service.  Some have served in the Peace Corps or as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, while others have volunteered or worked for the United Nations, Amnesty International, MercyCorps, Médecins Sans Frontières, or other NGOs in the public service sector.  While service at the international level is certainly nothing new for the Fletcher community, this spring the School welcomed its first official public service student organization, Fletcher Cares.  Created by a motley crew of first-year MALDs, Fletcher Cares aims to connect the Fletcher community to service opportunities in its own backyard, including Somerville, Medford, and the greater Boston area.

Fletcher carees 3Fletcher Cares began last fall as an informal effort by students who sought to galvanize collective action and awareness around the death, displacement, and destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan.  Known then as “Fletcher for the Philippines,” this small group of concerned students collaborated with established campus organizations and partnered with local businesses to fundraise for the World Food Programme, which worked with the Philippine government to launch a massive typhoon relief operation.  In a matter of days, Fletcher Cares successfully obtained donation commitments from two restaurants in Somerville: Diva Indian Bistro and Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club.  These donations, in addition to funds raised on campus, helped ensure that families and children in the Philippines received nutritious food during this tragic emergency.

Fletcher Cares has since received official club status and has plans for service opportunities that will engage the larger student body. In addition to its Fall fundraising efforts, Fletcher Cares has participated in various service projects, including a Somerville music festival dedicated to raising funds for the Philippines, and a holiday clothing drive benefiting homeless veterans in the Boston area.   For the remainder of the academic year, Fletcher Cares plans to support runners at the Boston Marathon and to lead literacy, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and citizenship classes for the Haitian Coalition of Somerville.

Fletcher caresIn hopes of creating a sustainable and long-lasting public service model, Fletcher Cares board members reached out to their counterparts at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Student Public Service Collaborative.  The SPSC leaders graciously offered their insights to the Fletcher Cares team, emphasizing the need to coordinate local, achievable projects that make service a regular part of the graduate student experience.  After a fruitful discussion, the two groups laid the groundwork for future collaboration on service projects in Cambridge and Boston.  Fletcher Cares has also adopted a mission statement: Fletcher Cares provides The Fletcher School with opportunities to connect their academic experiences with volunteerism that promotes a just and sustainable world through service, scholarship, and community partnerships.

As a budding organization, Fletcher Cares has much growing and learning to do.  But the exciting first step has been taken, paving the way for The Fletcher School to be known for the good works its students, faculty, and staff do on the local level, in addition to on the international level.

For more information about Fletcher Cares, please contact us.

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As a native New Yorker and an occasional visitor to Washington, DC, I can appreciate the charms of both places.  That said, I’ve lived in the Boston area for a long time now, and I really love it here.  But at this time of year, newly admitted students still ask us about Fletcher’s location.

As far as I’m concerned, the blog has put to rest all questions about whether students find the internships or post-graduation jobs that they want.  And I do my best during slow news stretches to talk about our lovely neighborhood.  But I can hardly expect prospective students to depend on my opinion.  They will want to hear the opinions of their peers.  So I turned to the Social List with a simple question:  What do you like about attending graduate school in Medford/Somerville/the Boston area?  The answers fell into two broad categories: related to students’ academic work; and related to other aspects of their lives.  Here are their answers:

Related to their academic work:

Boston is the hub of American academia!  Living within such close proximity to so many students studying anything you can imagine makes for a unique social experience.  Not only are there a multitude of schools within Tufts with which we regularly interact, but we are able to make friends with everybody from chemistry PhD candidates at MIT, to Harvard Law students, and everything in between.  Furthermore, Fletcher students have the opportunity to cross-register for courses at Harvard and vice versa.

Boston is a student town.  You are not going to find any other place that is as intellectually stimulating.  On top of the amazing atmosphere at Fletcher, unique opportunities to get involved in events and conferences at Harvard, MIT, and BU, and working with professors and research groups at those universities, come up as a positive consequence of being based so close by.

I love the collaboration between different universities in the area.  It increases the opportunities to find events, classes, and people interested in your field of study.

An unmatched intellectual community in the greater area, and the ability to use other schools’ resources, such as libraries.  Lots of networking opportunities between classmates and contacts at other schools, and ability to get involved in other groups/institutes connected to those institutions.

When speakers come to campus, the distance from Washington, DC/New York encourages candid thoughtful commentary in a way I didn’t anticipate.

And the other aspects:

With easy access to the Red Line, the entire city of Boston is at your feet.  That means plenty of great studying locations around the city (the Boston Public Library is a personal favorite), and an endless list of fun things to do with new Fletcher friends on the weekends.  A group of us got together at the Frog Pond for an experiment in skating, something quite new for international students (and a few American students as well).  We have museums, fascinating historical neighborhoods, restaurants, and shopping areas nearby if we want to take advantage of them — as a local Bostonian I certainly do — but Medford is quiet enough that you do not get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city.  That is a huge advantage when midterms and finals come around.  In short, I love it here.  Many of us will most likely live in larger cities later on in life, so I am happy to stay in Boston as long as I can.

I’ve found that most employers have been flexible about agreeing to do interviews (both informational and for specific jobs/internships) over the phone or Skype.  I’ve done interviews with people in Canada, Mexico, New York, DC, and other locations without having to leave Boston.  You just have to be flexible and creative about scheduling them.  Also, after taking DC Metro pretty much every single day for the past seven years, not having to take Metro anymore is BLISS!  I very much needed a break from the DC bubble, and living in Boston has been a wonderful experience.

Boston has all the benefits of a big city in a small city.  The food in the area is fantastic.  Lots of industries have sites in Boston, and people are friendly (don’t be scared away by rumors of gruffness!).  Shorter flight times to Europe.  Road trips to Canada, skiing in Maine, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont, fresh lobster in Maine.  You can easily drive to see the fall leaves.  Who wouldn’t want to go to Salem around Halloween?  Public transportation is good.  Can get to the airport on public transport in 45 minutes.

The calm environment in which to focus on studies, with the knowledge that a big city is just minutes away on the T, allowing for great nighttime and weekend fun.

There are so many events, organizations, activities, etc. if leaving campus in the direction of Somerville/Cambridge/Boston, yet it’s easy to go trail running, biking, hiking, and so forth within minutes in the Medford direction.

Access to Boston, while also being in the Davis Square area (similar to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn).  There are many unique neighborhoods in this area including Inman Square, Porter Square, Harvard Square, and all of Boston!

A real campus where you can focus and study but with a real city close by.

Easy weekend getaways to New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Cape Cod, Berkshires, etc.  –Convenient and relatively inexpensive airport for travel (i.e. frequent flights to DC).  –Easy area to bike around.  –Close to outdoors/outdoor activities.

Great neighborhood with much happening nearby!  It’s a suburb: living costs are comparatively very reasonable and being away from the din of the city is perfect for research/study!  Boston has consistently been rated amongst the top cities in the world for students, based on quality of living, employer activity, and affordability.

Proximity to Somerville gems like Highland Kitchen, 3 Little Figs, Backbar, Sarma, and more; the Boston area’s student-friendly nature (especially when it comes to café options and museum/movie/symphony discount pricing); the opportunity to live in a part of the U.S. your career may not otherwise let you experience; proximity and access to courses, speakers, and other opportunities at other Boston area schools.

I love DC, but I know it’s only a matter of time before my career will take me there.  Boston, on the other hand, is a wonderful, complex, historic, and culturally rich city where I’ve never before lived and might never get the chance to live again.  Location was one of the many reasons I chose Fletcher, and I’ve never regretted it.

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So it’s about 7:40 a.m. as I write, and I can hear five voices from all corners of the Admissions Office as current students reach out to newly admitted students who live in a time zone 12 to 14 hours ahead of ours.  We’ll be holding these call sessions throughout the week to connect with as many people as we can.  It’s a great way to draw out questions that may not otherwise have been asked.  We generally feel that the more incoming students know, the better prepared they are to make a decision on where to pursue their graduate studies and then to succeed at Fletcher.

It’s a week loaded with activities like the call sessions.  We’ll also hold online chats, two information sessions, and receptions in several different cities around the world.  And then we gear up for our two-day Open House for admitted students.  As of today, only a small percentage of our admitted students have made their decision to enroll (or not to enroll, for that matter).  Over the next two weeks, we’ll learn much more about who will make up the incoming class in September.

 

It had always been my plan to line up a first-year MIB student to contribute to the Student Stories in the blog.  I just hadn’t anticipated it would take me until March.  My own lack of speed notwithstanding, I’d like to introduce Mark Attia, a first-year (at least for two more months) MIB student.  Following his second year, Mark will leave Tufts with two master’s degrees — from Fletcher and from the department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.  That (MIB and UEP) is, to date, a unique combination, and today he writes about how he (or you) can develop expertise at Fletcher.

Mark Attia 1

Mark and his sidekick, Hazel.

For Fletcher students with wide-ranging curiosities, choosing from some 80 fascinating courses offered each semester is like shopping in an “intellectual candy store,” as one of my professors put it.  But, for those of us who have more narrowly focused interests, it may not be obvious how Fletcher’s interdisciplinary curriculum will make it possible to build a thorough body of knowledge in the area of your unique passion.  After all, there may not be a specific course on, say, private equity frameworks for emerging markets, impact investing, or sustainable commodity financing.  Yet each of these are precisely the kind of subject areas that some of my classmates are exploring, well beyond the scope of our syllabi.

To a great extent, the well designed and complementary Fields of Study and breadth requirements will help concentrate your efforts.  Even so, there is yet another avenue through which you can develop your own area of expertise: within most courses, you’ll find the flexibility to select case studies and write research papers on matters of your choosing pertaining to the subject area.  In my experience, this option is a powerful way to examine an area of scholarship from multiple perspectives, and emerge from Fletcher fully armed with an arsenal of hand-picked skills and knowledge.

Here is how I am approaching developing my own areas of expertise.  But first, let me give you a bit of background.  In my view, global urbanization is the most consequential development of our lifetime; a phenomenon which carries far-reaching implications for all facets of the socio-economy, environment, and business.  I see a rapidly evolving world where our attention will increasingly be focused on the opportunities found in emerging-market cities, and I turned to The Fletcher School to deepen my understanding of this global urban context.  Before Fletcher, I had a mix of experience, including with a major water utility and a low-income housing finance bank, and I subsequently pursued a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning here at Tufts.  For my Fletcher Fields, I selected International Finance and Banking and International Political Economy.  My aspiration is to harness these experiences and learning and join a private firm with global reach engaged in developing core civil infrastructure assets and real estate.

Right from the start, I began asking questions relevant to my interests.  For example, what is the role of real estate bubbles in triggering a financial crisis?  In one elective, History of Financial Turbulence and Crises, I was able to research elements of the relationship, and discovered ill-forgotten lessons from around the world.  How do we solve inhumane slum conditions in frontier cities?  In Development Aid in Practice, I presented to the class on an innovative incremental-housing solution that is addressing the burgeoning urban slums in India.  How is urbanization impacting the environment?  In Elements of International Environmental Policy, I wrote a final paper on the benefits and challenges for cities and surveyed policies aimed at sustainable urban development.  How do we finance the infrastructure that the world needs to grow?  In Large Investment and International Project Finance, our case analyses covered sectors from high-speed rail, to the Three-Gorges Dam, toll-roads in Europe, and oil assets in Kazakhstan.  How do we negotiate cross-boarder deals?  In Mergers & Acquisitions, a law class, I examined the takeover of Australian infrastructure assets by a Canadian firm.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

In total, I have largely relied on the magic of the proven Fletcher formula to guide my learning.  But I have also been encouraged and given the resources to dig deeper into my passion through my coursework.  (By the way, I am entirely ignoring the irreplaceable contribution of our extraordinary classmates, faculty, and guest speakers in this discussion, but these are easily the subject of other posts.)  If you’re not sure where your passion lies, at Fletcher you will embark on an intellectual adventure that will expose you to a world of fascination.  But, if you are confident that you know your academic goals, Fletcher offers a limitless reservoir of resources and opportunities to help you achieve these goals and emerge exceptionally well prepared for any career.

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Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Christopher (Rusty) Tunnard, Professor of Practice of International Business.  Prof. Tunnard currently teaches Field Studies in Global Consulting and  Social Networks in Organizations, a two-part modular course.

Rusty TunnardWhat’s the connection between identifying competition and cooperation between Somali warlords, discovering patterns of collaboration in the global arms market (pictured below), finding the right people to help start a business in Tanzania, shaping the media coverage of conflict in Syria, and helping teenaged girls from Islamic countries find ways to connect and to share information on gender-based issues?  Besides being very “Fletcheresque” in their geographic and intellectual breadth, these are all topics that have been tackled by students in my class on Social Networks in Organizations, a course that I have been teaching at Fletcher since 2011.

Rusty, 1If you had told me ten years ago that I’d write a doctoral dissertation on the development of resistance networks in Serbia during the Milosevic era using social network analysis (SNA) and would later create courses in this fledgling discipline appropriate for a graduate school of international relations, I might have suggested that you seek professional help.  But that is exactly what I did, and I thank my lucky stars—and my advisors and students—for making it possible for me to undertake this journey.

One of the many fascinating things about SNA is that it is truly multi-disciplinary.  At the annual meeting of SNA practitioners, you’ll find doctors, intelligence and military analysts, mathematicians, physicists, sociologists, business consultants, anthropologists, financial analysts, political scientists, and many more.  Rusty, 2Everyone, it seems, is interested in examining how people are connected, how they influence the networks they’re in, and how those networks shape the thinking, behavior, and actions of the individuals who comprise them.  SNA has played a major role in uncovering bin Laden’s location, reducing the spread of AIDS in Africa, and identifying the key players in dodgy financial schemes (starting with the Enron case.)  Although SNA has been around in academia for a few decades, it was a very simple network map of the 9/11 terrorists that rocketed it to prominence.  This map, constructed from open-source data, showed that all the terrorist hijackers were within one step, or directly linked, to two individuals with direct ties to bin Laden, whom the government had been investigating for a year before the attack.

Since 2005, the incredible growth of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter has redoubled the effort to understand how social networks form and can be used to promote political action (think Twitter and the Egyptian resistance) and increase the effectiveness of viral marketing (think Facebook, Google and Amazon).  Rusty, 3Images such as the one pictured here depict how Twitter users disseminate ideas and issues quickly around the world through mentions and retweets.  In this case, it’s a conference hashtag that has, by midday of a full-day session, spread well beyond the core group of conference attendees and followers clustered in the middle.

Two recent developments further illustrate the pervasiveness of SNA.  The Snowden revelations have, for better or worse, led to a wider appreciation of how network analysts can identify potential people of interest by looking at patterns of mobile-phone calls without using any of the content.  Elsewhere, people are using a combination of SNA and sentiment analysis (ranking the relative “temperature” of words used to describe something) to look at both the spread and intensity of ideas in such diverse applications as new-product marketing on social media and identifying potential political hot-spots before they develop, by examining how issues are being discussed and mapping their velocity and geography.

While SNA is only one diagnostic tool in the arsenal of analytic techniques, it is fast becoming a must-have skill for analysts and managers alike.  Its broad appeal may be due to the fact that it employs both left- and right-brain skills first to visualize and then to analyze often counter-intuitive networks of connections that cannot be easily addressed by other means.  And SNA can be done using data that governments, NGOs, and companies already collect.

This is an exciting field to inhabit, both academically and professionally, and Fletcher provides me with the opportunity both to teach this new set of skills and to learn from students whose passions and interests span the entire range of international relations.

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Information about Cool Stuff that Students Do hasn’t come only through the Social List.  Student blogger Roxanne, now within two months of her graduation, has been very involved in promoting awareness of gender issues at Fletcher.  Today she writes about her work.

As my time at Fletcher is soon drawing to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on one of the aspects of my experience here that has been most dear to me: my involvement and leadership in the Gender Initiative at Fletcher.  In an earlier post, Jessica had asked me to briefly describe my academic and professional interest in the intersection of gender and armed conflict.  When I arrived at Fletcher, I was very excited to learn from the many scholars and practitioners in the Boston area who work on issues related to gender and violence.  I was further thrilled to discover that many of my classmates shared this interest and that momentum was developing around exploring how a gender perspective affects our understanding of international politics, development, violence, and other topics.

To capture this enthusiasm, and with much support from recent graduates, faculty, and staff, I have collaborated with fellow students to launch the Gender Initiative at Fletcher, whose mission is to enable the study and professional exploration of gender-related issues.  The Gender Initiative started with three clusters of activity:

  • The “Academic Cluster” compiled a list of gender-related courses in the Boston area to enable Fletcher students to cross-register, as well as to highlight faculty members working on the issue, and to showcase different syllabi with gender as a focus.  It also helped crystallize student interest in additional gender-related coursework at Fletcher, culminating in the creation of a new course on Gender and Human Security in States and Societies in Transition for this semester.  Students who wanted to self-design a Field of Study with a focus on gender could also receive assistance in doing so.
  • The “Speakers and Events Cluster” focused on enhancing the diversity of the guest speakers we heard from at The Fletcher School.  Students have compiled lists of men and women in the Boston area who speak on gender issues, as well as women who speak on a variety of topics beyond gender that are related to a Fletcher education.  This list is now becoming available for club leaders and event organizers who may be interested in either infusing a gender perspective into their program or ensuring panel diversity at their events.
  • Finally, the “Mission and Vision Cluster” has worked to define the objectives of the Gender Initiative, as well as to answer common questions about the value of a gender perspective in an international education.

Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of organizing and attending an array of gender-related events at The Fletcher School, in partnership with student clubs, such as Global Women, as well as the Fletcher administration.  Select highlights have included a workshop on gender and negotiations with Hannah Riley Bowles, a gender mainstreaming training with Fletcher alumna Marcia Greenberg, a gender and public speaking keynote and training with renowned media and communications expert Christine Jahnke, a luncheon talk and small-group discussion with NATO’s Gender Advisor Charlotte Isaksson, as well as talks with representatives of UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and more.  This semester, we are really excited to have celebrated the inaugural Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award, as well as to welcome renowned feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe, among a few other exciting events.

It has been moving and inspiring to watch the Gender Initiative grow during my time here.  I have particularly appreciated the genuine enthusiasm of Fletcher’s first-year students for these topics, and their energy in joining existing efforts to make gender-related learning and professional training accessible to all who are interested in it.  While I’m sad to slowly have to leave it behind, I’m excited to see the Gender Initiative continue its important work after our graduation!

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I often refer to the Social List, which is the student elist that serves as virtual glue for the community.  The list was originally established by the School, but it isn’t managed by, well, anyone.  (There are also managed lists for the staff, faculty, and students.)  Many members of the staff subscribe.  In my case, I subscribed initially because I can’t post on it otherwise, but I receive the message digest and it’s often a good source of ideas for the blog.  Never more so than today, when I had the idea to share the subject lines from yesterday’s digest (in bold), along with my notes.  Here are the topics from yesterday’s Social List emails, more or less in the order they appeared, with responses generally removed:

M&E Position for MSI in Bosnia:  When students learn about a job opportunity, they often share the posting with their peers via the Social List.
Seeking syllabi:  Not sure what this request from a soon-to-graduate student is all about, but the Social List is a good place to seek things.
Wed April 2: Future of Energy with S. Julio Friedmann:  The Social List — great way to publicize events.
Leaving a 1 or 2-bedroom in the area?:  Save time searching for housing by asking graduating students!
FREE PIZZA and MOVIE SCREENING on MICROFINANCE: NOW IN C206:  More events, with upper case letters to show that it’s happening NOW!
Rio contact needed:  Students have contacts throughout the world — why not ask for their help?
Summer in D.C!:  So many students are in Washington over the summer that it’s a non-stop Fletcher social scene.
Somerville permit parking:  From parking permits to aspirin for a thesis writer in the library, the Social List is the source of things to borrow.
Contacts at the IDB?:  Students’ contacts aren’t limited to other geographic areas.  As most students enter Fletcher with prior professional experience, they also bring their professional contacts.
Bangladeshi or love Bangladesh?:  Posted by someone who is definitely not Bangladeshi, so I assume he loves Bangladesh.
SEEKING: Urgent Contact info for HR at Inter-American Development Bank:  More job stuff.
AFSWOYD Nonprofit Announcement and Auction Items!!!!!:  Many exclamation points from the student organizers of the Annual Faculty and Staff Waits on You Dinner.
20th International Development Conference at HKS:  An event at Harvard.  Fletcher students welcome.
Digital Cameras in Ginn:  The library has equipment to lend!  Computers (who hasn’t had a computer emergency?), cameras, and other useful things.
Do you like coffee? – Wagoner, Liz:  This one is from my Admissions pal, Liz.  It’s not a random question — she’s setting up visits with current students for newly admitted students.
Fwd: Interested in urban spaces and inclusion? Intern or volunteer for IBGC’s Inclusive Cities conference:  Drumming up support for an upcoming Fletcher conference.
REMINDER: Internship Funding Application! Empower Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship:  Summer money$$!
Cab share from Logan at 11pm:  Cab shares, Zip Cars, rides to Trader Joe’s — all part of the weekly Social List traffic.
Vets 101 this Thursday @ 6pm:  Military veterans offering to share their stories with other Fletcher students.
Student Council 2014:  The Student Council updates the community via the Social List.
Job Opportunities with Fletcher’s Office of Communications for 2014-2015 Academic Year:  Notes like this also go out over more official channels.
FOUND: Urgent Contact info for HR at Inter-American Development Bank:  Possibly the person who asked has been overwhelmed by responses.
Don’t Let Me Down – Come buy your AFSWOYD ticket now:  More on the Annual Faculty/Staff Waits on You Dinner.
Do you have experience living/working in Juba?:  Almost surely someone does.  Maybe several people.
Business Development Job Posting / Cargill Ocean:  More jobs.
Mercy Corps Internship info:  And internships.
SUMMER OPPORTUNITY: Google Policy Fellowship Program:  And more jobs.
Did you defer Fletcher?:  A current student trying to help out a newly admitted student who is thinking of deferring enrollment.

So that gives you a sense of what was happening yesterday.  At other times of year there might be more internship/book selling/political argument/course selection/housing messages.  The one consistent fact is that the Social List keeps the school humming.

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It has been a while since we visited with the Class of 2008 for a Five-Year Update.  Today, let’s read about Devon Cone’s path through and beyond Fletcher.

Devon ConeI still remember my first day at Fletcher.  Meeting new classmates and hearing about their lives, work experiences, and interests was thrilling.  I had spent 25 years developing into the new student who showed up in Medford that day; a passionate, curious person who craved new information, new places, and new ideas.  The thrilling part about meeting my fellow classmates on that first day, was that they were the same kind of people!  We were all coming from many different backgrounds and yet had a commonality…that of being particularly inquisitive about the world and the people and places in it.

Prior to Fletcher, I studied American Studies and Sociology; however, it was not a course in either of my majors that became a starting point for my subsequent studies and then career.  While studying for my undergraduate degree, I took a course titled, “The International Political Economy of Women.”  This course, team-taught by two incredibly thoughtful women, opened my eyes to issues around the world that I was eager to learn about.  Prior to taking the course, I had already lived in the Netherlands, France, and Romania, and had traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia.   I had interacted with people who were living lives very different to that of my own and I was interested in working in a variety of locations, however, I did not know where to focus my interests professionally.

After finishing university and working briefly in Thailand and, then, Ghana on development projects, I flew from Accra to Boston to embark on two years of graduate school, during which time I could learn, reflect, research, and move forward in studies that I was passionate about, namely, human rights.  At the time I began Fletcher, I was not exactly sure what kind of career I wanted to pursue, but I knew that I wanted to work on global human rights issues, especially as they relate to gender.

Fletcher was an amazing experience of learning and growth that I will never be able to replicate.  I studied Human Security and International Organizations, focusing specifically on humanitarian studies and forced migration.  These Fields of Study allowed me to study with talented and insightful professors who challenged me to think critically about conflict, about security as it relates to individuals rather than the State, and about how well intentioned interventions have the capacity to bring positive change but can also cause harm.  The subject matter taught at Fletcher provided me with the knowledge I needed to be useful and creative in promoting the protection of individuals in situations of forced migration and vulnerability.  Karen Jacobsen’s course on Research Methods in Humanitarian Settings and Cheyenne Church’s course Monitoring and Evaluation in Peacebuilding were particularly useful skills-based classes that have provided me with practical knowledge that I have consistently referred back to in my work.  Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, with Dyan Mazurana and courses with Kim Wilson and Dan Maxwell also caused me to think deeply about the theories and challenges in the field of human security.

A unique and wonderful aspect of being at Fletcher was that I was also able to study and interact with people interested in similar work at other institutions in the area.  I took courses at the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government that relate directly to the work I do, responding to the needs of displaced people in conflict/post-conflict settings.

Since Fletcher, I first conducted foreign policy research at MIT and then moved to Kenya with the organization RefugePoint, founded by a fellow Fletcher alum.  RefugePoint sent me to work for UNHCR in Dadaab refugee camp.  Located on the border of Somalia, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world and, as such, was a place where I learned how to put theory into practice.  The problems faced by individuals in Dadaab are massive, diverse, and overwhelming.  I focused on identifying refugees in Dadaab who were in need of immediate assistance and protection, and on working to persuade foreign governments to resettle some of these refugees.  After Dadaab, I worked on RefugePoint’s programming for urban refugees in Nairobi, which was interesting and allowed me the flexibility to come up with new ideas.

In early 2011, as uprisings began to take place in North Africa and the Middle East, I was transferred to Cairo, Egypt, where I worked for UNHCR to provide protection for refugees living in Egypt who were affected by the insecurity following Mubarak’s ouster.  I interviewed Somali, Ethiopian, Iraqi, Sudanese, and Eritrean refugees for resettlement, and then transitioned to working specifically with young refugees.  I worked with young people under the age of 18 without any family (unaccompanied minors) to identify the challenges they face and come up with solutions.  I left Cairo in the summer of 2013 and continued to work as a Child Protection Specialist, this time being sent to Uganda following renewed fighting in Eastern DRC.

Five years on from Fletcher, I am amazed by how little I knew when I began, but also how much I learned during my time in school, and how rich and rewarding my professional life has been since graduating.  I have had the opportunity to work with such a variety of people and I understand so much more about how conflict affects human beings individually.  My time at Fletcher helped me to develop the skills I have needed to do my job and to serve people in the best way I can.

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It’s not that it’s unusual for Fletcher graduates to visit the school, but it’s unusual to have three alums stopping in at Admissions on one March day.  I’m looking forward to seeing Courtney Richardson, a 2013 PhD graduate who is really here to give a talk (“We’ve Reached Our Limits: Insights from China’s UNSC Action on the Libyan and Syrian Civil Wars”), and Han Kim, who was the subject of a blog post back in the day, both of whom served stints on the Admissions Committee, as well as another PhD alum.  It’s always good to reconnect!

In addition to the returning former students, I’ll be meeting some new people at a midday Information Session, and I thought this would be a good time to remind blog readers that we are offering several more Information Sessions this spring.  Attendees at springtime sessions might include prospective applicants, newly admitted students, and prospective students who have accepted a place on our waitlist for September enrollment, which means the staffer running the session is challenged to meet the informational needs of these very different groups.  We’re up to it!  Bring on the questions!

For your planning convenience, you’ll want to note that if you can visit campus, you can join sessions on Thursday, April 3, Monday, April 14, Thursday, April 24, and Monday, May 5.  Sign up for a date that works for you (or just turn up for today’s session — the more the merrier!).  In addition, we’re offering virtual (online) Information Sessions on Thursday, April 3, Monday, May 12, and Tuesday, June 10.  Another forum for learning about Fletcher and getting answers to your questions.

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