Posts by: Jessica Daniels
Just as, two weeks ago, I wrapped up the updates from the Class of 2010 with posts from Luis and Hana, this week I would like to return to the Class of 2015. Today, we’ll learn what Peter Varnum, a good friend of the Admissions Office, has been doing since he graduated.
Time at Fletcher flies. The pace of life is often so stressful that it is easy to lose sight of the return you’re actually earning. Obviously this comes in the form of your lifelong friendships and network; it’s a main reason we all chose this place to continue our education. But, amidst readings and papers and presentations — and world-renowned guest speakers, lectures from the Dean, and student-organized conferences — we often forget the other reason we chose Fletcher: it’s among the top international relations schools in the world.
Never has the stellar education been more evident to me than in my first year post-graduation. I moved to Geneva, worked briefly for the World Health Organization in its mental health policy unit, and am now consulting with a small, international B-corporation called Vera Solutions, which works at the intersection of data and development. (Side note: Fletcher allows you to work at the “intersection” of basically anything and anything. We build bridges.) Often dubbed the “DC of Europe,” Geneva is rife with IR- and development-types who love to throw around jargon and number of countries visited slash worked in like they’re all badges of honor, trophies of who knows the most, who’s done the most. But I appreciate my Fletcher brethren here, and there are a number of them: those who can hang in those conversations, but don’t feel the need to tout their accolades. Those who hold a room when they speak. Those with whom you can have a drink and laugh at yourselves.
When you’ve turned in your thesis, and walked across the stage, and at some point found the nerve to click on one of those emails giving you an update of how much interest your student loan has accrued, you have time to breathe a little. And that’s when you look back and realize just how much you’ve learned at Fletcher. You learn from the courses you take, sure — but I would argue you learn more from your immersion in a space that brings together such interesting, diverse people. I often chat with my own classmates, as well as prospective students, about what I call “Imposter Syndrome,” which I felt quite frequently at Fletcher. You’re in class (and at house parties) with future diplomats, foreign service officers, magnates of international business, and leading academics. Not to mention polyglots who may as well have designed Rosetta Stone. I often used to ask myself how I wound up there.
But if Geneva has taught me anything, it’s that, despite my hideously accented Spanish (and just plain hideous French), those experiences have made me fluent in the language of international relations. And not just in a professional setting; I now read the news with a more nuanced understanding to go with a critical eye that I like to think we all have entering Fletcher. I feel comfortable voicing my opinions, and confident that they are informed. I feel more like — and excuse the cliché — a productive citizen of the world.
Navigating ambiguity is at the heart of international work — at the heart of life, really. I believe my Fletcher education has made me nimbler. I do not hesitate among the flutter of languages in the UNICEF cafeteria, nor while chatting with the Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, nor while having that drink with my fellow Fletcher graduates. A year or so ago, when I was hunkered down in Ginn Library, procrastinating by dreaming up ideas for a creative Fletcher Follies video, I often wondered whether it was worth it. These days, that uncertainty never crosses my mind.
I usually focus blog posts more squarely on Fletcher life, but today I wanted to share news from back in the spring about the University’s Tisch College. The reason? Although Tisch works primarily with undergraduates, the College offers high-profile lectures and other activities that may interest Fletcher students, including the annual Presidential Awards for Citizenship and Public Service, one of which went this year to Kirsten Zeiter, F16. (See Kirsten’s award video below.) Plus, it’s just a nice thing to know what’s going on around campus, outside of the Fletcher buildings. Here’s the news the University shared:
With the launch of its strategic plan today, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, founded nearly 17 years ago, will move forward with a new name to better reflect its mission to prepare students to take action and make positive change in their communities and in the world: the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. We all engage in civic life when we organize and debate, when we serve, and when we advocate for and act on the issues that affect us and those around us. Collectively, the more active we are as responsible citizens, the more just, equitable, and prosperous our world can become.
At the same time, I am pleased to share news of a transformative gift that will further the mission of the college. Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch have pledged $15 million to help us prepare every student for a lifetime of effective engagement in civic life.
Endowed a decade ago with a $40 million gift from Jonathan Tisch, the college’s creation was driven by the belief that universities have a responsibility to help young people become agents for thoughtful advocacy, action, and positive change.
Jon and Lizzie share Tufts’ vision, and their new gift will support all three pillars of the college: education, research, and practice. Through the creation of endowed professorships in civic studies, an emerging field that examines what defines civic engagement, their gift will help fund joint appointments between Tisch College and other Tufts schools and departments. The gift will also finance leading research by Tisch College’s renowned Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, creating knowledge and advancing civic learning and engagement. Finally, the gift will empower student experiential learning opportunities, such as the Tisch Scholars leadership development program, Tisch Summer Fellowships, and the Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program, ensuring that such transformative experiences are available to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
A longtime advocate of individuals and corporations using the power of civic engagement to address challenges, Jonathan credits his parents for instilling in him a sense of responsibility to others, and Tufts for fostering in him the importance of an active civic life.
And here’s the video where you can see Kirsten receive her Presidential Award.
Recently graduated student bloggers Ali, Alex, and Aditi are wrapping up their stories for the blog. First to report on the conclusion of her Fletcher experience is Ali.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing to you with excitement about the end of first year and my summer internship at YUM! Brands. Today, I write with even more enthusiasm about the completion of my degree and my return to that same place.
Fletcher has been a wonderful two years for me. I’ve made new friends and colleagues; gained the knowledge and experience I need to transition to the private sector; accepted a fantastic job in my hometown; and completed a capstone project that took me back to Brussels, where my professional journey began.
It was interesting to end my Fletcher career back in Belgium, thanks to capstone research funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. During my spring break there, terrorist attacks at the airport and local metro station made international news that showed me Belgium is not the same place I lived before. Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares. Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant amongst microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country. Just like the little country I love, I have changed and become more exposed to the world, too. While many students at Fletcher dedicate their lives to careers abroad, I can’t imagine not using my new travels and knowledge to return home and create change from there.
At YUM! Brands, I’ll be working to explore the material impact of extra-financial environmental, social, and governance issues and to improve the company’s performance and transparency around them. I’ll communicate proactively with key stakeholders, like investors, and use their feedback to drive internal change, as well.
Fletcher isn’t just a place for students desiring careers in governments and non-profits abroad. It’s also a great training ground for people looking to transform the world of business right here in America.
See everyone back in Kentucky soon!
In a brief break from a lonely summer, we have company this week from The Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict (FSI), a professional education program focused on the advanced, interdisciplinary study of civil resistance.
Information promoting FSI tells us that:
Civil resistance campaigns for rights, freedom, and justice are capturing the world’s attention as never before. Nonviolent campaigns against corruption in Guatemala, Moldova, and Cambodia; against dictatorship in Burkina Faso; to protect democracy in Hong Kong; for police accountability in the United States; for indigenous rights in Latin America; and for women’s rights in India are all examples in recent years of a profound global shift in how political power is developed and applied.
Since 2006, more than 450 participants from nearly 100 countries have gathered at FSI to learn and share knowledge. FSI is organized by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in conjunction with the Fletcher School.
More information can, of course, be found on the FSI website.
In the final Faculty Spotlight post for this academic year, the subject is Julia Stewart-David, who spent this past year at Fletcher as a visiting fellow.
I am about the twelfth visiting European Union (EU) Fellow at The Fletcher School (records are a bit patchy) but we can thank Professor Alan Henrikson for having reached out to set up the EU Fellowship at Fletcher somewhere back toward the end of the last century. So what is a visiting EU Fellow? Well, there are around ten of us each year, mid- or senior-level career officials in European Union institutions, who are given the opportunity to have a sabbatical year in a select few universities worldwide. While we are visiting fellows, we have a dual mandate of pursuing research and of educating about the European Union and its policies through outreach and teaching. We each bring a different area of practitioner expertise.
The Fletcher School was my first choice destination, mainly because professionally I knew of its strong interest in human security issues, through the influential research work of the Feinstein Center. My “usual” job is a policy role in the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, co-managing a team working on evidence and disaster risk management. I’ve been in the humanitarian sector for over a decade now, working closely with the UN and international NGOs on quality of aid. But being in a sector whose business is crisis leaves little time for deeper reflection on the world and the interlinked complexities of power, politics, poverty, and human potential. One of the dilemmas of disaster risk management is how to get better investment over the long-term to help communities prevent or better cope with crises, when the immediate humanitarian response is so constantly overwhelmed by the need to respond to the emergencies of the present. Most of these are prolonged conflict-related “complex emergencies.”
So imagine my sense of opportunity at having an academic year where my professional life is focused upon thinking, reading, and contributing to a longer-term process of reflection on change in the humanitarian sector. While at Fletcher, I have been researching how humanitarian organizations learn. This is a time when the sector has undergone much soul-searching ahead of the recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. Failure takes its toll in lives; which leads perversely to risk-aversion in organizations trying to provide assistance, when bold action, or maybe even a radical new approach, could be what’s needed.
I have found life here at Fletcher a wonderful privilege. There is a strong sense of community and a core of thoughtful people who care about the world and how they can best contribute to it. The most remarkable learning resource is the diversity of student experience and interest. As to the professional experience I have been able to share, it has covered a wide range of topics: from strategies to address violent extremism, to the forthcoming UK referendum on the European Union; from humanitarian financing and use of evidence and evaluation, to tips on combining motherhood and management in an international organization that has still not reached gender parity. I have also enjoyed explaining my passion for “participatory leadership” practice in policy-making, or put another way: bringing diverse people together to co-generate future action based on collective wisdom. In my mind, international and community leadership to address the challenges of our times requires multi-disciplinary reflection, adaptability and an ability to host difficult conversations on questions that really matter to society. I see these qualities in abundance at Fletcher. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if traditional educational approaches and curricula would value and develop those kinds of skills at all levels from a young age?
My family and I will be taking many happy memories from Boston back with us to Brussels when we head home this summer. I also have a head full of ideas of things we should try to do better in the humanitarian sphere.
Tagged with: Faculty Spotlight
The second post for this week, and the last for the Class of 2010, comes from Hana Cervenka who, like Luis Marquez (writer of yesterday’s post) has a focus on monitoring and evaluation.
As I am writing this, I am just back from facilitating the traditional potato run for kids during the celebration of Norway’s national day in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the next few days I’ll be drafting background documents and talking points in preparation for the bilateral human rights dialogue between Norway and Indonesia, planning a joint Nordic midsummer party, preparing for an upcoming ministerial visit, following up on grants to partners working on good governance, and quite possibly hopping into a few unexpected meetings as well. This is all part of my job as a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, where I have served since 2013. I can’t imagine that any school could have prepared me better for this career than The Fletcher School, where writing academic papers, carrying out an evaluation for a real-life organization, discussing the theory and practice of law, economics, and politics, and learning bhangra for one of the Cultural Nights are all equally natural parts of everyday life. (To be fair, I did not learn bhangra, but many of my friends did!)
It has been a whirlwind five-plus years since I left Fletcher. First, let me backtrack a bit. I still remember the feeling I had when studying for my undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Oslo. It was part delight and euphoria that the subjects that interested me most — international affairs, conflict, peace, development — were now what I spent all day studying. At the same time, a part of me was frustrated, questioning whether all these theoretical studies were actually going to be helpful out there in the real world. That frustration is part of what led me to Fletcher: I was sold the moment I discovered that The Fletcher School was not only top-notch academically, but that it also placed great value on combining theory and practice, and that true interdisciplinary, problem-solving cooperation between scholars and practitioners was part of the School’s DNA.
Fletcher really delivered on all its promises. My time at Fletcher was a lot about good governance and monitoring and evaluation, with a bunch of gender thrown in. There were also a few classes which may not have “fit in” with my grand career plan at the time of becoming a development/human rights/governance practitioner, but which I value today because they helped my versatility and understanding of other related issues.
The monitoring and evaluation classes I took at Fletcher were particularly important in helping me start my post-Fletcher career. My summer internship was an M&E internship in Malawi (with an NGO started by a Fletcher alumna!) and right as I graduated, I got a fellowship with DPK Consulting to help develop the monitoring framework for a USAID funded rule of law project in Jordan. From there, I moved to Khartoum in Sudan (then still one country). I spent six months as a trainee at the Norwegian Embassy there and loved it so much I pretty much refused to leave. It was such an interesting time in the country’s history: the south Sudanese people decided in a referendum that South Sudan would become an independent country six months later. There was no way I could leave. I was hired by the organization set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to work on the negotiations that were ongoing on the terms and practicalities of the secession. I managed a grant in support of the negotiations, trying to have civil society voices heard and supported in the negotiations (led by the African Union) in any way needed. Book tickets, charter flights, fix hotels? Check. Type up negotiating positions that were hand written? You got it. Take minutes from the negotiation meetings? Sure.
Right around the time South Sudan gained its independence, I was accepted to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic training program. I continued working on Sudan/South Sudan in my first year at the Ministry as part of my on-the-job training. I then had a six-month full-time training in all things relating to Norwegian foreign affairs followed by another on-the-job training, this time on the Asia desk in preparation for my first posting in Jakarta. Fletcher has been helpful every step of the way, academically of course, but in many more ways too. The Fletcher alumni community is always there, ready for equal parts serious and fun adventures. We even have a small (and completely unofficial!) Norwegian MFA Fletcher club including (in addition to me), my 2010 classmate Hilde, along with Jonas, F11, Torbjørn, F12, and Ina, F13. I don’t know where I’ll go for my next posting, but I do know the Fletcher network will surely be there, wherever I may be!
One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion. Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years. Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by. So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation. The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”
Six years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division. While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher. At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics. Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.
The path to Fletcher
Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend. It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here). This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate. Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”
Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.
I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank. Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group. The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors. This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps. Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.
As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades. However, a lot of work remains. I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space. While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex. Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles. We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International, and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.
Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.
The final post in the series of advice from the Admissions Graduate Assistants asks for their most important overall suggestion.
Q: What one tip/suggestion would you provide to incoming students?
Ashley: I’ve seen many fellow students dive head first into every opportunity to get engaged that they could get their hands on. If you can balance it all, that’s great! There’s no shortage of ways to jump into student clubs and campus events or part-time jobs. But I’ve often found it better on my sleep and sanity to really dig in deep with a more strategic selection of activities. (It doesn’t hurt the narrative on your resume either).
Auyon: Explore the area around Fletcher, check out Cambridge and downtown Boston, and get familiar with the transport system. Don’t forget to relax before school starts!
David: Talk to second-year students and alumni about what their favorite classes were. They would love to share their experiences and they can also serve as a great resource at Fletcher.
Dristy: Don’t hesitate to ask questions, whether they are about courses, direction to classrooms, the Campus Center at Tufts, or the nearest water fountain. We have all been in the same boat and everyone at Fletcher is friendly and happy to help.
Moni: Come with an open mind and don’t take things too seriously. Some students arrive knowing their academic focus, having selected both Fields of Study. However, it is o.k. to take a class, attend an event, or have a moving discussion with someone, and realize that you may want to shift your focus to something more specific within your initial field or something entirely different. This can happen and it is great when you have such a huge support system, such as everyone in the Fletcher community, who can guide you along the way! As John Lennon used to say “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
Tagged with: GA Advice
We know that many incoming students are still actively making their housing arrangements, so today’s post of advice from the Graduate Assistants considers housing options.
Ashley: Once I’d found my roommates — one through a mutual friend, and another through a combination of the unofficial admitted student get-togethers in DC and the “I’m looking for a roommate” group spreadsheet — we decided on what we were looking for and set a time to visit Boston in person. From there, it was a lot of time spent scouring Craigslist, Padmapper, and the like… making a shared list, reaching out to realtors and landlords, sending locally based family to visit prospective units, and setting a schedule for our own visit here. In the end, one realtor actually led us to a place that wasn’t on our radar, but was perfect for us. All told, it took some extra elbow grease, but it did result in finding a great apartment!
Auyon: I did an extensive search, initially primarily on Craigslist and the Fletcher housing spreadsheet, but ultimately I had to go through a realtor using sites such as Zillow. Because I was looking for a one-bedroom apartment (I came here with my wife), my options were limited. In terms of the budget, the fewer the rooms, the higher the rent per person.
David: When I applied to Fletcher, I was living in the Czech Republic. To make life easier on myself, I decided to apply to Blakeley Hall and lived on campus for my first year. Blakeley is a community within the Fletcher community and it was a great way to get to know an awesome contingent of Fletcher students.
After my first year, I moved into a house with four close Fletcher friends. Our house is one of the four “color houses” that host some of the social events for Fletcher students. I would advise those looking for housing to try to reach out to second-year Fletcher students, as many of them are graduating and their off-campus housing will be available.
Dristy: I found my housing on Craigslist — a great place to find rooms and apartments in the area, but it’s definitely important to be very careful and strategic in vetting out spam postings.
Moni: I, unfortunately, did not have much time to look for housing since I left my job shortly prior to starting Fletcher, but applied for Blakeley housing my first year and got a spot! Friends of mine who looked for housing mentioned that the Admitted Students Facebook page served as a great source for finding housing options, since current students post listings. Admitted students also organized a Google Doc with what they were interested in renting and paired it with available options. There are many options around campus and many wiling students in the community to help out! Another added incentive to connecting with current or graduated students is that houses usually come furnished, since they are passed down from one student to the next, and it makes the process easier when picking what to go for.
As important as it is to have some tips on what to do as a Fletcher student, it can be equally helpful to know what not to do. Today, the Graduate Assistants provide their tips along those lines.
Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do before starting their Fletcher studies?
David: Do not feel that you need to have all the details about graduate school and the future figured out before you arrive for Orientation. You will find that Fletcher is not only a great place to further develop your current interests, but also to discover new ones.
Dristy: It is exciting to think about classes and all the interesting things you are going to learn at Fletcher, but I would suggest incoming students not worry about having to figure out classes for the fall semester or how you would fulfill the breadth and depth requirements. Shopping Day, when many professors give brief introductions to the courses they will offer that semester, is incredibly helpful for learning more about the course and the professor, and also helps a lot in making decisions about what classes to take.
Moni: It is tempting to get a head start on readings for classes you plan to take. However, use this time wisely and refine other skills that will serve you well during your time at Fletcher. Spend time with family and friends — don’t go crazy trying to beat the curve.
Ashley: Don’t forget to take a little time off, if you can. Though that month-long backpacking trip around Asia won’t be a possibility for everyone, taking even a week (or at least a long weekend) before settling in at Fletcher is a pretty vital opportunity to recharge the batteries and clear your mind for the rewarding and exciting – but often exhausting and stressful – adventure that is grad school.
Auyon: Don’t narrow down your options in terms of courses and fields of studies before starting at Fletcher and before talking to professors, your advisors, and other students (especially second years).
Q: What is something that you worried about that you found you didn’t need to worry about?
Moni: Completing all the readings, for all my classes, all the time. It is very hard to do so and you exclude other options of analyzing the readings more in depth and grasping ideas by other means. Life at Fletcher is great, but very busy. So if you cannot cover all the readings, organize study groups with students in class and split up the readings. This is a way to provide summary reports of all the readings and then discuss in the group setting, before class, some of the main points and theories covered. You may also find it incredibly helpful as it helps shape the discussion once you are in class. Adapt and overcome!
Ashley: Don’t worry too much about making ALL of your BEST friends in the first week, or even in the first few months. Just like any new relationship, it will happen, but it will happen organically. You’ll have plenty of people to hang out with until it really clicks — this is the Fletcher Community after all — and some of those folks will end up being your best buds here at Fletcher and beyond. But don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed with expectations.
Auyon: I worried about the challenge of grad school studies more than I needed to. If you are on top of things — you do the readings and assignments, prepare for and contribute to group meetings/projects, talk to the professors and TAs, actively seek help when you need if from classmates and others, and are organized about your schedule and time (highly recommend using google calendar) — you will be fine!
David: I thought that I needed to have my life figured out by the time I arrived at Fletcher. I realized that I was one of many who had an idea of what I wanted to do, but definitely did not have every step of the way planned out. During my time here at Fletcher, I found that my interests also grew and transformed, and so did my plan for post-Fletcher.
Dristy: I was worried about going back to student life after working as a professional for almost four years, but I realized that it is a fairly common concern that most of us have. Although the first few weeks required some discipline, soon enough, I easily adapted to the student mode and started enjoying doing the long list of required readings and writing papers for class. It may take time to adjust at the beginning, but the pace of coursework picks up very fast, and we adapt pretty quickly. So, definitely no need to worry about that!
Tagged with: GA Advice
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