Posts by: Jessica Daniels

With it’s completely unpronounceable acronym, the Annual Faculty and Staff Wait on You Dinner (AFSWOYD) is a student-organized event to raise funds for a non-profit organization of the students’ choosing.  Members of the faculty and staff get all aproned up and serve a catered dinner to attending students, who then have the opportunity to bid on a variety of items — both things and experiences.  In addition to a couple of servers, the Admissions Office offered up use of our interview rooms, with treats provided by the staff, during final exam week.  (Quiet study space always has value.)

The event raised more than $3,700, with the proceeds going to local organization Project Bread, which supports hunger-fighting programs throughout Massachusetts.

Liz shared a photo of her table.  She’s standing at the back on the left, and you can see student blogger, Mariya, at the front.

 

I now know that I’ll be sharing four reports from the Arctic Circle Assembly.  Today, adding to the post from Ana last week, we’ll hear from two more students, Katrina (who is one of the active duty military officers at Fletcher) and Colin (who is one of the pioneers in Fletcher’s new Master of Transatlantic Affairs program).

Katrina

Attending the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland sounded like a fantastic opportunity but one that required some prodding before I committed.  I wanted to attend and participate in every single thing the Fletcher community offered, and the Arctic Circle was no exception.  However, as a brand spanking new first-year MALD student, I was wary of missing classes since I was still (re)acclimating to the schedule and demands of academic life.  Matt Merighi, the Assistant Director for Maritime Affairs, quickly convinced me that this conference is the type of quintessential enrichment that Fletcher students must experience.  So, I prepared myself for what would become one of the best experiences I have had at Fletcher thus far.

The Arctic Circle is “the largest network of international dialogue and cooperation on the future of the Arctic” with participants including governments, organizations, academic bodies, and others from all over the world.  The Assembly gathers annually during three days in October.  Participants packed the sessions covering the range of issues facing the Arctic.  As a naval officer, I was keen on attending the sessions that dealt with maritime security.  One of the first sessions I attended was “Security and Insecurity in the Arctic and High North: Current Trends and Future Issues,” and I was incredibly impressed with the arguments posited.  I found the geographic and national lenses through which panel members framed the issues concerning the Arctic thought-provoking, and I kept them in mind as I listened to other speakers.  It was a humbling reminder that nations are affected by problems in different ways, and future solutions must account for all parties facing the challenges of maritime security, technology, trade, or any of the other issue in the Arctic.

Because about 2,000 people were in attendance from 50 countries, I was bound to meet fascinating people.  During the opening reception, a gentleman next to me gleefully gave me a Maine lapel pin after I told him I was at Fletcher.  When I asked where he was from, he casually replied: “I’m the governor of Maine.”  I never thought I’d meet the governor of Maine, much less 2,500 miles from home!  I also had the opportunity to engage with the Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Deputy Chief of Operations of the Icelandic Coast Guard.  Listening to them discuss the most pressing problems they see in the Arctic, and the steps they are taking to address, them caused me to reconsider how I look at maritime security issues, not only in the Arctic but around the globe.  I conversed with academics, fellow students, government officials, and organizational representatives, and I walked away from each conversation having learned something new.

My time in Iceland was not all serious, however.  During the precious few hours I was left on my own, I wandered the streets of downtown Reykjavik and visited key sites and museums.  I went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church, where I took in the beauty of the city from 244 feet in the air.  I visited their Culture House, which featured a thought-provoking exhibition that explored how outsiders and Icelanders look at history and society in Iceland.  Yet, the highlight was visiting the world-famous Blue Lagoon, where I soaked in an outdoor hot spring and watched the sunrise while wearing a silica mud mask plastered to my face.  This was unquestionably a once in a lifetime experience.

One of the most important things I learned during the Assembly is that the Arctic embodies a new frontier of international collaboration.  In an increasingly polarized world, I am encouraged that the Arctic engenders discourse and a collective action among countries that would not typically interact otherwise.  It turns out Matt was right — this was an incredible experience.  I look forward to sharing the spirit of Arctic Circle with the Fletcher family and hopefully convincing them that Arctic Circle Assembly is a must-add to their list of Fletcher memories!

Colin

I have long been fascinated with the Arctic, and my time at Fletcher has only further cemented this interest.  As a student in the brand-new Master of Transatlantic Affairs program, focusing primarily on international security and the EU, the region represents a fascinating case study.  Will new opportunities in shipping and resource extraction lead to tense geopolitical competition, or to peaceful and cooperative development?  Thanks to the generosity of the Maritime Studies program, I was granted a chance to travel to the Arctic Circle Assembly, the preeminent conference for Arctic affairs, to find out.

My interest in the region began as a personal one, but was expanded through various research projects, including an op-ed I published while working at The Stimson Center, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.  As the article was about the possibility of militarization in the region, I kept a close eye out for Arctic conference events that discussed similar issues.  Fortunately, I was able to attend a talk by a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan who laid out the arguments for demilitarization in the region, arguing that, for the most part, countries have compatible interests in the Arctic, and that military investments should be seen as a misallocation of funding.  Instead, she urged Arctic nations to focus on confidence-building measures, particularly by creating a political forum to discuss security and demilitarization.  Our discussion with Admiral Charles Michel about the Coast Guard’s surprisingly diplomatic role in the region was another interesting perspective on Arctic security cooperation.

My interest in the EU was well-represented as well.  In a presentation on EU Arctic policy, I learned how Europe is approaching the region, particularly through the EU Arctic Cluster, a network established to link policy makers with other groups like indigenous peoples, civil society, and business representatives.  I was also fascinated to learn about the EU-Polar Net, the European Union’s consortium of science experts, which coordinates numerous European research projects.  It was impressive to see the degree to which the EU was already cooperating in the region.

True to Fletcher style, I also did my best to take an interdisciplinary approach to the conference, rather than simply focusing on my core academic interests.  Easily my favorite event was the Arctic Innovation Lab, where students from Fletcher, the Harvard Kennedy School and Reykjavik University presented their ideas for concrete improvements to the region, from transshipping ports to indigenous-run tourist businesses to an Arctic investment index.  I was very impressed by my fellow students’ ingenuity.  At another event, a professor from the Arctic University of Norway opened my eyes to the human security element of Arctic affairs by arguing that the common suicide crisis within Nordic countries actually constitutes a security issue in itself.  Another panel discussed environmental hazards in the region, in particular a fascinating presentation about the dangers of a particularly toxic fuel called unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine, which was recently used in a Russian satellite launch despite its dangers to human health and the environment being very well known.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the variety of delegations from non-Arctic countries, especially Asian countries like China, India and Japan, and attended a number of events where they laid out their interests in the region.  As a student who primarily focuses on transatlantic affairs, it was a tremendous opportunity to be exposed to perspectives from other parts of the world.

The conference was not only fascinating from an academic perspective, however.  It also provided the opportunity to get closer to my fellow Fletcher students, and make some new connections as well.  Most memorably, two other Fletcherites and I were fortunate enough to befriend a student from the University of Reykjavik, who gave us a ride away from the light pollution of the city to see the awe-inspiring northern lights.  It was just one of several unforgettable experiences I had while attending the Arctic Circle Assembly.

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I was at my favorite Davis Square Farmers Market yesterday (convenient to Tufts, open every Wednesday until the day before Thanksgiving) and the weather was the subject of most of my conversations.  We’ve been gliding along on a stream of endless summery days, but on Tuesday, the winds started to blow and suddenly the weather is what we expect for November in the Boston area.  And once the temperatures dropped, November seemed very real.  I’ve barely been thinking about the big events of the month — Thanksgiving at home, and Early Notification at work — but now that November feels like November, the month is impossible to ignore.

You don’t need to worry about my Thanksgiving planning (still in only the formative stages, but there will be pies), but you might be thinking about applying by our November 15 Early Notification deadline.  If you’re looking for application tips, you could start with the week of Application Boot Camp posts we wrote a few years ago.  (Note two changes since then: First, only two recommendations are required, not three; and second, here are this year’s application instructions.)  Advice on the essays and résumé would still apply.

At the risk of repeating things I’ve written already, I’ll remind you that applying early is great for everyone — we take care of some of our applications in the fall instead of in January, and an early offer of admission means our admitted students have more time to plan.  But that’s only true if you’re really ready to submit your application.  If you are going to rush it through or send it along with pieces missing, that’s not going to serve you well.  Apply early if you’re ready to apply early, and otherwise wait until January.  There’s no admissions advantage for Early Notification applications, and we’ll look forward to reading your story on some snowy day.

That’s about all I have to say about Early Notification until after we’ve released decisions, but I hope you’ll contact us if you have any questions.

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In case you missed it, click on the photo to the right and it will take you to a nice feature highlighting the experience of 11 Fletcher alumni currently working at the United Nations.  Graduates of the MALD, PhD, and GMAP programs are included, and one — Ana Garcia, F13 — wrote one of the blog’s earliest “First-Year Alumni” updates.  It looks like her job search turned out just fine!

Fletcher alumni are sprinkled throughout the United Nations, both in New York and in regional offices.  Other graduates whom the blog has featured are Claudia Ortiz and Margherita Zuin, both of whom were based in New York at the time they wrote their Five-Year Update posts.

 

One of the perks of working (or studying) on a university campus is that there’s all sorts of interesting stuff going on that may have nothing to do with my day-to-day.  An example: One afternoon last week, I walked out of the office and five minutes later was standing in Tisch Library (the main Tufts library), checking out an exhibit of the photography of Robert Frank.  This “pop-up” exhibit, with books, videos, and photographs spread throughout the main level (including in the Tower Café), has gained quite a bit of attention, and was a great way to connect with Frank’s work.  (Apologies for my less-than-artistic photos, taken on my phone.)

From Tisch, I wandered further down the hill and, another five minutes later, I was at the Aidekman Arts Center, where I wanted to check out one exhibit, but ended up visiting four.

The first, which awaited visitors barely inside the door, displayed photographs from the Philippines by one of the university’s staff photographers, Alonso Nichols.  (Nice overlap between art and international concerns.)

The second was a small exhibit of photographs of South Asia connected with a Kashmir Conference.  This photo was taken by Professor Ayesha Jalal.

Next up was a display on either side of a hallway, titled “Pilgrim Father/illegal son,” comparing the experiences of William Bradford, who traveled to what is now Massachusetts aboard the Mayflower, and a recent Chinese immigrant, who like Bradford, arrived without official documentation.  The artist, Wen-Ti Tsen, spent time in residence at Tufts this semester, but the exhibit has traveled.  Here is Wen-Ti Tsen’s description of his work.

Finally, I reached my original destination, Aidekman’s main gallery, where the featured display was a full-room mural by Chinese artist Yuan Yunsheng.  Yuan spent time at Tufts in the 1980s and painted a mural within Wessell Library.  The larger Tisch library was built around Wessell, but the original wall on which the mural was displayed doesn’t exist anymore.  Neither, it turns out, does nearly any other Tufts wall large enough to display the mural.  Segments of the mural have been exhibited in recent years, but the remainder has been kept in storage.  For the new exhibit at Aidekman, the mural was displayed in full on the only wall at the University large enough for it.  Curiously, it has a door cut into it, representing where there would have been a door in its original Wessell Library site.  The articles I’ve linked to have some photos, but here’s a piece of what I saw.

I’m going to try to get back to Aidekman for another visit to the mural.  By the time I had visited Tisch and the other three Aidekman exhibits, I wasn’t left with much time, but I’m glad to be able to give you a sense of the vibrant campus arts scene.  And if you happen to want to know more about Yuan Yunsheng, here’s a video from the Tufts Digital Design Studio.

 

Following their return from the Arctic Circle Assembly last month, the Fletcher Maritime Program encouraged students to share their observations in a blog post, and then asked me whether I would be interested in including the posts in the Admissions Blog.  Of course I would!  I’m not sure how many I’ll receive, but today Ana Nichols Orians, a first-year MALD student, writes of her experience in Iceland.

“South Pole at Top of Earth” by Joaquin Torres García.

When I was in college, Latin American writer and activist Eduardo Galeano’s salient prose guided much of my thinking.  One message stood out: we must question the traditional narratives reinforcing colonial dynamics in global politics.  In his book, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World, Galeano presents Joaquín Torres García’s map of an upside down Latin America.  From this viewpoint, the global south is emphasized by its proximity to the sun and the moon.

Prior to the Arctic Circle Assembly, Joaquin Garcia’s map was the closest I had ever gotten to thinking about the poles.  I remain dedicated to the idea of focusing on Latin America, especially in terms of reaching my professional goals of being a negotiator on topics pertaining to food, climate, and sustainability.  Attending the Arctic Circle Assembly might not seem like the most logical step towards professional realization.  Yet attending offered the possibility of discovering a more dynamic view of the Arctic while simultaneously learning from diverse actors considering global consequences of climate change and negotiating on policies for global cooperation.  And so, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, to attend the conference with my internal global map reversed, as per Galeano’s guidance.

The Arctic Circle Assembly attracts some of the most important actors across the globe.  Within the first few hours in Iceland, I witnessed plenary discussions with Bob McLeod, Premier of the Northwest Territories, Peter Seligmann, Chairman of the Board of Conservation International, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and H. E. Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands, and I even introduced myself to and shook hands with H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, chairman of the Arctic Circle and former president of Iceland.  Over three days, religious leaders, scientists, artists, and policy makers led attendees through discussions about their priorities and opened the floor for creative responses.  It was exhilarating and, at times, intimidating.  Luckily, my role as moderator for the Arctic Innovation Lab gave me purpose.

Working with Ryan Uljua, second-year MALD candidate, on his pitch, “An Arctic Investment Index,” afforded me the opportunity to dive deeper into the idea of the Arctic as a new economic frontier.  Ryan presented a new type of investment index designed for the small-scale investor.  The roundtable conversation after his presentation incorporated the voices of students, bankers, and artists, and brought to light the importance of finding balance through corporate social responsibility and sustainability.  Vanessa DiDomenico, another first-year MALD student, pitched the idea “Navigating Vessels Through Compliance” at the lab and discussed the importance of determining safe operations with risk mitigation strategies for the emerging sea-lanes in the Arctic.  The lab provided valuable insight into a “young” perspective of how to manage the region in a sustainable and socially equitable way.

Inherent in the discussions at the Assembly was the question: whose interests will be at the table if the ice melts?  The Arctic narrative I was accustomed to proved limited.  Once again, it was a map that made my preconceived notions evident.  Looking at the map of the Arctic Ocean, one can see how the melting ice accentuates the role of the northern coastlines and the potential for additional sea-lanes, fundamentally changing the scale of global power relations.  Not all stakeholders value the Arctic for the same reason, or for that matter, have the same desired outcome for the region.  Depending on whom you ask, the Arctic provides grossly different services: biodiversity, opportunities for economic investment, pristine environments and glaciers, potential shipping routes, untapped energy, political power, and more.  As with the opening of any frontier, many actors are ready to exploit these resources for their own agenda.

A sustainable future may be a larger conversation than a single map can represent, but it is one that the Arctic Circle Assembly has been developing since its first meeting in 2013.  The future of the Arctic is a global issue and those with the closest proximity and with the most money should not be the sole decision makers.  Understanding the nuances of the political power and the diversity of interest regarding climate change will be fundamental to defining a strategic and sustainable approach to the Arctic.

 

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Many of you are probably in the process of arranging your recommendations, whether “arranging” means making that original ask, or pestering your professors to submit a promised letter before November 15.  In either case, you might want some tips, and there are plenty of them on the blog.  I encourage you to read through our past posts for suggestions.  You’ll find advice for you, the applicant, on what you can do to ensure you’ll receive an effective recommendation (like this post, for example) and there are also suggestions for your recommenders, which you could link to if you email them.

Beyond that, instead of rewriting what I’ve written before, I’ll share an anecdote.  On Monday, we were discussing applications for January 2018 enrollment.  There was one case of an applicant who hadn’t done very well as an undergrad.  The applicant’s professor did the student a huge favor by explaining the student’s trajectory through the undergraduate program.  Suddenly, everything was clear to us and we no longer felt hesitant to offer admission.  I encourage you to follow this applicant’s example and ensure that your letters of recommendation advance your story and help you make your case for admission.  It takes some work on your part, but it’s effort that can have a big impact.

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Last week you met the 2017-18 Admissions Graduate Assistants, and today I want to introduce Marquita, our new Admissions Assistant.  Marquita joined the team in September during one of the busiest weeks of the early semester.  Having survived that nuttiness, she has rapidly become an expert on all matters Admissions.  You may speak to her if you call, hear from her if you email, and you’ll almost surely be greeted by her if you visit.  I’ll let Marquita take it from here.

How did I get here?!

Before coming to The Fletcher School, I worked for about five years at Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy (SJP), a pre-K to grade 8 parochial school.  In my first year, I ran an after-school program for one of SJP’s four campuses.  While planning daily activities, managing staff, completing billing, and wrangling children ages three to 13, I realized this was not quite what I wanted for my future, at least not with that age group.

Being that I had enough “free” time on my hands, while still working at SJP, I enrolled in an online graduate degree program at what is now William James College and I completed my Master’s in Higher Education Student Personnel Administration in 2014.  At that point, I changed jobs at SJP and joined the business office to assist in the admissions and finance aspect of running a private school.  While there I wore many hats.  But what interested me most was the scholarship and financial aid portion of my work.  Before I knew it, three years had flown by and yet, somehow, I still was not using that degree that I had worked so hard for.  It was then that I knew I needed a change.  Through prior jobs, including SJP, and my master’s degree, I knew what I did not want to do and I was ready to figure out what I did want.  I applied for the staff assistant position within the Admissions and Financial Aid Office at Fletcher.  I knew this position would allow me to work with a more mature group of students as well as continue my interest in the admissions and financial aid process within higher education.  Now I am here and I am loving it! 😊

 

A few years back, Devon Cone, F08, shared her five-year update with the Admissions Blog.  Since writing, Devon has continued her refugee work, shifting locations several times and organizations at least once.  She is still engaged with refugee issues, currently as the Director of Protection Programs at HIAS.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading the update she wrote previously and watching as she discusses her post-Fletcher experience on this video.

 

Some of my favorite initiatives each year are the ones that involve students creating learning opportunities for each other.  This year there are two “chat” series underway, one that features a professor talking with students about non-classroom topics (or, as the organizers describe it, “practical, personal insights that they may not directly address in the classroom”), and another that brings students together in our Blakeley Hall dormitory to learn from a fellow student.

The Faculty Chats series (also called “What Every Student Should Know About _____”) kicked off with Professor Sulmaan Khan whose first talk in the series promised to “challenge your assumptions, make the case for thinking like an historian, and possibly make you see whales in a whole new way.”

The second of the chats featured Professor Michael Glennon, who promised to “share some of his accumulated wisdom on work, life, and the law,” focusing on what he has learned thanks to mentorship, and experience that he wishes he’d had at the outset of his career.

The latest chat invited students to hear from Professors Monica Toft, Ibrahim Warde, and Elizabeth Prodromou.  Just this past Wednesday, the three members of the faculty told stories from their careers and reflected on the question, “How did you get here?”  And specifically, they discussed how the study of religion informed and impacted their work as academics and practitioners.

And now for the Blakeley Chats, which were actually developed last year after students realized that their classmates had interesting experiences worthy of sharing in a semi-formal setting.  (Sort of the mirror image of the faculty chats, which create a relaxed atmosphere for faculty and students, the Blakeley Chats give structure to the standard student conversations.)

I haven’t happened to see an announcement of the first chats, but subjects are meant to include jobs, travel, projects, or anything interesting to other students.  Last year, some students created presentations or photo slideshows, while others simply, well, chatted.

 

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