Posts by: Jessica Daniels

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Fletcher Admissions website currently has a page called Apply to Fletcher, but there’s no application to be found.  We usually keep the application up throughout the summer, but this year is different because we are in the process of transitioning to an entirely new application system.  ENTIRELY new!  Applicants should find the new interface to be far friendlier than the old one, and the Admissions Committee will be able to stop dragging applications around — everything will be found conveniently in the cloud.  As you can imagine, this is a big change for us.  I think it’s fair to say that we’re all excited but nervous about how the change will play out.

Meanwhile, for those who really wanted to get going on their applications, there’s one big piece of info I can share.  The essay questions will not be changing.  The two essays that are shared by all degree programs will be:

Essay 1: Personal Statement (600-800 words)
Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.

Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career.  Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.  Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals?  Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?  If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Essay 2 (500 words maximum)
Share something about yourself to help the Committee on Admissions develop a more complete picture of who you are.

That should be enough of an assignment to keep you busy until we post the link to the new application.  Even if you don’t want to start writing yet, you might like having a little extra time to think through your answers.

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Last week, my cousin’s husband, Ian, became a U.S. citizen.  When I heard that he had finally (after 20+ years) gone through the citizenship test and other processes, and that the ceremony at which he would take the Naturalization Oath would be sometime in the spring, I immediately booked myself in.

My husband, Paul, became a citizen some years back, and I found the ceremony to be really meaningful.  Ian’s ceremony had the advantage of being in a special location — Boston’s Faneuil Hall, with a history dating to 1742, and currently a National Historic site that is still used for public events.

The day started off with a round of paperwork for each of the soon-to-be citizens.

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Once all of that was complete, a judge turned up and talked about the meaning of citizenship, before he administered the oath for the new citizens.

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Visitors were up in the gallery, with good views of the artwork around the Hall.

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The 296 new U.S. citizens came from about 80 nations, ranging alphabetically from Albania to Vietnam.  The judge had them stand up as he called the name of their home country.  From my vantage point, it appeared the largest cluster was from Brazil, but most of the countries were represented by one or two new citizens.  There’s a rich international mix in the Boston area.

There’s even a Fletcher angle to this story.  As we walked outside after the ceremony, I heard someone calling my name.  It was Byron, a Fletcher alum whom I had recently seen at a reunion event.  His wife, originally from the Netherlands, was also sworn in on Thursday.

 

After two lovely years of working with Roxanne, an amazing writer, I’m sad that her student blogger role is coming to an end.  Though I’m hopeful to include her thoughts in the Admissions Blog in the future, the focus will shift to her post-Fletcher activities.  Today, Roxanne shares her reflections on two years at Fletcher.

Roxanne graduationI remember reading the Admissions Blog from across the world and wanting to experience the buzz in Fletcher’s Hall of Flags that Jessica so frequently described.  It, therefore, feels surreal to sit at my desk at home — the same desk where I have typed so many words and formatted so many footnotes — to write my closing reflections on this chapter of my Fletcher education.  On May 18, I marched in Fletcher’s Commencement ceremonies and was once again moved by the love and care that run so deep in this community.  When I look back on two years at Fletcher, I will, indeed, remember compassion, kindness, and care — for the world and for each other. As I had promised Jessica, I would also like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the other major themes and lessons that have punctuated my time at Fletcher.

  • Prepare to be humbled by your peers.  Professors, university leaders, staff, and guest speakers are all incredibly inspiring and will give you much to reflect on, but prepare for an immense amount of your learning to come from your peers.  Some of my fondest memories of learning and community alike at Fletcher have taken place in the company of what a friend has affectionately dubbed “the Ladies who Law.”  Choose your study groups well — those are the individuals who will help you make sense of econometrics or piece together the complex concepts of international law, and who will be entrusted with much of your collective learning.  Know that there will be times when you understand concepts less than your peers, and times when you will have to shoulder more of the work or be better prepared.  Treat your group work seriously and your peers with respect, and you will find yourself referencing their thoughts and insights just as much as you do those of your professors.
  • Advocate for what you care about.  I have always been drawn to the intersection of identities: conflict and humanitarian practitioner, scholar and activist.  Inhabiting the intersections can be challenging, and clarifying my role in conflict-affected settings requires demarcating how these different identities interact.  However, as a student, I was not prepared to cast any of the identities aside.  I came to Fletcher to study and learn, but when I noticed that there was an opportunity to think more creatively as an institution about inclusive security, diversity, and analysis of gender and power, I leaped at the chance to facilitate these conversations.  Looking back, I cherish the formation, advocacy, and momentum of the Gender Initiative at Fletcher and cannot imagine my time here without channeling my energy towards it.  Advocating for what I (and many others!) cared about was not required for my courses.  It was not an extra-curricular activity, per se.  At the same time, it felt essential to me and it aligned my personal values, professional experience, and sense of what I wanted to give to this community.  When you see opportunities to reflect on Fletcher as an institution, and to do so collaboratively and constructively, don’t shy away from them.
  • Say yes. In an earlier post with advice to incoming students, I had suggested that you think about what you hope to accomplish at Fletcher prior to arriving.  In this post, I suggest carving out some room for surprise.  Try a class that is outside your field of expertise — just because it’s interesting, or because you want to learn from that particular professor, or just because you’re curious.  Attend a talk that you don’t think is for you.  Sign up to learn to dance salsa for the Culture Nights — even if you’ve never danced before.  Some of the best learning takes place when you say yes and open yourself up to vulnerability, surprise, and the opportunity to be a novice again.

I am not quite ready to leave Fletcher — but perhaps that is a testament to the community itself: Fletcher inspires in all of us a constant desire to learn, challenge ourselves, and strive — and, at the same time, it sparks such an investment in our shared bonds that we are reluctant to leave the place and its people behind.  Graduation has, however, catapulted us into the world and I am looking forward to watching these relationships evolve and reconfigure and to being part of our continued, shared learning.  I promise to come visit on the Admissions Blog as an alumna from time to time — until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful summer!

The "Ladies who Law," ready to graduate.

Some of the “Ladies who Law,” ready to graduate.

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Tufts produces an online newsletter roughly weekly, and I often comb through the People Notes to see if there’s any interesting news on Fletcher folk.  Here are recent notes about two members of the Fletcher faculty:

William Moomaw, professor emeritus of international environmental policy at The Fletcher School and former director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, recently returned from a board meeting of the Climate Group in London.  Moomaw is president of the North American board of directors of the Climate Group, which met to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary and to develop a strategic plan on joint emissions reduction for the next two to three years.  Moomaw co-chaired Fletcher’s third Arctic inquiry, “Warming Arctic: Development, Stewardship and Science,” on March 3–4.  Additionally, he chaired the closing panel of the Tufts Energy Conference, “The Great Debate: Renewables vs. Fossil Fuels vs. Development.”  The Fletcher Forum launched the 2014 Global Risk Forum on climate change with his article “From Failure to Success: Reframing the Climate Treaty.”  Moomaw also headed an advisory team that evaluated the environmental studies program at Bowdoin College.

Joel Trachtman, professor of international law at The Fletcher School, was awarded the International Studies Association’s 2014 award for best book on international law for The Future of International Law: Global Government, published last year by Cambridge University Press.  The International Law Book Award recognizes a work that excels in originality, significance, and rigor and represents outstanding contributions to the field of international law.

 

Some students had the great idea to create a map indicating where they’ll be for the summer.  That way, if other students happen to be visiting Rome (for example), they can see who’s there for an internship.  Here’s the map:

Internship map

The list includes some interesting summer work, such as “reporting on the crisis in Syria for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser,” and “Brand Ambassador for Fireball Whiskey Sales & Distribution, Sazerac Company.”

And students will be in A LOT of interesting and distant locations, including:

Abuja, Nigeria
Mercy Corps
TY Danjuma Foundation

Amman, Jordan
UNRWA
Wamda Research Lab
Migrate MENA

Monrovia, Liberia
USAID
Mercy Corps

Valletta, Malta
Political Section at the U.S. Embassy

Yangon, Myanmar
FIDP (Frontier Investment and Development Partners)
UNOPS

But the biggest Fletcher crowds this summer will be found in New York at (among other organizations):
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Frog Design
International Rescue Committee
Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations
Federal Reserve Bank of NY
NYC Department of Education
Olam International

and Washington, DC:
U.S. Dept of State (many!)
Hudson Institute
House Committee on Ways and Means
Humanity in Action Fellowship
Albright Stonebridge Group
U.S. Dept of Treasury
The Cohen Group

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Despite our summer loneliness in a quiet Fletcher, I still have a few stories and updates from students to share.  Emerson Tuttle completed his Fletcher studies in the one-year MA program in 2013, but he is still in the community as he finishes a degree in veterinary medicine.  While we often say that no two students pursue the same courses at Fletcher, Emerson has a far stronger claim to uniqueness.  He’s sufficiently unusual that the University’s media folks featured his story in a recent newsletter.  Here is how Emerson reflects on his Fletcher experience.

As a former MA candidate from the class of 2013, my path to Fletcher was definitively atypical, as are my current pursuits.  However, my experience in Medford was one that parallels that of all other Fletcher students in that it included rigorous academic challenges, exposure to a broad range of cultural perspectives, and the development of close bonds to mentors, future colleagues, and life-long friends.

I am a current combined degree student at Tufts with one more year remaining in the curriculum at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (TCSVM) prior to graduating in the spring of 2015 with both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and a Fletcher degree.  I applied to TCSVM, in hopes of pursuing this underutilized combined program, after investigating the career possibilities available to a veterinarian with a background in international policy.  Included in these career paths are veterinarians who work in public health, pandemic preparedness and mitigation, international disease control and trade policy, as well as international development.

Emerson

“I’m the person on the right completing an ovariohysterectomy procedure (spay) on a dog, with instruction from Dr. Philip Allen [on the left making the hand gestures].” Photo by Andrew Cunningham, Cummings School Director of Media Services.

After spending a summer in Ethiopia researching the effects of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) — the most economically devastating animal disease on the planet that remains endemic in many developing nations — I embarked on a year of study at Fletcher.  My aim was to hone my theoretical and analytical abilities in regards to environmental policy, international development, policy analysis, and international trade.  Given the breadth of the Fletcher course offerings, two short semesters were hardly enough to absorb all of the potential knowledge the curriculum has to offer, but it was sufficient to open my eyes to new ways of thinking and communicating, and to potential solutions to complex global issues.

For those whose connection to the veterinary profession is limited to bringing pets to their local small animal practitioner, understanding the connection between an international policy degree and the study of animal disease may be difficult.  I was concerned that this would make my time at Fletcher challenging, in that I’d need to prove myself to relative experts in the field of international relations.  With a BA in biology, my mind had been programmed to think in natural processes, ecosystems, and physiology, rather than law, economics, and diplomacy.  I was pleasantly surprised when my classmates were able to grasp the connection between my degrees almost instantly, and welcomed me into what was a foreign environment for my scientific mind.  Professors similarly welcomed me into their classrooms with an interest in how their knowledge could augment my own to develop an optimal learning experience for a non-traditional student (if one can say that there even is such a thing at Fletcher).  Needless to say, the respect in which I hold classmates and professors alike is unparalleled.

My experiences at both TCSVM and Fletcher helped me secure a temporary position at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations during the summer immediately after my year at Fletcher.  There I delved further into FMD control, albeit from an office in Rome as opposed to on the ground in Addis Ababa.  The skills and perspective I gained from my studies at Fletcher allowed me to view veterinary questions through a unique lens, one that lent clarity to the socioeconomic issues generating the complex environment in which disease circulates.  My work at the FAO gave me the opportunity to see how veterinarians are actively shaping international policies and regulations to mitigate the spread of infectious animal diseases worldwide, and one day I hope to do the same.

I write this post as I prepare myself for a difficult, yet extremely rewarding 15 months of clinical training at TCSVM.  My brain has had to shift back to identifying clinical signs and differential diagnoses, as opposed to economic trends and points through which to exert effective policy action.  Though the inside of an operating room is currently more familiar to me than the halls of Fletcher, the memories and experiences I carry with me from my time there will continue to open doors for me in the future, and will also continue to shape my life and professional career for the better.

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Here’s a nice bit of Fletcher news.  Two faculty projects are among the nine selected for special attention and funding from the University provost through the “Tufts Innovates!” program, designed to find new ways to enhance learning and teaching across the university.  These descriptions reached us this week:

Charting Negotiation, Mediation and Conflict Resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Lessons from Theory and Practice.  Students at the Fletcher School will learn to apply negotiation and conflict resolution theories, with emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Presentations by senior-level practitioners and policymakers will be available campus-wide, providing an opportunity for community learning.  The principal investigator is Nadim N. Rouhana, professor of international negotiation and conflict studies.  Also on the team developing the course is Michael Baskin, Fletcher PhD candidate.

Human Security Core Course Development.  Human security is about the well-being of people rather than of the state, as encompassing as the economy, environment and food.  Eileen Babbitt, professor of international conflict resolution practice at the Fletcher School, will lead the development of a multidisciplinary course that explores the theories and applications of human security, focused on one country undergoing conflict or transition.  The goal is to offer the course in the spring 2015 semester.  Also on the team developing the course is Professor Alex de Waal.

Check out the full article for more details on “Tufts Innovates!”

 

The Spring 2014 issue of the Fletcher Security Review can now be found online.  This is the first full issue for the publication, which was launched only last fall and has been building content ever since.  Here’s the introduction that the editor, Haider Mullick, a Fletcher PhD candidate, shared with the community:

FSWWe are delighted to introduce our Spring 2014 issue!

Managed and edited by students at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Fletcher Security Review builds on the School’s strong traditions of combining scholarship with practice, fostering close interdisciplinary collaboration, and acting as a vehicle for groundbreaking discussion of international security.  We believe that by leveraging these strengths – seeking input from established and up-and-coming scholars, practitioners, and analysts from around the world on topics deserving greater attention – we can promote genuinely unique ways of looking at the future of security.

Each issue of FSR is centered around a broad theme.  In this issue, we chose to revisit the rich topic of “Proxy War.”  This volume explores the wide variety of ways in which international relations scholars and practitioners define, and understand the role of, proxies.  Our contributors consider “traditional” great power conflicts as well as examine the murky and misunderstood impact of sub-national actors such as Mexico’s cartels, Africa’s failing state watchmen and/or predators, and transnational jihadist groups.  They encourage us to learn from the proxy conflicts of the past, and they explore the future in their examination of the laws of war and their relevance to cyber clashes.

Also looking to the future of security are two renowned leaders in the field of security praxis.  David H. Petraeus discusses the importance of North American cooperation to minimize the impact of global insecurity, and Frances Townsend highlights, in her eyes, the reasons for America’s decline.

To learn more about Fletcher Security Review, you can contact the editors, or see what they and others are saying via FSR’s Twitter feed.

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