Posts by: Jessica Daniels

I had the honor and pleasure yesterday to attend the dissertation defense of one of our PhD students.  I can’t always make it to these milestone events, but when I can, I do.  Even when the subject matter is completely outside of anything I’ve ever known, it’s inspiring to celebrate the result of so many years of intense research and study.

On another note, new videos have been added to a collection answering the question “Why Fletcher?”  Here’s one, from an alumna at the World Bank (where, I hear, you can bump into a Fletcher grad around any corner).

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Returning to the Class of 2016, sometimes an update on a Fletcher graduate also captures information on one of our programs.  Although it’s a tiny percentage of graduates who find a post-student life here, some do.  And one of those is Matthew Merighi, F16, who for the past year has been the Assistant Director of Maritime Studies at Fletcher.

I never expected to end up working with Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program (MSP).  My original plan was to attend Fletcher and use my degree to go back into the U.S. federal government.  But obviously, Fletcher had an effect on me.

Before coming to Fletcher, I was a civilian employee in the U.S. Air Force’s International Affairs Office.  I worked as a liaison with other air forces, as an executive officer for a one-star general, and a tradeshow director for a member of the Senior Executive Service.  I came to Fletcher planning to study security studies to deepen my knowledge of the field before going back into public service.

The breakthrough came when taking Professor (now Emeritus) John Perry’s Maritime History and Globalization course in the fall of 2014.  No one who took a course with Professor Perry has ever forgotten it.  He was a fantastic lecturer and he presented the maritime domain in such a compelling way that I was hooked.  I worked for him as a research assistant and continued to take courses under Professor Rocky Weitz, F02, F08, MSP’s current director, when he came back to Fletcher in 2015.

MSP’s real strength is its interdisciplinary approach, linking security, business, environment, and law.  It added a salt-water perspective to how I view the world and forced me to think about international issues in a holistic way.  As an example, the introductory course in the field, Global Maritime Affairs, touches on a broad array of topics ranging from military buildups in the South China Sea to the ecological threats facing global fisheries and the economics of the shipping industry.  To be an effective maritime policy expert, you need to be literate in all of the dimensions of those challenges, rather than narrowly focused on a single specialty.

For my part, I feel very fortunate to be where I am.  Maritime studies as a field is quickly going from a niche topic to a cornerstone of policy and business.  Whether it is understanding the Arctic, climate change, or global trade patterns, having a maritime perspective is a key distinguisher for would-be practitioners.  MSP is also working on original research into cutting-edge maritime security issues, expanding its offerings of both academic and professional events, and supporting student projects in all maritime fields.  Outside of Fletcher, I also am building a nonprofit startup, Blue Water Metrics, to crowdsource data-gathering on ocean health as part of a Fletcher co-founding team.  Being a part of a new venture, alongside my work with MSP’s efforts to train the next generation of maritime leaders, is truly an honor.

(The video below is Matthew’s talk from the Fletcher Ideas Exchange.)

The icing on the top of this year’s admissions process cake is Orientation.  It’s our first opportunity to see all the new members of the Fletcher community at once and it’s their chance to come together as a family — ready to study together and support each other in so many other ways.

As a practical matter, it’s also the point when nearly all former-applicant/now-student concerns shift from Admissions to other Fletcher offices.  Until scholarships are renewed next spring, nearly all questions are best answered by other offices, though we’re always a resource for helping students find their answers.

Today the newbies will be attending several sessions at which general information will be shared with them.  Tomorrow we’ll help promote community building.  I’ll be among the staff members who are leading ice-breaker sessions.  (Since I’m a little shy myself, I’ll be running introvert-friendly activities that I hope will work well for all.)  The rest of the week continues with a similar mix of information sharing and community building.

And with that, another academic year begins!

 

Even I — who strongly discourages applicants from waiting until the last minute to submit an application — wouldn’t suggest you zap your app to us for 2018 enrollment now.  But I would definitely encourage you to check it out, figure out what materials you’ll need, and start thinking about your essays and recommendations.  If you’re applying for January enrollment, there’s less than two months to the October 15 deadline, and you should start moving on the process.  To that end, I’m happy to say the 2018 application is available now.

While we’re providing updates, please remember that the interview calendar, for both Skype and on-campus interviews, is waiting for you.  Sign up now, or risk missing out on your preferred date/time.  And if you’re planning a visit, you may want to see what classes are available.  Here’s a schedule.

And because it’s summer, a good time for linking to silly videos, take a ride with Jumbo (the Tufts mascot) and tour the campus.  Jumbo finally reaches Fletcher at the end of his ride, passing our summer construction on the way.  We sometimes describe Fletcher as if it were standing by itself somewhere, but in fact, we’re situated on a lovely campus, as Jumbo will show you.

 

Today, with less than a week until new students arrive for Orientation, Colin Steele offers his perspective on Fletcher’s special qualities.  Colin will soon start his second year in the MALD program and you may recall that he provided reading suggestions earlier this summer.

If you’re looking at Fletcher, you’re looking at a lot of reading.  However, while it’s certain that you’ll read, there’s some room to choose what you read — and that decision can make an enormous difference in the course of your education.  More than perhaps any other school, the most valuable syllabus at Fletcher is the one you assemble and assign yourself.

Let me give you an example.  On a recent Sunday morning, I started the day as usual, with a cup of coffee and a book.  Now, I have a few bookcases’ worth of good options in my room and a handful of books in progress scattered throughout the house, but I’ve always had a wandering literary eye.  Sure enough, while the coffee was brewing, I cast a glance through the cabinet of previous students’ left-behind books and found one with a subtitle I couldn’t resist: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy.

As an international security student with a particular interest in strategy, this book instantly proved to be right up my alley.  As I tore through it, though, I realized I likely would never have discovered it had I not come to Fletcher: however “essential” to understanding competition and strategy, Understanding Michael Porter is a business book — the sort of book I least expected to be reading in graduate school.

Like many Fletcher students, I investigated plenty of international affairs, law, and business programs before ultimately settling on the MALD program.  Interesting and useful as those fields are, none of them alone seemed to be asking or answering the kinds of questions that I wanted to tackle.  In contrast, the more I got to know Fletcher, the more eager I became to go to a school where I could pursue my own field of interest while also being exposed to others: to take classes with people of different backgrounds, to read their books, and to learn something about how they see and interact with the world.

This sort of variety is quintessentially Fletcher, and, one year in, I consider it (in Michael Porter’s terms) the most uniquely valuable part of a Fletcher education.  Many very good schools read Porter or Clausewitz; here, I’ve had a chance to read both.  And, whereas much of that (like Understanding Michael Porter) was purely fortuitous during my first year, capturing more value from Fletcher’s variety has become central to my strategy for my second year and beyond.

So, if you’re looking at Fletcher — as an incoming or continuing student about to return to campus, or as a prospective student still considering an application — I encourage you to develop your own strategy to make Fletcher work for you.  Where do you need to go deeper?  Where do you want to get broader?  Which peers, professors, or authors can help you get where you want to go?

Get a cup of coffee with someone, or crack open a new book.  You never know where it might take you.

 

On Thursday and Friday, Fletcher will be the site of an event jointly organized with MIT: the Science Diplomacy: Dissertation Enhancement Workshop.  According to the organizers, the two-day workshop aims to provide participants with an understanding of science diplomacy theory and practice, as well as “soft skills such as negotiation and dispute resolution techniques in relation to scientific issues in national and international settings.”  You’ll find the full program here.  The workshop is organized by Fletcher’s Science Diplomacy Center, with science diplomacy an area of increasing interest among students and faculty.

 

Student blogger Mariya, who will soon start her second year in the MALD program, has filed an early report on her summer, starting with the first phase of her multi-country experience in Asia.

After a short visit home, my summer started with a stint on the other side of the world.  In late March, I was accepted to the Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship, an all-expense paid two-week cultural exchange program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China that “provides young U.S. and Canadian students and professionals an opportunity to explore Taiwan through workshops, lectures, home stays, historic site visits and extensive cultural immersion activities.”

I found out about this opportunity through a former Fletcher participant who advertised it on the Social List over winter break.  Although I had a summer internship lined up at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok via the Pickering Fellowship, I decided to try my luck and squeeze in the Mosaic Fellowship before departing to Thailand.  Thanks to Professor Ian Johnstone who wrote my letter of recommendation, I was able to secure this fellowship.

Mariya, Alexis, and Meredith at the Mosaic Taiwan gala.

I was very excited to learn that two of my Fletcher friends – Alexis and Meredith – were also selected to participate.  A Boston-based Taiwan diplomat told us over a pre-departure lunch in Davis Square that three students from one school was quite rare because the ministry tries to optimize its outreach by selecting one student per school.  I guess Fletcher kids just blew them away with strong applications!

It was my first time traveling to East Asia, and Taiwan was a wonderful introduction.  The Mosaic Taiwan program was well-organized, engaging, and eye-opening.  Our agenda was jam-packed with activities, starting at 8:00 a.m. every day and ending around 8:00 p.m.  The experience was enriched by the other participants — 25 Americans from across the United States and five Canadians — all of whom brought a unique perspective to the program.  And of course, it wouldn’t be an international trip without a Fletcher connection: a recent Fletcher graduate connected us to his parents who kindly treated us to dinner.

Here is a snapshot of what we were up to for two weeks:

  • Tours: We got a feel for Taipei through a city tour that shed light on the history and culture, Japanese-style buildings, and early churches.  We also toured street markets where we tried the famed delicacy “stinky tofu,” miscellaneous chicken parts, exotic fried seafood such as octopus and squid balls, and for those who could indulge, pork blood popsicles.
  • Site Visits: We visited landmarks such as the Taipei 101 Financial Tower, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Chimei Museum, and National Palace Museum.  We also visited the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) as well as the Foreign Ministry.
  • Lectures: There was an emphasis on the educational component of this trip.  We attended lectures on topics including Taiwan-U.S. relations, cross-strait relations, defense policy, economic and energy polices, and healthcare.  These lectures enhanced my understanding of how regional history has shaped present-day Taiwan.  They also broadened my perspective on East Asian geopolitics.
  • Workshops: The program had an equal balance of hands-on activities.  We learned Chinese calligraphy with brushes (my favorite workshop); carved bamboo sticks to design harmonicas; hand made zongzi (rice and beans stuffed in large flat bamboo leaves) in a small village; kickboxed each other during martial arts; and wrote tea-making songs with the traditional sio-po-kua rhythm.
  • Overnight Trip: We took a high-speed railway to the southern city of Tainan, where we learned about Taiwan’s efforts to protect its natural resources.  We took a boat tour of Taijiang National Park and visited Fort Zeelandia and AnPing Tree House.
  • Local Organizations: Whereas the lectures gave us an overview of the island’s history and current affairs, and the workshops immersed us in Taiwanese culture, it was the visits to local organizations and companies that gave us insight into Taiwan as a functioning modern society.  By meeting with leaders of Kaiser Pharmaceutical, Design School, XYZPrinting Company, and Garden of Hope Foundation (humanitarian), we learned about Taiwan’s diverse industries and social efforts.  Exchanging views with students from the National Taiwan University was inspiring — the young people are very passionate about social and democratic progress in their country.  In fact, during our trip, Taiwan became the first in the region to legalize gay marriage.
  • Food: This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the trip for me.  I am not a picky eater, but my dietary restrictions as a Muslim made it difficult for me to enjoy the meals, almost all of which included pork or were cooked in pork oil.  Still, I managed to indulge in seafood, fried rice, noodles, and vegetable soups and salads.
  • Group work: What made the Mosaic Taiwan fellowship so special was the collaborative component.  On day one, we all formed groups that became our official teams for the program.  At the fancy Opening Ceremony, the teams performed group chants for Taiwan representatives and Canadian and American government officials — we even made headlines in Taiwan Today.  Each group had a unique personality; my team, Love Taiwan, was voted “Most Enthusiastic.”  The Closing Gala Ceremony was our final celebration, where we were recognized for our participation with an official award and we performed salsa dancing and sang an acapella song.

After this trip, I can truly understand why the Portuguese sailors called Taiwan “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) when they arrived at its shores in 1542.

Mariya with the “Love Taiwan” group.

 

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Students taking pre-session courses are here and other new students will arrive for Orientation on August 28.  But returning students don’t need to be back on campus until Tuesday, September 5.  They’ll be coming back to Fletcher from a mapful of different locations.  Here’s the map!

Some of those pins severely understate the number of students in a location.  For example, in New York, students are pursuing internships at:

Asia Society Policy Institute
Bank of America
CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund
The Global Impact Investing Network (“The GIIN”)
International Rescue Committee
NATO Allied Command Transformation
Pfizer
Scholastic
SWAT Equity Partners
United Nations (Conference on Trade and Development; Women, Peace and Security Unit; Global Compact)
World Economic Forum

In Washington, DC, students can be found at:

Aid to Artisans
Ashoka
Center for Strategic and International Studies – Americas Program
Embassy of Nepal
Girl Effect
Government Accountability Office
J.E. Austin Associates
Latino Victory Project
Metis Strategy
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)
National Defense University
Relief International
Securing Water for Food
Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll)
United Nations Information Center, Washington
U.S. Department of Defense, OSD Policy
U.S. Department of State
WeConnect International
World Bank

Besides New York and Washington, DC, the largest cluster of interning students can be found nearby in Boston/Cambridge at:

Blue Water Metrics
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Conflict Dynamics International
EcoLogic Development Fund
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
State Street Global Advisors
U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
War on the Rocks
Wave Equity Partners

Somewhat surprisingly, the next largest cluster is in Kigali, Rwanda!

Aegis Trust / Kigali Genocide Memorial
African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC)
Inkomoko Entrepreneur Development
RONKOS

There are organizations with many interns in different locations.  For example, the U.S. Department of State.  Besides HQ in Washington, DC, interns can be found in Bangkok, Thailand; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; Santiago, Chile; and Skopje, Macedonia.  International Rescue Committee interns can be found in Kampala/Yumbe, Uganda and New York.  Danish Refugee Council interns can be found in Athens, Greece; Maiduguri, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Yola, Nigeria.

We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back and learning about their adventures this summer, wherever they may be returning from!

(A final word of thanks to the students who coordinated the collection of all this information in an informal survey.)

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A real milestone on the road to the fall semester is today’s start of the August pre-session.  During the pre-session, incoming MIB students take Strategic Management.  At the same time as it’s a required (core) course, being in the class is also a good opportunity for the MIB cohort to come together.  Other students (both incoming and second-years) can (and do) join in.

The other pre-session class is Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming.  It’s the first stop for students focused on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, and I hear that it more than keeps them busy.

Pre-session today.  Orientation two weeks from today.  The fall semester is coming soon!

 

On Saturday, all my nearest and dearest will gather together for the wedding of my son, Josh, to his long-time sweetheart, Ati.  I don’t bring my home life into the blog as much as I once did, but the year when Josh applied to college for his undergraduate studies gave me a chance to think about the admissions process from the applicant’s perspective.  I revisited the topic four years later when my daughter, Kayla, was doing her own college search.

Now they, their friends, and my age-20-something relatives are at another stage in life that has been equally illuminating.  They’ve all completed their undergraduate studies and they’re navigating those years when they need to lay the groundwork for the decades to come.  Some have already gone to graduate or professional school.  Others are trying to figure out their next steps.  All of them feel a certain pressure to work it all out soon.  Listening to them has helped me connect to the issues our applicants are thinking about, beyond the technical aspects of the application.

What we in Admissions have always known is that those first jobs are hugely helpful for students who need to sift through their options.  Two of Josh’s classmates, in particular, present an interesting example of the benefits of working before graduate school.  They both had been inclined toward political science/international relations with a regional focus on the Middle East.  As a result of the work they pursued after graduating, one has maintained the regional focus but decided to pursue it through international education.  (That would be my almost-daughter-in-law.)  The other worked in Washington, DC for two years before deciding that the field wasn’t for him, and he is now in medical school.  Two students with similar interests, now following very different trajectories as a result of their first jobs.

As for Josh, he is in his second position with his second post-graduation organization, which he likes very much.  Given a choice, he will pass on the graduate school experience.  His first job was not a winner for him, and he has other friends who are similarly enjoying or muddling through their first positions, some more clearly directed than others.  This is a reality we observe all the time from our perch in the Admissions Office.  Some folks have their career path clearly defined by age 20.  Others are still testing the waters, often in many different lakes.

The U.S. economy is much stronger than it was in 2008 when Josh started college, or even in 2012 when he graduated, but I know that it can still be tricky to find the perfect first job.  So many organizations want to see experience on a résumé, even for entry-level positions.  That pushes the need for internships into the undergraduate years, so that students can graduate with a reasonable portfolio of experience in hand.  Kayla is fortunate to have had an internship that led to some contract work and then to a full-time job with another organization.  Without the internship, I’m sure her job hunt would have been more difficult.  When current undergraduates ask me about gaining work experience, I try to take the broadest possible approach — there’s a job out there, and the first will lead to the next.  The trick is to find something that provides some benefit — either in transferable skills or, at least, in the soft skills that employers always want to see.  And don’t go to graduate school until you’re certain you know what you want from your education.

I acknowledge that I often put on my “mom hat” when speaking to applicants and incoming students.  Sometimes I consider what I would want someone in my position to say to Josh and Kayla; I think it’s important to be direct with prospective students who could use a little advice.  I draw a lot personally from my observations of my (now adult) children and their friends and I think my work has benefited from my dual perspective, which helps me connect with the experience and decision-making of our applicants and students.

Now I’m looking forward to a wedding.  Josh and Ati are a two-Jumbo couple — both having graduated from Tufts.  They have their jobs, they’re getting married, and they’re on their way!

 

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