Posts by: Jessica Daniels

I learned about Melinda’s research, the subject of the first post on Cool Stuff Students Do, a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to gather more information about student activities that I never hear about.  Now that I’ve collected other stories (many on less academic topics) for future posts, it seems fitting to kick off this new feature with Melinda’s description of her travels for thesis research.  

Melinda

Melinda and the National Chief Imam of Ghana

I received support of my MALD thesis research through the Dean’s Research Fund.  The funding allowed me to travel over the winter break to Ghana, where I was able to interview key Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Accra, Kumasi, and Ho, three of the country’s main cities in three different regions.  This primary data will give depth to my analysis of the role of religious leaders in promoting nonviolence and addressing conflict in society, and of the challenges they face in doing so.  The financial support was instrumental in facilitating this opportunity to address such a profound issue in my Fletcher capstone project.

I’ve included a photograph of myself with the National Chief Imam of the Republic of Ghana, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, an amazing and highly respected figure whom I was able to meet during my trip, and whose office hosted me most graciously.  I met the colleague who facilitated my work, Alhaji Khuzaima Mohamed Osman, the Executive Secretary for the National Chief Imam, during my internship last summer with The Carter Center.  It is only through that relationship that I was able to conduct the research I did in Ghana.

In addition to my research, while in Ghana I was on the English language Islamic television program, IQRA, hosted by Sheikh Imam Muhammad Hussaini Bagnya, who is also a graduate student of governance and leadership at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.  I appeared twice, the first time on a program of solidarity for Christmas, and the second on a program discussing coexistence and tolerance with an interfaith panel of guests.

I was also in attendance at the Office of the National Chief Imam’s New Year’s Eve event, where I was invited to address the gathering of community and respected religious scholars and leaders with a solidarity message.

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Sitting in the Office of Admissions, I miss out on a lot of what’s happening beyond our walls.  I try to keep up but, inevitably, students are pushing forward with interesting group and individual activities that I’ll never know about.  What’s a blogger to do?  Naturally, I turned to the Social List, asking students what cool stuff they’ve been doing throughout this year.  Within minutes I had the kind of answers that made me super happy to have taken a minute to write the note.  What’s more, most of the people who responded thanked ME for giving them a chance to write about what they’ve been up to!  Tomorrow I’ll start sharing the great information that flowed my way, and I’ll group it all with the Cool Stuff tag.  Stay tuned!

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Over time, the blog has included many brief references to, or longer descriptions of, student internships, including some responses to an informal survey I sent out last year, asking about academic year internships.  Recently, the Office of Career Services added a feature to their website, offering comments from students on their summer internships.  The comments range from appreciation for a special opportunity to observe a nation in transition:

Being in Myanmar during this time of transition for the country was fascinating.  Through this internship, I was also given the opportunity to visit parts of the country that are not accessible to tourism.  The professional and personal growth I experienced through this internship was invaluable.

To making valuable contacts:

I had the opportunity to collaborate with many important people working in the Asia-Pacific region, including the U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, the Director of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and former Deputy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), and the former U.S. Ambassador to APEC.

To gaining deeper understanding of the work of an organization and a field:

I really appreciated being engaged in research in human rights abuses, in many countries, working with different researchers, and types of research (i.e. outputs).  I gained insight into how Human Rights Watch works as an organization, and how human rights research looks from a non-academic perspective.

To developing key skills:

Professionally, it was a great opportunity to work in French on a daily basis, learning how to communicate and articulate key technical concepts in development work, as well as understand the ever-changing and evolving context of economic development work in Burkina Faso.  At the end of my internship, I delivered a consulting presentation highlighting the work I had accomplished, in French, to the senior officials of MCA-BF and MCC.

We’re at the point in the spring semester when students who haven’t already pinned down an internship for the summer will finalize their choice of opportunity.  These comments from summer 2013 are a good reminder that Fletcher students do some great work, and make real contributions to their organizations, each summer.

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Fletcher students are in short supply today.  Spring break started after classes on Friday, leaving mostly thesis-writers in the building.  Also spring breaking are the undergrads and other Tufts graduate students, so the entire campus is super quiet.

One place that isn’t quiet is my email inbox, and that of all my Admissions pals.  There’s a steady stream of questions and follow-up questions pouring in from newly admitted students, and there are moments each day when we may suffer from a one-step-forward, two-steps-back condition.  That said, we encourage you to ask your questions!  Assuming you have read through all the material we have sent you, if there’s something as yet unanswered, please be sure to let us know.  We’re responding to emails and phone questions as quickly as we can, but I hope you’ll understand that there may be a delay as we respond, one by one, to requests for more information.  No spring break for the Admissions Office!

 

Despite some technical glitches, a sleepless night for Christine, and just a wee bit of frenzy, yesterday afternoon we released decisions on all applications that were complete.  All the packets were assembled (thus the paper cuts) and shipped out, and will reach admitted applicants as soon as the mail will carry them.

It’s my custom, on the day after decisions are released, to do two things.  First, I want to thank you for reading the blog.  Although comments on the posts are rare, I’m fortunate that now and then I’ll hear that the blog was a good source of information on Fletcher and the application process.  I enjoy writing, and I thank those who enjoy reading what I’ve written.

Next, I want to speak directly to those applicants who were not admitted this year.  I hope you will gain admission to another graduate school that suits your goals but, if you decide not to enroll in another program, please take advantage of our offer of feedback on your application.  Contact us after May 1 with your request and we’ll get back to you with comments.  A great number of the applicants who are not admitted to Fletcher in a given year could be competitive applicants in the future, following a few changes to their profile.  Note that the best time for requesting feedback will be this spring, and not directly before your next application — you’ll want to give yourself time to act on any suggestions.

To applicants who were offered a place on the waitlist:  I’m sorry that we’re dragging out the process still further for you.  We’ll be providing information soon to help you make your decision on whether to remain on the waitlist.

To applicants who were admitted:  Congratulations!!

Hard as it may be to believe, much of the real work of your graduate school planning process is still in front of you.  That is, you’ve sweated over your applications; you’ve stressed while waiting for your decisions; but now you need to select the program that best matches your academic and career objectives.  You have a little over five weeks to gather information about Fletcher and the other schools to which you have been admitted, and then to make a well-considered decision on where to attend graduate school.  We’ll do our part to provide you with details by mail and other media, along with opportunities to visit the School, in order to help in your decision making.  And the Admissions Blog will continue to supply information about our wonderful community and rich intellectual environment.

Speaking for everyone on the Admissions Staff, we encourage you to learn as much as you can before making a final decision.  We welcome your questions!  And, congratulations, once again, on your admission!

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Between the busy schedules of my student writers, and my own slow start in wrangling posts out of them, I realize this semester has so far been a little light on Student Stories.  And that makes today a good day to share a note I liked that Mirza posted on Facebook for Arms and Sleepers, his music duo.  (The A/A/S extended spring break tour is now an annual tradition.)  He shared a photo of the list of selected music he found on his Singapore Airlines flight to Germany, which included an Arms and Sleepers track.  Must have been a good omen for the trip!

In Europe?  Consider catching one of the gigs, before Mirza returns to his daily student life.

AAS

 

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Having started my run through the decision options on Friday and yesterday, finally, there’s the good news.  After a long wait, many Fletcher applicants will soon learn that they have been admitted.  Hoorah!  We hope that Fletcher will be the next step you take as you craft your future career!

Some of the offers of admission, however, are accompanied by a condition, and today’s post is to clarify what those conditions entail.  The first thing to remember is that we don’t bother to admit someone conditionally unless we’re very enthusiastic about other aspects of the application; don’t let the condition diminish your sense of accomplishment!

What is the basis for a conditional offer of admission?  The Admissions Committee looks at the materials in an applicant’s file and makes certain assumptions, some of which lead Committee members to suggest the applicant needs further preparation before enrolling at Fletcher.  We’ll make that preparation a condition of admission.  The most frequently employed conditions require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the student should improve foreign language proficiency, English language proficiency, or quantitative skills (MIB students only).

We tend to be inflexible about the nature of the pre-Fletcher English training, for reasons I hope are obvious.  (In case they’re not as obvious as I think, I’ll spell it out:  No one can succeed in Fletcher classes with weak English skills.)  There’s more flexibility around summer foreign language training for native English speakers.  We’ll ask students to choose the best program for their level and their choice of language — there are too many variables involved for us to dictate any particular option.

Does this mean that, if we haven’t attached a condition, we’re absolutely sure your English skills are strong enough to cope with a heavy load of reading and writing?  Not necessarily, and now’s a good time to work on those skills.  Does it mean we’re sure you’ll pass the foreign language exam?  Definitely not.  Applicants who self-assess as having intermediate-level proficiency might have overestimated or underestimated their ability.  Work on those language skills before enrolling!  Not everyone who needs some practice will be admitted conditionally.

Beyond the conditions, there’s one other complication to the admit category:  Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied.  Most common example:  You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient experience to meet Fletcher’s standard for mid-career.  On the other hand, you look great for the MALD program, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!  (There’s similar thinking behind offering MALD admission to a tiny number of PhD applicants who lack the master’s level study to enter the PhD program directly.)

Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants.  We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up on English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t require pre-Fletcher English study.

The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) ADMISSION!  And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher.  So we’ll maintain our portfolio of admits, sometimes with conditions attached.

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On Thursday evening last week I was chatting with someone who had asked about my work and who then recalled how stressful she found it when she applied to graduate school.  “Stressful” is, in fact, a common description that we hear from our applicants, too, and it’s why we try to share information about the process throughout the year. (Not that a little information can completely erase the apprehension that accompanies preparing applications, contemplating a move across the country or around the world, leaving a job, etc. — but we do our best.)

With the end of the process on the not-so-distant horizon, it’s also why we want applicants to understand the different decision options, and today I’m going to explain the waitlist.  Acknowledging that other graduate schools may describe their waitlists differently, here’s how Fletcher approaches things.

Each year, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of the applicants we’ve admitted.  (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.)  In some years, we draw a significant number of students from the waitlist.  Occasionally, we don’t admit any.  But most years we admit a few.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  For starters, when decisions go out, we can’t even answer the most basic question:  How many people are on the waitlist?  Surely we should have an answer, but we don’t.  Why?  Because, in March, it doesn’t matter whether we make 10, 100, or 1,000 waitlist offers; what matters is how may people decide to accept a spot on the list.  So let’s say we make 100 offers.  If only 40 people decide to wait, then the relevant number is 40.  We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and re-review our notes.

Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait.  Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.  Sadly, the waitlist involves, well, waiting.

All members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome.  But for some applicants who focus on the opportunity involved, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little time to give your application a boost.  For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to  know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  And don’t hesitate to crow about your latest publication or honors.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.

One last thing: Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone.  Get in touch, and we’ll let you know if there’s some special piece of information we need.

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I’m on my way to the last MALD/MA Admissions Committee for this year.  We’re starting 30 minutes early to be sure we can finish our work.  When we wrap up, we’ll have a celebratory cake (Shhhhhh!  Don’t tell the Committee members.  It’s a surprise!) and we’ll debrief and talk about ways to make the process even smoother in the future.  All of the different degree program Admissions Committees will be wrapping up by next week, and we’re starting the final phase of the decision-making process.

Meanwhile, this week was swallowed up by a slew of projects, and I’m turning, a few days later than I would have liked, to writing posts to help applicants make sense of the various admission decisions.  I think it’s really important to do this well in advance of the release of decisions, so that everyone has a chance to digest the information.  Despite having missed my mid-week target, today I’ll share some info about what happens when an applicant isn’t admitted.  Because, much as it saddens us, saying “no” is something we need to do.

When we review applications, we’re looking for a combination of academic potential, professional and international experience, and clear goals for study and a post-Fletcher career.  Applicants who are denied admission might be missing one or more of those elements, or they might be just a little weak in all of them, particularly compared to the overall qualifications of admitted students.

Because gaining admission is your objective, falling short will inevitably feel like bad news, but we do make one distinction among those who will not be offered admission this year.  Some applicants to the MALD and MIB programs will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we really want them to gain some relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for.  We’ll only use this “work deny” decision for applicants within about a year of their university graduation.  (This year, that means 2013 and 2014 grads.)  We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record), it could take more or less time for them to build their professional experience and become competitive applicants.

Here are two points to file away, in case you may find them useful later this year.  The first is that Fletcher will provide feedback to applicants.  If you’re planning to reapply, I encourage you to ask for feedback this spring.  (That is, don’t wait until the month before your next application — you may want some time to make improvements.)  We’ll accept feedback requests on May 1 and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.

The second is that Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply.  Someone who applies unsuccessfully, smooths up some of the rough points in the application, and reapplies in a subsequent year, has shown determination and a strong interest in the School — two qualities we love in our applicants.

Next week, I’ll turn to the waitlist and the various versions of admission.

 

With two references to the Diplomat’s Ball fundraiser in yesterday’s post, maybe you’re wondering what choice items are up for bid.  I took a minute to note a few of the options:

Delicious Indian meal
Personal hair style session
Piano lesson from a professional pianist
Lesson on bagel making
Cantonese comfort food
Rock climbing
Consultation on the process leading to U.S. permanent residency
Boston film tour, drinks, and endless Matt Damon facts
Introductory shooting session
Online dating profile consultation
Customized sonnets
Voice lessons
Dance lessons
“Nail Night” (fancy fingernails)
Two homemade apple pies (yum)
Learn Persian slang
Homemade Pakistani foodDSCN1748But then, with the silent auction phase ending, and the live auction scheduled for last night, the Social List was buzzing yesterday with special promotions by those trying to draw bids on their offers.  For example:

Maybe you’re inspired by the Pakistan cricket team’s recent stellar play and want to tap into another sport that Pakistanis dominate….

…Or maybe you want to learn the basics of what has been called the healthiest sport to play

…or maybe you want to get some face time with the Dean

If any of the above are true, you should bid on my squash lessons tonight at the live auction. While I can’t promise the level of dominance that other Pakistanis have been able to enjoy, I can teach you the basics. I will provide the venue, racquet, and ball.

Or then there’s:

Coffee Tour & Serenade:  I will personally take you on a tour of the area’s premier coffee establishments.  I’ll buy you coffee, tell you made-up facts about each place, and generally show you a good time.  I will also sing to you…maybe in the car, maybe on the sidewalk…it’s a surprise.

Alternatively:

If you come to the live auction tonight, you will have the privilege of bidding on a tour of the area’s premier coffee establishments.  As I have recently returned from a tour of a working coffee plantation in Costa Rica, I am clearly the perfect guide for you.

The emailed descriptions only got crazier from that.  But they all displayed the many talents (and some “talents”) of the student community.

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