Posts by: Jessica Daniels
The second post for this week, and the last for the Class of 2010, comes from Hana Cervenka who, like Luis Marquez (writer of yesterday’s post) has a focus on monitoring and evaluation.
As I am writing this, I am just back from facilitating the traditional potato run for kids during the celebration of Norway’s national day in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the next few days I’ll be drafting background documents and talking points in preparation for the bilateral human rights dialogue between Norway and Indonesia, planning a joint Nordic midsummer party, preparing for an upcoming ministerial visit, following up on grants to partners working on good governance, and quite possibly hopping into a few unexpected meetings as well. This is all part of my job as a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, where I have served since 2013. I can’t imagine that any school could have prepared me better for this career than The Fletcher School, where writing academic papers, carrying out an evaluation for a real-life organization, discussing the theory and practice of law, economics, and politics, and learning bhangra for one of the Cultural Nights are all equally natural parts of everyday life. (To be fair, I did not learn bhangra, but many of my friends did!)
It has been a whirlwind five-plus years since I left Fletcher. First, let me backtrack a bit. I still remember the feeling I had when studying for my undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Oslo. It was part delight and euphoria that the subjects that interested me most — international affairs, conflict, peace, development — were now what I spent all day studying. At the same time, a part of me was frustrated, questioning whether all these theoretical studies were actually going to be helpful out there in the real world. That frustration is part of what led me to Fletcher: I was sold the moment I discovered that The Fletcher School was not only top-notch academically, but that it also placed great value on combining theory and practice, and that true interdisciplinary, problem-solving cooperation between scholars and practitioners was part of the School’s DNA.
Fletcher really delivered on all its promises. My time at Fletcher was a lot about good governance and monitoring and evaluation, with a bunch of gender thrown in. There were also a few classes which may not have “fit in” with my grand career plan at the time of becoming a development/human rights/governance practitioner, but which I value today because they helped my versatility and understanding of other related issues.
The monitoring and evaluation classes I took at Fletcher were particularly important in helping me start my post-Fletcher career. My summer internship was an M&E internship in Malawi (with an NGO started by a Fletcher alumna!) and right as I graduated, I got a fellowship with DPK Consulting to help develop the monitoring framework for a USAID funded rule of law project in Jordan. From there, I moved to Khartoum in Sudan (then still one country). I spent six months as a trainee at the Norwegian Embassy there and loved it so much I pretty much refused to leave. It was such an interesting time in the country’s history: the south Sudanese people decided in a referendum that South Sudan would become an independent country six months later. There was no way I could leave. I was hired by the organization set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to work on the negotiations that were ongoing on the terms and practicalities of the secession. I managed a grant in support of the negotiations, trying to have civil society voices heard and supported in the negotiations (led by the African Union) in any way needed. Book tickets, charter flights, fix hotels? Check. Type up negotiating positions that were hand written? You got it. Take minutes from the negotiation meetings? Sure.
Right around the time South Sudan gained its independence, I was accepted to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic training program. I continued working on Sudan/South Sudan in my first year at the Ministry as part of my on-the-job training. I then had a six-month full-time training in all things relating to Norwegian foreign affairs followed by another on-the-job training, this time on the Asia desk in preparation for my first posting in Jakarta. Fletcher has been helpful every step of the way, academically of course, but in many more ways too. The Fletcher alumni community is always there, ready for equal parts serious and fun adventures. We even have a small (and completely unofficial!) Norwegian MFA Fletcher club including (in addition to me), my 2010 classmate Hilde, along with Jonas, F11, Torbjørn, F12, and Ina, F13. I don’t know where I’ll go for my next posting, but I do know the Fletcher network will surely be there, wherever I may be!
One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion. Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years. Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by. So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation. The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”
Six years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division. While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher. At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics. Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.
The path to Fletcher
Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend. It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here). This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate. Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”
Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.
I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank. Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group. The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors. This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps. Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.
As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades. However, a lot of work remains. I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space. While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex. Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles. We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International, and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.
Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.
The final post in the series of advice from the Admissions Graduate Assistants asks for their most important overall suggestion.
Q: What one tip/suggestion would you provide to incoming students?
Ashley: I’ve seen many fellow students dive head first into every opportunity to get engaged that they could get their hands on. If you can balance it all, that’s great! There’s no shortage of ways to jump into student clubs and campus events or part-time jobs. But I’ve often found it better on my sleep and sanity to really dig in deep with a more strategic selection of activities. (It doesn’t hurt the narrative on your resume either).
Auyon: Explore the area around Fletcher, check out Cambridge and downtown Boston, and get familiar with the transport system. Don’t forget to relax before school starts!
David: Talk to second-year students and alumni about what their favorite classes were. They would love to share their experiences and they can also serve as a great resource at Fletcher.
Dristy: Don’t hesitate to ask questions, whether they are about courses, direction to classrooms, the Campus Center at Tufts, or the nearest water fountain. We have all been in the same boat and everyone at Fletcher is friendly and happy to help.
Moni: Come with an open mind and don’t take things too seriously. Some students arrive knowing their academic focus, having selected both Fields of Study. However, it is o.k. to take a class, attend an event, or have a moving discussion with someone, and realize that you may want to shift your focus to something more specific within your initial field or something entirely different. This can happen and it is great when you have such a huge support system, such as everyone in the Fletcher community, who can guide you along the way! As John Lennon used to say “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
We know that many incoming students are still actively making their housing arrangements, so today’s post of advice from the Graduate Assistants considers housing options.
Ashley: Once I’d found my roommates — one through a mutual friend, and another through a combination of the unofficial admitted student get-togethers in DC and the “I’m looking for a roommate” group spreadsheet — we decided on what we were looking for and set a time to visit Boston in person. From there, it was a lot of time spent scouring Craigslist, Padmapper, and the like… making a shared list, reaching out to realtors and landlords, sending locally based family to visit prospective units, and setting a schedule for our own visit here. In the end, one realtor actually led us to a place that wasn’t on our radar, but was perfect for us. All told, it took some extra elbow grease, but it did result in finding a great apartment!
Auyon: I did an extensive search, initially primarily on Craigslist and the Fletcher housing spreadsheet, but ultimately I had to go through a realtor using sites such as Zillow. Because I was looking for a one-bedroom apartment (I came here with my wife), my options were limited. In terms of the budget, the fewer the rooms, the higher the rent per person.
David: When I applied to Fletcher, I was living in the Czech Republic. To make life easier on myself, I decided to apply to Blakeley Hall and lived on campus for my first year. Blakeley is a community within the Fletcher community and it was a great way to get to know an awesome contingent of Fletcher students.
After my first year, I moved into a house with four close Fletcher friends. Our house is one of the four “color houses” that host some of the social events for Fletcher students. I would advise those looking for housing to try to reach out to second-year Fletcher students, as many of them are graduating and their off-campus housing will be available.
Dristy: I found my housing on Craigslist — a great place to find rooms and apartments in the area, but it’s definitely important to be very careful and strategic in vetting out spam postings.
Moni: I, unfortunately, did not have much time to look for housing since I left my job shortly prior to starting Fletcher, but applied for Blakeley housing my first year and got a spot! Friends of mine who looked for housing mentioned that the Admitted Students Facebook page served as a great source for finding housing options, since current students post listings. Admitted students also organized a Google Doc with what they were interested in renting and paired it with available options. There are many options around campus and many wiling students in the community to help out! Another added incentive to connecting with current or graduated students is that houses usually come furnished, since they are passed down from one student to the next, and it makes the process easier when picking what to go for.
As important as it is to have some tips on what to do as a Fletcher student, it can be equally helpful to know what not to do. Today, the Graduate Assistants provide their tips along those lines.
Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do before starting their Fletcher studies?
David: Do not feel that you need to have all the details about graduate school and the future figured out before you arrive for Orientation. You will find that Fletcher is not only a great place to further develop your current interests, but also to discover new ones.
Dristy: It is exciting to think about classes and all the interesting things you are going to learn at Fletcher, but I would suggest incoming students not worry about having to figure out classes for the fall semester or how you would fulfill the breadth and depth requirements. Shopping Day, when many professors give brief introductions to the courses they will offer that semester, is incredibly helpful for learning more about the course and the professor, and also helps a lot in making decisions about what classes to take.
Moni: It is tempting to get a head start on readings for classes you plan to take. However, use this time wisely and refine other skills that will serve you well during your time at Fletcher. Spend time with family and friends — don’t go crazy trying to beat the curve.
Ashley: Don’t forget to take a little time off, if you can. Though that month-long backpacking trip around Asia won’t be a possibility for everyone, taking even a week (or at least a long weekend) before settling in at Fletcher is a pretty vital opportunity to recharge the batteries and clear your mind for the rewarding and exciting – but often exhausting and stressful – adventure that is grad school.
Auyon: Don’t narrow down your options in terms of courses and fields of studies before starting at Fletcher and before talking to professors, your advisors, and other students (especially second years).
Q: What is something that you worried about that you found you didn’t need to worry about?
Moni: Completing all the readings, for all my classes, all the time. It is very hard to do so and you exclude other options of analyzing the readings more in depth and grasping ideas by other means. Life at Fletcher is great, but very busy. So if you cannot cover all the readings, organize study groups with students in class and split up the readings. This is a way to provide summary reports of all the readings and then discuss in the group setting, before class, some of the main points and theories covered. You may also find it incredibly helpful as it helps shape the discussion once you are in class. Adapt and overcome!
Ashley: Don’t worry too much about making ALL of your BEST friends in the first week, or even in the first few months. Just like any new relationship, it will happen, but it will happen organically. You’ll have plenty of people to hang out with until it really clicks — this is the Fletcher Community after all — and some of those folks will end up being your best buds here at Fletcher and beyond. But don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed with expectations.
Auyon: I worried about the challenge of grad school studies more than I needed to. If you are on top of things — you do the readings and assignments, prepare for and contribute to group meetings/projects, talk to the professors and TAs, actively seek help when you need if from classmates and others, and are organized about your schedule and time (highly recommend using google calendar) — you will be fine!
David: I thought that I needed to have my life figured out by the time I arrived at Fletcher. I realized that I was one of many who had an idea of what I wanted to do, but definitely did not have every step of the way planned out. During my time here at Fletcher, I found that my interests also grew and transformed, and so did my plan for post-Fletcher.
Dristy: I was worried about going back to student life after working as a professional for almost four years, but I realized that it is a fairly common concern that most of us have. Although the first few weeks required some discipline, soon enough, I easily adapted to the student mode and started enjoying doing the long list of required readings and writing papers for class. It may take time to adjust at the beginning, but the pace of coursework picks up very fast, and we adapt pretty quickly. So, definitely no need to worry about that!
Continuing with the advice for incoming students provided by the Admissions Graduate Assistants, today we focus on preparing for the academic program.
Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?
Auyon: For students entering the MIB program, I suggest that you brush up on economics (a selection of suggested topics are usually sent to incoming students by the Registrar’s Office), complete the MBA math course to brush up on finance, accounting and stats, and try to be up-to-date on current affairs.
David: The summer before Fletcher is a great opportunity to “recharge the batteries” and get ready for graduate school. Once Orientation starts, your schedule will start getting jam-packed so it’s important to use the summer to take time to both reflect on your goals for graduate school, familiarize yourself with some of the courses that might interest you, and brush up on some of those quant and language skills. If you have taken any economics courses, I would be sure to review the most important economic concepts that you would cover in an introductory economics course. Same is to be said with statistics. I personally went through some of my notes from college and watched a few economic tutorials online from Khan Academy. Above all, relax and get excited about Fletcher!
Dristy: Rest, relax, and spend time with friends and family!
I would also encourage incoming students to brush up on their foreign language skills so that they don’t have to carve out time during the semester to prepare for the foreign language exam. Also, for those who intend on taking the economics and quantitative equivalency tests, I would encourage them to review that material as well. Since the equivalency exams take place during Orientation week, they may not have time to brush up on these before the exam.
And, I would encourage international students, especially those who have not lived in the U.S. before, to reach out to current international students to get useful insights and tips on how to navigate through some of the basics in the U.S., for example, where to buy bedding, personal care supplies, their costs, phone plans, etc.
Moni: The most valuable element you have before starting at The Fletcher School is time. Make the best of it by practicing your language, quantitative, and networking skills. Being part of the admitted students Facebook page makes it easier to reach out to incoming students who may reside close by and/or share similar interests! Most importantly, it is also a good resource to find housing. This period is also an opportunity to read what you like. While at Fletcher, you have a heavy reading load on fascinating topics that relate to your classes, but that leaves little time for unrelated readings. In this case, I recommend picking up a book by your favorite author, going out to a café or park, and getting swept away by a story of your choosing. You never know! Perhaps an incoming Fletcher student can recommend some good reads!
Ashley: I found it very helpful to familiarize myself with the various courses available and the requirements of my degree. There is a certain amount of self-advisement here when it comes to planning your academic path, and it helps to know the basics so that you can ask the more detailed questions when you need to. It was also a great way to think even further about where I wanted to go with my degree, so that when new opportunities and ideas presented themselves – as they will! – I had a good sense of not only whether it was worth considering, but also what other changes to my roadmap I might need or want to consider as well.
Before they left for their post-Fletcher lives (Moni and David) or their summer internships (Asley, Auyon, Dristy), I asked our Graduate Assistants (GAs), the student members of the Admissions Office staff, to share their wisdom with incoming students. I’ll be sharing their answers all through this week, in Q & A format.
Q: What should new students be sure to do while they’re here?
Ashley: Take one or ten of your new friends and go explore the area! Try to get into Boston from time to time and take advantage of both the city and the greater New England area for some quality bonding time off-campus and outside of Medford/Somerville. For instance, I went with a few friends on a bike ride down the Minute Man trail in the fall, and it was so nice to get away for the day and get to know a few folks better outside of the classes, group projects, and speaker series.
David: Hit the ground running! There are so many ways to get involved once you arrive at Fletcher. Take advantage of those opportunities to get involved in the Fletcher community and to take on a leadership role. Become a club president or take charge of organizing a panel for a conference. The two years at Fletcher will go by super fast, so make the most of your time here! Also, academics are important, but the relationships you develop with your peers are equally important, as you’ll find that it is your classmates who you will turn to for guidance and support during the next two years and after Fletcher.
Dristy: Try to meet as many incoming students as possible. Once classes start, you will notice that we will each have our own “dance routines” and there are always so many interesting talks, discussions and events to attend at Fletcher. So I encourage new students to use the orientation week to meet each other and the second years who are around. Definitely take advantage of Shopping Day to choose your courses.
Moni: Get involved as much as possible. There are so many great opportunities on campus to organize events, conferences and gatherings on topics of interest to you or causes you believe in. Join a student club, or lead the club, and partake in gatherings inside and outside of the Fletcher community, such as social mixers, cross-school conferences and treks (educational trips). As a Fletcher student, you are also able to cross-register at other schools in the area — take advantage of this unique option and experience all the schools’ varied cultures! You are only as limited as you allow yourself to be, so get out there!
Kristen just put out a second call for hosts of our semi-annual array of Coffee Hours. This is noteworthy because the list of locations is already quite impressive. Though details are still in the planning stage, students have volunteered to meet with potential applicants, enrolling students, and anyone else who wants to talk Fletcher in:
Cape Town, South Africa
Mexico City, Mexico
New Delhi, India
New York, NY
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
San Francisco, CA
Tel Aviv, Israel
Check the Coffee Hours list on the website for details and to see if an event will be planned near you. Most events will take place in July and August, and the dates should be posted soon.
Tagged with: Coffee Hours
Today I’m going to gather links to news items that have flowed my way in the past couple of weeks.
I’ll start with Commencement news! Here’s a story, with photos, that captures the events of Class Day and the Commencement ceremony itself.
Read also about two of this year’s graduates, Jeremy Blaney and Jessica Meckler, who were featured in a group of graduates of all of the University’s graduate and undergraduate programs.
Commencement featured the granting of the inaugural “Fletcher First Ten” award, to be given annually to an alumnus who has made a noteworthy contribution to the community, this year going to the inimitable Rocky Weitz, whose accomplishments outpace those of nearly anyone I know.
And speaking of awards, Center for International Environment and Research Policy researcher Rebecca Pearl-Martinez this week received the Advocacy Award from the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, MIT and Stanford University.
And finally, alumna Masha Gordon has climbed Mount Everest, the latest in a series of extreme adventures. In a Facebook post, she wrote, “On May 19th at 7:30am Nepali time I became 400th woman to summit Mount Everest. It was a culmination of a month long journey full of poetry, drama and self-discovery. I am now just 1 summit removed from breaking female world record in Explorers Grand Slam. Follow my journey to the peak of Denali by liking my Facebook page.” And you can also follow Masha’s adventures on her Grit and Rock blog. Here’s a photo that she shared, with obvious Fletcher love.
Throughout the summer, I occasionally take the opportunity to talk about “Our Neighborhood” by describing my own weekend activities. Not the cutting-the-grass or scrubbing-the-floor type of weekend “fun,” but things I might do that visitors and students could easily do, too. To that end, I usually focus on easy day trips, especially those that can be accomplished by mass transportation.
This past weekend, which included the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, delivered a little bit of every kind of weather. It was outrageously hot on Saturday (a May 28 record-setting 92 degrees) but the temperature plummeted through the night and Sunday found us back in our sweaters, closing all the windows that had only just been opened. Monday was less cool, but started off with a drenching downpour. A little of everything, as I said.
So our weekend also included a little of everything. We were hosting family (my mother-in-law) and friends (two college roommates from New York and San Francisco), and on Saturday we jumped on a ferry to George’s Island, one of several islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The ride, which offers great views of the city, takes about 40 minutes and delivers you to a place that seems both far from the city and also, if you gaze over the water, close to it.
Yesterday, yielding to the soggy morning conditions, we zipped off to the Museum of Fine Arts, only to find a zillion of our fellow art lovers waiting in line on a free-admission day. We’re members, so in we went, and we made a beeline for Megacities Asia, an innovative exhibit that evoked the changing nature of several of Asia’s biggest cities. Here’s an example, from Seoul:
The MFA is consistently named among the best art museums in the U.S. It’s a gem, with several extraordinary collections and I highly recommend a visit while you’re here.
I’m sure I’ll be back with more of the local activities that my husband, Paul, and I pursue through the summer. Stay tuned!
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