Posts by: Jessica Daniels
Though nearly everyone studying at Fletcher is enrolled in a degree program, the School also offers some special programs on a regular or occasional basis. An annual example is the Tavitian Scholarship program. A recent article in the Fletcher alumni magazine and on the Tufts Now site tells us:
Now in its 16th year, the program, funded by the Tavitian Foundation, has paid for more than 250 early and mid-career Armenian officials to study at the Fletcher School. Not just for diplomats anymore, the program offers executive training to a range of Armenian government officials and central bankers. The latest scholars arrived on campus in January.
Read more about the program’s origins, faculty, and graduates.
I’m really sorry that Liam’s two years as a student blogger (and at Fletcher in general) have come to an end. He has been a great partner in this project. He will soon return to his career with the Army, which supported his studies to develop him as an officer. Today, he shares reflections from his grad school experience.
One of the most valuable characteristics of my Fletcher experience has been discussion, both in and out of the classroom, especially when it builds on the diversity of the student body. As I look back on my two years here, I can’t help but think that many of my most significant takeaways came from classroom exchanges with such an amazing collection of people. From them, I’ve learned an immense amount about the world, and along the way, I also have made some life-long memories.
One classroom example I would highlight is Prof. Khan’s course, The Historian’s Art. Regardless of your academic and professional background, if you take one course at Fletcher, this should be it. The timeless skills I acquired to interpret history through the lens of contemporary affairs are amongst the most important I gained at Fletcher. Moreover, Prof. Khan’s teaching style, forcing you to take a side on a historical issue, to not waver, and to use empathy, detachment, and relentless skepticism in looking at anything, will inevitably help you become a better thinker. In addition, and the point of this post, is that the variety of students in this class, from journalists to MIBs to military officers to Peace Corps volunteers, made discussions vibrant, insightful, contentious, memorable, and effective. The unique nature of my fellow students ensured that, while there was always something to be learned, there were also multiple occasions where Harry Potter or Jurassic Park entered the discussions. That’s just Fletcher.
As I sit here and reflect, I am filled with a wave of emotions and memories from the past two years. While the class discussions I described above are an important part of the Fletcher experience, so, too, are the projects and papers you turn in, the lessons you learn from readings and in class, and the advice you get from sitting down with professors during office hours. Everything that comprises the academic side of the Fletcher experience makes you a stronger professional, capable of returning to your old line of work or starting in a new career field, and better equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century. Learning at Fletcher embodies a remarkable combination of academic skills with real world perspective that is unmatched.
But I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Fletcher community. The students and professors are what enable these meaningful classroom-based discussions. Simply put, Fletcher attracts the most amazingly diverse cross-section of intelligent, caring, compassionate, and humorous people imaginable. When I look back to when I was applying to Fletcher from Afghanistan in the fall of 2012, I remember reading through course catalogs and the CVs of professors whose interests matched mine, and I was hooked. As important as that was to my enrollment choice, it wasn’t until I met my classmates at Orientation that I realized how glad I was that I made the decision to come to Fletcher. Relationships are key to success in life, and after Fletcher, I am certain that I will go forward with a wide network of connections — throughout virtually any imaginable profession and region — that I could not have acquired in any other place. If you’re reading this blog and thinking about applying to Fletcher, I can tell you that, if I had to make the choice one hundred times, I would make the same choice one hundred times.
And, so, as I look back on what has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, what I will remember are the people. The people are what makes Fletcher what it is, and I wouldn’t trade the experience of our shared discussions for anything in the world.
If you missed them, or even if you didn’t, you might be interested in updates on two past Fletcher conferences, both organized by the Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC).
The first — Inclusion, Inc. — took place this past April. The Inclusion, Inc. team recently told the community:
Thank you for making Inclusion, Inc. a success! The Forum brought together a diverse group of speakers and attendees, making for an exciting and engaging two days of discussion on sustainable and inclusive business activities (SIBA) in practice.
The second took place in April 2014. “Turkey’s Turn” has a newly completed report, and here’s the update IBGC shared with us last month:
It’s been over a year since we brought together global thought leaders, decision makers, and those shaping business and investment, politics, and policy in Turkey for a deep discussion around geopolitics, energy, business, and more, all seeking to answer the central question: Is it “Turkey’s Turn?”
Today, Turkey remains at a critical nexus of international news and business. As the country continues to expand its dealings with Europe, it also seeks to solidify its position in the tempestuous Middle East. At the Institute for Business in the Global Context, we continue to be a part of these conversations long after the curtain closed on what was a truly remarkable two days of discussion at our “Turkey’s Turn?” Conference.
Building off the conference, this report dives into the many questions confronting Turkey today. From Turkey’s government at home, to threats on its borders, to the country’s evolving role in international business, we dig deeper into the ideas and insights that emerged over the two-day event and tie them to the ongoing conversation around Turkey and its place in the world.
Be sure to check out more exclusive content from the conference, including photos and video interviews with some of our speakers.
Fletcher is the home base for the State Department’s local Diplomat in Residence (DIR). Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard has served in the position since last fall, and is just wrapping up her time here. We can’t claim that the DIR is at Fletcher solely for the benefit of Fletcher students, but it is great that this source of support and information is so conveniently situated. I’ll let Ambassador Leonard describe her work.
It has been a pleasure to be hosted here as the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomat in Residence (DIR) for New England!
The core of the DIR job is, in fact, outreach to prospective Foreign Service Officers, Specialists, and Civil Service professionals about career and internship possibilities. (“New England” is a bit of a misnomer, in that we have divided this university-rich region by assigning Connecticut to my colleague based in New York.) In addition, DIRs enjoy sharing their professional experiences and policy expertise, both to provide insight into what diplomats actually do, and to participate in academic discussions on subjects near and dear to their hearts. As the recent Ambassador to Mali, while at Fletcher, I’ve enjoyed activities with the Africana Club, the ICRC research lab on migration in the Sahel, talking to visiting Harambe scholars, as well as joining the undergraduate International Relations Careers day. Perhaps the most unusual evening of the year was sitting on a panel as the U.S. Ambassador who actually lived through a coup in Mali, next to Tufts grad Todd Moss who wrote a work of fiction about one!
I hasten to add that the role continues; following a bit of vacation, I’ll be around from June 15 for a good part of the summer to answer any questions about State Department recruitment and student programs. For example, a new group of applicants would have heard just recently that they have been invited to the oral exam, and if past experience is any guide, Fletcher students and alums will be well represented in that group. And in mid-summer, those who learn that they passed the June Foreign Service Officer written test will be asked to provide input for the Qualifications Evaluation Panel through five “personal narratives.” I look forward to meeting with both groups to help explain the next steps in the process.
If you’re in the local area and interested in a Foreign Service career, you can email me to arrange a moment to stop by my office. And a very pleasant summer to all!
Ambassador Leonard’s successor as Diplomat in Residence is due to start at Fletcher in October.
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Summer has finally arrived in Boston! After a grueling couple of weeks for finals, I’m done and can enjoy the beautiful weather for a little before I leave for my summer internship.
This summer, I will be working with a small NGO in Kigali, Rwanda, on their monitoring and evaluation plans. Another Fletcher student worked with the same NGO last summer, and was responsible for hiring me and training me; she was an incredibly useful resource for learning more about the organization and its work, her experience working with them, and Kigali generally. I’m really excited to be in Rwanda — it will be my first time in Africa! — and I’m lucky enough that I will have the company of five other Fletcher students who will also be doing internships there.
I was fortunate to receive funding from Fletcher, through the Office of Career Services, to support my work over the summer. My research partner and I also received a grant from the Hitachi Center (which I wrote about earlier) to conduct research for our capstones, which we will write next year. The research will lead me to Nairobi, Kenya for a week after wrapping up my summer internship. And once that’s done, after heading home to India for a week, I’ll be back on campus in mid-August as the teaching assistant for the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) series taught by Prof. Scharbatke-Church.
What I’m most excited about for the summer (in addition to beautiful Kigali and exploring a new country) is the chance to put my DME coursework to use through my internship. Looking back to August 2014, I’m so glad I took the pre-session course and went through the series all the way through Advanced Evaluation this semester, because it gave me new tools with which to think critically about development and the underlying logic behind it. It’s an excellent class for anyone who has worked, or wants to work, in development or peacebuilding. In addition to giving you a set of in-demand skills (because, jobs), it also helps you understand how much higher the bar should be for good development work that can create change, and what steps we can take to reach that bar. It’s an incredibly challenging course that makes you question your assumptions, but the hard work and heavy reading load is completely worth it. If it interests you, definitely consider taking it.
In the meantime — have a wonderful summer, and I’m looking forward to meeting all of you who are new students come August!
Ali started contributing to the blog last fall, and now, with two semesters behind her, she is pursuing her summer internship. Today she describes how her internship plans came together.
The “first years” are done with our first year of graduate school! It’s an exciting, sad, and anxious feeling — all at the same time.
We’re excited that we survived, and that we get to meet the new first years in the fall. We’re sad that the graduates are leaving Boston, and we won’t see them as often anymore. Finally, we’re anxious to succeed at the summer internships we’ve landed, most of which start in the coming weeks.
The latter subject is the topic of my final blog post for the year. When I last wrote, I promised to update you on the summer position that Fletcher and Net Impact helped me land. I’m happy to say I’ll be working with the YUM! Brands sustainability team in Louisville, KY (my hometown!) this summer — performing data analysis and reporting for the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and updating the company’s sustainability strategy with new goals and partnerships. YUM! — better known as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell — is facing a lot of industry-representative sustainability challenges right now, regarding its use of antibiotics, palm oil, and forest fibers, and I’m excited to help them develop innovative solutions responsibly.
Prof. Rappaport’s Corporate Management of Environmental Issues class, Net Impact’s new SolutionsLab series, and Fletcher’s alumni are three resources that have been useful to me in securing the position.
Prof. Rappaport’s class — offered in conjunction with Tufts’ Department of Urban and Environmental Planning — exposed me to many of the corporate challenges and trends that I discussed in the interview for my internship position. Her class also provided me with multiple opportunities to expand my sustainability network. For example, she invited a former UEP student who is now the Senior Sustainability Manager for DirectTV to speak to our class, and she allowed me to invite Walmart’s Director of Product Sustainability to speak to our class after I met him at a conference.
Net Impact’s SolutionsLab provided me demonstrable experience in food business issues with large corporate players like Monsanto. Because Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter is an active network participant, we were selected to host the series’ first SolutionsLab event on our campus. The event highlighted my ability to form and execute successful partnerships and was reported on 3bl Media just one day before a post about an upcoming Twitter event with YUM! and Triple Pundit.
Finally, as always, Fletcher’s alumni prove to be an invaluable resource. When I found out I’d be helping YUM! with their CDP reporting, I sent a note to a Fletcher alum at CDP. It turns out, there are multiple alumni there, and the YUM! Liaison at CDP is a Fletcher alumna, as well. It’s nice to go into my internship knowing I have a broad network of support.
So, that’s it. I’m off to my hometown to spend a wonderful and productive summer.
Thanks for following my story this year, and see you in the next.
I admit: It’s a little late to be wrapping up Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009. But when I published the most recent post, I realized that every one of the 2009ers were women. Surely there were men in that class! So I reached out to Zack, an Admissions pal from back in the day, and he zapped his post to me in a jiffy. With no further ado, the final Five-Year Update from the Class of 2009, from Zack Gold.
This is really a six-year update, written from Tel Aviv, where I’m a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). My research focuses on the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Egyptian political development, and Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. relations. I’m also an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, which recently hosted me at a conference on Eastern Mediterranean energy security in Washington.
My path to Fletcher developed at the University of Delaware. I was an undergraduate student when the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel, during the 9/11 attacks, and in the lead up to and start of the Iraq war. Over those years my background in Middle Eastern history and interfaith relations developed into an awareness of and interest in international affairs.
After graduating I worked in Washington for two years at Meridian International Center, where I helped administer the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. In between writing itineraries and booking flights, I tagged along with foreign delegations to meetings at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. I unselfishly escorted one visitor to see the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox: a public diplomacy win for Red Sox Nation!
Before graduate school I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Middle East, so I spent 14 months living, working, and studying languages in Egypt and Israel, while also traveling to Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. My on-ground experiences over that time have informed my work ever since.
This international worldview made The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy an obvious choice. I was extremely impressed with the individuals who made up the Fletcher community, and I took advantage of the flexibility in courses and coursework. In classes on decision-making, statecraft, and public diplomacy, I had the opportunity to develop projects that fit my interests: writing policy briefs, op-eds, and papers; and conducting simulations on politics in Egypt and Pakistan and on the Iranian nuclear program.
I greatly enjoyed the research and writing, not all of which was ground-breaking analysis. The Fletcher School has wisely removed the student-run blog from that time. My most worthwhile contribution probably centered on the best place to get ice cream in the area.
In 2011, two years after earning my MALD, the uprising in Egypt brought two areas of my Fletcher studies back into focus: U.S. democratization policy (about which I wrote a seminar paper) and the Muslim Brotherhood (my thesis: “The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Moderate Islamists, Moderate Democrats”). I began publishing about U.S.-Egyptian relations as an independent analyst, and in May of that year I started a research term at The Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy (since renamed the Center for Middle East Policy).
My Brookings position was a dream job. For three years I worked directly with the very scholars and practitioners whose books and articles I read at Fletcher. I learned from their experiences and guidance, and I had access to incredible leaders and thinkers around Washington and the Middle East. At the same time, I developed my own subject-matter expertise: looking closely at security in Sinai, where a jihadist insurgency threatens both Egypt and Israel.
In addition to work-related and research travel to the Middle East, and a number of independent publications, I had the privilege of authoring a Brookings analysis paper: “Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas.” That paper made its way to the director of INSS, who — in time for the fifth anniversary of my Fletcher graduation — invited me continue my research under the auspices of his institute. I’ve been here since October 2014.
Yesterday’s post may have been my last word on Commencement for 2015, but it isn’t the last word on the lead-up to the event. That will come from Alex who, as a continuing student, would nonetheless have been welcomed for the Dis-Orientation activities organized by the graduating class. Dis-Orientation originated several years ago as the counter-point to the academic-year-starting Orientation program.
Shortly after the year’s last class was attended, the last final exam taken, and the last term paper handed in, it was time for “Dis-O.” As any end of term should be celebrated, Fletcher’s time-honored Dis-Orientation is a week of fun activities, great parties, and even some light “vandalism.”
In an impressive feat of organization, students planned dozens of events spread over the week following the end of the semester; this year there were 45 activities over seven days. These events ranged from movie screenings in Fletcher’s main auditorium, to daylong trips to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard and the battlefields of Lexington and Concord. Athletic activities were also included, such as a softball game and a MALD vs. MIB cricket match, both of which were guaranteed to be a cultural experience for many of the players. Of course, a couple of parties were also in order, ranging from traditional celebrations in one of Fletcher’s “color houses” (e.g., the green house, yellow house, or “Casablanca,” that several students share) to a Hawaiian luau (complete with a dunk tank, of course). Finally, following the Tufts tradition of painting the cannon located in the center of campus, students sneakily painted it a blazing Fletcher-orange in the dark of night. They were disappointed, however, to find it painted over by other “vandals” within hours.
Not only is Dis-O a great way to celebrate the culmination of a successful year with our friends and classmates, I find it to be a fitting representation of what exactly is special about Fletcher’s culture. First, due to The Fletcher School’s long history, traditions like Dis-O (and even individual events within it) have turned into institutions, serving to connect Fletcher students across generations. Second, events like these do not plan themselves, but instead are a product of a student body with impressive leadership capabilities and a tremendous commitment to their fellow classmates. Additionally, the wide range of events demonstrates the diversity of interests across the student body, which has been a wonderful source of mind-opening experiences throughout the year. Finally, Dis-O evinces Fletcher students’ ability to balance work and fun: I bet you would have been just as likely to find people at the cricket match discussing India’s clean energy policy as you would to find them asking what exactly a “wicket” is.
Whether traditions such as Dis-O are the cause or the result of the strong community here, I do not know. Probably a little bit of both. What I do know, however, is that few other schools are as tightly knit as Fletcher, and that I cannot wait to come back next semester.
With our off-site meeting on Monday, I didn’t have time to do justice to the Commencement ceremony and I thought I’d add a few words today. First, I should explain that the weekend is loaded with events. On Friday night, many graduating students and alumni on campus for reunion were joined by staff and faculty for a traditional New England clam bake. Then, on Saturday, we held “Class Day,” which is when the graduating students hear from an outside speaker, as well as an alumnus. This year, the alum was Dr. Charles Dallara, F75, former Managing Director of the Institute of International Finance. The invited outside speaker was Dr. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014, who also received an honorary degree from the University on Sunday. In addition, several students received awards for scholarship and contributions to the community.
On Sunday, the spotlight and the sun shone on the graduating students. They started the day with champagne toasts, led by classmates, and then proceeded to the all-University event, where degrees are awarded school-by-school. The commencement address was given by Dr. Madeline Albright, U.S. Secretary of State from 1997-2001.
All of that occurred before I actually turned up on Sunday. I arrived as graduating students were crossing over from the all-University ceremony to Blakeley Courtyard, where they would line up by degree program and then alphabetically for the procession into the tent. This is always the perfect time for me to congratulate students — they’re all “filed” in predictable places. After some farewells, I headed to the tent.
Dean Stavridis makes only the briefest of speeches before handing the podium to the stars of the day. The first is the recipient of the James L. Paddock Teaching Award — Prof. Jenny Aker, F97 this year. As an alumna, Prof. Aker was in a good position to assure all the graduates (and their parents) that they are on their way to exciting work.
Prof. Aker was followed by the two student speakers. Our Admissions pal, Anna McCallie, was up first. Anna is smart and funny and gave the speech we had hoped for. Among the themes was a tally of all that our students from Nebraska have accomplished. This reflected some careful research — even those of us in the audience from Admissions didn’t know everything she had uncovered.
When the first student speech is amazing, it’s a bit of a nail biter as the second student ascends to the podium. What is it like to follow such a well-received speech? We needn’t have worried. From the moment she kicked off her shoes (adjusting her height to the microphone, rather than the microphone to her height), Fern Gray gave a speech that was charming and touching (much wiping of eyes from the audience) and all in that lovely Trinidad and Tobago accent.
(An aside: I first met Fern when she visited Fletcher as an applicant. I was supposed to conduct her evaluative interview, but I ended up with a conflict and instead recruited a student, first pausing to greet Fern and explain the change in personnel. Fern and the student had a great chat, and the rest is history.)
The graduates were called by degree program and name (thus the crafty arrangements for the procession — everyone was already where they needed to be) and Dean Stavridis closed the event by calling upon the graduates to be “dealers in hope,” as they make their way through their careers and the world. And with that (and lunch in a separate tent), they were off!
The weather and the mood all cooperated for a lovely Commencement Sunday yesterday. It is always an enjoyable event, marked by enthusiastic participants. The Hall of Flags is already nearly emptied out, but will grow emptier through the week. To postpone the subsequent loneliness felt by those of us who will work through the summer, the Admissions staff will be spending the day off-site, planning our summer projects and looking ahead to a new admissions cycle in the fall. We’ll be back tomorrow (Tuesday).
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