Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Completing the round of posts from our returning student bloggers, Mark looks back at his first year at Fletcher from his second-year vantage point.

Mark Attia 1I recall that when I arrived on campus last fall to begin the MIB program, I observed our second-year brethren interacting in the halls after returning from summer.  Like long-lost siblings reunited, not a twosome could pass each other without a hearty embrace.  Equally memorable was learning of all the impressive and often exotic ways the MIB’s had spent their summer.  But what was even more inspiring to me was the certainty with which second-years assured us that we, too, are embarking on what promised to be a spectacular year.  They were right.  Our first year has since passed in a blink, and I, for one, learned first-hand what was behind all that enthusiasm.

I last wrote in the spring on how I was developing my own area of expertise by tailoring coursework to specific academic and professional goals.  I was focused on learning about international project and infrastructure finance, and looking for an opportunity to break into the field.  Thanks exclusively to the Fletcher network, I landed a position with OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which was, without exaggeration, exactly what I was aiming for.  OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, and it offers a range of products designed to help U.S. firms invest in emerging markets.  OPIC also plays a meaningful role in advancing foreign policy goals in a way that I characterized as “fostering peace, through superior debt financing,” which is my own commentary on how militarism has been eclipsed by more subtle measures of economic statecraft and leverage.

I joined the Structured Finance division, where my team and I worked on loans for large and complex multi-party projects, including a wind farm in Pakistan, a concentrated solar power plant in Israel, and a social-impact-oriented housing finance facility in Haiti — projects that cost over one billion dollars together.  My responsibilities included credit analysis, due diligence, research on foreign regulations, economic assessments, and interpreting elaborate concession and loan agreements; all tasks that required me to draw on my training outlined in my earlier post on a daily basis.  But what arguably proved to be most invaluable was a broad and nuanced understanding of the global context in which I was operating, enabling me to offer authentic perspectives on matters with an insight that only Fletcher can provide.

The experience convinced me that, in purely commercial terms, the MIB program equipped me with precisely the right set of skills and body of knowledge to excel in an internationally focused financial career that was otherwise entirely new to me, and it was Fletcher that made the opportunity possible.  But the value Fletcher creates for us does not stop there.  In my case, I have participated in the Building Bridges Symposium to learn from the industry’s foremost thought leaders, and have been provided connections to many astonishing alumni in the field, including international banker John Greenwood (F04), prolific builder Philip Asherman (F04), and pioneer Mimi Alemayehou (F98).  These are just a fraction of the resources available to us, all part of a brilliantly executed mission to prepare future leaders for the global stage and illuminate a path forward.

Returning to campus this fall, I was greeted in the hallway by our dean, James Stavridis (F83, F84 and the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, mind you), who inquired about my summer with equal fascination as a parent.  The moment was striking, and reinforced a sentiment solidifying in my mind since I first witnessed those second-year classmates interact.  There is an unmistakable culture that resonates throughout Fletcher, a kind of kinship that binds not only students together, but also us to our faculty, to our staff, and to our alumni.  In my view, our culture is the real prize, the engine of enduring value, and an honor to be a part of.  Like my classmates before me, I know first-years will discover their untapped potential, see locked doors swing open, and become a part of the Fletcher family, as I have; and all after merely one year.

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A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the second in a series of event announcements, each of which invited students to come and chat, over coffee, with a professor or fellow student.  Great idea!  So I contacted the organizer, Ameya, for details.  Ameya told me:

The idea for these chats came about from a conversation early last year between some of us who had Prof. Chayes as our faculty adviser.  She has, as you know, a wealth of experience; we were all interested in learning more about her career and interests, but it was hard to do this in ten-to-fifteen minute office hour conversations, plus it was repetitive for Prof. Chayes, as well.  So we set up a combined chat for an hour or so, which all her advisees attended, and it was a tremendously valuable and informative experience.

Based off that, I started setting up similar chats — maybe once a month — with other professors.  At some point, it also became clear there were students and alumni with valuable experience in specific areas, so this year I’ve started alternating between faculty and student/alumni speakers.  I’ve consistently found the sessions both valuable, as well as reassuring, in that everyone has had a roundabout path to where they currently are in their careers.

Sessions last year were with Professors Babbitt, Wilkinson, and Johnstone, and one alumnus.  This semester, we’ve met with two current students and Prof. Moomaw.

I really love this idea, especially the conversations with students, which formalizes the commonly stated opinion that there’s much to be learned from one’s peers here.  Plus, it’s an example of how a student can create a new Fletcher tradition, and I hope that Ameya’s idea will be carried forward even after he has graduated.

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In a bit of blog housekeeping this month, I created a separate tag for each of our Student Stories bloggers.  Now you can follow the full stories of the students who blogged for two years – Mirza, Roxanne, and Scott.  In addition, you might like the posts written by Maliheh in the first year of the Student Stories project.  She graduated at the end of that year, so there are fewer posts for her.  Read the posts from oldest to newest, if you want to follow the students’ paths from start to finish.

 

Because so many Americans head out on the highway to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving, I thought Admissions road trips might make good Thanksgiving reading.  From Liz’s most recent trip, back to our old friend Peter’s trip to California during a period of wildfires, I’m lucky that someone is always willing to write about fall travels.

And because the time is right for many people who will apply in January to be working through their personal statements, I’ve gathered posts on essays for you.  If you go back far enough, we were working with slightly different prompts (topics), but the essence of our guidance is still the same.

 

As I note every year, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I’ll be joined by a bunch of family members for the traditional chaotic family meal.

But maybe Thanksgiving is not your holiday, and you’d like the blog to keep delivering content.  Or perhaps it is your holiday, and you finally have some time to catch up on past posts.  Fear not, blog readers.  The blog will keep working through the holiday to bring you up-to-date on topics that may interest you.

And this always seems like a good moment to thank you for reading the blog.  There are many ways to gather information about Fletcher, from our Facebook page, to our website, to our Twitter feed (not to mention the Admissions Facebook page, website, and Twitter feed), so I appreciate that you include the blog among your information gathering venues.

Now I’m off to prep for the holiday.  Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

(Note that the Admissions Office, and the rest of Tufts University, will be closed both tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday.)

 

The second new student who will be blogging throughout her two years at Fletcher has actually already been heard from, when she and Miranda wrote about technology studies at Fletcher.  I met Aditi last spring, and I made a note to contact her in the fall to see if she would blog for us.  My email request to her crossed paths with her offer to write the first post — I’m really happy to have an eager writer.  Today, Aditi introduces herself.

Aditi_Patel JPGI am a first-year MALD student, (still thinking about) concentrating in International Business Relations and Development Economics.  As you have read in a past post, my main interests are in the use of digital technology for development programs, so I also plan to weave that interest into my coursework.

Before Fletcher, I worked back home in Mumbai at a non-profit called Dasra, doing a combination of fundraising and impact assessment work.  Having been in the Boston area for my undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, I’m really excited to experience the fall again, with all its beautiful colours — but nervous about being back in the Boston winter.  (My friends have informed me that I’m not the most pleasant person to be around when it’s cold.)

In the spirit of sharing my Fletcher journey with the readers of this blog, here are some of the things about Fletcher that most surprised me when I arrived here:

  • The MALD program has a very flexible curriculum
  • Fletcher has a wonderful sense of community

Just kidding!  I know that those are facts that are repeated over and over, and that everyone applying to Fletcher has probably heard them before.  So here are a few things that really were surprises:

  • They’re not exaggerating! Everyone is REALLY NICE at Fletcher, and the prevailing culture and environment here is one that takes great pride in kindness.  A not uncommon example: I have the wrong edition of a textbook for a class, and one of my classmates helped me out (without me having to ask) by sending me photos of every single assigned problem in the book so I could make sure I had the correct homework.
  • The sunsets here are breath-taking.  I definitely did not except beautiful sunsets in Medford, Massachusetts — but the sun setting over the Fletcher Field is an incredible sight.
  • The amount of time students get with our professors outside of class, through office hours and meetings.  Even when I have reached out to professors whose classes I’m not currently in, they have been very approachable and willing to chat.
  • A) The number of events and receptions that involve (free) food and drinks, and B) the importance placed on events and receptions that involve (free) food and drinks.  These are values I appreciate deeply.

I haven’t had a day so far at Fletcher that’s been the same as any other, and so I’m constantly finding new things to be surprised by.  I look forward to sharing all these aspects of my two years here with the Admissions Blog!

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Adapting to a new application system meant we weren’t sure how many student staff members we would need this year.  It turned out we need one more than we first introduced in October.  Today, meet David, our newest student intern hire.

Davd THi everyone!  I am a first-year MALD, focusing on democratization and human security.  I am particularly interested in transitional governments, former communist countries and Latin America.  I am a first-generation American, born and raised in Wheaton, IL.  I attended DePauw University for my undergraduate studies and majored in political science and Spanish.  Prior to Fletcher, I lived in the Czech Republic teaching high school English on a Fulbright grant.  I have also completed internships with The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the U.S. State Department.

While this is my first semester at Fletcher, I have found it tremendously easy to get involved and have really enjoyed becoming part of the Fletcher community.  I am currently a researcher on a joint Fletcher-ICRC study on conflict migration in the Sahel, co-president of the European Club, and a member of the Tufts Refugee Assistance Program.  Outside the classroom, I love hanging out with other Fletcher students, exploring Boston, and venturing out to find new restaurants and breweries in the area.  I look forward to hearing from you soon!

 

Next up among our first-year student bloggers is Alex, who introduces himself here.  He has spent eight years abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from The College of William and Mary.

Alex SHi everyone, my name is Alex Schulte, and I look forward to contributing to the Fletcher Admissions Blog during my next two years here.  Let me tell you a little bit about myself, and why I’m so excited to be at Fletcher.

My passion is finding creative solutions to difficult problems.  Specifically, I am interested in figuring out how to bring clean energy technology to commercial scale in order to help address three of the biggest and broadest issues we face today: 1) running our economy more efficiently and productively; 2) easing geopolitical tensions that arise from securing and allocating conventional energy resources; and 3) maintaining a sustainable environment for future generations.  I believe that clean technology represents one of the 21st century’s greatest opportunities to create a more prosperous and inclusive world.

The energy sector is complex and global, and requires a very firm grasp of both international business and policy.  Before Fletcher, I was already working to develop the experience and skills necessary to operate effectively in this area, including:

  • Consulting at Monitor Deloitte for emerging-market and defense clients, which exposed me to world-class strategic planning and data analysis skills.
  • Managing the start-up of a multi-million dollar nutritional food production business in Ethiopia, which taught me the tactical side of entrepreneurship in a difficult environment.
  • Working at a Chinese nuclear energy joint venture in Beijing, which gave me experience analyzing a novel clean energy technology and its competitive situation.

I learned a lot from these experiences.  Most importantly, I discovered that I still have a lot to learn.  This is why I am excited to be starting at The Fletcher School’s Master of International Business (MIB) program, focusing on finance and energy.

On the finance side, I recognized my need for further education in financial matters when I was confronted with the challenge of securing a $5 million loan for my business in Ethiopia.  Since starting at Fletcher, I have already learned concepts in my Corporate Finance class that are directly applicable to this experience.  Furthermore, I look forward to learning even more from the International Financial Management and International Business Transactions classes I will take next semester.

On the energy side, I realized that a more structured and comprehensive understanding of the energy landscape would have been useful when I was conducting market analyses for the Chinese nuclear energy firm.  The insights I have gained from my Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy class are invaluable, and I look forward to taking International Energy Policy next semester.  Already, the MIB program has provided me with the broader contextual intelligence that I need, and the intellectual rigor that I crave, to be successful in a sector as complex as energy.

Possibly even more important than the content of my education are the relationships I am forming.  At Fletcher, I am surrounded by a community of peers and professors who are also interested in the intersection of business and international affairs, and crosscutting solutions to solving global problems.  I am honored and excited to have joined the Fletcher community, and to attend one of the foremost international affairs schools in the world.  I look forward to taking you with me on my journey through the MIB program.

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Earlier this year, the Institute for Business in a Global Context took a look back at what it has accomplished in its first three years (and what it currently does) in pursuit of its mission to focus “on the interplay between global business and the key forces that shape the context in which enterprises operate.”  The result was a nice publication!  Take a look!

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In May 2014, the alumni attending their five-year reunion were members of the Class of 2009.  Today, Erin Clancy will kick off the Five-Year Updates from her class.  When I reach out to alumni for these updates, I ask them simply to describe their paths, starting before Fletcher and continuing through their graduate studies to their current career, as Erin does below.  I’ll also point out that Erin was included among Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Under 33 for 2013, a special honor.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

Prior to coming to Fletcher, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science at Whittier College and received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provided a commission into the Foreign Service upon completion of my studies at Fletcher.  I was drawn to Fletcher’s interdisciplinary take on international affairs, its academic rigor, and its place in history as the first international relations graduate school in the United States and the alma mater of many distinguished public servants from countries near and far.

At Fletcher

It did not take long until I hit my stride at Fletcher after finding my groove in a few Culture Night dance performances.  In the classroom, I reveled in Fletcher’s dynamic course offerings on the political landscapes of the Middle East with Vali Nasr, and the practice of international security — seated in the front row no later than 07:40 in the morning — with Richard Shultz.  I also benefited from the longstanding partnership between Fletcher and the Harvard Kennedy School where I studied national security management and negotiations.  Between my first and second year, I completed a summer internship in 2008 at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria as a political officer covering human rights issues and the domestic political opposition.  While working in Syria I began my thesis research on the unbreakable nature of the political-military alliance between Syria and Iran, and the impact of the Syrian-Iranian alliance on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.  At the end of two wonderful years in Medford, I graduated with concentrations in International Security Studies and Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization.

Post-Fletcher

After graduation, I accepted my commission into the Foreign Service in August 2009.  I arrived at my first diplomatic assignment as vice consul to U.S. Embassy Damascus, Syria in July 2010, where I witnessed the slow evolution of violent Arab Spring protests until security conditions forced us to close the embassy and evacuate the remainder of our diplomatic personnel in February 2012.  My assignment to Syria was quite an introduction to the Foreign Service and it profoundly shaped my personal and professional life.  From Damascus, I served briefly in U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan to continue working on Syria, and transitioned to U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman where I was the political-military officer responsible for counterterrorism, political-military, and Iran sanctions issues during the lead up to the breakthrough interim agreement reached by the P5+1 negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

These days I am happy to be back home in Washington, DC, working to coordinate U.S. policy on North Africa, Syria, and gender issues in the United Nations Security Council.  The highlight of my current role as a multilateral affairs officer is working closely with fellow Fletcherites throughout the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies.  Interagency policy committee meetings at the White House or working group meetings on Syria or Boko Haram have become informal Fletcher reunions.  Having so many Fletcherites around the table on the important policy issues of the day is a wonderful personal reminder of why this institution is so revered in the international affairs realm — Fletcher truly does create leaders with a global perspective.  Not a single day has passed since graduation and my five years in the Foreign Service when I have not felt the direct positive impact of my Fletcher education, nor been so grateful to find community among the talented and inspirational alumni we have all over the world.

Members of the United States’ delegation to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London, UK, Erin Clancy class of 2009 (left) pictured with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Victoria Holt. June 2014.

Members of the United States’ delegation to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London, U.K. Erin Clancy, F09 (left) pictured with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Victoria Holt. June 2014.

 

 

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