Posts by: Jessica Daniels

At our Admissions team meeting last week, I asked what I thought would be an easy question.  I figured it would be nice to offer some application tips, and I asked my Admissions pals to suggest things that make them happy when they’re reading applications.  Such a simple request!  Or not!  It turns out I had, instead, opened a big ol’ can of worms.

What I discovered is that, in some areas, our preferences are not in line.  Interesting!  I always assume that everyone will agree with me!  (In a perfect world…)  So today’s post will capture the points on which we achieved clear consensus, in hopes that blog readers who are starting or editing an application can benefit.  And it isn’t that our points of disagreement result in differing application evaluations.  Simply that what has another staffer smiling ear-to-ear may not affect me at all.

The part of the application on which we agree the most is the résumé.  We all like to see a nice clean résumé, listing (in reverse chronological order) your professional and academic experience.  Different settings call for different résumés, but the Admissions Staff all noted that we don’t need to see special colors, quotes from inspiring leaders, or your list of favorite movies.  Stick to the basics and make it readable.  (And then chat with me about movies after you’re admitted.)  While we encourage you to keep the résumé to two pages, we won’t penalize you if you go over, so please, no teeny-tiny fonts.  Check out these posts for more tips on the résumé.

Kristen went further to say that she’s happy when the employment information in the application and in the résumé match up.  It’s so much easier to understand your story if you don’t leave us struggling to figure out whether your job lasted one year or one month.

Dan likes when applicants synthesize their interests and note the links between their experiences.  It might be clear to you why you went from this to that, but if you don’t lay it out, maybe we won’t see the connection.  When we do, we’re happy.

Next, Laurie mentioned, and we all agreed, that you should use the “additional information” section of the application wisely.  DO use it to explain why your first undergraduate year resulted in such poor grades, or why your Peace Corps experience ended abruptly, or that you are planning to plug a gap and take economics in the spring.  DO NOT use it to explain a single B on an otherwise perfect transcript, or anything else that really doesn’t need explaining and/or could be interpreted as whining.

Liz and I disagreed about what essay structure makes us happy.  I personally like to see the applicant’s objectives right at the top.  Liz likes when the applicant builds the narrative and states the goals later on.  One thing we agree on — if you actually answer the question we’ve asked, your goals will be clear to us after we read the essay.

And speaking of essays, one of my pet peeves is when applicants are obviously using a thesaurus to make random word changes.  Instead of, “I walked to the store,” the essay will say, “I perambulated to the emporium.”  Sure, the essay is a type of formal document, but it calls for clear, personal writing — not someone else’s idea of fancy words.  I try to keep this from being an annual theme, but perhaps I’ve written about it before…. For that matter, the Blog archive includes quite a few essay tips.  Make sure your essays work together to tell us your story and to describe your goals, and we’ll all be happy!

Lucas mentioned that he likes when he sees all the information he needs in the transcripts.  You should be including documentation of all courses that counted toward your undergraduate degree (and graduate degree, if applicable).  We don’t need to see anything else.  No certificates.  No high school diploma.  But we absolutely want to see grades from your semester/year studying abroad or from the first university you attended before you transferred.  When all the details are included and clear, we’re happy.

Now that I’ve given you this list of what makes the Admissions team happy, I can also tell you not to worry that some strange unmentioned preference will doom your candidacy.  That is absolutely not the case!  My experience is that there’s a strong convergence of views on the quality of an application.  The matter of our preferences relates more to the pleasure we take in reviewing it.  There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing a nice clean application, but it’s the underlying qualities that result in a decision to admit an applicant.

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Rather than wait until the Admissions Office is already closed for the holidays, I thought I’d highlight our schedule and some key dates coming up in the next few weeks.   This week, of course, there’s tomorrow’s December 20 “odd couple” MYF and PhD application deadline.  Our staff is here to answer your questions!  Send them along.  (If your question is what time on December 20 you need to submit the application, the answer is no later than 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5).)

Then, the University will be closed on:
Monday, December 25
Tuesday, December 26
Friday, December 29
Monday, January 1

On the 27th and 28th, Marquita will be here to take your calls and emails.  The rest of the staff will return on or around January 2.  That will give us plenty of time to reconnect with applicants aiming for the January 10 deadline.  Note that those who are still working on their applications can take advantage of a pre-deadline online chat on January 4.  Sign up here to ask your questions, or — sometimes even more helpful — to hear the questions of others.

 

Laurie gets the credit for the topic of today’s post.  She had learned that two of our new students were friends from their undergraduate days.  One of the two, John, is an Admissions Graduate Assistant, who told us, “Courtney and I met during our freshman year at Vanderbilt University and remained friends throughout our time in Nashville.  After graduation, we went our separate ways and fell out of touch.  Three years later, we were surprised to find ourselves together again in the MALD program at The Fletcher School!”  I asked John and Courtney to interview each other, and today’s post is the result.

John Zeleznak: We knew each other mostly through Model UN at Vandy, but we actually met first semester in a first-year writing seminar.

Courtney Hulse: That’s right!  But it was a math class.

JZ: So, the real question is: what were we thinking?

CH: I was thinking, “This is the way I’m going to avoid taking calculus.”  And then I ended up taking calculus anyway.

JZ: The same thing happened to me!  The writing seminar was called Cryptography.

CH: It was a cool hybrid between a history class, an English class, and a math class.  We did problem sets on basic cryptanalysis, and we also wrote papers on the historical context in which the codes were used.  I liked it because it was interdisciplinary.

JZ: Definitely!  And clearly we’re both still gravitating towards interdisciplinary curricula.

JZ: So for the past few years, I’ve been in China, and you’ve been in New York.  When I saw that you were in the Fletcher Facebook group, I messaged you and was like “Oh my gosh–are you going to Fletcher?”  And we reconnected and met up during orientation.

CH: I was so happy to know that I’d already have a friend at Fletcher.

JZ: A friendly face in the midst of the craziness that is orientation.  So tell me what you’ve been up to since graduation.

CH: I actually found out I got a job on the same day we graduated.  I was literally still wearing my cap and gown.  I moved to New York to join the policy team at the UN Foundation.  It was 2014 and the Sustainable Development Goals dominated the work until the agenda was agreed in September 2015.  Then the work shifted to other portfolios, like UN reform and peacebuilding.

JZ: Wow!  What was the most interesting part of your work with the UN Foundation?

CH: My favorite part was witnessing the race for Secretary General because it was much more transparent than it had ever been.  The president of the General Assembly used his position and influence to draw attention and legitimacy to a UN Resolution about reforming the way UN leaders are chosen.  He helped make selection more inclusive.  I followed the race for our organization.  It was fascinating to see these major changes happening from up close.

JZ: I can see why!  Was it your work at the UN Foundation that motivated you to pursue a degree at Fletcher?

CH: I noticed that many of the people who were doing the types of jobs that I eventually wanted to pursue had done graduate programs in diplomacy and international relations.  My boss at UNF had been a professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, so the first time I heard about Fletcher was actually at a panel that she was speaking on about IR graduate programs.

JZ: That’s pretty great.  So what solidified Fletcher as your top choice?

CH: I loved how interdisciplinary it is.  I’ve always been interested in the places where academic fields overlap.  In undergrad, I used political science and anthropology to look at how different cultures interact with each other and to understand public diplomacy.  I wanted to do more of that type of work in grad school.  I also loved how welcoming everyone is.  When I visited, the students I met treated me like their friend.  The Fletcher alumni I met shared fond memories, and it was wonderful to hear that they are still in touch with the with the people they met at Fletcher.  That element of community was something that I really valued and wanted to be a part of.

CH: So tell me more about what you were doing after undergrad and what drew you to Fletcher.

JZ: For the past two years, I’ve been serving with the Peace Corps as an Education Volunteer in southwestern China.  I was teaching at a university in Chongqing, which is a city of about 8.5 million people.  I was teaching mostly oral English, but since my students had pretty solid English skills, my department let me teach public speaking, debate, and negotiation.

CH: That’s so cool.

JZ: It was such a great experience, not only teaching English, but focusing on these specific skills and trying to get my students to be comfortable speaking English in a more informal setting.  I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues, my students, and exploring China.  My counterparts and I hosted a Peace Corps international creative-writing competition, convened discussion groups, and held holiday parties.  I think language study in China is very different than in other parts of the world, so one of the focuses of my service ended up being to encourage my students and colleagues to have fun with using English in unscripted situations.

CH: That’s really interesting. So what drew you to Fletcher?

JZ: After undergrad, I knew I wanted to get a graduate degree, but I was unsure about what to focus on.  I didn’t want to commit time and money to a degree that I wasn’t passionate about, so I took some time.  While I was in China, I realized I had a strong interest in forced displacement and migration, which may have stemmed from the experiences I had working with resettled refugee communities during undergrad.  I was looking at programs that had a strong background in international affairs, but that allowed me to focus on that subject.  Still, I recognized that there was a good chance that I would change my mind — being abroad for so long, readjusting to the U.S., and being back in an academic environment.

CH: So you didn’t want to commit to a program that only focuses on refugees and resettlement.

JZ: Exactly.  The interdisciplinary features of Fletcher’s curriculum were a big draw for me as well.  I was also really impressed by the Fletcher community and how it was highlighted at career fairs and virtual information sessions.  I had heard from current students about how there were a lot of opportunities to get involved on campus and that the student community is really active.  Having a strong sense of community was one of the reasons why I ended up at Fletcher.  There is also a large Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community here which has been really great as I readjust to life in the U.S. and life as a grad student.

CH: That’s so important.  This transition can be really stressful — from applying to deciding to moving to actually starting school.

JZ: Absolutely.  So, if you could give prospective students one piece of advice about applying to graduate school, what would it be?

CH: Talk to people!  And, if you can, visit.  I know that’s not feasible for everyone, but I remember when I visited thinking that these were my people.  Seeing campus really solidified my decision to come here.  If that’s not an option for you, talk to people who’ve gone through this experience.  Fletcher alumni are all over the world, and they love talking about their time here.

JZ: I would also say really get to know your program.  Know your school, but really know the opportunities that exist within your program, both with regards to the curriculum and to your career goals.  You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going, but you do need to think about how a program might help you get there.

CH: I really love that Fletcher has a required Professional Development Program during the first semester.  The staff urges us to ask ourselves questions about what we want to do and how we can structure our time here to prepare ourselves for a career in international affairs.  I’ve found it useful to be considering these questions early on.

JZ: I agree.  There’s a lot of self-reflection, and that’s been really helpful.

CH: If you can figure out where the gaps are, you can make a plan for filling them.

JZ: At this point, we’ve been at Fletcher for almost a semester.  What’s been your favorite part of your classes, your time on campus, your time in Boston?

CH: Probably the speaker events.  I’ve loved hearing from the impressive people who come to campus and from the professors who are already here.  They’ve spoken on such a wide range of issues and current events, and they’ve been very candid.  It’s also been fascinating to hear about the experiences that other students have had

JZ: For sure.  Everyone here has such different backgrounds, and yet, we seem to find a lot of connections.  Whether it’s working with the same person or living in the same part of the world or concentrating in the same fields, the people at Fletcher make the world seem a little more connected.  And I guess the fact that we both ended up here is a good example to make that case!

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Twice a year, we’re lucky to be able to connect prospective students with current students over a cup of coffee in a city near you.  How does this happen?  We ask students to volunteer, and they do!  Once they have pinned down a date and location, we’re in business.  As of today, the cities in which we’ll offer coffee hours is:

Abu Dhabi, UAE
Amman, Jordan
Ann Arbor, MI
Atlanta, GA
Bogotá, Colombia
Boston, MA
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Dallas, TX
Dubai, UAE
Dublin, Ireland
Geneva, Switzerland
Hanover, Germany
Havana, Cuba
Islamabad, Pakistan
Karachi, Pakistan
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Los Angeles, CA
Mexico City, Mexico
Minneapolis, MN
Mumbai, India
New Delhi, India
New York, NY
Norfolk, VA
Phoenix, AZ
San Antonio, TX
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Seoul, South Korea
Taipei, Taiwan
Tbilisi, Georgia
Tokyo, Japan
Toronto, Canada
Washington, DC

There’s a good chance that more locations and dates will be added.  You can learn more here and sign up here.  (Filter for “off-campus events.”)  Don’t leave our students sitting by themselves in a café!  Join them, and other prospective students, for coffee/tea/whatever and a chat!

 

This is one of those weeks that most clearly brings home that we are a single Admissions Office in the middle of several admissions cycles.  Our newest Januarians are preparing for Orientation in just over a month.  The majority of our September 2018 applicants are completing their applications before our January 10 deadline.  Applicants to the PhD program and MYF pathway to the MALD or MIB are six days out from their December 20 deadline.  And earlier this week we released decisions on our Early Notification (EN) applications for September 2018 enrollment.

To those EN applicants who were admitted, congratulations!  Learning in December that you have been admitted is a great opportunity to plan for your graduate studies.  Some of you have already sent questions to the Admissions email, and we’ll be getting back to you, as well as reaching out to everyone else who was admitted.  We enjoy the opportunity to work with some real live admitted students while we’re also reading applications.

Today, though, a few words for those who weren’t admitted.  To those who were denied admission, please let me say that we’re sorry to make these decisions, but we hope it will help you craft your strategy on where to apply in January.  Later in the spring, you will also be welcome to request feedback on your application.

This post is really for those applicants whose applications were deferred for review in the spring, a good news/bad news situation.  We know that you didn’t submit an application in November in hopes of waiting until March for a decision.  On the other hand, you have the opportunity to update us on your application during the next few months.  If you choose the right update, it can be the difference between bad news and good news in March.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we’re not asking to be flooded with extra information, but here are suggestions of what we’d like to see:

  • An updated transcript that reflects grades received since you submitted your application;
  • New standardized exam (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS) score reports;
  • A revised résumé that includes information on a new job position;
  • An additional recommendation that sheds light on an aspect of your background you weren’t able to illuminate in other parts of the application.

Updating your application is strictly optional, but I’d encourage you to think through whether you have something useful to add.  And in that case, don’t turn down the opportunity!

What should you update? Well, you probably (in your heart of hearts) can identify the weaker areas of your application.  That’s where you should focus.  Are there any documents, or is there anything extra that you can say, that will help us to understand or interpret the weak points in your application?  If so, go ahead and update.  For example, did you decide it would be better not to mention the causes of your weak undergraduate semester?  I’d encourage you to explain it, particularly if it pulled down your overall GPA.  Did you indicate that your language skills are not strong enough to pass our proficiency exam?  Send us information on your plan for achieving proficiency before the end of the summer.  Did you mistype your years of employment at a certain job, making it look like you were there for two months, rather than four years and two months?  You can make that correction now.  And, if your GRE/GMAT scores were significantly lower than you expected, you may want to take the test again.  Note here that I’m not telling you to take the standardized exam again.  I’m encouraging you to review your credentials and make that decision for yourself.  The same is true for your TOEFL/IELTS.  If your scores are low, but you have continued to study English since your first test date, it could be worth it to retest.  Give it some thought.

Another suggestion:  If, upon reflection, your essay didn’t state your goals as clearly as you would have liked, send us a clarifying email!  We won’t substitute it for your personal statement, but it will certainly be reviewed.  This could be particularly helpful if you’ve taken steps to learn more about your ultimate career goal.

Possible additions to your application need not be limited to what I’ve listed above.  The key question to ask yourself is:  Does this actually add anything?  If the information is already included in your application, then there’s there’s not much value in sending it again.  An additional academic recommendation will add little to an application that already includes two.  On the other hand, a professional recommendation will add a lot to an application that only includes academic recommendations.  Think it through before you flood us with info, but don’t hesitate to send something that will give your application a happy bump.

Whether you were offered admission this week, or you were told we’ll reconsider your application in the spring, we look forward to hearing from you and to working with you during the coming months.  Please be sure to contact us with your questions.

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Several new professors have joined the Fletcher faculty this year.  Today, I’d like to introduce one of them, Chris Miller, Assistant Professor of International History.  Professor Miller is creating new programming on Russia, and will be teaching U.S. Foreign Policy, 1898-Present, Contemporary Issues in U.S.-Russian Relations, and Russian Foreign Policy from Peter the Great to Putin.  Here he describes the roots of his focus on Russia.

It has never been possible to make sense of international politics without understanding Russia, but the past several years have highlighted the importance of Russia in spheres as diverse as the Middle East to North Korea to cybersecurity.  At Fletcher, I am excited to work as part of a group of faculty who are building up Russian studies via conferences, student exchanges, guest speakers, internships in Russia, and student research projects.

This semester, I taught a course on U.S.-Russian relations that was video-linked with MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations), a Russian university.  We have a dozen students at Fletcher and a dozen at MGIMO, and we meet once a week to discuss and debate contemporary issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship.  In 2018, in addition to a course on the history of U.S. foreign relations, I’ll also teach a course on Russia and the World, from Peter the Great to Putin.

My own engagement with Russia began with my PhD at Yale in the history of the Cold War.  As part of research on my dissertation, I spent two years digging through Soviet archives in Moscow.  My aim was to understand the demise of the Soviet Union — a period when, in six short years the USSR went from being the world’s largest superpower to a group of 15 separate countries, all of which faced political dissolution and economic collapse.  I wanted to know why, during the 1980s, China succeeded in moving from socialist central planning to a capitalist market economy, but when the Soviet Union tried to make that same transition, it fell apart.

After looking through a number of Russian archives, including in the personal papers of Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, I wrote a book titled The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy. When I was research and writing the book, I also taught at a university in Moscow, the New Economic School.

I was living in Russia in 2014, when the war with Ukraine began and Russia annexed Crimea.  That same year coincided with a surprise crash in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export.  Low oil prices combined with Western sanctions pushed the Russian economy into a painful recession.  Many Western experts predicted that Russia would face economic collapse and be forced to make political concessions in order to get sanctions lifted.

But this didn’t happen — and it created another puzzle.  Contrary to many initial expectations, Russia faced little difficulty in weathering the economic crisis, and has yet to compromise in exchange for sanctions relief.  It chose this path despite a sharp fall in living standards, particularly in 2015.  It is often argued that rising wages — made possible by high oil prices — underwrote Putin’s popularity in the 2000s, but falling wages and falling oil prices did not seem to dent his popularity after 2015.  To explore the making of Russian economic policy, I’ve just finished a new book Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia, which will be published in March 2018.

My next research project will explore the history of Russian diplomacy in Asia, with an eye toward understanding the factors that have repeatedly driven cycles of Russian engagement and disengagement in Asia.  Like the United States, Russia is today “pivoting” toward Asia.  But Russia has historically pivoted toward Asia roughly once a generation.  Will today’s pivot prove more durable or more successful than previous efforts?

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Are you planning to submit your application for review by our January 10 deadline?  The large majority of our applications will arrive within 72 hours of the January deadline, even though, depending on your degree program and interest in applying for scholarship assistance, you might have other deadline options.

But let’s assume that January 10 is your deadline target.  We are now within one month from that date.  How are you going to plan your time?  I’ll tell you what I would suggest.  I would suggest that you NOT wait until the last minute to submit your application.  I would further suggest that you assign yourself two deadlines — the day by which you’ll complete your application, and the day on which you’ll submit it.  Some suggestions?  How about you aim to complete your application by January 5.  Get everything all cued up, and then go to the movies, or meet your friends for trivia night, or whatever it is you like to do to relax and distract yourself.  Then, on January 7, reopen your application.  Review everything.  And if it’s all as you want it to be, submit the application.  You’ll feel good and, even better, you won’t suddenly realize that, in your January 10 haste, you submitted the wrong essays or résumé.

Though it’s not my job to worry about your applications to other graduate schools, note that this double-advance-deadline method will work for them, too.

I’m well aware that applications take time and they don’t write themselves.  Maybe the idea of submitting the application early won’t appeal to you.  But let’s be honest with ourselves; aiming for your choice of deadline before the actual deadline won’t negatively affect the application, even if you are giving up a few days to work on it.  Get those fingers typing the answers to the questions on the form, and get your mind thinking big thoughts for your essays, and make it happen.

An additional benefit of submitting early — there’s a good chance we’ll have a chance to process your application before the real deadline even arrives.  That means that, while others are still deciding whether to use a comma or semi-colon, you might learn that your application is complete.  Won’t that be nice?  While they’re stressing, you’re relaxing.

In conclusion, please do not follow Murray’s example and hide from the deadline.  Embrace the challenge I’ve just set in front of you, and submit your application just a few days early.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

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This has been a nice week, but not a productive week for blogging.  One thing or another got in the way of my pulling together some meaningful posts.  And now it’s that happy day in the fall semester when the MALD/MA Admissions Committee will first meet, leaving me no time for a lengthy post today, either.  I have high hopes for next week.

Today’s Admissions Committee meeting will bring the students, professors, and staff reading MALD and MA applications together for the first time.  All the students have read a nice batch of applications, but hearing the perspectives of others will broaden their perspectives.  Same for the faculty members.

In case you’re wondering, the MIB and LLM committees meet separately and, I think, may even have met already this week.

On the very same day when we will take the earliest steps toward admitting the incoming class for September, we’ll be saying farewell to the Januarians who started at Fletcher in January 2016.  Though they still have finals in front of them, a ceremony this afternoon will recognize this tight-knit class.  There are some active members of the community in this group, and we’ll miss them.  Here they are, with the dean.

Now I’m going to grab the coffee we’ll serve to keep everyone perky during the four-hour discussion, and I’ll head over to the meeting.  Committee meetings are an absolute highlight of my work, and I’m looking forward to jumping right in.

 

One of the most robust of the sub-communities within the broader Fletcher community is that of returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs).  They’re also a social bunch, and they organize themselves each year for activities.  To that end, students are invited to indicate where they completed their Peace Corps experience.  Here’s the list for this year.

Albania
Azerbaijan
Benin
Cambodia
Cameroon
China
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Ghana
Guinea
Indonesia
Kosovo
Liberia
Macedonia
Madagascar
Morocco
Namibia
Nepal
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Rwanda
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Swaziland
Tanzania
Thailand
Ukraine

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The final new Student Stories introduction comes from Akshobh, who started the MALD program in September after a journalism career.  Akshobh is a regular presence in the Admissions Office, conducting interviews for us each Friday.

In front of the Singapore skyline in my last week in the city state.

Leaving Singapore was excruciatingly hard!

I grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), India and moved to Singapore fresh out of journalism school, knowing few people and precious little about the city state.

It then became home for seven amazing years, in two different journalism jobs, first with ESPN STAR Sports, and then as a business news reporter and producer with Channel NewsAsia (part of MediaCorp) the largest PAN-Asian English news broadcast channel in the region.

I often say that my career in journalism was a serendipitous affair.

The final 18 selected from India – I am third from the right in the second row.

I inadvertently stumbled into the auditions of ESPN STAR’s nationwide hunt for a presenter — through a show called Dream Job.  The winner of the program would be offered a one-year contract as a sports presenter.  I was short-listed in the final 18 among 100,000 applicants.  As one of the final 18, I would go through several televised rounds of high-level sports quizzes and debates, conduct mock interviews, and host mock sports bulletins in front of an elite panel of judges.  Each episode was broadcast on the network’s leading channel and beamed right into the homes of people across India.

Through the show, I realized I wanted to get into broadcast journalism and applied to journalism school.  One of the internships I pursued was with the same host network — my boss happened to be one of the judges who had seen me on the show and he offered me an internship in Singapore.  On completing a two-month internship, I was offered a full-time job for after my final semester in journalism school.

Interviewing Feon Ang, Vice President of LinkedIn, Singapore.

After a few years with a sports broadcast network, I segued to working for Channel NewsAsia as a business news reporter and producer.

I covered news pertaining to Singapore’s economy, and interviewed economists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers across a gamut of industries.  I soon realized that I was fortunate to meet, and get these fantastic perspectives, from industry leaders; however I myself would also need to develop these skills and build on domain expertise.  The most conventional option was to look at business school after a few years of working, but I was more passionate about geopolitics, foreign policy, and diplomacy.

As a business reporter in Singapore, I saw the intersection between geopolitics and macroeconomic events.  Decisions made by governments affected economies and the private sector.  Hence I realized that a program at Fletcher would provide the best of both worlds.  Like all prospective students, I cast my net wide, applying to a host of business and international affairs school.  But the acceptance from Fletcher made all the difference.  Not only was Fletcher the first to accept me, but the outreach from the Admissions Office, current students, and alumni was so welcoming and hospitable.  My visit to campus as an admit sealed the deal.  I understood just why Fletcher epitomizes community.

Me on the left, interviewing a tour guide in the city of Mumbai, India.

This was back in 2016, however a sudden family emergency — the prospect of applying for my permanent residence in Singapore — weighed down on my decision to start in fall of 2016.  The only viable option was to request an unlikely deferral.  And to my surprise back then, the Admissions Office understood my predicament and ensured that I was able to defer my admission to 2017.

Staying on for another year in Singapore provided by far my most fulfilling professional year.  I moved to a new team at work, where I got to do longer and more in-depth business stories and travel to India to report on a country special episode.

At TEDx NTU in Singapore in October 2016.

In addition to my work, I was invited last year to give a TEDx talk at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore on journalism and was fortunate to moderate high-level panel discussions on media, technology, millennial employees, and smart cities across a range of events.

Then of course, the time came to be “shipping up to Boston.”  Having lived for seven years on the equator, the only weather change I was used to was between rain or no rain.  Moving from the tropical warmth of Southeast Asia to the blistering blizzards of New England was going to be a challenge.  But if anything, the warmth of the Fletcher community will be enough to fight off any New England cold.

For me, I refrain from referring to “grad school” since I feel it homogenizes Fletcher with all other grad schools.  Fletcher epitomizes diversity, like no other.  The diversity isn’t just in terms of nationalities represented (though, the Hall of Flags shows that).  The diversity at Fletcher is in terms of backgrounds, thought processes, and interests.

From human rights, to climate change, to gender studies, to energy, to diplomacy, to security studies, to understanding private sector merger & acquisition deals, there is truly something for everyone at Fletcher.  I feel positively overwhelmed with how much there is going on here.

Within my first few weeks, I was already co-chair of the ASEAN Club, taking up roles at Tech@Fletcher, a member of the Fletcher Political Risk Group, getting involved with the Murrow Center’s first televised bulletin, an Admissions ambassador, and interviewing experts for the Fletcher Security Review.

With Lord Michael Dobbs, Fletcher Alum and Author of House of Cards.

There is no normal day at Fletcher, although some days would include lunch and a political communications workshop with one of Fletcher’s finest alums — Lord Michael Dobbs, followed by a special guest lecture in class from a four-star general talking about national security decisions.

Fletcher’s biggest asset is truly its community.  From Fletcher’s Annual Faculty and Staff Waits On You Dinner, where faculty and staff don aprons and scurry along, carrying dishes to serve their students, to Fletcher Feasts, where students are randomly assigned to a host to break bread (sometimes literally) in the comfort of a home-cooked meal hosted by one of their own classmates, to when a professor opens up his house to students for a lazy Saturday afternoon picnic.  Or the creativity of students at Fletcher to come up with an open-mic night for the melodic voices, the amateur guitarists, and even for intimate poems and stories.

One of my best memories pertaining to Fletcher reflects the community, and came before I enrolled.  I met with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, F76, in Singapore, an Indian parliamentarian, former UN Diplomat and author — one of Fletcher’s best-known alumni.  As busy as he is, he simply said that when a Fletcher connection reaches out, he makes time for them.  That’s the meaning of community!

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