Posts by: Jessica Daniels
Though I fully acknowledge that these lists can get silly, I’m still proud to report that our own Somerville, MA, just across Fletcher Field from where I’m sitting (Fletcher being situated, as it is, near the border between Somerville and Medford), was included among Lonely Planet‘s “Best in the U.S.” spots for 2016! That’s nice recognition for a town on the move.
For those readers from large cities, it can be hard to capture the relationship between Boston and its near neighbors. Boston itself (that is, the city as incorporated) is a pretty compact place. Though it wriggles in multiple directions (the neighborhood of Allston over here, Jamaica Plain over there), it’s an old city and the lines were tightly drawn. Wikipedia tells me that Boston covers 48 square miles (124 square kilometers), compared to New York’s 468 square miles (1214 square kilometers). The resulting effect is that some of the neighboring towns are really (regardless of what Lonely Planet might say) not suburbs in the traditional American sense. Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline — they’re all neighboring cities, not the leafy towns that “suburb” usually connotes. Or, as Wikipedia goes on to say, there’s the City of Boston (24th largest in the U.S.), the Greater Boston area (tenth largest in the U.S.), or the Greater Boston commuting region (sixth largest in the U.S.). Somerville is squarely in Greater Boston.
Anyway, that little digression aside, there are a lot of reasons why Somerville is receiving recognition at this time. Suffice it to say that the city has truly evolved over recent years into a great location for folks in the Fletcher demographic. (Note its #6 spot on a 2015 list of Top Cities for Hipsters.) From Davis Square to Assembly Square, Somerville has lots to offer, whether for two years in graduate school or for the long term.
The subject of today’s Faculty Spotlight feature is John Allen Burgess, Professor of Practice and Executive Director of Fletcher’s LLM Program. In addition to his role as LLM director, he currently teaches Mergers and Acquisitions: An International Perspective, and Securities Regulation: An International Prospective.
Every semester, I have the privilege to enjoy a range of special experiences along with the Fletcher LLM students. From the fall, when we first get a chance to meet each other and other members of the law faculty at Professor Chayes’ beautiful home, to the spring, when we gather as a group off campus to hear about each other’s work and talk with a range of guests over lunch, a drink or dinner, the year is filled with so many chances to learn and to interact with each other.
But the experience I most enjoy is the High Table — an opportunity for the LLM students and law faculty to come together in a book-lined seminar room to learn from experts in various aspects of international law. It is the perfect location and atmosphere for off-the-record conversations on a wide range of issues.
I attended my first High Table in September 2014 — and immediately realized that it was a very special experience. Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei joined the group to discuss his experiences as Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency in both Iraq and Iran as well as his experiences during the Arab spring. It was an extraordinary opportunity to hear in a small group about the views of a Nobel prize winner, and learn more as he, my fellow faculty members, and the LLM students pursued an open dialogue across a wide range of topics.
As I now look back at the many High Tables I have attended, two things strike me. The first is the opportunity to meet and hear from people who have achieved amazing things in the law, often against extraordinary odds and challenges. Chief Judge Patricia Wald, who spoke to us regarding her work as Chair of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, was also a pioneer in so many respects — as a young mother who went to law school when few women attended and as the first woman Chief Justice of the DC Circuit. She then, instead of taking a well-earned retirement, served as a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, working to build a new international jurisprudence. The High Table’s intimate surroundings gave me a chance to see first-hand her intelligence, her humility, and the richness of her experience. It left me feeling both humble and deeply impressed.
The second special feature of the High Tables is the excitement of being exposed to legal issues that are outside my area of expertise. For example, earlier this year, Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Nigeria, gave a provocative talk on issues of rule of law in emerging economies — he challenged our thinking on the issue and provoked an informative discussion among the group. Cravath partner Rory Millsom walked the group through the thicket of legal considerations surrounding targeted killing by drones, making some challenging points about the application of law to new technologies along the way.
No matter how many High Tables I have attended, I always leave the discussion knowing that I have learned something new and that I am lucky to be surrounded by such informed students and teachers. It’s a great feeling and a significant perk of my work at Fletcher.
This year it took precisely one day before I fell behind in my email after we released decisions. I tried to keep up over the weekend, but yesterday the messages came in so quickly that the best I can say is I answered a few and the rest are tucked away safely in a corner of my inbox where they won’t be lost. I will respond as soon as I can, increasingly with the sad starter, “I’m sorry for my delay in responding.”
And I am sorry, because I know that everyone who writes to us is doing the work of learning about the program before making the important decision on where to attend graduate school. I know I speak for my Admissions pals when I say that we will respond as quickly as we can, and also as thoroughly as we can. Fortunately, we have our crack team of Graduate Assistants working this week before their own spring break, and they can help with questions about Fletcher student life.
Time to attack my inbox. If I’m lucky, I’ll answer most of the backlogged messages before too many new ones come in. It’s my objective to avoid the Lucy/chocolate factory scenario. Wish me luck!
Following Friday’s release of decisions and a relaxing weekend, Admissions staff members returned to a new phase of the admissions process: working with (and congratulating!) the new community of admitted students.
Let me also pause to say to those who did not receive good news on Friday: please stay in contact with us. And thank you to everyone for your interest throughout the year.
Starting today, we’re primed to reach out to admitted students and receive their requests for more information. We’ve scheduled online chats, information sessions, and an open house. Those who can’t participate in an organized activity can visit at their convenience. And, of course, there will be emails. Many emails.
Though the weeks from January to March are busy for us, somehow the March/April period is even more hectic. And the next five weeks should be busy for admitted students, too. Doing the research that results in selecting the right graduate school takes time. You did your preliminary scouting before applying, of course, but now is when you make doubly sure that the program in which you will enroll best matches your academic and career objectives. Gather all the detail you need about Fletcher and your other graduate programs and then make a well-considered decision. Explore the course offerings in detail. Learn about the student community. We’ll do our part via multiple media to provide you with information to help in your decision making. And the Admissions Blog will continue to supply stories about our wonderful community and rich intellectual environment.
Speaking for everyone on the Admissions Staff, we encourage you to learn as much as you can before making a final decision. Of course, we hope you will choose Fletcher, but it’s even more important that September finds you in classes that move you toward your academic and career goals. We welcome your questions! And, congratulations, once again, on your admission!
An intense two weeks have led to today. We’ve had a rescheduled-to-evening final MA/MALD Admissions Committee meeting, scrambling LLM and MIB Committees reviewing March 1 applications, hours reviewing scholarship applications, additional hours checking our system to be sure everything is set up correctly, and even more hours (and people) ensuring every letter is right and then stuffing envelopes.
While we apply the final finishing touches, let me run through what you can expect to learn tonight when we release decisions. (All decisions, by which we mean decisions for all degree programs on every complete application that was submitted by the final March 1 deadline. No trickling of decisions for us. No releasing of decisions by telephone or email either, so please be patient until 5:00 p.m. U.S. EST (GMT-5).)
First, when your decision is ready, you’ll receive an email to check your Application Status Page. (Reminder for those who haven’t bookmarked the page: To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or the application link. You’ll log in with the email and password you used when you created your application.)
I’ve already described the different decision options on Tuesday and Wednesday. In addition to learning the admission decision, when admitted applicants log in, they will be able to find their scholarship award. If you’re in a two-year program, you’ll learn your two-year award so that you can plan ahead. We make scholarship decisions based on a combination of merit and need. That is, for any level of merit — as determined through the application review process — the larger awards go to those with greater need. We hope that all applicants will be happy with their awards, though we know that only Admissions Committee members have the full picture of the breadth of need (and merit, for that matter) among the admitted applicants. Fletcher’s applicant pool is diverse in every possible way.
Beyond all that, let me just say that it is truly a pleasure to work with our applicants. On the road, here at Fletcher, and through correspondence, Admissions staff members connect with hundreds of people who submit applications each year. Our connection with some applicants goes back many years. At the same time as the Admissions Committee’s mandate is to put together a class that will succeed at, contribute to, and benefit from Fletcher, there are many people who may not be admitted at this time but who we know will ultimately be great students. We hope to see you again. Meanwhile, I want to thank all of you for your interest in Fletcher and for reading the Admissions Blog throughout the year.
Continuing to prep readers for the decisions that we will release soon*, I want to share a little insider info on scholarship awards. Fletcher has a source of scholarship funds for new and continuing students. All of the funds allocated for incoming students (including those who applied by the Early Notification deadline and were admitted in December) will be offered as scholarships this month, and admitted students will learn the amount of their scholarship award along with their admission decision.
But the situation is more complex than that. If we have $100 in our special pot of scholarship cash, we don’t simply distribute $100. Instead, we reckon that half of the award recipients will decide to continue working, attend another program, or, for whatever reason, decline our offer of admission. This is predictably the case and, with enrollment history in mind, we actually distribute $200 in scholarships. It’s a gamble, but if we’ve done our math right, it’s a safe gamble.
Why is this relevant for readers? Let’s imagine that Jim and Bill are friends who have applied to Fletcher. Both are admitted and receive $100 scholarships. Bill decides to enroll at Fletcher, but Jim decides to postpone graduate school for a year. Bill knows that Jim has received a $100 scholarship, and Bill would like to claim it for himself. Alas, Jim’s award doesn’t represent actual cash that goes back in the pot.
At the end of the enrollment process, we’ll calculate how much genuine money has been added back to the scholarship account. (Of course, if we make offers of admission to waitlisted candidates, they may also be offered scholarships.) One thing you can be sure of is that we will distribute all of the available funds. We don’t get to use them to order lunch or redecorate the Admissions Office. Scholarship funds are for students, and every last dollar will be offered to someone who will study at Fletcher in the fall.
*soon=end of the business day tomorrow, EST
My task today is easier than yesterday’s. Whether applicants are offered admission with a condition attached or admitted free and clear, they are still admitted. That said, however, I still want readers to understand the different admission options that Fletcher uses.
As soon as we can wrap up the remainder of the process, many Fletcher applicants will learn that they have been admitted, and can join us in September 2016. Hooray! We hope that enrolling at Fletcher will be the next step you take as you craft your future career!
Some of the offers of admission, however, are accompanied by a condition, and today’s post is to clarify what those conditions entail. The first thing to remember is that we don’t bother to admit someone conditionally unless we’re very enthusiastic about other aspects of the application; don’t let the condition diminish your sense of accomplishment!
What is the basis for a conditional offer of admission? The Admissions Committee looks at the materials in an applicant’s file and makes certain assumptions, some of which lead Committee members to suggest the applicant needs further preparation before enrolling at Fletcher. We’ll make that preparation a condition of admission. The most frequently employed conditions require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the student should improve foreign language proficiency, English language proficiency, or quantitative skills.
We tend to be inflexible about the nature of the pre-Fletcher English training, for reasons I hope are obvious. (In case they’re not as obvious as I think, I’ll spell it out: No one can succeed in Fletcher classes with weak English skills.) There’s more flexibility around foreign language training for native English speakers. We’ll ask students to choose the best program for their level and their choice of language — there are too many variables involved for us to dictate any particular option. And we offer several options for those who should brush up their quantitative skills.
Does this mean that, if we haven’t attached a condition, we’re absolutely sure your English skills are strong enough to cope with a heavy load of reading and writing? Not necessarily, and now’s a good time to work on those skills. Does it mean we’re sure you’ll pass the foreign language exam? Definitely not! Applicants who self-assess as having intermediate-level proficiency might have overestimated or underestimated their ability. Work on those language skills before enrolling! Do we believe you will sail through the required economics and quantitative analysis classes? No — we only assume that you will pass those basic classes. If you’re not so sure, then pick up a text book and familiarize yourself with the basic concepts.
Not everyone who needs practice in English, a foreign language, or quantitative skills will be admitted conditionally.
Beyond the conditions, there’s one other complication to the admit category: Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied. Most common example: You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient experience to meet Fletcher’s standard for mid-career. On the other hand, you look great for the MALD program, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!
Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants. We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up on English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t require pre-Fletcher English study.
The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) ADMISSION! And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher. So we’ll maintain our portfolio of admits, sometimes with conditions attached.
We just last week received our very last batch of applications — there is a March 1 deadline for the MIB and LLM programs — but we are starting to see the light at the end of the admissions tunnel. The committees that review MALD, MA, and PhD applications have all made their decisions, and the MIB and LLM committees will rapidly complete the review of the new applications. Only the tweaking of the final lists and the very lengthy scholarship review process will remain.
And that makes this a good moment to prep all of you for what will be coming. I think it’s important that you receive information on our decision options well in advance of the release of decisions, so that you can digest the information. The topic for today is the decisions other than admission.
The unfortunate reality is that we cannot admit everyone who applies to Fletcher. And there are two possible outcomes for those who aren’t admitted right now. One is that the applicant might be denied admission, and the other is that the applicant could be offered a place on the waitlist (which might result in admission later in the spring/summer).
When we review applications, we’re looking for a combination of academic potential, professional and international experience, and clear goals for study and a post-Fletcher career. Applicants who are not admitted, or who are offered a place on the waitlist, might be missing one or more of those elements, or they might be just a little weak in all of them, particularly compared to the overall qualifications of admitted students.
The waitlist: Each year, we offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of the applicants we’ve admitted. (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.) In some years, we admit a significant number of students from the waitlist. Occasionally, we don’t admit any. But most years we admit a few.
It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable. For starters, what matters is not how many waitlist offers we make, but rather how many people decide to accept a spot on the list, and we won’t have that number until the end of April. We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and review our notes. Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait. Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.
Those not admitted: We’re always sorry to say goodbye to an applicant. We’ve read your story and we know how important gaining admission to graduate school is for you. The fact is that many of the students not admitted this year could be admitted in a future year. We hope you will continue to develop your experience and that we may read about you again.
Some applicants to the MALD, MIB, and LLM programs will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we really want them to gain some relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for. We’ll only use this decision option for applicants within about a year of their university graduation. (This year, that means 2015 and 2016 grads.) We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record), it could take more or less time for them to build their professional experience and become competitive applicants.
Contact us!: Whether an applicant is denied admission or offered a place on the waitlist, there’s one important thing I want to share, which is that our door is still open for communication, and we hope you will contact us. Increasingly, the Admissions Committee expects to see a record of correspondence from those who are applying for the second time.
Students who are not offered admission have the opportunity to request feedback on their application. If you’re planning to reapply, I encourage you to ask for feedback this spring. (That is, don’t wait until the month before your next application — you may want some time to make improvements.) We’ll accept feedback requests on May 1 and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.
As for the waitlist, all members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome. But for some applicants, the waitlist will ultimately result in admission. We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little time to give your application a boost. For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to know about it. If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us. If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé. Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.
Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone. Get in touch, and ask us if there is a special piece of information we need.
Finally, Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply. Someone who applies unsuccessfully, smooths up some of the rough points in the application, and reapplies in a subsequent year, has shown determination and a strong interest in the School — two qualities we love in our applicants.
Tomorrow I’ll run through the different categories of admission.
This is the kind of news I enjoy. First, because it’s happy news, and second because it was a current PhD candidate who made sure that we paused to celebrate some of our own. In an email to the community, Rizwan informed us that, of the 455 newly selected finalists for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program for 2016, eleven are Fletcher students or alumni. The classes of 2016, 2015, and 2014 are represented. (Rizwan actually went to the trouble of including not only the new PMF finalists’ names, but also their graduation years.)
I have heard lots of congratulations being shared with the finalists and we all wish them luck in lining up their jobs!
It has been a while since we heard from a member of the Class of 2010. These are the alumni whom I’ve asked to reflect on their first five years since graduating. Maria Eugenia’s study at Fletcher enabled her to craft the development career she had first started in her home country of Argentina.
Unlike many of my Fletcher friends, before attending Fletcher I had never studied or lived outside of Argentina, my home country. I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and had, what you might call, a fairly “domestic” upbringing.
When I was 21 years old, my older sister won a scholarship to study in Italy. Visiting her ended up being my excuse to travel around Europe for a couple of months. I was then finishing my studies in sociology at the University of Buenos Aires and had done development work for grassroots NGOs. During that trip I met new people, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and heard new languages. I felt so energized by those differences. I returned home with the certainty that, whatever development-related work I ended up doing after finishing undergrad (because I knew development was the field I wanted to continue in), it would be work that allowed me to explore and learn from the richness of the world and its peoples.
I arrived at Fletcher several years after that trip, with a BA in sociology, and a couple of years of experience working full time for a second-tier microfinance non-profit organization.
If I had to use a word to describe my time at Fletcher it would be “intense.” Everything was new: the way the education system was organized, the people I met, the language I spoke (it was my first time studying in English!). I learned something new every day, and in every conversation I had. I made good friends with people who came from countries that I had barely heard of before.
Having a clear focus on the field in which I wanted to work after Fletcher helped me pick my Fields of Study: I focused my studies on Human Security and International Organizations. Courses like Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Johnstone’s International Organizations, or Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict provided me with the lenses, tools, and critical thinking that I currently use to carry out my everyday tasks. Doing fieldwork during the summer between the first and second years was also a highlight of my Fletcher experience. I did an internship at a Bangladeshi NGO, focused on children’s rights. It was an unpaid internship, but Office of Career Services funding helped me cover my expenses.
After Fletcher, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland. An internship at the International Labour Organization turned into a three-year job working at the Partnerships and Development Cooperation Department. Eager to learn more about technical cooperation and finance for development, I moved to Washington, DC to join the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Team of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund. My tasks in both organizations were related to supporting project preparation, from identification (analyzing grant proposals, writing concept notes for management eligibility), to design (developing theories of change, project documents, logical frameworks, budgets), to implementation (writing progress reports, capturing lessons learned).
Mid-2014, I moved back home to Buenos Aires and continued working for these and other organizations as an independent consultant. I currently coordinate a network of 20+ funders and multilateral organizations working together to generate and share evidence-based knowledge on what works in youth employment. I also facilitate an NGO Community of Practice in Latin America, implementing youth employment projects. Working closely with both funders and implementers provides me with a unique insight into funders’ strategic thinking and implementers’ real-life challenges.
Working independently allows me to focus my time and energy on the projects that I like the most, at a particular time in my life when I really want (and need!) flexibility — my first son, Santiago, was born in March 2015. Having a good skills-set and the right network and credentials has been key to navigating this career change successfully.
Since graduating from Fletcher, I have lived in four countries, worked for two very different international organizations, traveled around 15+ other countries, and fostered friendships all over the world. I have certainly grown and achieved much more than I could even have thought I would when I first applied to Fletcher, and I am really looking forward to what the next five years will bring!
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