Posts by: Jessica Daniels

On Saturday I heard about something worth sharing.  A current Fletcher student and Admissions volunteer, Deepti, is currently helping out our friends at Educate Lanka, the Sri Lanka-based non-profit headed by Manjula Dissanayake F’12.  Here we see Deepti on a panel with other volunteers and in-country staff, interviewing a new batch of Educate Lanka scholars.  I need to investigate more — I hadn’t heard that Deepti would be in Sri Lanka this summer.  Until I get all the details, here’s the photo, with Deepti in the middle on the left.

Deepti, 2

 

Despite the overall post-Commencement feel that has fallen upon Fletcher this week, I’ve been fortunate to connect with a few students as they spent their last minutes here before taking off for new adventures.  Of those, several are days away from a flight to a distant locale.  Others won’t start said adventures until later in the summer, giving them a nice hiatus — free of both coursework and career searching.  And some will be pursuing adventures in the Boston area, meaning we don’t need to say farewell yet.

Nonetheless, the graduation tents have been dismantled one-by-one, and the first of the summer construction teams have moved in.  Fletcher will undergo some relatively minor repairs and renovation, but even minor repairs mean that the Office of Career Services is currently working out of Blakeley Hall.

Symeon and the deanInto the mix came this sweet photo of Dean Stavridis, Symeon Tegos, and Erietta (tiniest graduate) Tegos.  Symeon tells me that Erietta is only two and a half months old.  (Aww!  So sweet!)  Her dad was in the one-year MA program, surely making this a year to remember for their family.  In fact, in an email to Dean Stavridis that circled around to me, Symeon wrote:

This was an incredible year.  The birth of my daughter changed me in ways I considered impossible only weeks ago, while the exposure to Fletcher had an unexpected profound effect on me.  I have to express my gratitude for this amazing experience.  Soon I will be heading back home where I will do my best to give back what I so generously received.  I will never forget Fletcher and your example.

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Commencement may have passed, but I’m still receiving a few long-promised posts from students and newly-minted alumni.  In the category of “Cool Stuff Students Do” comes this description of a new initiative, the Human Rights Practicum. 

Amy Tan and Luca UrechHi Admissions Blog readers!  We, Amy Tan (MALD 2014) and Luca Urech (MALD 2014), are here to tell you a little bit about human rights activities at Fletcher.  For about a year, we have been co-presidents of the Human Rights Project, Fletcher’s student human rights group, and we used our time here at Fletcher to launch a new initiative called the Human Rights Practicum.  To provide you with information about the Practicum, we thought to share a short Q&A.  If you have follow-up questions, we are happy to continue the conversation in the Blog’s comment section!

What is the Human Rights Practicum?

The Human Rights Practicum is a platform at Fletcher through which students can work with human rights practitioners on substantive, live projects.  The Practicum complements the Fletcher student experience with a strong practical component in the field of human rights.  The Practicum has grown since its establishment in September 2013, and currently consists of five different projects.  In these projects, more than a dozen Fletcher students are working under the supervision of three law professors (Professors Louis Aucoin, John Cerone, and Hurst Hannum) on topics ranging from crafting a policy paper on R2P and Syria for a Geneva-based NGO, to conducting ongoing research on the Universal Periodic Review for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

Where did the Human Rights Practicum come from?

We might be biased here, but we believe that Fletcher students offer a wealth of experience, expertise, and enthusiasm to make a human rights impact that we considered to be a source of great untapped potential.  With this in mind, during the summer of 2013, while Amy was at The Hague Institute for Global Justice in The Netherlands and Luca was with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunisia, we put together a concept note for an initiative that would leverage Fletcher’s skills and energy for human rights impact. We sent the note to our professors and they were immediately supportive, offering their guidance and their contacts to set up projects with students.

What is the Practicum up to now?

As the spring semester here at Fletcher came to an end, our student teams also finished up their Practicum projects.  While polishing reports and doing final research, everyone here was already looking forward to seeing the impact that their work will have.  The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, for example, will transmit the research to which the Fletcher students contributed to the Member States of the UN Human Rights Council and has found significant state interest in the work.  Another project partner will leverage a report analyzing transitional justice issues produced by Fletcher students as a basis to lobby policymakers in Washington D.C.  It is satisfying to see our work transcending the world of academia and making a real-impact in politics and diplomacy.

What is the future of the Practicum?

As we have just graduated from Fletcher, we have looked for motivated first-year students who can ensure the continuation of the Practicum.  Fortunately, three very dedicated students, Kathryn Joyce, Roxana Mullafiroze, and Sarah Collman (all MALD 2015 and former Practicum participants), have stepped up to the plate to continue providing Fletcher students with exciting opportunities to engage in human rights work.  At the same time, we have worked closely with the School’s administration to develop a plan that would allow the Practicum to become an important part of what we do at Fletcher.  We hope that by building on the foundation established this year, the Practicum will continue to prosper and become an integral part of the Fletcher experience for students interested in human rights.

HRP Group Photo

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I spent a lot of time on campus this weekend, enjoying Commencement and Reunion activities.  On Saturday, I turned up at about 11:00 and greeted a few students who were waiting for the Class Day activities to begin.  I was sorry not to join them for the day’s speakers, but I was on my way to a panel on life and careers after Fletcher, offered and attended by alumni from the classes of 1989, 1994, and 1999.  I had gone (accompanied by my husband, Paul) to see our friend Charlie Scott F’94, who has recently reinvented himself as the Family Adventure Guy.  As it turns out, the panel discussion featured not only his presentation, but also those of three other alums, including the ambassador to the U.S. from Thailand.  (Ambassador Isarabhakdi said he had wanted to attend Fletcher since he was a young teen.  That’s direction!)  The panel took place on the 7th floor of the Cabot Intercultural Center (one of three attached Fletcher buildings).  The University is on a hill, giving us a nice view from the 7th floor of both the campus and the city beyond.

View from 7F
All the different Commencement venues were set and ready for events, including the thousands of chairs on the quad.

Quad

The next day was the main event.  I came up to campus at about 10:45, by which time Fletcher students were streaming across the street from the all-University ceremony (where, the dean noted, they were a noisy bunch — see photo #19 in the photo gallery) to the Fletcher graduation.  At about 11:10, two things were going on.  First, a photographer was attempting to wrangle the faculty into a shot.

Faculty

At the same time, the Registrar’s staff (and any of us who had offered to help) started herding the graduates into Blakeley Hall courtyard, where they would line up for their procession.

Courtyard
Eventually, everyone was in the graduation tent, and Dean Stavridis could kick off the ceremony.

Dean

Prof. Moomaw, who yesterday became professor emeritus, reflected on his career and experience at Fletcher.

Moomaw

And then came the student speakers, Amy

Amy

and Bob

Prof Moomaw
Both of their speeches were terrific, but Amy scored points with me by mentioning the Admissions Blog!  By the end of the ceremony yesterday, speakers had, interestingly, quoted Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner — not the usual cast of characters for a Fletcher graduation.

Finally, degrees were awarded.  Some students invited their children to join them.  The award for tiniest diploma recipient (in academic regalia) goes to this tiny tot:

Baby grad

And then it was done!  For me, Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate students I have come to know, as well as remind myself of people with whom I was in contact before they enrolled.  (Ohhhh!  I interviewed her, but totally forgot she was in this class….)  For the 310 students who graduated, it was two beautiful blue-skied days, and many, many happy family members.  A day for all to remember!

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When I think of Fletcher without all of our graduating students, it fills me with panic.  What will the School be like without them?  What will the Admissions Office do without Juanita and Ayako?  Who will be my Information Session partner when Hanneke is gone?  And how can Daniel, who stayed connected to the Office even when he took a job elsewhere, move on?  And Mirza and Roxanne and Scott!  And interviewers, such as Kevin and Stéphane, Trisha and Eirik, who brightened our days when they arrived for an interview!  There are so many people who, for the past two years, have participated in the daily or weekly rhythms of our work lives, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them.

And yet, imagine we must.  They’re on their way to something wonderful, carrying Fletcher’s mark wherever they go.  We’ll miss them!  But the whole idea behind admitting them to Fletcher in the first place is that they’ll soon leave.  We’ll just need to adjust to their absence.

Adjusting is made easier by the fact that Fletcher students make their mark on the School and its staff, too.  They create new clubs or activities, set a new high standard for constituency service on the Student Council (Nihal!), or broaden the perspective of the Admissions Committee.  Once, not so long ago, there were no Los Fletcheros and there was no community ski trip.  Now incoming students contact Admissions for the dates of the ski trip (about which we have no advance knowledge, I should add).  The creators of those activities made their mark on the community, and they remain part of Fletcher as a result.

The reality is that we staff members don’t see most students daily, but it’s a day’s highlight to run into someone and get a quick update.  And whether we see certain students or not, we know they’re out there.  We see the conference agendas that include their names; we read their emails to the community.  And then, when we feel we’re still only getting to know them, off they go into the world.

This year’s graduating class includes some of my favorite ever students.  Every year’s graduating class includes some of my favorite ever students.  Interacting with these wonderful people, and contributing in some very small way to the launch of their new careers, is the most satisfying aspect of my work.  As a result, Commencement is truly a bittersweet event.  It’s best to focus on the sweetness, made easier by the knowledge that the first-year students will now be the second-year students, and new first-years are on their way.

So, to all of this year’s MALD, MIB, MA, LLM, and PhD graduates:  Congratulations!  Thank you for everything you have done for Fletcher, inside or outside of the classroom!  We’ll miss you — please stay in touch!  We want to hear about all you do!

 

One positive by-product of our cool spring (others call it a long winter) is the flowering trees that in other years would have been at their peak in April, but are still in full bloom this week.  The campus is always lovely for Commencement weekend, but it seems particularly beautiful this year.  No matter where graduates and family find themselves, they will be able to enjoy flowering trees, along with Commencement tents.

The lawn beside the President’s House:

President's Lawn

The courtyard in front of Blakeley Hall (the Fletcher dormitory), where graduating students will gather before starting their Commencement procession:

Blakeley tent

And Fletcher Field (behind the tennis courts), where graduates will receive their diplomas, after listening to speeches by Dean Stavridis and two of their peers, Amy Tan and Bob Lynch:

Fletcher field

I took the photos this morning, before the skies had cleared and the sun came out.  Whether nature brings us sun or clouds, we can count on Commencement being a beautiful day.

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With exams in their rear-view mirrors, our student bloggers (even those about to graduate) are finding a little time to write.  Today, Roxanne thinks back two years to the summer before she enrolled at Fletcher.

I am typing this blog post in the midst of celebrations and errands.  In yards and fields around campus, faculty, staff, and classmates alike are celebrating our impending graduation and the memories we have made in our time at Fletcher.  In the meantime, books find their way back to the library, a cap and gown are awaiting my pick-up at the campus bookstore, and stacks of paperwork require review.  As I am almost across the finish line of my time as a Fletcher graduate student, I wanted to look back and share some advice with incoming students.

Rest and reflect: Spend the summer before Fletcher relaxing and asking yourself questions about how you wish to spend your graduate school years.  You do not need to reach precise answers — in fact, these answers will change when you arrive on campus, and multiple times after that, too.  Rather, I encourage asking yourself what you seek to accomplish at Fletcher.  Are you trying to build particular technical skills?  If so, what are these skills and to what end are you hoping to hone them?  Are you hoping to develop a close relationship with particular professors who could be your mentors?  Are you interested in conducting original research?  Do you hope to write publishable work?  Again — you do not need the answers immediately, but asking these questions early (and often) will ensure that you approach your time at Fletcher with a consciousness that helps shape your path here.  And rest.  Rest rest rest rest rest.  You will need it.

Read for pleasure: I have loved most everything I have read at Fletcher, but I have also missed selecting my own leisure reading and having the time to do it.  Make a pleasure reading list for the summer before starting at Fletcher and carve out the time to dive into it.  Keep adding to the list while at Fletcher, as your professors and classmates will have great recommendations.  You will soon graduate and “read for fun” will be at the top of your wish list again!

Browse with an open mind:
I have received a few emails from prospective students asking questions like, “Should I take this class or that in my third semester?”  While planning ahead is always a good idea, it may be more useful to browse without trying to make concrete plans for all four semesters here.  By that, I mean that you should go through the Fletcher website and learn about the different offerings on campus.  What classes are available?  How do students spend their time?  What are the research centers and what do they do?  Which faculty bios resonate most with your interests and why?  What are the various publications?  Knowing about your options will broaden your view of Fletcher, and may be more useful than trying to create a plan before even arriving.  Soliciting second-year students’ advice once you arrive is a great way to vet prospective classes, and everyone is accessible and eager to answer your questions!

Spend time with friends and family:
Fletcher can be all-consuming in the best of ways, particularly in the first few weeks here.  As such, it may be good to use the time before Fletcher to reconnect with your friends and family, discuss your graduate school plans, and also reflect on the experience you are wrapping up.  How do you feel about leaving your current job or endeavor?  What have been the highlights of the past couple of years?  Transitions can be a whirlwind, and making time to process this one, especially with your loved ones, will allow you to invest in your new community with a clearer head and more energy.

Take care of outstanding responsibilities:
Similarly, if at all possible, leave some time between your arrival in the Boston area and the start of Orientation.  This will allow you to settle into your new place, get your bearings in the neighborhood, and develop a bit of a routine.  That is also a good time to buy anything you may need for the semester (check out the Tufts-specific discounts that are part of the summer mailings you will receive), and to take care of errands before the studying kicks in.  Doctors’ appointments, finishing up your previous job, external scholarship applications — all of these are easier to take care of before school begins!

Brush up on skills — but do not stress:
Some of you will need to brush up on quantitative skills or your knowledge of economics or a language.  If you have the energy and interest, it is not a bad idea to do that over the summer, particularly if you wish to sit for one of the qualifying exams in the fall.  Think of which gaps you may wish or need to fill and be creative about how to do so before you arrive.  However, do not let this ruin your summer or be a cause of stress — there are quite a few opportunities to take these tests.  It’s just easiest to take them early — particularly with languages, if you have been keeping up with language practice — which is why Fletcher advises you to take the tests as soon as possible after you arrive.

Cast the “shoulds” aside:
There are infinite ways to prepare for a new experience and lots of lists you could browse that would tell you a myriad of things you should do before graduate school.  Ultimately, though, you know what you need more than anyone — and there are aspects of the Fletcher experience that will catch you by surprise or for which you couldn’t prepare even if you wanted to.  This is part of the learning and the fulfillment here, so spend the summer in all the ways that resonate with you, take the advice that is useful for you, cast aside the rest, and arrive at Fletcher with an open mind for learning and an open heart for the new community of which you will soon be a part!

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I was at a conference last week (in Montgomery, Alabama — adding a new state to the list of those I have visited).  I still hadn’t intended for it to be a such a slow blog week, until Friday slipped away from me.  But I’m back today, with apologies for the blog absence!  At least Mirza was able to help fill the midweek void.

Another area of silence (cue the chirping crickets) is the sudden lack of correspondence between Fletcher and our incoming students.  For most of the people who will join us in September, the work of the Admissions Office is nearly complete (aside from answering questions as they roll in).  After Commencement next Sunday, the Registrar’s Office will be the prime correspondent and source of information, and once they take over, the silence will end.  (International students are already working with a member of the Registrar’s staff on their visas.)

I just interrupted the Commencement preparations of a few members of the Registrar’s staff to ask when they’ll start contacting incoming students, and I learned that the answers to most of your questions will start flowing at the beginning of June.  They’ll share details on getting a Tufts email address and on registration, as well as info about Orientation, advisors, equivalency exams, billing, and health insurance.  Meanwhile, we’re happy to answer your questions, or just advise you to relax for a few weeks.  Once the information starts to flow, you might well wish you could slow it down.

Finally, there’s the silence that comes from an empty Fletcher School.  Most first-year students have left town, either to go directly to the location of their internships or, possibly, stopping off to see friends and family on the way to some remote location.  The students due to graduate on Sunday are enduring a punishing social schedule, ranging from museum visits, to trips to Martha’s Vineyard, to barbeques and parties.  Occasionally, one turns up in the building, though I can’t claim a sighting yet this morning.

Over the weekend, I attended a family event in New York.  I was chatting with a cousin who is just completing an MPA degree in Seattle.  He asked whether Fletcher students bother to go to their graduation.  Oh, yes, they sure do, I told him.  Occasionally, a graduate commits to start a new job before Commencement, but it’s otherwise a rare student who declines to attend the ceremonies.  I expect that this Sunday’s event will look much like last year’s — full of students, families, and joy.  I’m looking forward to it, but first a quiet and busy week of catching up after my week away.

 

We’re down to the last few posts from Roxanne, Mirza, and Scott, our graduating bloggers.  For this post, I asked Mirza to create what I like to call a curriculum résumé (a phrase I made up last year), in which he would describe his path through Fletcher and reflect on how everything weaves together.  Like most Fletcher students, he’s honest about his non-linear path, as we can see by comparing his thoughts just before graduation to those in his first semester or  at the start of his second semester.

Mirza Ramic (MALD, 2014)

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Musician (self-employed)
Business Associate positions at various startups

Fields of Study
International Information and Communication
International Organizations

Capstone Topic
Communications and information policy and regulation, and the question of global governance

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Hoping to help international organizations, non-profits, and private sector firms (or anyone, really) formulate effective and creative digital communications and online branding strategies

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

  • Processes of International Negotiation
  • International Communication
  • Econometrics
  • Internal Conflicts and War

My Fletcher academic path might be a bit more on the “strange” side, but considering the rich diversity of Fletcher student backgrounds and interests, perhaps it’s not so left field.  I came to Fletcher pretty determined to be a “Business MALD,” with business and economics courses lined up in my carefully planned academic spreadsheet.  After a couple of days at Fletcher, I changed my strategy and instead decided to try a little bit of everything: conflict resolution, security studies, statistics/economics, and communications.  I also wanted to get some of the breadth requirements out of the way early, and two courses (Negotiation and Econometrics) did precisely that.  I placed out of the economics exam offered at the beginning of the semester, so I was able to take Econometrics and skip the introductory-level economics course.

Semester Two

  • Analytic Frameworks for International Public Policy Decisions
  • Entrepreneurial Marketing: Building a Winning Business Plan
  • Political Economy After the Crisis (Harvard Law School)
  • Values, Interests, and the Crafting of U.S. Foreign Policy (Harvard Kennedy School)

At the start of the spring semester, I was confused.  I had no idea which direction I wanted to go in, and was considering returning to my original plan of a business-oriented MALD degree.  I knew I definitely wanted to venture outside of Fletcher, so I took two courses at Harvard.  One was excellent, another not so excellent, but both were valuable in different regards.  I also took a business course at Fletcher, and enrolled in Analytic Frameworks since my thesis advisor, Professor Carolyn Gideon, taught it and her International Communication class in the fall semester was by far my favorite course thus far.  Looking back, I should have fulfilled some more requirements during this semester, as I finished my first year without having completed a single Field of Study and without having met all my breadth requirements.  Still, I don’t think this is unusual for Fletcher students as some of us tend to be all over the place.  So if you’re in a similar situation, no need for panic whatsoever. 

Summer Internship
Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Boston, MA
The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston Public Policy Summer Fellow

Toward the end of my first semester, I began developing an interest in education, learning, and in particular, higher education reform.  This seemed to be a natural extension of my interest in communication technologies and technological innovation, and especially after observing how learning could be enhanced in university classrooms, I became quite passionate about the ways in which technology could transform education.  As a result, I applied for the Rappaport Fellowship for Public Policy offered through the Harvard Kennedy School, and was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 14 Rappaport fellows.  This allowed me to pick the state agency I would want to be involved with, and the Department of Higher Education was an obvious choice.  There, I spent 10 weeks working with public institutions on various forward-looking initiatives advancing public higher education in Massachusetts, focusing on technology-based projects in particular.  It was a great experience for many reasons, and helped me tailor my professional interests and academic direction.

Semester Three

  • Starting New Ventures
  • International Organizations
  • Social Networks in Organizations (1/2 credit)
  • Independent Study – Thesis (1/2 credit)
  • Transforming Education through Emerging Technologies (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

I came into this semester quite focused.  I took a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to advance my knowledge of the educational technology field, after spending an entire summer learning as much about the topic as I possibly could.  This was a great decision.  I met some great people, forged new relationships, and significantly extended my network.  Moreover, my class project would turn into paid work the following semester, and may extend beyond this semester.  I enrolled in International Organizations because I had to fulfill my last breadth requirement.  I was not too happy about this, as I had been avoiding ILO (International Legal Order) courses since the beginning of my Fletcher career.  I was a bit of a curmudgeon in the first week of class, and did not know what to expect from a visiting professor.  Well, I would discover that I was 100% wrong on all accounts, as this turned out to be a highly intellectually stimulating class with a top-notch professor who I just absolutely loved.  In fact, after swearing to avoid ILO, I decided to enroll in International Criminal Justice in my final semester with the same professor, John Cerone, and even decided to make International Organizations one of my Fields of Study.  I think most Fletcher students would agree that a great professor can make all the difference in the world.  For me, it made me appreciate and pursue a field I previously felt no interest in.  Yes, this can happen in your second year, and it is absolutely thrilling.  At the same time, I continued taking business courses, now focusing more specifically on entrepreneurship, new ventures, and innovation, with the idea that I might eventually go into the world of educational technology startups.

Semester Four

  • Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
  • International Criminal Justice
  • U.S. Public Diplomacy
  • The Shapes of Utopia (Harvard Graduate School of Design)

My last semester has featured a combination of requirements and electives.  Another business course to solidify my understanding of innovation and new ventures; a course on U.S. public diplomacy to expand my familiarity with communication in the public sector; the aforementioned International Criminal Justice course to pursue my newly discovered interest in international law; and, well, yes, a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  This class was recommended to me by a classmate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I decided to give it a shot.  It’s been an amazing course — highly theoretical and philosophical — and precisely what I wanted from my last semester of graduate school.  This really affirms my belief that almost every field has some relevance to international relations: the Shapes of Utopia course has been as much about economics, politics, and sociology as it has been about architecture.  I would indeed recommend venturing out and taking advantage of all the academic and learning resources and opportunities that Boston has to offer – even if it seems like you’re not exactly following your chosen academic trajectory.

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We’ve put some Information Sessions on the calendar for the summer months.  Though we welcome visitors at any time, we know that it can be most efficient to plan a visit around an Information Session.  The dates and times are:

Monday, May 5 at 12:30 p.m.

Monday, May 19 at 12:30 p.m.

Monday, June 2 at 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 19 at 4:00 p.m.

Monday, July 7 at 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 24 at 4:00 p.m.

Monday, August 4 at 12:30 p.m.

Monday, August 18 at 12:30 p.m.

Sign up here for the date of your choice.

 

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