Currently viewing the category: "Our Alumni"

PicnicI received a lovely note the other day from Clare, a newly graduated MALD, telling me about the “Left Behind Group,” which she described as “a mix of the graduating class, rising second years, PhD students, and other Fletcher affiliated folk in the area over the summer.”

The Left Behind Group has been gathering weekly for the “Fletcher Picnic Series” organized by Molly, another new alum.  They’ve picnicked in a variety of local spots, both on campus — the roof of Tisch Library — and off — Nathan Tufts Park at nearby Powderhouse Circle, and wanted to spread the word to incoming students.  I was happy to share the details with folks I know are in the area, and I’m equally happy for blog readers to know that the Fletcher community adapts to new circumstances and locations, and always finds a way to come together.

 

I’ve decided to focus much more of my energy on finding Fletcher couples.  My long-term goal will be to have a lovely collection to share on Valentine’s Day.  Shorter term, I’m just delighted to hear from folks whose relationships formed on campus.

Hanneke + AndrewWe first read about Hanneke when she told us how she heard about her admission to Fletcher.  More recently, she reported on her first year post-Fletcher.  And today, I’m so happy to tell you about her wedding last spring to Andrew, a fellow MALD student.  Although Andrew started his Fletcher studies one year after Hanneke, they both graduated in 2014 because she took an extra year to complete a dual degree with The Friedman School.  Hanneke was a multi-year friend of Admissions — volunteer interviewer, member of the Admissions Committee — and one of these students we are sorry to say goodbye to.  But we’ve kept in touch and I couldn’t be happier that she and Andrew (whom I regret I didn’t get to know) met here!

Some details from their story that Hanneke provided:

  • At the April 2012 Admitted Students Open House, Andrew sat in on a student panel.  Hanneke was one of the presenting students.  He mentioned this to her when they re-met in fall 2012.
  • They started dating in fall 2013, during her third year and his second year, largely helped along by time spent together with Fletcher Runners.
  • They got engaged in Johannesburg in 2015 while she was living in Malawi.
  • Their wedding was in Austin, Texas, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  (Note the beautiful wildflowers in their photo.)
  • Fletcher was very well represented at the wedding and on the dance floor.
  • The tie that Andrew and his groomsmen wore is from their classmate Dan’s Corridor NYC clothing line.

Hanneke is currently working with the World Food Programme in their Siem Reap, Cambodia office, as part of the Leland International Hunger Fellows program.  Andrew has been conducting research remotely for a U.S. based organization.  Soon, they will be moving to Phnom Penh, where they will stay for another year.

And here’s the Fletcher contingent.  So many familiar faces — I love Fletcher weddings!

Hanneke + Andrew, Fletcher guests

 

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Fletcher couples are just the best.  I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings.  Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple.  Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program.  Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned.  After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.  Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.

Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story.  The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!

Fumi and Ryota

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Unless an additional report surprises me by popping into my inbox, today we’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2015.  The final word comes from Dallin Van Leuven, whose post-Fletcher job didn’t appear immediately after graduation, but was the right opportunity when it did arrive.

Greetings from Beirut!

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Dallin (far left) with fellow Fletcher students/alumni and other friends while in Washington, DC for an interview. (He reports, “I didn’t get the job.”)

The year following my graduation may have taken me halfway across the world, but it has carried my career a lot further.  Granted, the job search was longer and more difficult than I anticipated, but Fletcher was a big help throughout: from helping me leverage the networking I had done while in Boston to find open positions and get interviews; to receiving (at times last-minute) support from the Office of Career Services on my CV, cover letters, interviews, and salary negotiations; to giving me consultancy opportunities while I looked for the right job (or any relevant position, for that matter).

One perfect example of this support would be the continued mentorship of Professor Dyan Mazurana.  We, along with fellow Fletcher alumna Rachel Gordon, finalized our collaboration on a book chapter, “Analysing the Recruitment and Use of Foreign Men and Women in ISIL through a Gender Perspective,” which was published in February in the book Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond.  Moreover, Professor Mazurana nominated me for a Visiting Fellowship with the Feinstein International Center.  There, we were able to continue working together on an important issue: conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence in African conflicts.  I will forever be grateful for the support Fletcher’s staff and faculty have given me both during and after my time there.

Most of my last year was spent in my home state of Idaho.  It was a great opportunity to be with family and old friends in a beautiful place while I searched for that elusive first post-Fletcher job.  Before starting my MALD, I worked in education in Egypt.  Not long after I arrived, the Arab Spring came to Egypt, and it cemented in me a desire to work in countries experiencing conflict and transition, focused on alleviating the negative effects of conflict.  Fletcher, for me, was the perfect place to make that adjustment in my career’s trajectory.

With luck and perseverance, I finally found it.  After New Year’s, I moved to Lebanon to begin work with Search for Common Ground, the world’s oldest and largest peacebuilding organization.  Here, I work on projects designed to build a stronger civil society and better social relations across dividing lines.  I research conflict drivers and lessons learned from similar projects, sometimes advising on programs in other countries or on the design of future initiatives.  I love it!

As a testament to the reach of Fletcher’s network, I was able to talk with a Fletcher colleague who interned here last summer to figure out if the office really was a place I would want to work.  I’ve been able to “pay it forward” by helping facilitate a new Fletcher student’s interview; she started her internship here last month.  I run into Fletcher alumni all of the time — through work, at social gatherings, and as they pass through Beirut.  In fact, while standing in the visa line during my first arrival to the city, I ran into someone I graduated with who is also living and working here.  The most remarkable of these meetings was definitely with a very successful alumna who is working for peace here in the region.  She beamed at hearing I was a fellow graduate and happily exclaimed, “Fletcher ruined my life!”  Thanks to her experience as a student, she left a successful career in the private sphere to pursue a successful, but more challenging, career in peacebuilding.

While “ruined” probably isn’t the term I would normally use, I can certainly agree with the sentiment.  Thank you, Fletcher, for “ruining” my life and putting me on the path I am on now!

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One of the opportunities I most value about my job is following students from their application phase, through their time at Fletcher, and then on to their post-Fletcher life.  A good example would be my connection with Diane Broinshtein, whom I first met when I was her application interviewer back in August 2012.  Then, after she had started her Fletcher classes, I reached out to her to write for the blog, and she was a trusty friend of Admissions throughout her two years in the MALD program.  Naturally, I’ve asked her to write an update on her first year post-Fletcher.  Those wondering what classes prepared Diane for her current work might want to read her Annotated Curriculum.

It’s hard to believe that a year has just passed since I finished at Fletcher.  In many ways I feel like I never left, and in other other ways Fletcher feels like a lifetime ago.

Diane in TurkeyIn my last post, shortly after I graduated in 2015, I explained that I was joining GRM International as part of their Young Professionals Program.  I moved from Boston to Brisbane, Australia and began my operations rotation.  On my second day of work, the company rebranded itself as Palladium, in order to unite a number of different brands under a new umbrella.  Because the company now included business areas other than those it did when I was first hired, the reorganization provided with me with some new and interesting opportunities.

In January, I moved to our London office to start a rotation with our Strategy Execution Consulting group. While it is not an area I considered working in prior to Fletcher, I felt the diversity of my Fletcher education prepared me perfectly to jump into the team.  In this role I helped bridge the divide between the international development side of the business and the strategy consulting side.  I found myself constantly going back to skills, knowledge, and coursework I learned at Fletcher to assist me whenever I was confronted with a new and challenging task.

My new rotation has taken me to Bristol, UK to join our Environment and Natural Resources team, working specifically on humanitarian projects.  It’s nice to be working again in a sector I know well and that I concentrated on in my studies.  A year out of Fletcher, three cities and three roles later, I have just begun to test the limits of what Fletcher taught me — I find myself using Fletcher in some way each day.

After Bristol, I am not sure where I will end up, but I know for certain that wherever it is, there will be a Fletcher network to support me.  Being part of the alumni community has been a wonderful experience.  In Brisbane I managed to squeeze in two visits from Fletcher friends, one who was working in Canberra and another working in Papua New Guinea.  But when I moved to London, I was even more connected.  London is a place where people are always passing through, so there were many Fletcher catch-ups over dinner.  I’m already trying to encourage fellow Fletcher grads to visit me in Bristol, but if they don’t come to me, I’ll see them when I travel in Europe.

Diane London

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Fletcher’s summer quiet continues, and there’s little of note happening in the Admissions Office, which makes me especially happy that I can still share updates from the Class of 2015.  Today we’ll  hear from Nathaniel Broekman who, like so many of our students, took an unusual path to, through, and beyond Fletcher.

It’s been an odd journey to arrive where I am today.  Seven years ago this month I departed New York City, where I had worked for three years as a musician and audio engineer, to spend the next three years with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria.  I left the music industry to begin a career in international relations, with the hope of finding my way into the field of migration or international development.

Turkish Breakfast

“Eating Turkish breakfast (arguably the world’s best breakfast) on the Asian side of Istanbul in the last days of my Boren Fellowship.”

Contrary to the adage, sometimes the best-laid plans do not go awry.  Which always surprises me.  Just over one year ago, I simultaneously completed a Boren Fellowship in Istanbul and my Fletcher degree.  I then landed in Washington DC, from where I write you today.  One month ago, I was on a detail to the border of Texas and Mexico, interviewing mothers and children who had just completed the harrowing journey from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to request asylum.

I work as an Asylum Officer with the Department of Homeland Security, adjudicating the claims of asylum-seekers who have arrived in the United States.  In doing so, my colleagues and I make the preliminary determination if an applicant is eligible for asylum under U.S. law, if he/she can be found credible, and whether this individual represents a risk to the security of our country and our community.  Although the majority of my interviews are with applicants living in the mid-Atlantic states, the job has to date taken me as far as Atlanta and Texas.  I am now preparing for an international detail to take part in our refugee resettlement efforts overseas, be it in El Salvador, Turkey, Nepal or one of a number of countries where refugees are unable to find a durable solution and hope to be resettled in the United States.

When I began this position, the word “refugee” was not yet gracing the front page of nearly every western newspaper, nearly every day.  I soon found myself in the center of one of the most important challenges of our generation.  There are more displaced persons on the planet today than at any other time since World War II.  Many of them are looking to us for help.

Mine is not an easy job, for almost all the reasons you might imagine.  But putting aside the emotional roller-coaster and the daily frustrations, I feel fortunate to take part in a program that grants the protection of the United States to those who have lost the protection of their own country.  It is an honor to bring these individuals into our community and grant them the refuge they truly need and truly deserve.

The Fletcher School was an integral part of this journey.  Most pointedly, my classwork in conflict resolution with Professors Babbitt, Chigas, and Wilkinson, and forced migration with Professor Jacobsen gave me a firm understanding of the global dynamics that brought us to this point, whereas classwork in various areas of international law with Professor Hannum immersed me in the system that gave us the internationally accepted definition of a refugee — a single paragraph from 1951, which guides our daily practice and determines, in part, the fate of millions of human beings.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to cross-register at the Harvard Law School, to take a course on migration law with Professor Anker, which has had far more impact on my career today than I had imagined it would at the time.  The education I received at Fletcher from these and other courses gave me not only the necessary legal analysis skills to make a proper determination on the merits of a case, but also the political and conflict analysis skills necessary to fully research and understand the dynamics in our applicants’ countries of origin.  Furthermore, a summer internship with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a seven-month Boren Fellowship in Istanbul, crafting my thesis on Turkish development and humanitarian aid, did not hurt one bit.

Beyond my coursework, Fletcher has brought me into a community that continues to amaze.  I was taken aback at the enthusiasm that alumni have for helping their fellow graduates to develop a career.  This is especially true here in DC, but was just as true while I was searching for work in Istanbul.  Most importantly, many of my closest friends here and across the globe are either fellow classmates from my time in Medford, or alumni from previous years.  We have even created a DC alumni branch of the Fletcher band “Los Fletcheros,” known locally as “Los Fletcheros Federales.”  The only major difficulty has been scheduling rehearsals, considering the travel schedules of seven band members who work in international relations.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m also to blame, but the World Bank keeps sending our guitarist to West Africa at the most inopportune times.

It’s been an odd journey to arrive where I am today.  I am not sure what I was looking for seven years ago when I left New York City, but I seem to have found it.  And for that, I owe The Fletcher School and the Fletcher community a great deal of gratitude.

Mexico City Foreign Ministry

Fletcher students on vacation in Mexico, in front of the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

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Just as, two weeks ago, I wrapped up the updates from the Class of 2010 with posts from Luis and Hana, this week I would like to return to the Class of 2015.  Today, we’ll learn what Peter Varnum, a good friend of the Admissions Office, has been doing since he graduated.

Time at Fletcher flies.  The pace of life is often so stressful that it is easy to lose sight of the return you’re actually earning.  Obviously this comes in the form of your lifelong friendships and network; it’s a main reason we all chose this place to continue our education.  But, amidst readings and papers and presentations — and world-renowned guest speakers, lectures from the Dean, and student-organized conferences — we often forget the other reason we chose Fletcher: it’s among the top international relations schools in the world.

Never has the stellar education been more evident to me than in my first year post-graduation.  I moved to Geneva, worked briefly for the World Health Organization in its mental health policy unit, and am now consulting with a small, international B-corporation called Vera Solutions, which works at the intersection of data and development.  (Side note: Fletcher allows you to work at the “intersection” of basically anything and anything.  We build bridges.)  Often dubbed the “DC of Europe,” Geneva is rife with IR- and development-types who love to throw around jargon and number of countries visited slash worked in like they’re all badges of honor, trophies of who knows the most, who’s done the most.  But I appreciate my Fletcher brethren here, and there are a number of them: those who can hang in those conversations, but don’t feel the need to tout their accolades.  Those who hold a room when they speak.  Those with whom you can have a drink and laugh at yourselves.

When you’ve turned in your thesis, and walked across the stage, and at some point found the nerve to click on one of those emails giving you an update of how much interest your student loan has accrued, you have time to breathe a little.  And that’s when you look back and realize just how much you’ve learned at Fletcher.  You learn from the courses you take, sure — but I would argue you learn more from your immersion in a space that brings together such interesting, diverse people.  I often chat with my own classmates, as well as prospective students, about what I call “Imposter Syndrome,” which I felt quite frequently at Fletcher.  You’re in class (and at house parties) with future diplomats, foreign service officers, magnates of international business, and leading academics.  Not to mention polyglots who may as well have designed Rosetta Stone.  I often used to ask myself how I wound up there.

But if Geneva has taught me anything, it’s that, despite my hideously accented Spanish (and just plain hideous French), those experiences have made me fluent in the language of international relations.  And not just in a professional setting; I now read the news with a more nuanced understanding to go with a critical eye that I like to think we all have entering Fletcher.  I feel comfortable voicing my opinions, and confident that they are informed.  I feel more like — and excuse the cliché — a productive citizen of the world.

Navigating ambiguity is at the heart of international work — at the heart of life, really.  I believe my Fletcher education has made me nimbler.  I do not hesitate among the flutter of languages in the UNICEF cafeteria, nor while chatting with the Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, nor while having that drink with my fellow Fletcher graduates.  A year or so ago, when I was hunkered down in Ginn Library, procrastinating by dreaming up ideas for a creative Fletcher Follies video, I often wondered whether it was worth it.  These days, that uncertainty never crosses my mind.

Varnum, Peter

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The second post for this week, and the last for the Class of 2010, comes from Hana Cervenka who, like Luis Marquez (writer of yesterday’s post) has a focus on monitoring and evaluation.

Hana (2)As I am writing this, I am just back from facilitating the traditional potato run for kids during the celebration of Norway’s national day in Jakarta, Indonesia.  In the next few days I’ll be drafting background documents and talking points in preparation for the bilateral human rights dialogue between Norway and Indonesia, planning a joint Nordic midsummer party, preparing for an upcoming ministerial visit, following up on grants to partners working on good governance, and quite possibly hopping into a few unexpected meetings as well.  This is all part of my job as a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, where I have served since 2013.  I can’t imagine that any school could have prepared me better for this career than The Fletcher School, where writing academic papers, carrying out an evaluation for a real-life organization, discussing the theory and practice of law, economics, and politics, and learning bhangra for one of the Cultural Nights are all equally natural parts of everyday life.  (To be fair, I did not learn bhangra, but many of my friends did!)

It has been a whirlwind five-plus years since I left Fletcher.  First, let me backtrack a bit.  I still remember the feeling I had when studying for my undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Oslo.  It was part delight and euphoria that the subjects that interested me most — international affairs, conflict, peace, development — were now what I spent all day studying.  At the same time, a part of me was frustrated, questioning whether all these theoretical studies were actually going to be helpful out there in the real world.  That frustration is part of what led me to Fletcher: I was sold the moment I discovered that The Fletcher School was not only top-notch academically, but that it also placed great value on combining theory and practice, and that true interdisciplinary, problem-solving cooperation between scholars and practitioners was part of the School’s DNA.

Fletcher really delivered on all its promises.  My time at Fletcher was a lot about good governance and monitoring and evaluation, with a bunch of gender thrown in.  There were also a few classes which may not have “fit in” with my grand career plan at the time of becoming a development/human rights/governance practitioner, but which I value today because they helped my versatility and understanding of other related issues.

Hana, Presidential Palace (2)The monitoring and evaluation classes I took at Fletcher were particularly important in helping me start my post-Fletcher career.  My summer internship was an M&E internship in Malawi (with an NGO started by a Fletcher alumna!) and right as I graduated, I got a fellowship with DPK Consulting to help develop the monitoring framework for a USAID funded rule of law project in Jordan.  From there, I moved to Khartoum in Sudan (then still one country).  I spent six months as a trainee at the Norwegian Embassy there and loved it so much I pretty much refused to leave.  It was such an interesting time in the country’s history: the south Sudanese people decided in a referendum that South Sudan would become an independent country six months later.  There was no way I could leave.  I was hired by the organization set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to work on the negotiations that were ongoing on the terms and practicalities of the secession.  I managed a grant in support of the negotiations, trying to have civil society voices heard and supported in the negotiations (led by the African Union) in any way needed.  Book tickets, charter flights, fix hotels?  Check.  Type up negotiating positions that were hand written?  You got it.  Take minutes from the negotiation meetings?  Sure.

Right around the time South Sudan gained its independence, I was accepted to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic training program.  I continued working on Sudan/South Sudan in my first year at the Ministry as part of my on-the-job training.  I then had a six-month full-time training in all things relating to Norwegian foreign affairs followed by another on-the-job training, this time on the Asia desk in preparation for my first posting in Jakarta.  Fletcher has been helpful every step of the way, academically of course, but in many more ways too.  The Fletcher alumni community is always there, ready for equal parts serious and fun adventures.  We even have a small (and completely unofficial!) Norwegian MFA Fletcher club including (in addition to me), my 2010 classmate Hilde, along with Jonas, F11, Torbjørn, F12, and Ina, F13.  I don’t know where I’ll go for my next posting, but I do know the Fletcher network will surely be there, wherever I may be!

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One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion.  Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years.  Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by.  So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation.  The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”

Luis Marquez PictureSix years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division.  While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher.  At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics.  Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.

The path to Fletcher

Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend.  It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here).  This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate.  Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”

Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.

I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group.  The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors.  This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).  Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps.  Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.

As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades.  However, a lot of work remains.  I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space.  While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex.  Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles.  We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International,  and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.

Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.

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With the Class of 2016 about to graduate in only about a week, it’s getting to be time for me to wrap-up the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010.  Today we’ll hear from Claudia Ortiz, who provided me with this short bio, in addition to her post:

Claudia Ortiz (Mexico) has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2013, when she joined as Regional Technical Specialist on Climate Change Adaptation in the regional hub for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is now based in UNDP headquarters in New York, acting as climate finance policy advisor and project manager of the Global Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme.  Before UNDP, Claudia worked with the Climate Change Team at the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, in Washington, DC.

Earlier in her career, she supported the development of Mexico’s first Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for the cement and iron and steel sectors at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC and worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Sub-regional Office in Ankara, Turkey, where she undertook research on energy policy and environmental issues in Central Asia.

Claudia OrtizIt has been almost six years since I graduated from Fletcher.  I still regard the opportunity to study there as one of the best in my life: it changed the way I see the world, transformed my career, and allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people, with very diverse backgrounds.  From the very first day of Orientation, students are constantly reminded that our most important allies are in the student and alumni community itself.  Besides this backbone virtue of the School, students are also reminded (as in the Mission and Impact statement) that as international affairs professionals, we ought to be “committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of a complex, challenging and increasingly global society,” — in other words (or, as I interpret it), we are meant to be “global citizens.”

As global citizens, we let go of nationalistic or self-interests.  Rather we exercise collaboration and compassion, as we seek to become agents of improvement for the global society, including the most vulnerable populations in it.  And, as global citizens, we are led by our never-ending hunger to explore, travel, and experience different cultures.

This concept resonates well for me with the cause to which I have dedicated my career since Fletcher graduation: to support developing countries’ access to international climate finance for initiatives, projects and programs that address climate risks.  Climate change must not be regarded an “environmental” problem.  To label it that way would be misleading, as it places emphasis on the risk being posed to ecosystems or natural habitats.  In reality, it is the human species and human development gains that are most at risk and are being severely impacted by climate change in the form of food insecurity, forced migration, destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihoods, etc.  Climate change is therefore a global development problem which does not recognize political boundaries and one which cannot be solved by acting in isolation; international diplomacy has a significant role to play.

Today, it is evident that diplomacy driven by recognition of the universal threat of climate change, but also by emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations on Earth, has succeeded in shifting the climate change paradigm.  In December 2015, the diplomatic efforts of over 150 heads of state and their delegations resulted in an unprecedented Climate Agreement, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  For the first time in history, there is global recognition that climate change is a common concern of humankind, whereby all the world’s economies need to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  Decades have been spent in breaching the gap between achieving economic growth through the use of cheaper fossil fuels and the urgent need to enhance resilience to climate change, especially in the poorest countries.  We are a privileged generation to witness a huge step in this direction.

As an officer of the United Nations, I function as an “international civil servant.”  I am not to respond to any government’s instructions (or those of any other source that is not the UN) as I carry out my duties; rather, I am supposed to bring forward only the interests of the UN.  Applying this principle has proven to be crucial for my work given that, for the past three years, I have served the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Benin, Colombia, Nepal, Fiji, and others, but not yet my native Mexico.  I have realized that the only way to thrive in different cultures or contexts while achieving common social, environmental or development objectives is by maintaining impartiality and independence.  This is, of course, challenging, as we are all calibrated to operate based on our own cultural norms, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas.  I admit that only by living the experience itself have I been able to “adapt” quickly to unknown contexts, while still managing to get the work done.

Evidently, Fletcher was the perfect launching platform for my current job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and my former position in the World Bank, another institution where staff uphold the same principles of impartiality and of a global mindset.  Fletcher is a microcosm where the exact same principles are enforced, not only to excel in the very demanding, inter-disciplinary curriculum but also to succeed as a member of the ever-present Fletcher community.  As students, we would consciously work, discuss, and even debate respectfully, without prejudice.  We established long-lasting friendships with people we never imagined we would.  I proudly say that Fletcher prepared us to confront the most compelling global challenges by making us realize that solutions can only be reached through diplomacy and collaborative action, because as citizens of ONE planet we cannot regard challenges to be the problem of “the other,” but rather, these problems and their solutions must be assumed as “our own.”

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