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Chatted about behind the scenes — but unofficial until just recently — is the news that Fletcher professor Miguel E. Basáñez is Mexico’s new ambassador to the U.S. Professor Basáñez wrote to the community last night to bid us a temporary farewell. I asked his permission to share his message via the blog, which previously featured him in the Faculty Spotlight series, and he graciously agreed. He wrote:
It is both with joy and sadness that I write to let you know that I have been officially approved as the next Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., which forces me to bring to an end a golden page in my life — seven wonderful years at Fletcher.
It will be a joy, an honor, and a privilege for me to serve my country as its Ambassador. As you may know, Mexico is the country where the largest community of expatriate Americans live — over 1 million strong — for good reason. Mexico remains a very safe country for foreign visitors. Not to mention, we boast beautiful beaches (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun), world-famous archaeological sites (Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacán, Palenque), and a wealth of charming colonial towns (Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro). I hope that you will consider friendly and beautiful Mexico in your future travels.
As Ambassador, I will also be working to represent the large and diverse community of Mexicans who live in the United States. Historically, economic conditions in Mexico have made it difficult for our country to retain its raw, uneducated — yet extremely talented — youth, who have worked hard and succeeded in the U.S., adding greatly to the economy. These immigrants (who now number 35 million people) now produce economic output of $1.5 trillion, a number which if added to Mexico’s GDP, would raise Mexico from 14th to 7th in world GDP. I look forward to working on their behalf to the best of my abilities.
Yet it is with sadness that I say goodbye to Fletcher, where I have deeply enjoyed my interactions with the faculty and staff, learning about their academic endeavors and life experiences. Most of all, I have enjoyed teaching here at Fletcher, where I have found the brightest and most intellectually engaging students any professor could wish for.
At Fletcher, I was able to realize my life’s work as a mathematician of culture, based on public opinion polls from around 100 countries every five years since 1980. My years of study and research on culture culminates in my book, A World of Three Cultures, which will be published in the late fall of this year by Oxford University Press. I hope you will agree to allow me to host a book launch event at Fletcher at the end of the fall semester. It would seem only appropriate to hold the event at the place that has been my academic home for the past seven years.
I would very much like to return to Fletcher when I end my service as Ambassador, so that I can share with students both my academic work on culture and my experiences as Ambassador.
I wish you all the best, and I hope to see you in Washington, DC.
Coincidentally, the nominee for the position of Ambassador to Mexico from the U.S. is a Fletcher graduate, Roberta Jacobson, F86. Assuming she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, what a nice coincidence to have a swap of members of the Fletcher community for these two very important positions!
Tufts Now ran a nice profile recently of Joyce Aluoch, F08, a graduate of the Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP). Read about her path, starting from when her father chose her career for her, to the seat on the ICC. Her enrollment in the GMAP program turned out to be perfectly timed to her career advancement.
Now and then, I hear about a Fletcher graduate’s current work, whether or not I knew the alum well as a student. While I was thinking about what to write today, I remembered hearing about Envoys, the venture launched by Seth Leighton, F12, and two classmates from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where he pursued a degree before Fletcher. Seth serves as Executive Director of Envoys, which works with schools to offer trips and global education programming. (One of the trips is to Sri Lanka, where the students observe the work of Educate Lanka, the NGO started by Manjula Dissanayake, F12, Seth’s Fletcher classmate.)
The way Seth has woven the Fletcher and HGSE aspects of his education together to create his new career strikes me as an especially good example of where a dual degree can be valuable. His TEDx talk provides further insight into his perspective on global education.
One of the most loyal friends the Admissions Office could hope for is about to embark on a new adventure. Han Kim, F10, has had a varied pre- and post-Fletcher career in Korea. This past year, in addition to working for a start-up company, he has dedicated himself to training for an around-the-world yachting event, the Clipper Round the World Race. His path was recently featured in an article in the English language Korea Herald and on its website.
Han was a student member of the Admissions Committee, and he has been a great friend as an alumnus, helping to welcome several years’ worth of newly admitted students to the Fletcher family with receptions in Seoul. He was an active participant in the community during his student days, too, and was featured in the Admissions Blog a couple of times, most notably when he participated in the Boston Marathon.(
The Clipper Round the World Race starts on August 30. Han is a member of the Clipper Telemed+ crew, for those who want to follow the results over the 335 days he anticipates being at sea.(Photo from the Clipper Round the World Race website.)
Today I’m going to share the writing of others. Tufts has several publications — online and traditional — and two recent stories about Fletcher caught my eye.
The first (which I saw on the online TuftsNow site) was written by Elliot Ackerman, F03, who shares his belief that universities should recruit more veterans. Elliot was a writer-in-residence (our first!) at Fletcher this past spring, coinciding with the publication of his novel, Green on Blue. He is also a decorated veteran, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after completing the dual BA/MALD degree.
The second story appeared in “Blueprint,” the publication of the University’s development office. It describes the origin of the new Topol Fellowship and the additional funds that Sid Topol donated to expand Fletcher’s “long-standing commitment to the study of nonviolent resistance.” You can also see the article on page 6 of the Blueprint down below.
Finally, not from a Tufts publication, but related to the story on the Topol Fellowship, comes this blog post from Benjamin Naimark-Rowse, a PhD candidate and the first recipient of the Topol Fellowship. He notes that his piece, “The Founding Myth of the United States of America,” is “about how nonviolent resistance is at the heart of the story of our independence struggle, or at least it should be.”
Returning once more, probably for the last time in the First-Year Alumni feature, to the Class of 2014, we meet Christina Brown, for whom study at Fletcher was one step in a multi-step career transition.
Three years ago, I was packing up my classroom after finishing another year of teaching physics, and now I am a few weeks away from beginning a PhD program in economics. The last three years have been a wonderful period of change and self-discovery, and at Fletcher cases like mine are not unique. I am one of many classmates who used Fletcher for a career transition — a place to both discover what it is you want to do and then gain the skills to make that career path possible.
Prior to Fletcher, I taught high school in a low-income community outside Boston through Teach for America and in a rural village in Tanzania through One Heart Source, a health and education NGO. While I loved teaching, my enjoyment was tempered with frustration over the tremendous systemic problems constraining the education market, especially in developing countries.
I wanted to work in the development sector, but I did not know how to break into the field, or for that matter, where. Did I want to be a program manager? Evaluator? Sectoral specialist? I wasn’t sure where my skills and interests would be a good match. I chose to attend Fletcher because I wanted the flexibility to explore development from different perspectives, to see where I would fit best.
Coursework in my first year in program evaluation and in development economics helped to solidify my interests, allowing me to gain useful skills for the development sector. Prof. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church’s series of monitoring and evaluation courses were particularly useful. Her approach to evaluation is exceptionally rigorous, and with many of the alumni of her courses now in leadership positions within evaluation departments, her high aspiration for the evaluation field is seeping into many organizations. This group of former students stays in contact, growing year by year, through an email listserve and yearly gatherings at the American Evaluation Association Conference.
However, it was Prof. Jenny Aker’s coursework that ultimately led me to the path I am currently on. Like many members of the Fletcher faculty, Prof. Aker has many years of experience as a practitioner, working in West Africa, before returning to academia. And it showed in every lecture she taught. Her research was fascinating and thoroughly informed by her work in the field. There are many opportunities to work closely with professors whose work you are interested in, and I was lucky to serve as both a teaching assistant and research assistant for Prof. Aker.
At heart I am a math nerd, looking for an analytic approach to solve problems. Fletcher showed me that I could still care about the issues I was interested in — poverty, education, inequality — while approaching them from a quantitative angle. Seeing academics like Prof. Aker and others who were doing policy-relevant research and were at the forefront of the issues in their field, showed me an academic career need not be divorced from the issues on the ground. Towards the end of my first year I decided I wanted to do a PhD in economics and become a researcher. Rather than a light bulb going off, it was a slow, profound realization that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Luckily, due to Fletcher’s flexibility in coursework and ties to Boston-area schools, I was able to pivot in my second year and take two PhD-level courses at the Harvard School of Public Health and one at the Harvard Kennedy School.
At Fletcher, students are required to do a capstone project, which can take the form of the deliverable that is most useful for the student’s professional development. I choose to write a paper similar to an economics journal article, as it allowed me to see the research process from start to finish. I used an econometric strategy I learned during my first year to investigate the impact of an early grade literacy program in Indonesia. I found the program only had an effect for higher performing students and that this heterogeneity stemmed from differences in the time cost of participation in the program. These findings were used to inform the program scale-up. This experience deepened my love of the research process, and the tangible outcomes it produced.
A week after graduation, I began as a Research Fellow at Evidence for Policy Design, the microeconomic division of Harvard’s Center for International Development. I oversee the implementation, data collection, and analysis for two randomized controlled trials in Pakistan, working closely with our field team and six principal investigators across several universities. The job was a perfect fit, building off the RA skills I had gained working with Prof. Aker, and, of course, I heard about the job through a fellow Fletcher student.
Throughout the fall I applied to economics PhD programs and, again, Fletcher professors came through to offer advice and support. I am thrilled to be attending UC Berkeley, which has one of the best programs in the world for development economics, this fall. I truly would not be here if not for the mentorship I received from Fletcher faculty, opportunities I heard about through Fletcher alumni, and friendship of fellow Fletcher students.
It was the journalist Edward R. Murrow who observed that in promoting international understandings, what matters most is “the last three feet.” Incomplete perceptions and attitudes about foreign people are best dispelled by actual personal contact, with individuals engaged in conversation with one another. And so it was with my Fulbright experience.
I arrived in Medford, Massachusetts in the fall of 2012, to pursue a master’s degree in international relations. My place of study was the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, which is situated 15 minutes from Boston proper. I was very excited about this unique opportunity to specialize in the fields of study that interest me the most, namely U.S. foreign policy, security studies, and the Asia-Pacific region.
Fletcher offered an incredible range, depth, and freedom of study that I tried to take advantage of to the fullest. This involved, for example, a highly meticulous process of deciding which courses to take in a given semester. The task was not made easier by the fact that Fletcher students can cross-register for graduate courses at Harvard University, which significantly widened the list of available courses. I was not complaining about the degree of choice, however. For someone hungry to further his studies it was pure bliss.
For my comprehension of world issues, as important as the courses themselves were my fellow peers. Fletcher attracts a pool of students, both from the United States and abroad, with an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. This meant that for basically every classroom discussion someone would say something like “I was there when that happened” or “I have been working on that for my government.” This made the talks so much richer, and my understanding of the issues so much deeper. Having had the opportunity to discuss world issues with people from around the globe, in the pressure cooker of ideas and perspectives that is Fletcher, was a truly invaluable experience.
I also greatly appreciated the Fletcher faculty’s approach of mixing theory and practice in their teaching. The school prides itself on being a professional school of international affairs, and the professors place great emphasis on training students to be ready to tackle real-world issues. A skill I particularly valued training for was the ability to express myself concisely. I had many opportunities to practice this in writing terse two-page memos, where I had to summarize a problem and propose solutions. One of my professors’ favorite word was actually “pith,” a topic on which he gave a talk every year.
Beyond the classroom my cultural experience in the United States was greatly enhanced by being a part of the Fulbright network. I attended various Boston Fulbright mixers, meeting many engaging students from around America and the world. One of my favorite experiences, though, was the Fulbright enrichment seminar I attended in St. Louis, Missouri. I went there to learn about America’s westward expansion, but came away with much more.
I fondly remember spending time at a local daycare center in the outskirts of St. Louis. It was a part of Head Start, a U.S. federal program intended to promote the school readiness for young children from lower-income families. After being questioned by a little girl on “why I talked so funny,” I tried to explain that I was not from the United States. I attempted to demonstrate this by using Play-Doh to create two blobs representing North America and Europe. The lesson might only have been partially successful, but I left with a greater appreciation for how inquisitive young minds are, and how important programs like Head Start are in helping all children reach their full potential.
The Fulbright Program has allowed me to attain an education that I know will help me in my professional and personal life. But, and perhaps more importantly, Fulbright also gave me the opportunity to walk those last three feet and meet so many people that have expanded my understanding of the world, its issues, and its people. I would strongly encourage anyone considering becoming a part of this program to do so, the last steps toward someone might be the most important ones you ever take.
Though our 2014 alumni graduated more than a year ago, I will continuing highlighting their work until the 2015 grads find theirs. Today, Eirik Torsvoll tells us about his return to Norway and the start of his job. Note that Eirik wrote his post earlier in the spring.
Although I never would have believed it, time during my first year after graduation seems to have moved even faster than when I was a MALD student at Fletcher. I was therefore a little taken aback when Jessica reminded me in November that it had been six months since graduation, and that she hoped I would still be able to write a blog post in the spring. Things have now finally settled with moving back to Norway and starting work-life, so this is a good point in time to reflect on the initial post-Fletcher period.
The first few months after graduation were characterized by excitement and a little frustration. It was exciting because I was eager to start a new chapter in my life and pursue various work opportunities in Norway, and frustrating because there was little actual activity in the job market during the summer months. However, I took to heart the ever-helpful advice of the Fletcher Office of Career Services and used this time to reach out to interesting people and employers for so-called informational interviews.
Through these interviews I met some fascinating people with plenty of helpful advice and insights. Something I found particularly valuable was the recommendation to write and publish whenever I could. I was told that being able to display an ability to write and communicate would always be appreciated wherever I applied for work, something I have found to be true. During this period I therefore wrote a couple of op-eds for Norwegian newspapers (here and here), and I also published an article in the Fletcher Forum.
When things finally heated up in the job market I found that a Fletcher education certainly made me competitive. Particularly, I think it was the breadth and depth of my education that made me stand out in the job market, as I could offer both relevant skills (such as memo writing) and a familiarity with pertinent issues (for example Asia-Pacific affairs).
Sometimes I would be astonished by which aspects of my Fletcher education proved useful. For example, during one of my job interviews I was asked about how I would relate Carl von Clausewitz’s teachings with the practice of my prospective employer. Having taken Prof. William Martel’s course on the evolution of grand strategy, I felt I could answer this challenging question adequately. I obviously had to tell Prof. Martel about this afterwards, and his response — that he was pleased to hear that Clausewitz and grand strategy remained relevant — was the last I heard from him before his truly tragic passing this January. (For those interested, Jessica wrote a beautiful post about Professor Martel after his departure.)
In the end, though, I ended up in a research position at PluriCourts, an Oslo-based research center for the study of the legitimate roles of the judiciary in the global order. Much like Fletcher, PluriCourts employs an interdisciplinary approach, using political science, law, and philosophy to study the legitimacy of international courts and tribunals. Since starting, I have been very thankful for the breadth requirements of my Fletcher education, as this was a field I originally had not expected to work in. The ILO course on International Organizations, with its focus on the interaction between international law and politics, has been incredibly helpful in understanding the work PluriCourts does.
At PluriCourts, I work closely with our researchers on their various projects, assist in the many workshops and seminars we organize, and everything in between. The work also involves a bit of traveling, and soon I attended a workshop in Barcelona on the normative aspects of the legitimacy of international courts. The research project I’m currently working on involves looking at the independence of international courts from states, and this requires a thorough assessment of the various courts based on a series of indicators. It’s still in the preliminary stages of data collection and coding, and it’s really exciting to be a part of a research project from the very beginning. This way, I’m able to both witness and be a part of how the project progresses.
All in all, the transition back to work life has been both fun and exciting. I’m confident that Fletcher has prepared me well for the future challenges ahead, whichever way my career path takes me.
I admit: It’s a little late to be wrapping up Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009. But when I published the most recent post, I realized that every one of the 2009ers were women. Surely there were men in that class! So I reached out to Zack, an Admissions pal from back in the day, and he zapped his post to me in a jiffy. With no further ado, the final Five-Year Update from the Class of 2009, from Zack Gold.
This is really a six-year update, written from Tel Aviv, where I’m a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). My research focuses on the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Egyptian political development, and Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. relations. I’m also an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, which recently hosted me at a conference on Eastern Mediterranean energy security in Washington.
My path to Fletcher developed at the University of Delaware. I was an undergraduate student when the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel, during the 9/11 attacks, and in the lead up to and start of the Iraq war. Over those years my background in Middle Eastern history and interfaith relations developed into an awareness of and interest in international affairs.
After graduating I worked in Washington for two years at Meridian International Center, where I helped administer the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. In between writing itineraries and booking flights, I tagged along with foreign delegations to meetings at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. I unselfishly escorted one visitor to see the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox: a public diplomacy win for Red Sox Nation!
Before graduate school I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Middle East, so I spent 14 months living, working, and studying languages in Egypt and Israel, while also traveling to Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. My on-ground experiences over that time have informed my work ever since.
This international worldview made The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy an obvious choice. I was extremely impressed with the individuals who made up the Fletcher community, and I took advantage of the flexibility in courses and coursework. In classes on decision-making, statecraft, and public diplomacy, I had the opportunity to develop projects that fit my interests: writing policy briefs, op-eds, and papers; and conducting simulations on politics in Egypt and Pakistan and on the Iranian nuclear program.
I greatly enjoyed the research and writing, not all of which was ground-breaking analysis. The Fletcher School has wisely removed the student-run blog from that time. My most worthwhile contribution probably centered on the best place to get ice cream in the area.
In 2011, two years after earning my MALD, the uprising in Egypt brought two areas of my Fletcher studies back into focus: U.S. democratization policy (about which I wrote a seminar paper) and the Muslim Brotherhood (my thesis: “The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Moderate Islamists, Moderate Democrats”). I began publishing about U.S.-Egyptian relations as an independent analyst, and in May of that year I started a research term at The Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy (since renamed the Center for Middle East Policy).
My Brookings position was a dream job. For three years I worked directly with the very scholars and practitioners whose books and articles I read at Fletcher. I learned from their experiences and guidance, and I had access to incredible leaders and thinkers around Washington and the Middle East. At the same time, I developed my own subject-matter expertise: looking closely at security in Sinai, where a jihadist insurgency threatens both Egypt and Israel.
In addition to work-related and research travel to the Middle East, and a number of independent publications, I had the privilege of authoring a Brookings analysis paper: “Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas.” That paper made its way to the director of INSS, who — in time for the fifth anniversary of my Fletcher graduation — invited me continue my research under the auspices of his institute. I’ve been here since October 2014.
Last Thursday, we hosted our Admissions interns for an end-of-year lunch. For two, it’s only farewell until September. For three of the interns, it was a more final goodbye. We’ll see them at Commencement, of course, but after that they are all off to do good things in the world.
This week, the pace of farewells accelerates. When not busy having a great time with classmates, students will stop in to say goodbye. One first-year dropped off plants that I will be plant-sitting for the summer. Others just want to touch base before they leave. Honestly, while I’m always proud to have played the tiniest of roles in launching students in their new careers, the dominant emotion is wistfulness. And not only because it’s a little lonely for us staffers in the summer.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of recruiting writers for the Five-Year Updates and First-Year Alumni posts has been reconnecting with old pals. It was so nice to correspond with Jelana and Ivette, for example — friends from when they spent lots of time in the Admissions Office. And I recently received an invitation to an alum’s wedding in Tunisia. That is, once students leave the campus, we can still create opportunities to remain in touch. I can feel happy about their graduation, knowing that it isn’t the end of our contact with each other.
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