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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

 

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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Chapple-Sokol HeadshotThis week’s posts have come from a professor, a current student, and a member of the Class of 2008.  Today I’ll tell you about an alumnus whose career is quite unlike that of most of our alumni.  Sam Chapple-Sokol F’12 has been writing and publishing on the topic of culinary diplomacy ever since he took Prof. Henrikson’s Diplomacy: History, Theory, and Practice.  (Prof. Henrikson called Sam’s article, which grew out of a term paper, “an example and an inspiration, as to what can be done with a new idea, a scholarly interest, research knowledge, literary skill, and personal enterprise and follow-through.”)

In fact, it was Prof. Henrikson who brought Sam’s work to my attention, when he shared an update the community.  Sam had recently been interviewed on “The Splendid Table,” a nationwide NPR program about food.

For those who can’t take the time to listen to (or read the transcript of) the full interview, I’ll share Sam’s definition of culinary diplomacy.  He says, “I have defined culinary diplomacy, in a couple of pieces that I’ve written, as the use of food in cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding, in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation.  That’s an academic way of saying, using food to get along with people, to talk with people, and to get to know them better.”

I reached out to Sam for a little more detail on his post-Fletcher work, and for some photos.  He told me that he has been blogging and tweeting on culinary diplomacy (note that the Wikipedia entry actually refers to Sam), as well as continuing to write for publications, most recently for Public Diplomacy Magazine.  (The Public Diplomacy article drew some additional attention to his work.)  He has also worked at the White House as a pastry chef during two holiday seasons, and for other projects including celebrations for July 4, Halloween, the Inauguration, and the State Dinner during the visit of French President François Hollande.  When not putting his own culinary skills to work, he consults for Le Club des Chefs des Chefs, an elite organization for the personal chefs of heads of state.

So far as I can remember, Sam’s work is unique among Fletcher grads, but there are many other alumni (Michelle Kwan comes to mind), whose career paths are not attainable for incoming or current students.  So why highlight them in the Admissions Blog?  Because it’s great to have them in the student and alumni communities!  The diversity of experience among students in any classroom contributes to every student’s experience.  And if the student with unusual experience (and an even more unusual future career path) happens to be a pastry chef, all the better!  Finally, here are some photos from Sam’s work at the White House.

Sam and pastry chef

The model of the White House is edible! Weighing 350 pounds, it was made from a foundation of gingerbread and covered with white chocolate, according to the White House.

Sam in the White House garden

In the White House garden.

Sam and FLOTUS

Photo originally tweeted by the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” program.
https://twitter.com/letsmove

Sam and muppets

Relaxing with Muppets after the Let’s Move event.

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Our next five-year update, and probably the last word from the Class of 2008, comes from Margherita Zuin, who was co-chair of the student Migration Group and conducted interviews for the Admissions Office during her time at Fletcher.  (I can still picture her coming in and out of the office.)  Here’s her update which, like the résumé of anyone working for the United Nations, is loaded with acronyms.

During my years in high school, migration from Africa started to become a common phenomenon in Italy.  It generated a myriad of political and legal debates and cultural challenges, not only in my country, but also in my head.  This is what initially triggered my interest in international law and pushed me, as a student, to volunteer for an NGO assisting migrants from North Africa.

After law school, my passion to see and understand more about the world led me to Ecuador to provide assistance to Colombian refugees and to fight violence against women in Quito for Amnesty International.  I then interned with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a focus on Italy’s role within the United Nations and development cooperation in Asia and Latin America.  As a paid trainee at the European Commission in Brussels, I focused on food security in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries before traveling to Jordan for my first assignment with the United Nations.  I joined UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) in Amman, where I implemented programs to support the elections and constitution-making process in Iraq.

These experiences made me realize that I wanted to keep working in international affairs, but also that I wanted to further my understanding of the complex approaches and strategies needed to address them.  I had heard of Fletcher from alumni and, after having an informal interview with Laurie Hurley, the School’s director of admissions, I realized that Fletcher was the perfect place for me.  The combination of academic- and professional-oriented courses was exactly what I was looking for.

Margherita2
My classes and professors at Fletcher taught me skills that I have put into practice since graduation.  My Fields of Study were Human Security, Humanitarian Studies, and Law and Development.  I still refer back to the impressive professional experiences shared in class by Professors Sarkin and Aucoin.  From Professor Church, I learned the importance of always asking the “So what?” question, and I continue to use the gender lens analysis taught in Professor Mazurana’s course.  My summer internship conducting research on formal and informal justice systems in Central Somalia, as well as the fascinating discussions in Professor Johnstone’s “Peace Operations” class on the political, legal, technical, and logistical challenges to deploy and work in conflict and post-conflict situations, were fundamental to my career choice.

Since graduating in 2008, I have been working for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations.  For 2.5 years, I served in UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur) as Associate Gender Officer working on the political process, gender justice, and capacity-building of national institutions.  In 2011, I joined the Standing Police Capacity of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), a rapidly deployable team of experts based in Brindisi (Italy), tasked to start up new operations or assist existing ones.  In my capacity as Legal Officer, I deployed to UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) to help with the establishment of the Mission’s Rule of Law and Security Institutions Support Office.  My work focused on addressing prolonged, arbitrary detention, and ensuring coordination of the various United Nations and national actors of the justice chain.

Since May 2012, I have been based at United Nations Headquarters in New York, first as a Judicial Affairs Officer in the Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service (CLJAS) of OROLSI, and then as a Political Affairs Officer in the Front Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions.  The work at Headquarters has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the political dynamics and decision-making processes in the rule of law area in particular, but also of the United Nations system as a whole.  In the near future, I hope to serve again in the field.

I use the academic knowledge and professional skills acquired at Fletcher every single day.  I can also see the strength of the Fletcher community, not only because so many Fletcher alumni work in the United Nations, but also because creating  partnerships, being committed to make a contribution, and building a sense of community have been essential aspects of my life in peacekeeping, especially in my field assignments.

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Winners of two different competitions were announced this week, and one Fletcher team was successful in both!  This exciting news calls for two Cool Stuff blog entries in two days.  Here’s an announcement from Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti:

Tommy and AndrewPlease join me in congratulating Andrew Lala, F’14 and Tommy Galloway, F’14 as the winners of the inaugural Fletcher D-Prize: Poverty Solutions Venture Competition.  Andrew and Tommy will receive $15,000 (and tens of thousands more in non-monetary advice and networks) to help them pilot their Clair de Lune – Solar Light Distributor Platform, which uses existing bus infrastructure and cultural remittance practices to reach the rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa.  This summer, Andrew and Tommy will bring this “poverty solution venture” to 400 families in Burkina Faso.  Fletcher D-Prize judges believe that, in two years, Andrew and Tommy will have an impact on the world by proving that you can provide energy to over 100,000 families living on less than a few dollars a day.

We hope that this award, and the competition among a large number of very strong proposals, signals that Fletcher prepares leaders adept not only at crossing borders of all kinds – disciplinary and geographic – but also with the ability to jump across the border of knowledge into entrepreneurial action.  We aspire to develop and facilitate international ninjas, if you will.  Andrew and Tommy are two terrific examples of such international ninjas. A family that buys a solar lamp saves money on energy expenses and is more productive outside of daylight hours.  Household incomes often increase 15-30%.  Study hours for children rise by two hours. Solar lamps also erase the far too common dangers that come with kerosene lanterns.

The award will be presented to Andrew and Tommy today, only two days after they received an “audience choice” award at the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition, at which they were finalists (shown in photo above).

This is the 10th anniversary for the Tufts $100K, which prompted a look back.  BostInno selected Educate Lanka as one of the top six ventures to come out of the Tufts $100K competition.  Congratulations to our good blog friend Manjula!

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Cornelia-Schneider1Blog readers who follow Fletcher news through other sources (Facebook, Twitter, the Fletcher website) will already have read that Cornelia (Connie) Schneider F’06 has been selected for the inaugural Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award.  Sometimes I avoid topics that have received thorough attention in other media platforms — there’s not much value added from my comments.  In this case, though, I thought I’d add a few personal reflections.

First, I’m really happy that Fletcher has launched an initiative like this.  Truth be told, the U.S. never makes much of International Women’s Day, and it’s great that Fletcher will play its role in ensuring the day is not ignored.

But more important, there’s a reason why some of us are drawn to continue our work at Fletcher over a long period of time, and that reason is the interactions we have with our fantastic students.  I remember Connie from her time at Fletcher and, though I have not remained in direct contact with her, I hear about her now and then through others.  I consider it a great privilege to play a role (however small) in the career development of the extraordinary students who spend a few years of their life here.  Taking time for a graduate program offers students like Connie, who would have been in her late 20s when she applied, a chance to further their knowledge and consolidate all they have learned through their professional experience.  Reading about Connie’s accomplishments is a mid-admissions-season reminder on why admissions work, which opens the door for these interesting people to have this career-building opportunity, is so satisfying and important.

But back to Connie and the award.  According to the official announcement:  The Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award was established in 2014 by the Fletcher Board of Advisors and the School’s executive leadership to honor outstanding women graduates who are making a meaningful impact in the world in the private, public, and NGO sectors.  Connie currently leads Access to Justice initiatives for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a position she has held since December 2012. Her team works to implement projects that increase access to legal services for victims of sexual violence and seeks to diminish impunity for heinous crimes in the Eastern DRC — one of the most dangerous and troubled regions of the world.

In publications and press releases, Fletcher will often (quite naturally) focus on the alumni who are most prominent in their fields.  I have always thought there is also real benefit to highlighting the day-to-day work of graduates who represent the majority of our alumni — those who go out in the world and make their mark, while not necessarily generating headlines.  The award for Connie Schneider helps correct that imbalance in coverage just a little, and I’m excited to help spread the word about the award and the way it brings well-deserved attention to the extraordinary work that Connie has done throughout the world.

(Photo credit: Raphael Kopper)

 

I recently heard from Justin, a 2013 grad, who offered to share his reflections on his first months since graduating.  I love volunteers!  And here is Justin’s report.

As I reflect on my experience at Fletcher, I can hardly believe it’s been three years since I made the decision to attend graduate school.  In early 2011, I was living in New York and working as a manager at a Big 4 consulting firm.  Though I was making a good living, I felt that my career had plateaued, and I wanted to burnish my credentials to pursue the international business career I had always dreamed of.  Fletcher’s MIB program offered exactly what I was looking for — core business training within the context of a school famous for its international affairs curriculum.  So I went for it.  And three years later, I can happily say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Justin EttingerI entered Fletcher with a clear mission:  to position myself for a great job when I graduated.  While I certainly worked hard in the classroom, I also made networking one of my top priorities from the start.  By constantly speaking with alumni and attending events, I developed a clear sense of the path I wanted to take by the end of my first year, and my efforts generated three internship offers, all through alumni connections.  I ultimately chose to work in Latin America strategy at Converse Inc. (a Nike subsidiary).

Converse opened many new doors for me.  A successful summer led to an offer to continue working part-time during my second year (Converse is based in Boston), and I used that time to develop my capstone — a three-year commercial strategy for the brand in Brazil.  Working part-time on top of studying full-time was certainly a major commitment, but it enabled me to apply context to all of the new skills I was learning in the classroom.  The Fletcher alumnus I worked for, Dave Calderone (F’87), was an excellent mentor who exposed me to many facets of the global footwear industry.  He played an instrumental role in my education.  And the day after graduation, I started working full-time for Dave as a Strategic Planning Manager for Latin America at Converse.

After a few months, I made a personal decision to move to San Francisco.  I’m now working as a Senior Manager of Business Development for the Old Navy brand at Gap, Inc., where I’m responsible for adding new markets to Old Navy’s international franchise portfolio.  In the coming year, I’ll be traveling extensively around the world to visit retail markets and meet with potential new franchise partners.  I’ll be negotiating contracts, examining import/trade implications, constructing financial models, and truly building a global business.  It’s a job I could only have dreamed of before Fletcher.

My life has changed significantly over the last three years.  I now have lifelong friends all over the world.  I’ve been to 10 new countries on three continents.  I think about global business issues in an entirely new way.  And I got the international career I had hoped for.  Deciding on graduate school is a major life decision indeed, but it works if you work it.  So be deliberate, be decisive, have an open mind, and go for it.

Oh, and one last thing.  Support Los Fletcheros!

Our Admissions Committee meeting will start in 45 minutes, but I’m going to try to sneak in a blog post before I head over to the meeting room.  I wanted to update you on news from some of our blog friends.

First, our student bloggers.  They’re back on campus and I’ve been giving them a little time to settle into classes before I start cajoling them for posts.  Meanwhile, if you weren’t in Guatemala City to hear it yourself, you might like to check out Roxanne’s latest TEDx talk.

Also making news — our friend Manjula.  Trying to follow his comings and goings via Facebook, I see that he has spent an extended time in Sri Lanka generating support for Educate Lanka.  At least one of the goals of his trip was to organize a charity “Walk for a Cause,” which took place last weekend.  Along the way, he was interviewed in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, and also by Young Asia Television.  (No translation available, but you’ll get the idea.)

Finally, and closer to where I’m sitting right now, our own Christine has made Fletcher news, in that she has been promoted to Admissions Coordinator.  At the moment, she is wearing two different hats (her old one and her new one — both stylish, of course), but that leaves little time for writing Consult Christine posts.  Once she settles into only one job at a time, she can start up writing again.

So that’s the round-up!  And I’m off to the Admissions Committee meeting.

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 Time to check in with another 2008 graduate.  Please meet Darren Long who, like our newest students, was a “Januarian.”

Darren LongThe Fletcher School appeals to a certain kind of person and from the moment I discovered the school, I knew I was one of those people.  Fletcher’s broad, globally-oriented and cross-functional course listing matched my interests perfectly, stretching from agricultural economics to international negotiation to diplomatic history.  The independence allowed by the MALD program would allow me to combine foundational courses with insightful and cutting-edge topical subjects to pursue a truly unique course of study.  And the backgrounds of Fletcher’s students and alumni was proof that it was a gathering place for like-minded individuals.

I joined Fletcher at the beginning of 2007 as “Januarian,” along with about 20 other students starting at mid-year.  We were immediately swept up in class schedules, along with a range of other social events.  My Fields of Study were Pacific Asia and Development Economics, with a particular focus on China, where I had lived and worked prior to Fletcher.  I also found Fletcher’s courses in policy analysis, international business law, agricultural policy, and analytical frameworks to be especially useful.

Following my first semester, I moved back to China for the summer to study Mandarin and prepare for Fletcher’s language requirement.  While there, I connected with Ecom Trading, one of the world’s oldest physical commodities firms, and was offered a position as a commodity market analyst in Shanghai following graduation.  My knowledge of Chinese political economy — which greatly impacts global commodity markets — along with agriculture, economics, and finance, made for a unique set of competencies, developed in large part while at Fletcher, that directly helped me to land the position.

I was able to build preparation for my upcoming professional role into the rest of my coursework at Fletcher, making analysis of the Chinese cotton sector the focus of my thesis, and completing a one-semester exchange program at the China Europe International Business School in the Fall of 2008.  The combination of work and study helped me both prepare better for my career and make use of all of Fletcher’s many resources.

Since graduating from Fletcher, I have worked for Ecom as a commodities trader in China, Australia, and the United States.  On a given day I may work on a deal with a large Asian trade house or U.S. producer; buy and sell commodity derivatives; write a market report or policy memo; analyze futures prices or supply and demand information; examine a sustainability project; or prepare a case for international arbitration.  And it was my experience at Fletcher that helped prepare me for all of these endeavors and more.

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More and more Class of 2013 alumni are feeling settled in their new lives, opening (I hope) the door for me to feature more of their stories.  For now, I’m happy to introduce Margot Shorey.  Margot, a two-year veteran of the Admissions Committee, visited the office a month ago, and I asked if I could persuade her to write for the blog.  Happily, I could.  So here’s her story.

Margot ShoreyBefore Fletcher, I was living and working in Washington, DC — a city I have always been drawn to — with some medium-term stints in Africa.  While at Fletcher, I struggled to figure out if I wanted to take a position in the field, finding a way to implement projects related to my interest in African security, or to return to DC to focus on U.S. policy in Africa.  This decision was not easy for me, as some of the best experiences in my short pre-Fletcher career occurred while working with project teams in Chad and Senegal.  On the other hand, I was sometimes very lonely abroad, missing my friends and community back in DC.  I had learned a lot about the challenges of implementing USAID projects, but wanted a broader perspective to ask why the U.S. was even running such programs in Africa.  Particularly with everything I learned at Fletcher, I sought an active role in shaping U.S. policy in such a critical region.  I really wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.

Whew!  These were hard questions that stressed me out even more than a three-hour, all-you-can-write, grade-determining Role of Force exam.  (In December 2011 I didn’t think anything could stress me out more than that.)  Luckily, all my classmates and friends were struggling with the same decisions and were there to talk them out with me.  From conversations in the Hall of Flags, to advice from our senior military fellows, to Togo-New York-Cambodia gchats during summer internships, I aired my anxieties and listened to how my friends were thinking about their post-Fletcher lives.

For now, I’ve decided to return to DC, where I’m working for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), one of five regional centers of the Department of Defense.  I support academic outreach programs with members of the African security sector on civil-military relations, respect of democratic values, and other U.S. security priorities on the continent.  Recently, for example, we held a three-week program in DC for 60 rising African security sector leaders.  I conducted research and prepared background materials for the participants on ethical leadership, served as the point of contact for over 30 guest speakers, and got to interact with some amazing participants.  Recently, while discussing guest speakers with colleagues for an upcoming program, I kept saying, “Oh, I know her, she went to Fletcher and is awesome,” or “She went to Fletcher.  I don’t know her personally, but I’ve heard Professor Shultz rave endlessly about her, so she must be great.”  After hearing quite a bit of this, my coworker turned to me and asked if we could populate the guest speaker list exclusively with the Fletcher network.  Yep — I’m pretty sure we could.

Through my job, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of the security challenges in Africa, as well as the U.S. policy structure, and I’ve started to build a network within the Africa security community here in DC.  But I’ve also learned a lot about what it means to work for the U.S. government, which has been at times a bit frustrating.  Although I certainly enjoyed my time with Netflix during my brief paid vacation in early October, the government shutdown presented a serious planning challenge and threatened to cancel our program altogether.

Living in DC is not all about work, of course.  Fortunately, many of my friends from before Fletcher are still here, but there is also a large Fletcher crowd from my class, who I see often.  The best part is that everyone is always up for a new adventure, even if it doesn’t involve leaving DC.  We’ve splurged on an après-ski event at a fancy hotel bar, just because it seemed fun, tried some of the hundreds of new restaurants in the city, hosted birthday/holiday/just-because parties, and will be delivering holiday meals to seniors together.  I run into Fletcher people on the Metro, at work programs, at networking events, and at social gatherings where I didn’t know anyone from Fletcher would be.  It’s true — Fletcher is everywhere in DC.

So, I know I made the right post-Fletcher decision for me.  But do I get a tinge of envy when I hear about my friends who are currently traveling the world?  Of course I do — I wouldn’t be a Fletcher grad if I didn’t.

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