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Yesterday, the Faculty Spotlight shone on Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who teaches the series of classes on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME or DM&E). As Prof. Scharbatke-Church mentioned, she frequently runs into alumni in her travels and work. I’m delighted that she has shared with me brief introductions to some of those Fletcher graduates who took one or more of her classes. She developed these introductions to help students understand whether the classes are right for them. As currently configured, the classes are Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations. For blog readers, there is additional value in noting the careers in which DME concepts can be applied.
Lisa Inks F10
Current Position/Organization: Director of Conflict Management Programs, Mercy Corps Nigeria. I oversee Mercy Corps’ conflict management division in Nigeria, composed of various donor-funded programs integrating peacebuilding, economic development, and governance. I am responsible for setting our conflict management strategy, ensuring the programs’ success against our objectives, and leading research and M&E initiatives.
Professional interests and passions: Integrated peacebuilding and economic development programming; research on conflict/poverty linkages; governance and peacebuilding; monitoring, evaluation, and learning of conflict mitigation programs.
Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: This will be your chance to soak up theory. After Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s classes you will never feel like you have enough time to absorb the great wisdom of the M&E giants. Read every word and reflect on what you think your personal approach to DME is, and how you see this playing into your work. If you go into the rest of your career with a clear understanding of how you see yourself in the DME world and what your ideals are, you’ll be more effective.
Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: What I learned in that class was more than a collection of tools, strategies, and facts: I adopted a completely new mindset for how to implement development and peacebuilding programs. Constant iteration is absolutely necessary for programming effectiveness. The way Prof. Scharbatke-Church modeled continuous learning and improvement is the way we should all run our programs. I think about that often: how I need to stop, evaluate, and reflect after each step of an activity — and always get the direct input of participants. (This seems obvious, but it wasn’t until I took the class that I truly internalized the importance of direct feedback and closing the feedback loop.) Also, through the class, I learned how to think logically and precisely to develop a program with a clear and testable theory of change and to monitor its effectiveness. A year after graduating I was training people throughout my previous organization in how to develop DME systems.
Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: If you plan to work in development at all, take this course. This class should be a “must” for anyone who wants to work in an NGO or for a donor. Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s class is rigorous, challenging, and humbling, but if you are serious about development — and are serious about doing high-quality development work that responds to the needs of those you are trying to serve, and that is based on evidence and learning — you should take it.
Brian Heilman F10
Professional interests and passions: Gender equality; prevention of all forms of violence against women; engaging men and boys in efforts to advance gender quality; utilization-focused evaluation; quantitative data analysis and visualization.
Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: Honestly, the professional value of these courses is about triple that of the average Fletcher course…with a workload to match! Also, despite the modules’ titles — and I suppose not all incoming first years are immediately familiar with DM&E concepts — these courses were the most fertile ground at Fletcher for deep discussion and analysis on the ethics and effectiveness of international development and peacebuilding programming.
Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: These courses taught me:
- To demand clarity and logic from international development program designs — but not by sacrificing imagination.
- To demand and uncover evidence of these programs’ relevance, effectiveness, and/or sustainability prior to large-scale investment — but not by allegiance to methodological “rigor” as narrowly understood.
- To demand that we value usefulness over interestingness in the application of precious program, evaluation and research resources.
These and other insights from the courses — as well as from Professor Scharbatke-Church’s broader mentorship and support — helped me come into my own as a professional evaluator, a career path that honestly I hadn’t imagined for myself prior to attending Fletcher. I have now collaborated on and led a range of evaluations and M&E collaborations in diverse settings, from the Pacific Islands to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, and I apply principles from these courses throughout. I am still so grateful that I took a chance on the first DME course in my first semester — it changed everything!
Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: These courses are fantastic for the Fletcher student with broad interests in international development practice. If you’re like I was, you’ve got some constellation of interests including: human rights, grassroots programming/activism, data collection and analysis, development/foreign aid policy, and/or others. You can take many classes at Fletcher that dig into these areas individually but that conveniently ignore the implications of the others — especially the crucial question of how best to ensure that your program/practice/policy continues to learn from itself and improve over time.
These courses bring all of those topics together, but perhaps more importantly, they do so while also taking the notion of the “professional degree” very seriously. They are designed and taught very thoughtfully as preparatory courses for professionals. The projects and work you undertake mirror the projects and work you will undertake after graduating: Teamwork. Project designs and proposals. M&E plans. Data collection guides.
Current Position/Organization: Conflict Stabilization Specialist, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, U.S. State Department.
I support broader State Department and interagency efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy by applying conflict expertise and supporting embassies in countries and regions affected by conflict. I design and implement conflict prevention and stabilization programs and advise on U.S. government policy. I am expected to quickly gain familiarity with specific conflict-impacted countries to identify gaps where my Bureau’s tools, including strategic planning, conflict assessment, financial assistance, and deployable staff, can enable the U.S. government to develop better policy and programs leading to improved outcomes. I’ve served in Afghanistan, Burma, and Bangladesh.
Professional interests and passions: Countries transitioning from conflict to peace, conflict prevention, reconciliation mechanisms, trust-building, civil-military relations, gender.
Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: I wish I had known the DM&E classes I took at Fletcher would be by far the most practical, relevant courses I would take in graduate school. I also wish I knew more M&E vocabulary before starting the course. I had only been in the workforce for a few years before Fletcher, with limited program design experience, so much of the lingo was new to me.
Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: I am more strategic, always asking myself what changes I would need to see, in individuals and societies I work in, to determine whether the money, time, and effort we spent was “worth it.” The course also taught me the importance of going beyond calling an intervention a success solely because it met its originally stated objectives and goal. I learned to ask the even tougher question, like … was it the right intervention in the first place? Did it have the intended outcomes and do those outcomes amount to something greater, a larger impact? Could it have been done more efficiently? Will it be sustainable? I just wrote an evaluation scope of work for one of our projects and I relied heavily on what I learned in DM&E class – looking back at course material as I drafted it!
Jennifer Catalano F11
I oversee a 4.5-year demonstration grant program at the Talloires Network, an international association of universities committed to civic engagement. This program provides sub-grants to eight universities in the global south in order to expand and learn from their efforts to prepare students for entrepreneurship and employment. Additional program elements include a learning partnership with the University of Minnesota and a global community of practice around the topic of higher education and youth employment/entrepreneurship.
Professional interests and passions: Gender, youth, ethics, the aid system, higher education.
Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: It’s rather intense, and has a significant workload, but I had heard that through the grapevine. Actually the intensity set me up well for the rest of grad school.
Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: So many things…I drew on Program Design skills during the first phase of my post-Fletcher work, which involved coordinating the process of designing the program I now work for.
The M&E knowledge has been extraordinarily helpful during the past year. The program I work on includes a significant multi-year monitoring/learning effort. My M&E studies helped with the process of selecting an evaluation team and working with them to set up the collaboration. The whole process would have been daunting if I hadn’t known how to create a TOR, the right language to use, what to look for in evaluators, etc. Knowing this process so well also helped me to advocate for decisions that were in line with my values.
Now as we move into a phase of active collaboration with our learning partners, my M&E skills enable me to contribute in a far more substantive and meaningful way to the process.
Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: This is one of the most practical and useful courses you could take at Fletcher if you intend to work anywhere in the aid chain. I highly recommend it.
Time to hear from another Class of 2014 graduate. Yuko Hirose was one of those students who are organized and systematic in their approach to their studies, but who still maintain an open mind toward post-Fletcher opportunities. Here she describes her three-year path from Tokyo, through Medford/Somerville, to Nairobi.
It’s been more than seven months since I graduated from Fletcher, and I find myself writing this from Nairobi, Kenya where I have been living for the past four months. If someone had told me three years ago that I would find myself working as a global development consultant in Nairobi, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it! Life throws you wonderful opportunities when you least expect them, and Fletcher has played a tremendous role in helping me get here.
Three years ago, I was working as a management consultant in Tokyo, knowing that I eventually wanted to transition to working on global development issues. My passion for working in developing countries grew through meeting microfinance clients in the slums of Mumbai and Dhaka and a homestay in a rural village in Thailand during my undergraduate years. A study abroad at UC Berkeley exposed me to the world of social innovation, and I devoured books and other opportunities to learn about harnessing market approaches to improving the lives of marginalized populations. This was also when I first learned about Fletcher; a trusted friend and mentor attending Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy mentioned that her fiancé was attending Fletcher and loved the school’s strong curriculum in international affairs, as well as the warm and passionate community. Going to Fletcher became a dream of mine.
After university, I wanted to quickly build my skills in problem-solving and management, and I decided to join a consulting firm. There I met wonderful mentors and developed business skills that would eventually help me be effective in development projects. Though I had opportunities to work on pro bono projects with Japanese non-profits after the March 2011 earthquake in northern Japan, I still craved the opportunity to more directly apply the skills I had gained to the issues that I cared about. I started taking steps realize this dream, using any time I could carve out to apply to graduate school.
I was ecstatic when I received my admission letter from Fletcher in late 2011. Fletcher provided the perfect blend of development economics and international business courses that could help me transition from a career in the private sector to one in global development. In the end, what finalized my decision to join the MALD program was the warm alumni community I met during a reception hosted for admitted students at the residence of a Fletcher alum, Mark Davidson F86, who was then serving as U.S. Minster-Counsel of Public Affairs to Japan. I remember riding the train home that evening in awe of how humble the Fletcher alums were, despite their countless accomplishments, and touched by how fondly they spoke of their experiences at Fletcher and the friendships they developed there, even after many decades. If I was taking a leap into an uncertain future, I knew I wanted to spend the two years of my master’s program in a warm community of peers who are passionate about changing the world — as cliché as that sounds — and helping each other in the process, and Fletcher turned out to be exactly that.
After two years there, I can honestly say that going to Fletcher was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Not only did the courses help me to better understand development issues and tools such as impact evaluation and development finance, but Fletcher alums were extremely supportive in helping me transition my career. My summer internship was with an inspiring Fletcher alum at the International Finance Corporation, working on how to incorporate a gender lens into IFC’s investments. This internship helped me to work with TechnoServe in Ethiopia over the winter break of my second year, assessing the successes and challenges of a guarantee facility between IFC and a local bank. Seeing I was both nervous and excited about this trip, an Ethiopian Fletcher friend and other Fletcherites who had spent time in the country readily shared advice and introduced friends. My month in Ethiopia and a weekend in Nairobi to visit a close Kenyan Fletcher friend exposed me to the excitement of working in East Africa and supporting private sector development in the region. During the DC Career Trip organized by OCS, I attended a site visit at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, hosted by a Fletcher alum, and found out about an opportunity to work on exactly this topic. I hadn’t considered going back to consulting when I left Deloitte, but each case interview with Dalberg made me more excited about their work and I joined their Nairobi office six months after that visit.
Working as a consultant at Dalberg has been an amazing experience. The firm provides strategic advice to leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to accelerate their impact on issues such as access to finance, health, education, energy, and inclusive business. My most recent project was with the MasterCard Foundation on setting a learning agenda and designing a learning lab to enhance access to finance for smallholder farmers in Africa. My next one will be a project revamping the CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy of a large Kenyan financial company. As one of three Japanese in the firm, I am also helping drive business development in Japan to encourage Japanese businesses to engage with the continent in a way that meets the needs of local marginalized populations.
I am fully using everything I learned at Fletcher and Deloitte on a daily basis, and am grateful to be surrounded by a passionate and capable team that is as diverse and loving as Fletcher was. The Fletcher community in Nairobi has also been a huge source of support, as I navigated my way in a new city. More than ten recent Fletcher grads gathered for lunch during my second weekend in Nairobi, and that is when I realized that it is really true that you can find a Fletcherite anywhere in the world (and they will gladly take you in)! I’ve kept in close contact with Fletcher friends who are now working in places like Kabul, Yangon, Delhi, Juba, and NYC. While we are scattered across the globe, we support each other virtually as we navigate new cities, careers, and life events.
I am grateful to Fletcher for giving me the opportunity to be part of this warm community that inspires me to strive to create positive change. I hope potential applicants with a thirst for engaging deeply with global issues consider joining the Fletcher family — you will find a community of fellow students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to helping you succeed in this quest and who will continue to inspire you for a long time to come!
Tagged with: First-Year Alumni
Just a short post today, but I wanted to bring your attention to Green on Blue, the newly released novel from Elliot Ackerman F03. Of course, we always take some measure of pride when an alum publishes a book. This time I learned about Elliot’s novel from a front-of-the-Arts-Section review in The New York Times. The review notes:
In fact, this novel as a whole attests to Mr. Ackerman’s breadth of understanding — an understanding not just of the seasonal rhythms of war in Afghanistan and the harsh, unforgiving beauty of that land, not just of the hardships of being a soldier there, but a bone-deep understanding of the toll that a seemingly endless war has taken on ordinary Afghans who have known no other reality for decades.
A great review, and quite an honor for a first-time novelist. Congratulations to Elliot!
The next member of the Class of 2009 to update us on her first five years after graduating from Fletcher is Sandy Kreis. In addition to the details she provides below, Sandy told me that she has two new affiliations. First, she is a visiting lecturer this semester at Tufts, teaching a course on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups for the Ex College. And she is also the Entrepreneur in Residence at Blade, a startup foundry that invests in consumer product software and hardware startups.
After graduating from Georgetown cum laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, I found myself working long hours as a lead litigation legal assistant at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York. During my time at Shearman, I started wondering why the thousands of pages I printed each day did not use recycled paper and why the lights were on 24/7 in vacant conference rooms. This rising passion for corporate social responsibility, coupled with my assignment to the Enron litigation and a new-found interest in electricity markets, led me to a job in Los Angeles with Environment America’s VIP outreach campaigns.
While in LA, my main task was to cultivate a network of high net-worth members of the arts and entertainment communities and galvanize interest around climate change advocacy. My work culminated in a fundraiser at the home of movie director Paul Haggis, where the director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim, addressed the crowd of over 100 celebrity activists. Over $30,000 was raised to fight for climate change legislation in Sacramento. Following these two different but extraordinarily useful jobs, I enrolled at Fletcher to better understand how policy impacts the deployment and growth of clean energy markets. I was drawn to Fletcher because it was one of the only esteemed academic institutions that would allow me to pursue my interest in energy policy in an global context.
Once I arrived at Blakeley Hall, I hit the ground running. It was not long before I joined forces with my classmate Jan Havránek, who had a specific interest in energy security, to launch the Fletcher Energy Consortium. I focused on taking all of the core courses of a traditional MBA program while simultaneously learning anything and everything I could about cleantech policy and technology innovation. I benefited deeply from the burgeoning cleantech scene in Boston, driven strongly by the policies created in 2008 on Beacon Hill, including the Green Jobs Act and the Green Communities Act.
Between my first and second years at Fletcher, I interned right down the road in Kendall Square at Emerging Energy Research (EER), a startup-advisory firm that tracks renewable energy markets for wind, solar, geothermal, and storage developers. I joined the North America Renewable Power Team and focused specifically on how state Renewable Portfolio Standards policies impact the demand created for clean energy development. This was my first toe-dip into the innovation and startup ecosystem in Boston, and I was hooked.
At the end of my two years as a MALD, I said goodbye to some of the best friends and contemporaries a woman could ask for and joined EER as a full-time analyst. Within a few months, we were acquired by IHS and joined forces with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, where I had the pleasure of working with fellow Fletcher alums and delving deeper into how oil and gas markets affect the potential advancement of renewable energy deployment. After two years at EER, I left for New York City where I joined the Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (ACRE) to brainstorm ways to diversify the City’s first cleantech-focused incubator into its next phase of development.
While at ACRE, I joined an incubated company, CB Insights, as the Greentech Program Manager. In the Spring of 2012, I was back in Boston as a judge of the MIT Clean Energy Prize where I met my future boss, mentor, and friend, Jim Bowen, the husband of a Fletcher alum. Jim poached me from New York and brought me back to Boston to work on the business development and international relations team at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), a quasi-government state agency charged with supporting the 5,500 clean energy companies here in the Commonwealth. It was at this time that I was designated an Emerging Leader in Energy & Environmental Policy (ELEEP) by the Atlantic Council and the EcoLogic Institute.
At MassCEC, I conceptualized, managed, and executed multiple innovative, new-growth initiatives designed to drive business for early stage companies in line with our larger strategic goals. This includes managing an annual budget of $2.5M and leading teams of over 20+ employees (from marketing, communications, legal, etc.) by acting as the central manager of the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon and the Global Cleantech Meetup. Perhaps most Fletcher-esque, I had the honor of accompanying Governor Deval Patrick on seven “innovation diplomacy” economic development missions. I successfully identified, pitched, and sold various international collaborations and events with the core goal of creating tangible relationships for the Commonwealth’s cleantech companies. On each trip, from Tokyo to Mexico City, I ran into Fletcher alumni who were either working in the target market or staffing the Embassy as a subject-matter expert. One highlight was meeting Colombian President Juan Santos F81 in Bogota and saying in Spanish, “I too am a proud Fletcher alum.” The alumni network is strong.
My tenure at MassCEC came to an end in August of 2014. These days, I am working on various projects in the innovation ecosystem here in the Commonwealth, from Descience — a startup that matches scientists with fashion designers to bring “research to the runway” — to advising a handful of cleantech and digital technology companies. The global network I have cultivated since I landed at Fletcher in 2007 has been instrumental in advancing my career to where it is today. Never forget, it is the people that make the journey, so cultivate them, and do so wisely.
Next up among our 2014 graduates is Hanneke Van Dyke, an old friend of Admissions, having served on the Admissions Committee for two years. We miss her! Here’s her update on her first year post-Fletcher.
As winter settles in back in the States, I’m sitting in front of a fan in my office in the relative comfort of southern hemisphere summer. “Relative” because it’s not exactly comfortable, but after three winters in New England, I am welcoming the reprieve.
After graduating this past May from both Fletcher and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, I began a Global Health Corps (GHC) fellowship and relocated to Lilongwe, Malawi in July where I work as a Community Nutrition Support Fellow for the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI).
CDI operates as a social enterprise here in Malawi, linking commercial production of groundnuts, soya, and maize to smallholder (generally, farmers operating on small-scale family-run plots producing for both sale and household consumption) outreach programs designed to build technical knowledge around best agronomic practices in order to increase productivity, income, food security and overall well-being. In our role at CDI, my “co-fellow” (more on that later) Hector and I are working to build a community nutrition program that is integrated into this commercial and smallholder approach. These first few months have been dedicated to developing relationships with government counterparts and municipal leaders in the district and traditional authority where we work, building our information base by engaging in community-level discussions, and becoming more familiar with the programming across CDI’s different departments.
GHC itself is a leadership development and placement organization that works with leading health organizations to identify talent gaps, and then competitively recruits young professionals from an array of non-medical sectors to fill those gaps. Those in the GHC community share the common belief that health is a human right and that everyone has a role to play in advancing social justice through the health equity movement. One of my favorite aspects of GHC is that fellows work in pairs at their placement organizations — one national fellow and one international. My co-fellow Hector was born, raised, and educated in Malawi, and working as a pair is giving us the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. It is teaching us both a lot about communication, authentic partnership, and the benefits of a little constructive discord here and there.
Now in its sixth year, 128 GHC fellows (representing 22 countries) are working with 59 partner organizations in the U.S., Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. This diversity, both of origin and of experience and background, is so fundamental to the beauty of the Fletcher community, and it is something that was important to me to seek as I was planning my transition away from Medford. (In fact, applications recently opened for the 2015-2016 fellow class and I encourage anyone who has an interest in global health and social justice to explore the diverse offerings.)
Prior to Fletcher, I worked in rural community health education with the Peace Corps in Morocco and then spent a school year teaching elementary school English in the Marshall Islands with WorldTeach. It was during this time that I began to understand the value of working closely with communities and gained exposure to an array of challenges related to health and nutrition, taking a particular interest in their effects on children.
While at Fletcher, my chosen Fields of Study were Human Security and Public & NGO Management and at Friedman, I focused on International Nutrition Interventions. I had a bit of a unique opportunity in that I did not have to limit my course selection strategy to just one school. While aiming to strike a balance between more theory-based coursework and more hands-on and technical coursework, the approach I took and the perspective I maintain is that Fletcher largely served to further inform the wider context of working within the international system, while Friedman largely served to develop the specific technical knowledge that would inform my day-to-day work in nutrition and food security, though of course, there was some blurring of these lines.
Courses such as Actors in Global Governance with Dean Ian Johnstone and Political Economy of Development with Prof. Katrina Burgess were exceptional in broadening my understanding of the international context. As a Fletcher student, I also had the opportunity to enroll in a university seminar during my first semester called International Perspectives on Children in Exceptionally Difficult Circumstances (maybe the longest name of any course I’ve taken and what some of my friends will remember well as the course that made me cry every week), which served to provide more solid footing for the central purpose of my graduate studies.
Because my program spanned three years, I was able to spend two summers pursuing internships abroad: the first, with a small NGO named Sok Sabay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, whose work is focused on early intervention for child trafficking; and the second, in Kinshasa and Bandundu Province, DR Congo, with Action Against Hunger, doing qualitative research on community-specific causes of malnutrition. Both have proved invaluable (directly and indirectly) in preparing me for the work I am doing now and in helping me to more narrowly define my scope of work as I (attempt to) plan my career.
After all of this, it’s still easy to feel a bit scattered at times, and while I am loving learning about my new home and investing in my new community (and particularly loving mango season!), Fletcher remains solidly at my core. I am beyond grateful for the connectivity granted by Whatsapp and Skype and am not only continually inspired as I watch the work my dear friends and classmates have committed to, both back in the States and further afield, but am regularly reminded (by the delivery of a milk frother to aid in my latte-making efforts, updates about of the goings on of Corgis around the D.C. metro area, and emails marked URGENT detailing a lobster parade in Nova Scotia) just how caring, brilliant, and hilarious they are.
Welcome to 2015! I’d like to start off the new year by bringing your attention to the work of one of my favorite ever Fletcher students, Patrick Kabanda, F13. I first met Patrick many years before he applied to Fletcher, and it was always the greatest of pleasures to see him around the building during his two years here. Recently I learned that a policy research working paper he wrote was published by the World Bank Group. The paper, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: How the Performing Arts Can Advance Development and Human Progress,” has a foreword by Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen and was adapted from Patrick’s thesis, “Where Culture Leads, Trade Follows, a Framework for Developing Uganda’s Music as International Trade in Services.” It explores how the World Bank can increase cultural activities as part of its development strategy.
I’m happy to introduce the first member of the Class of 2014 to report on his life after Fletcher. Keith Magnam jumped back into the workforce quickly after graduation, and has settled into his new life in Burkina Faso. Here’s his story on his first year post-Fletcher.
I remember the day that I received my welcome packet from Fletcher Admissions some two and a half years ago. It was a scorching hot, dusty day in the lazy town of Bobo-Dioulasso. Getting myself to the DHL office, which was tucked away on the edge of the city limits, was the first of many experiences that would show me just how unique a Fletcher education would be. It’s fitting that I received my packet while living as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. It was in the Peace Corps that I witnessed some of the deepest and most stagnant poverty that I had ever seen in my life. It was in the Peace Corps where I realized that international development would be the focus of the rest of my career. Being at the grassroots level, seeing the day-to-day lives of these amazing people and the struggles they encountered, I knew that I needed to go back to school in order to serve them in the ways they needed. Fletcher’s values, amazing professors, and tireless network of passionate and supportive alumni called to me across the globe. And so, in September of 2012, I had the immense pleasure of joining the Fletcher Class of 2014!
I spent my two years learning everything I could about development economics, the history and progress of international development, and the skills and techniques that would allow me to better design, monitor, and evaluate development interventions around the world. My last semester at Fletcher really made it clear to me where I wanted to be and what role I wanted to play in the field of international development. I took Econometric Impact Evaluation and Development Economics Micro Perspectives with Prof. Jenny Aker, and these two classes taught me how to approach developmental problems from a more efficient and multifaceted perspective. Professor Aker is so passionate about her work and has an unmatched ability to make these lofty theoretical ideas easily accessible and increasingly enjoyable to learn. I spent hours doing STATA work and reading econometric papers because I honestly wanted to. How often does that happen? Well, at Fletcher, all the time. The environment at Fletcher makes students want to excel and strive to be a leader in their field of expertise. It is a great combination of rigorous academics and a collaborative, convivial student body that creates the perfect little bubble in Medford/Somerville, MA where our world’s next leaders are created.
The summer between my first and second years was spent working with FINCA International in Kinshasa, helping them implement a nationwide household survey. My time as their summer fellow taught me a great deal about managing the implementation of a household survey, training and supervising teams of enumerators, and managing data collection in infrastructure-poor areas. This experience was made possible thanks to the generous financial and warmhearted support of the Blakeley Foundation, which sponsors Fletcher summer internships. Without that support, I could have never made the trip to the DRC, nor would I have been exposed to what it’s like to work in a fragile country setting. The experience had its fair share of challenges and security incidents, but Fletcher and the Blakeley Foundation provided me with overwhelming support and advice that helped make the trip a success overall.
Immediately after my time in Kinshasa, I took advantage of the flexibility within Fletcher’s curriculum to spend a semester abroad in Paris. This experience was priceless in that it helped me broaden my perspectives on international collaboration and different developmental paradigms, and of course, to continue to perfect my French while eating the best bread and cheese you’ll ever taste. It was a great opportunity to interact with some of the most influential actors in the development world and begin the work I needed to construct my thesis. I believe it is the combination of my coursework and my practical field experience that helped me get to where I am today.
I currently work for the World Bank Group as an Impact Evaluation Field Coordinator, working on their governance-related impact evaluations in Burkina Faso. I sit within a research group called the Development Impact Evaluation Initiative, whose goal is to increase the use of evidence-based policy-making through rigorous experimentation and evaluation. On a daily basis, I am holding meetings with local NGO coordinators, managing our data collection team, and liaising with national ministries. It is a never-ending whirlwind of project management and critical thinking that has allowed me to grow professionally much more quickly than I had anticipated. As my position sits at the crossroads between the research team, operations, human resources, and finances, I am forced to manage a diverse set of work streams simultaneously. I’m able to do so efficiently thanks to the breadth of skills I was able to acquire while at Fletcher.
In this role, I have had to adapt to a complicated political situation as tensions rose over the past several months related to the ex-President’s attempts to extend his rule past the constitutional limits. After 27 years, the people of Burkina Faso had had enough and took a stand, demanding that Blaise Compaoré step down and allow a new era to be ushered in. Living through this chaotic situation, as it went from lazy streets to blackened skies and burning buildings, I have been reminded about the importance of the work that we, as Fletcher graduates, are doing every day. I have experienced first-hand a people’s frustration with the stagnation of their economy and the disparity that exists between the world’s richest and poorest populations, and their desire for change. If I took away one lesson from Fletcher, above anything else, it is that we are all in this together. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to attend such a prestigious institution need to do our part to help the world move towards a better future. Whether that be through domestic policies targeting the racial inequalities of our own country, through the concerted efforts of the international community to put an end to extremism and violence, or by helping women create income so that they can feed their children, Fletcher was there to teach me and my fellow classmates. Fletcher will be there to continue teaching generations of bright, passionate leaders who will help drive our world to a better future.
I had an idea last year but didn’t quite succeed in implementing it. One major tweak later, I’m happy to write that I will soon start an occasional series of reports from members of the Class of 2014 on their life after Fletcher. Unlike my (lack of) strategy for the Class of 2013, which resulted in only three posts, last April I snagged volunteer writers before they could leave campus. Most have given me a date by which I can expect to hear from them, and I look forward to sharing these stories from our newest graduates about their move back into the working world and how they have applied their Fletcher educations.
The first report from First-Year Alumni will appear in the Blog tomorrow.
Tagged with: First-Year Alumni
In May 2014, the alumni attending their five-year reunion were members of the Class of 2009. Today, Erin Clancy will kick off the Five-Year Updates from her class. When I reach out to alumni for these updates, I ask them simply to describe their paths, starting before Fletcher and continuing through their graduate studies to their current career, as Erin does below. I’ll also point out that Erin was included among Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Under 33 for 2013, a special honor.
Prior to coming to Fletcher, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science at Whittier College and received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provided a commission into the Foreign Service upon completion of my studies at Fletcher. I was drawn to Fletcher’s interdisciplinary take on international affairs, its academic rigor, and its place in history as the first international relations graduate school in the United States and the alma mater of many distinguished public servants from countries near and far.
It did not take long until I hit my stride at Fletcher after finding my groove in a few Culture Night dance performances. In the classroom, I reveled in Fletcher’s dynamic course offerings on the political landscapes of the Middle East with Vali Nasr, and the practice of international security — seated in the front row no later than 07:40 in the morning — with Richard Shultz. I also benefited from the longstanding partnership between Fletcher and the Harvard Kennedy School where I studied national security management and negotiations. Between my first and second year, I completed a summer internship in 2008 at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria as a political officer covering human rights issues and the domestic political opposition. While working in Syria I began my thesis research on the unbreakable nature of the political-military alliance between Syria and Iran, and the impact of the Syrian-Iranian alliance on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. At the end of two wonderful years in Medford, I graduated with concentrations in International Security Studies and Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization.
After graduation, I accepted my commission into the Foreign Service in August 2009. I arrived at my first diplomatic assignment as vice consul to U.S. Embassy Damascus, Syria in July 2010, where I witnessed the slow evolution of violent Arab Spring protests until security conditions forced us to close the embassy and evacuate the remainder of our diplomatic personnel in February 2012. My assignment to Syria was quite an introduction to the Foreign Service and it profoundly shaped my personal and professional life. From Damascus, I served briefly in U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan to continue working on Syria, and transitioned to U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman where I was the political-military officer responsible for counterterrorism, political-military, and Iran sanctions issues during the lead up to the breakthrough interim agreement reached by the P5+1 negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
These days I am happy to be back home in Washington, DC, working to coordinate U.S. policy on North Africa, Syria, and gender issues in the United Nations Security Council. The highlight of my current role as a multilateral affairs officer is working closely with fellow Fletcherites throughout the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies. Interagency policy committee meetings at the White House or working group meetings on Syria or Boko Haram have become informal Fletcher reunions. Having so many Fletcherites around the table on the important policy issues of the day is a wonderful personal reminder of why this institution is so revered in the international affairs realm — Fletcher truly does create leaders with a global perspective. Not a single day has passed since graduation and my five years in the Foreign Service when I have not felt the direct positive impact of my Fletcher education, nor been so grateful to find community among the talented and inspirational alumni we have all over the world.
While I’m blogging away in my office pajamas, Boston Fashion Week is in full swing. The arrival of troupes of designers and fashion writers might seem to have little to do with Fletcher and our admissions process, except for this:
Maki Nakata, a 2013 graduate of the MIB program, will be hosting a Fashion Week event with her new clothing firm, Maki & Mpho. Along with designer Mpho Muendane, Maki’s objectives are that “Maki & Mpho’s designs will bring the delightful, positive, and exciting aspects of African experience to the global audience.” More details on their philosophy, which goes well beyond design and includes a strong focus on development and cultural exchange, can be found here.
A group of current students is planning to represent the Fletcher community at the event. While fashion/design is not a typical post-Fletcher path, creative implementation of concepts learned here definitely is.
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