Currently viewing the category: "Our Alumni"
The first year after graduating can involve lots of movement for Fletcher alumni — leaving the comfort of campus, trying new jobs and cities, and even reevaluating career goals when job markets change suddenly. Today, we’ll hear from the first of several members of the Class of 2017 who are just wrapping up their first year post-Fletcher. Sydney-Johanna Stevns was a two-year friend of Admissions while she pursued her MALD. When we were corresponding about this blog post, I told her how clearly I could picture her sitting in the Admissions Office entryway, waiting for an interviewee or a visitor she would take for coffee. When not helping out Admissions, Sydney was active with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.
Like many of my classmates, I came to Fletcher planning to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. At the time I entered, I viewed the field of international environment and development work as being on the upswing, but just in time for me to graduate in 2017, the landscape changed. I decided to take a month after graduation to mentally regroup and think about a new career path while intensively studying Spanish in Xela, Guatemala. In this mountain town, I still wasn’t far from Fletcher. Nearby was a Fletcher friend who started a socially responsible shoe company in Antigua and another who was beginning her first tour as a political Foreign Service Officer in Guatemala City.
After my sunny month in Central America ended, I moved to Washington, DC to begin searching for work. I reached out to Fletcher alumni and other friends I’d made during my time at Fletcher to learn about their work and to understand opportunities within their fields. In the end, it was a Fletcher friend who saw a job posting on the Fletcher alumni job listserv, thought it would be a perfect fit, and forwarded it my way. After responding to the post, I got a call from my soon-to-be boss asking if I could come in on Monday. What started as a ten-day contract is now my full-time gig.
My role is Country Engagement Specialist with the NDC Partnership Support Unit (SU), hosted within World Resources Institute, focused on supporting Latin American countries while they amp up their action against climate change. In many ways, the work I am doing as a Specialist is what I hoped I would do someday as an Economic Foreign Service Officer and still very much feels like public service. On missions to Colombia, Honduras, and Peru, I have met with Ministries of Environment, Finance, Planning, Agriculture, Mines, and Energy, among others; representatives from the World Bank, UNDP, Inter-American Development Bank, GIZ, and other government embassies. In these meetings we identify areas to collaborate across ministries and across international cooperation actors. This is a central part of the NDC Partnership’s work to support developing countries in their efforts to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — promises countries made as part of the Paris Agreement to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
As I’m writing this, I am sitting in Bonn, Germany, still jetlagged from my mission to Lima. While our team is headquartered in Washington, DC, I’m working with our team in Bonn on a temporary assignment to get to know them and our German cooperation partners better. We also have regional specialists based across the world. Together, our team of thirty people comes from over fifteen different countries, making it feel very similar to Fletcher.
No two weeks at work are the same. By nature of being effectively a “start-up” initiative, the NDC Partnership SU is constantly growing and improving its strategy. At a week’s notice I might have an in-country mission scheduled to provide support for the local government, or be writing our work program and budget, or drafting an agenda for a meeting with our implementing partners. Through this work I’m reminded of my time at Fletcher: my ability to convey a message convincingly gained from The Fletcher Forum; team management I learned working with FSIG; and ability to tell a compelling story out of a jumble of numbers that resulted from Impact Evaluation and Economic Policy Analysis classes.
As exciting and interesting as this job is, I’ve also learned that the jet-setting lifestyle is not the beauty I thought it would be. There are some airports that I know far too well and half the time I cannot justify unpacking my suitcase. But it provides insight into a world of international diplomacy outside of the Foreign Service and is always eased by the run-ins with Fletcher alumni and by the chance to learn about new cultures.
Although, during my time at Fletcher I was very focused on working for the federal government, in hindsight I see now that Fletcher’s flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum gave me the skills I needed to adapt when the job market changed. It’s also clear how the relationships I built during Fletcher were the ones that made finding work and building a new career path possible. The generosity of Fletcher students and alums, which I have continued to receive since graduating, makes me so grateful to have chosen Fletcher.
Today we’ll turn back to the Class of 2012, and to a friend of the Admissions Office. Kartik was a member of the Admissions Office staff for both of his two years in the MALD program. I remember taking him along for a grad school fair in Boston. It has been a treat to have an excuse to reconnect with him.
My path to Fletcher was fairly convoluted. My first job out of college was in the Boston area at an economic policy consulting firm. The job was mainly focused on economic issues around infrastructure development in the U.S. As a kid I️ grew up in a few different countries and I️ really wanted work that would let me travel internationally as much as possible. For the longest time I️ thought that would mean getting an MBA and finding a job as a management consultant or the like. That was until a friend told me about International Relations as a degree and, after doing some research, I️ found out about Fletcher.
I had developed a quantitative background during college and my job. When I started at Fletcher, I found that taking theoretical and qualitative classes on subjects I️ had never studied before was a lot harder than I️ had initially anticipated. However the experience was definitely made easier by the professors and my fellow Fletcher students, who were a lot of help during that time. I️ was lucky enough to get into Professor Everett’s petroleum class in my first semester, which I️ have to say was a definite life-changer for me. I️ had known that I️ wanted to go into the field of energy post-Fletcher, but I️ wasn’t sure doing what/where — that class definitely helped make that decision for me.
My experience in the petroleum class solidified my belief that international energy was a space rife with interesting issues and it would be an interesting path to follow as a career. What I️ learned in that class and others in the environmental concentration is content and skills that I️ still use to this day. In hindsight, I️ also have to say that the classes I️ took outside of the environmental stream, like Professor Trachtman’s law class, were also very helpful.
As an aside, I️ want to point out that my extracurricular activities at Fletcher included hosting Fletcher Follies, and the experience of making light of often serious issues showed me a side of Fletcher that I️ hadn’t previously experienced. I️t was a transformational and extremely fun experience.
Between my two years at Fletcher, I️ interned at a small consulting firm in Washington, DC that specialized in political risk and energy. Then, after graduating, I got a job with a few colleagues from that firm who left to start their own practice in New York.
As a member of a small team, right out of grad school, I️ had significant responsibility for what I️ was working on. This involved a lot of client sales and conferences along with actual research and presentations. We were dealing with global energy issues where I️ got to travel to a number of very interesting places and deal with some extremely interesting problems. These spanned the spectrum from corruption issues in Brazil to the opening up of the Iranian oil sector.
In 2015, after three years in that job, I got an opportunity to expand my energy work and go into the field of equity research for the energy sector at Bernstein, where I️ am presently. Today I️ work on stock pricing in the energy sector — my team is responsible for setting a price for energy stocks that many investors trade off of. In addition, about half my time is spent answering investor questions about various global and local issues that could potentially affect commodity and stock prices. These topics can span anything that might directly or indirectly cause changes in the energy markets, which makes the job both very interesting and challenging. I️ need to talk about what is happening with scud missiles falling in Saudi Arabia in the same conversation as the EPA’s clean air rules. Many of these topics remain those about which I️ learned to form opinions in my classes at Fletcher.
The one thing that I️ do regret to this day is not taking the corporate finance classes with Professor Jacque. Being in a finance job was not something that I️ had ever wanted or worked towards, but it definitely took me longer to learn the ropes because I️ didn’t have a background in finance. In hindsight, I️ think the corporate finance classes would have been very helpful and I️ would recommend them highly to anyone who is still at Fletcher. You never know when you might need them!
I️ have kept in touch with quite a few Fletcher friends who have been invaluable in both my professional and personal growth and being in New York has given me a real appreciation of Fletcher connections. I️t is also incredible how many Fletcher graduates I️ have run into in countries around the world, whether I️ am visiting for fun or for work.
Continuing an annual tradition, it’s Valentine’s Day, which calls for stories of Fletcher couples. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about these eight alumni who gained more than an education from their Fletcher experience. ♥
Eric, F95, and Caroline, F95
We were both dating other people our first year at Fletcher. One of us was unceremoniously dumped at the end of that year, the other nearby with soothing words. Those soothing words continued all summer by phone with Eric in DC and Caroline at Middlebury. Feelings intensified when reunited in Medford that fall, with the minor issue of one outside relationship still in the mix. Awkwardness was averted by hiding behind study dates that were almost always followed by dinner. When the issue finally came to the fore, Eric asked Caroline, “Why are you afraid of trying this?” Her answer: “Because it might work.” Dating ensued. MALDs were minted with no jobs in sight. Caroline went to Philly, Eric to Chicago. We reunited for a Fletcher classmate’s wedding, at which point another Fletcher classmate told us to choose to be together. Engagement followed, though the engagement ring was quickly returned in favor of two tickets to Hong Kong, where we worked, lived, and had two daughters over eight years. We’ve now been together 24 years, married almost 21. We’re happily settled in Seattle and about to send our oldest daughter off to college. How time flies!
Cass, F16, and Matheus, F16
We met at the New York Career Trip student/alumni reception. After a few months, Matheus asked Cass on a date during Americana Night and she agreed after watching his performance on guitar. We were married in Manhattan at New York City Hall with a handful of friends, totally impromptu. We still wear the wedding bands that we ordered with same-day delivery from Amazon Prime, and we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at our Fletcher graduation together.
Sarah, F10, and Trevor, F11
Sarah and Trevor first met at Fletcher in 2010, and quickly bonded over their shared love of single malt Scotch and Professor Glennon’s classes. In 2014, they made it official at a small wedding at a Virginia winery, attended by Fletcher friends from around the globe. The couple make their home with their pup Diesel in Washington, DC, where Sarah is a Lead Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and Trevor is the Deputy Head of Policy for the DC office of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They enjoy travel, hiking with Diesel, hanging out with their fellow Fletcher alums in DC, and trying not to be too anxious about the state of the world.
Mary, F88, and Jim, F87, FG89
Fall 1986: Mary arrives at Fletcher as a new first year. Settling into the dorm, she keeps meeting second-year students who say: “Oh, you were in the Peace Corps? You’re interested in Students for Development Studies? You should meet Jim!” Jim returns from a summer internship in Somalia, reconnecting with friends who keep saying: “Hey, there’s a new first-year student you have to meet — her name’s Mary!” And so we were matched before we met. Turns out we had lots more in common than met the eye: similar family backgrounds and deeper values, etc. A year later, we’d been married and welcomed Baby Aaron into our family in Blakeley Hall, where we had taken the job of resident directors. Diapers before diplomas! The Fletcher community was so warm and welcoming; our memories from those days are precious. We headed to Washington, DC with degrees in hand, and Baby #2 on the way. Since then, we’ve lived and worked in Thailand, Jerusalem (where #3 son was born), Croatia, and Vietnam, having wonderful family adventures along with great professional experiences. Both of us still work in international development, currently living at home base in the DC area, where we continue to treasure Fletcher friendships as much as ever.
Tagged with: Fletcher couples
Today’s update from the Class of 2012 is special in many ways. First, it has been written jointly by two MALD graduates, Aaron Morris and Ho-Ming So Denduangrudee. Second, Ho-Ming sent it along only a few days after bringing a new baby into their family. Third, Ho-Ming and Aaron make up one of the first Fletcher Couples I featured on the blog. Finally, as a first-year student, Ho-Ming wrote about her long path to Fletcher.
Similar to a lot of future Fletcher classmates, it turns out we lived and worked at random places at the same time: Boston, post-undergrad where Aaron worked in investment consulting and Ho-Ming worked as a research assistant and at a climbing gym; Thailand, where Aaron worked on the Thai-Burmese border with former political prisoners on advocacy projects, and Ho-Ming worked on indigenous rights and community development projects across the region; and Colorado, where Aaron valeted cars and ski bummed, and Ho-Ming worked for a small human rights defenders fund. Aaron knew he wanted to contribute to bridging the business and international development worlds, and Ho-Ming was interested in minority rights.
We met on the first day of orientation and were on seemingly different tracks: Aaron was a development economics/security studies MALD and eventually became an advisee of Professor Block; Ho-Ming went to Fletcher to study human rights with Professor Hannum, who had previously taught one of her early mentors at the UN. At Fletcher, we were constantly challenged to work on and be exposed to topics beyond the scope of our respective foci, whether by each other or by our peers, professors, the curriculum, or the institution. We quickly learned there are no silos in our interrelated world, and a Fletcher education continually underscores this. Some horizon-broadening moments were more trying than others — for instance, that semester when Aaron convinced Ho-Ming that taking Professor Jacque’s Corporate Finance class would be a great idea. It is a great idea. There may be some tears and terror alongside learning, but it is worth it. (Opposite of a pro tip: if you actively try to avoid eye contact, rest assured, Professor Jacques will call on you.)
After graduation, Aaron took a job in Jakarta with the ASEAN basketball league in business development and strategy, and Ho-Ming signed on to work on indigenous rights and sustainable development as part of a United Nations forestry initiative. In four wonderful years in Indonesia, Aaron ended up taking a job as a management consultant at Bain & Co., and Ho-Ming returned to community-based work through the Samdhana Institute.
Our Fletcher roots continue to manifest throughout our careers and lives. While Ho-Ming was at the UN, Professor Moomaw facilitated key introductions to support the Government of Indonesia delegation during global climate change COPs, Fletcher alumni and students joined us as colleagues at various moments in our respective careers, alumni were generous with sharing their networks and many became close friends. We even managed to expand the community in a small way, when a dear colleague and friend opted to attend Fletcher for a mid-career MA. We were fortunate to be able to attend his graduation in Medford, which coincided with our five year reunion.
We are currently located in San Francisco, prompted by an internal transfer opportunity through Aaron’s work. Ho-Ming has kept a foot in Southeast Asia, building fun partnerships, including this one one linking the outdoor industry, climbing, and an incredible indigenous activist/regional MP to pilot ecotourism and support indigenous tenure security in remote Eastern Indonesia. She’s recently taken on a new position strengthening institutional partnerships at Build Change, a social enterprise focused on enhancing disaster resilience and recovery for low income neighborhoods in emerging markets.
Fletcher expanded our horizons and imbued in us a truly interconnected perspective on the world. On the macro policy and industry level, this has been invaluable. On a civic and personal level, particularly in divisive times, we are grateful that Fletcher taught us — above all — to listen and always be mindful of a bigger picture. We might not always agree, but Fletcher has emphasized to us the importance of trying to understand. As partners, as parents, we strive to serve as resources for each other and, we hope, a wider community that bridges industries, nationalities, and worldviews. At Fletcher, we were given the tools to foster similarities that drive all of us, to strengthen the connections between us and, not least, to be thoughtful and reflective — to engage and look for ways to be inclusive, share responsibilities. and be thoughtful about how we can create a better world.
It has been a while since the blog featured a Five-Year Update, and I’m excited to kick off the profiles from the Class of 2012 — a group that seems especially full of wonderful people. I’m extra pleased that the first of these posts comes from Vanessa Vidal Castellanos, whom I interviewed for her MALD application in 2011 and I’ve been in contact with ever since. Vanessa is currently serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. When she was a student, she appeared in the Admissions Blog before running in the Boston Marathon.
This Five-Year Update is written from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I have been since September 11, 2017 — such an important date for many around the globe. As I booked my travel to permanently change stations, the travel agent hesitantly asked: “Are you sure you want to travel from the United States to Saudi Arabia on September 11?” Honestly, the significance of that date hadn’t crossed my mind. I thought back to exactly five years earlier when I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America on September 11, 2012. That day, as I prepared to introduce our speaker before the swearing-in ceremony for the new Foreign Service officers like me, I choked and contained tears while watching on television as then President Obama and the Secretary of State received the bodies of those who had been killed in service in Benghazi, Libya. It was at that moment that I realized how honored and proud I was to be joining the diplomatic corps of the United States.
My diplomatic career began after my admissions interview to The Fletcher School, which is when I first considered the U.S. Foreign Service. I knew I wanted to work in public service, but also knew something was missing from most of the jobs I had heard of, and that was the international component. Thanks to Jessica, who encouraged me to apply for the Pickering Fellowship after my admissions interview, I became a Pickering Fellow. After graduating from Fletcher, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service — exactly the career I had dreamt of, I just didn’t know the name for it. I went on to complete an internship at the operations center in Washington, DC, covering East Asia and the Pacific, but in tune with everything that was happening in the world. I remember every day was something new, and briefing high-level officials as an intern was nerve-racking to say the least. I questioned if I would be able to fulfill my five-year contract as part of the Fellowship.
After serving in various capacities at U.S. embassies in Tunisia, Switzerland, Zambia, and now in Saudi Arabia, I understand and appreciate the value of diplomacy to create mutual understanding between the people and governments of different countries. I absolutely love engaging the people of the host country, hearing about their needs and dreams, and finding ways the U.S. government can provide support. I have always said the United States is not a perfect country, but we have tons to share and I am glad to have resources at hand that I can offer and that mutually benefit others and the United States. It’s not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes perspectives are controversial. However, having people-to-people conversations about those standpoints and then influencing U.S. foreign policy, even if only in the slightest, is reassuring.
There is no question that without my education at Fletcher — thorny and touchy discussions, mock chief of staff meetings, public diplomacy, negotiation simulations, and sample policy briefs — and the network of friends I built, I would not have this diplomatic career. The Fletcher community at the Department is real and truly vibrant. (I always had my doubts if it could live up to the hype, during the annual Fletcher D.C. networking events.) I am grateful for my Fletcher experience and the international worldview it gave me; I could not imagine my life without it!
Check out Vanessa’s video, which the U.S. Embassy shared on its Facebook page. It’s from a series in which Embassy staff share details about their home towns.
In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond. Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met.
How did you meet at Fletcher?
Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there. The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time. She was already a diplomat for Thailand. She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors. A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.
We dated the summer after my first year. Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year. We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts. There was no email. Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.
Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai! But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year. Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989. For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters. Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.
PH: Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.
Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.
Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?
PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa. The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger. When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco. So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation. It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.
When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long. And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.
DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD. So I set the condition for getting married.
Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?
DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English. I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.
PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot. Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.
What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?
PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes. Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history. For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning. I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.
DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history. I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite! For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.
Any final words?
DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.
If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service. Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate). The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.
It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere. This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages. I’d like to share the story of two of them.
During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand. As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum. My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally. One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee. She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher. I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand. It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher! I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.” Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”
I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed. One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound. In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).
Q: Tell me a little about your backgrounds.
Dusadee Haymond: I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy. My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north. I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.
Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing. We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine. I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University. My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.
What was your path to Fletcher?
PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service. They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai. Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations. I was interested in something international. I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer. The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston. He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west. I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.
DH: I always wanted to study in America. But my family comes from middle class. Both my parents worked for the government. So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams. I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship. In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.
What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?
PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development. I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people. For me, it’s been a great bargain.
DH: Destiny. Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university. I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?” I took it and passed it. Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny. I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes. I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.
Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years. I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long. We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision. So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>
PH: We had a big decision to make. We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry. Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side. That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.
Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?
DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO). It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you. But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc. And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do. But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive. The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses. My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse. I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own. I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea. One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education. I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia. Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.” No questions asked.
Can you tell me more about your writing?
DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write. So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.” I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing. I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment. When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time. The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”
I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.
Was interracial marriage difficult?
DH: It was tough at the beginning. During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand. A lot of them married Thai wives. Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated. When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself. Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians. Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man. Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him. And Pete has proved himself. They’re all very proud of him.
PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.
How many languages do you speak?
PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]
DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin. My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities. I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group. I took it as a compliment! But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.
Where have you served?
PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand. My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos. It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos. I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside. We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems. It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!
What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?
PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open. You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it. But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.
The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world. Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world. In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill. For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.
Depends on what your stomach is for risk. I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own. The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure. I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.
DH: If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit. Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment. Foreign Service is a family decision. It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.
In case you missed it, click on the photo to the right and it will take you to a nice feature highlighting the experience of 11 Fletcher alumni currently working at the United Nations. Graduates of the MALD, PhD, and GMAP programs are included, and one — Ana Garcia, F13 — wrote one of the blog’s earliest “First-Year Alumni” updates. It looks like her job search turned out just fine!
Fletcher alumni are sprinkled throughout the United Nations, both in New York and in regional offices. Other graduates whom the blog has featured are Claudia Ortiz and Margherita Zuin, both of whom were based in New York at the time they wrote their Five-Year Update posts.
A few years back, Devon Cone, F08, shared her five-year update with the Admissions Blog. Since writing, Devon has continued her refugee work, shifting locations several times and organizations at least once. She is still engaged with refugee issues, currently as the Director of Protection Programs at HIAS. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the update she wrote previously and watching as she discusses her post-Fletcher experience on this video.
You may already have heard that Michael Dobbs, probably best known to blog readers as the author of House of Cards — but also a politician, political commentator, and the holder of three Fletcher degrees (including the PhD, F73, F75, F77) — is in residence at Fletcher this month as Visiting Professor of Contemporary Politics.
While here, Lord Dobbs has already given a book talk, met students and faculty for coffee, and participated in a lunchtime discussion, and he is leading a three-session workshop on political leadership. (You can read more about the residency at The Boston Globe.) But the event most relevant for those who are not on campus will take place today (Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)). This afternoon you can tune in (via the Fletcher Facebook page) for a “Fletcher Reads the Newspaper” discussion/debate on “Nationalism vs. Globalism: Will Brexit be the Ultimate Litmus Test?” with Lord Dobbs and Professor Amar Bhide sharing their opinions on the topic, moderated by Senior Associate Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti.
Please join us and watch the debate sparks fly!
Archives by Date
TagsAnnotated Curriculum Application Boston Marathon Business competitions Capstone Career CIERP Coffee Hours Commencement Community Conferences Cool stuff! deadlines Dean Stavridis Dear Ariel decisions DME Early Notification Essays Faculty Spotlight First-Year Alumni Five-Year Updates Fletcher couples Fletcher Forum Ginn Library GRE IBGC Internships Interview ISSP LLM Mariya MIB OCS Outside of class Paying for Grad School PhD Professors suggest Reading Days Recommendations Roxanne Social List State Department Student Stories waitlist