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For our first Five-Year Update from the Class of 2010, let’s meet Naureen Kabir, whom I remember as an Admissions interviewer during her first year in the MALD program.  Because of the recent event mentioned in Naureen’s post, I’d like to note that she originally sent it to me about two weeks ago.

NaureenI’ve sat down to write this update several times in the past few weeks, but I keep getting interrupted by world events.  To be specific, world events in the form of terrorist attacks.  Most recently it was the November 13 attacks in Paris.  As an Intelligence Research Manager with the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, my days are very much dependent on terrorist activity around the world, which unfortunately seems constant these days.

I always knew that I wanted a career that had an international focus.  Having spent my childhood across Europe, South Asia, and the United States significantly influenced this goal, as did having a mother who had an amazing career that let her travel the world and work on development programs that benefited women and children in the poorest of countries.  I spent my summers in college working for a non-profit in Bangladesh.  My dream was to follow in my mother’s footsteps and travel the world like she did.

Instead, I stayed in the U.S. after graduating from college in 2004.  I spent the first year post-college working at small nonprofits, before getting a job at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

I assumed, when I was admitted to Fletcher, that while my time at CFR had broadened by interests to U.S. foreign policy issues — such as regional security and defense issues — I would still find my way back to the international development world at and after Fletcher.  But the classes I took during my very first semester — Role of Force with Richard Shultz, Islam and Politics with Vali Nasr, Policy Analysis with Bill Martel, and Islam and the West with Ayesha Jalal — not only challenged and excited me, they firmly planted me in the International Security Studies camp and set the course for the next seven years of my life.

I will forever be so grateful to Fletcher for the incredible education I received during my time there.  The professors I mentioned above were truly phenomenal.  Professor Nasr (a Fletcher graduate who is currently the dean at Johns Hopkins SAIS), welcomed questions and debate at all times; Professor Jalal pushed me harder than anyone else to solidify my arguments and analysis; Professor Martel, whom I had the privilege to work with during my time at Fletcher, approached each day with an enthusiasm and positivity that spread to his students.  And Professor Shultz, in my opinion, is simply the best.

Besides academics, I met many incredible people at Fletcher, some of whom have become dear friends.  And while it often drove me crazy, my time serving as Editor-in-Chief of the The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs was a great experience and taught me skills that I have applied often in my post-Fletcher life.

Following Fletcher, I began work as an Intelligence Research Specialist with the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, as part of an analytical unit known as the Terrorism Threat Analysis Group.  Five years later, I currently lead the unit, and have a team of analysts who assess global terrorist networks to determine potential threats to New York City.  I spend my days monitoring global developments and attacks, reviewing intelligence assessments, and briefing the NYPD’s senior leadership on threats and vulnerabilities.  I also work with the various other units within the Counterterrorism Bureau on ways to bolster security in New York City and train officers in countering specific tactics and terrorist tradecraft.  While it is often hectic, and while it often means working weekends and holidays, I truly love my job and the sense of purpose that it gives me every day.

So much of what I learned at Fletcher has been directly applicable to my work at the NYPD, and I remain so grateful for the Fletcher education, as well as the faculty members and friends who have offered invaluable guidance and advice over the past several years.  On a personal note, five-years post-Fletcher, my husband and I continue to live in New York City, though we are now exploring the city as parents: Last year, we were blessed with a daughter who is now a very active toddler.

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All through this semester I’ve been reaching out to graduates from the Class of 2010 and asking them to write a Five-Year Update for the blog.  I’ve now gathered a few posts, with promises of many more to arrive in January.

The Class of 2010 is just a little different from the Classes of 2009, 2008, or 2007 in that it was the first graduating class that included students who completed the MIB program.  We’ll be hearing from some of those MIBers down the road.  But tomorrow, we’ll read an update from a MALD graduate who found herself going in an unexpected direction with her career.

Some readers put in a special request for the Five-Year Updates in my November survey, and I’m happy to be bringing them back to the blog.

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Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation is a field that has grown dramatically at Fletcher in recent years.  Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church kindly offered this run-down on a conference she attended recently that served as a Fletcher reunion.

A highlight of my professional calendar is the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference.  As the preeminent professional event for the global evaluation community, this 4000+ attendee conference shows the innovation, diversity, and scale of the profession.  In addition to the professional development opportunities, the event is a highlight because of the opportunity to reconnect with the Fletcher Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) community through the annual Fletcher lunch.  Learning what former students are doing, along with their challenges and accomplishments, is always a rewarding experience.

This year, an extraordinary 29 Fletcher alumni and students attended the AEA conference in Chicago.  A few fun facts:

  • Two alumni flew from Turkey where they work in humanitarian M&E.
  • One alumna was from my very first year of teaching at Fletcher (nine years ago).
  • Twenty-six attended the Fletcher lunch, of whom only one was male.  (He took the picture below!)
  • One alumna is the head of an AEA Topical Interest Group.
  • Approximately six alumni did presentations, and some did more than one.
  • Approximately five alumni work for funders.
  • Seven current students attended, of whom one was a first-year student.
  • One recent graduate returned to Rwanda to continue her role in development M&E.
  • At least nine nationalities were represented.

AEA Crew1

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For today’s daily dose of inspiration, I want to tell you about the latest adventure of my friend, and Fletcher grad, Charles Scott, F94.  I’ve written about Charlie before — there’s often an international flavor to his adventures — though he’s hardly the traditional Fletcher graduate.

This month’s adventure was to guide a blind athlete to ascend the Inca Trail nonstop, to the historic site of Machu Picchu.  Charlie, his friend Dan, who lost his sight as an adult, and two other friend/athletes have joined together to form Team See Possibilities.  They took on their latest challenge only after a successful rim-to-rim-to-rim Grand Canyon run about a year ago (garnering plenty of press attention).  Here’s how the team members introduced themselves and their plan before their latest run:

Shortly after arriving in Peru, Charlie sent a note to friends saying:

This high elevation mountain trek to Machu Picchu normally takes four days and climbs over three mountain passes that reach as high as 14,000 feet.  We’ll try to complete it in one day.  In our planning meeting yesterday, the Peruvian guide who has completed the trek 215 times told us, “What you are planning to do is not impossible, but the local authorities think it’s crazy for anyone to try, let alone with a blind person.”

We’re working with UNICEF to encourage children with disabilities to participate in sports.  During our visit, we will meet with blind students at a school in Lima, Peru.  Dan, who decided to become an endurance athlete after going blind in his 30s, offers a reminder that each one of us can overcome even the greatest of obstacles.  I hope, as the students hear Dan’s story, they will be inspired to come up with and dive fearlessly into their own adventures and, like Dan, see blindness as an inconvenience to be overcome rather than a disability that prevents them from living life to the fullest.

So far, Charlie and the team have shared only limited information on the results of the run.  I assume there will be more news soon via Twitter and the team website.  But we know they achieved their amazing goal!

I confess — I often tell Charlie (jokingly?) that he’s crazy, but sometimes another person’s crazy ideas become genuinely inspiring, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about the extraordinary efforts of Dan, Charlie, Brad, and Alison.  If their next plan evolves on schedule, I look forward to writing in about a year about a successful run for Team See Possibilities on the Great Wall of China.

 

Chatted about behind the scenes — but unofficial until just recently — is the news that Fletcher professor Miguel E. Basáñez is Mexico’s new ambassador to the U.S.  Professor Basáñez wrote to the community last night to bid us a temporary farewell.  I asked his permission to share his message via the blog, which previously featured him in the Faculty Spotlight series, and he graciously agreed.  He wrote:

It is both with joy and sadness that I write to let you know that I have been officially approved as the next Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., which forces me to bring to an end a golden page in my life — seven wonderful years at Fletcher.

It will be a joy, an honor, and a privilege for me to serve my country as its Ambassador.  As you may know, Mexico is the country where the largest community of expatriate Americans live — over 1 million strong — for good reason.  Mexico remains a very safe country for foreign visitors.  Not to mention, we boast beautiful beaches (Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun), world-famous archaeological sites (Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacán, Palenque), and a wealth of charming colonial towns (Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro).  I hope that you will consider friendly and beautiful Mexico in your future travels.

As Ambassador, I will also be working to represent the large and diverse community of Mexicans who live in the United States.  Historically, economic conditions in Mexico have made it difficult for our country to retain its raw, uneducated — yet extremely talented — youth, who have worked hard and succeeded in the U.S., adding greatly to the economy.  These immigrants (who now number 35 million people) now produce economic output of $1.5 trillion, a number which if added to Mexico’s GDP, would raise Mexico from 14th to 7th in world GDP.  I look forward to working on their behalf to the best of my abilities.

Yet it is with sadness that I say goodbye to Fletcher, where I have deeply enjoyed my interactions with the faculty and staff, learning about their academic endeavors and life experiences.  Most of all, I have enjoyed teaching here at Fletcher, where I have found the brightest and most intellectually engaging students any professor could wish for.

At Fletcher, I was able to realize my life’s work as a mathematician of culture, based on public opinion polls from around 100 countries every five years since 1980.  My years of study and research on culture culminates in my book, A World of Three Cultures, which will be published in the late fall of this year by Oxford University Press.  I hope you will agree to allow me to host a book launch event at Fletcher at the end of the fall semester.  It would seem only appropriate to hold the event at the place that has been my academic home for the past seven years.

I would very much like to return to Fletcher when I end my service as Ambassador, so that I can share with students both my academic work on culture and my experiences as Ambassador.

I wish you all the best, and I hope to see you in Washington, DC.

Coincidentally, the nominee for the position of Ambassador to Mexico from the U.S. is a Fletcher graduate, Roberta Jacobson, F86.  Assuming she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, what a nice coincidence to have a swap of members of the Fletcher community for these two very important positions!

 

Tufts Now ran a nice profile recently of Joyce Aluoch, F08, a graduate of the Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP).  Read about her path, starting from when her father chose her career for her, to the seat on the ICC.  Her enrollment in the GMAP program turned out to be perfectly timed to her career advancement.

 

Now and then, I hear about a Fletcher graduate’s current work, whether or not I knew the alum well as a student.  While I was thinking about what to write today, I remembered hearing about Envoys, the venture launched by Seth Leighton, F12, and two classmates from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where he pursued a degree before Fletcher.  Seth serves as Executive Director of Envoys, which works with schools to offer trips and global education programming.  (One of the trips is to Sri Lanka, where the students observe the work of Educate Lanka, the NGO started by Manjula Dissanayake, F12, Seth’s Fletcher classmate.)

The way Seth has woven the Fletcher and HGSE aspects of his education together to create his new career strikes me as an especially good example of where a dual degree can be valuable.  His TEDx talk provides further insight into his perspective on global education.

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One of the most loyal friends the Admissions Office could hope for is about to embark on a new adventure.  Han Kim, F10, has had a varied pre- and post-Fletcher career in Korea.  This past year, in addition to working for a start-up company, he has dedicated himself to training for an around-the-world yachting event, the Clipper Round the World Race.  His path was recently featured in an article in the English language Korea Herald and on its website.

Han was a student member of the Admissions Committee, and he has been a great friend as an alumnus, helping to welcome several years’ worth of newly admitted students to the Fletcher family with receptions in Seoul.  He was an active participant in the community during his student days, too, and was featured in the Admissions Blog a couple of times, most notably when he participated in the Boston Marathon.(

The Clipper Round the World Race starts on August 30.  Han is a member of the Clipper Telemed+ crew, for those who want to follow the results over the 335 days he anticipates being at sea.Han(Photo from the Clipper Round the World Race website.)

 

Today I’m going to share the writing of others.  Tufts has several publications — online and traditional — and two recent stories about Fletcher caught my eye.

The first (which I saw on the online TuftsNow site) was written by Elliot Ackerman, F03, who shares his belief that universities should recruit more veterans.  Elliot was a writer-in-residence (our first!) at Fletcher this past spring, coinciding with the publication of his novel, Green on Blue.  He is also a decorated veteran, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after completing the dual BA/MALD degree.

The second story appeared in “Blueprint,” the publication of the University’s development office.  It describes the origin of the new Topol Fellowship and the additional funds that Sid Topol donated to expand Fletcher’s “long-standing commitment to the study of nonviolent resistance.”  You can also see the article on page 6 of the Blueprint down below.

Finally, not from a Tufts publication, but related to the story on the Topol Fellowship, comes this blog post from Benjamin Naimark-Rowse, a PhD candidate and the first recipient of the Topol Fellowship.  He notes that his piece, “The Founding Myth of the United States of America,” is “about how nonviolent resistance is at the heart of the story of our independence struggle, or at least it should be.”

 

Returning once more, probably for the last time in the First-Year Alumni feature, to the Class of 2014, we meet Christina Brown, for whom study at Fletcher was one step in a multi-step career transition.

LahoreThree years ago, I was packing up my classroom after finishing another year of teaching physics, and now I am a few weeks away from beginning a PhD program in economics.  The last three years have been a wonderful period of change and self-discovery, and at Fletcher cases like mine are not unique.  I am one of many classmates who used Fletcher for a career transition — a place to both discover what it is you want to do and then gain the skills to make that career path possible.

Prior to Fletcher, I taught high school in a low-income community outside Boston through Teach for America and in a rural village in Tanzania through One Heart Source, a health and education NGO.  While I loved teaching, my enjoyment was tempered with frustration over the tremendous systemic problems constraining the education market, especially in developing countries.

I wanted to work in the development sector, but I did not know how to break into the field, or for that matter, where.  Did I want to be a program manager?  Evaluator?  Sectoral specialist?  I wasn’t sure where my skills and interests would be a good match.  I chose to attend Fletcher because I wanted the flexibility to explore development from different perspectives, to see where I would fit best.

Coursework in my first year in program evaluation and in development economics helped to solidify my interests, allowing me to gain useful skills for the development sector.  Prof. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church’s series of monitoring and evaluation courses were particularly useful.  Her approach to evaluation is exceptionally rigorous, and with many of the alumni of her courses now in leadership positions within evaluation departments, her high aspiration for the evaluation field is seeping into many organizations.  This group of former students stays in contact, growing year by year, through an email listserve and yearly gatherings at the American Evaluation Association Conference.

However, it was Prof. Jenny Aker’s coursework that ultimately led me to the path I am currently on.  Like many members of the Fletcher faculty, Prof. Aker has many years of experience as a practitioner, working in West Africa, before returning to academia.  And it showed in every lecture she taught.  Her research was fascinating and thoroughly informed by her work in the field.  There are many opportunities to work closely with professors whose work you are interested in, and I was lucky to serve as both a teaching assistant and research assistant for Prof. Aker.

At heart I am a math nerd, looking for an analytic approach to solve problems.  Fletcher showed me that I could still care about the issues I was interested in — poverty, education, inequality — while approaching them from a quantitative angle.  Seeing academics like Prof. Aker and others who were doing policy-relevant research and were at the forefront of the issues in their field, showed me an academic career need not be divorced from the issues on the ground.  Towards the end of my first year I decided I wanted to do a PhD in economics and become a researcher.  Rather than a light bulb going off, it was a slow, profound realization that this was what I wanted to do with my life.  Luckily, due to Fletcher’s flexibility in coursework and ties to Boston-area schools, I was able to pivot in my second year and take two PhD-level courses at the Harvard School of Public Health and one at the Harvard Kennedy School.

At Fletcher, students are required to do a capstone project, which can take the form of the deliverable that is most useful for the student’s professional development.  I choose to write a paper similar to an economics journal article, as it allowed me to see the research process from start to finish.  I used an econometric strategy I learned during my first year to investigate the impact of an early grade literacy program in Indonesia.  I found the program only had an effect for higher performing students and that this heterogeneity stemmed from differences in the time cost of participation in the program.  These findings were used to inform the program scale-up.  This experience deepened my love of the research process, and the tangible outcomes it produced.

A week after graduation, I began as a Research Fellow at Evidence for Policy Design, the microeconomic division of Harvard’s Center for International Development.  I oversee the implementation, data collection, and analysis for two randomized controlled trials in Pakistan, working closely with our field team and six principal investigators across several universities.  The job was a perfect fit, building off the RA skills I had gained working with Prof. Aker, and, of course, I heard about the job through a fellow Fletcher student.

Throughout the fall I applied to economics PhD programs and, again, Fletcher professors came through to offer advice and support.  I am thrilled to be attending UC Berkeley, which has one of the best programs in the world for development economics, this fall.  I truly would not be here if not for the mentorship I received from Fletcher faculty, opportunities I heard about through Fletcher alumni, and friendship of fellow Fletcher students.

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