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With students from around the world, the Fletcher community acts quickly in response to regional disasters.  Since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck the Philippines, students have started to organize fund-raising activities, and I’m sure we’ll have details on their plans this week.

Meanwhile, readers might be interested in the work of a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program, Patrick Meier.  Through a current student, Patrick sent this message to the community over the weekend:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs just activated the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) in response to Typhoon Yolanda, which has already been described as possibly one of the strongest Category 5 storms in history.  The Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) was in turn activated by the DHN to carry out a rapid needs and damage assessment by tagging reports posted to social media.  So colleagues and I have launched MicroMappers in partnership with the SBTF to micro-task the tagging of tweets.  We need all the help we can get given the volume we’ve collected (and are continuing to collect).  This is where you come in!

In short, Patrick is part of team that is calling on individuals to monitor posts to social media as a means of determining where need is greatest in typhoon-struck areas of the Philippines.  He has asked Fletcher students to jump in and help.  Blog readers are also invited to be part of this effort.  Details , as well as a live crisis map, can be found on Patrick’s blog.

 

When we last featured five-year updates, it was members of Fletcher’s Class of 2007 who described their paths since graduation.  But another class graduated last May, and now we turn to the Class of 2008.  Kicking off the new year for this feature is Adria Chamberlain who has taken on a pivotal role in bringing together members of her own graduating class, as well as other alumni in the Boston area.

Addie, Egypt2We all want to change the world for the better, right?  Leave that lasting mark; help people, organizations, and cultures redefine the concept of neighbor; dramatically improve the opportunities of those who may have extremely limited ones, right?  Right.  The question is, how are you going to do it, and what do you need to get you there?  The answer: Fletcher.  Fletcher produces a feast by taking what you’ve done, challenging your notions of what should be done, and blending it together with others who are similarly driven and knowledgeable, and who come to the table with myriad experiences.  It’s a feast from which you can draw unlimited nourishment both during and after your time in the Hall of Flags.

For the years between college and Fletcher, I worked in private practice immigration law — mostly on asylum cases from around the world.  I found my job extremely valuable and rewarding, but was getting frustrated doing work that didn’t affect the system creating the nightmare situations these asylees had had to live through.  I chose an international affairs graduate school because I wanted to play a role in improving systems, rather than administering band-aids to consequences.  Thankfully, that is exactly what I get to do now.  I chose Fletcher because it was the very best at the factors that were important to me about graduate school.  I knew it was an incomparable feast.

My concentrations at Fletcher were Human Security Studies and Leadership Studies (self-designed).  Through research and in-depth interviews of leaders at the highest levels, my thesis examined leadership differences and similarities across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.  Their insights and my learnings continue to aid my leadership trajectory today.  I also organized the annual ski trip, and now serve as the Class of 2008 Reunion Chair.

After grad school I became a Chief of Staff on a U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts, then went on to join New Profit Inc. where I work on a rotation of special initiatives on behalf of the founder and Executive team. New Profit is a nonprofit social innovation organization and venture philanthropy fund headquartered in Boston.  We invest significant growth capital in a portfolio of social entrepreneurs, work to scale their impact and drive systemic change in areas such as education, workforce development, public health, community development, and poverty alleviation.

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Last month I needed to contact our volunteer interviewers and I used an email list that included recent grads.  Though I apologized for including them in the email, I also invited them to write about their post-Fletcher lives for the blog.  Instant success!  In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing reports from several of our newest alumni.  The first report comes from Ana Garcia, who reflects on her current work and provides some thoughts for our new students or applicants.

Ana FletcherMy first memory of Fletcher goes back to the day I entered the Hall of Flags.  I walked in, looked up, and there it was, the Fletcher flag!  I had finally made it: after all the effort, the paper work, and…a “suggestion” to take an English language course during the summer.  Two years and two months later, I find myself here, writing about my activities, now as a Fletcher graduate.

I belong to the amazing Class of 2013 MALD group, which included many like me who wondered how we were going to make it all the way to graduation day.  And like many of my classmates, I thought that I would fly out into the world right after getting my diploma.  Instead, Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston are still my home.  I currently work at Conflict Dynamics International, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on preventing and resolving violent conflicts.  My work here is linked to two extremely interesting projects: one that aims to identify the main constraints for humanitarian access in countries in conflict; the other one focused on violations of children’s rights in conflict and post-conflict settings.  It sounds like a Fletcher type of job :) and it is!  (Given, also, that most of my coworkers are former classmates.  Yep, the Fletcher alumni community starts close to campus.)

Staying in Boston, while many of my friends have left the city for Washington, DC, New York, or their home countries, was the first surprise of my life as a Fletcher grad.  The second surprise of my postgraduate life was realizing how intense being a Fletcher student was.  Suddenly, I have found myself with TIME: time to be by myself or with my friends, to walk, to watch endless t.v. shows.  Despite those feelings, I would never have missed all the all-nighters with my study groups (yes, you will have those), all those coffee refills, cultural nights, and house parties.  Fletcher is a place to learn, but also to live, to fail, and to challenge yourself.

Fletcher gave me the chance to do things and meet some of the most important people in my life, often not in class.  Organizing cultural nights, dancing the waltz, participating in debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or painting the cannon in pj’s are all things I encourage current students to do.  You may not know it yet, but you gain skills from those experiences that are as valuable in a work environment as any class you can take.

My summer has been extraordinarily fun, but also professionally rewarding.  I had the opportunity to collaborate in different interesting projects on negotiations and humanitarian aid while I also brushed up on my Arabic skills.  Boston has been, and currently is, the place where I will continue the transition toward that job for which I came to Fletcher, and this will happen during this Fall.  In the meantime, I have learned the most important lesson of all: Don’t rush, take your time, don’t be hard on yourself.  At Fletcher, we are all overachievers, smart and creative people.  We will do great things.  For now, I’ll be ready and open to the uncertainty, the world of opportunities and options that is out there.

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An alumna who has been making her mark in a quiet but steady way for several years now is Farah Pandith ’95, the U.S. Special Representative for Muslim Communities.  Farah was originally appointed by Hillary Clinton, but she has remained in her position and now reports to Secretary of State John Kerry.  The Tufts Now folks recently wrote a nice feature, with an interview, on her work.  Check it out!

 

I first met Manjula Dissanayake when he had nearly completed his Fletcher MALD, though I had heard others talk about him before that.  Throughout 2012-2013, I made up for lost time by getting to know him as we featured his first post-Fletcher year and his organization, Educate Lanka, on the Admissions Blog.  Today, I couldn’t be happier to share the news that Manjula has been recognized for his work by Diplomatic Courier and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy as an “Influencer” in the publication’s 2013 list of Top “99 under 33″ foreign policy leaders.  It has been a great pleasure to follow Manjula’s post-Fletcher progress and to be inspired by his dedication to Educate Lanka and the children it supports.  Congratulations, Manjula!

As if that weren’t enough good news for a day, it turns out that Manjula has plenty of company from Fletcher alumni among this year’s 99.  Here’s the complete list, with the category in which they were recognized:

Diplomatic CourierElliott L. Ackerman ’03, Chief Operating Officer, Americans Elect (Risk-Taker)
Caroline Andresen ’10, Evaluation & Reporting Coordinator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (Practitioner)
Erin Clancy ’09, Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State (Innovator)
Sophia L.R. Dawkins ’11, Program Officer, Conflict Dynamics International (Shaper)
Jan Havránek ’09, Deputy Director, Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic (Catalyst)
Sherif Mansour ’08, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists (Risk-Taker)
Toru Mino ’10, Head of Product, Kopo Kopo (Catalyst)
Dalia Ziada ’11, Executive Director, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies (Influencer)

And the Fletcher grads are joined by two alumni of the Tufts undergraduate program:

Eileen Guo, Founder and Partner, Impassion Media and Impassion Afghanistan (Catalyst)
Meena Sharma, Associate, International Practice Group, Covington & Burling LLP (Catalyst)

Having so many members of our community recognized for their work, well, it’s just a happy day around here!

You can read more on the Diplomatic Courier site, and on the Fletcher website.  You can also see what people are saying on twitter: #99Under33.  But here’s how Diplomatic Courier describes this recognition program:

The 99 Under 33 recognizes the distinctive impact each of the honorees has on his or her community today and their promise of potential as a leader in the future.  This list uniquely offers insight into the creativity, determination, and passion of the diverse young people who are already tackling the world’s critical global challenges.  By design, this list is broad and diverse, which reflects the belief that foreign policy in the 21st century is made by leaders from all sectors.

“Since the inception of this list in 2011, Tufts University leads in alumni being recognized as top leaders.  Evidenced by the impressive people named to the 99 Under 33, Tufts University goes above and beyond typical academic expectations and truly prepares its graduates to tackle tough foreign policy problems.  These leaders are not waiting for tomorrow — they are leading now,” highlights Ana C. Rold, Editor-in-Chief, Diplomatic Courier.

Congratulations to all the Fletcher/Tufts alumni who have received this special recognition in their field!

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I received a quick note yesterday from Hannah, a 2013 grad.  She wrote:

I seem to remember you often solicit news from students and recent alumni about our public work, so I wanted to share a link to a blog post I wrote for NextBillion, a website that focuses on international development through entrepreneurship and innovation. Here is the link.

I asked the logical follow-up question:  How did you end up writing this particular post for that particular blog series?  She explained:

NextBillion asked me to contribute to their Measure for Measure series on the impact-investing/social enterprise space.  It came out around the time I co-facilitated a panel at the ANDE Metrics Conference on social return on investment, based on Value for Women‘s work on the topic.  Value for Women is part of the epven group of companies, where I have a six-month post that started immediately after I graduated from Fletcher.

Cool!  I love receiving these surprise updates!

This isn’t Hannah’s first appearance in the blog.  Kristen and I chatted with her during a morning last February when we sat in the Hall of Flags.  It’s great to know that the student who seemed to be weighing a lot of options for her post-Fletcher future is already putting together the pieces for a great career.

 

Every now and then I see a reference to a Fletcher student or graduate in The Boston Globe and I save the link for a future blog post.  Today I thought I’d mention two stories, both from a Sunday paper, but on different topics and spaced about four months apart.  The first story chronologically was about Mariah Steele, class of 2011, who has melded her Fletcher education with dance in her work as founder of the Quicksilver Dance Company.  And she didn’t make these connections in a haphazard way — she even had it all figured out for her thesis.

More recently, there was the Globe front-page story on Joseph Dunford, class of 1992, who is among the military leaders charged with wrapping up U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in the coming years.

You may have seen mention of these articles previously through other Fletcher communications (also including Twitter, etc.), but I like the effect that’s created by pairing them together.  It’s hard to imagine a master’s-level program that could produce two graduates who go in such dramatically different directions, but that’s what Fletcher is all about!

 

I’ve written before about my friend Charles, an alum dating back to my first (pre-Admissions) Fletcher career.  There was his 2009 bike trip across the length of Japan with his son, Sho.  And there was his 2011 trip around Iceland with both Sho and his daughter, Saya.  I didn’t get around to profiling his lower-key trip over the Alps with extended family last summer, but they’re on the road again now.

Charlie, Sho and SayaFollowing a drive from New York to St. Louis — where Charles, his wife Eiko (Fletcher graduate working at the United Nations), Sho and Saya explored the starting point for the Lewis and Clark trek to the Pacific — and then a further drive to North Dakota, where Eiko turned back toward New York, Charles, Sho and Saya started cycling along the Lewis and Clark expedition route.  They’re chronicling their adventure, which has also been featured in publications as diverse as Outside MagazineNational Geographic online, and a blog for Capital C, a documentary about crowd-funding.  (In one of the better, but also stranger, areas of recognition, for Father’s Day a New York family-oriented website selected Charles as one of “New York City’s Coolest Dads.”) Connected with follow-up to the trip, Charles launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to write and lecture about their travels.

I should also provide the Fletcher context.  Charles and Eiko met here at Fletcher and then moved off to New York to start their careers, Eiko with the UN, and Charles with a business association, followed by an extended stint with Intel Corporation.  (All fairly Fletcherish up to that point, and we all love Fletcher couples!)  But then, in July 2011, Charles decided to dedicate himself to promoting family adventure travel.  One book, many talks and the bike trips mentioned above later, and he’s on his way to the Pacific Ocean.  Eiko, meanwhile, continues to do serious work in peacekeeping for the UN (including an half-year stretch in Libya in 2012), while supporting the cycling adventures of her family.

I hope you’ll enjoy following the ride over the Rockies for Charles, Sho, and Saya!

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At most times of the year, I would count on Fletcher to help me interpret an important international event.  Even during this summer break, there have been comments on the Social List regarding the situation in Egypt — but not nearly as rich a discussion as I would expect in, say, October.  Still, as events there play out, I thought I’d bring to your attention two Fletcher-connected sources of analysis.

The first comes from 2009 grad Zach Gold, who was interviewed recently by the University’s communications staff and offered his take on the situation.  (Zach, I might note, was a real friend to Admissions and served on the Admissions Committee for a year.  We remember him fondly!)

The second piece of analysis also comes from an alumnus, this time a freshly-minted graduate, Albert Trithart, who offered his views in a new piece on the Fletcher Forum website.

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Just over one year ago, Manjula Dissanayake graduated from Fletcher and I’ve been keeping up with him since.  We recently exchanged emails and decided it’s time for a spring/summer update.  Pulling together this blog post will require reaching into many websites and other sources, because Manjula has been a busy guy.

To recap:  After graduating, Manjula decided to focus full-time on his non-profit, Educate Lanka, from his base near Washington, DC.  Pushing Educate Lanka forward has required a combination of on-the-ground work in Sri Lanka, along with nearly continuous efforts to draw attention to the organization, in hopes funds would follow.  Manjula’s work, inseparable from the organization, has been recognized in so many ways!  Back in April, I was fortunate to grab a few minutes with him during his visit to the area when, over the course of three days, he spoke at the Tufts Social Innovation Symposium as well as at the Tufts 100K Business Plan Competition (as an alumni competitor), and also attended a research presentation, exhibition, and silent auction benefiting Educate Lanka at Harvard.  Between events, he packed in visits to staff and faculty.  During our conversation, he gave me a sense of the activities he had in front of him.  Here’s what has kept Manjula busy during the past few months:

Even while I was compiling the list of all these activities, I learned of yet another new one.  This past Sunday, Manjula spoke live (via Google hangout) at the Social Media Day in Colombo, Sri Lanka about using “Social Media for Social Good.”

Throughout the past year, Manjula told me, he has developed plans to grow Educate Lanka and possibly to carry the concept beyond Sri Lanka.  He has put together a Board of Advisors on which Fletcher is well represented, and he continues to promote Educate Lanka’s work.  From my outsider’s vantage point, I can see the extraordinary effort that has brought Educate Lanka to where it is today, but the results have been impressive!  I’ll continue to follow Manjula’s path and report back again in the coming months.

Manjula at CGIU

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