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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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Like Jason Taylor, Katy Bondy is an Admissions Office favorite.  I can still picture her working at one of the computers.  Katy’s story will most likely be the last for the 2007 class (unless one of her classmates surprises me with a post) and I’ll be moving along to the Class of 2008 soon after their five-year reunion next weekend.  But first, let’s hear Katy’s story:

Katy Bondy, 2Before arriving at Fletcher, I worked in Washington, DC for a few years at a think tank where I focused on the Balkans and Eastern Europe.  It was an interesting job where I learned a lot about the former Yugoslavia, but it was primarily administrative and I was looking for something more.  Fortunately, a good friend at work, who happened to be a 2000 Fletcher grad,was patient about answering all of my questions about international relations graduate schools.  It didn’t take me long to decide that Fletcher was the best fit for me, particularly after I visited the school and was interviewed by a Fletcher-student, Nirmalan, who received his MALD in 2006 and is now completing his Fletcher PhD.

While at Fletcher, I dove into my studies and the Fletcher community.  I naturally gravitated towards courses on International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and I still use the skills from those classes today:  Focus on interests, not positions!  I also created my own Field of Study by performing analyses on post-conflict countries, such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Somalia.  My favorite classes were with Professors Drezner, Martel, Babbitt, Shultz, and Chayes.

I received a great education at Fletcher and I believe it’s where I learned how to think more independently and more broadly.  But what stays with me as much as what I learned in my classes are the bonds and friendships that I formed with members of the Fletcher community.  I fondly remember the late night partying, greasy spoon breakfasts near the Tufts campus, and spending my days studying or writing papers in Ginn Library.

After Fletcher, like Jason, I was also selected to be a Presidential Management Fellow and I joined the Department of State where I worked on reconstruction and stabilization issues.  After spending a few months in Dhaka, Bangladesh for work, I decided to join the U.S. Foreign Service.  My first assignment was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which I loved, and my present assignment is in Manila, Philippines.

But no matter where I am in the world, the Fletcher network serves me well.  I maintain strong ties with many of the friends I made at Fletcher, but I’m also constantly forging new friendships with other alums I’ve met since graduating.  For me, the connections and bonds you make while at Fletcher are the most important (and the most fun!) aspect of your Fletcher education.

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Time for another round of thanks and farewell to a graduating student.  Maliheh contributed several posts to the blog this year, despite a heavy in-class and out-of-class workload, and a PhD admissions process that involved twenty schools and one lucky program that she has chosen to attend.  I first “met” Maliheh more than a year before she enrolled in the MALD program, when she first corresponded with our office.  Once I met her, I became a huge fan.  As much as I’ll miss her at Fletcher, I wish her the very best in her coming years of academic toil.  But before Maliheh leaves Fletcher, she offers this last post.

malihehIt is just that time of the year when everyone at Fletcher is finishing exams and preparing for their upcoming internship or new job.  I was preparing for my own internship last year at this time.  Everyone would tell me about Fletcher’s incredibly rich alumni network, but before experiencing it myself, I had no clear idea what a valuable resource this network can be.

From the first day I started my work at the World Bank, I tried to expand my professional connections by networking with people in other departments at the bank.  To my surprise, in almost every department I could find a Fletcher alum with whom I could meet and talk.  Even non-Fletcher people knew very well about Fletcher and would remind me that two current World Bank vice presidents are Fletcher alumni.

Working in the MENA region at the bank, it was not uncommon to hear people speaking in Arabic or Farsi, which I also used in speaking with my supervisor most of the time.  You can imagine that it is not easy to pick out English words exchanged in the middle of a conversation that is not in English, but “Fletcher” is a different kind of English word!  One day, in the midst of a long conversation in Farsi with my supervisor, and in a quite crowded venue, I said “Fletcher” to refer to a specific theory I had learned in one of my classes, and then returned to Farsi for the remainder of the conversation.  The woman sitting next to us picked out that one word and turned to me.  She asked, “I heard you say Fletcher.  Are you a Fletcher alum or student?”  And a very nice conversation followed from there!  Later I thought again about what I had heard before coming to the World Bank about Fletcher’s network, and felt very proud to be part of this extensive and supportive community!

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Our next Five-Year Update comes from Amlan Saha, who demonstrates true Fletcheresque qualities in a first sentence that includes words from Serbo-Croatian and Arabic and references to three geographic areas.  His photo adds a third geographic area — it was taken in Guatemala.  Here’s Amlan’s story:

Amlan SahaPre-Fletcher Experience

It all started in 2001, when, over some Slovak slivovica on a felucca in the Nile, a fellow traveler who had just finished work in Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer enthused about her plans to study public policy in graduate school.  I was already thinking about going back to school, but until then had spared no thought for anything other than an MBA.

Since graduating from the National University of Singapore with a degree in engineering in 1998, I had worked at a national research laboratory, set up an internet/telecoms company, which went bust in 2001 along with the collapse of the dotcom bubble, and then worked for the German engineering giant Siemens.  In short, technology and business summed up my pre-Fletcher professional experience.

But I was also a nerd (still am!) who loved politics far more than sports.  At around the same time that I was giving shape to my graduate school dream, oil prices hit $35 a barrel, climbing about 300 percent in just 18 months.  Listening to the talking heads in the following weeks provided a timely reminder that in the business of energy, geopolitics and regulation were never far away.  I was onto something.

Because my undergraduate degree was in engineering, I still wanted to do an MBA, but the conversation on the boat in Egypt led me to explore programs that brought together public policy, business decision making, and national security.  The possibility of shaping political processes that create rules, regulations, and programs to impact society was exciting.

In 2004, I started attending the Fletcher (MALD) and HEC Paris (MBA) dual degree program.

At Fletcher

The MBA part of my program, which I completed before arriving in Medford, focused on economics and finance.  At Fletcher, therefore, I dived headlong into public policy and international security.

Fletcher’s MALD curriculum was flexible enough to let me to create my own “Public Policy Analysis” Field of Study from the long list of courses on offer.  In fact, the list was so long, all incredibly good and tempting, that letting me choose my own classes was a bit like giving a kid the key to the candy store.  I also cross-registered at the Harvard Law School.

I found Prof. Gideon’s classes particularly valuable.  Skills I picked up in her classes have been extremely helpful in modeling real-life policy conundrums at work since graduation.

Post-Fletcher

After graduating from Fletcher, I joined the strategic energy/environmental consulting firm M.J. Bradley and Associates.  At MJB&A, I assist energy companies to navigate regulatory and market issues, assess economic implications of environmental regulations, and drive wholesale electricity market development.

Uniquely satisfying rewards at work include, among others, having the Chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate refer to my analysis when discussing energy legislation and a Congressman use my work as a prop to explain to constituents his support for an energy bill.

I am currently a Vice President at the firm.

I also write (less frequently than I would like to) a blog.

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