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Kicking off the updates from the Class of 2011 is Chris Berger, who had a clear focus for his Fletcher studies before he even arrived and who took full advantage of the School’s quantitative offerings.

Before Fletcher

Chris BergerI graduated from Princeton in 2006 with a degree in history and I really struggled with what I wanted to do next.  I was passionate about foreign affairs and international politics, and deeply involved in the national security discourse in the wake of 9/11.  I was also, however, fascinated by the booming financial services industry, despite having taken little interest in economics/finance during college.

Determined to explore this path, I took a job at a financial consulting firm in New York that was focused on the bond markets.  Shortly thereafter, 2008 reared its ugly head and the financial world went into a tailspin.  A series of unanswered questions began to drive my focus: What was the genesis of the financial crisis and how had it metastasized so pervasively across the globe?  Were emerging market economies and the so called “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) poised to lead to the next wave of global growth?  How would economies rebuild and how would government respond to strengthen the core of the global financial system?  Fletcher sounded like the perfect place to explore these questions and to further build my understanding of international economics.

At Fletcher

I was drawn to Fletcher’s MALD program by the flexibility of the curriculum and by the breadth of course offerings that directly appealed to my interests.  I took full advantage of this flexibility by structuring a course load centered around economics, finance, and the global political economy.  My work with Professors Klein, Krohn, and Drezner helped me to build a solid foundation in economics while also refining my understanding of the interaction between finance and public policy.  Working with Professor Krohn, I wrote my thesis on how emerging markets were, after the financial crisis, poised to decouple from the West and lead the path for GDP growth over the coming years.  (FYI — I was wrong.)  As I looked to life after Fletcher, I was determined to find a career that straddled the worlds of public policy and finance.

After Fletcher

After graduation, I was very lucky to be offered a role at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as part of their Markets Group.  The Markets Group is responsible for executing monetary policy on behalf of the Federal Reserve System and I was fortunate to join right before the start of the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3, the program implemented in the aftermath of the financial crisis to provide the market with liquidity in effort to stimulate growth).  As part of my training program I was taught how to effectively analyze and interpret movements across global financial markets and opine on broader themes across global asset classes.  My training afforded me the opportunity to lead daily meetings with the Fed Governors and the Treasury Department and allowed me to participate in briefings with the leadership of the Federal Reserve, including Chair Janet Yellen.

After three years with the Markets Group, I left the Fed to assume a private sector position within BlackRock, where I currently work.  The group I joined, called the Financial Markets Advisory group (FMA), was formed in the aftermath of the financial crisis and provides consulting services for governments, central banks and global financial institutions.  Described by The New York Times as the “go-to SWAT team in financial crises,” I have worked on a number of assignments in the U.S. and abroad, including most recently a longer term project in Frankfurt.  During my two years in the group I have been granted exposure to a broad range of issues facing the global financial system in the aftermath of the crisis, allowing me to build on my Fletcher curriculum while keeping me deeply entrenched with some of the key issues that drive my intellectual curiosity.

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During the fall, I reached out to members of the Class of 2011 and asked them to report on what they were doing during their first five post-Fletcher years.  I’ve now gathered these new Five-Year Updates, and I’ll start sharing them next week.

One could point out that by the time I publish the posts, five years has nearly melted into six, but let’s not quibble.  The updates give you a good sense of how the former students put their degrees to work in the early years after they graduated.

My assignment to the alumni is to provide readers a sense of their work before Fletcher, their academic path through Fletcher, and then their professional (and sometimes personal) lives after Fletcher.  Beyond that, the content is up to them.

Connecting with these members of the Fletcher family is a treat for me, whether or not I knew them well from their Hall of Flags days.  I always look forward to hearing how Fletcher has influenced them, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading their stories, too.

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It has been a while since I last wrote about my friend and Fletcher grad, Charles Scott, F94.  After a relatively typical post-Fletcher career, Charlie relaunched himself in recent years as the “Family Adventure Guy” and a speaker for corporate and other settings.

Most noteworthy among Charlie’s recent activities have been as a member of “Team See Possibilities,” three super-fit runners who accompany a fourth — who happens to have lost his sight as an adult — on daunting adventures.  In November, the Team tackled Mount Kilimanjaro.  At night.  Their “Kili in the Dark” run took them up the mountain at high speed, and their days in Tanzania and Kenya included visits to schools and other activities to support children who are blind.

This wasn’t their first inspiring trip, though.  About a year ago, the team climbed Machu Picchu, and before that they ran the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim.

International adventure wasn’t new to Charlie, whose pursuit of demanding travel started with a trip by bicycle around Japan with his son.  Then a trip around Iceland with his son and daughter.  These and other rides have linked him to a community of bicyclists and even a bike travel film festival, which has featured films that Charlie made of his travels.  Take a look at a clip of a recent video called “Perceived Limits.”

Adventurers are a new, or newly prominent, subset of the Fletcher student and alumni community.  Fletcher is a place where just about everyone has experienced wanderlust, even if not all of our travel is the super rugged variety.  I’ll need to catch up with Charlie soon to find out what’s next in the plans for Team See Possibilities.

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Today I’m happy to report on the latest accomplishment of 2006 MALD graduate Cristiana Paşca Palmer.  I can do so thanks to the outreach of her 2006 classmate Cornelia (Connie) Schneider.

Pasca PalmerFirst, the news.  Cristiana was recently appointed Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Cristiana has a long record of accomplishment in the environment arena, and has been actively engaged in international climate talks.  After receiving her MALD, Cristiana stayed on at Fletcher for her PhD studies (receiving the degree in 2014), during which she had a fellowship with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.

This is the second time I’ve highlighted Cristiana’s accomplishments, both times because Connie, who is very accomplished herself(!), contacted me.  This is such a sweet tradition and finding Connie’s email message in my inbox this morning was a highlight of my day.  I love how alumni cheer for each other, both because such mutual support is wonderful, and also because it reminds me what a special community I am part of.

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If you’ve had your eye on the news about travel technology startups in the Boston area, you’ve already heard of Emily Bernard, a 2013 MALD graduate, who is the co-founder and chief brand officer of PlacePass.com, a travel technology startup based in Cambridge.  Emily describes PlacePass as a “metasearch engine that enables travelers to instantly compare hundreds of tour and activity websites simultaneously,” and says that, with PlacePass, “travelers can find high-quality local experiences in more than 180 destinations, and save money and time by booking online.”  You can read more about PlacePass and the local travel startup scene in the Boston Globe and on BostInno (an online resource for the local tech and startup community).  Today, Emily tells us how Fletcher prepared her for her current work.

Five Ways Fletcher Prepared Me to Be a Travel Entrepreneur

09/30/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - Head-shots of students, faculty, staff, and employers, for the purpose of LinkedIn photo. (Zara Tzanev for Tufts University)

Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask me about my path to PlacePass.  “What inspired you to establish a travel technology startup?”  “How did you decide this was the right opportunity?”  “What gave you the confidence to lead a startup organization?”  These are excellent, welcome questions — and not always easy to answer.

The truth is, like that of many entrepreneurs, my journey to PlacePass has been a winding one.  I’m still discovering how the narrative fits together.  I’m delighted and surprised by the ways my past experiences have aligned to bring me here.  But one thing is for certain: Fletcher is a key part of the story.

There are countless ways in which Fletcher prepared me for PlacePass.  I’ve gathered a few of them here, and am hopeful they will be useful for prospective Fletcher students interested in the wild, wonderful experience of entrepreneurship.

  1. Global Perspective

A global perspective is the hallmark of a Fletcher education.  From the diversity of the student body to the course offerings to international internships, Fletcher is constantly looking outwards.  This perspective has been essential in my role at PlacePass.  Though based in Cambridge, we are a global company, already serving more than 180 destinations.  Our strategic vision must take into account global trends, global tastes, and global risks.  We must consider how our brand and product offerings will be perceived in various markets and in diverse cultural settings.  I feel well-equipped to tackle these tough decisions because of my Fletcher education.

  1. Commitment to Sustainable, Inclusive Business Practices

From the start, my co-founder Ethan and I have been committed to sustainable, inclusive business practices.  We believe the travel industry has a key role to play in building more prosperous communities around the world.  My Fletcher education has given me the inspiration and tools I need to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy that contributes to the community in a meaningful way and sets us up for long-term success.  I’m very proud to share that, for every tour booked on PlacePass, we donate $1 to EGBOK, a non-profit in Cambodia that provides vocational training in hospitality for at-risk youth.  It’s a wonderful partnership and we look forward to expanding this initiative to other countries as PlacePass continues to grow.

  1. Industry Expertise

Fletcher’s highly flexible curriculum gives students the space to explore the industries, topics, and issues of interest to them.  For me, that was travel and hospitality, and during my Fletcher tenure I found many ways to strengthen my expertise in this area.  For example, I spent my summer internship at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO in Paris, where I explored the economic and environmental impacts of World Heritage site designation.  In my thesis, advised by Professor Carolyn Gideon, I evaluated how Brand USA (the U.S. tourism promotion agency) markets our country to international visitors.  For a course on risk management, I studied how Arctic tour companies de-risk their voyages and work to ensure the safety of their passengers while preserving the perception of a high-adrenaline adventure.  In a course on leadership, I studied how managers of the Marriott Islamabad responded to a terrorist attack on the hotel.  And finally, in an entrepreneurship marketing class, I developed a marketing strategy for a culinary travel start-up.

  1. Project Management Capabilities

It’s all about execution for early-stage startups.  Founders must work with limited resources and limited time to bring their idea to fruition.  At PlacePass, that means I’m focused aggressively on good project management.  Whether we’re planning out a marketing campaign or developing a roadmap for the next iteration of our website, it’s essential that we plan and execute well.  At Fletcher I was able to develop very strong project management capabilities through group projects and by completing my thesis.

  1. The Fletcher Network

The strength of Fletcher’s alumni network is unparalleled.  It still amazes me how the Fletcher community comes together to provide answers, questions, connections, ideas, and inspiration.  This has been crucial for me at PlacePass on a number of fronts.  When I face a question or issue I can’t solve internally, I have an entire network of Fletcher colleagues ready to help point me in the right direction.  Traveling for work, I know that there will always be Fletcher friends or Fletcher connections willing to meet me and help me navigate a new city or culture.  Most importantly, my Fletcher classmates provide much-needed personal support as I pursue this venture.  It’s not easy starting a business, and I am grateful for and humbled by the encouragement and enthusiasm my classmates have demonstrated.

Emily and team

The PlacePass team (Emily, with Ethan Hawkes, co-founder, and Jeff Mathew, CTO) testing out virtual reality travel experiences in their Cambridge office.


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A bleary-eyed community filled Fletcher yesterday, having followed U.S. election news late into the night.  And speaking of news, today I’ll share some items that you may have missed on other Fletcher sources.

First, for those who still want to read about politics, Fletcher alumnus and one-time presidential candidate Bill Richardson, F71, offered thoughts pre-election for what should happen post-election.

Among more recent alumni, Erik Iverson, F09, F13, has been selected as one of 16 White House Fellows this year.  Erik was a friend of Admissions during his years here, and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch now-and-then since his graduation.

And, in one of those typically atypical post-Fletcher careers, Marina Pevzner Hennessy, F06, was recently the subject of a Tufts Now story about Plan Bee, her venture to bring bees to Myanmar.

Though he’s not quite an alumnus, Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  President Santos spent a year at Fletcher as a research fellow in the early 1980s.

A new Fletcher scholarship has recently been endowed in the name of Harry Radcliffe, F73, an award-winning journalist with vast experience.

In faculty news, Diana Chigas, F88, has been named the University’s Associate Provost and Senior International Officer.  She will be responsible for engaging leaders across the schools to enhance Tufts’ outreach, impact and visibility internationally.

Retired professor William Moomaw, who maintains his connection with Tufts as co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), recorded “How Restorative Development Can Address Climate Change” with WGBH, one of our local public radio and television stations.  In the interview, he discussed industrial agriculture, synthetic fertilizers and more natural approaches to farming that will revive the health of soil, water and air.

And here are two stories that interested me, and might interest you, though the link is to Tufts University more generally, not to Fletcher.

First, a statue of famed American abolitionist, John Brown, was discovered hidden at Tufts.  Beyond those basic facts is a tale of museum sleuth work and the historical connections between Tufts, its neighbors, and the Underground Railroad.

And second, the story of the creation of the Daily Skimm, by an alumna of the undergraduate program at Tufts.

Last of all, I’ll leave you with the recently-launched video introducing Fletcher to new audiences.  On a personal note, I’ll add only that Kaddu Sebunya, F02, was once a student member of the Admissions Committee.  And that’s what’s best about my job.  I get so much from interacting with folks during this brief pause in their careers.  Then off they go to do great things in whatever area they choose.

 

I always consider myself fortunate when alumni make me aware of their activities.  Today, I’m happy to point you toward a blog post by Kiely Barnard-Webster, a 2015 MALD graduate, who has written on the question of “Are Women Less Corrupt?”  As Kiely notes in her bio, she is “Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar.  Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at The Fletcher School.”

Kiely graduated before we launched our year-old Gender Analysis Field of Study, but the subject has been pursued here for many years.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more alumni heading in that career direction as time goes on, and I’ll look forward to sharing more of their work.

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I was recently emailing back and forth with Atanas, a 2015 graduate, and he told me that Fletcher folk (mostly alumni) in New York would be gathering for a picnic last Saturday.  You can be sure that I didn’t let a moment pass before writing back to ask for a photo.  So here are 20-plus Fletcher people and one dog, gathered in New York’s Bryant Park on a beautiful summer evening, after the other 20-plus people had left (or before they arrived).  40 to 50 picnickers in total!  Go Fletcher-in-NY!

NY picnic

 

PicnicI received a lovely note the other day from Clare, a newly graduated MALD, telling me about the “Left Behind Group,” which she described as “a mix of the graduating class, rising second years, PhD students, and other Fletcher affiliated folk in the area over the summer.”

The Left Behind Group has been gathering weekly for the “Fletcher Picnic Series” organized by Molly, another new alum.  They’ve picnicked in a variety of local spots, both on campus — the roof of Tisch Library — and off — Nathan Tufts Park at nearby Powderhouse Circle, and wanted to spread the word to incoming students.  I was happy to share the details with folks I know are in the area, and I’m equally happy for blog readers to know that the Fletcher community adapts to new circumstances and locations, and always finds a way to come together.

 

I’ve decided to focus much more of my energy on finding Fletcher couples.  My long-term goal will be to have a lovely collection to share on Valentine’s Day.  Shorter term, I’m just delighted to hear from folks whose relationships formed on campus.

Hanneke + AndrewWe first read about Hanneke when she told us how she heard about her admission to Fletcher.  More recently, she reported on her first year post-Fletcher.  And today, I’m so happy to tell you about her wedding last spring to Andrew, a fellow MALD student.  Although Andrew started his Fletcher studies one year after Hanneke, they both graduated in 2014 because she took an extra year to complete a dual degree with The Friedman School.  Hanneke was a multi-year friend of Admissions — volunteer interviewer, member of the Admissions Committee — and one of these students we are sorry to say goodbye to.  But we’ve kept in touch and I couldn’t be happier that she and Andrew (whom I regret I didn’t get to know) met here!

Some details from their story that Hanneke provided:

  • At the April 2012 Admitted Students Open House, Andrew sat in on a student panel.  Hanneke was one of the presenting students.  He mentioned this to her when they re-met in fall 2012.
  • They started dating in fall 2013, during her third year and his second year, largely helped along by time spent together with Fletcher Runners.
  • They got engaged in Johannesburg in 2015 while she was living in Malawi.
  • Their wedding was in Austin, Texas, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  (Note the beautiful wildflowers in their photo.)
  • Fletcher was very well represented at the wedding and on the dance floor.
  • The tie that Andrew and his groomsmen wore is from their classmate Dan’s Corridor NYC clothing line.

Hanneke is currently working with the World Food Programme in their Siem Reap, Cambodia office, as part of the Leland International Hunger Fellows program.  Andrew has been conducting research remotely for a U.S. based organization.  Soon, they will be moving to Phnom Penh, where they will stay for another year.

And here’s the Fletcher contingent.  So many familiar faces — I love Fletcher weddings!

Hanneke + Andrew, Fletcher guests

 

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