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In May 2014, the alumni attending their five-year reunion were members of the Class of 2009.  Today, Erin Clancy will kick off the Five-Year Updates from her class.  When I reach out to alumni for these updates, I ask them simply to describe their paths, starting before Fletcher and continuing through their graduate studies to their current career, as Erin does below.  I’ll also point out that Erin was included among Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Under 33 for 2013, a special honor.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

Prior to coming to Fletcher, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science at Whittier College and received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provided a commission into the Foreign Service upon completion of my studies at Fletcher.  I was drawn to Fletcher’s interdisciplinary take on international affairs, its academic rigor, and its place in history as the first international relations graduate school in the United States and the alma mater of many distinguished public servants from countries near and far.

At Fletcher

It did not take long until I hit my stride at Fletcher after finding my groove in a few Culture Night dance performances.  In the classroom, I reveled in Fletcher’s dynamic course offerings on the political landscapes of the Middle East with Vali Nasr, and the practice of international security — seated in the front row no later than 07:40 in the morning — with Richard Shultz.  I also benefited from the longstanding partnership between Fletcher and the Harvard Kennedy School where I studied national security management and negotiations.  Between my first and second year, I completed a summer internship in 2008 at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria as a political officer covering human rights issues and the domestic political opposition.  While working in Syria I began my thesis research on the unbreakable nature of the political-military alliance between Syria and Iran, and the impact of the Syrian-Iranian alliance on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.  At the end of two wonderful years in Medford, I graduated with concentrations in International Security Studies and Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization.


After graduation, I accepted my commission into the Foreign Service in August 2009.  I arrived at my first diplomatic assignment as vice consul to U.S. Embassy Damascus, Syria in July 2010, where I witnessed the slow evolution of violent Arab Spring protests until security conditions forced us to close the embassy and evacuate the remainder of our diplomatic personnel in February 2012.  My assignment to Syria was quite an introduction to the Foreign Service and it profoundly shaped my personal and professional life.  From Damascus, I served briefly in U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan to continue working on Syria, and transitioned to U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman where I was the political-military officer responsible for counterterrorism, political-military, and Iran sanctions issues during the lead up to the breakthrough interim agreement reached by the P5+1 negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

These days I am happy to be back home in Washington, DC, working to coordinate U.S. policy on North Africa, Syria, and gender issues in the United Nations Security Council.  The highlight of my current role as a multilateral affairs officer is working closely with fellow Fletcherites throughout the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies.  Interagency policy committee meetings at the White House or working group meetings on Syria or Boko Haram have become informal Fletcher reunions.  Having so many Fletcherites around the table on the important policy issues of the day is a wonderful personal reminder of why this institution is so revered in the international affairs realm — Fletcher truly does create leaders with a global perspective.  Not a single day has passed since graduation and my five years in the Foreign Service when I have not felt the direct positive impact of my Fletcher education, nor been so grateful to find community among the talented and inspirational alumni we have all over the world.

Members of the United States’ delegation to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London, UK, Erin Clancy class of 2009 (left) pictured with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Victoria Holt. June 2014.

Members of the United States’ delegation to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London, U.K. Erin Clancy, F09 (left) pictured with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Victoria Holt. June 2014.



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Maki & MphoWhile I’m blogging away in my office pajamas, Boston Fashion Week is in full swing.  The arrival of troupes of designers and fashion writers might seem to have little to do with Fletcher and our admissions process, except for this:

Maki Nakata, a 2013 graduate of the MIB program, will be hosting a Fashion Week event with her new clothing firm, Maki & Mpho.  Along with designer Mpho Muendane, Maki’s objectives are that “Maki & Mpho’s designs will bring the delightful, positive, and exciting aspects of African experience to the global audience.”  More details on their philosophy, which goes well beyond design and includes a strong focus on development and cultural exchange, can be found here.

A group of current students is planning to represent the Fletcher community at the event.  While fashion/design is not a typical post-Fletcher path, creative implementation of concepts learned here definitely is.


I’ve recently written about members of the community who have turned up on NPR, and here’s a new one.  Prof. Henrikson sent me a note after John Stanwich, F88 was interviewed about the new White House Visitor Center.  John has been with the National Park Service for some time, including a stint as historian at the Adams National Historical Park right nearby in Quincy, MA, and he is currently Acting National Park Service Liaison to the White House.

On a somewhat lighter note, two Fletcher graduates have recently been on The Daily Show.  For those unfamiliar with the show, I should note that this satirical show includes language not appropriate for a family blog.  With that warning in place, first check out Amila Merdzanovic, a 2013 MALD graduate now working for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.  She appears at about the 3:00 minute mark on this story about the resettlement of refugee children.

And Hassan Abbas, F02, F08, a graduate of Fletcher’s MALD and PhD programs, took part in a lengthy interview by Jon Stewart about the situation in the Muslim world.  Hassan is currently the department chair for Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University.


I had a surprisingly nice quick trip to Toronto.  I arrived yesterday morning, took a long walk around, and figured out where the APSIA fair would be taking place (down the street, behind the construction site — so I was glad I bothered to look).  The first visitors to the fair arrived as I was still setting up, well before the official start time, followed by three solid hours of talking.  Nice to meet some eager 2015 graduates of University of Toronto, as well as professionals in the area!

I was joined at the Fletcher table by an alum, Farrukh Lalani, a 2008 graduate, and she shared her perspective with the visitors interested in the student and alumnus experience.  As the fair wound down, and over tea after the fair ended, we had time to discuss her new start-up venture, Aria Gems, a non-profit that seeks to build a business, and a model that others can follow, in ethical gem mining in Afghanistan.  This led to a long chat about the non-traditional paths taken by many of her 2008 classmates.  Mining/gems/Afghanistan/start-ups are not concepts we usually weave together when we’re telling prospective students about typical Fletcher career paths, but the atypical path is, itself, somewhat typical.

Coincidentally, yesterday I heard from Farrukh’s classmate, Margherita Zuin, who was featured in a Foreign Policy career guide.  In a sense, Margherita’s career path has been typical for a graduate of an international affairs professional school, though perhaps still atypical in its intensity.

So all in all, a good trip — productive participation in the APSIA fair, and a great opportunity to get to know an alum I hadn’t crossed paths with when she was a Fletcher student.

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Remember how just last week I noted that I’m often visited (via NPR) by the voices of Fletcher community members?  Well, here are two more examples.  First, Dean Stavridis kept me informed when his interview was broadcast while I cooked dinner.

Somewhat more surprising, I heard a report from a correspondent with a name unique enough that I thought it had to be a Fletcher alum.  Karoun Demirjian graduated from Fletcher in 2006 and is a correspondent in Moscow for The Washington Post.  She also occasionally files a report for NPR, and writes for the NPR website.  I happened to hear one of her reports, but it was only while writing this post that I learned that her main gig is with The Post.

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Like many Americans, I’m a morning NPR listener, which means that I’ll often be joined over breakfast or during my commute by the voice of a member of the Fletcher community.  A week or so back, it was MALD (class of 2002) and PhD (class of 2005) graduate Maria Stephan.  With her research colleague, Erika Chenoweth, Maria spoke about civil resistance movements.  Take a minute (or 7, to be more precise) to listen to the interview.

The recent interview followed an article they wrote for Foreign Affairs on the same topic.


There have been several interesting stories this week about triple Jumbo Nahid Bhadelia, who completed her MA degree at Fletcher and her MD degree at Tufts University School of Medicine in 2005, after graduating from Tufts Arts and Sciences in 1999.  As she prepares for a trip to Sierra Leone to work with Ebola patients, Nahid has been profiled in the Boston Globe and on Boston’s local CBSNBC, and ABC, stations, as well as on MSNBC, WBUR, and in a piece in the Huffington Post that describes the disease in detail.

Though the current circumstances are extreme, Nahid exemplifies the professional profile of our MA-MD graduates.  Just as Emerson Tuttle wrote in the blog this spring about the MA-DVM dual Fletcher-veterinary degree, the relatively small number of students for whom the MA-MD is the right fit are seeking a particular path for their career — one where the international dimension is inseparable from the medical/veterinary core of their work.

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Remember last spring’s Fletcher D-Prize winners, Andrew Lala and Tommy Galloway?  Well, they’ve successfully converted their concept to a product and they are on the ground in Koudougou, delivering solar lanterns and electricity to rural communities in Burkina Faso!  For updates and details about their products, check out Clair de Lune’s website or follow them on Twitter.  As you read through the website, keep in mind that Andrew and Tommy only graduated in May.  It’s fantastic to see them turn an idea into reality so quickly!  I’m looking forward to reading more as their business gets rolling.

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Blog posts have a short shelf life, and most readers don’t dig too deep into the archives.  For that reason, I thought I’d share some of the most “liked” posts of this past year, as generated by the button below each post.  Click on the photo below to take you to the original blog post or the feature series that it was part of.

Devon ConeFirst, and probably the blog post that has received the greatest number of “likes” ever, was Devon Cone’s report on her five years after Fletcher.  It’s a lovely story that has drawn several particularly warm comments.  If you enjoy reading about Devon’s post-Fletcher path, consider scrolling through all of the Five Year Updates.


Michael KleinEach of the posts in the Faculty Spotlight series was well received, and I couldn’t possibly choose among the professors, so I invite you to read all of their self-introductions.  Click on Prof. Klein’s photo to the left, and then scroll through the posts I collected in 2013-2014.  More to come this fall!


Roxanne awardIncoming students have told me that they appreciated reading the stories of current students, and everyone was happy for Roxanne when she received the Presidential Award for Citizenship.  To catch up with everything that Roxanne, Mirza, Scott, Diane, Liam, and Mark wrote this year, check out all the Student Stories.


Margot ShoreyAlso informative for prospective students have been the updates from students in their first year post-Fletcher.  Given the favorable response, I was proactive this year — I lined up a big bunch of students who graduated in May and who volunteered to write about the post-Fletcher career they hadn’t yet started.  I’ll begin collecting the posts at the end of the fall.  (As I write this, Margot’s post has exactly 100 likes.)


Amy Tan and Luca UrechI enjoyed reading the posts students wrote about their activities during the academic year.  I learned about things I had never even heard of!  In addition to the post on the Human Rights Practicum, the one on the International Criminal Court Simulation was particularly well liked, but go ahead and check out the complete collection of Cool Stuff posts.


Hovhannes Nikoghosyan Fletcher 2014I also caught up with a few official programs that I had neglected in the past.  Readers especially liked the post on the Tavitian Fellows.



Finally, there were lots of likes for a few stories about particular students or alumni — posts that weren’t part of a blog feature series.

KamilIn an unusual post about a student who was living like a graduate, we read about Kamil, who will soon be returning to Fletcher after he stopped out for a year with UNICEF in Myanmar.



Sam and pastry chefThere was this one about Sam Chapple-Sokol, because who doesn’t love reading about cooking?




Glacier - dressed for Arctic conditionsAnd this from Jamie Kraut, one of last summer’s newly minted graduates, who traveled to Norway with some current students.



Sebastian and MeganI don’t do it too often, but sometimes I can’t resist a nice wedding story.  And with a Fletcher professor officiating at the ceremony, they don’t get much more Fletcherish than Megan and Sebastian’s event last summer.


The common element in nearly all these most-liked posts is that they were written by students, alumni, or professors.  The few that I wrote myself tell the stories of students or alumni.  That gives me a strong hint about areas on which to focus blog posts in 2014-2015!


Though summer reading is no more required this week than it was last week, I wanted to share some recent books by members of the Fletcher community, both faculty members and graduates.  I can’t ensure that the list is comprehensive, but with topics from brand management to grand strategy, the new publications provide a nice picture of the breadth of interests at Fletcher.

Books by faculty

Kelly Sims Gallagher, The Globalization of Clean Energy Technology

William Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy

Robert Pfaltzgraff (with Jacquelyn K. Davis), Anticipating a Nuclear Iran

Joel Trachtman, The Future of International Law: Global Government

Jeswald Salacuse, Negotiating Life: Secrets for Everyday Diplomacy and Deal Making

Jeswald Salacuse, The Three Laws of International Investment: National, Contractual, and International Frameworks for Foreign Capital

Books recently or soon-to-be published by recent graduates

Benedetta Berti, Armed Political Organizations: From Conflict to Integration

Aiyaz Husain, Mapping the End of Empire: American and British Strategic Visions in the Postwar World

Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity

Alison Lawlor Russell, Cyber Blockades

And two others

Though this news is a little less new, I also wanted to note that MALD graduate Tara Conklin had a novel on The New York Times best seller list — The House Girl.  It debuted at #29, in fact!

Finally, a less recent graduate, Bill Richardson F’71, has published How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator.  Prof. Salacuse also wrote a review essay of the book for Negotiation Journal.  Check it out for a nice description of Ambassador Richardson’s career.

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