Currently viewing the category: "Our Alumni"
I love hearing from alumni, and not only when they send me news for the blog. But if they happen to send something newsworthy, well, I’m certainly going to seize the opportunity to share.
On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by an email from Atanas, a 2015 grad. He recently started in a new position at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, working on climate resilience. I’ll let him continue the story:
Last week I was lucky to be working at the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General on the organization of the Paris agreement signature ceremony, and on Friday, I witnessed first-hand this historic moment. I met a few presidents, including Colombia’s President and Fletcher grad Juan Manuel Santos, and had a brief chat with Leo DiCaprio who is UN Messenger of Peace and delivered a speech during the ceremony. It was certainly a day to remember.
But one of the most powerful experiences I had was listening to a Fletcher alumna who spoke on a panel in the afternoon of the same day — Rachel Kyte, who is the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and Special Representative of the Secretary General. She talked only for five minutes but completely captivated the audience and, according to everyone working in this area, hers was one of the best speeches given in a long time.
I’ll plug in a few details about Rachel Kyte. She’s a 2002 graduate of the GMAP program and, also, currently a Fletcher professor of practice of sustainable development, associated with the Center for International Environment and Research Policy.
The forum at which Atanas heard her speak was “Taking Climate Action to the Next Level: Realizing the Vision of the Paris Agreement.” Click the photo below to hear her comments following a question at about 1:47:00.
I have a little something different to offer today. Remember Mirza? He was a MALD student who wrote for the blog in 2013-14 and 2014-2015, and since then he has been alternating work that builds on his Fletcher studies with a continuation of the music career he had pre-Fletcher, with the duo Arms and Sleepers (AAS). Recently, I read something he had posted on his Facebook page and asked if I could share it on the blog. It struck me as bringing together so much of what makes Mirza interesting — his personal history, his directness and honesty, his work as a musician, and the insights he will have developed at Fletcher. I’m glad he agreed to let me share his thoughts. Post-Fletcher careers in the arts are not typical, but those graduates who pursue them are not alone.
As a further introduction, today Mirza noted, “I have performed in Georgia the country and Georgia the U.S. state; Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia; Athens, Georgia and Athens, Greece; (the) Mexico and New Mexico.” He definitely covers a lot of territory. Speaking of which, let me share his upcoming tour schedule. If you live or are traveling in any of these locations, I’m sure Mirza would be happy to see you. He has always welcomed Fletcher alumni, students, and even applicants to his performances in the past.
And with that, I’ll let Mirza share his story.
I’ve been telling this story at my shows on the current tour so I’ll share it here as well, especially as I am in northern Greece at the moment.
Being a musician and doing this for a living, I often feel conflicted about the importance and impact of what I do, compared to what’s happening in the world. I arrived at Amsterdam airport the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and was traveling to Greece via Brussels airport last week. I am now in northern Greece about to play three shows, practically right next to the refugee camps where people have only one thing on their mind: survival. I’ve been on that side as well. When I left Bosnia with my mother in 1992, we only had survival on our mind, too. We were lucky to escape the war, but we wanted the world to pay attention to our struggles and help us start a new life somewhere else. Almost every country closed its borders to us, and hours (many hours) spent waiting in line at the Norwegian/Swedish/Canadian/etc. embassies resulted in nothing but rejection. We were lucky, once again, to be taken by the U.S. after years of trying.
Today, I am on the other side, doing something I love and something that I helped build myself. I perform music across the world, and even if I am only a small artist, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that people are willing to pay me to come to their country and play a show. So as I am writing this in Thessaloniki, Greece, I feel weird because I think about some western artist who might have been performing in Croatia at the same time that my mother and I were traveling on ferries and buses with two suitcases looking for a better future. Now that western artist is me.
I keep saying that music is important, because it is. At almost every show I meet someone who tells me how much our music has impacted him/her. In Bristol, UK, a girl was crying after our show because she heard her favorite song live; in Chongqing, China, someone told me our CD was the first she ever purchased outside of China; in Guatemala City, the show organizer told me that our music opened his eyes (ears?) eight years ago to all kinds of new music he never knew about before; in St. Petersburg, Russia, a young girl told me that she has a heart condition and can’t go to loud shows, as per her doctor, but came to my show anyway and felt free for the first time in a long time; a girl in Poznan, Poland recently got sick and ended up in a wheelchair — she told me that my show was an hour during which she could forget about all the overwhelming negativity in her life; in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, I was thanked endlessly for not canceling my tour and for being one of the only artists to play in the eastern part of the country; in 2009, we wrote a song that was the first thing a newborn in Nashville, Tennessee heard; a guy flew on a plane in Russia for the first time just to come to an AAS show; and I continue receiving Facebook messages from young people in Tehran, Iran telling me how much our music has been influential in the city’s underground electronic music scene. These are not ego-boosters, but little stories that are important to me because they involve people’s actual lives, and it is unbelievably humbling to have any amount of impact in someone else’s life.
So I don’t know, I continue feeling conflicted because I’ve been on both sides — I’ve been a refugee who nobody wanted and I’ve been a teenager/adult who needed music to get through difficult times. As I play these shows in northern Greece over the next three nights, I’ll be doing plenty of self-examination and figuring out how to best contribute positively in this messy world, with and without music.
Returning to the Class of 2015, Owen Sanderson was a two-year Admissions Office regular, spending time in the office as a volunteer, a paid member of the Admissions Committee, and a good source of conversation. He was the first person I reached out to when I was looking for a helper for an APSIA graduate school fair in New York last September, and he’s the only student with whom I ever discussed options for engagement rings before he proposed. His post-Fletcher career is typical in that it’s atypical.
“Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room,” cautions Paul Bennett the Chief Creative Officer of IDEO. “The conventional heroic leader is a product of the past.” Cleverness is not a ticket to success at IDEO.
Paul is right. Despite the deep well of talent at my new employer, IDEO.org, I’ve observed that success here is fueled by one pervasive approach: a commitment to collaboration.
I write as I embark on my fifth month at IDEO.org’s New York office. IDEO.org is a non-profit design and innovation organization associated with its celebrated Silicon Valley brother IDEO. As a Business Designer — a unique role that blends business sensibilities with thoughtful design — I have seen firsthand how collaboration inspires seriously impressive results. But this isn’t necessarily news to me, as group work is part and parcel of life at The Fletcher School.
Between 2013 and 2015, I spent two years at Fletcher preparing myself for a pivot into the design world. Unconventional? Perhaps. Effective? Definitely. I have always had a decent grasp of international development, having studied it at Georgetown University and having worked in the field for nearly a decade. However, Fletcher offered an opportunity to consider a contemporary approach to problem solving: Human Centered Design (HCD). HCD is a creative practice that focuses on people rather than process. The goal of HCD is to research, design, and build solutions, all while maintaining deep empathy for the women and men you’re designing for.
As a Business Designer I look to design solutions that aren’t just beautiful but viable in the emerging markets in Africa and Asia where IDEO.org works. Life as a Business Designer takes many forms — from conducting user research to considering a market entry strategy for a new social enterprise to building partnerships with local NGOs to ensure programmatic sustainability. It is exciting, fast-paced, and challenging.
So how did I navigate to this sweet spot between design and development? My journey started at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. CSIS was hands-down the best first job out of college. I highly recommend spending at least a few years at a DC think tank. You’ll learn to write. You’ll participate in incredible events. You’ll have access to world-class personalities. And you may even work down the hall from former statesmen Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski (I did!). Perhaps most importantly, it was through this job I also met my future wife. We get married in July—and I am positively joyful.
Following two years at CSIS, I sought to tone my quantitative muscles. Management consulting called. I spent three years at Deloitte Consulting, working alongside clients from USAID, the State Department, and beyond. I dedicated my last year at Deloitte to an internal project that examined the intersection of government, the private sector, and this new thing called social entrepreneurship. I cannot thank Deloitte partner Bill Eggers enough for exposing me to such interesting work.
After five years away from school, I felt the pull. Fletcher called. I distinctly remember visiting the Hall of Flags as a high school junior on a college tour with my mom. I remember being inspired. How was I to know that ten years later I would be a temporary fixture in the Hall myself, particularly during Social Hour — Fletcher’s weekly gathering of minds and hungry grad school bellies.
At Fletcher, I focused on reconsidering the international development sector, uncovering new, innovative ways to tackle thorny poverty challenges. I was attracted to courses like Kim Wilson’s Financial Inclusion and Bhaskar Chakravorti’s Strategy & Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business. I refined my consultative approach in Rusty Tunnard’s Field Studies in Global Consulting — and then served as his teaching assistant during my second year. And I put theory to practice by spending my Fletcher summer in Nairobi, Kenya at the iHub, a co-working and innovation collective. While there I wrote my capstone on Nairobi’s tech ecosystem and then taught this capstone to Kim Wilson’s class in 2015. Both my internship and my capstone propelled me into my current gig as a Business Designer.
And so now I’m at IDEO.org. It’s tough. It’s dirty. But it’s oh-so-rewarding. Last month I spent two weeks in Kakuma, Kenya, a 24-year-old refugee camp with approximately 185,000 residents. Read that sentence again. A refugee camp. A 24-year-old, temporary place of sanctuary. But nothing is temporary in Kakuma. It is a permanent city. Our team touched down in Kakuma to rethink (and frankly, redesign) how refugee teachers access professional development services. With average class sizes of over 100 students and a serious lack of material resources to support teaching, these refugee teachers are eager for support.
I went to Fletcher to learn how to solve big, hairy problems like those I saw in Kakuma. I am at IDEO.org to solve them. However, a lone wolf won’t solve these challenges. As Paul Bennett said, the smartest person in the room won’t have the solution. Paul is not alone in this belief. He has advocates across the world, including in Kakuma. During our second week in the refugee camp, a teacher suggested that problems in the camp are never resolved alone: “We work as a team. No one is cleverer.” From Medford to New York to Kakuma, collaboration appears to be the name of the game.
Tagged with: First-Year Alumni
It’s Friday and, having begun my week with newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2010 graduates. Constantin is a “double Jumbo,” holding two Tufts degrees. He combined his undergraduate BA with the two-year MALD, reducing his total study time for the two degrees from six years to five. Few undergraduates have their requirements sufficiently complete to apply to the MALD, and only a few of the applicants are admitted. I remember meeting Constantin before he even applied and I was very pleased that he agreed to provide a Five-Year Update.
Honored to be one of the lucky few “BA-MALD” students at Fletcher, I still remember when I stepped into my first Fletcher class. Intimidated by my peers, who had accumulated years of experience across an incredible variety of fields, I was also very excited to learn from and grow with them. And so, for two years, I was fortunate to have fun learning both in the classroom and outside of it. The students at Fletcher are really its greatest resource: sharp, cross-cultural, filled with fascinating viewpoints and open-minded. I’m glad I have them as friends today.
Fletcher was a natural step for me at the time. I was eager to further my studies on the complex web that is international affairs, while also building my academic background on business topics, as I had set my eyes on finance post-grad school — Fletcher was the perfect place to do it. In the classroom, I focused on International Business Relations and Pacific Asia, while also exploring other topics of interest such as Maritime History and Comparative Legal Systems, and writing a thesis on the rapidly evolving business environment and regulatory framework for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in China. To further my business studies, I took classes at Harvard Business School, thanks to the cross-registration agreement Fletcher and HBS share. I also spent time with students and professors pushing ideas to develop a non-profit I had been running for a few years, and attending engaging conferences. The academic environment at Fletcher was exciting, challenging, and fulfilling, and it left me well prepared for my next challenge.
After Fletcher, I moved to New York and joined UBS Investment Bank, where I helped advise global manufacturing and natural resource businesses on mergers and acquisitions, as well as capital market transactions. It was great to apply the knowledge I gained at Fletcher. Professor Jacque’s teachings in accounting and corporate finance were naturally very helpful, while the ability to see the big picture and analyze complex interactions developed in International Relations classes allowed me to add more value while working on deals. Fletcher also strengthened my comfort working with people from different cultures in different languages. After a few years in M&A, I started work at Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, in Paris. The experience here has been phenomenal, analyzing potential investment targets and working alongside portfolio companies to help them grow.
Altogether, my two years at Fletcher were incredibly rewarding, from fantastic relationships, to exceptionally interesting classes, to new skills developed. I’m proud to be a part of the Fletcher community!
Reports from the Class of 2015 have started to trickle in. Today we’ll learn about the path through Fletcher of Thomas Pols, an experienced medical doctor.
A year ago I was putting the final touches on my capstone and was in the midst of my job search while trying to enjoy every moment of my last few weeks in Medford. After having worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the years before starting Fletcher, I came to the U.S. in August 2013 with my mind set on continuing my career in humanitarian aid. Never could I have predicted how differently my career would develop instead.
Compared to the clear structure of medical school, the flexible and interdisciplinary Fletcher curriculum was completely new to me. Choosing from so many different topics to study while still being able to connect all these fields was an amazing experience that, over the course of two years, made me consider taking my career in new directions. Talking with Professors Scharioth and Wilkinson was a great way to test the ideas that I had for my post-Fletcher life and, with their encouragement, I decided not to go straight back to the humanitarian field after all.
After celebrating our graduation in May 2015, the first order of business of a small group of us newly minted alumni was to travel together through the Caucasus and Central Europe before starting with “real” life. For me, this meant a post-travel return to my native Netherlands and exploring opportunities here.
Because I wanted to explore many different opportunities, I tried to cast a wide net by doing some freelance consulting work for humanitarian NGOs, while also teaching part-time at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Being on the other side of the classroom just months after graduating myself was a great experience. Focusing primarily on courses covering international relations and international law allowed me to use many of the skills and the knowledge I had gained over the previous two years. My work at the university also brought me in contact with many interesting people who helped me continue my search for a job that would combine my medical and Fletcher backgrounds.
One of these conversations led to an introduction at Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague, where I was amazed to see how much they appreciated the interdisciplinary education I received at Fletcher. A complex company such as Shell works in a difficult market, in difficult locations, while continuously under scrutiny; a great challenge for a Fletcher graduate.
After half a dozen meetings, interviews and assessments, I was offered a position as Global Health Advisor. Never would I have thought that this would be the next step in my career, and I can truly say that Fletcher made it possible.
Today, nearly a year after leaving my friends in Medford, I am back visiting them in Washington, DC (where it seems that our “sixth semester” is in full swing), before I start the next step in my career. I am actually writing this in DC after finishing Sunday brunch with a group of Fletcher graduates, who shared amazing stories of what they have been up to in the last year.
I won’t try again to predict what I will do in the future because, with a Fletcher degree, it seems any future is possible.
I started the week with a post from a student, so why not end the week with a graduate from the Class of 2010. Let’s hear from Beka Feathers, whose post-Fletcher path include a law degree, as well as a new career.
Unlike many Fletcher students, I had no prior international work experience before starting at Fletcher. After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 2006 with a degree in international affairs, I took a position as a policy adviser for the Oregon State Legislature while applying for the U.S. Foreign Service. I discovered a deep affinity for the work done by state and local government officials to support the everyday lives of Oregonians and to help them achieve their political and economic aspirations. I maintained my interest in international affairs, and I saw more and more parallels between my work in Oregon state government and the needs of developing and post-conflict countries, where weak or missing governing institutions contribute to political instability, corruption, poor economic growth, and low standards of living.
Fletcher was my first choice throughout my grad school search. I was drawn by the high caliber of the students as well as the faculty, and the collaborative atmosphere I observed on a visit. Additionally, I wanted a practitioner-focused school that would help me meld my domestic government experience with my international career aspirations.
Many students find that the focus of their studies shifts over the course of their time at Fletcher. I stayed in the same field, but could not have anticipated how much Fletcher would change the trajectory of my professional interests. I was lucky to end up in two important classes my very first semester: The Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Societies with Professor Louis Aucoin, and Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming with Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church. These two classes (and many others) helped me find my true passions: working with post-conflict states to develop representative and transparent systems of government, and developing monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure that international governance interventions are having the effect that we hope they will have.
Professor Aucoin was especially influential to my course trajectory, particularly my decision to attend law school after Fletcher. I was also fortunate to study with Professor Shultz, who taught me to seek the intersection points between “hard” and “human” security issues. I can’t condense into a blog post how much I learned from my fellow students, who met and exceeded every one of my pre-Fletcher expectations (including introducing me to bhangra!). Also critical was my summer work with the National Democratic Institute, where I helped to develop a set of benchmarking standards for evaluating democratic legislatures.
After graduating, I moved down to DC for three years of law school. Through a Fletcher friend, I was connected to the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), where I started working in my second year of law school. I am still with PILPG today, where I have worked with clients in Burma, Georgia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among others. I currently manage a program focused on transitional justice in Syria, but I have worked with constitution drafting committees, members of parliament, high-level peace negotiation delegations, civil society coalitions, the UN Human Rights Council, and rebel movements. I use my Fletcher degree in my job on a daily basis.
The education I received at Fletcher allowed me to jump into my work at PILPG at a level of expertise and confidence that put me years ahead of my peers. The friends I made at Fletcher, and the broader Fletcher community, remain a constant resource for me as well — they are my go-to experts on anything from the rules of procedure for truth commissions to best practices for post-conflict land reform to where to eat on a last-minute trip to Amman. Beyond all that, the Fletcher ethos is a core part of my identity as a member of the international development community and continues to shape how I perceive the world and my role in it.
It has been a while since we heard from a member of the Class of 2010. These are the alumni whom I’ve asked to reflect on their first five years since graduating. Maria Eugenia’s study at Fletcher enabled her to craft the development career she had first started in her home country of Argentina.
Unlike many of my Fletcher friends, before attending Fletcher I had never studied or lived outside of Argentina, my home country. I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and had, what you might call, a fairly “domestic” upbringing.
When I was 21 years old, my older sister won a scholarship to study in Italy. Visiting her ended up being my excuse to travel around Europe for a couple of months. I was then finishing my studies in sociology at the University of Buenos Aires and had done development work for grassroots NGOs. During that trip I met new people, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and heard new languages. I felt so energized by those differences. I returned home with the certainty that, whatever development-related work I ended up doing after finishing undergrad (because I knew development was the field I wanted to continue in), it would be work that allowed me to explore and learn from the richness of the world and its peoples.
I arrived at Fletcher several years after that trip, with a BA in sociology, and a couple of years of experience working full time for a second-tier microfinance non-profit organization.
If I had to use a word to describe my time at Fletcher it would be “intense.” Everything was new: the way the education system was organized, the people I met, the language I spoke (it was my first time studying in English!). I learned something new every day, and in every conversation I had. I made good friends with people who came from countries that I had barely heard of before.
Having a clear focus on the field in which I wanted to work after Fletcher helped me pick my Fields of Study: I focused my studies on Human Security and International Organizations. Courses like Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Johnstone’s International Organizations, or Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict provided me with the lenses, tools, and critical thinking that I currently use to carry out my everyday tasks. Doing fieldwork during the summer between the first and second years was also a highlight of my Fletcher experience. I did an internship at a Bangladeshi NGO, focused on children’s rights. It was an unpaid internship, but Office of Career Services funding helped me cover my expenses.
After Fletcher, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland. An internship at the International Labour Organization turned into a three-year job working at the Partnerships and Development Cooperation Department. Eager to learn more about technical cooperation and finance for development, I moved to Washington, DC to join the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Team of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund. My tasks in both organizations were related to supporting project preparation, from identification (analyzing grant proposals, writing concept notes for management eligibility), to design (developing theories of change, project documents, logical frameworks, budgets), to implementation (writing progress reports, capturing lessons learned).
Mid-2014, I moved back home to Buenos Aires and continued working for these and other organizations as an independent consultant. I currently coordinate a network of 20+ funders and multilateral organizations working together to generate and share evidence-based knowledge on what works in youth employment. I also facilitate an NGO Community of Practice in Latin America, implementing youth employment projects. Working closely with both funders and implementers provides me with a unique insight into funders’ strategic thinking and implementers’ real-life challenges.
Working independently allows me to focus my time and energy on the projects that I like the most, at a particular time in my life when I really want (and need!) flexibility — my first son, Santiago, was born in March 2015. Having a good skills-set and the right network and credentials has been key to navigating this career change successfully.
Since graduating from Fletcher, I have lived in four countries, worked for two very different international organizations, traveled around 15+ other countries, and fostered friendships all over the world. I have certainly grown and achieved much more than I could even have thought I would when I first applied to Fletcher, and I am really looking forward to what the next five years will bring!
Tagged with: Five-Year Updates
The last few weeks have been busy around the school. Students are seriously engaged in classes/exams/capstones as well as internships/jobs and lectures/conferences. And then…
…everything shifts as students pack their bags and head south to Washington, DC for the annual Career Trip. While they are in DC, students can attend information sessions, panels, receptions, networking events, informational interviews, and lunches. There’s a schedule that requires careful planning for the attendees, lest they create an impossibly manic two-day agenda for themselves. So they pick and choose, based on their sector and organization interests. Then most of them will come together for a reception with alumni.
For a taste of one of the Career Trip activities, you can join current PhD students and alumni of the program for a panel discussion at the United States Institute of Peace. “From Civil Resistance to Peaceful Revolution” will be aired live from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST. (I will try to update this post with the video of the panel.)
Post-panel update: Here’s the video of the event.
Meanwhile, as the total list of organizations with which students will connect is way too long to include here, I’ll just provide this partial list of companies, offices, and agencies that will be represented by Fletcher alumni:
Abt Associates, Inc.
Albright Stonebridge Group
American Friends Service Committee
American Petroleum Institute
American Red Cross
Association of Climate Change Officers
Biotechnology Innovation Organization
Blue Compass, LLC
Bogota Employment Project
Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
Boston Consulting Group
Capgemini Government Solutions
Center for Complex Operations, NDU
Clifford Chance US LLP
Coalition for Justice
Congressional Research Service
Council on Foreign Relations
Covington & Burling, LLP
Creative Associates International
Cypress International, Inc.
Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board
Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Financial Integrity Network
Foreign Policy Magazine
German Marshall Fund
Global Professional Search
Glover Park Group
Goodwin Procter, LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Human Rights Campaign
I.D. Inspiring Development GmbH
Inter-American Development Bank
International Finance Corporation
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Baltimore
Koltai and Company, LLC
Latin America Working Group
Metis Strategy LLC
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
Millennium Challenge Corporation
MSI, Tetra Tech Company
National Defense University
National Democratic Institute
National Nuclear Security Administration
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
Office of Management and Budget
Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Open Government Partnership
Orange Tree, LLC
Organization of American States
Partners for Development
Paul, Weiss LLP
Population Services International
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Regulatory Strategies and Solutions Group
Rocket Media Group
Rudaw Media Company
Save the Children
Search for Common Ground
Sidar Global Advisors
Social Impact, Inc.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Rec
Strategic Capacity Group
Teach For All
Team Red, White and Blue
The Aspen Institute
The Buffalo Group
The Cohen Group
The Hudson Institute
The New York Times
The Scowcroft Group
The Stimson Center
The White House
The World Bank
Thompson Hine LLP
U.S. African Development Foundation
U.S. Codex Office
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of the Treasury
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S.-Indonesia Joint Council
Under Armour Inc.
United Nations Foundation
United States Export-Import Bank
United States Institute of Peace
Valuing Voices at Cekan Consulting, LLC
Viper Analytics, LLC
World Environment Center
World Vision International
Today marks eight months since the Class of 2015 graduation last May 22, and it’s time to start checking in with our newest graduates. While I continue lining up First-Year Alumni updates, let’s hear from one of the student bloggers who completed the MALD last spring. Unlike many of his classmates who are still settling into their new jobs, Liam is in the U.S. Army, and his plans for this year were in place well before he graduated.
With everything going on in my life, it’s hard to believe that only a year ago I was in my last Fletcher semester, deep into my capstone. Since then, I’ve spent the past eight months as a student at the Command and General Staff College (CGSS), the U.S. Army’s professional education program for mid-career officers. Yet, despite being in the middle of Kansas, thousands of miles away from Medford, my Fletcher experience continues to shape my life daily.
First, the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute recently published my Fletcher capstone. Focused on how the Army can improve at advising and assisting other nation’s militaries, the monograph was the culmination of work I did in Professor Shultz’s Internal Conflicts and War class and in an independent study I did with him. Although I’m thrilled the paper was published, what I’m more excited about is that it’s making its rounds through the Security Force Assistance community. I recently met with the Director of the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance to discuss the paper, and am in the process of consulting with the team that is re-writing Army doctrine on the topic. For me, it’s a great reward, after putting so much work into my capstone at Fletcher, to have it be read by a wider audience, and I’d encourage current and prospective students to attempt to do the same.
Second, what I learned at Fletcher has a direct impact on my studies here at CGSS. From the basis of national security strategy I gained in Professor Shultz’s classes to the ability think critically through history learned from Professor Khan, I find myself often going back over my Fletcher class notes and readings to gain a better understanding of topics we cover in class. My ability to address complex issues, from humanitarian relief operations to the roots of instability in Europe and everything in between, has been greatly enhanced by the breadth and depth of my Fletcher education. Additionally, last fall we had the pleasure of having Dean Stavridis come talk to all 1,300 officers in our CGSS class about how he sees the 21st century security environment, and it made me incredibly proud to be part of the Fletcher community when my classmates said they thought the Dean gave the best guest lecture we’ve heard. And Fletcher alumni gained a very visible face when General Joe Dunford was named the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last fall.
Last, and most importantly, I got married in December. My wife Christine is an Air Force pilot and we currently live apart while she’s in Colorado and I’m here, but the wedding gave us an opportunity to catch up with several classmates. Shockingly, Kansas is hardly the center of the Fletcher-sphere, so seeing friends after almost a year was great.
My Fletcher experience, from the education to the friendships made over my two years in Medford, sticks with me everyday. As my classmates make their way out into the world and start in their careers, I feel secure knowing that some of the most intelligent, caring, compassionate, and capable people the world has to offer are tackling the tough issues at hand. Also, as the Class Fund Agent for the class of 2015, it’s great to see donations back to the Fletcher Fund already coming from my peers and friends, helping the next generation of students succeed in their pursuit of making the world a better place. Looking back, I have to say that being a student at Fletcher was truly the most incredible experience of my Army career to date.
Let’s close out this week with the next Five Year Update from a 2010 graduate. Rebecca is one of the growing number of Fletcher-trained M&E professionals out in the world, and here she describes her trajectory from before Fletcher to her post-Fletcher career.
After graduating in 2005 from Bates College, where I studied political science, studied abroad in Cape Town, and wrote my honors thesis on the gendered nature of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, I knew I wanted to do something international, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I decided to move to Washington, DC and see what opportunities I could find there. I ended up at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy think tank. It was a great introduction to the world of international policy. While at CSIS, I organized high-level membership meetings and special fundraising events. I got to meet Sandra Day O’Connor and travel to China and I was exposed to the field of policy and decision-making. I knew I needed to gain practitioner skills, and graduate school seemed like the logical next step. Fletcher was my first choice — I loved the close-knit community feeling I got when I visited and also that it was outside of the beltway.
At Fletcher, I studied Development Economics and Global Health Policy (a self-designed Field of Study) and graduated with a certificate in Human Security. During my first semester I signed up for a course on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. I had never heard of M&E before and didn’t realize it would have such an impact on my career. As I went through the course that semester, something clicked. I loved the idea of using my analytical skills to help development practitioners learn from and improve the work they were doing. During the summer, I traveled to Malawi with three other Fletcher students and designed an M&E framework for a girls’ education organization. For my thesis, I worked with a small global health organization to design an M&E strategy for the organization’s programming. I believe that the combination of education and practical skills in M&E I gained at Fletcher enabled me to get my foot in the door at Oxfam America after I graduated.
I started at the headquarters of Oxfam America in Boston as an intern — I tell every Fletcher student who contacts me for career advice that it’s OK to take an internship after graduating. It’s a great way to test out an organization and you get opportunities that you would not have as someone external to the organization. My internship ultimately turned into a consultancy, which turned into a full-time position. I worked for almost four and a half years in Oxfam’s Campaigns Department, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of policy advocacy monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). I worked with a variety of campaign teams based in the U.S., supporting them on all things MEL, including developing MEL plans, collecting data, facilitating debriefs and writing evaluation reports. In my last year in the department, I provided campaign MEL support to country teams and led trainings in Nepal and Spain.
My experience in policy advocacy MEL, combined with the program M&E skills I acquired at Fletcher, enabled me to transition to Oxfam’s Regional Programs Department, where I am the MEL Project Officer for domestic programs. I provide technical MEL support and make sure the different programs are effectively monitoring, reporting on, and learning from their work. After working in the international field for almost a decade, it has been rewarding to support programming in my home country. I could not have predicted this career when I first set foot in the Hall of Flags in 2008, but my two years at Fletcher had a profound impact on where I am now, and I am all the better for it.
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