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For the final entry in this series of posts listing suggested reading, I’m not going to try to create an underlying theme.  Here is a diverse mix of theoretical and practical works.

Prof. John Burgess — who teaches Fletcher courses on international mergers and acquisitions and international finance, in addition to his day job at a Boston law firm — recommends, “Benn Steil’s The Battle of Bretton Woods, which deftly combines geopolitics, economic theory and practice, and personalities to describe the history of the Bretton Woods Conference and its implications for the post-war world.  A great combination of diplomatic history, biography and analysis.”

Prof. Jes Salacuse told me, “One recent book that might be of interest is Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty.”

Prof. Bill Martel suggests, “One work I assign in my Decision Making and Public Policy and my Evolution of Grand Strategy, which incoming students would benefit from reading, is Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide.”

Two professors who followed my instruction to include their own recent work among their suggestions are Prof. Joel Trachtman, who recently published The Future of International Law: Global Government, and Prof. James Forest, who noted that his The Terrorism Lectures, is “good prep for my Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism class, and an inexpensive book as well.”

A suggestion from Prof. Leila Fawaz came with an apology that she wasn’t supplying more suggestions.  She told me to point readers “back to an old but reliable one, Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples.”

Prof. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church said that “anyone interested in the NGO sector and donors to it” should read Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta, which will connect to NGO Management and to her DME module series.

And, finally, because Fletcher students will all, ultimately, need to go beyond reading and do some writing themselves, Prof. John Perry suggests, Jacques Barzun, Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers.

Happy reading (and writing) everyone!

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Continuing the reading list theme, I would nonetheless be remiss if I didn’t first tell you about the beautiful late spring day we’re experiencing today.  The sky is completely cloud free — so beautiful I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.  See for yourself:

June 4 sky

If I weren’t at work, it would be a perfect day to grab a book and read.  Before I go ahead and list more suggestions for your summer reading, I want to take a step back and provide a more complete explanation of why I’m including the faculty book picks in the first place.  I generally try not to post information that is relevant only to one subset of blog readers, and the blog is not, in fact, the most efficient way for us to reach incoming students.  But some of the people who will be joining us for Orientation in August check the blog, and some of those are interested in a little pre-Fletcher reading.  And if you’re not an incoming student this year?  Well, you may still want to read something recommended by our professors.  So back to the list.

Today’s amazing list comes from a single source.  Prof. Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the research director for the World Peace Foundation, offered up at least a season’s worth of options, explaining, “Given that we’re talking about summer reading, I’ll do my best to keep it to the more narrative-focused texts.  Granted, many of these are atrocity focused.”  Even those who may never interact with the WPF might want to read about these still-relevant international events.  Here’s the list:

Chinua Achebe, Girls at War (short stories, Nigerian civil war)

Deborah Scroggins, Emma’s War (non-fiction, Sudan)

Sven Lindquist, Exterminate All the Brutes (non-fiction, colonial Africa)

Kang Chol-Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang (non-fiction, North Korea)

Jason Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters (non-fiction, DRC)

Sheri Fink, War Hospital (non-fiction, Bosnia)

Clea Koff, The Bone Woman (non-fiction, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo)

Semezdin Mehmedinovic, Sarajevo Blues (poetry, Bosnia)

Aleksander Hemon, The Question of Bruno (short stories, former Yugoslavia)

Courtney Angela Brkic, The Stone Fields (fiction, Bosnia)

Anything by Slavenka Drakulic (fiction & non-fiction, Croatia)

Bob Shacochis, The Immaculate Invasion (non-fiction, Haiti)

James Dawes, That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity (non-fiction, human rights)

Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (history, Congo) or To End All Wars (history, peace movement and WWI)

Wade Davis, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (history, UK, WWI and, obviously, Mt. Everest).

And for anyone who can handle theory by the beach: Judith Butler, Frames of War and Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (these two are best read together), and just about anything by Hannah Arendt or Jacques Rancière.

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As promised, I’m ready today to start a series of posts with suggested materials that an incoming student might want to read.  I emphasize “might” because you are not under any obligation to read anything!  Still, to get your intellectual juices flowing, you might want to check out a few of the professors’ picks.

I’ll start with the request I sent to the faculty.  I pointed them toward past reading lists that can be found in the blog archives (which is a good resource for current readers, as well) and then I asked them to send a suggestion that would fit one of these descriptions.

  • A book that you assign for your class and that incoming students might benefit from reading at a leisurely pace in the summer;
  • A book that provides good contextual explanation of your field;
  • Fiction or popular non-fiction that provides context for your field;
  • Articles or blogs that incoming students may not already know about;
  • A newly published book of your own that provides general context.

I hope that sharing my request to the professors will make it clear why their suggested books/articles/blogs take many forms.  This post will kick off the lists with a couple of picks for the economics folks (actual or aspiring) out there.  First, Prof. Michael Klein recommends After the Music Stopped by Alan Blinder, which he thinks is the best book on the economic crisis, and which relates to his classes on International Finance and Finance, Growth and Business Cycles.

For general background, Prof. Dan Richards (whose primary position is in the Economics Department, but who also teaches at Fletcher) says, “They’re both a little older, but either Freakonomics  or SuperFreakonomics are still good reads that give a decent presentation of how economists approach problems — if not always the answers that all economists agree on.  There is also the Freakonomics blog.”

Read these choices or not, blog friends — it’s totally up to you.  More reading suggestions will be coming soon!

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Although this video is some months old, it only recently found its way to me. It shows Fletcher Professor Louis Aucoin pursuing his current work as the United Nations Deputy Special Representative for Liberia.  Prof. Aucoin has been on leave for two semesters, but is planning to return to Fletcher at the conclusion of his UN work.  The video presents a special example of how professors’ (and, for that matter, students’) professional and academic experiences come together.

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Yesterday, Prof. Leila Fawaz shared with the community a piece she had written about Monday’s presidential debate.  One paragraph seemed particularly relevant to our professional school of international affairs.  She wrote, “Happily for us, the United States possesses a deep reservoir of foreign experts and diplomats who have spent their life studying a region, issue, or people.”  She goes on to conclude that, “No matter who wins this election, my hope therefore is that the United States in 2013 draws upon its unprecedented expertise and contacts to construct a strong foreign policy of consistency and empathy. Such a policy, surely, might well win the support of ordinary people the world over, tired of the ravages of war and the brutality of bombs.”

You can read more of Prof. Fawaz’s comments, along with other thoughts on the election from her fellow historians, on the American Historical Association’s Perspectives Online site.  (Scroll down to the Election 2012 special.)

 

A member of the faculty recently sent around a note pointing us toward this Washington Post technology column that describes work done by a Fletcher student during his summer internship.  The student (Josh Rogers) wrote his thesis under Prof. Salacuse’s supervision.  I thought blog readers might want to see this record of a summer internship’s interesting and valuable result.

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The Fletcher faculty has made some changes to what used to be the thesis requirement for all degree programs.  Going forward, the requirement will be for the production of a capstone project.  For some students (and their professors), this represents no change whatsoever.  They arrived at Fletcher looking forward to writing a traditional academic thesis, and that’s what they’re going to do.  For other students, this marks a welcome change.  In some fields, a thesis is not the project format that best lends itself to the presentation of two year’s worth of learning.  Here’s a little of the email Academic Dean Peter Uvin sent to students to explain the change.  (Note that this was an email sent directly to students, not an official document, hence the casual language.)  He starts by saying that, in fact, little (beyond the name of the project) has changed.

First, all degree programs always had to write a thesis, which was understood to be a traditional research project.  Now we are changing that title a bit (“capstone project”) and we are giving students more flexibility in terms of their final academic piece of work.  Over the years, many students have found the research thesis a very useful and rewarding experience, and they can continue to do this with all the professors at Fletcher.  But other students have felt that a thesis was not a particularly useful exercise, given what they would be doing after Fletcher.  We now officially allow for a broader range of choices to accommodate those students.

Second, students used to develop their thesis topics in many different ways, and this will also continue, though we will be more explicit about the need to associate the thesis writing with a course credit.  Here are the choices for how a capstone project can be developed:

◊   Students can continue to build their capstone project off a course paper;
◊   A number of professors have decided that their courses are set up in such a way that their required final product is really an excellent preparation for the capstone project. This may be because they offer a lot of methodology, or because they require a product that is very labor intensive, or because they help students develop research proposals, etc.  Those classes will now be called “incubator courses.”  Students are not obliged to take incubator courses for their capstone projects; it is simply an option.  Also: you can take these courses even if you do not want to write your capstone project through them!
◊   Students can also continue to use an independent study in order to write their capstone project.
◊   Often professors look for student assistance with research projects.  The innovation here is that we encourage professors and students who work together in this way to use that work as the basis for the capstone project.

This is all new and a work in progress. It is important to have clear discussions with your capstone supervisors to understand exactly what s/he will be looking for.  Some are going to be traditional and only want an academic thesis, whereas others are thrilled to be able to accept something else.  Some see their courses as incubators, whereas others do not.  Just talk to them.  It will all work out.  This is designed to make life more flexible and easier—not more stressful!

Our current second-year students will be the pioneers for the Capstone Projects, and I look forward to hearing about some innovative project formats.

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A nice little note came our way recently from the University.  Here’s how it started:

The Office of the Vice Provost is pleased to announce the 2012 recipients of Tufts Collaborates! seed grants. This program, introduced by the Office of the Vice Provost in December 2010, is designed to spark scholarship, research and creative work resulting from cross-disciplinary faculty collaboration. The goal of this program is to establish collaborative research efforts that will likely result in competitive research proposals to federal and foundation granting agencies, and enhance interdisciplinary research across Tufts University for years to come.

Funding decisions were made through a peer review process including faculty and administrative staff and were based on several criteria, including the intellectual merits of the project, potential impact on interdisciplinary research at Tufts University, and the likelihood of the proposed project enabling the collaborators to submit a competitive grant proposal.

It’s impossible not to like the idea of interdisciplinary research, given that Fletcher is just that kind of cross-disciplinary place.  Many of the grant recipients were in the sciences.  Here are some examples of grants, and their objectives, that are a distance from what people do at Fletcher:

Crystallization Trials on the Vacuolar ATPase (Determine the high resolution structure by X-ray crystallography of the V-ATPase complex, an ATP-dependent proton pump that plays a role in both normal physiology and human disease. )
Calpain-1 Inhibition for the Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease (Determine if pharmacological inhibition of calpain-1 by a novel membrane-permeable inhibitor, BDA-410, will reduce the calcium-induced cellular damage in sickle red blood cells. )
Interactions between Pharmaceuticals and Microbes in the Environment: Population Dynamics, Enzyme Regulation and Contaminant Degradation (Discover how pharmaceuticals and microbes influence one another in the environment using a combination of high throughput DNA sequencing and chemical analyses.)

As I mentioned last week, Tufts is a University with a broad reach.

But closer to home, I’m happy to note that Fletcher’s Academic Dean, Prof. Peter Uvin, is a member of a collaborating team.  The topic, the team, and the objectives are:

An Inquiry into the Historical and Ideological Roots of Development and Humanitarianism
David Ekbladh, History, Arts and Sciences
Heather Curtis, Religion, Arts and Sciences
Peter Uvin, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Implement an extended workshop at Tufts to bring leading figures from a range of disciplines who focus on elements critical to the history, constitution, and practice of humanitarianism and development.

Congratulations, Dean Uvin and team!

 

There’s a lot going on in Admissions this week.  Most of our admitted students need to make their enrollment decisions by tomorrow, April 20, and there has been a pretty steady stream of last-minute questions.  (How do I put together my dual degree?…Can you send me my GAMS password?…What’s your suggestion for housing?…)  By Monday, we’ll know what about 80% of the entering class will look like.  (I’m making that number up — but I think it’s about right.)

Meanwhile, continuing students are submitting their applications for scholarship renewal.  They also have many last-minute questions.  The forms are due this afternoon, so I know the office will be hoppin’ at about 4:00.

Which leaves me depending on others to create interesting blog content for me.  And combing through my inbox, I found something.  Students have compiled a list of thesis topics, along with faculty advisor, keywords, and the students’ Fields of Study.  The list contains only a portion of the theses that will be submitted this spring, but I think it provides a nice snapshot of the broad range of topics and formats.

Here’s a sample of the list:

For the full list, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the professors who advised a student on a specific topic, you can find them all on our website.

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We in Admissions like a good smackdown, so I jumped on the notice that the community was invited to participate in a feud that would also benefit research.  Here’s the invitation:

Is it even hard to give up cash?  To give up cards?  Let’s find out.
Give up half your payments.  Blog about it.  Win $100 or dinner with Kim Wilson.

This month, Kim Wilson is running a social experiment.  For one week (March 30-April 6), students will give up either cash or cards.

Actually it’s slightly tougher than that:  the cashless group cannot use money orders or checks, and the cardless group cannot use any electronic, mobile or web payments.  Prizes include a drawing for a $100 prepaid card and dinner for you and three friends with Kim and two of hers.  It’s not quite a randomized controlled trial, but we might learn something along the way.  Please sign up and invite your friends to join.  Students of Kim Wilson, Jenny Aker, John Hammock, and Karen Jacobsen are particularly encouraged to participate.

Second year MALD student, Betsy, is working as a research assistant on the project.  While participants were still signing up, Betsy told me, “So far there seems to be some fear among students about ending up in the cardless group.  One person even dropped out after learning that he couldn’t choose his group.  I’m finding it interesting that nobody seems to think it would be a big deal to go without cash!”

But there was also worry about going cashless, particularly in the form of “What about paying my rent?”  Prof. Wilson weighed in, “If you make a mistake during the contest, you are still eligible for the drawing, but you must own up to your transgression!  Hint: Pay your rent ahead of time.”

Betsy also provided some context:  “This is part of the larger Cost of Cash study.  It obviously isn’t a formal experiment but we think it will yield some interesting insight about the costs (especially time/inconvenience costs) of different forms of payment.  I also think it could prompt people to rely more heavily on their social networks, like bartering or asking someone to order them something online with a credit card in exchange for cash.  We’ll see!”

Ben Mazzotta, the postdoctoral research fellow for inclusive growth at the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME), wrote up the contest rules, and he told me about other Fletcher work in this area.  “Previously CEME held a conference titled Killing Cash, sponsored a talk from MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga titled “The Road to the Cashless Society,” and organized a conference in Kenya on the viral growth of M-PESA and efforts to replicate it worldwide.”

We’re midway through the Smackdown week.  Check the Cost of Cash blog often and learn what it’s like to live without cash or credit in the U.S. today.

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