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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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The Hall of Flags is Fletcher’s town square.  Everyone passes through here at some point in the day.  Yesterday, to capture a little of the atmosphere, Jeff (my partner in on-location blogging) and I parked ourselves at a table (which we reserved, as if this were a restaurant), equipped with my laptop and a basic camera, and waited to see who came by.  We made a slight miscalculation, having chosen a time when traffic was light, but the upside was that we had a chance to chat with everyone who visited the table.

When we set up camp, two students, Vanessa and Jon, were already in place at their own (better decorated) table.  They’re raising funds for their participation in the Tufts Marathon Challenge.  Jon is from New Orleans, so (in keeping with the season), they put out some plastic babies and called it King Cake.  The cake, fortunately, looked better than the handwritten sign.

After chatting with Vanessa and Jon, we looked to see who else was around.  Jamie, one of our volunteer interviewers from last fall, greets blog readers from the balcony.

Mollie (also an Admissions volunteer), Adam, and Khanh from Fletcher Students in Security were planning a reception that will take place during the DC Career Trip in a few weeks.

Bilal stopped by on his way to this week’s event in the “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture series (organized by the Security Studies program), on practices and best practices throughout the intelligence community.  He insisted that I should be in the photo.

Nick walked through while doing his work.  We always enjoy chatting with him when he helps us out by keeping the office in order.  He has also brought new life to one of the Admissions Office plants.

Shinhee (yet another Admissions volunteer) stopped by on her way from Prof. Babbitt’s office to an accounting class.  Jeff told Shinhee (a musician) she should have brought her violin so that she could play for us.  Next time!

My Fletcher Futbol friend Sebastian picked up a piece of cake.  He was on his way to meet up with a student who had worked at an NGO he’s interested in.

Summer is also on her way to the “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture.  She’s looking spiffy for the special event.

Dan, Fletcher’s IT guru, was talking IT with Kevin, the face of the Hall.  (Kevin would have been able to tell us when the HoF is at its busiest.  Mental note to check in with him before we plan another on-location blog.)

Matt, also on the way to the lunch/lecture, stopped by.  (Gonna be a busy luncheon!)  Matt’s a PhD candidate who’s working in Oslo for the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs as a visiting research fellow.  He’s on campus now to put the finishing touches on his formal dissertation proposal about organized crime and state security in West Africa (while working remotely for the Institute).  Matt moved on to the PhD program from the MALD (like most of our PhD students).  He has clocked many hours in the HoF, generally toting a coffee mug.

Morgan is on his way to accounting class, carrying the lunch that was lovingly prepared by his wife (complete with special notes).  The word is that Morgan has the BEST lunches (and sometimes dinners) in that little cooler.  Jeff and I are totally jealous!

Vanessa and Jon packed up their table.  Why?  The “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture, of course.  Vanessa says she can’t be late.  The lecture runs on military time.

Tomo came out of his microfinance class where there were two guests from Spain.  He’s off to have lunch with them.

Geoffrey was here to kick off the marketing of the Tufts Energy Conference — mailing cards to speakers from past years.  The conference is coming up in April.

Vickie, Carolyn, Rachael, Naomi, Winnie, and Shuvam met up at the elevator.  (They’re all in the photo, but not necessarily easy to find.)

Lily just came out of her class, and is chatting with Emily while waiting for others.  She’s going to join Tomo for lunch with the microfinanciers from Spain.

Food for the “Denial and Deception” lunch!  (Delivered with a smile by Dan from Dave’s Fresh Pasta, a Davis Square eatery that is a favorite source of food around here.)

Brand new Januarian Alessandra and soon-to-graduate second-year Charlie, were also coming from the microfinance class.  This time I think to ask which class it is.  The answer:  Microfinance and Inclusive Commerce with Prof. Kim Wilson.  Then, along comes Prof. Wilson.  Jeff convinces her to join the photo.  (Love Prof. Wilson’s red shoes!)

Kristen avoids the paparazzi on her way to the Tufts Educational Day Care Center for an appointment.  (Fingers crossed that there will be space for little Lucia in the day care in September!)  More relevant to Fletcher, Kristen was coming out of a discussion of the launch of a new initiative to offer conference calls with recent alums, during which current students can ask about job search tactics in particular industries or locations.  The first conference call will be with a 2011 MIB alum and former Admissions intern, who will describe the process that landed him with a job in Brazil.

Once we let Kristen go, we noticed a crowd of people waiting for the elevator.  More people from the microfinance class, including the Spanish visitors.  They were very gracious in allowing Jeff to snap a couple of photos, and we learned they’re from ACAF in Barcelona.

Hanging out in the Hall of Flags was a fun way to connect with people we don’t see as often as we’d like, not to mention a real treat during this busy time of year for Admissions.  After our allotted 45 minutes, Jeff and I packed up and went back to the office.  We’re going to do this again, though.  Next time, we’ll try for live blogging.  Stay tuned!

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Dean Uvin invited feedback on his Top 10 of 2011 list, and students didn’t hold back.  I’ve snatched as many comments off the Social List as I could reasonably fit in the blog but, fortunately, a plugged-in student, Michael, solved my space problem by creating a scholarly archive of the suggestions for this year and 2010, saying:

For your studying convenience, I’ve compiled the albums and songs recommended by Dean Uvin and fellow students into a single public Spotify playlist: Fletcher Music 2011: The Groovin’ Uvin Project (http://open.spotify.com/user/grahamagp/playlist/29o96Vbw2BQLb3vFBPwyuj).  Last year’s recommendations are in a second playlist, Fletcher Music 2010: Before the ‘Stache (http://open.spotify.com/user/grahamagp/playlist/29o96Vbw2BQLb3vFBPwyuj).

Blog readers, please check out the Spotify lists for the two scholarly works.  (I included the url as I’ve had inconsistent success in opening the lists from a link.  Plug the address into the Spotify search box.)  But, because you might want to know what comments accompanied the choices, I’ve compiled a few.  Here (with my apologies if I missed typos in unfamiliar album titles) are the students’ contributions to the listening pleasure of the community, with a little marker (~~~~~~) to indicate a change from one student to the next.

~~~~~~

This was my favorite thread last year and my favorite again (albeit I still think too early — there’s a whole month left).  With that said…Here are my top 10:
1. Girls — Father, Son, Holy Ghost
2. Youth Lagoon — The Year of Hibernation
3. The Weekend — House of Balloons/Thursday
4. James Blake — James Blake
5. St. Vincent — Strange Mercy
6. Drake — Take Care
7. Tune-Yards — WHOKILL
8. Los Campesinos — Hello Sadness
9. M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
10. The Antlers — Burst Apart
If I were to include reissues: The Rolling Stones — Some Girls reissue is awesome, but the Beach Boys — Smile Sessions is mind blowingly awesome. The outtakes for “Heroes and Villains” are amazing on their own.
~~~~~~

Raphael Saadiq — Stone Rollin’.  For those vintage soul fans:
M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.  Sweet electropop with great melodies.
Jay-Z and Kanye West — Watch the Throne.  The best of the two best in hip hop.
Kurt Vile — Smoke Ring For My Halo.  Guitar driven rawk a la Burce Springsteen or Jeff Buckley (but more clever).
Fleet Foxes — Helplessness Blues.  Gorgeous, accoustic-inspired indie rock and complex harmonies.
Lykke Li — Wounded Rhymes.  Ephemeral Swedish pop that was the soundtrack to my summer.
~~~~~~

Assuming the role of Debbie Downer, I have to say I found it to be a really disappointing year musically.  More and more bands sound the same and like too many other bands that came before them — like rock/pop music’s death by entropy.  In some cases, it can work really well (such as M83 shamelessly channeling the 80s) but in most cases it just sounds boring and samey.  Which leads to my thesis:  “Has rock/pop music exhausted itself as a genre and done everything it can do?”  I’m pretty sure I could get Dean Uvin to sign on as a thesis adviser.
~~~~~~

Holy Ghost! — Holy Ghost! For those of you into the indie dance genre… Fun, smart, hip disco groove full-length album from two New York guys on DFA (the label of LCD Soundsystem, Hercules and Love Affair, Hot Chip…).

Brigitte — Et vous, tu m’aimes? The album is a standout — ranging from pop ditty to cover of a rap song to country inspired to a finale of a gospel song turned upside down called “Jesus sex symbol.”  Listening will help you with your language exam!
~~~~~~

Feist — Metals. Music on this album hovers around the intersection of indie and alt country, a good place for her, and one which she inhabits beautifully. It is such a mature album; I love it.
~~~~~~

The Weekend — House of Balloons. Dark and brooding genre-bending debut from a 20-year old Toronto kid. Blew up after a tweet from Drake. Download for free on his website and become one with your morose self.

Tune-Yards — W H O K I L L. Lo-fi eclectic sonic collage. Merrill Garbus rocks and did this whole album on her own. This will give you an idea.
~~~~~~

I would be oh so sad if Florence and The Machine’s new album Ceremonials wasn’t in the running. That girl has some piiiiiiiipes. It’s the perfect mix of gut wrenching, rock it out, go-out-there-and-win-this-thing inspiration.  AND Beriut’s The Rip Tide album. Love the vibrato of his voice and the horn harmonies are fantastic.
~~~~~~

Dean Uvin. Once again making sure we learn the important things.
~~~~~~

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