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Recently, Academic Dean Peter Uvin sent an urgent message to the student community.  The content will be of concern to anyone who shares his intellectual interests.

Dear Students,

The Arab Spring. The Belgian Greek debt crisis. IMF director Lagarde asking Latin American countries for money to help Europe get out of the debt crisis. The coffee at Mugar Café. All worthwhile issues of debate. And yet, they passed by me unnoticed. My mind was on a far more important task:  the production of my annual Top-10 Music List for the year 2011. This is just one of the things an Academic Dean must do, and do well. I hereby share the results of this major research project, which took me hundreds of hours of listening and reflecting. Obviously, I cannot imagine that anyone could improve on this fine work, but in the spirit of free inquiry and frank debate, I do welcome all feedback.

Best wishes,
Peter Uvin
Academic Dean and Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies
Director, Institute for Human Security
The Fletcher School |  Tufts University

And so, dear blog readers, I share with you the results of Dean Uvin’s research.  Next week, I will collect the student feedback.  Meanwhile, please feel free to offer your own choices in the comment section below.

Dean Uvin’s Ten Best Albums of 2011

Kiran Ahluwalia — Aam Zameen: Common Ground. Indian neo-traditional  music, phenomenally produced, with a stunning voice. The first song, a remake of a famous song by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is done with Mali’s Tinariwen—it gives new meaning to the term “world music.” A great album.

AA Bondy — Believers. Very sad, haunting, dark, slow album, gorgeously sung and played. Stunning.

Anna Calvi — Anna Calvi. She sounds like a copy of Siouxsee and the Banshees, but what a voice, what guitar playing, what power. I can’t wait for more from her.

Bon Iver — Bon Iver. I was, frankly, not so blown away by his To Emma CD as everyone else seemingly was,  but this one is amazing. I know I will still listen to it 20 years from now. A true classic.

Michael Gordon — Timber. Rather different, and probably not to listen to while having a conversation in your car. But this is brilliant work of so-called contemporary classical music, mesmerizing if you are in the right mood, boundary shifting and refreshing.

Grouplove — Never Trust a Happy Song. Clearly a misnomer, for these are some of the happiest songs around. Not since Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes have I heard an album so unashamedly feel-good. I know I will probably get sick of it at some point (especially if advertisers keep on picking it up), but this is just a great smile-on-your-face-provoking record.

Amy LaVere — Stranger Me. I admit it: I am a country fan. I listen to a lot of it, although not so much to what plays on the radio. This is definitely a country-rock album, but she does come from a real country background. (Her previous excellent album showcases that.) Fun texts, good melodies, and a beautifully fragile-yet-strong voice.

Radiohead — King of Limbs. I am almost ashamed to put it here, because it is so obvious. But it needs to be said: Radiohead made, once again, a phenomenal album. Nobody comes close to these guys—they are the defining band of their generation.

TV on the Radio — Nine Types of Light. This is, once again, a very good album of a very good band, maybe the best band in this country at this time. They continue to innovate with power, rhythm, and voice. I love this.

Robag Wruhme — Thora Vukk. I listened to a lot of electronic music this year. The competition was between three Germans (what’s new?) — Robag Wruhme, Apparat, and Pantha du Prince.  Robag won. I think this record is a little masterpiece, and a true record, with a flow from beginning to end. At the end of the year, Oneohtrix River Never came to muddy the water, almost making it to first position in the electronic category, but I decided to stay with my German roots.

Runner Ups
Enrico Rava — Tribe. Always a gorgeous jazz musician–albeit, in my opinion, of the more background music type–this CD, like so many others of this Italian jazz master, is truly a beauty. Everyone who hears this cannot but fall under its spell.

Son Lux — We are Rising.  His At War with Walls and Mazes is one of the five best albums of the entire 2000s, and this one is good too, albeit less so. The problem is: I had too high expectations. It just fell out of the prizes for the year.

Wye Oak — Civilian. Gorgeous, as are all their albums.  A bit more rhythm, maybe, but still so ethereal, so beautiful, so sensual.

 

This is probably my favorite Fletcher photo.  Long-time professor John Roche was an adviser to President John Kennedy.  I was very fond of Prof. Roche when we worked together until his retirement, and the photo provides a window into his life well before we met.

Interested in other historical photos of Fletcher?  You can search for them in the Tufts Digital Library.

 

Here’s something we think is pretty cool.  As a way of capturing the complex questions that are frequently discussed at Fletcher, both inside the classroom and out, the business program is putting together a series of interviews between Bhaskar Chakravorti (our dean for business programs) and Fletcher business professors.  New interviews will be posted each week, but the first three are available now.  Rather than grasping for a way to summarize the interviews, I’ll just share the MIB program’s description:

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All of a sudden, a little Fletcher news.

First (and you may already know about this if you follow The Fletcher School or Fletcher Admissions on facebook), we find out about Dean Bosworth’s week:  he’s meeting with a North Korean government minister in New York.  Nuclear arms and food aid will, according to news reports, be on the agenda.  That will make for an awesome “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay, should anyone ask Dean Bosworth to write one.

Next, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard Fletcher alum Elliot Ackerman (class of 2003) discuss the goal of his organization, Americans Elect, to create a new nominating process that would give candidates outside of the usual two political parties a chance to compete in national elections.  Elliot is Americans Elect’s chief operating officer.

Finally, something of personal interest to me.  This afternoon, Fletcher will host a live broadcast of the BBC’s World Have Your Say.  The show will feature 100 young women, ages 15-19, from around the world.  My daughter, Kayla, is one of those young women!  She’s participating all week in Women2Women, and it was quite a surprise to hear she’d be visiting my workplace (along with 99 new friends and a BBC crew).  The word we’ve received is that all of this is taking place from 1:00 to 3:00 local time (which is GMT-4), and the BBC web site confirms that the show is broadcast at 1700 GMT.  I hope you’ll join me in tuning in!

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Returning to the subject of two weeks ago, pre-Fletcher preparatory summer reading, I thought I’d point you toward a few of the professors’ own works.

Among recent books and articles are:

Prof. Jacque‘s, Global Derivative Debacles:  From Theory to Malpractice.  He assures us that, “It is written for a broad audience and not overly technical.”

Prof. Martel‘s, Victory in War.  Note that this is a revision of the book, originally published in 2007.  (And significantly revised, from what I hear from Prof. Chayes, who made sure her colleague received due recognition.)

Prof. Salacuse sent me several links.  First there’s his new book, The Law of Investment Treaties.  And then there are two articles:  “The Emerging Global Regime for Investment,” in the Harvard International Law Journal, and “Opening Moves – They Can Make or Break Any Deal,” in Tufts Magazine.

And Prof. Forest (visiting Fletcher this past year) points us toward his new book:  Influence Warfare.

This is only a small sampling — whatever crossed my email at the end of the semester — but you can find a more complete list of student and faculty publications in the News and Media section of the Fletcher website.

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It’s a hot day around here — a good one for thinking about summer reading, even though spending a day with a book isn’t on the Admissions Office agenda.  For blog readers, the first suggestion list-within-a-list for today comes from Prof. Hess, who’s got you covered if you may be taking his DHP D260 or D267 class this September.  Prof. Hess suggests:

Jihad in Saudi Arabia:  Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979, by Thomas Hegghammer 
The Long Divergence:  How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East
, by Timur Kuran 
The Iran Primer:  Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
, by Robin Wright 
Afghanistan:  A Cultural and Political History
, by Thomas Barfield 
A World Without Islam
, by Graham E. Fuller 
How Capitalism Was Built:  The Transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia
, by Anders Aslund 
Black Garden:  Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
, by Thomas de Waal

In response to my request, Prof. Perry told me the first book that came to mind is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which he said is, “appropriate for Fletcher because it is cross-disciplinary — an anthropologist takes up an historical subject — and because it is jargon-free, a relief from so much that students must read.”

Finally (for today), Prof. Chayes keeps her recommendation in the family, by “heartily” recommending The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, by Sarah Chayes.  She notes that, “It has been much used by military and civilians alike in Afghanistan.”  And then Prof. Chayes offers an antidote for all this serious reading — a fiction selection:   Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.  “Fascinating on the intrigues of government in the era of Henry VIII — much has not changed!”

Next week, I’ll point you toward some new work by the professors themselves.

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In an annual ritual, a few weeks ago I asked the Fletcher faculty to recommend books for those who may want to pack a little preparatory reading into their pre-Fletcher summer.  There’s really no obligation to cast aside your beach-worthy paperbacks!  But, for those who want to feel more firmly on the grad school train, I’m happy to pass along some picks from the professors.

I’ll start with Prof. Uvin, who always comes through with some out-of-the-box choices.  He wrote:

The best books I have read this year are Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (a novel of the Vietnam War that brings war to life in a direct way I have never read before) and K Blows Top by Peter Carlson (a hysterically funny non-fiction book of Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S. in 1959 — pure Vonnegut, but all real!).  I am currently reading The Information by James Gleick, which is a stunningly ambitious, well-written and interesting book so far.  I am drowning in information already, and yet this book is a true pleasure in getting me to think differently about the flood I am in….

Next, even before I asked the professors, students were asking, and I happened to see the response of Prof. Fawaz to an inquiry about books on Syria’s politics, foreign policy, or history.  (Timely reading for any of us right now.)  Rather than provide a limited book list, Prof. Fawaz pointed the student toward several authors:  Abdul-Karim Rafeq, Hanna Batatu, Patrick Seale, Raymond Hinnebusch, and Steve Heydeman.

And, in response to my request, Prof. Blackhurst (who teaches in Fletcher’s GMAP program) reaffirmed a choice from last year, Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman.  Prof. Blackhurst calls it “easy-to-understand economics,” and said, “Every essay in the book is very relevant to the Fletcher program.”

I’ll pass along the remaining suggestions in the next week or two.  Meanwhile, you can find previous years’ lists in the archives:  2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.  (There is more than one post in some years.  You can scroll through all the choices by going to the Our Faculty category.)

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April is a crazy time at Fletcher!  Classes are nearing their conclusion on the 29th, which should be enough to keep students busy.  But added to the reading, paper writing, and test taking, is a sudden burst of lectures and conferences that are the culmination of the year’s work of the School’s groups, programs, and faculty.

Cheating a bit by starting off on March 30, I’m going to list some of the events from which Fletcher students have been choosing.  Coming up, or recently passed, we have:

The Center for Emerging Markets Enterprise conference on country management.
The WSSS (Water:  Systems, Science and Society) symposium on Water in 2050.
The Tufts Institute for Global Leadership conference on A World of (wiki) Leaks.
The World Economic Forum at The Fletcher School.
The Killing Cash conference.

That may not even capture all the conferences since, for all I know, another notice will go out by email as soon as I post this blog entry.

And in addition to the conferences, there have been lectures (Bob Woodward) and films (The Dark Side of Chocolate) and book talks (Prof. Ian Johnstone) and more.  In sum, a zillion opportunities to learn (and procrastinate) before the end of the semester and exams.

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The Grammy award ceremony took place last night, but I know what you were thinking:  What I really want to know is which albums were considered best of 2010 by the Fletcher community! Am I right, reader friends?  Well, the Admissions blog has got your back.  Thanks to a time-killer of an email sent out last December by Fletcher Academic Dean Peter Uvin, I can share the top picks of 2010 with you.  First, you may want to know how Dean Uvin kicked off the discussion.  His message to the Social List said:

OK, students, it is time to have more important discussions here than the critical topics of international affairs. What are the 10 best albums of 2010?  There seems to be no official Fletcher position on the matter, and I believe we need to address this right away.  So here is my first take on it (in no order).  All feedback welcome.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest
Maximum Balloon, Maximum Balloon
Cloud Cult, Light Chasers
Blue Water White Death, Blue Water White Death
The Kissaway Trail, Sleep Mountain
Doveman, The Conformist
The Young Gods, Everybody Knows

I should point out that Dean Uvin is also Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies and Director of the Institute for Human Security, titles that surely reinforce his qualifications as a music critic.  Nonetheless, additions to his list poured in.  Here are some of the student picks, both those that turned up several times, and those that seemed special.  They’re in no particular order — just how I plucked them off of email responses.

Sleigh Bells, Treats
Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt
Jónsi, Go
Big Boi, Sir Luscious Left Foot:  The Son of Chico Dusty
Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer
Example, Won’t Go Quietly
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Janelle Monae, Archandroid
Girls, Broken Dreams Club
Girl Talk, All Day
Nevermore, The Obsidian Conspiracy
Kvelertak, Kvelertak
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah
Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here
Group Inerane, Guitars from Agadez Vol. 3
Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart
Neil Young, Le Noise

A metal lover listed:
Slash, Slash
Audrey Horne, Audrey Horne
Black Label Society, Order of the Black
Black Keys, Brothers

A Nordic jazz/electronica lover included:
Efterklang, Magic Chairs
Röyksopp, Senior
Jaga Jazzist, One Armed Bandit

There were more suggestions.  Many, many more.  More than I’m able to sort through and add to the list, but I’m sure the titles above will keep your ears busy for a while.  Despite the over-abundance of listed choices, when I told my husband, Paul, about the discussion, he noted a few that have received a lot of ear-time in our house:

Corinne Bailey-Rae, The Sea
Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
Sade, Soldier of Love
Florence & The Machine, Lungs

Any noteworthy omissions from your perspective?  Feel free to include your choices as a comment.  Happy listening!

 

I’ve been putting together summer reading lists for the blog for the last few years now.  Scroll down through the posts in the Our Faculty category and you’ll see the previous compilations. I hasten to add that you are not, in any way, obligated to do any summer reading!  Feel 100% comfortable sitting on the beach with your favorite Calvin and Hobbes collection!  But I know that some students want a little something more, and my goal is to provide it.

This year, I may have presented the professors with a tougher assignment than I realized.  I had thought it would be a nice complement to previous lists if we went with a new theme.  I gave them two choices:  to suggest something newly published; or to suggest a work of fiction.  I think that’s where I lost them.  Even several reminders didn’t (with a few exceptions) shake works of fiction out of their collective brains.  So here’s the short list I was able to pull together this year.

First, on the new publications theme, Michael Klein came through right away, writing, “There have been a spate of books this year about the financial crisis.  I would recommend:  Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; and In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel.  I’ve not read Simon Johnson’s book 13 Bankers, but it has gotten a lot of press, and is less complimentary of the efforts to combat the crisis than the other two books.  I also enjoyed the book The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox, which is more broadly about the development of the field of financial economics.”

Sticking with new non-fiction, Kim Wilson suggests an upcoming book on which she served as co-editor:  Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings, along with 2009′s Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day.

And then, after a wee bit of pestering on my part, I did receive a trickle of fiction suggestions.  None other than Dean Stephen Bosworth came through for me with a few picks.  On the fiction side, he suggests a series of North Korea-centered mysteries by James Church, which he describes as “written by a westerner but one with a remarkable feel for life in North Korea.”  Dean Bosworth also threw in a non-fiction selection:  Nothing to Envy:  Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick.  Finally, he wrote that “students interested in Asia might enjoy the book I wrote with Morton Abramawitz:  Chasing the Sun, a series of essays on the U.S. and East Asia.”

John Perry suggested a book that was later suggested by a student and included in the list I posted earlier.  He told me, “I would recommend Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brooks.  It is a beautifully written account, using some of Vermeer’s paintings to provide a window into the world of the 17th century.  Both Andy Hess, as I hear, and I are using it in classes.”

And, last, Bill Martel, who so kindly stopped by the office to apologize for failing to send me a selection, not knowing that I would bar the door until he came up with something.  He finally chose The Kite Runner, for its portrayal of society in Afghanistan.

So that’s this summer’s list from the professors.  Next year, I’ll define their assignment differently so that I can develop a longer list.  Meanwhile, a little bit of fiction could be just the thing for a summer day.

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