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Now that my post yesterday (or, more significantly, Roxana’s email to everyone on our list) has generated a lot of interview traffic, today’s blog will turn to Information Sessions for prospective students. Kristen and I spent a good bit of time this past summer thinking about what we should be including in an Information Session, resulting in a significant overhaul of session content.  Here, Kristen shares her thoughts with the blog:

As I led one of the summer’s Information Sessions, I thought it would be a good idea to share a little about what an Information Session feels like from the perspective of the Office of Admissions.  Easier said than done, it turns out, as I sit here thinking about how to articulate our ambivalent relationship with these Admissions Office fixtures.

On the one hand, an Information Session is exactly as the title implies:  a set block of time when we get to dump on you, the unsuspecting visitor, hundreds of bits of information, some relevant to you, some not.  Many of the details (degree requirements, application deadlines, extracurricular offerings) are available on the web, but sometimes people just find it more digestible when offered orally.  As such, dry though it may be, we try to be as comprehensive as possible about our six degree programs, 22 fields of study, three divisions, 550 students, 175 courses … you get the picture.  It can be lengthy (and this is the part we don’t love!), but we hope to provide enough relevant information so that a German interested in the LLM, a Japanese applicant to the MA, and a Bostonian interested in the MALD all get what they came for.

To complement all of this detail, we do our best to describe the character of the School (and this is the part we love!). You learned on the website that 45% of our students are international?  Well, let us tell you how that plays out in the classroom and what it means for your learning.  We mentioned our 30+ student clubs?  We’ll also talk more about how the active extracurricular life colors students’ Fletcher experience.  We really hope to give you a sense of what makes Fletcher tick.

Being able to pack all of this — both the facts and the fun — into one hour can be a challenge. We try to ensure we’re consistent about the information we present, but much depends, of course, on the presenters. During the academic year, most of our Information Sessions are given by a small team:  a pair of current students does the bulk of the work, and an admissions team member will present about the admissions process itself.  We find that this combination works well, as we all speak to what we actually do and know best.

Now, what does all this mean for you, visitors?  First, come prepared to listen.  It might seem like we talk a lot — and we do! — but if you know what you are listening for, there’s a good chance you’ll get what you need.  Second, come with questions.  We really, really appreciate when those questions might be of interest to the group as a whole (or at least much of the group).  Questions about how scholarship aid is determined?  Perfect!  On the other hand (much as we want you to head home with the information you need), a highly individual question on your personal qualifications might be best left to a follow-up email or individual conversation with an admissions counselor.

We really appreciate the time that our visitors take to get to know the School.  We realize that, for many of you, a visit entails taking a day off from work, traveling a distance, and planning out a schedule.  We want to reward those efforts  by helping you get the information you need.  Thanks for visiting!


Today is, by far, this year’s busiest day for Fletcher Admissions visits.  With two staffers making multiple stops, and one (me) parked at an Idealist Fair, you can meet us at a total of seven different locations:

William Jewel College
Liberty, MO

University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

Washburn University
Topeka, KS

University of Maine
Orono, ME

Colby College
Waterville, ME

Bowdoin College
Brunswick, ME

Boston IDEALIST Fair
Boston University

With only five locations on the schedule, tomorrow will be comparatively mellow, but extends our geographic reach:

Drake College
Des Moines, IA

Grinnell College
Grinnell, IA

Bates College
Lewiston, ME

University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH

Shanghai APSIA Fair
Fudan University

Twelve locations in only two days must be about the most we’ve ever done.  But, if none of these twelve spots is near you, check our travel calendar for information on other visits coming up in the next few months.


You may have seen this article in Diplomatic Courier, which features the “Top 99 Most Influential International Professionals Under 33.”   If you didn’t see the original article, you might have seen the Fletcher take on it, listing our nine alumni among the Top 99, including two in the Top 9.

I thought I’d share some of the reaction of my Admissions colleagues.  After students circulated the link to the article via the Social List, Kristen sent me a note saying how proud she was, and that “it also makes me feel like a bit of an old-timer, as I recognized our students’ names without looking them up.”  Then Laurie and I chatted about how clearly we remembered reading many (or, in Laurie’s case, all) of the applications, with Matan’s particularly standing out in my mind.  We always feel that personal connection to students, starting with their applications and continuing as they make their mark on the Fletcher community.

Frankly, it doesn’t take an Admissions genius to have seen the potential in one of these people who, so quickly, have made an impact.  Ultimately, the most gratifying aspect of the story, from the Admissions perspective, is that the nine chose Fletcher as the place where they would hone their skills and broaden their perspectives — giving Fletcher the opportunity to play a role in shaping them before they moved along to the wider world.

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When I gave my Admissions pals their assignment to write about their summers for the blog, I gave Dan a different set of instructions:  to tell us about the roots of his international interests.  The rest of us wrote on that topic two years ago, and I wanted blog readers to have the same perspective on Dan.  Here’s what he wrote:

Unlike many families in Pennsylvania Dutch country, mine could not claim many generations of roots in the region.  My Canadian mother and New Englander father — both academics — landed there for professional reasons.  I grew up a Blue Jays fan in Phillies country, couldn’t stomach Lebanon bologna, and never celebrated Fasnacht Day.  From an early age I was fairly accustomed to traveling, and to thinking of the world as a much larger place than Berks County.  That upbringing surely helped me muster the courage to work on a rural development project in Mexico one college summer (my first real independent experience abroad), a program to which I would return twice more.  I was now well on my way to becoming a typically greedy internationalist, always craving experiences in new places with new people.  I spent several years administering high school foreign exchange programs, went back overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer to Ecuador, and eventually ended up at Fletcher as a MALD student.  The Fletcher experience was both intensely challenging and rewarding, so much so that I couldn’t quite bear to give it up.  I’m thrilled to remain an active member of the community, enjoying the truly global stage on which Fletcher operates, and working to make sure it stays strong into the future.


Continuing yesterday’s theme of “what I did on my summer vacation,” today we hear from Jeff, Roxana, and (almost) Dan.

First, Jeff, who definitely made the most of his summer:
Despite not having any exotic vacation plans this past summer, I had a great time.  In fact, I can’t believe summer has come to an end and students are already back on campus.   My vacation consisted of relaxing on the beaches of Cape Cod, where I spent a couple of weeks with friends.  Each August, we come together from various cities to spend a week in Provincetown (the best spot on the Cape).  Provincetown is quite an eclectic place filled with great restaurants, bars, entertaining shows, and beautiful beaches.  Aside from my time there, I spent a weekend whitewater rafting in Maine, a weekend hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and quite a few weekends on Rhode Island beaches.  I guess you can say I covered most of New England this summer.

While those trips were solely for pleasure, I also visited Washington, DC three times for Fletcher recruitment events, where I met many interesting prospective students, from all over the world, who were there for internships, educational programs, or full-time employment.  These trips are always fun, as I’m able to visit old friends, and I love DC in the summer.  (I’m a big fan of hot, humid weather.)  As always, I also ran into Fletcher students (both past and present) and professors.  It’s always nice to catch up on the fly while running through the streets.  Now I’m back in the Office preparing for my travels to Asia, Europe, and the Pacific northwest of the U.S., recruiting students for next year’s class.  Perhaps I will see some of you blog readers during my travels!

Next, Roxana, whose big summer activity was the result of many months of planning:
This summer was very eventful for me as I made a significant change in my life!  Friends and family from all over joined my fiancé and me in Nahant, MA for a wonderful wedding ceremony and reception.  Many of my favorite Fletcher student friends were also in attendance.  In honor of our multicultural backgrounds, we had a “Fletcher-esque” ceremony, which included a reading by Khalil Gibran, a hand fasting ritual, and jumping the broom.  The reception lasted well into the night, with a whirlwind tour of Boston the next day for our out-of-town guests.  For our honeymoon, we wanted to go to a country neither of us had been to before, and Costa Rica was the winner.  After a week in a rainforest at the base of the active Arenal Volcano, zip-lining, waterfall rappelling, and lounging in natural hot springs, I can happily say that Costa Rica was the best place I’ve vacationed at thus far.  Even after returning with the flu and pneumonia, I can’t wait to go back.

Last, I’m going to add a few words about Dan‘s summer.  As you may know, Dan Birdsall joined the staff in July, fresh from two years as a MALD student.  Just over a month after he moved into his office, he was off for a pre-arranged break.  Like Roxana, Dan was taking time for his wedding and honeymoon.  On Monday, Dan will tell you a bit more about himself.


If you’re applying to Fletcher this year, you’ll probably be in touch with members of the Admissions staff, and I want you to have a sense of the person at the other end of your phone call or email correspondence.  To reintroduce themselves, I asked my Admissions pals to describe their summers.  You already know what I did this summer (tromp around to colleges with my daughter…host Iraqis), so I’ll leave it to others to describe the summer.

First up, Laurie, director of the Admissions Office, and Fletcher’s resident wine expert, who describes her summer, as well as that of her hat:
My Fletcher baseball cap was used quite a bit this summer.  During the month of June I attended an APSIA meeting in San Francisco.  The location allowed me to spend the weekend following the meeting in one of my favorite places — Napa Valley.  The weather was perfect and the wine wasn’t bad either!  Then, at the end of June, I brought my daughter to New York City to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Unfortunately, my Fletcher hat needed to block the rain, rather than the sun, during this trip.  We enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty on the ferry ride over, but she completely disappeared in the fog on the ride back.  Nonetheless, it was a great day of history.

July was filled with a hectic family reunion in Maine and a quick trip for Fletcher to Geneva, Switzerland, and Talloires, France (the home of the Tufts European Center).  During free moments, I grabbed my Fletcher hat and headed out to see the sights.  I almost lost my Fletcher hat in the wind in August,  as I learned how to drive a boat on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  Thankfully, I was able to catch it at the last minute, and also did not crash the boat!  Last weekend was the final official weekend of the summer, as the academic year has started in full force this week.  I am not sure what fall weekends will bring, but sun or rain, you will find me proudly wearing my Fletcher hat.

Next, Liz, who probably has contact with more applicants than any of the rest of us:
For those of you who don’t know me, I am the Staff Assistant for the Office of Admissions.  In this role, I often serve as the “face” of the Office:  I’m most likely the first person you’ll meet when you walk in the door, the first person you’ll speak to when you phone the office, and the first person you’ll hear from when you email

For some Admissions staffers, this summer was filled with vacation plans, weddings, and honeymoons.  For me, it was a little less exciting, in that I didn’t really take a vacation this year.  Instead, at the end of April, my husband, Steve, and I purchased our very first home.  The home-buying process for us turned out to be long (over a year and a half of searching), disappointing at times (we had previously made five unsuccessful offers), and a huge learning experience (bad paint colors are not a deal breaker, but warped foundations are).  For most of the summer, Steve and I have been chipping away at projects both planned (painting and unpacking) and unplanned (backed up sewer pipes and ant infestations).  It seems our to-do list only gets longer, but we couldn’t be happier.  I look forward to the day when most of the major projects are done, and we can just live in our new home.

Last, for today, Kristen:
For me, summer was on the quiet side — nothing really blog-worthy.  I made it through a couple of very long books that had been weighing down my nightstand, had some nice weekend visits to family living near the beach, and enjoyed some Boston eateries and tourist destinations not on my usual route.  Just a plain ol’ summer kind of summer.  That said, it’s particularly refreshing knowing what lies ahead for all of us in Admissions.  I officially book-end our Admissions travel with a kick-off trip to Mexico City in August, and a final trip to India in November.  In between, my colleagues will be here, there, and everywhere.  The contrast between the quiet, local summer and the fast, international autumn, makes each one even more enjoyable than it would be on its own.


Our newest staff member started yesterday!  Dan Birdsall has moved into the space formerly known as Peter’s office, and he’s settling into his new professional life in admissions.  I’m going to ask Dan to introduce himself in the blog a little later this summer.  For now, I can tell you that he’s going to make an unmatched contribution when it comes to helping prospective students envision their Fletcher experience.  He spent two years developing this keen sense of what Fletcher’s about — as a MALD student!  Dan graduated in May, and (as an old colleague of Peter’s) was the first person knocking at our door to express interest in the job.  It has been many years since we had a Fletcher alum working in the Admissions Office, and we’re very excited to welcome Dan to the team.


To whom it may concern:

In your haste to grab a great new addition to your staff, you forgot to ask me for a reference for Peter VanDerwater, my colleague in Fletcher’s Office of Admissions.  No matter.  I’m sending you one anyway.

Peter has been our go-to guy for (among other things) the LLM program and online chats — both were new initiatives when he took them on — as well as any office activity that involves the creation of an acronym.  He’s thorough and attentive to detail in all that he does.  He’s a pleasure to work with — consistently putting 110% into his efforts — and he’s a complete professional.  But don’t let that fool you.  He also has a quiet ironic sense of humor that you can count on to make work more fun.

Peter is one of my favorite Fletcher people, and I’m more than a little sorry you have decided to pluck him out of our happy team here at Fletcher Admissions.  Finding his replacement will be no easy task.  Not only do we need an intrepid traveler, but we’ll want someone who can keep up Peter’s side of our conversations about restaurants, cooking (you might want to ask him about his moose chili), soccer, and live music, particularly of the swampy variety.

You may also know that your decision to encourage Peter to relocate means that Fletcher loses two staffers.  His wife, Leah, will leave the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.  That makes us doubly sad.  But I suppose I’m also glad that he has this new opportunity in front of him.  In fact, everyone on the staff is pretty excited for him.

I hope you have found this reference letter helpful, and I’m confident that you will be very happy with your decision.  Please remember to leave Peter plenty of time to visit!


Jessica Daniels

If you’re one of the many applicants and students who have benefited from Peter’s Admissions years, feel free to leave him a farewell note in the comments.

Our last formal event with Peter will be at a wedding tomorrow night.  Roxana’s wedding to be precise.  Congratulations, Roxana!  Congratulations and good luck, Peter and Leah!


The final entry in the blog’s tourist-guide week goes to Peter, who takes you north and south with his suggestions.

It’s no secret that this region is somewhat obsessed with rivalries — from baseball (Go Sox!) and basketball, to chowder and cannolis, in Boston it’s all about loyalty to your team (or chowder purveyor).  While Massachusetts isn’t a huge state, it does have more than its share of coastline, which has helped create a rivalry of the geographic variety — the North Shore vs. South Shore. The North Shore includes coastal communities up through Cape Ann, while the South Shore extends down in the direction of Cape Cod — with Boston proper serving as the dividing line between the two.  The debate centers on important topics such as food, beaches, schools, traffic, and weather; and, it seems, everyone has an opinion.

Living in the Somerville/Cambridge area (north of the city, but just across the river from Boston), I’ve held out on choosing a geographic favorite for almost eight years, equally enjoying my time with friends down in Scituate and relaxing on Singing Beach up the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea (yes, that is the town’s actual name).  It is hard to remain neutral forever, and eventually one thing tipped the scales:  the classic New England clam shack.  A few years back, I began to explore the various rustic seafood establishments scattered about the coastal communities of Cape Ann, and it has quickly become a favorite summer pastime.  I’ve enjoyed “No Nonsense, No Celery” lobster rolls at the Lobster Pool, overlooking picturesque Folly Cove, and delicious fried clams at JT Farnham’s, while sitting at a picnic table beside a salt marsh.  Even those with Southern (Massachusetts) leanings will (reluctantly) admit that the North Shore wins the debate in the clam shack department — in fact, there’s even a clam shack that is shaped like a clam box (the aptly named “Clam Box”).  While I still can’t say which establishment is the best — a classic New England debate in and of itself — I’m looking forward to conducting more delicious research this summer.

Note: Fletcher is on the Medford/Somerville line, which is just north of Boston and a short drive away from fried clam heaven!

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Continuing this week’s travel guide theme, I first want to suggest you check out the places Fletcher students have been visiting, in the second annual “Where is Fletcher” video.  On dry land, or underwater, those students get around!

But more locally, let’s hear from Kristen and Liz, who provide suggestions of activities that are easily accessible from campus.

Kristen recommends:
One of my favorite Boston activities is getting out and walking.  For an American city, Boston is very walkable, and taking the city on foot is one of the best ways to get to know each neighborhood.  Among my favorite pleasant-weather walks is to start on the Charles River near MIT and the “Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker Bridge,” and then wander down Mass Ave (no one here calls it Massachusetts Avenue — those extra syllables are too pesky).  Mass Ave has a great collection of watering holes (I particularly like the Miracle of Science), scandal-ridden ice cream shops, and Indian markets.  You can feel the personality of the street change from the quiet area filled with architectural behemoths around MIT, to the salty collection of characters at Central Square, to pure Cambridge academia at Harvard Square.

Liz says:
I don’t often get out into the city, as I live a little north of Medford, so I should really be taking suggestions from my peers on things to do.  However, there is one activity I’ve done a few times that I found to be fun and a bit different:  Afternoon tea at the Taj Boston (formerly the Ritz Carlton).  I know, it sounds stuffy and boring, but I’ve had a really great time, especially with a good group of friends.  The room is lovely and it has this sort of aura from another era about it.  I do enjoy tea, and they have a nice assortment to choose from.  (No Lipton tea bags here!)  Then there is the food.  I’m not much of a sweets kinda gal, but they have many different pastries, scones, and desserts to choose from.  Best, and what I really enjoy, are all the different types of finger sandwiches!  It’s a unique way to spend an afternoon in Boston with friends.  If you do get the chance, I certainly recommend trying it at least once.

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