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With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher. Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.
As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it! My first semester of graduate school was done. I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom. I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life. I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs. Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.
Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena. Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle. Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it). Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction. I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development. I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting. This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated. Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.
A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model. Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year. During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing. A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere. More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact. Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing. Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating. Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations. Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.
Orientation came and went, and the fall semester began. I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation. Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector. It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created. Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia. Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context. Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.
Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds. As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models. At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds. Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model. As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors). The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society. This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success. An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government. Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia. Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me. The way I thought about my career developed again. This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing. This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.
Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing. The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there. I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation. Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving. With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted. I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester. Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.
Students have been sharing their stories on the blog for quite a while now, but this is the first year when one of the writers pursued an exchange semester. Ever-intrepid Tatsuo spent the fall at Sciences Po in Paris.
In the third semester of my MALD study, I decided to join an exchange program in Paris. I wanted to study international relations from another viewpoint, though I know that Fletcher and the hills of Medford/Somerville are the best place in the world to study.
I spent my semester at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po. Sciences Po is one of the best schools for politics and international relations in Europe. It was founded in 1872 just after Franco-Prussian War. French elites were shocked by their country’s defeat and also impressed by the power of Prussia, and they faced the need to change their education system. Sciences Po was the result of the effort to improve French practical education, based on the philosophy of political realism. The symbol of the school, the fox and lion, originated from Machiavelli’s phrase “be smart as a fox and be strong as a lion,” and shows what the founders felt they needed.
At Sciences Po, I took five courses — Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present; Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders; Political Speechwriting; African Key Economic Issues; and Economics and Globalization — to earn four Fletcher credits, and I audited two more courses, Japanese Politics and International Relations; and French A1 (elementary French).
All the courses I took, except French A1, were taught in English; thus, the basic materials and styles were not so different from what I encountered at Fletcher, but there were still some interesting differences between a French (or European) school and an American school.
For diplomatic issues, I took a grand strategy course, mainly focusing on security strategies, taught by the former minister of foreign affairs of Costa Rica. In the course, and in other discussions of diplomatic topics, people mainly followed realism — based on basic political realism theory and great figures like Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Bismarck who I “met” in the U.S. However, the “realism” I studied in Paris was a little different from what I learned in the United States. In discussions I had at Fletcher and other places in the U.S., people argued the survival of the state must outweigh all other concerns. Thus, there were many options that could be taken, including unlawful or unethical means. Additionally, the strategies for security tend to justify unilateral actions. On the other hand, the discussions in Paris I faced tended to exclude such unlawful, unethical, or unilateral options, intentionally or unintentionally.
On development issues, French development studies consider the historic background of developing areas, while American studies mainly focus on the current situation. Sometimes, French professors’ attitudes looked more emotional than rational. On the other hand, these attitudes or analyses brought me a deeper understanding of the regions and the people to be developed. Additionally, these attitudes were understandable and maybe useful for me, a Japanese development officer, because we also have complex historical backgrounds with the Asian countries we once occupied.
One of the most interesting courses in Paris was Political Speechwriting. In the French school, theoretical studies seemed to be the majority, while American professional schools like case studies. Even in the practical course for speechwriting, the professor took a lot of time to introduce many theories of Greek and Roman rhetoric. When I took the course, it was the very interesting time after Brexit. In that context, the professor analyzed American presidential debates and shared his concerns about the French presidential election coming up next spring. Through the course, I realized the great advantage of theoretical studies. At that time, most American (and global) media criticized Trump’s speeches and judged Clinton to be the winner of the debates. On the other hand, the professor evaluated Trump’s speeches in terms of their technical rhetoric while many people, including me, tended to analyze the speeches based on their content. The result of the election proved the advantage of objective/unbiased analysis based on theoretical studies.
Generally, my semester was a great opportunity to learn a lot regarding the different perspectives of the U.S. and Europe. In Japan, we tend to think of “the West” as a single actor and a single set of values. In the U.S., we tend to think of the American standard as the global standard. The three months in Paris gave me the background knowledge to avoid such misunderstandings.
It was surely true that everything went well in Paris. But I missed the family atmosphere at Fletcher, including its flexible and warm administrative offices and the close connections between students and faculty. I also missed the great academic resources around Boston. And I also love the comfortable hilltop more than the crowded buildings filled by thousands of students in the small campus in the middle of Paris.
In the end, the three-month exchange program was both long enough and short enough for me, even if it was too short to learn French, to explore Paris and other areas of France and Europe, and to enjoy the great food and drink culture.
Two pieces of news for those interested in studying entrepreneurship at Fletcher. The first is actually an update on a previous post, highlighting Adelante, the new venture launched by current MALD student Peter Sacco. Two nice stories recently appeared in local press locations, BostInno and yesterday’s Sunday Boston Globe and Adelante’s Kickstarter campaign has exceeded the original goal with nearly 300 backers!
The second piece of news is that there are second-round winners of Fletcher’s D-Prize! The two proposals are:
ComeOnGirls: Raise scholarships for rural girls in China to attend secondary school through social media marketing and public speaking, submitted by Meghan Li, first-year MALD student; and
Light Afghanistan: Develop a solar market in Afghanistan, where approximately only 35% of the country has consistent electric power, submitted by Michael Baskin, Fletcher PhD candidate.
From here, Meghan and Michael have six weeks to submit a business plan and build a team to pilot their start-ups. To that end, last week they presented their concepts to members of the community who might want to be part of the team. The final decision on awarding seed funds to one of these ventures will come on March 2, 2017.
Tagged with: entrepreneurship
As I still have a large group of people coming over for dinner tonight, I will not join the U.S. tradition of shopping today. But if you’re looking for shoes (or information about the entrepreneurial activities of Fletcher students), check out this story about second-year MALD student Peter Sacco and his new social enterprise, Adelante Shoe Co., which he is launching this month. Peter notes that Adelante “is dedicated to making it absolutely effortless for you to buy a socially responsible pair of shoes without compromising on quality, style or affordability.” His Kickstarter campaign starts today, and if you choose to buy a pair of shoes, you’ll be a member of Adelante’s Founders Club. Or just check out the website and find out what Adelante is all about.
Tagged with: entrepreneurship
You’ll recall that a group of Fletcher students joined the climate discussions in Morocco earlier this month. The Tufts Institute of the Environment asked a few of these delegates to write about their experience. Here are two reports from second-year MALD students.
I am a second-year MALD student interested in international environment resource policy and climate change. While at COP22 in Morocco, I had the opportunity to attend several interesting discussions seeking to scale up renewable energy deployment and meet the 2-degree target if not the more ambitious 1.5 degree. This is in no way enough, and should be necessarily supplemented by the controversial phasing out of fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful industries in the world and has an existential stake at COP22. They are also the party that has a huge role to play in workers’ welfare.
At the “Fossil fuel supply and climate policy: Key steps to enhance ambition” side event jointly organised by Stockholm Environment Institute, Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, the speakers brought to light important research in the field of fossil fuels. They all stressed the importance of immediate action aimed at reducing carbon intensive lifestyles. It was stressed that if efforts are not made now, the world will lock in an even more heavily carbon intensive lifestyle thereby implying that the death of fossil fuels is certain. There is no greening of fossil fuel but only a complete phase out that will affect any change for climate.
Combustion of coal from federal lands accounts for more than 57 percent of all emissions from fossil-fuel production on federal lands. The Obama administration earlier this year ordered a moratorium on new leases for coal mined from federal lands which was heavily criticized by the fossil fuel industry and the Republicans. Expectedly this moratorium will be removed by the new administration. China also placed a moratorium which most of the analysts believe is due to noncompetitive nature of coal than climate change.
Greg Muttitt, Senior Campaign Advisor, Oil Change International said that it’s necessary to affect a managed decline of fossil fuel which must be complemented by rapid increase in renewable energy production. What wasn’t discussed was the need to reduce consumption as well. Behavioral change is the toughest to effect but forms an important component for responsible energy use. The Indian pavilion at COP22 can be credited to bring the theme of sustainable lifestyle to the fore. Indian Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr. Anil Madhav Dave opined that it’s important to adopt sustainable practices to battle climate change. In another side event organized by India, stress was placed on the importance of education that has a transformative role to play for climate action. Education, formal and informal will form the bedrock of informed choices that consumers will have to take to tackle climate change.
As discussed above, the need is to implement several measures simultaneously at the individual, national and international level to combat this catastrophe. At this point it is crucial to reiterate the need for a just transition because there will be winners and losers and inclusivity demands that nobody is left behind! Transition must take place without crippling development. Brian Kohler, Director for sustainability, Industrial Global Union spoke about the areas to be addressed for just transition from the perspective of workers with a focus on sustainable industrial policy, social protection and labor adjustments.
The road ahead requires robust data on vulnerable workers disaggregated by gender, age, skillsets, personal needs and requirements and education that would prove useful. Important questions need to be posed and answered like what kind of training and education do the workers need to undergo? How will they be trained? Is there chance of displacement? Would just transition conditions delay climate action? How would fossil fuel industry transition? A transitionary program needs to be implemented to provide the workforce with education, skills, finance and whatever help they need in the interim. Lessons from the reconstruction of Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall could be the starting point of research for a sustainable future for everyone.
And finally addressing the question of whether the fossil fuel interests should be at the heart of the discussion of their future at COP22. In the past fossil fuel interests have lobbied heavily against any productive action against climate action and has also funded researchers and think tanks to come up with a counter discourse. But would that apprehension be enough to cut them off from the discussion? Important lessons were learned when the tobacco industry lobbied against WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The lesson was in the form of Article 5.3 of this Convention that recognized the conflicting interest with tobacco industry and thereby limited its engagement and influence. This Article also prohibited accepting any funds from the tobacco industry. There are a number of opinions online which advocate similar provisions under UNFCCC for the same purpose. Last year, outrage was expressed at COP21 being financed by heavy polluters but the justification was need based as green companies did not have enough capital to fund the conference.
There are conflicting opinions shared by governments and civil societies about their inclusion in the negotiations for reasons of conflict of interest and on the other side openness and transparency. World Coal Association and many coal oil and gas industries ride the backs of Business Associations and Council to get an entry to many negotiations. Currently their observer status batch does not allow them to attend most of the sensitive negotiations but is that an effective check on the power of these lobbies? Sovereign states are well within their rights to make them a part of their party delegation that gets them access to all negotiations. Saudi Aramco is heavily represented in the Saudi Arabia delegation. Therefore, only time will tell how much cooperation or disruption they cause.
Considering we need a dialogue with all stakeholders to craft solutions for the future, it is important that we refrain from forming an echo chamber where fossil fuel industry is not included. This may prevent them from lobbying to get their way with governments in clandestine way.
Julio Rivera Alejo
At The Fletcher School I am concentrating in international energy and environmental policy with a special focus on climate policy. Before Fletcher I worked for Sustainlabour, an international foundation that works with trade unions all around the world in sustainable development issues. As part of this work I actively participated at COP20 in Lima, the round of negotiations that laid the foundation for the Paris Agreement next year at COP21. At COP20 we mobilize and worked with Peruvian’s trade unions to take a leading role amongst civil society actors participating at the negotiations in Lima.
During last summer, I worked as an intern for the United Nations Global Compact’s Climate Team in New York. The UN Global Compact climate team closely works with businesses all over the world helping them to take climate action. Today I keep collaborating with them through my Capstone Project at Fletcher. I am producing for them a research paper on the role of the private sector in the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by the countries in the context of the Paris Agreement.
In this regard, attending COP 22 has constituted a great opportunity for advancing my research. More than closely following the actual negotiations, I was more interested in attending different side events addressing the link between non-state actors climate actions and the NDCs and the Paris Agreement. The presentations by different experts in the field at these side events provided me with insightful and valuable information and direction for my research. Furthermore, my attending the conference granted me the opportunity to personally interview some of these experts. Interestingly, one of the persons that I ended up interviewing and whose contribution was most valuable for my research was not among my initially targeted experts. I met her by total chance at one of the events I was attending. She was in the public, like me, and I noticed her when she asked a question during the Q&A directly related with my research, a question that I was going to ask!
As for the actual negotiations, COP22 is about implementing the Paris Agreement. Carbon accounting, financing and the facilitative mechanism will be the main issues this. However, more than analyzing the negotiations in detail, I would like to focus on the Global Climate Action Agenda. Previously, COPs have eminently been an intergovernmental process with non-state actors playing an essential observer role. But in Lima, the Global Climate Action Agenda was launched (back then it was known as the Lima-Paris Action Agenda), which main goal was to empower non-state actors as a key player in climate action. At COP22 we can see how the Global Climate Action Agenda has flourished, where many non-state actors attending the conference and presenting their commitments and showing their commitment towards climate action. Personally, seeing this makes me very optimistic about the Paris Agreement. Signed and ratified, it is time for implementation, and non-state actors (cities, businesses, regions, civil society) have a key role to play here.
Tagged with: CIERP
It isn’t that I love only the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. I love the lead-up to it, too. From the weekend onward, folks can be seen pulling suitcases along the sidewalk on their way to somewhere. Chatter about the weather gives way to questions about Thanksgiving plans. Newspapers dedicate space to discussion of how to put together a complicated meal, for those who only do so once each year.
Each year before Thanksgiving, I like to pause and thank Admissions Blog readers for giving me a forum to talk about my favorite holiday, as well as more admissions-relevant topics. I never forget that the decision to attend graduate school is one that our students take seriously and make only after much consideration. I’m happy that I can play a small role in helping them with their decision making.
Earlier this week, students set up a little crafts center and invited the community to make a hand turkey with a comment or wish on it. Anyone who was in school in the U.S. for preschool or the early grades will recognize these. Trace your hand and decorate the shape to look like a turkey. Anyway, the turkey messages in the Hall of Flags were very sweet, as was the very idea of creating an activity that would be silly and fun — a quick distraction from all the academic deliverables that students are getting ready to produce in the roughly four weeks that remain of the semester. The turkeys were put together on a “Wall of Gratitude,” positioned a short distance from the boxes collecting contributions for the Fletcher Food Drive.
Speaking of deliverables, my task for today is to bake bake bake. My objective is roughly the same as it was a few years back when I took this photo. Add an apple pie and swap out a cranberry pie for cranberry ginger cake, and I think that should do it. We’ll have 14 folks (including a recent Fletcher grad) and one baby over for dinner tomorrow. And then 17 on Friday! I won’t need to worry about eating leftovers after that.
Wishing all our readers a happy Thanksgiving, with good food and friends or family!
(The Admissions Office will be closed tomorrow and Friday. We’ll be back Monday morning, as usual.)
Tagged with: Thanksgiving
Student Stories writer McKenzie writes today about an activity with which she’s involved this fall — an activity that you can join in, too!
It seems like just yesterday that we started the fall semester. Yet here we are, with fewer than 10 days until December and 25 days until the end of the fall semester.
As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun,” and fun I’ve been having! While Fletcher has no shortage of hectic weeks, it also offers ample opportunities to pursue activities specifically related to my career focus. With this in mind, I want to take a minute to tell you about a great opportunity to join the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) team, which competes in the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) competition each year, and ask for your help.
What is MIINT?
The MIINT is an experiential learning program designed to give students at business and graduate schools a hands-on education in impact investing. As a member of FSIG’s team this year, I’m helping to source, screen, diligence, and ultimately pitch an early-stage social venture to an investment committee in April at the Wharton School. The winning team’s company will receive up to $50,000 towards a total funding round of $250,000 to $1,000,000. While preparing for the competition, we also complete a series of eight online learning modules developed by the MIINT’s main sponsors, Bridges Ventures and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. It’s a great opportunity to step into the shoes of an impact investor and get first-hand experience identifying and valuing prospective investments.
What kind of companies is this year’s MIINT team looking for?
The MIINT program experience exposes us to the challenges associated with scaling impact investing — specifically, sourcing financially, socially, and environmentally attractive deals. To do this, our team is leveraging Fletcher’s uniquely international network to identify sustainable business models that efficiently deliver key products or services, and improve quality of life for individuals in emerging markets. For more information, check out our investment thesis here.
Excited? Here’s how you can help before even getting to Fletcher:
We have just three weeks left to source the best deals possible before identifying a shortlist of companies on which to conduct due diligence. If you or those in your network know of any companies that meet the investment criteria described on our website, we’d love to consider them for investment. The website also provides more information about our team.
Tell interested companies to complete our contact form as soon as possible to be considered for funding!
Note: Supporting FSIG’s MIINT team is voluntary and has no bearing on admissions decisions to The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Our final post from a new Student Stories writer comes from Mariya, a recipient of a Pickering Fellowship that helps her fund her education in return for a commitment to join the U.S. Foreign Service.
Greetings from one of my favorite study spaces at The Fletcher School: the ultra-quiet “Hogwarts Room” at Fletcher’s Ginn Library. I am surrounded by neatly stacked books, brightly lit lamps, students hard at work, and former deans looking down at us — either admiring our dedication or secretly laughing. I can never tell.
But what I can tell you is who I am and why I am here. My name is Mariya Ilyas and I am first-year MALD student. I was born in Pakistan, moved to the United States with my family at age eight, and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just seven miles south of the nation’s capital. The proximity to Washingtonian politics, exposure to diverse people and cultures, and having a dual identity cemented my interest in international affairs from an early age. I am grateful to the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which will allow me to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. diplomat and serving my country in a meaningful way.
I am here to share with you my experiences at Fletcher over the next two years. I enjoy blogging because writing for an audience allows me to process and reflect on my experiences, while also growing from them. As I navigate my Fletcher journey, my goal is to not just share the immense opportunities that are available at this school, but to also analyze how those opportunities are contributing to my personal growth and preparing me for my career. I hope that my entries will provide prospective students with another point to consider as they explore graduate school options. I also hope to look back on these posts in 2018 and reflect on my personal and professional development.
I came to Fletcher with a diverse set of experiences. I studied mathematics, sociology, and government at Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college in the town of Brunswick, Maine. My time at Bowdoin prepared me for many “real world” challenges, including the New England winters — which became particularly handy when I took up a job in Boston after graduation. As a product analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a fortune-100 company, I analyzed insurance data and implemented projects to increase growth and probability in the state of Kentucky. After gaining valuable business and financial skills, I switched gears from the corporate world to the public sector. Last year, I taught English in Antalya, Turkey through the U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. This nine-month fellowship allowed me to appreciate a different culture, learn a new language, and get a glimpse of what it is like to live abroad. My extensive travels showed me the rich history of Turkey and the country’s breathtaking beauty, as well as the strength and hospitality of its people. Lastly, my internships at The White House and the U.S. Department of State (Pakistan Desk) exposed me to my future workplace: a complex federal bureaucracy with humble public servants.
This semester, my classes include Role of Force, International Organizations, Petroleum in the Global Economy, Arts of Communication, and a yearlong EPIIC Colloquium, hosted by the Tufts Institute of Global Leadership. Although I plan to concentrate in International Security Studies and Global Maritime Studies, my strategy for graduate coursework is to expose myself to as many different disciplines and topics as possible — Foreign Service Officers are generalists, after all.
Outside the classroom, I am involved in activities that push me out of my comfort zone, challenge my assumptions, and help me develop new skills. I am a member of the Arctic Initiative and the improv group, co-leader of Fletcher Students of Color & Allies, and co-leader of the Fletcher Islamic Society (which I helped re-establish this year). I am also conducting research for the U.S. State Department’s Diplomacy Lab under Professor Eileen Babbitt and helping fundraise for the Arctic and Energy conferences coming up in February 2017. In addition to these ongoing activities, I enjoy participating in opportunities that add to my learning. For example, I was one of 40 students who represented Fletcher at the Arctic Circle Assembly Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland; I played the role of Turkey’s interior minister at this year’s SIMULEX, and I gave a TEDx-style speech about blogging as a way to bridge the academic-policy gap at the Fletcher Idea Exchange. I’ve also signed up for impromptu activities such as participating in cultural nights, hosting a Fletcher Feast, or attending Professor Hess’s annual picnic. This might seem like an overwhelming set of commitments — and at times, it can be — but if there’s one thing I have learned at Fletcher, it is that Fletcher students are exceptionally good at juggling their commitments, and that being a part of 15 things simultaneously is the norm rather than the exception.
I have been at Fletcher for almost three months now, and I could not be happier. I remember my uncle, a retired Pakistani bureaucrat, once told me that the Pakistani Government used to send its entire corps of young foreign service officers to Fletcher because of its reputation and approach to the study of international affairs. I now understand what my uncle meant. In the short time that I have been here, I feel proud to be a part of a vigorous, yet modest, community of scholars dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems through interdisciplinary approaches and an international perspective. It was not just the world-class reputation that drew me to Fletcher, however; I was also attracted to the School’s flexible curriculum (including cross-registration at Harvard), diverse student body (each of my four roommates represents a different country), and the quality of its alumni network. But above all, I chose Fletcher for its caring community.
I would like to share an anecdote to illustrate my last point about the caring community. In April 2015, I was faced with a dilemma: to enroll in graduate school or defer my admission to pursue the Fulbright Scholarship. I called the Fletcher Admissions Office to seek advice, and spoke with Dean of Admissions Laurie Hurley. Much to my surprise, she said, “Graduate school will always be here.” She encouraged me to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Turkey because she believed it was the best move for my professional and personal development. In that moment I realized the Fletcher community was genuinely committed to my success. Looking back now, deferring my admission was one of the best decisions I made, because teaching in Turkey prepared me for a richer educational experience and world perspective — and I have the Fletcher community itself to thank for that.
The second post from new Student Stories writers comes from Pulkit, who has taken a multi-step path from an engineering degree to Fletcher.
Hello! My name is Pulkit Aggrwal and I am a first-year MALD student from India. I am excited to share my Fletcher journey with all of you. I am interested in writing for the Admissions Blog because, as I share my story, I will be able to reflect and critically analyze my thoughts during my time at Fletcher. At the same time, I hope these stories will resonate with readers, who themselves are either trying to discover new fields of study or explore uncharted territories, and I hope that it will give them the confidence to try and experiment. I also hope that, at the end of two years of my program, when I read these posts and look back at my journey, I will see how much I have learned, how much I have grown as a person, and how far I have come.
I was brought up in Chandigarh, a city north of New Delhi, a capital of two Indian states, and a city designed by the French architect Le Corbusier. I studied engineering as an undergraduate. Specifically, I studied electronics and electrical communication engineering. After graduating, I worked with McKinsey and Company as an analyst in the high tech and telecommunications industry vertical. I worked for clients across the consumer electronics, telecommunication, software, and IT services value chain.
After McKinsey, I joined a hospital in an administrative capacity, working on business development and strategy. During this time, I tried to enter into the Indian Civil Services as a foreign service officer. In order to make a contribution to my community, I volunteered as a teacher with a children’s not-for-profit organization called Make A Difference. As a teacher, for about four years, I was associated with Ashiana, a shelter home for underprivileged children, where I worked, mentored, and taught children aged six to 18 years. Later, I was selected as a Global Shaper Under 30 — an initiative of the World Economic Forum — where I worked on community issues related to urban mobility, gender empowerment, and community leadership. These experiences shaped my interest in international affairs and development. It is then that I decided to pursue graduate studies, to build an understanding of key international issues and develop a complementary skill set in law and economics.
At Fletcher, I am currently pursuing courses in International Security Studies, International Organizations, Human Security, and Development Economics. These fields are intricately tied to each other. I hope to concentrate on two out of the four Fields of Study and bring in key elements from the other two so as to have a complete perspective. Coming from a physical sciences background, it is huge step for me as I make a transition and pursue studies in social sciences. It is also a steep learning process as I get introduced to new subjects, terminology and their inter-linkages.
To add an international language to my skill set, I am auditing elementary French at the Olin Language Center here at Tufts. Outside of class, I am involved in a few activities and societies at Fletcher. I am a print staff editor for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and I volunteer with the Admissions Office. I am also working on a land rights project with the Harvard Law and International Development Society.
It has been three months since I moved to Boston and started school, and Fletcher has exceeded all my expectations. More than the curriculum, it is the people I have met and the constructive challenges that I have faced that have made my graduate student life so interesting and enjoyable. I have just embarked on this journey. There is so much happening all the time that I feel like I live a lifetime every day. No day is the same. I enjoy facing these challenges and tackling them one at a time. As I gear up for the final month of my first semester at Fletcher, I look forward to sharing more from my learning and experiences.
Today, let’s meet Adi, a first-year student in the MIB program who will be writing for the Student Stories feature during his two years at Fletcher. Adi has roots in both the U.S. and Indonesia and has spent long stretches of time in each.
To be honest, I had never considered Fletcher as my destination for graduate school. I had barely heard of Fletcher in the social circles I normally operate around. And yet, here I am, three months into my academic journey as a Master of International Business (MIB) candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and it could not have been any better.
I left my previous job in Indonesia looking for new ways I could bridge the private sector’s involvement in development efforts, beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donations. Thus, in choosing my graduate school program, I looked into either a Master of Public Policy, where I could design the regulatory environment for business involvement, or a Master of Business Administration, diving right into the innovation system within corporate organizations. I was even considering a joint MBA-MPP degree. In the MIB at Fletcher, I found the ability to do both, and so much more. My daily classes are filled with learning as much about corporate financing and risk of investments as about the political risk of being in a foreign environment. I haven’t even gotten to the full range of courses that Fletcher has to offer.
I have attempted to immerse myself in the Fletcher spirit by joining the Fletcher Social Impact Group, advising a start-up team with their market entry strategy into Boston. I am organizing two separate conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with themes from innovations in international affairs to populism as a political risk. And, by attending lectures and events, I have interacted with senior managers from Boeing, Deloitte, GAP, and BCG, as well start-up founders. Sometimes, there are so many events happening that I simply cannot decide which I wish to attend. The relatively small but tight-knit community, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the wealth of event options have made the past three months very exciting, stressful, and colorful, all at the same time.
All of this excitement has made me wonder, as I reflect back to how I managed to get here: how had I never heard about Fletcher before I actually started applying? At first, I thought it was a lack of outreach from the School in Indonesia. Then, I looked at the profile of Indonesian alumni, and I saw former ministers of foreign affairs, heads of national planning, and directors from multi-national banks. I realized, there must be a Fletcher presence in Indonesia, and a pretty strong one at that. The alumni network in Indonesia, though small, actually holds key positions and are very influential. And the best part is that they, too, are proudly part of the Fletcher community.
The strength of the alumni network amazes me. I have heard about how most universities take pride in the diversity and success of their alumni, but I had never before heard, let alone experienced, how strong this alumni connection can be. Email any Fletcher graduate whose background you might be interested in, and you will very likely get a quick reply asking how they can help. In the three months I have been here, I probably have reached out to more than 50 alumni, and they all have responded, even if we needed to work around their schedules. And the more I am embedded in this community, the more I realize that this culture is not exclusive to alumni, but also current students, staff, and the faculty.
Quite simply, I feel that coming to Fletcher is one of the best decisions I have made. I cannot wait to see how the rest of my Fletcher journey will turn out. I can’t claim that I have gotten the full insight into what Fletcher has to offer, but I am definitely excited to see what else is out there.
I know that many Indonesians back home would be interested in joining this community, and will have a lot to add. And I know that many will benefit from the Fletcher experience, with the flexibility, the events, and the resources, to graduate ready to contribute back to the country. So here I am, hoping to ensure that people hear more about Fletcher. Here I am, to ensure that more Indonesians will make Fletcher their next stop.
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