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Between the busy schedules of my student writers, and my own slow start in wrangling posts out of them, I realize this semester has so far been a little light on Student Stories. And that makes today a good day to share a note I liked that Mirza posted on Facebook for Arms and Sleepers, his music duo. (The A/A/S extended spring break tour is now an annual tradition.) He shared a photo of the list of selected music he found on his Singapore Airlines flight to Germany, which included an Arms and Sleepers track. Must have been a good omen for the trip!
In Europe? Consider catching one of the gigs, before Mirza returns to his daily student life.
With two references to the Diplomat’s Ball fundraiser in yesterday’s post, maybe you’re wondering what choice items are up for bid. I took a minute to note a few of the options:
Delicious Indian meal
Personal hair style session
Piano lesson from a professional pianist
Lesson on bagel making
Cantonese comfort food
Consultation on the process leading to U.S. permanent residency
Boston film tour, drinks, and endless Matt Damon facts
Introductory shooting session
Online dating profile consultation
“Nail Night” (fancy fingernails)
Two homemade apple pies (yum)
Learn Persian slang
Homemade Pakistani foodBut then, with the silent auction phase ending, and the live auction scheduled for last night, the Social List was buzzing yesterday with special promotions by those trying to draw bids on their offers. For example:
Maybe you’re inspired by the Pakistan cricket team’s recent stellar play and want to tap into another sport that Pakistanis dominate….
…Or maybe you want to learn the basics of what has been called the healthiest sport to play
…or maybe you want to get some face time with the Dean
If any of the above are true, you should bid on my squash lessons tonight at the live auction. While I can’t promise the level of dominance that other Pakistanis have been able to enjoy, I can teach you the basics. I will provide the venue, racquet, and ball.
Or then there’s:
Coffee Tour & Serenade: I will personally take you on a tour of the area’s premier coffee establishments. I’ll buy you coffee, tell you made-up facts about each place, and generally show you a good time. I will also sing to you…maybe in the car, maybe on the sidewalk…it’s a surprise.
If you come to the live auction tonight, you will have the privilege of bidding on a tour of the area’s premier coffee establishments. As I have recently returned from a tour of a working coffee plantation in Costa Rica, I am clearly the perfect guide for you.
The emailed descriptions only got crazier from that. But they all displayed the many talents (and some “talents”) of the student community.
Tagged with: Hall of Flags
The School is super quiet today — there are no classes because many students are in Washington, DC on the career trip organized by our Office of Career Services. And one of the DC travelers is student blogger Diane. Last month, Diane joined the annual New York career trip, and she recently sent along this report. I’ve been slow to prompt the student bloggers to write lately, and I’m glad that Diane is kicking off the spring semester for us.
In typical Fletcher fashion, the start of my second semester at Fletcher was extremely busy. After returning from winter break, when I spent three weeks in Montreal practicing my French and training for a Boston winter (it reached minus 27 degrees Celsius in Montreal), I returned to Fletcher early to prepare for the semester ahead. However, before the official start to Spring Semester, there was one more event to attend.
Among the best known aspects of Fletcher are its strong alumni community and the strength of the Office of Career Services (OCS). OCS organizes a number of networking events for its current students throughout the year, and the New York career trip was scheduled for the weekend right before classes began. I went to New York a couple of days early so that I could visit friends and meet up with old colleagues from the UN. I don’t need much of an excuse to go and visit, and I was really excited to be back in town for a few days.
The career trip was a whirlwind. I had booked myself for a full day of events and meetings, starting with two career panels in the morning. These panels were a great opportunity to meet and hear from a number of alumni who work in my area of interest, humanitarian affairs, about the transition from Fletcher to the working world, as well as the different directions their careers have taken.
Next, along with two other students, I had an intimate lunch with a Fletcher graduate who now works at Smile Train. It was a really interesting organization to visit, and the passion of this small non-profit was clearly evident by how much they are achieving with such a small staff.
After lunch, I rushed off to a site visit with One Acre Fund. This was one of my favorite meetings, as this organization is so young and has such a special way of operating. It really made me reevaluate what I hope to do once I graduate from Fletcher, and the type of organization I want to work for.
I then hurried to an event organized by the Fletcher Women’s Network. This was a different experience from the rest of the day, as the alumnae here were less interested in my elevator pitch, and instead wished to inspire our group of young Fletcher women to aim to achieve anything we want, and to try to have it all. It was really nice to see how supportive they were to current students, and it reminded me that this community lasts a lifetime.
The final event of the day was a reception where a few hundred students and alumni gathered to network and catch up over drinks. I was lucky enough to end my day with some close Fletcher friends, having a belated birthday celebration over dinner. Needless to say, I returned home exhausted and exhilarated, eager to start the semester and utilize all the advice I had just been given.
Though it’s fair to say that Fletcher students are generally focused on their coursework and career development, they certainly don’t shy away from involvement in our surrounding community. About a week ago, Fletcher’s Ralph Bunche Society hosted local high school students for an introduction to international affairs. The Ralph Bunche Society’s mission is “to raise the awareness of the contributions that minorities and people of color have made in the field of international relations, and also to encourage students of color to consider educational and career opportunities in international affairs.” RBS members Ryo and Stéphane sent me this update.
Wait, you didn’t read about this in The Times?
Well, that’s because this decision was the result of an NSC simulation, modeled after Professor Martel’s annual simulations, completed by students in Fletcher’s very own ASEAN Auditorium. In one additional twist, the roles of cabinet secretaries were not filled by a group of bleary-eyed MALDs, but rather 11 ambitious, and somewhat nervous, high school juniors.
This exercise was just one part of the Ralph Bunche Society’s (RBS) three-part program to introduce Match High School students to careers related to international affairs. The students displayed their passion and aptitude during the simulation by not only enthusiastically presenting their positions to the President, a role assumed by Terrence Stinson, 2013-14 Fletcher Military Fellow, but also by the manner in which they tied U.S.-Iran policy decisions to domestic concerns and U.S. commitments in East Asia.
Prior to the simulation exercise, our Diplomat-in-Residence, Evyenia Sidereas, spoke to the students about the U.S. Foreign Service, and provided them with information about scholarship and fellowship opportunities to study foreign languages abroad and international relations in college. Additionally, Fletcher students and RBS members engaged in a brief dialogue with the Match High School students and described their pre-Fletcher experiences in international affairs. Judging by the thank you letter we received from the students’ teacher, we didn’t scare them too much:
The kids had a terrific time, and definitely came away with a much clearer idea about what further study in international relations might look like. Students at Match typically say they want to go into business, nursing, or engineering, so congratulations, because today two of my students told me that they are now considering studying politics. They both described the work as “exciting” and “cool” — no small feat! You were able to ensure the kids had a really eye-opening experience and the event has already had a great impact. I’m sure it will stay with them as they move on to choosing new paths for themselves in their education.
Tagged with: Outside the classroom
Having a chance to meet some admitted students was a nice treat yesterday. It’s fun to reconstitute the paper applicants back into real people.
And speaking of application reading/reviewing, our work continues. Monday to Thursday, there’s generally a staff member at home, tackling a mountain of applications. Since we had visitors yesterday, today both Liz and Laurie are reading at home. On Thursday, both Dan and I will be grabbing files. We also manage to squeeze in a little in-office reading, though some of us (Dan) are better at that than others (me — perpetually prone to distractions).
So, with everything moving along, I thought I’d share two quick notes today.
The first is that there’s a LinkedIn page for Fletcher that provides some information on careers of our alumni. Of course, it only reflects the careers of alumni who have linked to it, but it’s still loaded with interesting info.
The second note is that a current student let me know about a blog she has been compiling on India’s upcoming election, which will run from April to May. Shruti is a second-year MALD student who told me the blog analyzes election data, and she has been using the GIS skills she learned at Fletcher to aid in her analysis. Read Shruti’s thoughts during the lead-up to the vote on her Indian Election Blog.
There are always gaps in what we’ve covered on the blog, and I regret that I haven’t written enough (or asked others to write enough) about the LL.M. program. This year I had heard talk around the office about a student who is very active in the community, so I reached out to Marlene Houngbedji to ask for her reflections on the program. Her thoughts on being an LLM student follow, rounding out a week when we have already heard from a graduate and a professor.
A doorway to major changes opened when I was admitted to the Fletcher School’s LL.M. program. My rather colorful pre-Fletcher professional journey had kept me away from the legal world for a long period. I had therefore been seeking a program that values international backgrounds while reinforcing prior (might I say: outdated?) knowledge of public international law. Although it feels like I started classes a mere few weeks ago, my first semester, the winter break and even a two-day New York career trip surreptitiously elapsed while I was busy being studious, and we’re already in our third week of the spring semester.
The time is therefore ripe for a mid-year assessment of my Fletcher post-graduate venture.
Balancing academic and professional goals
For me, acquiring experience in case law, and studying international law with a U.S. perspective are some of the program’s most valuable features. Not only does Fletcher’s LL.M. program cover a broader international legal range than other U.S. LL.M. programs to which I had considered applying, but it also offers students trained in civil law exposure to the common law system. I indeed find it fascinating to compare how universal legal concepts are interpreted from one system to the other. Some of my classmates and I never missed post-lecture opportunities to assail Professor Cerone with comments and questions on why legal theory is so different in the U.S., which made for quite heated yet entertaining fall-semester discussions!
The small number of students in the program permits frequent interactions with our faculty, which in turn, makes it easy to receive personalized guidance on course choices and professional goals. In speaking of the latter, our recent Office of Career Services-sponsored trip to New York introduced those of us interested in the legal profession to the UN Office of Legal Affairs (codification division) and to UN Women, dedicated to gender empowerment, among other organizations. Learning about the types of careers available to students of a discipline as abstract as international law has most definitely helped me choose my second semester classes accordingly.
I was not sure what to expect from world class faculty and my fellow students last semester, nor did I have a definite idea of what, as the recipient of a foreign law degree, was expected of me. Though I had decided what area of international law would become my field of expertise before applying to the Fletcher School, the variety of courses from which I could choose triggered a moment of panic. For a few days after classes began, it seemed that in picking classes in each division, to fulfill the breadth requirement, I was set to study topics with little to no relevance to traditional legal training. Apples and oranges in an academic setting.
Creating a personalized curriculum
The breadth of options turned out to work to my advantage, however, as it allowed me to tailor my curriculum to my academic and professional needs, while remaining within the requirements of the LL.M. program. My interest in human rights, protection of vulnerable groups in conflicts, and refugees’ and women’s issues prompted me to choose Professor Hannum’s International Human Rights Law, Professor Cerone’s International Humanitarian Law, Professors Mazurana and Stites’ Gender in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, and to cross-register for a course in international refugee law at Harvard Law School. A corresponding practical apprenticeship at the Boston branch of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic doubled my course load, but the privilege of working on gender asylum cases added a real-life component to theory and increased my familiarity with the U.S. judicial system.
This was how I was able to understand how seemingly unrelated disciplines and course content can reconcile into a multi-faceted perspective on law. By graduation, I will have learned to legally analyze human security through gender and economic lenses, and to paint a legal triptych comprising human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law panels with gendered shades and nuances.
As it turns out, apples and oranges do mix, sometimes…
Tagged with: LLM
Our Admissions Committee meeting will start in 45 minutes, but I’m going to try to sneak in a blog post before I head over to the meeting room. I wanted to update you on news from some of our blog friends.
First, our student bloggers. They’re back on campus and I’ve been giving them a little time to settle into classes before I start cajoling them for posts. Meanwhile, if you weren’t in Guatemala City to hear it yourself, you might like to check out Roxanne’s latest TEDx talk.
Also making news — our friend Manjula. Trying to follow his comings and goings via Facebook, I see that he has spent an extended time in Sri Lanka generating support for Educate Lanka. At least one of the goals of his trip was to organize a charity “Walk for a Cause,” which took place last weekend. Along the way, he was interviewed in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, and also by Young Asia Television. (No translation available, but you’ll get the idea.)
Finally, and closer to where I’m sitting right now, our own Christine has made Fletcher news, in that she has been promoted to Admissions Coordinator. At the moment, she is wearing two different hats (her old one and her new one — both stylish, of course), but that leaves little time for writing Consult Christine posts. Once she settles into only one job at a time, she can start up writing again.
So that’s the round-up! And I’m off to the Admissions Committee meeting.
So often we’re asked a question that can take two forms, depending on who’s asking:
1. What type of work should I do after completing my undergraduate degree to prepare me for Fletcher?
2. Does my professional experience make me a good candidate for admission to Fletcher?
As I’ve written before, there’s (alas) no correct answer to these questions. The professional experience that will be valuable for one post-Fletcher career may not help to advance another. Nonetheless, though there’s never going to be a tidy answer to pass along, that doesn’t mean I can’t guide you toward a better understanding of why such brief questions elicit such unwieldy responses. To do so, I thought I’d connect readers to sources on the blog and elsewhere through which you can see for yourself the diversity of our students’ pre-Fletcher experience.
I’ll start off my experience round-up by pointing you toward several blog features. First, there are the Five-Year Updates. In these posts, alumni describe their paths to and through Fletcher, and you can see how they have brought together their pre-Fletcher work and Fletcher studies to launch new careers. There’s also the growing feature on First-Year Alumni. Naturally, these graduates don’t yet have the perspective of their fellow alums who graduated earlier, but you might like to see how everything (Fletcher and pre-Fletcher experience) comes together directly after leaving Fletcher. I’ll be adding more posts from our 2013 graduates throughout the coming months. Finally, there are the posts in the Student Stories feature. Although the writers this year and last cover an assortment of topics, each of them provides an introductory post.
Beyond the blog, there are many student profiles on the Fletcher website. You can find a selection of students who entered in 2011, 2012, and 2013, as well as recent alumni. If you prefer, you can also access profiles by degree program on the MALD, MIB, MA, LLM, and PhD pages.
With the application deadline coming up on Friday, maybe this is an odd time to be providing information like this. On the other hand, I know that applicants’ questions on their credentials don’t actually stop when they submit the application. Maybe this isn’t such an odd time after all.
Just before classes ended, Liam and I discussed possible topics for his next blog post. He mentioned how much he has enjoyed the talks he has attended throughout the semester. Since I never manage to join these special events during the busy fall, this seemed like the perfect subject for him. Here are Liam’s observations.
As my first semester came to a close and I feverishly studied for finals and finish term papers, I took some time to think about my Fletcher experience to date and about the aspects that stood out for me. What has really impressed me is the access I’ve been privileged to have to senior-level leaders from throughout the world and the remarkably candid remarks they’ve made in guest lectures at Fletcher.
Early in the year, I was privileged to sit in ASEAN auditorium and listen to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia give a remarkable talk about cyber security and his country’s experience when faced with a massive cyber attack in 2007. President Ilves was incredibly engaging and straightforward, discussing what he sees as future security challenges for Europe, and I couldn’t help but be amazed that I was listening to a standing head of state give his incredibly honest opinions. You can get a sense of his perspective from his interview with Dean Stavridis.
As someone focusing on security at Fletcher, another incredible opportunity has been the International Security Studies Program’s luncheon series. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, discuss the challenges facing the Army over the next several decades and how he sees the Army adapting to that uncertain future. I heard Dr. David Chu, President of the Institute for Defense Analyses and former Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, discuss his ideas for a responsible drawdown within the Department of Defense, based on history. I’ve listened to General John Kelly, Commander of Southern Command, discuss the sphere and scope of his organization’s responsibility in Central and South America. And I’ve been able to hear Major General Bennet Sacolick, Director of Force Management and Development for the Special Operations Command, discuss the Global Special Operations Forces Network and the role Special Operations units can play in the ambiguous security environment we face. I might add that all of these events include an excellent free lunch (a must for busy graduate students) and truly invigorating discussions.
In addition to Fletcher events, I’ve attended some outstanding guest lectures within the greater Tufts community. From former Congressman Robert Wexler discussing his vision for a two-state solution in the Middle East, to Colonel Steve Banach explaining the use of design methodology to manage complexity and change, to Colonel Bill Ostlund calling in on videoteleconference from Afghanistan to discuss his brigade’s actions in Zabul Province, I’ve been exposed to an amazing breadth and depth of speakers.
Last, due to the reputation and variety of the amazing faculty here at Fletcher, my classes have included some incredible guest lectures. In one of the last weeks of the semester, we had a marvelous impromptu Skype session in my International Organizations class with Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu, permanent representative of Romania to the UN. And I would be remiss if I left out the multiple opportunities that Dean Stavridis provides Fletcher students to hear him speak on a wide range of subjects, ranging from security threats to the strategic plan for the future of Fletcher and Tufts.
Simply put, it’s been an incredible experience to date, both in and out of the classroom, and I consider myself truly fortunate to have had this exposure to policy makers in all walks of life.
Fletcher wrapped up fall semester classes on Monday, and today finds students tucked in quiet spaces studying for exams. As the semester ended, student blogger Diane said she was thinking about how her classes fit together. Here are her reflections.
In choosing my classes for my first semester at The Fletcher School, I decided to go with a mixture of fulfilling as many of my depth and breadth requirements as possible; choosing classes that I was most excited about; and taking the class I was most afraid of. The end result was a diverse range of classes, which fit nicely together like a jigsaw puzzle.
For my first semester, I enrolled in Econometrics, Agricultural and Rural Development, Law and Development, Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies and Quantitative Methods (which was a module). As I explained in my previous post, I am interested in food security issues, particularly in Africa. Each of these classes has allowed me to view food security issues through a different lens, and has exposed me to new analytical frameworks I could never have imagined before starting at Fletcher.
In my Agricultural and Rural Development class, we learned about agriculture and food policy in developing countries from an economic perspective. In Law and Development, we examined the role of law and legal systems in the economic and social development of developing countries. This course has opened my eyes to a new perspective on food security issues; particularly highlighting how complicated legal systems that often exist around land can affect food security and resilience. Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies specifically focused on conflict situations, providing a contextual understanding of the political dimensions involved in responding to humanitarian needs in such situations.
Econometrics, on the other hand, has shown me the importance of statistical analysis in development and humanitarian programming. The professor combines her own research from Niger with the theory to provide context for the practical applications of econometrics. I now grasp the importance of research-based programming, as a means of not only being cost effective, but also better targeting communities’ needs. Quantitative methods was a six-week module that took place in the first half of the semester and that covered the basic quantitative foundation required for classes such as econometrics, microeconomics, and finance. It was a great class to take in my first semester, boosting both my quantitative skills and my confidence.
The biggest problem that I have discovered at Fletcher is that there are so many different courses on offer, and I am constantly hearing about courses that others have taken that I would like to enroll in next semester or next year. With only four semesters at Fletcher, I have learned that I need to be strategic in choosing classes, focusing on my goals and the skill sets I hope to gain during my graduate degree. I am excited to see what my final selection of Fletcher courses will end up looking like!
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