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Last week I came to a sudden realization that I had never written anything, or had a student write, about exams.  Neither midterms nor finals.  Seemed like a major oversight, since exams certainly have an impact on students’ graduate school experience.  Aditi has plugged that gap by writing about the most recent round of midterms.

Spring break this semester was a much-needed pause from our busy Fletcher lives.  Between midterms and various internship and job applications, all of us at Fletcher were pretty much at maxed-out levels of exhaustion!

Midterms are usually a combination of exams, presentations, and papers, depending on the classes you take.  For instance, my Econometrics class had an in-class, closed-book traditional exam, while my Financial Inclusion class had a group presentation.  I personally found midterms to be somewhat more stressful this semester than in the fall, since one of my classes is at the Friedman School, which follows a slightly different schedule than Fletcher.  Although the advantage of the mismatched schedules was that my exams and papers were spread out over two weeks, the downside was that my “midterm week” lasted twice as long.

In addition to midterms, if you happen to be taking half-credit courses, then those classes are either beginning or ending (depending on which half of the semester they are scheduled for) while you’re trying to focus on exams.  In my case, I am taking Advanced Evaluation and Learning, which takes place over the second half of the semester, so as we were studying for midterms and preparing for presentations, those of us in this class were also trying to keep our heads above water with all the assigned reading.

But of course, midterms come and go.  The major stress during spring semester midterms is related to the internship and job hunt process, since everyone is trying to balance applications and interviews with their coursework, other activities, and campus jobs.  It definitely began to feel like the universe had conspired to make sure all deadlines fell into the same two-week period.

In the middle of all my stress and exhaustion, a friend said something that both made me laugh and also gave me a lot of perspective, when I complained to her about how hard grad school is.  “Yeah, it’s hard — but it’s hard in a really easy way.  Exams, papers, and presentations…let’s compare that for a second to the issues we’re trying to learn about: Poverty, terrorism, malnutrition….  Give me grad school any day!”

So now you know why I’m complaining about midterms on this blog instead of by talking to my friends.

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The blog has some new readers, so I wanted to introduce you to the writers in the Student Stories feature.  This is the third year for this feature, which aims to highlight the path through Fletcher of a few of our students.  I try not to assign subjects for their posts.  Rather, they write about topics of importance or interest to them, and some are able to write more than others.  Let me, then, introduce each of them.

This year’s writers are:

Aditi: first-year MALD student from India

Alex: first-year MIB student, with a focus on clean energy

Ali: first-year MIB student, who originally applied through Fletcher’s Map Your Future pathway to admission

Diane:  second-year MALD student from Australia

Liam:  second-year MALD student, taking time out from the U.S. Army

Mark: second-year MIB student who has also completed a degree at Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy program

Previous year’s writers were:

Maliheh F13, MALD

Mirza F14, MALD

Roxanne F14, MALD

Scott F14, MIB

And in the first year of this fledgling effort, I also included a first-year graduate, Manjula, who gave me the idea to create Student Stories, which then led to the posts from First-Year Alumni.  I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through and reading about their Fletcher experiences.

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I always prefer sharing a student perspective on Fletcher life, rather than writing myself.  Today I’m sharing a post Alex sent along last week about the new Strategic Plan.  When I say “new,” I mean newly completed.  It has been in the works for more than a year.  Let’s let Alex tell you about it.

Right now, Fletcher students are in a very short-term mindset.  Survive midterms.  Land an internship.  Make it to Spring Break.

Luckily, the administration is thinking a little bit more long-term, and has recently developed a new Strategic Plan for The Fletcher School: To Know the World.  The five-year plan’s vision is to go even further to make Fletcher the “premier institution for preparing a highly selective and diverse network of global leaders, whose influence is felt across the public, private and non-profit sectors.”

The plan includes four overarching, mutually reinforcing objectives:

  • Relevance: enhance professional and academic preparation of students as problem solvers, future leaders and agents of change;
  • Reputation: bolster the School’s reputation by increasing research productivity and impact on decision makers;
  • Resources: ensure a robust and more diversified revenue stream to support pursuit of School’s mission;
  • “Right Stuff”: maintain a sustainable, diverse and high-quality student body across all our degree programs.

These objectives are supported with myriad initiatives, from strengthening research centers and enabling professors to do more research, to upgrading facilities and leveraging technology to enhance learning.  I would highly recommend looking through the plan, to see where Fletcher will be going in the next couple of years.

Of course, I was most curious about what the immediate impacts of the plan will be for current, admitted, and prospective students.  How will Fletcher actually be different in the Fall of 2015?  So I went right to the source, and met with Dean Stavridis.

The Dean mentioned a number of exciting plans, but a couple stood out.  The administration is in the process of hiring a professor with expertise in cyber, to help keep Fletcher on the cutting edge of this growing field.  They are also building a television studio on site to help facilitate media appearances by the faculty (Dean Stavridis, alone, has done over 160 in the last 12 months!) and for use in classes such as The Arts of Communication (one of my favorite last semester).  Finally, one of the most exciting plans in the works is establishing a strategic partnership with a globally-focused think tank in Washington D.C.; this will provide an opportunity to collaborate on research, participate in exchange programs, obtain internships, and in general serve as a home base for Fletcher in the nation’s capital.

At a school known for producing exceptional strategic thinkers, it is fitting that Fletcher should have such a stellar Strategic Plan.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

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A quick update for you.  In September, we featured posts from three groups of students who had pursued summer research projects sponsored by Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth.  Yesterday I heard from Trevor Zimmer and Michael Mori, who wrote about their research on Indonesian mobile money.  Since then, their report, “Mobilizing Banking for Indonesia’s Poor,” has been published, and MasterCard has posted it on their website. Congratulations to Michael, Trevor, and IBGC!

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From the number of notices that pop into my inbox every day, you’d never guess that February is the shortest month of the year.  I can barely keep up, and I know that students do some serious prioritizing when it comes to deciding which events they’ll attend.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been storing the notices in a folder, and I thought I’d just list the various events.  Of course, you can find this information on the Fletcher calendar, but it still seemed blog-worthy to create a master list, including a few that aren’t listed in the calendar.  Despite the length of the list, I know I’ve missed some, but I think you’ll get the idea — there’s a lot happening here every weekday, and some weekends, too!

February 3: Egypt’s Turn? A Day in the Life of a Democracy Activist turned Entrepreneur.  An off-the-record discussion with Wael Ghonim, Internet Activist & Author of “Revolution 2.0.”

February 4: Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Laureates of African Descent.  Book Discussion with Dr. Adekeye Adebajo, Professor Pearl Robinson and Lee Daniels

February 6: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) at Tufts will feature a panel on Mass Atrocities and the Response to their Public Health Consequences.  This panel will be comprised of four Tufts faculty members from across schools and disciplines.

February 9:  International Security Studies presents The Middle East in Transition: 2011-2015, Brigadier General Itai Brun.  Brigadier General Brun will present an off-the-record lecture to a Fletcher audience of faculty, staff, and students.

February 10-11:  A Taste of Ginn Library.  Come enjoy some refreshments and morsels of information on JumboSearch, citation tools, WebEx, and more. Drop-in or stay — we’ll rotate through topics every 10 minutes.

February 11: Charles Francis Adams Lecture, featuring Sarah Chayes: Corruption: The Unrecognized Global Security Threat.

February 12: Human Security Speaker Series, A Brown Bag Lunch with Professor Karen Jacobsen: How Many IDPs? Where are They? Information Challenges in Urban Displacement Settings.

February 12: “Fletcher Reads” Community Book Discussion, featuring Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan.

February 12: International Security Studies presents Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster: Future Challenges.

February 12:  Charles Francis Adams Lecture:  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, 2009-14; Prime Minister of Denmark, 2001-09: NATO: The Indispensable Transatlantic Alliance.

February 17: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) talk and book signing by Thomas de Waal — Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, expert on the South Caucasus region, and brother of Fletcher Professor Alex de Waal — on his new book: Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide.

February 17:  The 31st Diplomatic Studies Roundtable: The Energetic Ambassador: U.S. Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Remarks by and conversation with Alan Solomont, United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, (2009-2013), currently the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

February 17: Mexico’s Energy Reform: Regulatory Policy, its Execution and International Perspective.  The Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) and FLEEC are inviting you to a luncheon and conversation with a distinguished panel.

February 18: CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training) workshop for international students.

February 18: Optimizing Emerging Market Strategies: How to Manage Financial Risks & Rewards, with Dan Brennan, EVP & CFO, Boston Scientific.

February 19: The Inaugural lecture of the Shelby Cullom Davis Professorship in International Business: Visible Hands: Government Regulation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Global Business, by Jette Steen Knudsen, Associate Professor of International Business and The Shelby Cullom Davis Chair in International Business.

February 19:  H.E. Mr. Nikolay Mladenov,  UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and newly appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority, Iraq:  The Way Forward.

February 19: The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies presents: Sectarian Dynamics and National Reconciliation in the Middle East, a seminar discussion with  Mr. Miroslav Zafirov, Bulgarian Diplomat; Political Advisor to the United Nations Assistance MIssion in Iraq (UNAMI), Associate Professor and Member of the Advisory Board, Centre for Middle Eastern and Gulf Studies, New Bulgarian University and Director, Middle Eastern Program, Sofia Security Forum

February 19: Ebola fundraiser & positive vibrations party at Johnny D’s.  Headlining will be SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS, a world renowned roots reggae-inspired band out of West Africa. Opening things up will be Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate (Kouyate is a kora virtuoso) and DJ Afro-Marc spinning on the one’s and two’s before, after, and in between sets.  100% of ticket sales proceeds will b​e donated to Doctors Without Borders to aid their Ebola relief effort in West Africa. Additional donations will be accepted at the door.

February 20:  Coffee and chat with MALD student Chris Maroshegyi.

February 20: In the Library Office — drop-in anytime between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. to hear about quick-start tools for researching your Capstone topic.

February 21: The 10th Annual Tufts Energy Conference, to be held at the Fletcher School.  The theme this year is “Breaking Barriers to a Clean Energy Future,” a solutions-oriented look at how to tackle the world’s most pressing energy challenges as we move toward a greener future.

February 23: The North Korea Strategy Center & North Korea Working Group at Fletcher presents: NK Information Highway: Driving Change in North Korea.

February 23: The Institute for Business in the Global Context Speaker Series presents: Evolving Role of The World Bank: The Next Decade, with Michael Goldberg Senior Financial Specialist, World Bank.

February 24:  Book Talk: Green on Blue, Elliot Ackerman F’03, Fletcher Writer-in-Residence

February 24:  BRICS as a Global Legal Actor: From Regulatory Innovation to BRICS Law? with Prof. Mihaela Papa

February 25: Human Security Speaker Series, a brown bag lunch with Oliver Bakewell, Co-Director of the International Migration Institute, Associate Professor, Department of International Development, University of Oxford: Looking Beyond Conflict as a Determinant of Mobility in the African Great Lakes.

February 25: Award winning author, Harvard Professor of History, and Tufts alumna Jill Lepore, will deliver a guest lecture on her New York Times bestselling book The Secret History of Wonder Woman. This exciting lecture is open to the entire Tufts community and is sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25: Lost in Translation: Effective communication workshop for international students, sponsored by the Tufts Counseling Center and International Center.

February 25:  Tufts University Forum on Race, Inequality, and Action, sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25-March 1:  Russia in the 21st Century, sponsored by Tufts University Institute for Global Leadership

February 26-27:  Office of Career Services trip to Washington, DC.

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The Office of Career Services (OCS)-organized trip to Washington, DC is taking place today and tomorrow.  While the staff takes advantage of a quiet day at Fletcher to catch up with work, the students have donned their best business attire and are making the rounds in DC, visiting their choice of potential employers.  Among the options are panel discussions on Think Tanks and Policy Research; Humanitarian Assistance, Human Rights, Refugees; International Trade & Commerce; U.S. Security and Intelligence; International Communications and Media; International Development; and Energy and Environment.

And here’s a (very) partial list of organizations with which students will be interacting, either meetings with alumni, informational interviews, or receptions.  I’ve included organizations that, I hope, will give readers a sense of the breadth of the offerings, but there are more options than I’m able to capture here.

Abt Associates
Albright Stonebridge Group
Cato Institute
American Friends Service Committee
Chemonics
Cohen Group
DAI
Dalberg
Eurasia Group
FINCA
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Democratic Institute
The Roosevelt Group
Search for Common Ground
Social Impact Inc.
Stimson Center
USAID
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of Treasury
UNHCR
World Bank

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Returning to the students writing about their Fletcher experience, today Liam describes his progress on developing his Capstone Project, which is both a graduation requirement and an opportunity for students to build a curriculum that meets their individual needs.  New students arrive at Fletcher with the full range of thinking on their capstones — from no idea whatsoever what they’ll write, to perfect clarity on their topic and planned field research.  All have the option of selecting an “incubator” course, which is designed to help them develop their ideas and research.  Liam has opted to write a traditional academic thesis, but other project formats are also options.

As I begin to wind down my time at Fletcher — and thus have to start ramping up my capstone efforts — I thought a post about lessons I’ve learned regarding the capstone process could be useful.

First, it’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you want to do for your capstone when you come to Fletcher, or really even through the first semester.  I spent my entire first year thinking about a topic for my thesis that, at year’s end, I ultimately decided just wasn’t where I wanted to go.  That’s okay.  I found that meeting about twice a semester with Professor Shultz, my advisor, was a lifesaver, because as we began a dialogue about what I was planning and where I had trouble, he asked good questions that prompted me to think about what it was I really wanted to get out of the experience.  Shifting gears at the end of my second semester meant that I had more of a focus over the summer to do research.

One thing I wish I had done better throughout my first three semesters was to tie term papers to my thesis topic.  I’m writing about the U.S. Army’s security force assistance efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to compile best practices on what works going forward, but the only course for which I’ve written a paper relevant to that topic was for Internal Conflicts and War, my capstone “incubator” class.

Obviously, not every class is going to be a good option for writing a paper that pertains to your thesis.  But instead of writing papers on the Iran Hostage Crisis (Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies), the U.S. mission in Somalia in the 1990s (Peace Operations), or right wing terror groups in the U.S. (Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism), I probably could have chosen topics for those classes that, while not fitting perfectly into my thesis, were at least relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I certainly learned a lot in the research and writing of those papers, but I probably could have been more strategic in picking topics that would support the research for my thesis.

Another thing that is important to note is that if you want to do any type of interviews, you need to put in for an institutional review board.  It’s not that big of a deal, but even if you’re requesting a waiver, it’s still a process through Tufts that takes some time, so I would recommend doing it as soon as you have an idea what you want to research.

Your capstone really is what you make of it.  In my experience, I feel I missed a chance to tie more papers to my thesis, especially since I knew my topic by my second semester.  However, the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is to sit down with your capstone advisor early, and then at least once or so a semester, to just spitball ideas on what you are thinking and where you want the process to go.  I’ve gotten a hold of some great resources that way, and it has kept me on track as I try to finish up one of the last remaining milestones of my Fletcher experience.

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Today is a public (and University) holiday, but I know one group of people who are likely to be working hard today — the students in the International Business Club organizing the Tufts Innovation Symposium, which will take place on Thursday.  Last week, second-year MALD student, Owen, saw the notice about the Africana Conference and sent along the information below about the Symposium. 

Innovative ideas hold the potential to widen access and to open economies, but innovation is meaningless if it is not responsive to the end user’s needs.  Today, more than ever, the ability to approach innovation from a customer-driven perspective is critical to a successful and adaptive enterprise.  This year, the Tufts Innovation Symposium will place YOU, the customer, in the driver’s seat to develop a comprehensive framework for inclusive innovation.

Learn more on Facebook and we hope you’ll register to attend.

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This year we asked our Admissions Interns to write a little more for the blog than simply their fall semester intros.  First to send me a post is second-year MALD, Justin, who covers a topic that is clearly on the mind of many of the applicants whose essays we’ve been reading — the process of applying to the U.S. Foreign Service.

Justin, 2Prior to taking off for the summer after my first year at Fletcher, I quickly photocopied the Office of Career Services’ U.S. Foreign Service Officer Test guide book.  With an internship lined up at the Department of State, I figured it was as good a time as any to begin to more seriously consider a career in the Foreign Service.  That summer I developed a habit of going through the guide during my morning commutes, and interning in the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs proved invaluable in gaining a better sense of life as a diplomat.

While I was extremely grateful for the guide, upon my return to campus, I came to discover the abundance of other resources Fletcher had to offer students interested in the Foreign Service — the first being my fellow classmates.  My studying for the exam picked up in intensity once I registered for the test in August, which made the pressure of what was looming a bit more palpable.  However what was comforting is that one doesn’t have to walk the halls of Fletcher too long before bumping into another student interested in the Foreign Service.  I teamed up with a classmate who had registered for the same test and had experience with the process.  He and I compared notes and took practice exams together, making the studying much more manageable and enjoyable.

When I received word of having passed the exam, I quickly found myself immersed in the writing process for my personal narratives.  This phase of the Foreign Service application is arguably the most opaque.  In an effort to gather multiple opinions on my chosen topics and overall approach, I again made use of a few resources available on campus.  I first ran to the Office of Career Services, where I met with one of the coaches, who provided her thoughts on the professional experiences I was considering highlighting in my essays.  After typing up a first draft, I met with Fletcher’s current State Department Fellow, who was generous enough to set aside time to discuss a draft.  She was quite frank and very open in providing guidance, which was more than appreciated, as I found it surprisingly difficult to convey everything I would have liked within the word limits provided.

I later met with a student writing tutor.  It was my first time signing up for a meeting, and I was not disappointed.  I was impressed with how much revision we squeezed into the thirty-minute time slot.  At that point in the writing process, after incorporating the tutor’s advice, I felt much better than when I had started.  As time wound down, I had a quick meeting with the Diplomat in Residence, to get her initial thoughts.  It turned out to be a great discussion that spanned beyond the narratives themselves.  That should not have come as a surprise, as it was an insightful conversation with the prior Diplomat in Residence that led me to apply for a State Department internship in the first place.

After what felt like an eternity of being distracted from actual school work, I submitted my narratives and am now awaiting a response as to whether I move on to the oral assessment.  Whether or not it works out this time around, I feel that the process has equipped me to present my goals, interests, and past experiences in a cogent manner, regardless of the job opportunity.  While it would be disappointing to not progress further, there’s always the option of reapplying next fall.  For the time being, I plan to explore alternatives and diversify my job prospects.

 

Yesterday I heard from Alison Erlwanger, one of the student leaders of the Africana Club, which is planning “Africa on the Global Stage,” a conference that will take place on Friday, February 20.  The second annual Africana Conference is free and open to the public, with support from Fletcher, the Institute for Business in the Global Context, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, and the World Peace Foundation.

The Africana Club wants to encourage blog readers who are in the area to attend.  Please register online if you’re interested.  Student-led conferences are a great way to see a practical reflection of the learning that students have done throughout the year.

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