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As I wrote yesterday, this year the Admissions Blog will be sharing the stories of three second-year students (Mirza, Roxanne, and Scott) and two (possibly more, still TBD) first-year students (Liam and Diane). Today, Liam describes his transition to student life.
I think one of the greatest challenges in coming to a professional school like Fletcher is that many of the students were just that — professionals — and being removed from the academic life for the “real world” for several years can make the return challenging.
For me, I was used to working 14 to 16 hours a day in a setting where I literally did not have a minute to myself. As I prepared to go to Fletcher, many people told me how much of a “break” it would be, compared to my last job. That’s partly true, insomuch as I make the decisions about what I do in the day, but the demands of the Fletcher curriculum are extremely rigorous, and when you couple that with our many extracurricular options both at Fletcher and throughout the greater Boson area, it can easily become overwhelming. Grad school is demanding; it’s also fun. My intent in this post is to highlight some of the adjustments that I found critical to making that transition a successful one.
1. First, I decided to treat grad school like a job. A second-year student gave me this tip early on, and it’s the soundest advice I’ve gotten here. I make myself set up a realistic daily schedule and hold myself to it. Regardless of when I have class, I start the day at a reasonable hour (like 9:00 a.m.) and get after my reading, research, papers, etc. To maximize time, I pack a lunch and keep going until 5:00 p.m. or so. The benefit of this approach is that, if I stick to the plan, I get a TON done, and I find myself with actual free time at night to have something of a social life or to do the other things that matter to me.
2. I found a place where I could focus. For many, this is the library, and there are so many great nooks and crannies in Ginn where you can hide away and get things done. For others, it may be their apartment or a coffee shop. I live in a quiet apartment close to school, so my living room is a good space for basic reading on topics I have an understanding of, but for tougher stuff I go to the library to really focus. The key goes back to my first point — I plan out my day and hold myself to it.
3. I make time to do the things I enjoy. For me, running is important, so I make a point of going to bed at a decent hour so I can get up early to run and still start schoolwork around 9:00. The course load will take all of your time if you let it, so I make a point of setting aside time for myself. It helps me blow off stress, and I find myself more relaxed and able to focus on my work. If I were to approach it as trying to “find” time for myself, rather than “making” time, I would simply never find that time.
4. I found it very important to join study groups, especially in the classes I have less background in. For me, my International Organizations class is tough — I have no law background, so it’s a whole new way of looking at things. At first, I would bang my head against the book trying to complete the readings, but early on I got together with a few other students in the class, and now we meet every week to go over the last week’s lectures and reading. It’s a great check to ensure I’m taking away the right lessons and tie them into the bigger picture of the syllabus.
5. Last, and the most important aspect of adjusting, has been getting to know my classmates and going out to do things. This means I don’t spend all my time studying. I’m going to be at Fletcher for a short time, so being social — hence not spending ALL my time studying — is important. Yes, this contradicts most of my previous points about being organized and focusing, but I want to spend time engaging with this amazing community. For me, I find it amazing to talk to other students about what they did before Fletcher and the impact they’ve already had on so many regions of the world. Conversely, things I’ve done that I really don’t think are all that special or important amaze a lot of other students I talk to. The number of guest lectures and extracurricular activities, groups, and opportunities here is staggering, and not taking the time away from studying to really get the full “Fletcher experience” would be missing most of the fun.
Tagged with: Student Stories
After a month of settling into the new academic year, it’s time to turn back to the stories of our student bloggers. Second-year students Scott, Mirza, and Roxanne have promised me updates in the next few weeks, and we’ll also be introducing two first-year students, Liam and Diane. Diane’s first post is still in the works, so we’ll let Liam kick off the series this year.
Liam is a MALD student focusing on International Security Studies and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. In a self-intro, he notes, “I am a Captain in the U.S. Army attending Fletcher to broaden my professional and educational experiences as an infantry officer. Since 2006, I deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, leading organizations ranging from 18 to 230 soldiers. I am originally from central Massachusetts, so Fletcher provides me with an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends after having moved nine times in the last eight years. Outside of school, I am an avid runner and enjoy backpacking and the Pacific Northwest.”
I asked Liam to join the student blogger team after I enjoyed working with him last spring as he put together all the pieces to make attending Fletcher a reality. In tomorrow’s post, Liam will talk about how he has managed his transition to life at Fletcher.
Tagged with: Student Stories
I love Fletcher couples! So I was thrilled to hear about a wedding of two 2012 graduates with a special twist. Megan and Sebastián didn’t meet at Fletcher — they knew each other before, and applied to grad school hoping they would end up in the same place. I conducted Megan’s evaluative interview and, as I told her just before her graduation, it’s one that stands out in my mind, if only for the wonderful thank-you note she sent, complete with a map of the Dominican Republic (where she was working) and Haiti.
It wasn’t until I featured Fletcher Fútbol in the blog that I connected with Sebastián, but I very much enjoyed my interactions with him about a fun activity that had captured the attention of the entire community.
Naturally, when I heard about the wedding, I reached out to Sebastián, and asked for photos. He graciously sent several along. Don’t they look happy?
Sebastián called the wedding their “Hippy Celebration of Love,” and it took place in August at a lighthouse, in Oak Bluffs, MA.
But here’s the best part. The wedding was officiated over by Prof. John Hammock, who Sebastián said had “been a mentor for Megan before Fletcher, and I had the pleasure to take his class and receive his advice while in grad school.”
I don’t know if this is the first time a member of the faculty has conducted a wedding for two alumni, but I know it’s the first time I’ve ever heard about it. One of the best ever Fletcher weddings!
2013 is a birthday year for Fletcher — 80 years since the school’s founding in 1933. To mark the occasion, students, staff, faculty, and many alumni will be attending a gala on Saturday evening. And timed to coincide with the gala, The Fletcher Forum sent this announcement yesterday:
The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is pleased to announce the online launch of our brand new issue, Vol. 37:3, “Fletcher at 80.” The Special Issue celebrates Fletcher’s 80th year with articles written by Fletcher alumni, faculty, and students.
The Special Edition of The Fletcher Forum features articles by Stephen W. Bosworth, Dean Emeritus of The Fletcher School, who shares his reflections on his tenure as Dean. It also includes a message from current Dean James Stavridis, who suggests key areas of focus for the school in the years ahead, while also reflecting on its cherished history. Prominent alumni and faculty lend their insights, and we read thoughts from Ambassador William A. Rugh, Richard H. Shultz, Jr., Ambassador Derek J. Mitchell, Hans Binnendijk, Michael Parmly, and many more. The edition also includes a conversation with Mimi Alemayehou, Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Topics covered range from U.S.-Burma relations, to gender analyses in international development, to the challenges facing NATO, to a change in the status quo at Guantánamo Bay. To view the complete list of articles and abstracts, along with PDF versions of the articles, please visit our website. Individual PDFs of the articles are also available.
The Forum is run by a staff of forty graduate students here at The Fletcher School, and your support helps us to put out the best product possible each semester. For further information, please contact The Forum staff. On behalf of the staff of The Fletcher Forum we thank you for reading and look forward to your comments, feedback, and submissions!
Tagged with: Fletcher Forum
Students have used many different media in the past to share their favorite music. This year, a student started Fletcher Infinite Playlist, a Facebook page where they can provide links to their favorite songs.
What I like best about Fletcher music lists is that people come at their preferences from so many different directions. Did a student choose a song from Brazil because he’s Brazilian? Because he lived there for a little while? Or because it’s so easy these days to hear music from other parts of the world?
If you need a little music interlude today, you could do worse than to start clicking through the list. Enjoy!
Suddenly my inbox is filled with notes about Norway. OK, not filled, exactly, but this sudden rush of Norway-related news is a little surprising. It started with a chat with Melanie, one of our PhD students, who spent the summer at Norway’s International Law and Policy Institute as a research fellow. But then, a second-year MALD student, Caroline, sent me this note:
I have a story I thought admissions might like for the Admissions Blog.
Last week on Monday, Eirik (one of our awesome resident Norwegians), arranged an election-watching party in Blakeley to follow the outcome of the Norwegian parliamentary elections. We watched the announcement that “Iron Erna” Solberg would become the next Norwegian prime minister. Popular Norwegian sweets were served, and some people had prepared short backgrounders on the various parties.
A reporter from Norwegian state radio NRK was present, and on September 10, her recordings became a short story on NRK radio.
You can hear the story here (in Norwegian and English): Norway elections recording(1)
And here (thanks to Eirik) is a photo of the Blakeley Hall lounge scene for Norwegian election night:
Then, Caroline reminded me that another student, Jamie (actually, a 2013 grad) had emailed me in August about a trip to Norway. Jamie wrote:
I’m currently in Oslo, Norway, with a group of seven Fletcher students and alumni for a “research trip” exploring Arctic issues from the Norwegian perspective. We are with Professor Perry (through his Institute for Global Maritime Studies) and the whole trip is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. It’s an awesome program, and we hope to establish a relationship that will enable future Fletcher students to participate each summer for years to come. We have met with government officials from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Energy, and Ministry of Fisheries, in addition to a few think tanks and the World Wildlife Fund (and that was all in two days — it’s been jam packed). We also had the unique opportunity to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Ambassador Barry White, and receive a briefing from the Embassy’s Arctic expert on U.S. strategic interests in the region. And we had a lot of fun being tourists in Oslo today at the Viking Museum and the Maritime Museum. Tomorrow we fly up to Svalbard (Norway’s island in the Arctic Circle) to participate in a seminar where we will both present our research and listen to conference speakers. We even managed to organize a Fletcher alumni happy hour in Oslo yesterday, and met a new student who will be starting in the fall (now he’s really excited to start!).
I was supposed to follow-up with Jamie, but I had neglected to do so, and I asked Caroline, who herself was one of the travelers, to fill in the blanks for me (and send photos!). Caroline wrote:
In August, as temperatures soared across the world, a group of Fletcher students, alumni, and Professor Perry traveled to Norway to learn more about the Arctic. Only hours after landing in the country, we began meetings with government officials, think tanks, and civil society, to learn more about Norway’s Arctic — the “High North.” With help from the Norwegian Atlantic Committee arranging the Oslo portion of the trip, our meetings highlighted the unique qualities of the High North, and the geopolitical concerns in the region. As a backdrop, election campaigning for the Parliamentary Elections was taking place, with party information booths in all the major centers in Oslo.
After several days of meetings, and exploration of Oslo, we boarded a plane to Svalbard, located at 78° North in the Arctic Circle. Landing in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on Svalbard with 1,400 people, we participated in a week-long summer school conference through the University Centre in Svalbard: joining 25 young researchers from across the globe, who specialize in subjects ranging from political science to climatology, and all with research on the Arctic. The summer school featured talks by Arctic experts, and debates about the future of shipping in the Arctic. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the conference was designed to capitalize on dialogues formed between representatives of different disciplines during their time together. Together, we produced a report based on our findings. In the report writing process, our Fletcher skill set came to be very useful, as we managed the process and helped with the synthesis of different fields.
Abandoned mines and mining infrastructure dotted the treeless, sparse landscape of Svalbard. The permafrost landscape was experiencing its long, but cold, summer, illuminated in the middle of the night by the midnight sun. During the week in Svalbard, we took the opportunity to explore by going on long hikes and excursions, always with a person who carried a loaded rifle in case we might encounter a dangerous, hungry polar bear. One excursion took everyone to the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden, and a nearby glacier.
We also met with some previous Fletcher graduates. The incoming class of Norwegian diplomats, which includes three recent Fletcher alumni, was in Svalbard as part of a tour of Norway. One evening, gathered at one of the four bars in Longyearbyen, five generations of Fletcher shared a drink. Even in the Arctic, you are never far from Fletcher!
The trip was incredibly valuable for several reasons. First, it provided context to what we had read and heard about the Arctic, especially in understanding the low risk for conflict in the region. Second, we were able to talk to the current and future generations of key thinkers about the Arctic. And finally, we will be sharing what we learned with the Fletcher community in a presentation later this year. Through this first-hand learning experience, we now better understand the opportunities emerging in this corner of the world and how the Fletcher education can help us tackle the Arctic’s most complex challenges.
It all sounds fantastic, and until I heard from Jamie and Caroline, I had no idea this trip was taking place, and I always appreciate it when students keep me informed. Who knows what country or topic will be taking over my inbox next!
I like to follow the traffic on Fletcher’s “Social List,” the email list on which students communicate with each other about anything and everything. Since the start of the semester, the prime topic has been the buying and selling of textbooks and household items, but nestled between the “for sale” and “sold” messages were others that, together, paint a nice picture.
First, there are the calls for second-year students to sign up as “buddies” for the first-years. “Buddy” makes the arrangement sound so preschool — a more grown-up term might be “peer advisor,” because here’s how the Fletcher Buddy Program organizers encouraged new students to participate: “We will match you up with a second-year student, whom you can ask for advice on classes, professors, work/life balance, and much more!” Equally, the continuing students are offered the “chance to pass along some of your words of wisdom and advice, and get to know some of the awesome new members of the community.”
Then there was a job posting for tutors with the Fletcher Graduate Writing Program. Once the program is in full swing, the PhD student-director says the writing tutors “help students with all aspects of the writing process, including topic development, research management, consultation with professors, and preparation of the final draft.”
The return to an academic setting can be a challenge for many students who may have been in the professional world for several years. Supports such as the Buddy Program and the Graduate Writing Program help to ease the transition.
But Social List postings aren’t limited to support options. There are also opportunities for fun! The Fletcher Fútbol team seeks new players, writing, “It’s FLETCHER FUTBOL time once again! If you like to play soccer, or even run around like a chicken with your head cut off, we need you! This is Fletcher’s club team and we play other grad schools throughout the year. Each week we’ll play one game and practice twice, and we’ll have a lot of fun and camaraderie.” I’m a long-time fan of Fletcher Fútbol!
And the Fletcheros — Fletcher’s in-house band — are looking for new musicians:
A new academic year has begun. While reading about post-conflict reconstruction in country x, you find yourself wishing you could kick out the jams like you used to in your old band. But you’re too busy now, you say. Those days of sweating it out on stage and making all of your close friends bust out the electric slide are past, you say.
Think again, dear friend. For this September, your dutiful Fletcher cover band The Los Fletcheros is holding auditions for new talent.
For those of you unfamiliar with the group, for seven years a rotating cast of some of the most musically inclined Fletcherites has melted many a face with an eclectic mixture of rock, dance, pop, funk and R&B songs, both old and new. We generally play four to five shows a year at local clubs as well as the annual ski trip, and usually have a Fletcher audience of 300-400 people. Long story short, you do want to be in this band.
The Fletcher Social Lister, displaying all due cultural awareness, closed his email with, “Members of The Los Fletcheros, even those who do not speak Spanish, are fully aware of the grammatical incorrectness of the full name.”
There’s a student activities fair tomorrow. Between the fair and Social List emails such as the ones sent by the Fletcheros and the Fútbolers, there’s every opportunity for students to find their outside-the-classroom place at Fletcher, as well as supports for when they’re in the classroom.
I still haven’t run into Roxanne, our student blogger, now in her second year, but just before classes began she was kind to send me a report on her summer in Colombia. In a busy week, there’s nothing like being able to draw on unexpected blog contributions! Here’s Roxanne’s report on a fascinating summer.
As I type these words, I sit surrounded by papers full of Fletcher information: 2013-2014 course offerings, capstone project submission forms, registration requirements for international students. September has always been my favorite time of year because there is a sense of renewal and possibility in the air — not to mention that it is the start of fall! Anyone who has spent time in New England, as I did as a college student in Boston, can appreciate the crisper air and the first signs of leaves turning red.
Despite my love of fall, I am not quite ready to part with the lingering memories of the summer. As Jessica mentioned in an earlier blog post, the majority of my energy this summer was channeled towards a field research project in Colombia. Under the guidance of Professor Dyan Mazurana, and in affiliation with local organizations, I designed and implemented a study on the gender dimensions of enforced disappearances. Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity and defines it as:
Enforced disappearance of persons means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
In Colombia, similarly to other countries with a high reported rate of enforced disappearances, the majority of the missing are men and the majority of the surviving family members who initiate and/or lead the search process for the missing are women. As part of my research, I interviewed both surviving family members of the missing and “key informants” — government, NGO, and international organization officials who could discuss the topic in their professional capacity. Through these interviews, I sought to shed more light on a number of questions: How does enforced disappearance impact the surviving family members of the missing person? Where and how do surviving family members of the missing fit within the victims’ groups and their narratives? How does the memory of the missing, and the experience of their family members, figure into the creation of collective memory?
The process of creating this summer project provided a glimpse into the rituals of the academic world. First, I consulted with both Professor Mazurana and the local partners to set the parameters of the research and understand how the local context in Colombia would affect my research design and methods. Then I sought the approval of the Institutional Review Board, the organization that ensures that all research involving human subjects is ethical. This involved devising interview questions, drafting consent forms, and thinking of strategies to protect my interviewees’ privacy, confidentiality, and security without subjecting them to unnecessary risks or costs. Once I arrived in Colombia, the focus shifted to identifying whom to interview, with an eye towards the inclusion of multiple, diverse voices and perspectives. Journalists, government officials, NGO leaders, victims’ group advocates, academics, jurists, and community leaders are among the groups that helped me with my research. The fall and winter will consist of processing the data I collected and identifying patterns that emerged from the research. I am looking forward to developing more robust qualitative research skills in order to complete this task.
A few other experiences round up my summer: speaking alongside Professor Mazurana at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Non-Violent Conflict on the topic of gender and non-violent movements, presenting my work on wartime sexual violence at the Women in International Security conference in Toronto, Canada, serving as an international consultant to an organization in Pakistan seeking to conduct a conflict assessment on access to education, and riding a tandem bike across Boston on every beautiful day this summer could muster. I must admit to feeling fatigued, inspired, grateful, overwhelmed, and lucky all at once. Free time during the next few days will hold catch-ups with Fletcher friends, sleep, and outdoor adventures, before the air gets too crisp. Next time you hear from me, I will have fully entered my second year at Fletcher!
The next day I’m in the office, Tuesday (as Monday is a public holiday), Fletcher will be in full swing. New and continuing students will be checking in, meeting up, and attending Shopping Day presentations of new classes. I’ll close out my season’s blogging with Tommy’s report on his mid-MALD summer in Myanmar (also known as Burma), with unexpected company from fellow Fletcher students.
In the several years prior to when I enrolled at Fletcher, I would struggle in vain to explain to friends, family, and strangers where I worked and what I did. “Myanmar? Where’s that?” “You do what, again?” Those were the common refrains from short-lived conversations about work I’d done in, at the time, one of the world’s longest reigning dictatorial hermit nations. It was rare to have a conversation that went beyond a few lines about the country, and unheard of to find someone who would excitedly converse with me about the subject.
Imagine my surprise, then, that while planning to return to Myanmar for a short-term research consultancy, I found four other Fletcher students would also be based there for the summer.
Pleased that I finally would be able to converse with someone about this fascinating place, we made plans to be find an apartment together for the summer. But what I didn’t anticipate was just how true I would find the initial selling point of Fletcher: that without trying, you would have a network of like-minded, fantastically intelligent, curious, and deeply motivated companions, wherever you went.
My first day in Yangon, sitting with long-time friends who had just concluded a seminar, I was introduced to a woman who worked on legal policy around land tenure in rural areas. Low and behold, she was a Fletcher grad from only one year back. Counting it as a fluke of luck, I began my summer project. But within weeks I had found two more alumni based with the State Department in Yangon, and had been reminded on multiple occasions that the new U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Derek Mitchell (the first U.S. ambassador to Myanmar in 40 years), was also a Fletcher graduate. Another alum, from 40 years prior, also visited the country during the summer and, throughout the season, we were able to host over a half dozen classmates who were passing through while conveniently based around Southeast Asia.
The network and community of Fletcher can often seem to be an oversold point, and while it appeals to me, it may not appeal to you. But consider my realization from this summer: when you show up in a new country or a new job, or are looking for work or even a friend, you may feel out of place. And at that time, there is nothing more welcome then an ally who will help you with whatever issue you have. In my experience, without fail, Fletcher alumni have appeared where least expected, with the good will, intelligence, and drive that I have found to be fundamental to my Fletcher experience. I look forward to seeing who else I might meet the next time I’m in Myanmar!
One of our incoming MALD students, Peter Varnum, recently sent the office a quick update on his activities. He’s currently in Kibera, Kenya, helping to develop and build a greenhouse at an orphanage and school, for which the greenhouse will be a sustainable source of food and income. Peter is posting updates to his blog which, of course, explain the project far better than I can. Plus he links to various facebook pages and twitter feeds. I encourage you to read about the project — it’s very inspiring! In addition (from an admissions perspective), it’s also a good demonstration of how some of our prospective students supplement their day-to-day work with projects that help them achieve their ultimate goals for graduate study and a new career.
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