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Our interview program started up yesterday, with the result that a steady stream of applicants and volunteer student interviewers are in and out of the office.  It’s both really nice and also a big increase in the level of background energy, as we try to do our work.  While I’m writing, our very first Skype interview is taking place.  The student interviewer seemed comfortable being the pioneer in this new (but overdue) effort.

Classes have been in session for only three weeks, but I’m already hearing students talk about exams, review sessions, study groups, etc.  And this past Saturday, the first Foreign Language Reading Comprehension exams were offered.  Bright and early on a beautiful fall morning, hundreds of students filed into a nearby building for their exams in the language of their choice.  The options were Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (from 9:00 a.m. to noon); Bosnian, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, and Urdu (from 9:15 to 11:15); and French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili (from 9:30-11:00).  The time allowed for the exam corresponds (more or less) to language difficulty.  Arrangements can be made for those who wish to test in a different language.  Bi-lingual dictionaries are allowed, including traditional paper dictionaries, electronic dictionaries, and dictionary applications that have been downloaded onto a cell phone.  No internet.  You can find sample exams if you scroll down on this page.

Admissions travel continues!  While Liz tours New England colleges and universities with some of our APSIA peers, I’m doing my own mini-tour.  Kristen and I joined forces yesterday for an information session for Tufts undergraduates (ably assisted by two “Double Jumbos” — Fletcher students who graduated from the undergraduate program at Tufts).  This afternoon, I’m taking part in a panel on international development down the road at Harvard, and tomorrow I’ll be at the Idealist fair in Boston (with a 2015 Fletcher graduate, who will help extend the life of my voice in that noisy setting).

Next week will be the first week since August when I’ll simply be in the office with no travel, visits, holidays, vacation, or other special activities.  I’m looking forward to it!  If nothing else, I’ll have a little more time for the blog.  New posts from our students are coming!


There’s a nice article in Tufts Now (our online university news source) about Rizwan Ladha, F12, and his perspective on the multinational deal around Iran’s nuclear program.  (Rizwan completed the MALD program and is now a Fletcher PhD candidate.)  As you might expect, the deal has been the source of a lot of discussion at Fletcher, both informally and through formal events.  The perspective that Rizwan shares in the article is good background for further discussion.


Recently, news reached my inbox of the cool result of a student’s work.  Michael Caster (soon to be a second-year MALD) filled me in on how he came to be the author of a chapter in a report from the Minority Rights Group, a London-based NGO.  Regarding the report, he wrote:

On July 2, the Minority Rights Group published their annual report “State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples.”  As part of Fletcher’s Human Rights Project student organization and through Professor Hannum’s contact, the organization reached out to interested Fletcher students to apply to contribute to an unspecified project.  I applied and they asked me to assist with the publication, which soon turned into being a chapter author.  I wrote the section on East Asia, covering China, Japan, and Mongolia.  Having spent close to five years working on human rights issues in and around China it was a perfect fit.

You can follow more about Michael’s work via his blog and Twitter, as well as his writing for Open Democracy and past pieces on Waging Nonviolence.  Finally, he told me that this summer, “I am spending the summer between Thailand and Myanmar interning with the International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based international human rights organization.  In addition, I am researching human rights defender strategy with the support of a Topol Scholarship in Nonviolent Resistance, a new program started at Fletcher this year.  The summer spent in Southeast Asia will also be constructive for my capstone on the Rohingya crisis.”

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When Diane first introduced herself nearly two years ago, she detailed her pre-Fletcher experience and her path from her home country of Australia to graduate school in the U.S.  Today, having graduated from the MALD program in May, Diane describes her path back home to Australia — though she may not be there for long.

It’s now two months since graduation, and where has the time gone?  Those last months at Fletcher were certainly fast and furious, with a mixture of finals, fun events, Dis-O, friends visiting, day trips around Massachusetts, graduation, and many sad farewells.

I decided to base myself near campus in Somerville during my job search.  It was really lovely to experience Boston in warmer weather.  Yes, it was much quieter than during the semester, but a walk past Fletcher always guaranteed running into another student I knew.  My job search seemed to be pointing me towards home, so I decided to book my flight back to Australia, and to hope everything would work out quickly.

I had come up with a strategy for my job search at the beginning of spring semester: given that time is always limited at Fletcher, I decided to apply for any fellowships or year-long programs where you rotate around the organization’s different divisions for training, as many of these companies only recruit once a year.  I left the bulk of my applications for individual job postings for after graduation.  I was lucky enough to progress past the first round of a number of the programs I applied for, which meant I spent a bit of time each week doing online testing and interviews through Skype.  This certainly helped to keep me motivated.

A few weeks before leaving Boston I received a job offer from GRM International to be part of their Young Professionals Program, allowing me to rotate around the company through different divisions and offices during the next couple of years.  This role felt like a really good fit, and allowed me to return to Australia for my first rotation.  Through the process of applying, interviewing, and accepting this role, I utilized the Office of Career Services on many occasions, which is another great advantage of being a student or graduate of The Fletcher School.

I planned some travel before heading home, visiting friends in Los Angeles and Idaho, including a trip to Yellowstone National Park. I was lucky enough to meet up with some Fletcher folks along the way who were home for the summer.

Coming home has been an adjustment, not only because it is winter here.  But after two years away, it is rather nice to be around friends and family again.

I am so looking forward to my next phase in life, after spending two wonderful years at Fletcher.

Diane and Dallin in Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Dallin Van Leuven, F15.

Diane and MALD graduate, Dallin, in Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Dallin Van Leuven, F15.

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Today I’m going to share the writing of others.  Tufts has several publications — online and traditional — and two recent stories about Fletcher caught my eye.

The first (which I saw on the online TuftsNow site) was written by Elliot Ackerman, F03, who shares his belief that universities should recruit more veterans.  Elliot was a writer-in-residence (our first!) at Fletcher this past spring, coinciding with the publication of his novel, Green on Blue.  He is also a decorated veteran, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after completing the dual BA/MALD degree.

The second story appeared in “Blueprint,” the publication of the University’s development office.  It describes the origin of the new Topol Fellowship and the additional funds that Sid Topol donated to expand Fletcher’s “long-standing commitment to the study of nonviolent resistance.”  You can also see the article on page 6 of the Blueprint down below.

Finally, not from a Tufts publication, but related to the story on the Topol Fellowship, comes this blog post from Benjamin Naimark-Rowse, a PhD candidate and the first recipient of the Topol Fellowship.  He notes that his piece, “The Founding Myth of the United States of America,” is “about how nonviolent resistance is at the heart of the story of our independence struggle, or at least it should be.”


I’m really sorry that Liam’s two years as a student blogger (and at Fletcher in general) have come to an end.  He has been a great partner in this project.  He will soon return to his career with the Army, which supported his studies to develop him as an officer.  Today, he shares reflections from his grad school experience.

Liam, 2014-2One of the most valuable characteristics of my Fletcher experience has been discussion, both in and out of the classroom, especially when it builds on the diversity of the student body.  As I look back on my two years here, I can’t help but think that many of my most significant takeaways came from classroom exchanges with such an amazing collection of people.  From them, I’ve learned an immense amount about the world, and along the way, I also have made some life-long memories.

One classroom example I would highlight is Prof. Khan’s course, The Historian’s Art.  Regardless of your academic and professional background, if you take one course at Fletcher, this should be it.  The timeless skills I acquired to interpret history through the lens of contemporary affairs are amongst the most important I gained at Fletcher.  Moreover, Prof. Khan’s teaching style, forcing you to take a side on a historical issue, to not waver, and to use empathy, detachment, and relentless skepticism in looking at anything, will inevitably help you become a better thinker.  In addition, and the point of this post, is that the variety of students in this class, from journalists to MIBs to military officers to Peace Corps volunteers, made discussions vibrant, insightful, contentious, memorable, and effective.  The unique nature of my fellow students ensured that, while there was always something to be learned, there were also multiple occasions where Harry Potter or Jurassic Park entered the discussions.  That’s just Fletcher.

As I sit here and reflect, I am filled with a wave of emotions and memories from the past two years.  While the class discussions I described above are an important part of the Fletcher experience, so, too, are the projects and papers you turn in, the lessons you learn from readings and in class, and the advice you get from sitting down with professors during office hours.  Everything that comprises the academic side of the Fletcher experience makes you a stronger professional, capable of returning to your old line of work or starting in a new career field, and better equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century.  Learning at Fletcher embodies a remarkable combination of academic skills with real world perspective that is unmatched.

But I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Fletcher community.  The students and professors are what enable these meaningful classroom-based discussions.  Simply put, Fletcher attracts the most amazingly diverse cross-section of intelligent, caring, compassionate, and humorous people imaginable.  When I look back to when I was applying to Fletcher from Afghanistan in the fall of 2012, I remember reading through course catalogs and the CVs of professors whose interests matched mine, and I was hooked.  As important as that was to my enrollment choice, it wasn’t until I met my classmates at Orientation that I realized how glad I was that I made the decision to come to Fletcher.  Relationships are key to success in life, and after Fletcher, I am certain that I will go forward with a wide network of connections — throughout virtually any imaginable profession and region — that I could not have acquired in any other place.  If you’re reading this blog and thinking about applying to Fletcher, I can tell you that, if I had to make the choice one hundred times, I would make the same choice one hundred times.

And, so, as I look back on what has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, what I will remember are the people.  The people are what makes Fletcher what it is, and I wouldn’t trade the experience of our shared discussions for anything in the world.

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Continuing the internship theme from Tuesday, Aditi reports on her internship and other plans for the coming months.

Summer has finally arrived in Boston!  After a grueling couple of weeks for finals, I’m done and can enjoy the beautiful weather for a little before I leave for my summer internship.

This summer, I will be working with a small NGO in Kigali, Rwanda, on their monitoring and evaluation plans.  Another Fletcher student worked with the same NGO last summer, and was responsible for hiring me and training me; she was an incredibly useful resource for learning more about the organization and its work, her experience working with them, and Kigali generally.  I’m really excited to be in Rwanda — it will be my first time in Africa! — and I’m lucky enough that I will have the company of five other Fletcher students who will also be doing internships there.

I was fortunate to receive funding from Fletcher, through the Office of Career Services, to support my work over the summer.  My research partner and I also received a grant from the Hitachi Center (which I wrote about earlier) to conduct research for our capstones, which we will write next year.  The research will lead me to Nairobi, Kenya for a week after wrapping up my summer internship.  And once that’s done, after heading home to India for a week, I’ll be back on campus in mid-August as the teaching assistant for the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) series taught by Prof. Scharbatke-Church.

What I’m most excited about for the summer (in addition to beautiful Kigali and exploring a new country) is the chance to put my DME coursework to use through my internship.  Looking back to August 2014, I’m so glad I took the pre-session course and went through the series all the way through Advanced Evaluation this semester, because it gave me new tools with which to think critically about development and the underlying logic behind it.  It’s an excellent class for anyone who has worked, or wants to work, in development or peacebuilding.  In addition to giving you a set of in-demand skills (because, jobs), it also helps you understand how much higher the bar should be for good development work that can create change, and what steps we can take to reach that bar.  It’s an incredibly challenging course that makes you question your assumptions, but the hard work and heavy reading load is completely worth it.  If it interests you, definitely consider taking it.

In the meantime — have a wonderful summer, and I’m looking forward to meeting all of you who are new students come August!

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Ali started contributing to the blog last fall, and now, with two semesters behind her, she is pursuing her summer internship.  Today she describes how her internship plans came together.

The “first years” are done with our first year of graduate school!  It’s an exciting, sad, and anxious feeling — all at the same time.

We’re excited that we survived, and that we get to meet the new first years in the fall.  We’re sad that the graduates are leaving Boston, and we won’t see them as often anymore.  Finally, we’re anxious to succeed at the summer internships we’ve landed, most of which start in the coming weeks.

The latter subject is the topic of my final blog post for the year.  When I last wrote, I promised to update you on the summer position that Fletcher and Net Impact helped me land.  I’m happy to say I’ll be working with the YUM! Brands sustainability team in Louisville, KY (my hometown!) this summer — performing data analysis and reporting for the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and updating the company’s sustainability strategy with new goals and partnerships.  YUM! — better known as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell — is facing a lot of industry-representative sustainability challenges right now, regarding its use of antibiotics, palm oil, and forest fibers, and I’m excited to help them develop innovative solutions responsibly.

Prof. Rappaport’s Corporate Management of Environmental Issues class, Net Impact’s new SolutionsLab series, and Fletcher’s alumni are three resources that have been useful to me in securing the position.

Prof. Rappaport’s class — offered in conjunction with Tufts’ Department of Urban and Environmental Planning — exposed me to many of the corporate challenges and trends that I discussed in the interview for my internship position.  Her class also provided me with multiple opportunities to expand my sustainability network.  For example, she invited a former UEP student who is now the Senior Sustainability Manager for DirectTV to speak to our class, and she allowed me to invite Walmart’s Director of Product Sustainability to speak to our class after I met him at a conference.

Net Impact’s SolutionsLab provided me demonstrable experience in food business issues with large corporate players like Monsanto.  Because Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter is an active network participant, we were selected to host the series’ first SolutionsLab event on our campus.  The event highlighted my ability to form and execute successful partnerships and was reported on 3bl Media just one day before a post about an upcoming Twitter event with YUM! and Triple Pundit.

Finally, as always, Fletcher’s alumni prove to be an invaluable resource.  When I found out I’d be helping YUM! with their CDP reporting, I sent a note to a Fletcher alum at CDP.  It turns out, there are multiple alumni there, and the YUM! Liaison at CDP is a Fletcher alumna, as well.  It’s nice to go into my internship knowing I have a broad network of support.

So, that’s it.  I’m off to my hometown to spend a wonderful and productive summer.

Thanks for following my story this year, and see you in the next.

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Yesterday’s post may have been my last word on Commencement for 2015, but it isn’t the last word on the lead-up to the event.  That will come from Alex who, as a continuing student, would nonetheless have been welcomed for the Dis-Orientation activities organized by the graduating class.  Dis-Orientation originated several years ago as the counter-point to the academic-year-starting Orientation program.

Shortly after the year’s last class was attended, the last final exam taken, and the last term paper handed in, it was time for “Dis-O.”  As any end of term should be celebrated, Fletcher’s time-honored Dis-Orientation is a week of fun activities, great parties, and even some light “vandalism.”

In an impressive feat of organization, students planned dozens of events spread over the week following the end of the semester; this year there were 45 activities over seven days.  These events ranged from movie screenings in Fletcher’s main auditorium, to daylong trips to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard and the battlefields of Lexington and Concord.  Athletic activities were also included, such as a softball game and a MALD vs. MIB cricket match, both of which were guaranteed to be a cultural experience for many of the players.  Of course, a couple of parties were also in order, ranging from traditional celebrations in one of Fletcher’s “color houses” (e.g., the green house, yellow house, or “Casablanca,” that several students share) to a Hawaiian luau (complete with a dunk tank, of course).  Finally, following the Tufts tradition of painting the cannon located in the center of campus, students sneakily painted it a blazing Fletcher-orange in the dark of night.  They were disappointed, however, to find it painted over by other “vandals” within hours.

Not only is Dis-O a great way to celebrate the culmination of a successful year with our friends and classmates, I find it to be a fitting representation of what exactly is special about Fletcher’s culture.  First, due to The Fletcher School’s long history, traditions like Dis-O (and even individual events within it) have turned into institutions, serving to connect Fletcher students across generations.  Second, events like these do not plan themselves, but instead are a product of a student body with impressive leadership capabilities and a tremendous commitment to their fellow classmates.  Additionally, the wide range of events demonstrates the diversity of interests across the student body, which has been a wonderful source of mind-opening experiences throughout the year.  Finally, Dis-O evinces Fletcher students’ ability to balance work and fun: I bet you would have been just as likely to find people at the cricket match discussing India’s clean energy policy as you would to find them asking what exactly a “wicket” is.

Whether traditions such as Dis-O are the cause or the result of the strong community here, I do not know.  Probably a little bit of both.  What I do know, however, is that few other schools are as tightly knit as Fletcher, and that I cannot wait to come back next semester.

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With our off-site meeting on Monday, I didn’t have time to do justice to the Commencement ceremony and I thought I’d add a few words today.  First, I should explain that the weekend is loaded with events.  On Friday night, many graduating students and alumni on campus for reunion were joined by staff and faculty for a traditional New England clam bake.  Then, on Saturday, we held “Class Day,” which is when the graduating students hear from an outside speaker, as well as an alumnus.  This year, the alum was Dr. Charles Dallara, F75, former Managing Director of the Institute of International Finance.  The invited outside speaker was Dr. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014, who also received an honorary degree from the University on Sunday.  In addition, several students received awards for scholarship and contributions to the community.

On Sunday, the spotlight and the sun shone on the graduating students.  They started the day with champagne toasts, led by classmates, and then proceeded to the all-University event, where degrees are awarded school-by-school.  The commencement address was given by Dr. Madeline Albright, U.S. Secretary of State from 1997-2001.

All of that occurred before I actually turned up on Sunday.  I arrived as graduating students were crossing over from the all-University ceremony to Blakeley Courtyard, where they would line up by degree program and then alphabetically for the procession into the tent.  This is always the perfect time for me to congratulate students — they’re all “filed” in predictable places.  After some farewells, I headed to the tent.

Dean Stavridis makes only the briefest of speeches before handing the podium to the stars of the day.  The first is the recipient of the James L. Paddock Teaching Award — Prof. Jenny Aker, F97 this year.  As an alumna, Prof. Aker was in a good position to assure all the graduates (and their parents) that they are on their way to exciting work.

Anna 1Prof. Aker was followed by the two student speakers.  Our Admissions pal, Anna McCallie, was up first.  Anna is smart and funny and gave the speech we had hoped for.  Among the themes was a tally of all that our students from Nebraska have accomplished.  This reflected some careful research — even those of us in the audience from Admissions didn’t know everything she had uncovered.

When the first student speech is amazing, it’s a bit of a nail biter as the second student ascends to the podium.  What is it like to follow such a well-received speech?  We needn’t have worried.  From the moment she kicked off her shoes (adjusting her height to the microphone, rather than the microphone to her height), Fern Gray gave a speech that was charming and touching (much wiping of eyes from the audience) and all in that lovely Trinidad and Tobago accent.Fern 1

(An aside: I first met Fern when she visited Fletcher as an applicant.  I was supposed to conduct her evaluative interview, but I ended up with a conflict and instead recruited a student, first pausing to greet Fern and explain the change in personnel.  Fern and the student had a great chat, and the rest is history.)

The graduates were called by degree program and name (thus the crafty arrangements for the procession — everyone was already where they needed to be) and Dean Stavridis closed the event by calling upon the graduates to be “dealers in hope,” as they make their way through their careers and the world.  And with that (and lunch in a separate tent), they were off!


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