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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.

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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.

DianeIn 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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Though between the hours of 8:00 and 5:30, today is a day like any other, the evening will find students scurrying from event to event.  The end-of-semester avalanche of special activities lines up like this:

Winter recital5:30:  Social Hour, hosted by the Ralph Bunche Society, with Cuban food.

6:00:  The annual debate between Professors Moomaw and Everett.  (A previous year’s debate will give you a taste of the likely energy-related content.)

7:15:  The Fletcher Winter Recital, featuring musical students, professors, and alumni.

10:30:  The Los Fletcheros fall gig at Johnny D’s, a club in Davis Square.  The place will be hopping!  (Doors open at 9:00.)

Midnight:  Reality sets in.  Classes are all but over, and exams loom on the near horizon.

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Just a quick note today, lest you think I am still off celebrating Thanksgiving.  In fact, yesterday was completely gobbled up by two PhD interviews, two interview reports, an information session, and reading a small pile of files that I just didn’t manage to get to over the weekend.  Today I’m catching up from yesterday, as it often goes.  That makes it a good time to share the latest update from our friends at The Fletcher Forum.  Here’s the email that went out to the community just before the break.

Dear Fletcher Friends, Colleagues, Staff, Faculty, and Alumni,

ForumcoverThe Fletcher Forum Online — the online portal of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, the school’s student-run international affairs journal — has had an exciting semester thus far, as we have brought in new staff and released our Special 80th Anniversary Edition. We invite you to visit our website to read some of our content and to consider submitting your own article for publication!

Some of our fall interview highlights include:

A conversation with the Dean of The Fletcher School, Admiral James Stavridis.
Dean Stavridis discusses the future of diplomacy and twenty-first century security, and provides shrewd advice to young professionals pursuing careers that navigate the challenges of today’s globalized world.

A conversation with former Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, Jr.
Ambassador Thomas discusses his distinguished career in the Foreign Service and comments on a range of foreign policy issues from the role of diplomacy in solving global problems to advancing the rights of women and girls to the ongoing disaster relief efforts in the Philippines.

Our fall op-eds have ranged in topic from human rights in the Middle East to international law in Africa to democratic governance in Latin America. Check out some of these highlights:

Pakistan is Giving Democracy a Chance, by Wilson Lee
Learning the Right Lessons from Iraq, by Patricia Stottlemyer
Managing Crisis in South Asia: Avoiding Armageddon Again,  by Bruce Riedel
ICC Prosecutions in Africa Underscore Need for Effective Regional Institutions, by Kamissa Camara
The Case for Treating Migration as Trade, by Amien Kacou
The Need for an International Solution to Illicit Financial Flows, by Rohit Sinha
Diplomacy Bridging the U.S-Iranian Divide, by Arafat Kabir
Bringing Human Rights through the Back Door at the European Union, by David Blázquez
Reforming Brazil’s “Violent Democracy”, by Jim Shyne

Please feel free to leave comments or submit your own piece for publication.

To stay current with all our new content, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Happy Reading!
The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs Online

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Informative notes on a variety of topics have flowed into my inbox lately.  I’m going to combine them all in this pre-Thanksgiving catch-up blog.

Articles

PhD candidate David Knoll let me know that he and fellow PhD student Matt Herbert just published a two-part series on Somali piracy for the World Peace FoundationPart 1 and Part 2.

Newly selected Al Nakhlah editors (and first-year MALD students) Alex Taylor and Jack Berger interviewed Rami Khouri, Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.  He discusses the emergence of a new conception of citizenship in the Arab world.

There was a nice online article recognizing the entrepreneurial energy at Tufts.

An Update

Fletcher alum and contributing Admissions Blogger Manjula Dissanayake sent me an update this morning.  Both Manjula and Educate Lanka have had great success this year!

An Honor

Current MALD student Kat Trujillo was just selected by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance for the 2015 class of George J. Mitchell Scholars.  Congratulations to Kat!

A President

In October, a Fletcher alum, Mulatu Teshome, was selected as the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Finally, unrelated to any of the above, a note from me:  I have received some good suggestions for blogs for the coming months, but I’m open to more!  Please be sure to complete the survey and send me your ideas.

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Many Fletcher student clubs and organizations are designed purely with fun in mind.  Case in point:  Fermentation 101.  But most students will also connect with an organization that links to their academic interests.  Today, second-year MALD student, Dara, tells us about her work with an activity that goes beyond the walls of Fletcher.

Like many volunteers, I became involved with the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program (TU-RAP) in my first year at Fletcher because of my general interest in refugee issues.  TU-RAP pairs newly arrived refugee families in the Boston area with groups of Tufts University students.  The students visit the families’ homes regularly to lend a hand with anything the family members may need to orient themselves to life in the United States.  I learned that this may include assisting with bill paying, helping children with homework, practicing English, or teaching the family how to use public transportation.

TURAP logoAware that refugees can experience a great deal of difficulty assimilating into a new life and culture, I was really excited to join the program as a volunteer.  My group was paired with a small family from Chad: a father (Caleb), mother, and a newly born, beautiful little girl.  While the family spoke very little English, luckily two members of the volunteer group spoke moderate French.  After being cut off from the support of their resettlement agency, and with the father unable to work due to a medical condition, the family was having a hard time meeting their basic needs.  Fortunately, they received government food assistance and were permitted to stay free of charge in an apartment.  All other material necessities such as diapers and transportation fees were hard to obtain, though.

Despite their difficulties, the family did the utmost to welcome us into their home.  Each time we visited, we were provided with fresh fruit, soda and water.  While there was not much we could do to help Caleb find a job, because of his condition, we did what we could.  We practiced English with the family, helped them sort through mail, and brought over a French driving manual in preparation for Caleb’s road test.  Once, we even helped to read and translate documents to enroll the family in health insurance.  Completing the enrollment paperwork took the entire visit, but it was very rewarding to be able to help with something they needed so much.

While I’m sure our assistance really benefited the family, I think we as volunteers gained the most from the experience.  Having a close-up look at the difficulties refugees face gave us an awareness of the gravity of the problem, and helped us to appreciate the conveniences of our own lives.  What really affected me was how this family — completely uprooted from their country, isolated from their relatives, and placed in a foreign country where they neither speak the language nor know the culture — remains positive.  Until this day, I speak often to my Chadian family and am happy to know that they consider me a friend.  For me, TU-RAP has been a life changing experience.  For that reason, I joined TU-RAP leadership this year to ensure that more students and refugees in need benefit from this program.

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My second-year student bloggers are busy people.  We last heard from Mirza in the summer, when he reported on his internship.  Today’s post will give readers a very good sense of why this is the first time we’re hearing from him since classes began this semester.

MirzaAfter some months of silence, I am happy to be writing again for the Admissions Blog.  My silence has been rooted in several factors: 1) Dealing with a busy academic schedule (nothing new at Fletcher); 2) Balancing a couple of paid job positions with my academic schedule; and 3) Attempting to be a responsible second-year student and remain fully engaged in the Fletcher community.  The first two months of my second year indeed proved to be quite chaotic, but I would describe this as controlled and happy chaos.  For me at least, the self-awareness that I am successfully managing my own Fletcher chaos seems to be the biggest difference between the two years thus far.

One striking change that I’m noticing as a second-year student is that I feel significantly more grounded as a member of the Fletcher community than I did last year.  I have come to understand more clearly who I am at Fletcher; what Fletcher and the people here can offer me and what I can offer them; when to say yes and when to say no to various events and social activities; how to assess my personal opportunity costs (chatting with a friend in the Hall of Flags for 15 minutes or spending those 15 minutes answering emails — the former increasingly taking precedence over the latter); and how to take advantage of this special time in my life to the fullest extent possible.  Having spent the summer back in the working world, this last point has been especially resonant.

This is not to say that the first year at Fletcher is less meaningful, but simply that by the time the second year rolls around, one is likely to have gained a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of this rich community.  One will also have figured out how to perform most effectively and efficiently in the general chaos that is graduate school.  For me, this meant becoming more strategic with my time.  While I have four paid jobs this semester, they each play an important role in enhancing my résumé with relevant skills.  A good amount of my work responsibilities have also directly complemented my academic coursework, thus bringing my overall learning into a cohesive whole.  For example, as an Academic Technology Fellow at Tufts University’s Educational and Scholarly Technology Services, I have been exposed to numerous web-based learning platforms and tools that have nicely complemented my coursework in a Harvard Education School course on education and technology.  My role as Business Director for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, on the other hand, has provided me with an opportunity to put into practice some of the skills acquired in my marketing and entrepreneurship courses at Fletcher.  Together, these connected experiences will allow me to tell a rounded story in my cover letter and résumé when it is time to jump into the post-Fletcher job hunt.

I have also really embraced what most Fletcher students would identify as the essential component of the Fletcher experience: our lively and passionate community.  So, besides academic and work obligations, I have tried to stay very active in Fletcher’s social life.  Whether supporting the Los Fletcheros on Thursday nights at Johnny D’s in Davis Square, attending events organized by the many Fletcher student groups (recent highlight: a lecture titled “Do Human Rights Matter?”), driving to Cape Cod with my classmates for Prof. Hess’s annual barbeque picnic, engaging in (somewhat) heated debates on the Social List, group-biking from Fletcher to Harvard, or offering to be a second-year buddy to a first-year student, I have become truly connected to and inspired by the multifaceted world of Fletcher.  Many of the people I have met here over the last year will undoubtedly play an important role in my post-graduation life, and these tight-knit social networks — strengthened through shared experiences in and outside of classroom — are what make Fletcher such a unique place.  Understanding how to balance this cornerstone of the Fletcher experience with my academic, work, and personal responsibilities has been an important accomplishment for me in my second year of graduate school, and has accordingly led to the aforementioned comfort of a “controlled and happy chaos.”

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With apologies for taking so long to put this together, please meet the remaining three of our Admissions student interns, who work alongside Daniel, Emma, and Rebekah.

Ayako:  I am a second-year MALD student from Tokyo, Japan.  I’m a “career-changer” at Fletcher; my Fields of Studies are International Political Economy and Human Security.  I studied economics and music at Wellesley College for my undergraduate, and then worked for four years at Morgan Stanley’s equity research division covering Japanese financial institutions.  I spent the past summer in Lahore and Islamabad, Pakistan, working for Aghaaz Leadership Labs, an NGO based in Pakistan.  I interviewed entrepreneurs (with more focus on female entrepreneurs) to explore the opportunities and constraints that they face in Pakistan, in order to draft an analysis report.

Having only one more year at Fletcher, I’m trying to make the most out of the opportunity here — auditing classes, attending on and off-campus lectures and events, taking advantage of Boston’s finest art scene (Boston Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Fine Arts and many others!).  I’m excited to be working here to answer any questions or concerns that you may have!

Juanita:  Hi everyone!  I am a second-year MALD studying international business and international negotiation.  My interest in international business stems from my experience as a student strategy consultant for a Field Studies in Global Consulting course that I completed during my first year of study at Fletcher.  During this course, my teammates and I were able to gain real-world experience as we developed an international partnership engagement strategy for our client.  This experience not only allowed me to develop invaluable skills that I will surely use long after I leave Fletcher, but it also allowed me to refocus my coursework and internship experiences as I prepared for my second year, and my career after Fletcher.

While my future aspirations of working at the nexus of international business strategy and strategic partnerships differ from my pre-Fletcher experiences, the Fletcher School has served as an incubator by providing me with exposure to this industry through my classmates, courses, and career services.  I look forward to helping you all navigate the admissions process, and answering any questions that you may have about being a “career changer” at the Fletcher School!

Kiyomi:  Hello there!  I am a first-year MIB student focusing in Strategic Management and International Consultancy and am interested in understanding market-based approaches to social change.

Like many Fletcher students, its not so easy to say where I’m “from.”  I grew up in both LA and the Boston area then attended the University of Miami, where I received a degree in communications.  After college I worked in consumer banking and private wealth management in the Boston and the Bay areas before leaving corporate America behind to spend time in Latin America.

Immediately before Fletcher I was implementing micro-credit programs as a Kiva Fellow in Mexico and Colombia, and worked with a social start-up in Medellin developing social impact bond initiatives in Latin America.

Outside of my busy school schedule and time as an Admissions Intern, I am a member of the Fletcher Fútbol team and Fletcher Net Impact.  For fun I am always looking for more soccer games to play, trying to catch a Football game (Go Pats!), and of course hanging with my wonderful and amazing classmates.

 

Returning to the second-year student bloggers, we pick up Scott’s story as he considers the post-Fletcher future that awaits him after graduation next May.  As you’ll read, to Scott’s surprise, the learning and exposure he gained at Fletcher have caused him to reconsider his planned career path.

Scott SnyderIt’s interesting being a graduate student (and the ripe age of 32) and confused about the type of work I want to do after Fletcher.  I came in with a very set plan: to use the Master of International Business (MIB) program to transition from the global health sector to the field of international economic development, by filling gaps resulting from my lack of work in the private sector.  I was focused on international organizations, such as the World Bank, or consulting firms that would value my non-profit work and mindset but would also (thanks to the MIB program) be confident in my abilities to understand financial markets.

Fletcher offered me the chance to meet and listen to many individuals who worked at the organizations I had originally targeted.  Unfortunately, around February of last year, after multiple career panels, information sessions, and my own research, I started to question whether this career track would be the right fit for me.  At the same time, I was enjoying all my business courses and dissecting cases — especially within the areas of strategy and business development.

Coming to this realization in February/March was a problem because I had to completely switch my internship search, and by the time I did, most of the internships I had pinpointed were already filled.  I made the best of this situation by taking a position in May that was similar to my previous work (but was salary based — always a good thing) and then took the remainder of the summer to do something very exciting.  I used the time to cycle across the US — from the west coast of Oregon to New York City — raising funds for the charity run by one of my best friends from college, the Ace in the Hole Foundation.  (If interested in that journey, you can read about it here.)  It was the experience of a lifetime, but it didn’t boost my future job search the way a summer internship could have.

Which leads me to where I am in the first semester of my second year at Fletcher.  I have decided to cast a wide net and to try to meet with as many people as possible this fall, to help focus my job search, which should start this winter.  I have learned a lot already, namely that I’d love to focus on technology, health/wellness, and, if possible, to work at a start up or even start a venture of my own.  My current classes — Starting New Ventures, at Fletcher, and Strategy and Technology, at Harvard Business School — definitely have had an influence on my current thinking, but I’m also continuing to speak with individuals outside of that realm.  Making up for lost time last summer, I also have an internship in downtown Boston at a hybrid venture capital and creative agency, which has given me exposure to multiple industries that could interest me.

With these commitments, and a couple more classes, I have found myself busy.  It’s a different kind of busy than my first year, when most of my time went into tough, but great, classes.  As a second-year MIB student, I have completed the program’s core courses and I have the flexibility to choose classes that allow me explore new avenues.  I’m actually excited for the whole process, even if it will be a challenge.

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