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When she was already in Ghana for her summer internship, Diane sent me this final blog post of 2013-2014.  I held it, thinking that September would be optimal timing.  Current students may want to know about Diane’s search for external scholarships, while applicants may want to know that such a thing is possible.  New posts from continuing student bloggers Diane, Liam, and Mark should return soon, and I’ll be adding new voices from among the first-year students.

For prospective students applying to graduate programs, the question of how to pay for a master’s degree is often a huge part of the decision-making process.

While Fletcher was my number one choice in programs going into the application process, the scholarship aid I received from Fletcher also made my enrollment decision very easy.  Nonetheless, Fletcher scholarships don’t generally cover the full cost of tuition, and certainly don’t include living costs, leaving me to figure out how to cover the rest.

Like many students who worked for a number of years prior to Fletcher, I had some savings, and I knew I would also need to take a loan.  As I did my financial planning, I realized that my savings would be gone by the end of the first year, and I would have to try to find ways to minimize the amount of debt I would be taking on.  This led me to the search for external scholarships.

As I reviewed scholarship opportunities, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being an international student from a developed country, but a country that itself offers very few scholarships for international study.  This left me searching for scholarships that I often couldn’t apply for.  I wasn’t very successful with my applications before starting at Fletcher, and I planned to submit more applications for my second year of study.

Once I was at Fletcher, I found my greatest resource to be my fellow students.  I took the opportunity to chat with other international students about scholarships they knew of, and shared information.  I also utilized the resources around me — in particular, I took advantage of the writing tutor program, to get feedback on my application essays before I sent them in.

This turned out to be a positive process!  I applied for two external scholarships for my second year, and was successful in receiving one of them.  Two of my Fletcher friends who had shared with me the process of applying for external scholarships were also successful.  This highlights one of my favorite things about Fletcher: the spirit of collaboration, and how this often leads to shared success.

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At the end of the spring semester, Liam, one of our student bloggers, offered an end-of-year post.  I eagerly grabbed it, but I’ve held it until now because it reflects both Liam’s first year at Fletcher and also his suggestions for incoming students.  I’ll just note that Liam wrote his post when the Red Sox season was looking a little brighter than it is now!

Sitting here, finally having some time to reflect on the blur that is the spring semester, I’m at a loss to describe what an incredible experience my first year at Fletcher has been.  A few words come to mind — demanding, challenging, (extremely) busy — but what it really boils down to is one of the most remarkable and rewarding years I’ve had.  From making new friends, to learning an incredible amount about the world in which we live, to taking the time to really comprehend my life’s journey to this point, this year at Fletcher was incredible.  Taking all that into consideration, I thought about the experiences I’m glad I’ve had both in and out of school, and I wanted to share a few “musts” for students at Fletcher.

1.  Go to Fletcher events.  From culture nights, to the Blakeley Halloween party, to The Los Fletcheros concerts, to simple gatherings of friends on a Friday, some of the best times to be had at Fletcher are outside the classroom.  Taking the time to relax and get to know my classmates has been so incredibly rewarding.  Time goes by pretty fast here and it will be over before you know it, so enjoy it while you can.

2.  Go to the Boston Marathon.  I was blessed with the opportunity to run this year through the Tufts Marathon Team, but if running for four(-ish) hours is not your cup of tea, experiencing the event is still an absolute must.  Over a million fans lining the street for over 26 miles, coming together in support of the city and the runners, was just an indescribable thing to see.  The Boston Marathon is, in my eyes, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world and it is not to be missed.

3.  Go watch the Red Sox.  I might be a bit biased as a life-long Sox fan, but anyone who spends time in Boston should experience Fenway Park.  Especially after the Sox won the 2013 World Series, taking in an afternoon or evening at “America’s Favorite Ballpark” is a great distraction from school, and singing “Sweet Caroline” with 36,000 friends is pretty great, too.

4.  Get to know Boston.  Boston is so full of history and culture — it’s critical to get out and see it.  Running along the Esplanade on the Charles River, exploring the Freedom Trail, relaxing at Boston Common, going to concerts — there is so much to do year-round in the city, so putting down the books and getting out is something you just have to do.

5.  Get out of Boston.  New England offers a ton of things to do.  Whale watching off Cape Cod, skiing in Maine, hiking in New Hampshire, seeing the foliage in the fall, these are just a few of the awesome things this area of the country offers.  Taking a backpacking trip out in the Berkshires during spring break was probably the most relaxing thing I’ve done in the past year, and it was vital to helping me reset to finish the semester strong.

In summary, it’s been an incredible year — one I wouldn’t trade for the world — and I’m looking forward to a 2014-15 academic year that is just as incredible and memorable.

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A few pieces of news worth sharing have passed my way recently.

First, Tufts University’s news service recently highlighted the thoughts of two Fletcher faculty members.  In a recent “Tufts Now” newsletter, we read Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti‘s ideas regarding the future of money, and also Prof. Kelly Sims Gallagher‘s views on how the U.S. could take a lesson from China on competing in the clean-energy market.

For that matter, and this is actually BIG news that I have neglected, I should also note that Prof. Gallagher will be on leave from Fletcher in 2014-15 to work in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  She is serving as Senior Policy Advisor and will be working on climate change and energy policy, as well as international climate policy.  You can read more here.

This week, I heard from two continuing students whose writing has been picked up by major publications.  Emily Cole wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times about health care for Peace Corps Volunteers, a topic the Times has been covering lately.  Ameya Naik wrote a column for Mint, the Indian edition of the Wall Street Journal.  He pointed out that one hyperlink in the piece (“modern terrorism”) takes you to a Huffington Post column by another continuing student, Tara Dominic.  Ameya also has a blog, which is a combination of his own writing and compiled writing of other people.

 

Blog posts have a short shelf life, and most readers don’t dig too deep into the archives.  For that reason, I thought I’d share some of the most “liked” posts of this past year, as generated by the button below each post.  Click on the photo below to take you to the original blog post or the feature series that it was part of.

Devon ConeFirst, and probably the blog post that has received the greatest number of “likes” ever, was Devon Cone’s report on her five years after Fletcher.  It’s a lovely story that has drawn several particularly warm comments.  If you enjoy reading about Devon’s post-Fletcher path, consider scrolling through all of the Five Year Updates.

 

Michael KleinEach of the posts in the Faculty Spotlight series was well received, and I couldn’t possibly choose among the professors, so I invite you to read all of their self-introductions.  Click on Prof. Klein’s photo to the left, and then scroll through the posts I collected in 2013-2014.  More to come this fall!

 

Roxanne awardIncoming students have told me that they appreciated reading the stories of current students, and everyone was happy for Roxanne when she received the Presidential Award for Citizenship.  To catch up with everything that Roxanne, Mirza, Scott, Diane, Liam, and Mark wrote this year, check out all the Student Stories.

 

Margot ShoreyAlso informative for prospective students have been the updates from students in their first year post-Fletcher.  Given the favorable response, I was proactive this year — I lined up a big bunch of students who graduated in May and who volunteered to write about the post-Fletcher career they hadn’t yet started.  I’ll begin collecting the posts at the end of the fall.  (As I write this, Margot’s post has exactly 100 likes.)

 

Amy Tan and Luca UrechI enjoyed reading the posts students wrote about their activities during the academic year.  I learned about things I had never even heard of!  In addition to the post on the Human Rights Practicum, the one on the International Criminal Court Simulation was particularly well liked, but go ahead and check out the complete collection of Cool Stuff posts.

 

Hovhannes Nikoghosyan Fletcher 2014I also caught up with a few official programs that I had neglected in the past.  Readers especially liked the post on the Tavitian Fellows.

 

 

Finally, there were lots of likes for a few stories about particular students or alumni — posts that weren’t part of a blog feature series.

KamilIn an unusual post about a student who was living like a graduate, we read about Kamil, who will soon be returning to Fletcher after he stopped out for a year with UNICEF in Myanmar.

 

 

Sam and pastry chefThere was this one about Sam Chapple-Sokol, because who doesn’t love reading about cooking?

 

 

 

Glacier - dressed for Arctic conditionsAnd this from Jamie Kraut, one of last summer’s newly minted graduates, who traveled to Norway with some current students.

 

 

Sebastian and MeganI don’t do it too often, but sometimes I can’t resist a nice wedding story.  And with a Fletcher professor officiating at the ceremony, they don’t get much more Fletcherish than Megan and Sebastian’s event last summer.

 

The common element in nearly all these most-liked posts is that they were written by students, alumni, or professors.  The few that I wrote myself tell the stories of students or alumni.  That gives me a strong hint about areas on which to focus blog posts in 2014-2015!

 

Freed of the obligation to write term papers and exam essays, do students avoid the pen or keyboard during the summer?  No, they do not.  In fact, they create their own writing assignments.  As the semester came to a close, I asked students to send me links to their blogs.  Later, Ameya (a soon-to-be second-year student) sent around a longer list.  The following, for your reading pleasure, are links to the Fletcher student blogs I’ve now learned about.  If the writers told me the objectives for their writing, I have included their notes.  I’ve read some posts on each of the blogs and overall they include a combination of professional and personal observations.

Some of the students are actually alumni now, while others are in the summer between their first and second years of study.  The list is essentially alphabetical, until you reach the bottom.

Madeeha Ansari, writing about (among other things) writing.

Anisha Baghudana is writing about doing e-commerce stuff in Nairobi.

Erik English notes that his blog from Qorax Energy in Somaliland is “semi-work-related.”

Mark Hoover is in Burkina Faso, and provides helpful maps.  Mark had revived a blog that he started during a previous stint in Andorra.

Anna McCallie is in Amsterdam.  She writes about almost everything besides her work, which is more confidential and less blogable.

Cassandra Pagan has been writing about her delayed departure and subsequent experiences in Afghanistan.

Owen Sanderson is with Ushahidi in Nairobi.

Franziska Schwarzmann blogs about “coping with intercultural experiences and learning.”  She wrote primarily in German during her first year, but is now mixing German and English, for the benefit of her Fletcher classmates, so that they “know where I am and learn about Europe and how it feels to be back in Europe after a year in the USA.”  I especially enjoyed her end-of-year post and the video she put together about her first year at Fletcher.

Braden Weinstock told me that he is writing posts for the blog hosted by the Blakeley Foundation, which has supported his internship with a fellowship.  When I checked the front page of the Blakeley Foundation’s blog site, I realized that all the posts there are written by the Fletcher students supported by the Foundation.  Those who identified themselves are Chuck Dukmo, Manisha Basnet, Anisha, Owen Sanderson, and Heather LeMunyon.

Leon Whyte is spending the summer at the U.S. Army War College.  He said he uses the blog “to collect the writings that I have done in class, and to write about international affairs and about what it is like to be a graduate student at Fletcher.”

Two students are writing as part of their internships with the Advocacy Project in Nepal:  Katerina Canyon  and Katie Baczewski.  Ameya pointed out that Fletcher is the only school with two Advocacy Project Fellows!

One student is writing under a pen name, but was still o.k. with having his blog included in this list.  Just know that there isn’t really a student called Seth the Multicoloured Pancake.

Ameya, in his list, also pointed us back toward several favorite blogs.  Regular Admissions Blog readers have surely checked the blog of our writer Roxanne, but if you haven’t done so in a while, you’ll want to check back in.

And another student blog that was previously featured here is Shruti’s analysis of the recent election in India.

Those are the blogs I can point you toward right now.  If I hear of others, I’ll post the links.  Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy this very varied writing about students’ diverse summer experiences.

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I received a quick note this week from Marlene Houngbedji, who made an appearance on the blog earlier this year.  She told me that she was just about to climb on a plane to Ireland to attend a conference at the National University of Ireland-Galway.  Not just attend the conference, but present a paper she wrote for Prof. Mazurana’s class, which earned her an invitation to participate.  Marlene is listed among the Parallel Session Speakers in the conference agenda, where you can also find the abstract of her talk.

Marlene completed the one-year LLM program in May, and she is currently working as a summer legal researcher for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative-Harvard Humanitarian Academy.  She will start a permanent position in the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Division of the Department of Homeland Security later this summer.

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Earlier this spring I had contacted MALD student Kamil Pawlowski with a question.  We exchanged a round of emails, and only then did I learn that he was not responding from campus, but rather from Yangon, Myanmar.  I asked him if he would write something for the blog, and he kindly agreed.  Here’s his report about his year on leave from Fletcher.

KamilOne year ago this week I arrived in Myanmar to begin my summer internship with UNICEF.  I had finished my first year at Fletcher, and was excited to go to a country I’d been studying for nearly a decade, and especially to put into practice some of the knowledge and skills I’d acquired over the previous year.  Four other classmates were interning in Yangon that summer, and we all shared a cheap flat downtown.  It was so cheap, though, that since I was the last of the crew to arrive and I got last pick of the rooms, I ended up without a door or air-conditioning.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a comfortable summer, but it proved to be worth the discomfort in ways I hadn’t expected.  A few weeks before my internship was over, I was offered a temporary position as Emergency and Reporting Officer with UNICEF Myanmar!

I debated what to do for a long time while I went through the official hiring process.  I was worried about interrupting my two-year degree, about how removing myself from graduate school for a year would affect my academic motivation, and about not graduating with the group of friends and colleagues with whom I’d begun the Fletcher journey.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to further my career goals and to gain more experience in what I had wanted to accomplish with my degree in the first place.  Ultimately I succeeded in the required external candidate hiring process and decided to take the posting.  Fletcher was gracious enough to grant me a leave-of-absence for the duration of the appointment, and while the decision to delay the completion of my MALD was difficult, I am happy with the choice I made.  Fortunately, I’m now living in a nice flat with doors, air-conditioning, and even wireless internet — a luxury here, and a huge upgrade from last summer!

As an Emergency and Reporting Officer, I work on the coordination and monitoring of UNICEF’s humanitarian intervention in two on-going emergency settings.  In Kachin State, around 91,000 people have been newly displaced by a decades-long civil war that resurged in 2011, while in Rakhine State, around 140,000 people have been displaced, and an additional 170,000 have been otherwise affected by communal violence since 2012.  I primarily work in Yangon, but have gone on missions to both areas to provide technical assistance to field staff in monitoring, as well as to conduct emergency preparedness and response trainings, including refreshers on humanitarian principles.  Most of my work focuses on organizing information and reporting on UNICEF’s interventions in both states.  The work is difficult, though at times exciting, especially when I see the implementation of recommendations I make and their positive outcomes.  It is also increasingly challenging, due to a shrinking humanitarian space as a result of communal conflict and misunderstandings, or misrepresentation about how aid is delivered.  This has resulted in targeted attacks against humanitarian offices in Rakhine State, and has restricted access to many areas.  While solutions are not readily available, we have been able to make some progress to address these challenges, influenced in part by my own research and study at Fletcher.

I came to Fletcher to earn a MALD through the study of humanitarian assistance, minority rights, and forced migration.  My academic work has routinely focused around how a particular population in Myanmar, the Rohingya, have been affected by these issues.  During my first year at Fletcher I took courses that strengthened both my contextual and practical understanding of how to provide effective humanitarian assistance, while upholding and respecting the basic human rights of displaced peoples and conflict-affected people.  At UNICEF I have been constantly applying things I absorbed through courses during my first year at Fletcher, especially from Hurst Hannum’s Nationalism, Self-Determination and Minority Rights, Dan Maxwell’s Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies, Cheyenne Scharbatke-Church’s Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, and Dyan Mazurana’s Gender, Culture and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies.   These courses have provided tangible tools and ways of thinking to address many of the issues we face here in Myanmar, particularly more thoughtful and impact-driven program design and evaluation, gender and conflict analysis, and a key understanding of the human rights and humanitarian assistance polemics that have direct application to the conflict environment in Myanmar.  I am especially grateful to the professors and atmosphere at Fletcher for fostering knowledge through the study, analysis, and practice of real-world cases and debates.  This academic experience has had great impact on my ability to maneuver and succeed in this complex environment.

I am excited to return to Fletcher when I finish my appointment.  I will go back with a fresh understanding of the skills I still need to acquire through coursework, to better do the job I want to do.  I will also bring with me an experience that will be extremely valuable for connecting the issues discussed in Fletcher courses with their practice in the fields of humanitarianism and human rights.  Just as importantly, I’ll meet a whole new group of wonderful, talented, exciting individuals with whom to share the next step of our journey.

Kamil, temple

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The reason why the Fletcher staff is lonely all summer long is that our students are so successful in finding internships that meet their career objectives, with the result that they’re generally out of town.  Diane, our student blogger, tells us about her internship search, and shares a couple of photos from her summer post.

At Fletcher, the summer between the first and second years of the MALD or MIB program is open for students to use as they wish.  While internships are not required, students are encouraged to pursue one, and most do.  Others may prefer to use the time to develop their language skills, research or prepare their Capstone Project, or travel.

Ghana market Coming into Fletcher I knew the biggest gap on my résumé was my lack of field experience.  Therefore my goal for the summer revolved around going to a developing country to work.  I was hoping to find a research project that fit at least one of my interests: food security, mobile technology, or impact evaluations.

In January I began my search, reaching out to alumni at the DC Career Trip, speaking with second years about their experiences, and doing a lot of internet research.  My best resource became my professors, who were able to put me in touch with some of their contacts.  I sent a lot of emails, and got a few great leads; however, as the months went on, I still didn’t have an offer.

One organization that interested me and that I had identified early on was Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).  Friends at Fletcher who had either previously worked or interned with IPA in the past informed me that the organization advertises internships quite late, so I kept an eye on the website, and applied while still continuing my search through my networks.

Right before exams I had a flurry of interviews for different opportunities, and on the day of my last exams, I received an offer to spend my summer in Tamale, Ghana with IPA.  As I had already planned to head home in a week, I packed my stuff the next day and flew to Australia where, in amongst catching up with family and friends, I organized my visa, booked flights, got immunizations and anti-malarial tablets, searched for a mosquito net, packed for some very warm weather, and got on a plane (or four planes, to be exact).

IPA designs and evaluates potential solutions to poverty using randomized evaluations and is based out of Yale University with offices across the world.  I am working on a project that involves offering rainfall insurance to farmers and I will be investigating whether this insurance can be made available through other organizations once the project is complete.  I am sure it is going to be a great summer, and look forward to returning to Fletcher in the fall to apply what I have learnt.

Ghana huts

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Every year, Fletcher students are invited to submit their Capstone Projects to the Tufts Digital Library’s E-Scholarship collection.  The 2014 collection hasn’t been posted yet, but there’s certainly no shortage of reading material.  Most of the submissions are traditional theses, but I’m sure that, over time, we’ll be seeing some Capstones in different formats.

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Even with 1,100 Admissions Blog posts behind me, there are always topics I regret not having written about.  To correct for one of those omissions, I asked Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, a current student in the Tavitian Scholarship Program, to write about his experience.  Hovhannes and I were connected by blog friend Amy Tan, and Hovhannes graciously agreed to share information about his time at Fletcher.  I should note that this is the 15th year when Fletcher has hosted Tavitian Scholars and, as background, Hovhannes told me that all the participants in this special six-month program are Armenian government employees with a minimum of three years, and an average of six years, of professional experience, with prior graduate education.  They represent various government agencies, the Central Bank, and the President’s Administration.  This year, the class also includes a Member of Parliament.   Here is Hovhannes’s story.

Hovhannes Nikoghosyan Fletcher 2014It was a hot summer evening in Yerevan, late August 2013.  I was sipping an icy gin and tonic, when I received a call from Dr. Ara Barsam, who has been skillfully administering the application process for the Tavitian Scholarship Program for a number of years.  He was calling to tell me that I had been selected for the Class of 2014.  I don’t exactly remember the part of the conversation that followed the words, “I congratulate you,” (Sorry, Ara!), but after that lucky day I lived in anticipation of my Fletcher dream coming true.

The academic wonderland of the Fletcher School embraced all 15 students in the Class of 2014 as we landed at Boston Logan Airport and found ourselves in the caring hands of Dr. Joyce Barsam — the Vice President of the Tavitian Foundation — who supported us from our arrival in Boston and through the six months to follow.

Following a few days of jet lag recovery, and a few more days of orientation, classes started and we were injected into Fletcher life — I think with an even heavier curriculum than regular students experience.  With the program designed to offer coursework equivalent to a full academic year, Tavitian Scholars complete four or five classes every five weeks, each of them ending with a final exam — take-home or in-class — which puts extraordinary pressure on each student.

One of the strengths of the Tavitian Scholarship Program that I would highlight is that the fellows soon become knitted into the Fletcher Community, and experience the life of a typical student in a leading American university — anything from enjoying a fresh morning coffee in Mugar Café to finding ourselves in the library at 12:50 a.m., ten minutes before it closes.  True, the Tavitian groups are in their own classes, yet there is hardly any difference with regard to workload or grading system, including the professors showing no mercy for late exam submissions!  Also, group work and in-class activities create an atmosphere of academic exchange and interaction between the fellows themselves, which is enriching not only within the academic process, but far beyond it — creating the fabric of a future network throughout the public service in Armenia.  In classes, we observe that this is how a diplomat learns the basics of public finance, or how an economist learns the difference between the Cold War and “Game of Thrones,” or those small differences between a “House of Cards” plot and real-life political campaigning.

More seriously, through all the disciplines we are taught here, we learn to look at our local problems in perspective, which makes them seem smaller and not really unprecedented.  Rather than blaming Armenia’s geography or destiny, we learn to roll up our sleeves and meet the challenges.  And this is perhaps the greatest strength of the program, which was originally created more than a decade ago to support and educate tomorrow’s decision-makers in the Armenian government.

Extracurricular activities are where students may find additional value from their time in Boston.  Not only the Museum of Fine Arts or whale watching tours, but also auditing extra classes at Fletcher and other world-leading universities and schools in town are opportunities not to be missed.  As in previous years, most of our Class of 2014 has chosen to audit courses at Fletcher, MIT, and Harvard’s Kennedy, Business, and Law Schools.

Outside the classroom, I am exceptionally glad we succeeded in putting together a roundtable discussion on April 28, “In the Pursuit of Peace,” looking from an academic perspective at the 20-year-long peace process that has followed the ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh.  The keynote speech by Nagorno Karabakh Republic Representative Robert Avetisyan, unparalleled and as-always-thought-provoking remarks by Professor Michael Glennon and Ambassador Rouben Shougarian — moderated by Professor Alan Henrikson and Associate Dean Deborah Nutter — have not only enriched our understanding of the smoldering conflict, but also benefited the wider Fletcher community.

As we are now approaching the end of our journey, the 2014 Tavitian Scholars thank The Fletcher School for maintaining and supporting our educational “moveable feast.”  Of course, all this would remain a distant dream for many of us without the true generosity of Mr. Aso Tavitian, who teaches perhaps the most important lesson to each of us — that offering opportunity to those who cannot afford it themselves is the ultimate form of humanitarianism, and I thank him for this lesson from the bottom of my Armenian heart.

Now, as we will graduate in a week, the life-long mission for each of us in the Class of 2014 resumes with greater responsibility:  to bring more good, and change, through our service to the Republic of Armenia.

 

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