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On Monday, Fletcher was its usual busy self — students coming and going to classes and generally still doing what they do.  Even Tuesday, the Hall of Flags looked pretty normal, granted without the ebb and flow of students heading to and returning from classes.  By Wednesday — quiet!  Very few students about, or at least they’re closed in exam rooms and study spaces.

Given that it’s exam week, more surprising than the quiet is the amount that is still happening.  Yesterday and today, Fletcher is hosting the Inclusive Cities Forum and Solutions Symposium.  A cast of scholars and luminaries, including former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, generated lively conversation at yesterday’s sessions.

The Inclusive Cities Forum wasn’t even the only conference this week.  On Tuesday, Fletcher hosted the Ideas Industry Conference, which provoked plenty of conversation, too.

On Wednesday, students kept their exam-week spirits up with the traditional Fletcher Follies.  (Whatever happens at Follies, stays at Follies.  Not much more for me to say.)

And last night, the fourth semesterly Fletcher Recital took place.  A long-standing Thursday night commitment has kept me from attending any of the previous recitals, which I regretted even before I experienced last night’s fantastic event!  So much talent among these students (and a couple of professors, and one daughter of a student)!  Most surprising piece, without a doubt, was Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” arranged by Prof. Katrina Burgess and played by her and three students in a string quartet.  (Our own Admissions intern, Ayako, was the cellist.  Go Ayako!)

These are the last events for the 2013-2014 academic year.  For first-year students, only exams stand between them and their summer activities.  Graduating students will soon be looking toward Commencement.  That gives those of us who work in the summer another two weeks with students in the building, before we start our own quiet summer.

 

I met yesterday with most of our student bloggers — Mirza, Scott, Mark, Diane, Liam, and Roxanne (who wasn’t able to join us, unfortunately).  It’s strange that this was our farewell gathering, as it was also the first time that we had been together this year — nearly all of our interactions have been via email.  (Some introductions were even needed.)  Nonetheless, I’m glad that I’ll still be working with Mark, Diane, and Liam next year, and I’m going to be sad when Scott, Mirza, and Roxanne graduate next month.

We’re nearing the end of the second year of my little blog experiment, which consisted of reaching out to a few students (with no writing “audition” involved) and asking them to write semi-regularly about their Fletcher experience.  I hope that blog readers agree that the six of them, plus Maliheh last year, have shined a light on what it’s like to be a Fletcher student.

The idea of having students tell their own stories came to me about two years ago.  There’s nothing revolutionary about the idea, and any challenges came from the implementation.  In particular, the key flaw in the plan is that students are already doing a lot of writing, and they have limited time.  Writing for the blog often slides to the back burner.  (And the only compensation is a Fletcher water bottle filled with trail mix.)  My job, then, is primarily to provide gentle reminders, while understanding that many other Fletcher commitments need to come first.  The gathering itself served as a kind of reminder, and I believe that we’ll have another five or six posts from this group before the summer.

Yesterday’s meeting resulted in a few new ideas.  First, there was agreement that two posts per semester per student is a fair goal.  I agreed that I should aim to bring in at least one more international student when I recruit first-year bloggers in September.  And we decided that on about October 1, I’ll post a survey so that prospective students can ask questions of the student bloggers.  Overall, though, we’ll stick with the concept of having students suggest topics that interest them and then figuring out “deadlines” that work, in and around their other assignments.  It’s an evolving project, and one that gives me an additional opportunity to work with students, which is one of the best parts of my job.

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What better way to kick off a new week than to learn about students and their fermentation activities.  Second-year MALD student, Bob Lynch (who also works for the University’s Office of Sustainability) tells us about the Fermentation 101 club’s activities.

FermentationQuick trivia question: What do kimchi, beer, and salami all have in common?

The answer?  They’re all the product of fermentation, a process of food preparation and preservation that has been utilized by human populations for over 5,000 years all across the globe.

Fermentation is the process by which microorganisms — usually yeast or bacteria — biochemically break down starches and sugars to produce alcohols or acids.  Even though it has only recently been understood with modern science and technology, since its discovery it has been an integral method to prepare and store food for nearly every human culture.  Fermentation is what makes bread rise, gives wine its ability to be stored for hundreds of years, and provides many of the positive health benefits of pickled foods.  In a sense, one cannot celebrate and understand food and drink without celebrating and understanding fermentation.

At Fletcher, the Fermentation 101 club celebrates this once mysterious process by hosting events ranging from food tastings to brewery tours, giving Fletcher students an opportunity to learn more about one of the most culturally significant pieces of human culinary history.  With well over 100 members, it is one of Fletcher’s most popular and celebrated student organizations.

Just this semester, the Fermentation 101 club teamed up with the Fletcher Food Policy Club to offer a tour of Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, participated in the Friedman School’s Slow Food Brew Off (where one Fletcher student’s home-brewed beer won third place among 16 competing beers), and has hosted bread and cheese tastings.  One of the club’s more popular undertakings is beer brewing, for which the club hosts students who are excited to learn about the fermentation process while taking a break from their studies.  During these brewing events, Fermentation club members meticulously go through beer brewing step-by-step, using the same tools, ingredients, and techniques that have been used since the Renaissance to prepare one of the world’s most popular beverages.

And, yes, when everything is said, done, and fermented, club members get to kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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Some lovely news for Roxanne, our second-year student blogger and a rock star in the Fletcher community.  In a ceremony yesterday, Roxanne was given the University’s Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service.  Lucky for me, another student, Kate, grabbed a photo:

Roxanne awardKate also recorded a short video of Dean Sheehan introducing Roxanne.

In his introduction, Dean Sheehan refers to Roxanne’s TED talk, which you may also want to watch.

Congratulations to Roxanne!!

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It’s a rare Fletcher student who pursues only one out-of-class activity, and our student bloggers are no exception.  First-year MALD student, Liam, is training with the Tufts Marathon Team to run in Monday’s Boston Marathon.  As many readers know, this year’s Marathon will be different from the norm, coming one year after the tragic events of 2013, and giving many runners a sense of mission that goes beyond their personal best times.  Here’s Liam’s report.

Marathon training

One of the incredible opportunities available to Fletcher students is the chance to join the Tufts Marathon Team and train for and run the Boston Marathon.  Each year, the Tufts Marathon Team gets 100 bib numbers for students, faculty, staff, and alumni from throughout the Tufts community to run the race.  With participants ranging from first-time runners to seasoned veterans of multiple marathons, Coach Don Megerle does an amazing job training and selecting the team, and he provides unmatched motivation and advice to ensure that all runners finish.  The team supports two long runs each week, as well as a weekly speed workout, and in the winter the team takes part in five long runs that cover the entire Marathon course.  By participating in these runs, Fletcher students can meet other graduate students from throughout Tufts, as well as undergrads and some great alumni and staff, helping us make connections to those we may not otherwise meet, outside the walls of Ginn library.  All runners raise money towards nutrition, medical, and fitness programs at Tufts University, including research on childhood obesity at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  Since the Team’s inception in 2003, runners have raised over $4 million.

This year, obviously, the Marathon takes on even more significance than it normally does in the fabric of Boston.  The tragic events of April 15, 2013 united the Boston community, and each runner on the Tufts team is strongly committed to the event.  The stories of a few of this year’s 13 Fletcher runners speak to how incredible this year’s race will be.  Second-year Fletcher student Alex Nisetich sums up his Marathon story as follows:

I’m a Boston native, and the Marathon has always been a part of my life here.  I decided to run after last year’s attack, as a demonstration of solidarity with the runners and with my home city.  My own family narrowly missed being caught in the attack, and in a different year we could all have been there at the finish line.  I’m running because it feels like the best way I can support my community and commemorate the events of last year.

Training has become an end in itself as well.  Getting out on the road, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to overcome any fears you might have of a New England winter.  The Fletcher community and Tufts are both very supportive of the runners, which makes it a pleasure to train.  The team runs really build camaraderie and make it fun.

Another second-year MALD student, Stéfane Laroche, shares a similar tale:

I have always enjoyed running and flirted with the idea of running a marathon for many years, however I never had the courage and the motivation to train.  Last year’s events at the Marathon changed my perspective.  The devastation happened so close to home that it touched me, and I decided to run in order to support the Boston Strong campaign.  When life knocks you down, you’ve got to be strong, pick yourself up, and continue to live.  It’s an honor for me to run with all those other marathoners who will pay tribute to last year’s victims and who will make a statement against intolerance and misunderstandings that fuel hatred and anger around the world.

For me, personally, I had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan when the bombing happened.  Growing up in Central Massachusetts, the attack hit home.  Although I had always run in the past due to my job as an Army officer, I never contemplated running another marathon after an ill-advised and untrained undergrad endeavor in 2005.  Running the 2014 Boston Marathon became an obsession for me, a way to show the world that we would not let this attack change who we are.  I trained for months and ran a marathon in October in nearby Lowell and felt ready to take on the world come the Boston race in April.  Then I began dealing with lingering knee and hip injuries, so my training has taken on its own personal journey, as I’ve worked to find ways to balance recovery with running and the ever-demanding life as a Fletcher student.  For me, the process has been an incredible voyage of learning about myself, what I value, how hard I will work for it, and what it means to stand as one for a community.

Although every runner’s story is different, one commonality is certain — all 37,000 runners who make that 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street on April 21 will do so with some pain in their legs and sweat on their foreheads, but most importantly, with pride in their hearts.  With tens of thousands of supporters cheering us along the course, we will show the world what being Boston Strong is about.  Being able to be a part of this has truly been one of the more remarkable aspects of my time thus far at Fletcher.

Fletcher runners

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I often say that I would feel a lot more intelligent if I didn’t work at Fletcher, where everyone else is so smart!  But as brainy as our students are, the fact is that everyone can use a little help sometimes.  In addition to a generally supportive environment, there are several options that students can draw upon to maximize their academic success.

For many years now, Fletcher has offered a writing program, through which students can schedule appointments with peer tutors.  The program invites students to “Make the semester less stressful by meeting with the writing tutors.  Use tutoring appointments to make big papers more manageable — set personal interim deadlines with the tutors to discuss your outline, partial drafts, structure, argumentation, etc.”  The program director also provides helpful worksheets on peer editing (“Swapping papers with a friend is a smart strategy because everyone’s work benefits from an editor!  Plus, editing others’ papers will make you a better writer.”) and reverse outlining (“Because drafted papers often need to be restructured to be more persuasive and logical.  Reverse outlining helps you take the content you’ve already created and organize it more effectively.”).

A newer support offering is Presentation Tutors.  Inviting students to sign up, our Assistant Director of Student Affairs, Mary, notes, “Developing strong public speaking and presentation skills is an essential part of your Fletcher education. Whether you are preparing for a class presentation, a panel discussion, or a guest lecture, your ability to express yourself clearly and articulately will be vital to your success.”  The Presentation Tutors program provides one-to-one support for students who would like to:

  • Create, practice or polish an oral presentation
  • Learn techniques to strengthen their personal speaking style (body and voice)
  • Learn how to use PowerPoint effectively in presentations
  • Overcome fears, gain personal confidence, and develop a smooth, polished speaking style

Ultimately, success at Fletcher depends on good preparation and command of course material, but the opportunity to find help when needed in writing or presentations is of great value for our diverse community of students.

 

Winners of two different competitions were announced this week, and one Fletcher team was successful in both!  This exciting news calls for two Cool Stuff blog entries in two days.  Here’s an announcement from Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti:

Tommy and AndrewPlease join me in congratulating Andrew Lala, F’14 and Tommy Galloway, F’14 as the winners of the inaugural Fletcher D-Prize: Poverty Solutions Venture Competition.  Andrew and Tommy will receive $15,000 (and tens of thousands more in non-monetary advice and networks) to help them pilot their Clair de Lune – Solar Light Distributor Platform, which uses existing bus infrastructure and cultural remittance practices to reach the rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa.  This summer, Andrew and Tommy will bring this “poverty solution venture” to 400 families in Burkina Faso.  Fletcher D-Prize judges believe that, in two years, Andrew and Tommy will have an impact on the world by proving that you can provide energy to over 100,000 families living on less than a few dollars a day.

We hope that this award, and the competition among a large number of very strong proposals, signals that Fletcher prepares leaders adept not only at crossing borders of all kinds – disciplinary and geographic – but also with the ability to jump across the border of knowledge into entrepreneurial action.  We aspire to develop and facilitate international ninjas, if you will.  Andrew and Tommy are two terrific examples of such international ninjas. A family that buys a solar lamp saves money on energy expenses and is more productive outside of daylight hours.  Household incomes often increase 15-30%.  Study hours for children rise by two hours. Solar lamps also erase the far too common dangers that come with kerosene lanterns.

The award will be presented to Andrew and Tommy today, only two days after they received an “audience choice” award at the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition, at which they were finalists (shown in photo above).

This is the 10th anniversary for the Tufts $100K, which prompted a look back.  BostInno selected Educate Lanka as one of the top six ventures to come out of the Tufts $100K competition.  Congratulations to our good blog friend Manjula!

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Today we have a short description of one of the best activities I learned about when I asked students to tell me what they’ve been doing this academic year.  Erin provides the details, along with a photo I love.  (Doesn’t everyone pack a Fletcher flag when they travel to Europe?)

From March 26-31, eight other Fletcher students and I participated in an International Criminal Court simulation in Krzyzowa, Poland.  I first heard about this opportunity from another Fletcher student who had connections with the organization, and she put us all in contact with the program’s organizer.  Through this Fletcher connection, we had the opportunity to fly to Poland and join a multinational team of individuals studying international affairs and law from countries all around the world, including Poland, Germany, Serbia, Myanmar, and Georgia.  Through the simulation, we worked to prosecute, defend, and judge cases concerning genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  The program was organized by the German Kreisau-Initiative and the Polish Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe and it generously provided funding for our accommodations and transportation to Poland.  As a first-year MALD student focusing on human rights and international organizations, this opportunity is a perfect complement to my current coursework which includes International Criminal Justice and Understanding Mass Atrocities.

Poland group with flag

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When I put out my call for students to tell me about the cool stuff they’re doing, I learned about several new or fledgling student organizations.  Today, Katherine tells us about Fletcher Cares.

Taking it to the Streets: Fletcher’s Newest Student Organization Redefines the Call to Serve

Fletcher students are well known for their commitment to making the world a better place, and many enter their first year with impressive international experiences in public service.  Some have served in the Peace Corps or as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, while others have volunteered or worked for the United Nations, Amnesty International, MercyCorps, Médecins Sans Frontières, or other NGOs in the public service sector.  While service at the international level is certainly nothing new for the Fletcher community, this spring the School welcomed its first official public service student organization, Fletcher Cares.  Created by a motley crew of first-year MALDs, Fletcher Cares aims to connect the Fletcher community to service opportunities in its own backyard, including Somerville, Medford, and the greater Boston area.

Fletcher carees 3Fletcher Cares began last fall as an informal effort by students who sought to galvanize collective action and awareness around the death, displacement, and destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan.  Known then as “Fletcher for the Philippines,” this small group of concerned students collaborated with established campus organizations and partnered with local businesses to fundraise for the World Food Programme, which worked with the Philippine government to launch a massive typhoon relief operation.  In a matter of days, Fletcher Cares successfully obtained donation commitments from two restaurants in Somerville: Diva Indian Bistro and Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club.  These donations, in addition to funds raised on campus, helped ensure that families and children in the Philippines received nutritious food during this tragic emergency.

Fletcher Cares has since received official club status and has plans for service opportunities that will engage the larger student body. In addition to its Fall fundraising efforts, Fletcher Cares has participated in various service projects, including a Somerville music festival dedicated to raising funds for the Philippines, and a holiday clothing drive benefiting homeless veterans in the Boston area.   For the remainder of the academic year, Fletcher Cares plans to support runners at the Boston Marathon and to lead literacy, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and citizenship classes for the Haitian Coalition of Somerville.

Fletcher caresIn hopes of creating a sustainable and long-lasting public service model, Fletcher Cares board members reached out to their counterparts at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Student Public Service Collaborative.  The SPSC leaders graciously offered their insights to the Fletcher Cares team, emphasizing the need to coordinate local, achievable projects that make service a regular part of the graduate student experience.  After a fruitful discussion, the two groups laid the groundwork for future collaboration on service projects in Cambridge and Boston.  Fletcher Cares has also adopted a mission statement: Fletcher Cares provides The Fletcher School with opportunities to connect their academic experiences with volunteerism that promotes a just and sustainable world through service, scholarship, and community partnerships.

As a budding organization, Fletcher Cares has much growing and learning to do.  But the exciting first step has been taken, paving the way for The Fletcher School to be known for the good works its students, faculty, and staff do on the local level, in addition to on the international level.

For more information about Fletcher Cares, please contact us.

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As a native New Yorker and an occasional visitor to Washington, DC, I can appreciate the charms of both places.  That said, I’ve lived in the Boston area for a long time now, and I really love it here.  But at this time of year, newly admitted students still ask us about Fletcher’s location.

As far as I’m concerned, the blog has put to rest all questions about whether students find the internships or post-graduation jobs that they want.  And I do my best during slow news stretches to talk about our lovely neighborhood.  But I can hardly expect prospective students to depend on my opinion.  They will want to hear the opinions of their peers.  So I turned to the Social List with a simple question:  What do you like about attending graduate school in Medford/Somerville/the Boston area?  The answers fell into two broad categories: related to students’ academic work; and related to other aspects of their lives.  Here are their answers:

Related to their academic work:

Boston is the hub of American academia!  Living within such close proximity to so many students studying anything you can imagine makes for a unique social experience.  Not only are there a multitude of schools within Tufts with which we regularly interact, but we are able to make friends with everybody from chemistry PhD candidates at MIT, to Harvard Law students, and everything in between.  Furthermore, Fletcher students have the opportunity to cross-register for courses at Harvard and vice versa.

Boston is a student town.  You are not going to find any other place that is as intellectually stimulating.  On top of the amazing atmosphere at Fletcher, unique opportunities to get involved in events and conferences at Harvard, MIT, and BU, and working with professors and research groups at those universities, come up as a positive consequence of being based so close by.

I love the collaboration between different universities in the area.  It increases the opportunities to find events, classes, and people interested in your field of study.

An unmatched intellectual community in the greater area, and the ability to use other schools’ resources, such as libraries.  Lots of networking opportunities between classmates and contacts at other schools, and ability to get involved in other groups/institutes connected to those institutions.

When speakers come to campus, the distance from Washington, DC/New York encourages candid thoughtful commentary in a way I didn’t anticipate.

And the other aspects:

With easy access to the Red Line, the entire city of Boston is at your feet.  That means plenty of great studying locations around the city (the Boston Public Library is a personal favorite), and an endless list of fun things to do with new Fletcher friends on the weekends.  A group of us got together at the Frog Pond for an experiment in skating, something quite new for international students (and a few American students as well).  We have museums, fascinating historical neighborhoods, restaurants, and shopping areas nearby if we want to take advantage of them — as a local Bostonian I certainly do — but Medford is quiet enough that you do not get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city.  That is a huge advantage when midterms and finals come around.  In short, I love it here.  Many of us will most likely live in larger cities later on in life, so I am happy to stay in Boston as long as I can.

I’ve found that most employers have been flexible about agreeing to do interviews (both informational and for specific jobs/internships) over the phone or Skype.  I’ve done interviews with people in Canada, Mexico, New York, DC, and other locations without having to leave Boston.  You just have to be flexible and creative about scheduling them.  Also, after taking DC Metro pretty much every single day for the past seven years, not having to take Metro anymore is BLISS!  I very much needed a break from the DC bubble, and living in Boston has been a wonderful experience.

Boston has all the benefits of a big city in a small city.  The food in the area is fantastic.  Lots of industries have sites in Boston, and people are friendly (don’t be scared away by rumors of gruffness!).  Shorter flight times to Europe.  Road trips to Canada, skiing in Maine, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont, fresh lobster in Maine.  You can easily drive to see the fall leaves.  Who wouldn’t want to go to Salem around Halloween?  Public transportation is good.  Can get to the airport on public transport in 45 minutes.

The calm environment in which to focus on studies, with the knowledge that a big city is just minutes away on the T, allowing for great nighttime and weekend fun.

There are so many events, organizations, activities, etc. if leaving campus in the direction of Somerville/Cambridge/Boston, yet it’s easy to go trail running, biking, hiking, and so forth within minutes in the Medford direction.

Access to Boston, while also being in the Davis Square area (similar to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn).  There are many unique neighborhoods in this area including Inman Square, Porter Square, Harvard Square, and all of Boston!

A real campus where you can focus and study but with a real city close by.

Easy weekend getaways to New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Cape Cod, Berkshires, etc.  –Convenient and relatively inexpensive airport for travel (i.e. frequent flights to DC).  –Easy area to bike around.  –Close to outdoors/outdoor activities.

Great neighborhood with much happening nearby!  It’s a suburb: living costs are comparatively very reasonable and being away from the din of the city is perfect for research/study!  Boston has consistently been rated amongst the top cities in the world for students, based on quality of living, employer activity, and affordability.

Proximity to Somerville gems like Highland Kitchen, 3 Little Figs, Backbar, Sarma, and more; the Boston area’s student-friendly nature (especially when it comes to café options and museum/movie/symphony discount pricing); the opportunity to live in a part of the U.S. your career may not otherwise let you experience; proximity and access to courses, speakers, and other opportunities at other Boston area schools.

I love DC, but I know it’s only a matter of time before my career will take me there.  Boston, on the other hand, is a wonderful, complex, historic, and culturally rich city where I’ve never before lived and might never get the chance to live again.  Location was one of the many reasons I chose Fletcher, and I’ve never regretted it.

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