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I always prefer sharing a student perspective on Fletcher life, rather than writing myself.  Today I’m sharing a post Alex sent along last week about the new Strategic Plan.  When I say “new,” I mean newly completed.  It has been in the works for more than a year.  Let’s let Alex tell you about it.

Right now, Fletcher students are in a very short-term mindset.  Survive midterms.  Land an internship.  Make it to Spring Break.

Luckily, the administration is thinking a little bit more long-term, and has recently developed a new Strategic Plan for The Fletcher School: To Know the World.  The five-year plan’s vision is to go even further to make Fletcher the “premier institution for preparing a highly selective and diverse network of global leaders, whose influence is felt across the public, private and non-profit sectors.”

The plan includes four overarching, mutually reinforcing objectives:

  • Relevance: enhance professional and academic preparation of students as problem solvers, future leaders and agents of change;
  • Reputation: bolster the School’s reputation by increasing research productivity and impact on decision makers;
  • Resources: ensure a robust and more diversified revenue stream to support pursuit of School’s mission;
  • “Right Stuff”: maintain a sustainable, diverse and high-quality student body across all our degree programs.

These objectives are supported with myriad initiatives, from strengthening research centers and enabling professors to do more research, to upgrading facilities and leveraging technology to enhance learning.  I would highly recommend looking through the plan, to see where Fletcher will be going in the next couple of years.

Of course, I was most curious about what the immediate impacts of the plan will be for current, admitted, and prospective students.  How will Fletcher actually be different in the Fall of 2015?  So I went right to the source, and met with Dean Stavridis.

The Dean mentioned a number of exciting plans, but a couple stood out.  The administration is in the process of hiring a professor with expertise in cyber, to help keep Fletcher on the cutting edge of this growing field.  They are also building a television studio on site to help facilitate media appearances by the faculty (Dean Stavridis, alone, has done over 160 in the last 12 months!) and for use in classes such as The Arts of Communication (one of my favorite last semester).  Finally, one of the most exciting plans in the works is establishing a strategic partnership with a globally-focused think tank in Washington D.C.; this will provide an opportunity to collaborate on research, participate in exchange programs, obtain internships, and in general serve as a home base for Fletcher in the nation’s capital.

At a school known for producing exceptional strategic thinkers, it is fitting that Fletcher should have such a stellar Strategic Plan.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

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A quick update for you.  In September, we featured posts from three groups of students who had pursued summer research projects sponsored by Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth.  Yesterday I heard from Trevor Zimmer and Michael Mori, who wrote about their research on Indonesian mobile money.  Since then, their report, “Mobilizing Banking for Indonesia’s Poor,” has been published, and MasterCard has posted it on their website. Congratulations to Michael, Trevor, and IBGC!

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From the number of notices that pop into my inbox every day, you’d never guess that February is the shortest month of the year.  I can barely keep up, and I know that students do some serious prioritizing when it comes to deciding which events they’ll attend.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been storing the notices in a folder, and I thought I’d just list the various events.  Of course, you can find this information on the Fletcher calendar, but it still seemed blog-worthy to create a master list, including a few that aren’t listed in the calendar.  Despite the length of the list, I know I’ve missed some, but I think you’ll get the idea — there’s a lot happening here every weekday, and some weekends, too!

February 3: Egypt’s Turn? A Day in the Life of a Democracy Activist turned Entrepreneur.  An off-the-record discussion with Wael Ghonim, Internet Activist & Author of “Revolution 2.0.”

February 4: Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Laureates of African Descent.  Book Discussion with Dr. Adekeye Adebajo, Professor Pearl Robinson and Lee Daniels

February 6: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) at Tufts will feature a panel on Mass Atrocities and the Response to their Public Health Consequences.  This panel will be comprised of four Tufts faculty members from across schools and disciplines.

February 9:  International Security Studies presents The Middle East in Transition: 2011-2015, Brigadier General Itai Brun.  Brigadier General Brun will present an off-the-record lecture to a Fletcher audience of faculty, staff, and students.

February 10-11:  A Taste of Ginn Library.  Come enjoy some refreshments and morsels of information on JumboSearch, citation tools, WebEx, and more. Drop-in or stay — we’ll rotate through topics every 10 minutes.

February 11: Charles Francis Adams Lecture, featuring Sarah Chayes: Corruption: The Unrecognized Global Security Threat.

February 12: Human Security Speaker Series, A Brown Bag Lunch with Professor Karen Jacobsen: How Many IDPs? Where are They? Information Challenges in Urban Displacement Settings.

February 12: “Fletcher Reads” Community Book Discussion, featuring Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan.

February 12: International Security Studies presents Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster: Future Challenges.

February 12:  Charles Francis Adams Lecture:  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, 2009-14; Prime Minister of Denmark, 2001-09: NATO: The Indispensable Transatlantic Alliance.

February 17: Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe) talk and book signing by Thomas de Waal — Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, expert on the South Caucasus region, and brother of Fletcher Professor Alex de Waal — on his new book: Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide.

February 17:  The 31st Diplomatic Studies Roundtable: The Energetic Ambassador: U.S. Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Remarks by and conversation with Alan Solomont, United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, (2009-2013), currently the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

February 17: Mexico’s Energy Reform: Regulatory Policy, its Execution and International Perspective.  The Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) and FLEEC are inviting you to a luncheon and conversation with a distinguished panel.

February 18: CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training) workshop for international students.

February 18: Optimizing Emerging Market Strategies: How to Manage Financial Risks & Rewards, with Dan Brennan, EVP & CFO, Boston Scientific.

February 19: The Inaugural lecture of the Shelby Cullom Davis Professorship in International Business: Visible Hands: Government Regulation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Global Business, by Jette Steen Knudsen, Associate Professor of International Business and The Shelby Cullom Davis Chair in International Business.

February 19:  H.E. Mr. Nikolay Mladenov,  UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and newly appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority, Iraq:  The Way Forward.

February 19: The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies presents: Sectarian Dynamics and National Reconciliation in the Middle East, a seminar discussion with  Mr. Miroslav Zafirov, Bulgarian Diplomat; Political Advisor to the United Nations Assistance MIssion in Iraq (UNAMI), Associate Professor and Member of the Advisory Board, Centre for Middle Eastern and Gulf Studies, New Bulgarian University and Director, Middle Eastern Program, Sofia Security Forum

February 19: Ebola fundraiser & positive vibrations party at Johnny D’s.  Headlining will be SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS, a world renowned roots reggae-inspired band out of West Africa. Opening things up will be Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate (Kouyate is a kora virtuoso) and DJ Afro-Marc spinning on the one’s and two’s before, after, and in between sets.  100% of ticket sales proceeds will b​e donated to Doctors Without Borders to aid their Ebola relief effort in West Africa. Additional donations will be accepted at the door.

February 20:  Coffee and chat with MALD student Chris Maroshegyi.

February 20: In the Library Office — drop-in anytime between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. to hear about quick-start tools for researching your Capstone topic.

February 21: The 10th Annual Tufts Energy Conference, to be held at the Fletcher School.  The theme this year is “Breaking Barriers to a Clean Energy Future,” a solutions-oriented look at how to tackle the world’s most pressing energy challenges as we move toward a greener future.

February 23: The North Korea Strategy Center & North Korea Working Group at Fletcher presents: NK Information Highway: Driving Change in North Korea.

February 23: The Institute for Business in the Global Context Speaker Series presents: Evolving Role of The World Bank: The Next Decade, with Michael Goldberg Senior Financial Specialist, World Bank.

February 24:  Book Talk: Green on Blue, Elliot Ackerman F’03, Fletcher Writer-in-Residence

February 24:  BRICS as a Global Legal Actor: From Regulatory Innovation to BRICS Law? with Prof. Mihaela Papa

February 25: Human Security Speaker Series, a brown bag lunch with Oliver Bakewell, Co-Director of the International Migration Institute, Associate Professor, Department of International Development, University of Oxford: Looking Beyond Conflict as a Determinant of Mobility in the African Great Lakes.

February 25: Award winning author, Harvard Professor of History, and Tufts alumna Jill Lepore, will deliver a guest lecture on her New York Times bestselling book The Secret History of Wonder Woman. This exciting lecture is open to the entire Tufts community and is sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25: Lost in Translation: Effective communication workshop for international students, sponsored by the Tufts Counseling Center and International Center.

February 25:  Tufts University Forum on Race, Inequality, and Action, sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

February 25-March 1:  Russia in the 21st Century, sponsored by Tufts University Institute for Global Leadership

February 26-27:  Office of Career Services trip to Washington, DC.

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The Office of Career Services (OCS)-organized trip to Washington, DC is taking place today and tomorrow.  While the staff takes advantage of a quiet day at Fletcher to catch up with work, the students have donned their best business attire and are making the rounds in DC, visiting their choice of potential employers.  Among the options are panel discussions on Think Tanks and Policy Research; Humanitarian Assistance, Human Rights, Refugees; International Trade & Commerce; U.S. Security and Intelligence; International Communications and Media; International Development; and Energy and Environment.

And here’s a (very) partial list of organizations with which students will be interacting, either meetings with alumni, informational interviews, or receptions.  I’ve included organizations that, I hope, will give readers a sense of the breadth of the offerings, but there are more options than I’m able to capture here.

Abt Associates
Albright Stonebridge Group
Cato Institute
American Friends Service Committee
Cohen Group
Eurasia Group
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Democratic Institute
The Roosevelt Group
Search for Common Ground
Social Impact Inc.
Stimson Center
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of Treasury
World Bank

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Returning to the students writing about their Fletcher experience, today Liam describes his progress on developing his Capstone Project, which is both a graduation requirement and an opportunity for students to build a curriculum that meets their individual needs.  New students arrive at Fletcher with the full range of thinking on their capstones — from no idea whatsoever what they’ll write, to perfect clarity on their topic and planned field research.  All have the option of selecting an “incubator” course, which is designed to help them develop their ideas and research.  Liam has opted to write a traditional academic thesis, but other project formats are also options.

As I begin to wind down my time at Fletcher — and thus have to start ramping up my capstone efforts — I thought a post about lessons I’ve learned regarding the capstone process could be useful.

First, it’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you want to do for your capstone when you come to Fletcher, or really even through the first semester.  I spent my entire first year thinking about a topic for my thesis that, at year’s end, I ultimately decided just wasn’t where I wanted to go.  That’s okay.  I found that meeting about twice a semester with Professor Shultz, my advisor, was a lifesaver, because as we began a dialogue about what I was planning and where I had trouble, he asked good questions that prompted me to think about what it was I really wanted to get out of the experience.  Shifting gears at the end of my second semester meant that I had more of a focus over the summer to do research.

One thing I wish I had done better throughout my first three semesters was to tie term papers to my thesis topic.  I’m writing about the U.S. Army’s security force assistance efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to compile best practices on what works going forward, but the only course for which I’ve written a paper relevant to that topic was for Internal Conflicts and War, my capstone “incubator” class.

Obviously, not every class is going to be a good option for writing a paper that pertains to your thesis.  But instead of writing papers on the Iran Hostage Crisis (Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies), the U.S. mission in Somalia in the 1990s (Peace Operations), or right wing terror groups in the U.S. (Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism), I probably could have chosen topics for those classes that, while not fitting perfectly into my thesis, were at least relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I certainly learned a lot in the research and writing of those papers, but I probably could have been more strategic in picking topics that would support the research for my thesis.

Another thing that is important to note is that if you want to do any type of interviews, you need to put in for an institutional review board.  It’s not that big of a deal, but even if you’re requesting a waiver, it’s still a process through Tufts that takes some time, so I would recommend doing it as soon as you have an idea what you want to research.

Your capstone really is what you make of it.  In my experience, I feel I missed a chance to tie more papers to my thesis, especially since I knew my topic by my second semester.  However, the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is to sit down with your capstone advisor early, and then at least once or so a semester, to just spitball ideas on what you are thinking and where you want the process to go.  I’ve gotten a hold of some great resources that way, and it has kept me on track as I try to finish up one of the last remaining milestones of my Fletcher experience.

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Today is a public (and University) holiday, but I know one group of people who are likely to be working hard today — the students in the International Business Club organizing the Tufts Innovation Symposium, which will take place on Thursday.  Last week, second-year MALD student, Owen, saw the notice about the Africana Conference and sent along the information below about the Symposium. 

Innovative ideas hold the potential to widen access and to open economies, but innovation is meaningless if it is not responsive to the end user’s needs.  Today, more than ever, the ability to approach innovation from a customer-driven perspective is critical to a successful and adaptive enterprise.  This year, the Tufts Innovation Symposium will place YOU, the customer, in the driver’s seat to develop a comprehensive framework for inclusive innovation.

Learn more on Facebook and we hope you’ll register to attend.

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This year we asked our Admissions Interns to write a little more for the blog than simply their fall semester intros.  First to send me a post is second-year MALD, Justin, who covers a topic that is clearly on the mind of many of the applicants whose essays we’ve been reading — the process of applying to the U.S. Foreign Service.

Justin, 2Prior to taking off for the summer after my first year at Fletcher, I quickly photocopied the Office of Career Services’ U.S. Foreign Service Officer Test guide book.  With an internship lined up at the Department of State, I figured it was as good a time as any to begin to more seriously consider a career in the Foreign Service.  That summer I developed a habit of going through the guide during my morning commutes, and interning in the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs proved invaluable in gaining a better sense of life as a diplomat.

While I was extremely grateful for the guide, upon my return to campus, I came to discover the abundance of other resources Fletcher had to offer students interested in the Foreign Service — the first being my fellow classmates.  My studying for the exam picked up in intensity once I registered for the test in August, which made the pressure of what was looming a bit more palpable.  However what was comforting is that one doesn’t have to walk the halls of Fletcher too long before bumping into another student interested in the Foreign Service.  I teamed up with a classmate who had registered for the same test and had experience with the process.  He and I compared notes and took practice exams together, making the studying much more manageable and enjoyable.

When I received word of having passed the exam, I quickly found myself immersed in the writing process for my personal narratives.  This phase of the Foreign Service application is arguably the most opaque.  In an effort to gather multiple opinions on my chosen topics and overall approach, I again made use of a few resources available on campus.  I first ran to the Office of Career Services, where I met with one of the coaches, who provided her thoughts on the professional experiences I was considering highlighting in my essays.  After typing up a first draft, I met with Fletcher’s current State Department Fellow, who was generous enough to set aside time to discuss a draft.  She was quite frank and very open in providing guidance, which was more than appreciated, as I found it surprisingly difficult to convey everything I would have liked within the word limits provided.

I later met with a student writing tutor.  It was my first time signing up for a meeting, and I was not disappointed.  I was impressed with how much revision we squeezed into the thirty-minute time slot.  At that point in the writing process, after incorporating the tutor’s advice, I felt much better than when I had started.  As time wound down, I had a quick meeting with the Diplomat in Residence, to get her initial thoughts.  It turned out to be a great discussion that spanned beyond the narratives themselves.  That should not have come as a surprise, as it was an insightful conversation with the prior Diplomat in Residence that led me to apply for a State Department internship in the first place.

After what felt like an eternity of being distracted from actual school work, I submitted my narratives and am now awaiting a response as to whether I move on to the oral assessment.  Whether or not it works out this time around, I feel that the process has equipped me to present my goals, interests, and past experiences in a cogent manner, regardless of the job opportunity.  While it would be disappointing to not progress further, there’s always the option of reapplying next fall.  For the time being, I plan to explore alternatives and diversify my job prospects.


Yesterday I heard from Alison Erlwanger, one of the student leaders of the Africana Club, which is planning “Africa on the Global Stage,” a conference that will take place on Friday, February 20.  The second annual Africana Conference is free and open to the public, with support from Fletcher, the Institute for Business in the Global Context, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, and the World Peace Foundation.

The Africana Club wants to encourage blog readers who are in the area to attend.  Please register online if you’re interested.  Student-led conferences are a great way to see a practical reflection of the learning that students have done throughout the year.

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With a fluid community of students who are on campus for only one or two years, it is often possible for new members of the community to take leadership roles in the organization of their choice.  Student blogger Ali recently took the helm for Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter.

The last time you heard from me, I had just returned from the annual Net Impact conference in Minneapolis.  That was a few months ago, and a lot has happened since then!

After the conference, projects with several of the contacts I met came to fruition: A corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant from VOX Global hosted a campus workshop on CSR consulting tools within the communications realm, looking at stakeholder mapping, the Global Reporting Initiative, and more.  The community relations manager from Southwest Airlines expressed an interest in receiving graduate assistance with partnerships along the airline’s new international routes, and is now sourcing that help through Fletcher’s Global Consulting class, taught by Prof. Tunnard every spring.  Lastly, a CSR analyst from Brown-Forman agreed to come speak at Fletcher’s upcoming Sustainability Conference, hosted by the school’s Institute for Business in the Global Context, and to meet with Net Impact members separately.

All these very exciting turns have been part of my pathway to becoming the new president of Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter, as the previous co-presidents head off to exciting beginnings — one to complete her dual MALD-MBA degree at IE Business School in Madrid, and the other to continue her independent research with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Mentorship and leadership transitions between first- and second-year students are an important part of daily life at Fletcher, since the school has an abundance of student clubs and traditions that need to be carried on from year to year.

My Net Impact experience was a highlight of my first semester, and probably will continue to be one throughout my two years here.  It allows me to work in teams with some of my favorite classmates to plan events; to contact professionals and create programming that empowers students to drive social impact; to develop leadership skills for my resume; and to connect with other Boston-area students to participate in Net Impact events with the broader national network.  I look forward to updating you when I discover what summer internship it helps me land!

Until then, I’ll leave you with a video of my favorite Fletcher moment in 2014: waltzing with MALD student Peter Worth in front of the Symperoper in Dresden, Germany.

It was our submission to Fletcher’s annual “Where The Hell Is Fletcher?” video.  Here’s a past version, which I highly recommend you watch!

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I’m a big advocate of using the admissions waiting period (between submitting the application and hearing back from schools) to line up your financial plan.  (That’s assuming you haven’t done so already, which is an even better idea!)  Today, student blogger Aditi helps you out with information about working on campus, with special notes for international students like herself.

Deciding to come to graduate school is a daunting process, not least because it most often means giving up a regular income for two (or more!) years.  For international students in particular, dealing with unfavorable exchanges rates while adjusting to a new environment can be very overwhelming.

Although a few previous blog posts have talked about jobs on campus, they have all referred specifically to teaching or research assistant positions.  However, these positions are limited in supply, and most Fletcher students work in more traditional “office” jobs within the larger Tufts community — for example, one of my jobs is helping with prospect research at the Tufts Advancement (fundraising) office.

Before embarking on the hunt for a job, it’s important to bear in mind that international students face certain restrictions to working here, including not being allowed to work off-campus or more than 20 hours a week (though few students can spare the time for that, anyway!).  Upon arriving at Fletcher, all international students are briefed on the process they need to go through in order to start working on campus, including getting a social security card once you have a job.  Reiko Morris, the international student advisor, is a wonderful resource and always takes the time to answer any questions people have.

Having worked on campus in the U.S. as an undergrad, I came to Fletcher under the assumption that I would find a job soon after arriving, and budgeted for graduate school accordingly.  However, it wasn’t until well into my first semester that I found a job — which led to much panic, re-planning my finances, and feeling stressed instead of enjoying my first few months here.  I did eventually find two different jobs, and here are some tips I learned along the way:

Finding a job:

  • If you’re planning your budget for graduate school with a student job in mind, remind yourself to be patient about finding a job when you get here.  I made the mistake of assuming I would get a job quickly, and was stressed when it didn’t happen as fast as I thought it would.  In retrospect, I should have given myself at least a semester to settle in and look for a job.
  • Fletcher sends around emails to all students when jobs here become available, but remember that there are jobs in the wider Tufts community that are available to Fletcher students as well. There is an online resource (JobX) that you will become familiar with, which is usually the best place to look for student jobs.  Remember that in addition to serving as a teaching assistant (TA) for Fletcher classes, you can also look into TA-ing undergraduate courses at Tufts.
  • It might seem like a lot of jobs are only open to work-study students (and therefore not to international students), but don’t get discouraged!
  • In terms of deciding what kind of job to get, it’s important to be clear on what your goals are: do you want any job that pays, or do you want a job that ties neatly into your academic and career goals?  Obviously, it’s ideal if the job does both, but those jobs are rarer to find.  If you are very determined to find a job that is directly relevant to you, remember that that might mean spending more time looking, and passing up on other jobs in the meantime.

Managing your time:

  • The number of hours per week that Fletcher students work varies considerably.  Last semester, I was able to work a full 20 hours per week (which is more than most students do) but of course, this might change based on my courseload in coming semesters.  Working 20 hours a week was very challenging, and I had to learn how to manage my time well.  It also means that you face a very difficult trade-off in terms of attending all the amazing events, lectures, and parties at Fletcher!  One piece of advice I received was particularly helpful in navigating this trade-off, and that was when a friend told me that I have to decide whether financial stress or time-management stress is harder for me to deal with.  I decided that financial stress worried me more, and that I could find ways to manage my time efficiently.  However, if managing your time well is difficult for you, then it’s probably not a great idea to work more than 10 hours each week.

The process of finding a student job and then working while at Fletcher can be overwhelming, and in retrospect, I wish that I had approached the process more calmly.  If you would like to talk more about working on campus as an international student, leave your questions as a comment on this blog.  I’d be happy to answer!

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