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New students (the 2016 group of “Januarians”) have been participating in their Orientation this week, and continuing students will return on Tuesday.  Today, let’s hear from Ali about her extremely busy fall semester.

As winter break comes to an end, it’s hard to believe that I have only one semester left!  The fall was a whirlwind of finding balance between strengthening last year’s skills and pursuing new growth ahead.

My internship at Breckinridge Capital Advisors — mentioned in my last post — was definitely something new.  I expanded my terminology within fixed income investing; experienced work in a medium-sized enterprise; and familiarized myself with downtown Boston, which I’m sad to say that I (and many of my peers) didn’t do in my first year.  It was overwhelming to balance school with work three days a week, but I’m glad I made time to do the internship.  I’m constantly reminded that this is the last time in my life when I’ll be encouraged to learn as much as I contribute at work.  I’m excited to continue interning there during my final semester.

My law courses in Trade Law, International Business Transactions, and Mergers & Acquisitions were all new for me, too.  I can’t recommend taking three law classes in one semester without a legal background, but Fletcher’s law professors succeeded in pushing me and teaching me to think in a new light.  I’m confident my familiarity with corporate law will differentiate me from other job-seeking graduate business candidates and will help me in future executive corporate roles.

Ali (second from left) and Fletcher friends at the Net Impact conference.

Ali (second from left) and Fletcher friends at the Net Impact conference.

It hasn’t all been new, however.  I had a great time attending my second annual Net Impact conference in Seattle, WA, building off of last year’s experience.  It has been awesome to grow the club at Fletcher — we had five people attend the conference this year! — and to plan another fun semester of events, including an intimate speaker session with Talbot’s head of supply chain sustainability and a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) certification workshop for students that will take place with Boston College’s Net Impact Club this spring.  A year ago, the second-year students passed the running of the club on to Chelsey and me, and now it’s fulfilling to pass it off to first-year students Ben and Harper.  I’m excited to see where they take it!

Stay tuned for adventures in my final semester, when I’ll return to Belgium over spring break with funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context to do field research for my capstone project!

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One of my very favorite activities this semester was a series of three “fireside chats,” on “The Beauty of Mathematics,” offered by second-year MALD student, Abhishek Maity (who credited Professor Kim Wilson for the idea).  Inviting students to “geek out on mathematics,” the three sessions covered fractals, the mysteries of the infinite, and “what is reality.”  Invitations to the sessions noted, “We spend a lot of time discussing moral and ethical questions at The Fletcher School, so take some time to explore wider philosophical ideas of nature, art, and mathematics.  No knowledge of mathematics required.”

The three sessions drew between 40 and 60 students each.  An astounding total for an event that would ask students, already busy with their own academic activities, to delve into challenging material on another field.  Sure, pizza was offered, but pizza can be found in many places, whereas a student-led discussion of advanced mathematics was offered on only three fall dates.

 

Is it too late to write about the Paris Climate Talks?  I thought not.  In fact, I’m not going to write much of my own, but Fletcher is well represented at the talks and in the study of environment issues, and I collected some links for you.

First, for general info on COP21, you could do worse than to check out the Tufts Sustainability Office’s page.  Note that members of the Fletcher community are tweeting about the event — Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher and PhD Candidate Rishikesh Bhandary, and there’s a Twitter feed for the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.

And some other stories:

Daniel Reifsnyder, a 2014 graduate of the Fletcher PhD program, is co-leading the climate negotiations that culminated in Paris.

Professor Rachel Kyte, F02, was named one of Vogue Magazine’s 13 “climate warriors.”  She is the special envoy to the talks from the World Bank, and she also shared her comments recently on NPR.

Cristiana Pasca Palmer a 2014 graduate of the PhD program, has been named Romania’s Environment MinisterYou can find her here among all the other Ministers of the Romanian Government.

And there’s recent commentary from Professor Gallagher and also from Professor Michael Glennon.

Finally, you can read about fall semester events organized by the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.

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A few weeks back, after I published Professor Krohn’s introduction on the blog, I became curious about students who started at Fletcher with no intention of focusing on economics, but who ended up doing so anyway.  As you all probably know, some of our APSIA peers require more economics study than Fletcher, but we prefer to take the approach that our students want to shape their own curriculum.  We make the courses available, and then it’s pretty much up to them to decide how many to take, so long as they complete the basic economics course that can be fulfilled through an equivalency exam.

A quick note to the Social List later and I had heard from several students who are new econo-philes, and I want to share their stories.  I think it says something special about Fletcher that there are so many students who feel comfortable taking a risk in their course selections.  My observation is always that students here work very hard, but the academic atmosphere is collegial and non-competitive, perfect for diving into material that once seemed out of reach.

Arpita (second-year MALD):

I had had very little exposure to the field of economics during my undergraduate study at law school.  Working on legal issues related to financial markets (as part of my work as a corporate lawyer) had made me want to understand the nuances behind them, and graduate school was the perfect opportunity to do so.  While my elementary knowledge of economics and some last minute study enabled me to pass the equivalency exam for the class on introductory economics, speaking with my new classmates — many of whom had helped governments in formulating economic policies — made me very nervous.  I felt very unsure of my ability to keep up with course work in advanced economics at Fletcher.  While I contemplated and re-contemplated my intended Fields of Study, a chance conversation in the Hall of Flags with Dean Sheehan ultimately informed my decision to take up the challenge.  He convinced me to move out of my comfort zone and pick the courses that I really wanted.  After more contemplation I decided to take a leap and pursue Development Economics and International Monetary Theory and Policy as my two Fields.  And I am glad I did.  The transition from a world of contracts and legislation to one of graphs and data-sets has been both challenging and rewarding in equal measure.  The supportive and collaborative academic environment at Fletcher has made it much easier to absorb the overwhelming amount of new information, handle the heavy coursework, and make peace with that occasional poor grade on an assignment.  But my ultimate comfort was knowing that I was not alone; there were many others like me who were treading new academic territory at Fletcher.  Now almost halfway through my second year, I am thankful that I ran into Dean Sheehan in the Hall of Flags that day.   

Jesse (second-year MIB):

My appreciation for economics has quite a bit to do with Professor Michael Klein, Fletcher’s own macroeconomics guru.  I am now in my fourth economics class with Professor Klein, and I have enjoyed each one.  There is a certain comfort in the social science insights that can be gained with economic methods.  There will always be a correct answer to an equation, and you can train yourself to master any theorem.  The sense of satisfaction that arrives from mastering an economic concept, and then applying such a concept to inform your perspective on a real world problem, is palpable.  It has been a pleasure to add economics to my analytical toolkit that I can draw upon in my academic and professional career.

Kerrlene (first-year MALD):

I didn’t hate economics but I didn’t like it, because there is a quantitative element to it and I thought I was bad at math.  I had to take Quantitative Methods to fulfill a course requirement.  When I received my first quiz grade I thought for sure I would fail the course.  However, I greatly improved by the final and passed the course with flying colors!  This only happened thanks to the Fletcher community.  In addition to attending office hours (with a gracious and patient professor), I was helped by a student here who was an astrophysicist.  (I don’t think I would have met an astrophysicist studying international relations at any other school.)  He explained the calculus to me and I finally got it!  I found my love for economic math in the common room at Blakeley Hall and now I cannot stop thinking about one day developing my own economic model.  What it will explain, I am not too sure yet, but I look forward to figuring that out in Econometrics next term!

Nathan (second-year MALD):

I had previously been less than enthusiastic about having to take economics classes during my undergraduate course of study.  I found the material to be unengaging, antiquated, and not applicable to the real world.  Fletcher played a big role in changing much of that perception. The professors all have a wealth of practical and academic work experience, which has been a boon in the classroom and a benefit to the students taking their classes.  Thanks to the engaging nature of the Fletcher economics courses, I have discovered a newfound interest in the subject.  I even elected to concentrate in International Trade and Commercial Policies and will be a TA for a GMAP trade economics course in the Spring!

 

Today I’m excited to share the last of this semester’s posts by our Student Stories writers.  Excited, especially, because I’m welcoming back Roxanne, who was one of our first student bloggers back in 2012, when she was starting at Fletcher in the MALD program.  Since then, she completed her MALD in 2014, with a focus on human security, gender in international studies, and transitional justice.  After graduating, she accepted a position as the Program Manager of the Humanitarian Evidence Program at the Feinstein International Center, right here at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  In September, Roxanne also became a Fletcher PhD student, researching the politics of victimhood in armed conflict.  I’m super happy that she has agreed to rejoin the blogger crew, and also that we now have a writer who will reflect on the PhD program.  Today, a timely post about a conference coming up on Saturday.

Roxanne 2015When Jessica asked me to return to the Admissions Blog, I accepted with delight.  The secret is that I have not left the Fletcher community since my graduation with my MALD in 2014 — and I will gladly tell that story in an upcoming blog post.  Today, however, I have stopped in to share some exciting news regarding Fletcher’s first Conference on Gender and International Affairs.

Long-time blog readers may remember that there has been growing momentum surrounding the incorporation of gender analysis into Fletcher’s international curriculum.  One of the causes dearest to my heart while I was a MALD student was the Gender Initiative, which I co-chaired and wrote about in this past post.  The goal of the student-run Gender Initiative is to create and support academic and professional opportunities related to gender analysis in international studies for interested students and faculty at Fletcher.  In the past four years alone, and following the strong legacy of past gender-related activities in the Fletcher community, the Initiative has seen the creation of new courses with an explicit focus of gender analysis, the gathering of data regarding the gender (and other aspects of identity) of the guest speakers invited to Fletcher, the organization of professional seminars and panels on gender-related careers, and a proposal to create a Gender in International Studies Field of Study, which was just approved last month by the Fletcher faculty!

This year’s excellent Gender Initiative leadership, accompanied by the phenomenal leadership of Fletcher’s Global Women organization, has worked hard to organize Fletcher’s first ever conference on Gender and International Affairs: Avenues for Change. Panel topics span sectors and interests, and they include gendered perspectives on inclusion through technology; a discussion of reproductive health, justice, and rights; and gendered aspects of urban displacement in crises.  The keynote of the conference will be Dr. Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost feminist scholars on gender, conflict, and militarism.  Fletcher Professors Kimberly Theidon, Dyan Mazurana, Kimberly Wilson, and Rusty Tunnard all have places in the program, and we expect many more faculty will participate in the sessions.

This is an exciting moment for researchers, practitioners, and advocates of gender analysis at Fletcher.  Even more exciting is the fact that you can join us: attendance is not limited to members of the Fletcher community, so if you are in the area or have colleagues who may be interested, please feel free to share the information and register to attend!  If you do come, please say hello — and stay tuned for a conference recap, as well as an update on my path since graduating from the MALD program, in my next Admissions Blog post.

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The last post written by our first-year student bloggers comes from Adnan, who is in the MALD program.  As he’ll explain, Adnan and I met at the earliest stages of his graduate school search and it has been a pleasure to keep up with him for more than a year.  He was also the very first new student I ran into on the first day of Orientation in August.  We were both walking up to Fletcher, and it seemed like an especially fitting start to the new academic year.  Naturally, I reached out to him when I was thinking about whom to ask to do some blogging over the next two years.  Here’s his story.

Adnan study group

Adnan, on right, meeting with his study group.

Three months in, I’m happy to report that Fletcher is everything I’d imagined it to be, and so much more.  My journey began last fall while I was visiting my alma mater, the University of Toronto, and happened to attend the APSIA fair they were hosting.  At the time, I was working in Lahore as an associate editor at Newsweek Pakistan, where I had started off as a staff reporter in 2011.  I had also been admitted to an international affairs program at another graduate school that spring, but deferred the offer because I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right choice for me.  Meeting representatives of various schools at the fair was a great way to get a sense of what else was out there, but the Fletcher booth is where I ended up spending most of my time.  I had an engaging conversation with Jessica about whether I’d be a good fit, and it motivated me to make a trip down to Medford.

Visiting campus convinced me that Fletcher was where I wanted to be.  I signed up for an interview and a coffee-chat with a student, met with a faculty member, attended a talk, and stayed overnight with a student who heard about me through the mighty Social List.  Each activity offered a different perspective on life at Fletcher, and I was able to get answers to all my questions.  The diversity of its curriculum, and the freedom to tailor a program to suit my interests were an important part of Fletcher’s appeal, as was its prestigious reputation.  What drew me most to the school, however, were Fletcher’s extraordinarily amicable people.  Everybody I interacted with seemed genuinely interested in helping, and as I can attest now, it wasn’t just about making a visitor feel welcome, but is very much a part of Fletcher’s culture.  I’m lucky to have gotten in, and glad I chose well.

With my background in journalism, I knew that International Information and Communication would be one of my concentrations.  This semester, I’m taking International Communication, the required course for that field.  Of the many topics covered in class, it’s been fascinating to study the changing context in which global media operates.  I am also taking both parts of Social Networks in Organizations, which work toward the field too.  Additionally, I am fulfilling my breadth requirements for one ILO course with International Legal Order, and for a required DHP class with Global Political Economy.  The second field of study I’m interested in is Strategic Management and International Consultancy.  Though this is technically a field for the MIB degree, the flexibility of Fletcher’s programs allows MALD students like me to petition to complete it.  To get my foot in the door, I joined the student-run service, 180 Degrees Consulting, and am leading a project to help a nongovernmental organization develop a communication strategy.

Adnan on dock

Adnan, fifth of a line of students at Professor Hess’s annual fall picnic.

While classes are rigorous and demanding, they are one among many sources of learning at Fletcher.  Coursework is complemented by daily events that range from conferences and panel discussions, to workshops and film-screenings, often leaving us spoiled for choice.  Another great resource is Fletcher’s diverse student body, just casually hanging out with whom can be educational.  Through clubs, students arrange organized activities and events too, my favorite of which so far have been the culture nights.  I danced in a Bollywood performance at Asia Night, learned Salsa for Fiesta Latina, and am already excited about Africana, Americana, and Mediterranean nights next semester.  With everything that goes on, and limited time at hand, coping with the fear of missing out can be a Fletcher student’s biggest challenge.  As I learn to prioritize to ensure I make the most of my time here, I look forward to sharing my Fletcher experience with you.

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Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation is a field that has grown dramatically at Fletcher in recent years.  Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church kindly offered this run-down on a conference she attended recently that served as a Fletcher reunion.

A highlight of my professional calendar is the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference.  As the preeminent professional event for the global evaluation community, this 4000+ attendee conference shows the innovation, diversity, and scale of the profession.  In addition to the professional development opportunities, the event is a highlight because of the opportunity to reconnect with the Fletcher Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) community through the annual Fletcher lunch.  Learning what former students are doing, along with their challenges and accomplishments, is always a rewarding experience.

This year, an extraordinary 29 Fletcher alumni and students attended the AEA conference in Chicago.  A few fun facts:

  • Two alumni flew from Turkey where they work in humanitarian M&E.
  • One alumna was from my very first year of teaching at Fletcher (nine years ago).
  • Twenty-six attended the Fletcher lunch, of whom only one was male.  (He took the picture below!)
  • One alumna is the head of an AEA Topical Interest Group.
  • Approximately six alumni did presentations, and some did more than one.
  • Approximately five alumni work for funders.
  • Seven current students attended, of whom one was a first-year student.
  • One recent graduate returned to Rwanda to continue her role in development M&E.
  • At least nine nationalities were represented.

AEA Crew1

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Time to return to the first-year students who I hope will be two-year bloggers, sharing their Fletcher stories with you.  Today we’ll meet McKenzie, who describes her path to the MIB program and her first two-plus months in it.

McKenzieHi everyone!  My name is McKenzie Smith.  I’m thrilled that I will be sharing my experiences in the Master of International Business (MIB) program over the next two years.  To get started, let me share a bit about where I come from, where I’m going, and how I plan to use my time at Fletcher — the things I imagine you’re considering yourself.  In short, I’m here at Fletcher to explore the growth and adoption of impact investment that helps develop emerging markets.  In particular, I’m interested in the role that capital flows can play in encouraging businesses to consider their environmental, social, and governance impacts on society in the course of their operations.

Before Fletcher, I spent four years as a consultant helping public- and private-sector clients solve complex challenges related to strategy and operational efficiency, organizational design, and large-scale program management.  I also supported business development efforts for multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia.  Prior to that, I taught kindergarten in Colorado after studying international development and international politics at Georgetown University.  One thing I’ve learned from my varied experience is that tackling multi-dimensional challenges necessitates interdisciplinary solutions.  Leveraging finance to build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote economic transformation requires a complex set of actors, from investors to academics, NGOs to businesses, who must work in a coordinated manner to enable citizens and businesses to create economic value.  Achieving this through a lens of social impact can be even more challenging as investors and entrepreneurs seek to create social value that does not cause a loss of financial returns.

Yet, while facilitating the growth and adoption of impact (or “socially responsible,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance/ESG”) investing is fraught with obstacles, I find myself saying, “Challenge accepted!”  In fact, individuals around the world can and are finding innovative ways to blend social value with financial returns.  A growing number of investors from the millennial generation are demanding it, and more and more institutions are devoting resources to research and fund development that creates opportunities for investors to “put their money where there values are.”

I could keep going, but I’ll jump to the question you’re likely asking at this point: in light of these goals, why Fletcher?  In short, I came to Fletcher to focus on international finance and social enterprise in emerging markets because Fletcher offers the right mix of rigorous MBA-type skills and an understanding of the multiple social, political, and economic issues inherent in conducting business around the world.

In terms of core business and finance skills, this semester alone I’m taking courses in corporate finance, global investment management, and financial statement management.  I’m building concrete skills in valuation, financial analysis, portfolio construction, and strategic decision making.

In terms of social enterprise in emerging markets, I’m taking a course called “Emerging Africa,” which examines the role of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the private sector in African economies’ transformations.  This course is unique at Fletcher, especially for MIBs.  While many of us considered traditional MBAs and could have found similar courses in those programs, we would not have had the chance to take these courses alongside friends focused on human security, development economics, negotiation and conflict resolution, security studies, or environmental and energy policy.  Because the growth of entrepreneurship in emerging markets is intimately intertwined with an in-depth understanding of many of these issues, the Fletcher experience for students interested in international business cannot be beat.

As before, I could certainly go on.  In some ways, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just arrived!  At the same time, already in the second half of my first semester at Fletcher, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies.  I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you as the year progresses.

Until next time,
McKenzie

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I’ve been keeping an eye on the digest version that I receive of the Fletcher Social List, and I’m planning to share a day’s listing that best captures the scope of student community discussion.  I haven’t found it yet, but on a more amusing note, I thought I’d share the ten messages that were sent between 4:00 p.m. on Friday and 3:59 p.m. on Saturday.  This must be a record low email rate for the academic year, but the Halloween theme came through nice and strong.  The topics:

SEEKING: Brown Sandals Size 11 or 12

SEEKING: Halloween costume ideas (two messages on this topic)

SEEKING: Yellow Hat

SEEKING: Red Bow Tie

SEEKING: Black feather boa

Free food in Hall of Flags (courtesy of Saturday’s Religion, Law, and Diplomacy conference)

SEEKING: Hard hat to borrow

SEEKING: Straw Hat

PSA: Set your clocks back tonight

I’ll be back soon with a run-down of Social List content that reflects a more typical day, but this is the wonder of the List — it’s whatever students need/want it to be.

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Organizers of an upcoming conference asked me to share information with blog readers who are welcome to attend!

The first-ever Fletcher School Religion, Law, and Diplomacy Conference is just around the corner on Saturday, October 31, 2015.  The conference will bring together academics, practitioners, and religious leaders to demonstrate the role that religion plays across myriad issues, spanning security, conflict resolution, human rights, and civic engagement.  The three conference panels — Security and Conflict, Rights and the State, and Politics and Identity — will provide a forum to discuss how religion affects these spheres and how an understanding of religious influences improves policy-making.

For anyone interested in attending, registration is free.  Please visit the conference website to register in advance.  This is one of two new student-led conferences this fall, along with the upcoming forum on Gender and International Affairs.

 

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