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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.
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.
Tagged with: Conferences
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.
Prior 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.
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!
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!
Although the majority of students start their studies and go straight through the relevant number of semesters on campus, plenty of students opt to pursue a dual degree or exchange program, or even take time away to work. Jessica Meckler, who started the MALD program in September 2013, is doing just that. Here’s her story.
One of Fletcher’s greatest strengths is its often-lauded flexibility. Many other students have talked about the variety of courses and concentrations that allow students to personalize their degree to fit their professional goals, so there isn’t a need to elaborate on that. However, the opportunity to take a leave of absence from Fletcher is another particularly useful aspect to the degree program that I would love to see highlighted more.
There are many reasons to take a leave of absence from your graduate studies: fellowships, scholarships, internships, and job opportunities. Some of my batch mates have taken a semester off. Others, including myself, have taken the entire academic year to pursue additional experiences that expand upon our Fletcher studies.
I am currently living and working in Pune, India as an American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellow. The organization that I have been placed with for my 10-month fellowship is the Akanksha Foundation, an educational NGO that runs schools and after-school centers for children from low-income communities in Pune and Mumbai.
I decided to apply for the fellowship in December 2013. Throughout the course of my first semester, I had become increasingly aware of how my limited experience in the field affected my ability to connect the theories and skills we study at Fletcher with the reality of international development work. I was encouraged by several professors to pursue a field internship for the summer, and with my interest in Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DM&E), Prof. Scharbatke-Church was candid and helpful in explaining ways to supplement my previous experiences. I figured that if a summer was a good idea, why not a full year?
The application process for the AIF Clinton Fellowship was a lengthy endeavor. I submitted my written application in January 2014 and was interviewed at the end of April. I did not learn that I would be joining the 2014-2015 AIF cohort until June, when I was already living in Dhaka, Bangladesh and interning with BRAC for the summer! I was extremely grateful for the ease with which Fletcher students can apply for a leave of absence. It made the process of preparing to move to India while in Bangladesh a little simpler.
One chronic worry that arises often when I talk to people about my time off from school is the idea of falling out of the “student mode.” While in a way this fellowship is a break from the hectic schedule of all Fletcher students, I see the work that I do at the Akanksha Foundation as a crucial aspect to my Fletcher education. In Pune I am assisting with several curriculum and program assessments, curriculum design, system creation and implementation, and teacher training. My work draws upon the skills that I learned during my first year at Fletcher, such as the ideas and principles from the DM&E modular series, and I have greater clarity regarding my goals for my second year at Fletcher. There are specific skills and courses, such as Nancy Hite’s Survey Design in Comparative Political Economy and Jenny Aker’s Econometric Impact Evaluation for Development, that I will focus on when I return to Boston. Additionally, I am using my year away from Fletcher to continue a project – which will hopefully double as a significant portion of my capstone – that I began in Dhaka.
Although only four months have passed since moving to India, I am confident that my work here will have a profound impact on my future studies and career. Taking time off was invaluable for me, and it has given me the time and space necessary to contextualize the onslaught of new ideas that a year at Fletcher brings. While it is very strange to imagine Medford without the familiar faces that I have come to associate with Fletcher, I am equally excited to return to school in September as I am to stay in India for six more months!
Fletcher skiers, snowboarders, and those who like to get away spent this past weekend at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Travelers returned with many happy reports of the weekend. One of the participants, Dallin — a second-year MALD student — grabbed some photos for me to share. Though Albert and Ilana (top and middle photos below) are both snowboarding, I hear that the group tilted toward skiing. Regardless of their ski/snowboard preference, everyone (except those who sat cozily by the fire) bundled up. It was COLD on Saturday.
My first semester at The Fletcher School was quite an experience: immersing myself in my business and energy classes, getting to know my accomplished and passionate classmates, and participating in events with Nobel laureates.
First and foremost, I have been struck by the immediate and tangible benefits of being a part of such a small, tightly knit school. Let me give you a couple examples of these benefits from my experience so far:
Small Classes, Meaningful Discussions
Many of my classes were quite small, facilitating open and deep discussions, as well as fostering much more meaningful relationships with professors.
One example was my Managing the Global Corporation course taught by Prof. Thoman, F67, whose accomplishments and accolades include being the CEO of Xerox and Nabisco, the CFO of IBM, and a recipient of the French Legion d’Honneur. Instead of just teaching us analytical frameworks pulled from textbooks or reviewing business cases of other people’s experiences, Prof. Thoman helped us understand how decisions are actually made in the C-suite, based on examples from his own extraordinary career. This class only had a dozen students.
Another example was my Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy class taught by Prof. Kates-Garnick, F84, who was the Undersecretary of Energy for Massachusetts. As Massachusetts has one of the most advanced and successful clean energy policies in the U.S., Prof. Kates-Garnick is precisely the type of person you want to learn about energy policy from. Instead of simply discussing theoretical policies, she put us in the decision-maker’s seat and had us consider the tough trade-offs associated with different options. This class only had seven students.
The opportunity to take courses sitting around such a small table with industry forerunners and policy makers with real-world experience reaffirmed that this school is not just teaching us theory; Fletcher truly is a school for practitioners, taught by practitioners.
Exclusive Conferences, Valuable Insights
As part of this focus on staying connected to the real world outside the halls of academia, Fletcher encourages us to attend the plethora of conferences hosted in Boston. A great thing about Fletcher, however, is that it can help you get into the ones that actually matter.
For example, Prof. Kates-Garnick invited me to a small private conference held jointly by The Fletcher School and the Harvard Kennedy School for one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. The meeting, attended by the top energy minds of the two schools and the top executives of this global firm, was an eye-opening experience on how corporations inform and conduct their highest-level strategic planning process. I was impressed by the executives’ grasp of international affairs (it came as little surprise that some were Fletcher graduates), and was reminded of the value of the Master of International Business (MIB) degree I am pursuing.
I was also able to attend a cleantech conference with the leading businessmen and women in Boston thanks to a generous grant from Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy. Just about every other person at the conference was a president or CEO, while I was one of only three students able to attend, due to the cost. Access to the event proved invaluable, however, both in terms of the content of the panel discussions and the contacts I established; I left with an internship for the next semester doing research for a private equity fund acquiring wind farms across North America.
Not only are these types of conferences interesting, they provide access to the fields students are interested in, and to the people who shape those fields. If it had not been for Fletcher, I would not have been able to attend, or even have heard of, these conferences.
Fletcher is a small school that delivers monumental output. The professors and events students have access to are but a couple of the benefits of attending a small school. It is these types of opportunities that ensures that students are at the leading edge of their fields, and that The Fletcher School stays at the forefront of the world’s most pressing issues.
Orientation for new students starts today, meaning that Fletcher will not be occupied solely by staff members, as it has been for several weeks. Classes start up on Monday, which is when we’ll see the returning students.
While everything is so quiet (and we’re waiting for the flood of applications that will pour in at the end of this week), I wanted to share two recent op-eds written by our PhD candidates. First, David Knoll, who is in the final stages of dissertation writing, took a break to do some other writing, in this case for Time magazine online. His opinion piece appeared in December, shortly after the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.
Finally, if you’re like me, you receive news about Fletcher from many sources — the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Despite these many prompts, it took me until today to watch the latest video from Dean Stavridis. If you’re hoping to enroll in 2015-16, I encourage you to take a look. He lays out many initiatives for the coming year, even as he describes the results of our work in 2014.
Oh, and of course, Dean Stavridis is a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program.
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