As a member of the Admissions staff, I freely offer my advice on putting together a strong application, but I leave it to others to provide suggestions to incoming students. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the tips I’ve collected this spring. I’m going to start today with a summer reading list offered by Colin Steele, who just completed his first year in the MALD program. I had put out a call to the Social List for their suggestions and, nearly instantly, received a fully formed suggested library from Colin.
Lest you worry, there truly is no required pre-Fletcher reading, but we always hear from incoming students who simply want to get their brains thinking in a Fletcher-ish way. Colin’s list strikes the perfect balance between more and less scholarly material, and he starts by describing the principles that guided him as he made his selections.
Book Listing philosophy: These are all books that have shaped my worldview, my appreciation of language, and/or how I approach Fletcher. In general, I think about the summer before Fletcher as an on-ramp to the education itself: reading, experience, and reflection over the summer can really help get you up to speed and thus ease the transition into campus life. (That was certainly my experience, anyway.) As trite or generic as it might sound, I’d recommend reading at least one really fulfilling, edifying book. Maybe you always (or never) wanted to read Cicero, but you’re worried about the state of society. Maybe you haven’t read Steinbeck since 10th grade, or you’ve never been to the U.S. Maybe you just haven’t read a book for real in a while. In any of those cases, summer is a great opportunity to do so.
One final word: as Dean Stavridis writes in The Leader’s Bookshelf, it’s not about what you read — it’s how you read. That’s certainly true of grad school, and the summer before is an opportunity to practice reading intentionally. Whatever you choose, make it something that seems like it will frame the Fletcher education and experience you’re looking for, and approach the text that way. That’s a habit of mind that will pay off in spades at school.
A Passion for Leadership, Robert Gates
The latest from the former U.S. secretary of defense and author of Duty. A short, readable, and eminently usable guide to leading and transforming organizations large and small. Also includes a call to consider public service.
Painting as a Pastime, Winston Churchill
A very short, perhaps lesser-known work on achieving balance in life and work. Even at Fletcher, it’s important to have interests and recreational outlets outside of work and study.
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
One of the great American novels; a thinly fictionalized account of the rise and reign of Huey P. Long of Louisiana.
In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
In 1933 — the same year Fletcher was founded — the U.S. ambassador to Germany has a ringside seat to Hitler’s rise. True history told with Larson’s characteristic page-turning zip.
The Leader’s Bookshelf, James Stavridis
Fifty more book recommendations (with reviews and synopses), plus useful articles on reading, writing, and leading. A good opportunity to get to know the dean virtually before arriving on campus.
The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Tom Clancy
My journey to Fletcher probably started with my first Tom Clancy book, and I went back and read a couple last summer to see how I’d find them en route to grad school. They’re still great yarns, and this is one of the best.
The classic or classics you’ve always wanted to read: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Waltz, Kissinger, Lawrence Freedman, whomever. Tackling some giant in your field with purpose before arriving will pay big dividends when classes start, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while. The actual classics — Aristotle, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Laozi, etc. — are also worth it.
Finally, here’s link to a PDF version of an old article the dean wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute called “Read, Think, Write, and PUBLISH.” I printed myself a copy before I made my way to Fletcher, and it really helped shape my approach.
The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
Recommended to me by the person who introduced me to Fletcher 10 years ago. A bildungsroman about a boy learning about boxing and life in apartheid-era South Africa. (One of the top three on this list, in my opinion.)
Mink River or The Plover, Brian Doyle
Just when you thought you’d outgrown talking-animal books, Doyle comes along and convinces you that untranslated Irish and the “dark, secret tongue of bears” might actually make sense.
Blood Meridian: Or, the Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy
This is a gut-punch of a book. McCarthy does things with the American language that you didn’t know were possible.
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
The shortest and most accessible of his books (and infinitely better than the movie). Worth (re)reading now.
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
And/or other Steinbeck, e.g. Travels with Charley. One of the great storytellers of the American land and its people; worthwhile for both U.S. and non-U.S. students.
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Norman Maclean
Very short, exceptionally well-turned prose. For my money, some of the best writing around.
The final Five-Year Update for the Class of 2011 comes from Jacqui Deelstra. Jacqui had pursued a variety of professional experiences before she started at Fletcher, but she created a clear path for her post-graduate school career, with ICT4D the link that connects her work.
For me, the choice to go to Fletcher was pretty clear. I wanted to increase my skills and expertise for a career in international development, and my sister had paved the way to Medford by going to Tufts herself as an undergraduate. So when I when analyzed choices for grad school, I could not imagine a better option than to continue the “Jumbo” family tradition.
My path to Fletcher
As I was finishing up my degree in international relations and journalism at the University of Southern California, I found myself looking for opportunities to get practical experience overseas. Through some connections I heard about Tostan, an NGO based in Senegal that focuses on women and girls’ health and human rights. Working with Tostan on communications and donor relations, and visiting communities throughout Senegal, gave me my first exposure to the field of international development.
Over the next few years, before making my way to Fletcher, I spent two years back in Seattle, WA, my hometown, working on local youth-mentoring programs with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and spent a year in Loja, Ecuador teaching English and volunteering through the WorldTeach program.
During and after Fletcher: Finding a niche in ICT4D
As an undergraduate, while I double-majored in international relations and print journalism, my primary focus was on communications and journalism. That passion for understanding how people access and consume information, and how it impacts their lives, has always stuck with me. While at Fletcher I discovered the budding field of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). I was fascinated in thinking about how mobile devices, social media and other communication technologies were changing people’s ability to participate in government, get information on health topics, and access training and capacity building. I focused my Fletcher thesis on how ICT was being used for government accountability and transparency programs in East Africa through field research in Tanzania and Kenya during the summer between my two years at Fletcher.
Thanks to the experience I gained with ICT4D while at Fletcher, I landed a short-term consultancy with Plan International as an ICT4D consultant. Right after Fletcher graduation, I headed to Benin where I spent two months working with the local staff on evaluating and planning the expanded roll-out of an SMS-based pilot project.
After I returned from Benin, I joined Creative Associates, a DC-based USAID implementing partner. At that time in September 2011, Creative had just established a Technology for Development team focused on designing and implementing ICT solutions for projects in sectors such as education, elections, and governance and civil society. I spent five years with Creative helping to grow the Technology for Development practice, which is now known as the Creative Development Lab. My work at Creative took me to Zambia to work on mobile solutions to support early-grade reading and to Haiti to support civil society organizations with technology for collecting and mapping electoral security data.
In February 2017, I accepted an exciting opportunity to work with the Digital Health Solutions team at PATH. PATH is a leader in innovation in Global Health and my new position is giving me the great chance to continue to grow my career in ICT4D and to put down roots back in Seattle.
Today I balance my work in ICT4D with my family. I have an almost two-year-old son named Elliott. I also still benefit tremendously from the relationships I developed at Fletcher. With my closest Fletcher friends, who are scattered all over the world, we have maintained a Skype book club, where we spend little time discussing the book, but instead have lengthy discussions on topics ranging from career challenges and successes to wedding planning. Looking back and considering my life today, I could not be happier with my choice to follow in my sister’s footsteps and become a Tufts Jumbo by studying at Fletcher.
This week I’m going to share two updates from the Class of 2011, with my apologies to the writers for neglecting to publish their posts earlier in the spring. Kimberly came to Fletcher from Jamaica, which given the country’s relatively small size, immediately made her stand out my mind.
Every so often I have a flashback to Commencement day — huddling together for group photos, and then each of my friends, with cautious optimism, sharing plans for our new lives that would begin in just a matter of days. Was that really five and a half years ago? So much has happened. Our class has accomplished so much.
In high school I’d made up my mind that I wouldn’t be contained by the borders of my small island; I was one of those people that Dean Bosworth spoke about at our orientation, looking to “lead an international life.”
At first, the dream manifested as a desire to join Jamaica’s foreign service, and I was fortunate to receive very clear advice from two of Jamaica’s top diplomatic professionals. They told me that if I was serious about the foreign service, there was only one graduate school for me. And so, before I had even decided where I would pursue my undergraduate studies, I had accepted my mission: The Fletcher School. Though it was probably obvious, I didn’t realize at the time that they were both Fletcher grads.
One bachelor’s degree and an embassy internship later, I was heading to Medford. I had put all my grad school eggs in the Fletcher basket and it had paid off.
By the time I arrived in the Hall of Flags, my interests had shifted. I’d spent a year in the Ministry of Finance, working on Jamaica’s program with the multilateral banks, and I had a new mission: I was going to work at the World Bank.
I never forgot about that mission, but it lay in the back of my mind while I was busy soaking up the whirlwind awesomeness that is the Fletcher School. This update is my love song to Blakeley Hall, Fletcher Follies, Los Fletcheros, the annual Ski Trip, and so much more. To Professor Block, who was a stellar advisor, and to Professor Moomaw and all of CIERP.
It is five and half years later, and a lot has happened. I’ve been to several Fletcher weddings, including my own, and I ended up at the World Bank, though in a different sector than I anticipated. In the Global Water Practice, I work on policy, planning, and capacity building related to water resources infrastructure. Given the scale of the global water and energy challenges, I can scarcely think of a sector I would rather be working in.
While I didn’t expect my job to take me to so many construction sites, the experience has been both exciting and rewarding. There is, at the end of the day, something special about seeing a major project coming up out of the ground and knowing you had even the smallest hand in bringing it to fruition. When I arrive at a client’s office and someone hands me a hard hat, I know it’s going to be a good day.
If I have one misgiving, though, it is that none of my projects to date have taken me anywhere close to Jamaica. I won’t lie; it tugs at my heartstrings to spend most of my days trying to solve problems everywhere else but there. I tell myself that there is time for that.
In the meantime, I am enjoying all the incredible Fletcher friendships I made during those two years and the ones I continue to make. The Fletcher family is real, so real. It can be hard to stay in touch with folks splintered all over the globe, but nearly everywhere I go, there’s at least one familiar face and it makes all the difference.
I haven’t decided yet what my next mission will be…but I think I’m starting to get some ideas.
I wanted to draw readers’ attention to a nice Q&A feature with graduating students that the Fletcher communications team pulled together this spring. The pieces have the common theme of “commencing a new chapter,” and the posts come from:
Ammar, MIB student who was active in Fletcher student governance and gave a wonderful introduction for Professor Schena at Commencement.
Angga, whose contributions to the Fletcher student community are nearly impossible to summarize. Suffice it to say that everyone loves Angga.
Tanay, one of the two dynamic student speakers at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony.
With the academic year behind us and the September 2017 admissions cycle more or less wrapped up, it’s time for the Admissions staff to look ahead and turn our attention to summer projects and routine work. Some of the items on our to-do lists are: Boston Summerfest at Fletcher; Coffee Hours around the world; a new publication to use in the fall; travel planning; continuing student scholarship renewal; application upgrades; and mundane tasks such as booking rooms we’ll need in the next academic year. (Just writing that reminded me it’s not too early to book rooms for Admissions Committee meetings.)
Essentially, we won’t be doing much that interests Admissions Blog readers, except possibly if we decide on additional application tweaks.
Fortunately for all of us, that doesn’t mean that the blog will be daily drudgery. One benefit of my having been overwhelmed with good content in the spring is that I still have lots to share in the coming weeks: Class of 2011 and 2016 updates, general news from the school, tips from students and faculty. All those are coming up soon, though I’m sure I won’t be posting quite as frequently as I did through the spring. And gradually I’ll shift focus from sharing information with the incoming class toward helping prepare future applicants as we look ahead to a new application cycle.
As ever, I’d love to cover topics of interest to readers. To suggest a topic or ask a question, please contact us!
What a beautiful Commencement weekend! Two fabulous sunny days tucked between the Boston area’s first heat wave and a dreary rainy Monday — what more could we ask for? As planned, I arrived yesterday in time to snag folks as they moved from the all-University graduation to the Fletcher ceremony. I didn’t catch everyone (sadly) but, among others, I was happy to see student bloggers Adnan, Tatsuo, and McKenzie. (Adnan and Tatsuo both apologized for delays in sending their final posts. I’m sure we’ll hear from them soon.) McKenzie was honored on Saturday with a prize for academic achievement and community involvement by a graduating student. Any of the finalists for the award would have been worthy — being selected is truly a big honor. Congratulations, McKenzie!
Then, once the processions were complete, we all settled down for speeches and the distribution of diplomas. The Fletcher website offers quick summaries of both Commencement and Class Day, and the Tufts website offers details and photos from the all-University ceremony (also called Phase I). Here’s an example:
I had a great view of the proceedings, but one that was frequently interrupted by photographers, so I’ll let the websites do the talking. But I still want to share two photos that represent a special joy. There are a good number of children who started life while a parent was a Fletcher student. Two examples from among our PhD graduates are Rizwan (adorable daughter) and Avner (adorable twin boys), who are receiving their PhD “hoods”:
The reaction of the “graduating kids” from all degree programs was priceless. Many weren’t sure what was going on, but there was one lovely little girl in her own gown who totally owned the stage!
Once the PhD graduates had all been recognized, the ceremony concluded and everyone moved off to a reception. The end of another academic year! A few graduates have said they’ll stop by this week, which will ease our transition to the very quiet summer. For a few days, though, we’ll enjoy the glow of having launched the newest members of the Fletcher alumni family!
Tagged with: Commencement
While the Admissions team has dutifully pursued the week’s work, graduating students have inched ever closer to the day when they will leave the Fletcher nest. I pause now and then to think about the people I’ll miss from the Class of 2017. There are our Graduate Assistants, Dristy and Ashley. And our student bloggers, Adnan, McKenzie, and Tatsuo. But the list runs much longer than that: Admissions volunteers and interviewers, student members of the Admissions Committee, PhD students who have contributed so much to the community, students I interviewed when they were applicants and whose progress I’ve noted from behind the scenes. And more!
This is an annual theme for us. We know that the Hall of Flags will suddenly empty out one May week when exams are over, but we still forget that our connection to the students we’ve gotten to know will suddenly be from a distance. Sigh.
It’s all good, though. They’ll go off and do great stuff, and helping them take the first step toward a new career is the mission of the Admissions Office.
I’ll be at Commencement on Sunday and I’m looking forward to the joyous/wistful day that I know it will be. The soon-to-be graduates line up in alphabetical order before the processional heads toward the graduation tent, and I’ll wander along the line to say some goodbyes and hand out some hugs. After the ceremony, I’ll say some more goodbyes and greet a few parents. And then on Monday, the Admissions team will return to the office and continue the work of helping the Class of 2019 and those that follow to take their first steps toward a new career.
To the Class of 2017: Please keep in touch with us! Come to visit, connect on social media, drop a line now and then. Ta-ta for now, but we hope to hear from you soon!
Tagged with: Commencement
With less than three days until the Class of 2017 gathers to start their celebration with toasts, speeches, and diploma collecting, let’s take a look at the curriculum that Adnan put together for himself in the past two years. We often say (with likely complete accuracy) that no two students ever take precisely the same set of classes in the MALD program and I hope these annotated curricula help make that clear. Note that Adnan pursued three Fields of Study. Only two are required, but many students will complete a third. And also note that Adnan audited two classes. A “certified audit” is noted on the student’s transcript.
I worked as a staff reporter and later an associate editor at Newsweek in Lahore, Pakistan.
Self Determination in the Context of the Kashmir Conflict.
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I would like to pursue a career at the United Nations.
Returning to school after a five-year gap was exciting, but it also required a great deal of readjustment. With my background in journalism, I knew International Information and Communication was going to be one of my Fields of Study, so I took the core/required class for it and also both halves of Social Networks. International Communication with Professor Gideon, whom I had also chosen as my faculty advisor, was among my favorite classes because of the wide range of topics it covered that I could relate to my work experience. Social Networks offered a fascinating new way of discovering hidden connections in data sets. It also helped me acquire hard skills like using social network analysis software such as UCINET and NodeXL. Looking back, I think opting to complete my breadth requirements in my first semester with foundational classes like International Legal Order and Global Political Economy was a wise decision because it strengthened my base for future coursework in international relations.
Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
Data Analysis and Statistical Methods
Theories of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
The Arts of Communication
Contemporary South Asia (Certified Audit)
International Business was another interest, and I loved that I had the option of contrasting my IR coursework with such classes. In Strategy and Innovation we studied real-life cases of some of the world’s leading businesses and came up with creative solutions to actual challenges they faced. An important lesson I learned here was how complex problems can be tackled by asking the most basic questions about the task at hand. Statistics offered a great opportunity to sharpen my quantitative skills, and Arts of Communication was a unique experience. Not only did we learn that public speaking, like any skill, can be improved tremendously through rigorous practice, but we got the chance to hear speeches from our classmates and learn things about them we would not have otherwise. In my second semester, I also decided that I wanted to learn about conflict resolution — it’s applicable everywhere and the Field of Study is a Fletcher flagship. The core/required class I took provided a solid base for understanding the roots of a variety of conflicts. Contemporary South Asia didn’t fulfill any of my requirements, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to study with Professor Ayesha Jalal, a renowned Pakistani historian whose work I had been following long before Fletcher, so I audited it. I’m glad I was able to do it because it was the first time I looked at South Asia, where I had lived most of my life, through an academic lens, and it provided a fresh perspective on my knowledge of the region.
UNICEF in New York.
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Processes of International Negotiation
Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights
Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age (cross-registered at Harvard Kennedy School)
Cultural Capital and Development (Certified Audit)
Corporate Finance, the core requirement for the International Business Relations field, was the most challenging class I took in my third semester. The syllabus was extensive and the workload rather heavy, but looking back it’s also among the classes from which I gained the most practical knowledge. International Negotiation was also an extremely practical class. In addition to learning negotiation techniques and practicing them during simulations in class, the assignments that required us to rigorously analyze a conflict of our choice and propose strategies for negotiation taught me a step-by-step method of approaching intractable problems. I took Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights purely out of an interest in understanding the cause of modern day conflicts and found my Capstone idea here. Cross-registration at Harvard is a great opportunity we are offered, one I had wanted to pursue since my second semester. Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age, taught by Nicco Mele who runs the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at HKS, perfectly complemented my International Communication class from my first semester. Whereas the latter was more academic and theory-based, the former looked at current issues in the digital world and linked them to politics. After reading the syllabus for Cultural Capital and Development, I was too intrigued to ignore it, so I audited the class.
It’s hard to believe my final semester is now over. Time flies at Fletcher, and I’ve hardly had a chance to reflect on the past two years. This semester I completed my Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Field of Study with Peace Operations. What I liked most about it is that it brought together elements of international law, conflict resolution, politics, and history. A guest speaker in one of our classes said, “peace operations really are the arena of international politics.” I couldn’t agree more and feel it’s a great class to take in one’s final semester. Leaving my economics requirement hanging till my last semester was probably not the brightest idea, but with everything else I was trying to squeeze in, it never fit into my schedule earlier. The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs was my favorite class this semester. It pushed me to think critically and place decision makers in context to understand the policies they pursued. I left each session with a life lesson, in addition to some very peculiar facts. Did you know whales are crucial to security?
About a week ago, we all took out our calendars to find a day when we could have an off-site retreat. Turns out that, after this week, there were precisely zero days when we would all be here. (Admissions folks tend not to take vacation time during the admissions cycle, meaning we take it all during the summer. Plus, there’s a little recruitment travel on the calendar.) In a last attempt to identify at least a few hours, we realized that yesterday was the day. We had some sandwiches delivered and started talking.
When we were talking wistfully about the beautiful weather outside, Laurie suggested taking a walk. (We’re all involved in a University “steps challenge,” so there was an added incentive to get out there.) We meandered over to the roof of the main library. Here’s a view of the “green roof” portion:
And here’s the view of the city from the roof:
But you might be more interested in the outcome of the discussions than about our mini-field trip. We talked about deferral and reapplication procedures. (Some minor changes will be implemented). We discussed the application reading process and the application itself. (We agreed that we wouldn’t change the application essay prompts.) Most of the rest of the discussion was essentially administrative. (Who will do what, and when.) Overall, a productive four hours, even if we couldn’t quite pull off a full-day retreat.
I was out of the office yesterday, having made a quick trip to New York on the weekend, which mostly entailed driving both ways in a drenching rainstorm. When I returned to campus today, the sun was back and everything was in full spring bloom. And not just the trees and flowers — the graduation tents are springing up, too. As of this morning, the Fletcher tents are yet to emerge, but others are in place all over campus. The early forecast is for a beautiful spring Commencement day on Sunday.
Between now and the weekend’s Commencement ceremonies, both graduating and continuing students are participating in the time-honored student-organized tradition of Dis-Orientation, the natural counter-balance to August’s official Orientation week. Frankly, Dis-O is a lot more fun. Yesterday alone, activities included paintballing, a FIFA (video game) tournament, a walking tour of Medford (which has a surprisingly rich history), a cricket match (first-year students vs. second years), a trivia competition, karaoke, and (my favorite of all the options) dinner at a Cambodian restaurant and visit to Revere Beach. (My love of Revere and that particular restaurant has been well chronicled in the blog over the years.)
Naturally, with everyone off doing such fun stuff, it’s pretty quiet around here. We’ll appreciate the quiet for a few weeks — it’s great for completing projects. As the summer runs on, though, we’ll begin to look forward to the start of a new semester. But that’s way in the future. Now we’re enjoying the occasional encounter with a graduating student and I’m planning to catch up with more of them at graduation.
Since the Fletcher tents aren’t up yet, I thought I’d share a photo from this morning of the Tufts University president’s house — right across the street from here. There are two tents directly behind it, and blue skies and flowering trees around it.
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