With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher.  Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.

Adi, panel2As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it!  My first semester of graduate school was done.  I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom.  I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life.  I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs.  Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.

Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena.  Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle.  Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it).  Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction.  I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development.  I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting.  This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated.  Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.

A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model.  Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year.  During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing.  A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere.  More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact.  Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing.  Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating.  Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations.  Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.

Adi, batikOrientation came and went, and the fall semester began.  I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation.  Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector.  It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created.  Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia.  Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context.  Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.

Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds.  As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models.  At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds.  Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model.  As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors).  The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society.  This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success.  An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government.  Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia.  Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me.  The way I thought about my career developed again.  This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing.  This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.

Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing.  The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there.  I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation.  Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving.  With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted.  I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester.  Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.

Adi, class

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This week started with frosty cold temperatures that preserved last weekend’s snow. In the office, answering questions and processing applications was the primary activity.  Only a few days later, the outdoor temperatures have risen, rain has washed away the snow, and I’m throwing myself into a pile of applications (virtual pile, that is — we read online) for the first time in this round of the process.  Reading applications at home is a weekly adventure for the Admissions staff.

Warm weather outside makes me a happy reader inside. On an ordinary January reading day, way too much mental space is consumed by keeping myself warm.  Today, it’s comfortable inside and I can focus only on the applications.  That, and a cup of coffee, which is now ready.  Back to reading!

 

Welcome to the other side of the January 10 deadline — the side where all the work shifts from applicants to Admissions staff.  Nearly all the work, that is.  If you haven’t already received an email saying your application is complete (and most of you who applied yesterday haven’t), then you’ll need to stay on top of this until you finally hear from us.

To that end, here are the instructions for tracking your application.

AFTER YOU SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION, your Application Status page will display the information you need to track your application.

To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or save the application link.  You will login with the email and password you used when you created your application.

How Do I Know If My Application is Incomplete or Complete?

Even after you have submitted all the required materials, your application will wait until a staff member has reviewed each document to check that it is correct and legible.  Only then is the application considered complete and ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Your Application Status page displays the most up-to-date information on your application status.  Please allow us up to 10 days after we receive your materials to update your record.  It isn’t that checking each application takes a long time, but there are a great number to review and we want to get it right.

Your application will be marked as incomplete if we find that items are missing, your transcripts are difficult to read or not translated into English, or your application fee has not been received (with the exception of fee waivers).  If we are missing materials or cannot read application documents, we (Fletcher Admissions) will contact you.

Fletcher Admissions will also send you a confirmation email when all of your application materials have been compiled and your application is ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Once your application is complete, there’s nothing more you need to do (except wait).

Please Note: Whether your application is processed first or last has no bearing on your admissions decision.  But you do need to ensure that you have sent us all the needed materials.

When Will I Receive My Decision?

Decisions will be released toward the end of March.  We will send a message to the email address you used on your application.  March decision information will also include details about scholarship awards for students admitted in March or in December (Early Notification).

If you have further questions, please email us or call us at +1.617.627.3040.

Please use the email address that you included in your application on all email messages to the office.  We try to respond to every message on the same day we receive it, but due to the large number of emails we receive, it can take several days for us to reply to you.

This part of the admissions process certainly requires some patience.  Whether you’re waiting for confirmation your application is complete, or for the answer to a question, or for your decision to arrive in March, you can be sure we’re working as hard as we can to make everything go quickly and smoothly.  It’s in the interest of the Admissions staff, as well as that of our applicants.

 

Well, we’re down to the final hours, my friends.  Though hundreds of you have submitted the applications that already are keeping us busy, an even greater number have applications that, whether complete or not, have not been submitted.  If you’re one of those down-to-the-wire people, holding until as close as possible to 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5) tonight, be sure to keep  your eye on the clock.

Remember that, to meet the deadline, you need to submit all the parts of the application that you control.  DO NOT hold your application for recommenders or for test scores.  (On the other hand, do make sure your recommenders are well aware of the deadline.)  If you are still waiting for an official transcript to arrive so that you can upload a copy, send us whatever you have now, and send the official version when you receive it.

Remember to proofread your essays and double check that you have answered all the questions.  And then…click submit, take a deep breath, and settle in for a ten-week wait.

 

We’re all back in the office for the first time in 2017 and, aside from catching up on our own stuff, the order of the day is answering questions that have been arriving by email and phone.  Cindy, one of our graduate assistants, is doing much of this work for us.  Most of her answers (the part of the conversation that I can hear) amount to: Submit your application on time and you’ll be fine, so long as that test score, recommendation, or whatever, arrives shortly after the deadline.  I expect the flow of these questions to continue through today and tomorrow.

Please remember that the deadline is tomorrow, January 10, at 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC -5).

 

We’re at that point in the year where our focus is squarely on current applicants for September 2017 enrollment — though we’re also looking forward to meeting our newest Januarians next week — and it can be easy to forget that lots of applicants are just starting their research into graduate school options.  Some time back, Laurie gave a presentation to undergraduates and suggested that future applicants should plan on a one-year application preparation timeline — 18 months if possible.  We know well that many people follow a much more compressed timeline, but that doesn’t mean that the early preparation wouldn’t be preferable for most.  To help out the (admittedly few) blog readers who may be planning September 2018 enrollment, I’d like to share Laurie’s suggested application timeline.  Here’s how she suggested organizing the different tasks ahead of someone new to the process.

One year in advance:

  • Start researching schools.
  • Begin to track application deadlines and requirements.  (Build a spreadsheet.)
  • Investigate external scholarship opportunities.
  • Prepare and register for standardized testing.

Nine months in advance:

  • Continue school research.
  • Have your academic records translated if necessary.
  • Take standardized tests — be sure to list schools where you want the results sent.
  • Start thinking about potential recommenders, especially if you haven’t stayed in contact with professors from your undergraduate program.
  • Compile notes to be used as the basis of your essays and personal statements.
  • Apply to outside scholarships.

Six months in advance:

  • Update and clean up your résumé.
  • Retake standardized tests if necessary.
  • Prepare a general statement of purpose to be shared with your recommenders.
  • Finalize the list of schools you will be applying to.
  • Create a financial plan.

Three months in advance:

  • Start filling out applications.
  • Finalize your essays and personal statements.  (Proofread!)
  • Contact your potential recommenders.  (Provide them with your resume and statement of purpose.)

One month before the application deadline:

  • Finalize applications for admission and scholarships.
  • Check in with your recommenders.
  • Submit your applications before the deadlines.  (Waiting to the last minute will be stressful!)

After application submission:  Continue to learn about the schools you applied to.

That last point, of course, pertains to those of you who are applying this year!  Don’t wait until April to do your research.

 

We’re closing in on the last minutes before the January 10 deadline, but I might as well offer one last thought on application essays.

During our review of Early Notification applications, a few discussions returned to a similar theme — first put in words by Dan — that U.S. students have their undergraduate application process in mind when they write their essays, and they try too hard to “be unique.”  Working with high school students, as I occasionally do, I’ve always lamented that they sit down to write their essays with that impossible standard as their instruction.  Generally speaking, what does a 17-year-old know about being unique?

Fletcher applicants usually have a better sense of the world out there, but the “be unique” advice still doesn’t serve them well.  It occasionally leads to an essay with strange choice of content or an odd tone.  And it’s completely unnecessary.  The first essay should lay out in pretty plain terms what you hope to do at Fletcher and beyond.  The second essay offers a little more latitude for “uniqueness,” but you don’t need to bear that heavy burden when you think about what to write.  Instead, focus on a much more achievable objective: follow the directions.

The fact is that what impresses Admissions readers is a clear study/career plan, backed as necessary by prior experience.  Sure, we enjoy a heart-warming second essay, but there are many aspects of your background that you might want to share, and they aren’t all heart-warming.  And that’s fine!  Pick the topic that’s best for you, without trying to guess whether we’ve ever read an essay like that before.

In sum, be direct.  Don’t worry about being unique.  And use a thesaurus judiciously — don’t try to impress us with big words.  Follow those simple instructions, and your essays will make the case for you.

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It has been a while since I last wrote about my friend and Fletcher grad, Charles Scott, F94.  After a relatively typical post-Fletcher career, Charlie relaunched himself in recent years as the “Family Adventure Guy” and a speaker for corporate and other settings.

Most noteworthy among Charlie’s recent activities have been as a member of “Team See Possibilities,” three super-fit runners who accompany a fourth — who happens to have lost his sight as an adult — on daunting adventures.  In November, the Team tackled Mount Kilimanjaro.  At night.  Their “Kili in the Dark” run took them up the mountain at high speed, and their days in Tanzania and Kenya included visits to schools and other activities to support children who are blind.

This wasn’t their first inspiring trip, though.  About a year ago, the team climbed Machu Picchu, and before that they ran the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim.

International adventure wasn’t new to Charlie, whose pursuit of demanding travel started with a trip by bicycle around Japan with his son.  Then a trip around Iceland with his son and daughter.  These and other rides have linked him to a community of bicyclists and even a bike travel film festival, which has featured films that Charlie made of his travels.  Take a look at a clip of a recent video called “Perceived Limits.”

Adventurers are a new, or newly prominent, subset of the Fletcher student and alumni community.  Fletcher is a place where just about everyone has experienced wanderlust, even if not all of our travel is the super rugged variety.  I’ll need to catch up with Charlie soon to find out what’s next in the plans for Team See Possibilities.

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Hey there friends.  I’m here for my annual sisyphean task of imploring you to avoid being among the zillion applicants who submit their applications on the January 10 deadline.

Sure, you don’t want to send us an application before it reaches its optimal state.  I get that.  But twelve days remain between you and the deadline, which is plenty of time to organize yourself to submit the pieces of the application under your control (i.e. not your recommendations) before the last minute.  If you were to click submit before we arrive for work on Friday, January 6, you would know by the end of the day what pieces of your application (if any) are missing.  Awesome, right?  On the other hand, if you submit your application in the seconds before the deadline of 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC -5) on January 10, you will wait in line until we have a chance to review your application.

There it is, my best advice for you.  Go ahead and listen to me.  Submit early and relax, deservedly smug in the knowledge that plenty of others will be stressing.

 

Students have been sharing their stories on the blog for quite a while now, but this is the first year when one of the writers pursued an exchange semester.  Ever-intrepid Tatsuo spent the fall at Sciences Po in Paris.

In the third semester of my MALD study, I decided to join an exchange program in Paris.  I wanted to study international relations from another viewpoint, though I know that Fletcher and the hills of Medford/Somerville are the best place in the world to study.

Tatsuo, Courtyard_of_SciencesPoI spent my semester at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po.  Sciences Po is one of the best schools for politics and international relations in Europe.  It was founded in 1872 just after Franco-Prussian War.  French elites were shocked by their country’s defeat and also impressed by the power of Prussia, and they faced the need to change their education system.  Sciences Po was the result of the effort to improve French practical education, based on the philosophy of political realism.  The symbol of the school, the fox and lion, originated from Machiavelli’s phrase “be smart as a fox and be strong as a lion,” and shows what the founders felt they needed.

At Sciences Po, I took five courses — Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present; Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders; Political Speechwriting; African Key Economic Issues; and Economics and Globalization — to earn four Fletcher credits, and I audited two more courses, Japanese Politics and International Relations; and French A1 (elementary French).

All the courses I took, except French A1, were taught in English; thus, the basic materials and styles were not so different from what I encountered at Fletcher, but there were still some interesting differences between a French (or European) school and an American school.

For diplomatic issues, I took a grand strategy course, mainly focusing on security strategies, taught by the former minister of foreign affairs of Costa Rica.  In the course, and in other discussions of diplomatic topics, people mainly followed realism — based on basic political realism theory and great figures like Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Bismarck who I “met” in the U.S.  However, the “realism” I studied in Paris was a little different from what I learned in the United States.  In discussions I had at Fletcher and other places in the U.S., people argued the survival of the state must outweigh all other concerns.  Thus, there were many options that could be taken, including unlawful or unethical means.  Additionally, the strategies for security tend to justify unilateral actions.  On the other hand, the discussions in Paris I faced tended to exclude such unlawful, unethical, or unilateral options, intentionally or unintentionally.

Classroom view.

Classroom view.

On development issues, French development studies consider the historic background of developing areas, while American studies mainly focus on the current situation.  Sometimes, French professors’ attitudes looked more emotional than rational.  On the other hand, these attitudes or analyses brought me a deeper understanding of the regions and the people to be developed.  Additionally, these attitudes were understandable and maybe useful for me, a Japanese development officer, because we also have complex historical backgrounds with the Asian countries we once occupied.

One of the most interesting courses in Paris was Political Speechwriting.  In the French school, theoretical studies seemed to be the majority, while American professional schools like case studies.  Even in the practical course for speechwriting, the professor took a lot of time to introduce many theories of Greek and Roman rhetoric.  When I took the course, it was the very interesting time after Brexit.  In that context, the professor analyzed American presidential debates and shared his concerns about the French presidential election coming up next spring.  Through the course, I realized the great advantage of theoretical studies.  At that time, most American (and global) media criticized Trump’s speeches and judged Clinton to be the winner of the debates.  On the other hand, the professor evaluated Trump’s speeches in terms of their technical rhetoric while many people, including me, tended to analyze the speeches based on their content.  The result of the election proved the advantage of objective/unbiased analysis based on theoretical studies.

Generally, my semester was a great opportunity to learn a lot regarding the different perspectives of the U.S. and Europe.  In Japan, we tend to think of “the West” as a single actor and a single set of values.  In the U.S., we tend to think of the American standard as the global standard.  The three months in Paris gave me the background knowledge to avoid such misunderstandings.

It was surely true that everything went well in Paris.  But I missed the family atmosphere at Fletcher, including its flexible and warm administrative offices and the close connections between students and faculty.  I also missed the great academic resources around Boston.   And I also love the comfortable hilltop more than the crowded buildings filled by thousands of students in the small campus in the middle of Paris.

In the end, the three-month exchange program was both long enough and short enough for me, even if it was too short to learn French, to explore Paris and other areas of France and Europe, and to enjoy the great food and drink culture.

Tatsuo, Enjoying_TheHistoricalArtictic_City

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