This has been the post-admissions-decision week when I have felt most overwhelmed by the pace of work, made worse by a busy week at home that left no extra time to extend my work day.  Lengthy or detailed blog posts have been one of the casualties.

Today I’m going to share a few sentences that have come my way and that I think capture the nature of Fletcher.  The first comes from Ben Mazzotta, a member of the research staff of the Institute for Business in the Global Context who is also a graduate of the MALD and PhD programs, and who is about to embark on a new adventure on assignment for USAID.  In a note of farewell, Ben wrote:

It has been a privilege to work here, where so many people genuinely come to work in the morning with the belief that we can solve the world’s problems, and then set about doing exactly that.

For students, this is their school, but for faculty and staff, this is our workplace, and Ben has captured the reason why so many of us have dedicated many years to working here.

The second note also came from an alumnus, in this case one who has gone on to become the ambassador from Pakistan to Japan.  After hosting an event for newly admitted students in Tokyo, Ambassador Amil reported back on the brief speech he gave at the event:

My message was that Fletcher has given so much to us in building bridges of understanding and hope, and it is important to maintain that connectivity.  I made friends for life there!

We Admissions staffers are proud of the role we play in building the Fletcher student and alumni communities.  In a busy week, reading these brief but timely notes reminds us of the impact we hope to have.

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There is so much going on at Fletcher these days that I can hardly highlight every event, but my good pal, Prof. Leila Fawaz has recently published a new book and it’s such a useful historical perspective on current events that I want to bring to readers’ attention her talk tomorrow.  Here’s the announcement.  If you’re visiting Fletcher, I hope you’ll attend.

Please join the Ginn library as we welcome

Leila Fawaz

to discuss her new book

A Land of Aching Hearts:  the Middle East in the Great War

Friday, April 3rd, 2015, 2:30– 4:00pm

Ginn Library Reading Room

With introductory remarks from Prof. Jeswald Salacuse 

Refreshments will be served and a book-signing reception will follow in the Fares Center.

The Great War transformed the Middle East, bringing to an end four hundred years of Ottoman rule in Arab lands, while giving rise to the Middle East as we know it today.  A century later, the experiences of ordinary men and women during those calamitous years have faded from memory.  A Land of Aching Hearts traverses ethnic, class, and national borders to recover the personal stories of the civilians and soldiers who endured this cataclysmic event.

 Leila Tarazi Fawaz is Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University.

 

With most graduating students either just done with or still toiling over their Capstone Projects, and with incoming students inquiring about support for research, I thought I would share this notice from last month inviting students to apply for capstone research grants.  I can’t guarantee that this exact opportunity will be available again next year, but students who plan carefully can find sources of support for their research.

The Hitachi Center for Technology and International Affairs at the Fletcher School announces research funding opportunities for Fletcher students.  In accordance with its mission to sponsor research on the role of innovation and technological change, the Hitachi Center seeks to provide funding to advance student research in these fields.

The Center will fund student research projects for current capstones, or research that will be conducted over the summer of 2015 that leads to future capstones, on the role of technology in international affairs.

Research proposals that focus on the following areas will be given priority:

  • Technology and economic development, in particular ICT4D
  • Technology and agriculture, the environment, education, financial services, health, human security, democracy, security and terrorism
  • Global technology industries
  • “Next Generation” Infrastructure: Global trends in the evolution of social infrastructure (infrastructure that supports migration of data/information across platforms, and dependability)

Students must be enrolled in a degree program at The Fletcher School and plan to spend the summer of 2015 engaged in research for a graduate program capstone project, dissertation or the equivalent.  Priority will be given to: 1) projects that are the most closely related to the Center’s areas of interest; and 2) are related to capstone research.  In addition, grantees should be willing to write up a brief summary and do a poster presentation of their research by October 2015, to be shared with the Hitachi Center Board.

Students interesting in applying for this funding should provide:

  • A research proposal of no more than three pages
  • A timeline of the summer research plan
  • A proposed budget (including any other expected or potential sources of funding)
  • A letter of support from a faculty capstone project advisor
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Recently, Paula Armstrong (a second-year MALD student) wrote to tell me about her recent involvement in community diversity-related issues.  She said,”I’m part of a group of students who wrote a memo to Dean Stavridis last December about fostering diversity and inclusion at Fletcher.  Since then, we have been planning a number of events to increase discussion of these issues, as well as of social justice more broadly.”  Today, she’ll describe some of these events, which are open for prospective students who may be visiting the area.

Students come to Fletcher from a wide range of backgrounds and go off to work in all corners of the world after graduating.  As a student body, it’s therefore important for us to think critically about diversity and inclusion.  These topics shape both who we are and the environments we will find ourselves working in.  Three student-planned events in March and April highlight these issues:

Film Screening – The House I Live In, Wednesday, March 4

o   The House I Live In explores the global “war on drugs” and its destructive impact on black Americans.  Approximately 20 Fletcher students attended the screening and participated in the discussion that followed. Facilitated by Seth Lippincott, second-year MALD, this discussion focused on the domestic implications and global impact of the “war on drugs,” as well as on how to engage in a dialogue with other students and professors to connect the issues of race and inequality in the United States to the Fletcher curriculum.  Students also weighed in about the importance of discussing the negative consequences of certain U.S. public policies and linking this discussion back to international work post-Fletcher.

Panel Discussion – Navigating Social Identities in the Workplace, Wednesday, April 1, 7:30 p.m., Mugar 200

o   Hosted by the Ralph Bunche Society for Diversity in International Affairs, Global Women, Fletcher LGBTQA, and the Office of Career Services

o   At Fletcher, we know that who you are and where you come from do not affect your intellectual capabilities.  We also understand, however, that conscious and unconscious biases, based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and other aspects of our social identity, in the U.S. and abroad, can have a profound impact on how we are viewed an​d treated.  This presents both the challenge to manage the negative implications of these biases in our own careers, and the opportunity to be allies in the workforce for colleagues and clients who are targeted or marginalized.  The goal of this panel is to offer a space for Fletcher students to have a dialogue about the opportunities and challenges that they have faced in their work environments, domestically and abroad, associated with their social identities.  Come hear from other Fletcher students who have tackled issues regarding their social identity in the U.S. and abroad.  Also learn more about two Fletcher alumni associations, Global Women and the Fletcher Alumni of Color Association, that offer support navigating your career upon graduation.

Workshop — The Art of Inclusive Leadership, Saturday, April 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Cabot 7th Floor

o   Facilitated by Diane Goodman, Ed.D, Diversity and Social Justice Trainer and Consultant

o   Join your fellow Fletcher students in a dynamic, interactive workshop to develop concrete communication, interpersonal, and cultural competence skills to be an inclusive leader.  Students will have the opportunity to explore their leadership attributes, share their experiences, apply concepts to real world scenarios, and gain the skills and knowledge to lead diverse and inclusive programs in domestic and international contexts. Lunch will be provided.

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As admitted applicants make their decision to enroll at Fletcher, they then turn their attention to arranging housing for September.  Our blogger, Diane, lived in Blakeley Hall last year (2013-2014) and gathered some thoughts on living there from her fellow dorm-mates.  I should note that the majority of our students live off-campus, in apartments in surrounding communities, but for some new students, a room in Blakeley is just right.  Also, last summer (2014), the Blakeley kitchen was renovated, expanded, and improved, taking care of some of the issues that existed a year ago.  Here are Diane’s reflections:

blakeleyFor many incoming students, particularly those new to Boston, the question of where to live can be quite daunting.  In my first year at Fletcher, I chose to live in Blakeley Hall, a dormitory specifically for Fletcher students.  Much like any housing situation, living in Blakeley has its advantages and disadvantages.  Blakeley has space for around 80 students.  Each student has a private bedroom within a suite that has a living room shared with one or two other students.  There is one bathroom on each floor, shared between four or five people (two suites).  The kitchen, common room, and laundry room are shared by everyone.  There are seven separate towers, each with its own door, and they do not interconnect.  So what does this mean for a student who chooses to live at Blakeley, and what kind of students decide to live there?  I interviewed a few students who lived there with me last year to capture the different experiences they had.

Eric, Canada:

1) Your favorite thing about living in Blakeley: My favorite things about living in Blakeley were the spontaneous moments of fun that were enabled by living with 80 other Fletcher students: participating in an impromptu cricket match or poker game; sharing a drink or meal with others on a Monday night, just because; and the always lively discussions on topics such as nuclear proliferation, Pakistani politics, or Tibet’s struggle for independence, which were a regular part of a dinner conversation.

2) Your least favorite aspect of living in Blakeley: Sharing a bathroom with four other people, sharing a fridge with 12, and having to go outside to get to the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: I will remember the kindness and generosity of my fellow Blakeley residents when they offered to share their home-cooked Indian meals, apple pies, and Thanksgiving feasts.

Justin, America:

1) Your favorite thing: The three-minute commute to class.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The towers are not interconnected.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Unexpectedly getting amazing spiced tea from Elba on the way to class in the morning.

Jessica, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite aspect of living at Blakeley was the community.  I got to live and learn with 83 wonderful people.  Whenever I needed a break from studying, I always went to the kitchen to have tea and talk.  There were parties, barbecues, and Game of Thrones evenings.  There were midnight birthday celebrations and snowball fights.  Living at Blakeley helped me make many close friendships, and I am so grateful that I have those people in my life.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The shared kitchen.  So many people in one kitchen: it got rather cozy at times.  I got to try some amazing food, though!

3) Your Blakeley memory: My Blakeley memory is our “Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” that was held the Sunday before the actual holiday.  Thanksgiving is a big celebration in my family, and I wanted to share the tradition with my friends.  With the help of many Blakeley residents, we made dinner for about 50 people — including two 20-lb turkeys, 15 lbs of mashed potatoes, 10 lbs of apple crisp, salad, stuffing, cornbread, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, brownies, and more.  It was incredible to see how many people pitched in to help with the cooking and the decoration of the common room.  It was a fun night, and it helped distract us from thoughts of our upcoming finals!

Deepti, India:

1) Your favorite thing: It’s the perfect place to get to know your new classmates well and adjust to a new environment or country!

2) Your least favorite aspect: The space constraint.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Impromptu conversations over food in the common kitchen!

Xiaodon, America:

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to duck back home for a coffee break between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: Overcrowding in the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Too many.  Here’s a random one: epic essay-drafting all-nighter in the common room near exam period with Fedra, Clare, Cilu, Caleb, Juanita, and other sleep-deprived supporting characters.

Sid, India:

1) Your favorite thing: Feeling of community — I made friends from all over the world.  The kitchen was one of my favorite places (also one of the reasons that prompted me to move out) as I got to make new friends.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen and the laundry room were too far from my room, especially during winters.

3) Your Blakeley memory: FRIENDS!

Paula, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite thing about living in Blakeley was the chance to become good friends with people from all over the world.  I think living in a dorm together inevitably builds a special sense of camaraderie among Blakeley residents that’s otherwise harder to come by in a graduate program.

2) Your least favorite aspect: My least favorite thing about living in Blakeley is having to share a kitchen with 80+ other people.

3) Your Blakeley memory: My favorite Blakeley memory is Thanksgiving 2013 — everyone cooked and ate together and there was truly a feeling of Blakeley being a second family for all of us.

Diane, Australia (that’s me):

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to take a nap between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen, particularly if you don’t live in a tower that interconnects with it.

3) Your Blakeley memory: The snow day — everyone went to Fletcher Field and had a giant snowball fight, and then we came inside and made pancakes and hot chocolate.

So you can see, living in Blakeley can be lively, convenient, entertaining, and full of fun, but it also has its downsides, particularly if you like to cook a lot on your own.  I am glad I got to experience an American dorm, and was able to live for a year on the Tufts campus, which is beautiful in all seasons.

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Pulling Fletcher events into a list in February inspired us to do the same for the post-Spring Break weeks of March.  Here’s the jam-packed calendar that Christine put together for us, noting that she hoped students returned well enough rested to take advantage of everything going on.

March 23: Charles Francis Adams Lecture by General Knud Bartels, Chairman, NATO Military Committee, NATO: Current and Future Challenges

March 23: 2015 Leontief Prize: Macroeconomics in the Age of Climate Change, to be awarded to Duncan Foley and Lance Taylor for improving our understanding of the relationships between environmental quality and the macroeconomy

March 25: Diplomatic Tradecraft U.S. Department of State Speaker Series featuring Fred M. Boll, deputy director of the Office of International Migration in the Department of State’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration, Political Reporting Diplomatic Tradecraft – Researching, Analyzing, and Reporting on International Political Events and Trends

March 25: The Future of American Superpower: Implications for Security, Politics, and Markets with Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group, and James Stavridis, Dean of The Fletcher School

March 26: Supply Chains for Relief and Development Converge: Case Study of the Ebola Response in Liberia, with Jarrod Goentzel

March 26: “Markers of Country Fragility” with Professor Nassim Taleb, distinguished professor of Risk Engineering at NYU’s School of Engineering

March 27: Celebrating Bill Martel, a celebration of the life of beloved Fletcher professor

March 30: A conversation with Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America, moderated by James Stavridis, Dean of The Fletcher School

March 31: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the International Security Studies Program present: Symposium on New Dynamics in Japanese Security Policy

March 31: The Military at Home and Out Front: Personal Perspectives from the American military featuring active-duty and reserve Fletcher students and Veterans

March 31: Digital Humanitarians: This talk charts the rise of Digital Humanitarians and describes how their humanity coupled with innovative solutions to Big Data is changing humanitarian response forever.

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The next in our series of Faculty Spotlight posts comes from Steven Block.  Prof. Block currently teaches Development Economics: Macroeconomic Perspectives, Agriculture and Rural Development in Developing Countries, and Political Economy of Reform, Growth, and Equity.  It was also announced today that Prof. Block will serve as Academic Dean in 2015-2016.

Steven BlockMy interest in economics came initially from outside the field.  During my senior year in college, I took a class on the politics of hunger.  I found the topic compelling, and after graduating volunteered at Oxfam America.  A year later, I stumbled into a class on the “economics of the world food system” and I was swept away by the realization that the dry and seemingly counterintuitive theories that filled my introduction to economics curriculum could actually be applied to analyze and propose solutions to a real-world problem that mattered.  My professor in that class would later become my PhD thesis advisor, and we still collaborate on research over thirty years later.

I hope that my own teaching at Fletcher has the same effect on my students.  In my class on food policy and agricultural development, I try to demonstrate the value of applied economic theory as a tool to understand the complex and emotionally vexing issue of world hunger.  The topics that I cover in that class include the design of policy interventions to protect nutritionally vulnerable consumers, as well as interventions to generate income for smallholder farmers.  These challenges are magnified by the recognition that consumers and producers of food often have conflicting interests (that is, producers prefer high food prices, while consumers prefer low food prices).  Resolving such conflicting interests among groups in society inevitably leads to issues of political economy – another core focus of my teaching and research.

These topics also motivate much of my academic research.  In recent years (often in collaboration with colleagues at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy), I’ve investigated the measurement and determinants of agricultural productivity in Africa, the roles of maternal education and economic growth on child nutritional status, and the politics of agricultural trade policy in Africa.

My broader interest in development economics stemmed from my initial interest in hunger issues.  Needless to say, hunger has its roots in poverty.  But the relationship between poverty and hunger is complex, with causality running in both directions at once.  I’m particularly interested in the potential for agricultural development to contribute to the broader process of economic development.  Thus, core topics in my development economics class include poverty, equity, and the effect of economic growth on both.  Since poverty in developing countries is disproportionately rural, development strategies that include agriculture have the potential to generate “pro-poor” growth.

While I take every opportunity in class to demonstrate the uses of economic theory in addressing these issues, I also stress the need for interdisciplinary approaches.  Towards that end, I teach a class on the political economy of growth and equity in developing countries.  Part of the motivation for the class is the recognition that while economic models can prescribe the “right” answers to policy challenges, politicians often make other choices — frequently to the detriment of a majority of their own citizens.  In this class, we explore various paradigms that seek to explain the too frequent observation of politicians sacrificing social welfare for political survival.

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One of the more commonly selected Fields of Study at Fletcher is International Environment and Resource Policy, which also has an associated research center.  If you plan to pursue environment study at Fletcher, you’ll want to check out the CIERP website, which includes several profiles of alumni working in the field.

If you’re especially interested in the CIERP community, you’ll also want to read about the faculty and staff.  It’s worth noting, too, that CIERP hires students for several research positions each fall.

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Last week I came to a sudden realization that I had never written anything, or had a student write, about exams.  Neither midterms nor finals.  Seemed like a major oversight, since exams certainly have an impact on students’ graduate school experience.  Aditi has plugged that gap by writing about the most recent round of midterms.

Spring break this semester was a much-needed pause from our busy Fletcher lives.  Between midterms and various internship and job applications, all of us at Fletcher were pretty much at maxed-out levels of exhaustion!

Midterms are usually a combination of exams, presentations, and papers, depending on the classes you take.  For instance, my Econometrics class had an in-class, closed-book traditional exam, while my Financial Inclusion class had a group presentation.  I personally found midterms to be somewhat more stressful this semester than in the fall, since one of my classes is at the Friedman School, which follows a slightly different schedule than Fletcher.  Although the advantage of the mismatched schedules was that my exams and papers were spread out over two weeks, the downside was that my “midterm week” lasted twice as long.

In addition to midterms, if you happen to be taking half-credit courses, then those classes are either beginning or ending (depending on which half of the semester they are scheduled for) while you’re trying to focus on exams.  In my case, I am taking Advanced Evaluation and Learning, which takes place over the second half of the semester, so as we were studying for midterms and preparing for presentations, those of us in this class were also trying to keep our heads above water with all the assigned reading.

But of course, midterms come and go.  The major stress during spring semester midterms is related to the internship and job hunt process, since everyone is trying to balance applications and interviews with their coursework, other activities, and campus jobs.  It definitely began to feel like the universe had conspired to make sure all deadlines fell into the same two-week period.

In the middle of all my stress and exhaustion, a friend said something that both made me laugh and also gave me a lot of perspective, when I complained to her about how hard grad school is.  “Yeah, it’s hard — but it’s hard in a really easy way.  Exams, papers, and presentations…let’s compare that for a second to the issues we’re trying to learn about: Poverty, terrorism, malnutrition….  Give me grad school any day!”

So now you know why I’m complaining about midterms on this blog instead of by talking to my friends.

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Ten days have passed since we released admissions decisions and it has been pretty much nonstop email since then, punctuated only by phone calls.  With spring break over, there will be a return to other commitments that take our time.

I worked quite a bit beyond my usual schedule last week, and I’m proud to say that I am caught up with my email!  As of Wednesday, that is.  I still have a batch of outstanding messages from Thursday through the weekend.  Yikes.

At the same time as we strive to help you gather information about Fletcher, I hope that you’ll understand if there’s a delay in our response.  I try to answer quickly the emails that only contain a simple question.  The messages that require chasing down information or creating documents definitely take longer.  Please be patient with me and my admissions pals.  We’re running/typing as fast as we can.

We’re looking forward to a busy Open House next month, but many admitted applicants can’t attend at that time and would like to visit on another day.  Of course!  Come over!  But just understand that the Admissions Staff won’t be here on weekend days.  We try to line up student volunteers, but sometimes there is so much going on here that it’s hard to find someone.  If you can be flexible in your timing, it’s a big help.  Sometimes we can even group a few visitors and put together an information session for you.  Again, we’ll do everything we can to facilitate your visit, but some requests are harder to satisfy than others.

Have you decided to accept a place on the waitlist?  We welcome your visit, too.  We’ll be able to give you a little extra attention if you wait until April 15.  Meanwhile, feel free to call or email.

Back to my inbox.  My goal for the day is to catch up on all the messages that arrived by yesterday.  With two long meetings today, that may still be too ambitious, but I’ll do my best!

 

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