An applicant wrote to me this week with a good question, and I’d like to share my answer with all of you, too.  He was wondering, not necessarily in these words, what holds us up from releasing decisions on applications that have already been reviewed.  Particularly given other schools’ practices (rolling admissions, multiple admissions cycles, etc.), I understand that it could seem strange that Fletcher releases all decisions at once.

And the explanation of our practice is that reading an application is certainly the most time-consuming aspect of the review process — particularly since each application is read at least twice — but it isn’t the end of the process.  In addition to Admissions Committee discussions, the key factor is that we want to ensure all applications are read with the same standards in mind, whether the first readers get to them in January or at the end of February.  At the conclusion of the whole reading/Committee process, we’ll make sure we’ve got things right.

In addition, remember that we release admission and scholarship decisions at the same time, and we haven’t even started on scholarship review.  In fact, we won’t start for a few more weeks.  So the release of admission decisions will just need to wait.

As I always say, we’re reading as fast as we can.  But we’ll continue to hold on the ultimate release of decisions until all the many necessary elements are in place.

 

Today I’d like to wrap up the fall semester reports from our first-year Student Stories writers.  We’ll hear about Mariya’s semester and, particularly, her experience in the Arts of Communication class.

Mariya on campusAs I boarded my flight to Washington, DC from Boston Logan International Airport on December 17, I breathed a sigh of relief that my first semester was finally over.  But a few moments later, the math major in me realized that a quarter of my entire graduate career was behind me.  With this epiphany, I felt both sad and surprised at how quickly time flies.  I had been so consumed with my classes, activities, campus lectures, and studying in Ginn Library’s “Hogwarts” room, that how September became December?  This I do not remember.

OK, so I know that was kind of corny, but I hope it made for a good sound bite.  As I reflect on my classes from the fall semester, Arts of Communication stands out as particularly special, challenging, and rewarding.  I must admit, however, that I initially had no intention of taking this course after browsing through Fletcher’s course catalog that brimmed with exciting classes across diverse disciplines, regional studies, and practical skills.  I accidentally stumbled upon Arts of Communication during Shopping Day and became intrigued by the syllabus and Professor Mihir Mankad’s pitch.  I went back to the ever-stressful task of finalizing my course schedule and scribbled in Wednesday evenings for a full-semester course on how to become an effective communicator.

In Arts of Communication — or AoC for short — we learned by doing.  We learned to connect with an audience by practicing logos, pathos, and ethos in our presentations.  We recorded ourselves as we learned to face the camera and report from a studio.  We practiced job interviews, debated controversial issues, and held press conferences (where I acted as the recently elected Muslim mayor of Chicago).  Perhaps most important, we learned through active listening and observing, as well as giving and receiving feedback with humility.  We were very fortunate that our class coincided with the U.S. presidential election, which enriched our learning experience.  The campaign cycle provided live debates, speeches, and advertisements for us to dissect and analyze.

What made AoC unique among my fall semester courses, however, was the appeal to different emotions and the closeness of the class.  I did not expect a graduate course to make me laugh and cry; yet, I found myself chuckling as my peers amused the class with wit, and silently sobbing as they shared personal experiences.  Through speeches, debates, videos, and impromptu gigs, AoC continually pushed us out of our comfort zones, yet our common vulnerability and trust in each other bonded us as a community.  By the middle of the course, we had become a family that looked after each other and served as a mutual support system.

Mariya in MurrowThe course itself was time-consuming and challenging.  At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mankad said that becoming a better speaker would require dedication outside of the class.  The video assignment, for example, took me hours to complete: in addition to careful coordination of attire, setting, sound and lighting, I edited my clips into a coherent movie.  Although I felt frustrated during the process, I am grateful to the patience of my classmate Yutaro, who taught me iMovie software so that I could produce a six-minute Snapchat video.  Similarly, the “value speech” was a challenging exercise for me.  Modeled on the “This I Believe” project, the purpose of the exercise was to write and share in four minutes a core value that guides our daily lives.  I reflected deeply upon my life experiences, went through multiple iterations of speechwriting, and spent days rehearsing my value speech with family, friends, and roommates.  I delivered a speech about why one particular conversation with my father made me realize how much I value his support.

Through AoC, we grew as individuals and as a class.  We will share the special bond we forged in this course for the rest of our lives, and for that we are truly grateful to Professor Mankad.  As, in his past career, he had been a television anchor in India, a consultant for top firms, and a director of a foundation, Professor Mankad brought a depth of experience to the classroom.  Moreover, his dedication to all 60 of his students — 30 in the full course, 30 in the module-version of the class — was evident by his accessibility, detailed feedback, and time he spent listening to hundreds of speeches.  It is no surprise the course has attracted the highest numbers of cross-registered students at Fletcher.  In my conversations with Professor Mankad, he told me that his favorite parts of teaching AoC is getting to know each student’s story, and helping them improve in this important area.  To express our gratitude, students organized a flash mob to the tune of a commercial Professor Mankad once performed in, and created a tribute video to surprise him at the semester-end’s celebration.

I am eager to apply the skills I have gained in AoC in all aspects of my life.  My first stab of pushing myself as a public speaker was in early December at a forum organized by the Fletcher International Law Students Association, where I presented on the legal aspects of UN Article 2(4), a topic I had become extremely interested in through my International Organizations course.

This semester, I am eager to take a course at Harvard, switch up my extracurricular activities, and participate in the conferences I have been helping to organize.  However, I am the most excited about co-leading Fletcher’s first-ever spring break trek to Pakistan (which received over 50 applications!) with my peers Ahmad and Seher.  Stay tuned, because my next post will probably be from Islamabad or Lahore, inshallah!

Mariya's AoC class

The AoC class celebrates at the end of the semester.

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The Admissions Blog may be the Fletcher platform that generates the most posts, but it’s not the only one out there.  Take a look at these sites that update content relatively frequently.

The Fares Center

Fletcher Gender

Fletcher’s LLM program

And, of course, the personal blog of Dean James Stavridis.

Last, though this isn’t a blog, you can keep up with op-eds and other recent publications by members of the Fletcher community on the News & Media website.

Happy reading!

 

teapotYesterday was my weekly at-home application reading day.  Reviewing applications is both engaging and exhausting.  It’s not that the work is difficult exactly, but it does require close attention and consistent focus throughout the day.  My Admissions pals and I have all found our preferred reading arrangements — whatever it takes to keep us moving through a virtual pile of applications.  I nearly always read in my kitchen, and yesterday was no exception.  Here’s how my day went.

7:30 — The house is mine.  I already have Slate opened up and waiting for me.  There’s a mishmash of applications in my queue (some put there by student readers, one MATA application (my second) that Laurie passed to me, some PhD applications that I need to check over for the basics), so I decide to start by reading everything in my queue before I grab more applications.  I’m fueled by a nice cup of tea.  A friend brought us tea from Sri Lanka and I’m enjoying drinking it from my new favorite tea mug that we picked up in London last month.

lapdesk8:30 — I need a quick bit of movement, so I sprint upstairs to shift some clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Then back to work.  I’ve been sitting with my legs up and my computer propped on my lap desk (bought specifically for this purpose).

9:45 — I’m making pretty good progress, but I need to move.  Time to put the computer on the kitchen table.  I’ve been selecting the application I read by opening my queue, closing my eyes, swirling my mouse over the list, and clicking a name.  Ultimately, it’s not too different from working through the list alphabetically, but it’s a more entertaining method.

11:00 — I’m steadily whittling down the queue but I need to get up and move again.  coffeeI put the kettle on, race upstairs to move the last of the washing to the dryer, sprint back down to make a pot of coffee while also eating a banana to refuel.  I chose a thematic mug to boost my focus.  Back to the queue.

12:23 — My queue is empty, and it’s time for lunch!  I’ve read the 20 files I started with, made these notes on the blog, answered a few emails.  Not a terrible pace, but not great either.  Maybe lunch will invigorate me.  Lentils and greens — not too photogenic, so I’ll spare you.

12:48 — Back to work.  Loaded up my queue and ready to go.  I also brewed a little more tea.  The coffee was decaf, so there’s no danger that I’ll become overly perky as I read your applications!

2:38 — I motored through a batch of applications, but then I hit a wall.  To reset, I washed all those dishes I had used earlier and changed venues — moved from the kitchen table to the counter.  I often think it would be nice to read in a coffee shop or in our local library, but taking time to “commute” steals from reading.

4:38 — Exactly two hours since I made my last note.  I’ve read about as much as I’m going to get to today, and I’ve had a nice “journey” through your stories.  In just these few hours, I’ve read about applicants with roots or experience in South Sudan, Japan, Korea, India, Somalia, Israel, Kuwait, Indonesia, and many locations in the U.S.  My applicants have been focused on education, security, humanitarian studies, the environment, negotiations, and just about every topic Fletcher offers.  In other words, a typical reading day!  And that’s why the work is energizing.  At the same time as I’m tired of staring at my screen, I’m excited to connect with all these folks who could be walking in the Hall of Flags in September!

 

Today I’m happy to turn back to the Faculty Spotlight feature.  Professor Robert Pfaltzgraff is the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School and President of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, a research organization based in Cambridge, MA and Washington, DC.  Professor Pfaltzgraff currently teaches International Relations: Theory and Practice and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies.  He also teaches the Security Studies course for Fletcher’s Global Master of Arts Program.

Because Fletcher encompasses the world of the theorist and the policymaker, the scholar and the practitioner, it is an ideal setting to bring the academic into sharper focus with the policy community and vice versa.  This is what has always shaped both my teaching at The Fletcher School and my work directly with the policy community as President of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.  We learn from the insights, wisdom, and experience of others and from our own successes and failures — from observing and from doing.  Both Fletcher and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis have given me great and unique opportunities in both communities to share with students and others.

pfaltzgraff-classroomAt Fletcher my teaching spans the Political Systems and Theories and International Security Studies fields.  My International Relations Theory course challenges students not only to understand the theories themselves but also to relate them to the world of today.  Through the lens of theory we may gain perspectives or ways of understanding, analyzing, and simply thinking about the policy issues and choices of the day, related to fundamentally important topics such as international conflict and cooperation, as well as war and peace.

My teaching in the International Securities Studies field is also designed to bridge theory and practice.  My Crisis Management seminar addresses such topics as the twenty-first-century crisis map contrasted with previous eras, including the Cold War, as well as the role of military force and diplomacy, to mention only several of the major topics that we study.  There is an extensive literature about crisis escalation, decision-making, strategizing, and lessons learned from past crises that we survey.  In addition to team presentations, we conduct an annual weekend crisis simulation that brings together up to 200 outside participants and other members of the Fletcher community.  This provides a great opportunity to test and fine-tune what we have (or should have) learned in class about how to manage international crises.  Here we have an opportunity to learn on the job, so to speak — to develop skills and ways of thinking that could be useful to the future crisis decision-makers that many of our students will become.  In this and other International Securities Studies activities, we draw heavily on practitioners and others from the military and policy communities both from outside Fletcher and our students, who, I should add, bring a rich set of experiences and backgrounds and therefore learn from each other.

There has also been a two-way street, a synergistic relationship, between my work at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and my Fletcher teaching experience.  Our many Institute conferences, seminars, and workshops, together with research on such topics as escalation, proliferation, military force structures, strategy, alliance relationships, technological innovation and military affairs, and regional security issues from NATO-Europe to the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific area have given me a wealth of information, insights, and greater understanding to share with my classes and others in the academic and policy communities.  By the same token, I have always learned much from my students, many of whom have achieved positions of senior political and military leadership in the United States and abroad.

My bottom line is that I know of no better educational setting than Fletcher in which to bring together the worlds of theory and practice — to learn how to think and to act, understanding of course that creative thought is the necessary prerequisite to successful action in and among all of the fields of our multidisciplinary curriculum.

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Somehow I find myself more than halfway through the academic year with barely a mention of Fletcher’s three new study options.  I did write earlier in the fall about one of the programs, then called the MTA — which was in the process of development even as we launched it in September — but it has taken me longer to catch up with the other new programs.  Here, then, is an update.

The Master of Arts in Transatlantic Affairs (now called the MATA) will be offered, starting in September 2017, jointly with the College of Europe in Belgium.  It will enable students to pursue a degree by splitting their time between the two campuses, and there is an internship component.  You might have questions.  So did we!  And here they are, with answers.  I’ve so far read a total of one MATA application, but more are in store for me.

Next up is a PhD in Economics and Public Policy, offered cooperatively by Fletcher and the Tufts University Department of Economics.  The goal is for five students to enter the program each year, with the first students starting their studies in September 2017.  Applications will be submitted to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which will award the ultimate degrees.

And last, a new LLM dual-degree program with the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland will give students the opportunity to earn both a Master of Laws in International Law (LLM) from Fletcher and a Master in International Law from St. Gallen after 18 months to two years of study.

All three of the programs are profiled in this Tufts Now article.

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Continuing the fall semester wrap-ups from the first-year Student Stories writers, today we’ll hear from Pulkit, who tells us about his involvement with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School.  It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976.  It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum.  So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal.  I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.

After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process.  The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs.  It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published.  Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations.  The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor.  Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition.  Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum.  Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively.  The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations.  The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total.  In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.

The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations.  The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits.  The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic.  The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow.  The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  The third cycle involves editing the citations.  The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules.  Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review.  The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes.  This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.

ForumThe fall semester was busy.  My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing.  As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy.  There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted.  During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.

And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum.  After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check.  The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.

While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership.  These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.

Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun.  At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff.  For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized.  I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team.  I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.

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Last week, starting with the January 10 deadline, and this week are filled with the work that sets us up for the next two months.  Here’s a quick update on where things stand, now that we have moved rapidly from awaiting applications to reviewing them.  We still have a batch of applications that need to be checked for completeness, but we’re working through them steadily and we’ll receive a speed boost this week when all of our graduate assistants will have returned to campus after their winter break.  In addition, we’re keeping up with emails, many of which have an attached transcript or other document.  All of those pieces are being added to their applications.  Please continue to be patient if you haven’t heard about your application, but know that we’re making good progress.

Meanwhile, the students on the Admissions Committee jumped into the (virtual) bin of completed applications last week and got a ton of reading done.  The Admissions staff also did a big batch of reading and we’ll have our first MALD/MA Committee meeting of the winter on Friday.  Liz and Dan are both at home reading today, and I’ll be reading tomorrow.  This will be the pattern for another five or six weeks until all the applications have been read at least twice.

Meanwhile, we anticipate receiving another batch of applications for the late deadlines in February (MALD, MA) or by March 1 (LLM, MIB).  Those applications will slide easily into the weekly work flow that will have been well established by then.

And an update on the PhD applications that were due by December 20.  Those are all already moving through the reading and review process.  They follow a much more serpentine path than the applications for master’s-level programs, but applicants can be sure that review is well under way.  The PhD Admissions Committee will meet several times in February and March.

Last, while I’m talking about the applications due December 20, there are the MYFs.  Those, too, are moving along.  The applications are considered separately from the general MALD/MIB bunch, as they’re evaluated on a slightly different set of metrics, but they, too, will receive all the attention they deserve.

So that’s where things stand.  I won’t provide a process update every week — the news would be increasingly dull as we move from January to February to March, doing roughly the same thing every week — but I know that applicants are always anxious to know where things stand, and now you know!

 

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!

 

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