Fletcher couples are just the best.  I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings.  Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple.  Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program.  Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned.  After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.  Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.

Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story.  The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!

Fumi and Ryota

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Unless an additional report surprises me by popping into my inbox, today we’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2015.  The final word comes from Dallin Van Leuven, whose post-Fletcher job didn’t appear immediately after graduation, but was the right opportunity when it did arrive.

Greetings from Beirut!

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Dallin (far left) with fellow Fletcher students/alumni and other friends while in Washington, DC for an interview. (He reports, “I didn’t get the job.”)

The year following my graduation may have taken me halfway across the world, but it has carried my career a lot further.  Granted, the job search was longer and more difficult than I anticipated, but Fletcher was a big help throughout: from helping me leverage the networking I had done while in Boston to find open positions and get interviews; to receiving (at times last-minute) support from the Office of Career Services on my CV, cover letters, interviews, and salary negotiations; to giving me consultancy opportunities while I looked for the right job (or any relevant position, for that matter).

One perfect example of this support would be the continued mentorship of Professor Dyan Mazurana.  We, along with fellow Fletcher alumna Rachel Gordon, finalized our collaboration on a book chapter, “Analysing the Recruitment and Use of Foreign Men and Women in ISIL through a Gender Perspective,” which was published in February in the book Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond.  Moreover, Professor Mazurana nominated me for a Visiting Fellowship with the Feinstein International Center.  There, we were able to continue working together on an important issue: conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence in African conflicts.  I will forever be grateful for the support Fletcher’s staff and faculty have given me both during and after my time there.

Most of my last year was spent in my home state of Idaho.  It was a great opportunity to be with family and old friends in a beautiful place while I searched for that elusive first post-Fletcher job.  Before starting my MALD, I worked in education in Egypt.  Not long after I arrived, the Arab Spring came to Egypt, and it cemented in me a desire to work in countries experiencing conflict and transition, focused on alleviating the negative effects of conflict.  Fletcher, for me, was the perfect place to make that adjustment in my career’s trajectory.

With luck and perseverance, I finally found it.  After New Year’s, I moved to Lebanon to begin work with Search for Common Ground, the world’s oldest and largest peacebuilding organization.  Here, I work on projects designed to build a stronger civil society and better social relations across dividing lines.  I research conflict drivers and lessons learned from similar projects, sometimes advising on programs in other countries or on the design of future initiatives.  I love it!

As a testament to the reach of Fletcher’s network, I was able to talk with a Fletcher colleague who interned here last summer to figure out if the office really was a place I would want to work.  I’ve been able to “pay it forward” by helping facilitate a new Fletcher student’s interview; she started her internship here last month.  I run into Fletcher alumni all of the time — through work, at social gatherings, and as they pass through Beirut.  In fact, while standing in the visa line during my first arrival to the city, I ran into someone I graduated with who is also living and working here.  The most remarkable of these meetings was definitely with a very successful alumna who is working for peace here in the region.  She beamed at hearing I was a fellow graduate and happily exclaimed, “Fletcher ruined my life!”  Thanks to her experience as a student, she left a successful career in the private sphere to pursue a successful, but more challenging, career in peacebuilding.

While “ruined” probably isn’t the term I would normally use, I can certainly agree with the sentiment.  Thank you, Fletcher, for “ruining” my life and putting me on the path I am on now!

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One of the opportunities I most value about my job is following students from their application phase, through their time at Fletcher, and then on to their post-Fletcher life.  A good example would be my connection with Diane Broinshtein, whom I first met when I was her application interviewer back in August 2012.  Then, after she had started her Fletcher classes, I reached out to her to write for the blog, and she was a trusty friend of Admissions throughout her two years in the MALD program.  Naturally, I’ve asked her to write an update on her first year post-Fletcher.  Those wondering what classes prepared Diane for her current work might want to read her Annotated Curriculum.

It’s hard to believe that a year has just passed since I finished at Fletcher.  In many ways I feel like I never left, and in other other ways Fletcher feels like a lifetime ago.

Diane in TurkeyIn my last post, shortly after I graduated in 2015, I explained that I was joining GRM International as part of their Young Professionals Program.  I moved from Boston to Brisbane, Australia and began my operations rotation.  On my second day of work, the company rebranded itself as Palladium, in order to unite a number of different brands under a new umbrella.  Because the company now included business areas other than those it did when I was first hired, the reorganization provided with me with some new and interesting opportunities.

In January, I moved to our London office to start a rotation with our Strategy Execution Consulting group. While it is not an area I considered working in prior to Fletcher, I felt the diversity of my Fletcher education prepared me perfectly to jump into the team.  In this role I helped bridge the divide between the international development side of the business and the strategy consulting side.  I found myself constantly going back to skills, knowledge, and coursework I learned at Fletcher to assist me whenever I was confronted with a new and challenging task.

My new rotation has taken me to Bristol, UK to join our Environment and Natural Resources team, working specifically on humanitarian projects.  It’s nice to be working again in a sector I know well and that I concentrated on in my studies.  A year out of Fletcher, three cities and three roles later, I have just begun to test the limits of what Fletcher taught me — I find myself using Fletcher in some way each day.

After Bristol, I am not sure where I will end up, but I know for certain that wherever it is, there will be a Fletcher network to support me.  Being part of the alumni community has been a wonderful experience.  In Brisbane I managed to squeeze in two visits from Fletcher friends, one who was working in Canberra and another working in Papua New Guinea.  But when I moved to London, I was even more connected.  London is a place where people are always passing through, so there were many Fletcher catch-ups over dinner.  I’m already trying to encourage fellow Fletcher grads to visit me in Bristol, but if they don’t come to me, I’ll see them when I travel in Europe.

Diane London

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Even as I noted yesterday how quiet it is at Fletcher this month, there are a few things going on around here.  First, there’s a group of diplomats on campus for a short-term executive program.  And second, there’s a panel in ASEAN Auditorium this evening on women in the environment field.  The panel will be moderated by Professor Barbara Kates-Garnick.  Here are all the details.

“The Business of Getting to Clean Energy & Environment”
July 12, 2016 from 5:00-8:30 p.m.

New England Woman in Energy and the Environment (NEWIEE) is hosting the second-annual Women Shaping the Agenda Panel to share ideas and experience related to the practical and business aspects of our clean energy and environment future.

“NEWIEE’s panel series strives to provide a forum for the constructive and informative discussion of topics of interest today to environmental and energy professionals,” said Beth Barton, NEWIEE Board of Directors President and Partner at Day Pitney LLP.  “NEWIEE’s goal is to bring together experienced and young professionals from across New England for an open conversation about clean energy and environmental issues for our region and beyond.”

Further information and tickets, if still available, can be found on the event page.

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Fletcher’s summer quiet continues, and there’s little of note happening in the Admissions Office, which makes me especially happy that I can still share updates from the Class of 2015.  Today we’ll  hear from Nathaniel Broekman who, like so many of our students, took an unusual path to, through, and beyond Fletcher.

It’s been an odd journey to arrive where I am today.  Seven years ago this month I departed New York City, where I had worked for three years as a musician and audio engineer, to spend the next three years with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria.  I left the music industry to begin a career in international relations, with the hope of finding my way into the field of migration or international development.

Turkish Breakfast

“Eating Turkish breakfast (arguably the world’s best breakfast) on the Asian side of Istanbul in the last days of my Boren Fellowship.”

Contrary to the adage, sometimes the best-laid plans do not go awry.  Which always surprises me.  Just over one year ago, I simultaneously completed a Boren Fellowship in Istanbul and my Fletcher degree.  I then landed in Washington DC, from where I write you today.  One month ago, I was on a detail to the border of Texas and Mexico, interviewing mothers and children who had just completed the harrowing journey from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to request asylum.

I work as an Asylum Officer with the Department of Homeland Security, adjudicating the claims of asylum-seekers who have arrived in the United States.  In doing so, my colleagues and I make the preliminary determination if an applicant is eligible for asylum under U.S. law, if he/she can be found credible, and whether this individual represents a risk to the security of our country and our community.  Although the majority of my interviews are with applicants living in the mid-Atlantic states, the job has to date taken me as far as Atlanta and Texas.  I am now preparing for an international detail to take part in our refugee resettlement efforts overseas, be it in El Salvador, Turkey, Nepal or one of a number of countries where refugees are unable to find a durable solution and hope to be resettled in the United States.

When I began this position, the word “refugee” was not yet gracing the front page of nearly every western newspaper, nearly every day.  I soon found myself in the center of one of the most important challenges of our generation.  There are more displaced persons on the planet today than at any other time since World War II.  Many of them are looking to us for help.

Mine is not an easy job, for almost all the reasons you might imagine.  But putting aside the emotional roller-coaster and the daily frustrations, I feel fortunate to take part in a program that grants the protection of the United States to those who have lost the protection of their own country.  It is an honor to bring these individuals into our community and grant them the refuge they truly need and truly deserve.

The Fletcher School was an integral part of this journey.  Most pointedly, my classwork in conflict resolution with Professors Babbitt, Chigas, and Wilkinson, and forced migration with Professor Jacobsen gave me a firm understanding of the global dynamics that brought us to this point, whereas classwork in various areas of international law with Professor Hannum immersed me in the system that gave us the internationally accepted definition of a refugee — a single paragraph from 1951, which guides our daily practice and determines, in part, the fate of millions of human beings.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to cross-register at the Harvard Law School, to take a course on migration law with Professor Anker, which has had far more impact on my career today than I had imagined it would at the time.  The education I received at Fletcher from these and other courses gave me not only the necessary legal analysis skills to make a proper determination on the merits of a case, but also the political and conflict analysis skills necessary to fully research and understand the dynamics in our applicants’ countries of origin.  Furthermore, a summer internship with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a seven-month Boren Fellowship in Istanbul, crafting my thesis on Turkish development and humanitarian aid, did not hurt one bit.

Beyond my coursework, Fletcher has brought me into a community that continues to amaze.  I was taken aback at the enthusiasm that alumni have for helping their fellow graduates to develop a career.  This is especially true here in DC, but was just as true while I was searching for work in Istanbul.  Most importantly, many of my closest friends here and across the globe are either fellow classmates from my time in Medford, or alumni from previous years.  We have even created a DC alumni branch of the Fletcher band “Los Fletcheros,” known locally as “Los Fletcheros Federales.”  The only major difficulty has been scheduling rehearsals, considering the travel schedules of seven band members who work in international relations.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m also to blame, but the World Bank keeps sending our guitarist to West Africa at the most inopportune times.

It’s been an odd journey to arrive where I am today.  I am not sure what I was looking for seven years ago when I left New York City, but I seem to have found it.  And for that, I owe The Fletcher School and the Fletcher community a great deal of gratitude.

Mexico City Foreign Ministry

Fletcher students on vacation in Mexico, in front of the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

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Are you a non-native English speaker who will start Fletcher studies in September?  Or even a non-native English speaker who will apply to Fletcher and other graduate schools in the coming year?  Or anyone interested in policy and interesting journalism?  Well, this post is for you.

Just before the end of the spring semester, we asked the student community to suggest podcasts that they particularly enjoy or appreciate.  Since strong listening comprehension skills are very important to success at Fletcher, we’re sharing this list to set you up with material with which to groom your skills.  And if your English doesn’t need grooming, take these as suggested listening for your commute.

With no further ado, and in no particular order, here is the list, including any description that the student recommenders included.

Created at Fletcher:

Investing in Impact Podcast, created by the Fletcher Social Investment Group.

Broadly Fletcher-related:

UN Dispatch — Mark Leon Goldberg, a graduate of the Tufts undergraduate program, produces a highly professional international affairs podcast that is perfect for aspiring Fletcher students.

Council on Foreign Relations, The World Next Week, recommended by several people, offers a great look at international affairs and comes generally in 30 minute soundbites.  And extra points because one co-host is a Fletcher alum!

Foreign Policy Magazine’s The E.R.

Harvard Kennedy School’s Policycast.

War on the Rocks, described by a student as hit or miss, but worth following.

Revolutions, which focuses on the history of several revolutions (such as the English Civil War, and the American, French, and Haitian revolutions) and how they turned out the way they did.

Vox’s The Weeds — a little more wonky and focused primarily on U.S. public policy issues, but interesting analysis of issues nonetheless.

Planet Money

Freakonomics by WNYC Studios – recommended by several people.

Fareed Zakaria GPS by CNN.

BBC Global News Podcast, covers a broad range of international issues.

Start-Up, one of Gimlet Media’s podcasts, and the host Lisa Chow is a Fletcher alum!

Students also recommended many shows available through National Public Radio, including:

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me — Recommended by several people as a good window into American culture and a great way to work on American colloquial English.

Fresh Air — Conversational, but many topics that will be studied here.

Serial — The presenter is slow and methodical in her interviews. The most recent season focuses on a former POW in Afghanistan.

This American Life

TED Radio Hour

Radiolab

Snap Judgment

And a few others, just for fun:

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Stuff You Should Know

 

Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog.  Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.

Wow – what a year!  I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies.  I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here.  As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me.  I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.

Fletcher prom

McKenzie (second from left) and friends before the Diplomat’s Ball.

It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions.  It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once.  I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher.  I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.

At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me.  Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.

As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found.  Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less.  In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip.  In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management.  In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school.  In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston.  And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.

Bubbles, 2016-05-16 at 5.01.38 PMThis leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher.  The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals.  I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process.  The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities.  While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.

With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold.  First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs.  The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you.  This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now.  Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies.  I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies.  For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall.  For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!

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Regular readers may remember that, following our spring review of the 2016-17 application process, I said that there wouldn’t be significant changes to the application for admission.  Turns out I spoke too soon.  So here’s the news, fresh from our discussions: Applicants for 2017 enrollment (either January or September) in our master’s-level programs will no longer need to include three recommendations.  Two will suffice.

Why the change?  I suppose we’re looking to make the process a little easier for everyone.  You’ll need fewer recommendation letters, and we will have a slight reduction in our reading.

On the other hand, submitting a third letter remains an option for you.  Who might want to submit three letters?  Well, anyone — but especially applicants with several workplaces in the rear-view mirror.  They might choose to submit one academic letter and two letters from supervisors, one from each of two different past positions.  But it will no longer be necessary (or, for that matter, encouraged) to include two recommendations from the same experience, such as having two professors both say you’re a great student, or having two supervisors from the same workplace say you’re a great employee.  There’s less to be gained (but no penalty!) for the repetition.

Also, I want to be sure to note that the change will not affect applicants to the PhD program — they will still need to submit three letters, with two academic recommendations preferred.

Questions about the new policy?  Send them along!  Please know, though, that you are still welcome to send a third letter if it will boost your application, and we absolutely will read it.

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Just as, two weeks ago, I wrapped up the updates from the Class of 2010 with posts from Luis and Hana, this week I would like to return to the Class of 2015.  Today, we’ll learn what Peter Varnum, a good friend of the Admissions Office, has been doing since he graduated.

Time at Fletcher flies.  The pace of life is often so stressful that it is easy to lose sight of the return you’re actually earning.  Obviously this comes in the form of your lifelong friendships and network; it’s a main reason we all chose this place to continue our education.  But, amidst readings and papers and presentations — and world-renowned guest speakers, lectures from the Dean, and student-organized conferences — we often forget the other reason we chose Fletcher: it’s among the top international relations schools in the world.

Never has the stellar education been more evident to me than in my first year post-graduation.  I moved to Geneva, worked briefly for the World Health Organization in its mental health policy unit, and am now consulting with a small, international B-corporation called Vera Solutions, which works at the intersection of data and development.  (Side note: Fletcher allows you to work at the “intersection” of basically anything and anything.  We build bridges.)  Often dubbed the “DC of Europe,” Geneva is rife with IR- and development-types who love to throw around jargon and number of countries visited slash worked in like they’re all badges of honor, trophies of who knows the most, who’s done the most.  But I appreciate my Fletcher brethren here, and there are a number of them: those who can hang in those conversations, but don’t feel the need to tout their accolades.  Those who hold a room when they speak.  Those with whom you can have a drink and laugh at yourselves.

When you’ve turned in your thesis, and walked across the stage, and at some point found the nerve to click on one of those emails giving you an update of how much interest your student loan has accrued, you have time to breathe a little.  And that’s when you look back and realize just how much you’ve learned at Fletcher.  You learn from the courses you take, sure — but I would argue you learn more from your immersion in a space that brings together such interesting, diverse people.  I often chat with my own classmates, as well as prospective students, about what I call “Imposter Syndrome,” which I felt quite frequently at Fletcher.  You’re in class (and at house parties) with future diplomats, foreign service officers, magnates of international business, and leading academics.  Not to mention polyglots who may as well have designed Rosetta Stone.  I often used to ask myself how I wound up there.

But if Geneva has taught me anything, it’s that, despite my hideously accented Spanish (and just plain hideous French), those experiences have made me fluent in the language of international relations.  And not just in a professional setting; I now read the news with a more nuanced understanding to go with a critical eye that I like to think we all have entering Fletcher.  I feel comfortable voicing my opinions, and confident that they are informed.  I feel more like — and excuse the cliché — a productive citizen of the world.

Navigating ambiguity is at the heart of international work — at the heart of life, really.  I believe my Fletcher education has made me nimbler.  I do not hesitate among the flutter of languages in the UNICEF cafeteria, nor while chatting with the Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, nor while having that drink with my fellow Fletcher graduates.  A year or so ago, when I was hunkered down in Ginn Library, procrastinating by dreaming up ideas for a creative Fletcher Follies video, I often wondered whether it was worth it.  These days, that uncertainty never crosses my mind.

Varnum, Peter

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I usually focus blog posts more squarely on Fletcher life, but today I wanted to share news from back in the spring about the University’s Tisch College.  The reason?  Although Tisch works primarily with undergraduates, the College offers high-profile lectures and other activities that may interest Fletcher students, including the annual Presidential Awards for Citizenship and Public Service, one of which went this year to Kirsten Zeiter, F16.  (See Kirsten’s award video below.)  Plus, it’s just a nice thing to know what’s going on around campus, outside of the Fletcher buildings.  Here’s the news the University shared:

With the launch of its strategic plan today, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, founded nearly 17 years ago, will move forward with a new name to better reflect its mission to prepare students to take action and make positive change in their communities and in the world: the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. We all engage in civic life when we organize and debate, when we serve, and when we advocate for and act on the issues that affect us and those around us. Collectively, the more active we are as responsible citizens, the more just, equitable, and prosperous our world can become.

At the same time, I am pleased to share news of a transformative gift that will further the mission of the college.  Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch have pledged $15 million to help us prepare every student for a lifetime of effective engagement in civic life.

Endowed a decade ago with a $40 million gift from Jonathan Tisch, the college’s creation was driven by the belief that universities have a responsibility to help young people become agents for thoughtful advocacy, action, and positive change.

Jon and Lizzie share Tufts’ vision, and their new gift will support all three pillars of the college: education, research, and practice.  Through the creation of endowed professorships in civic studies, an emerging field that examines what defines civic engagement, their gift will help fund joint appointments between Tisch College and other Tufts schools and departments. The gift will also finance leading research by Tisch College’s renowned Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, creating knowledge and advancing civic learning and engagement.  Finally, the gift will empower student experiential learning opportunities, such as the Tisch Scholars leadership development program, Tisch Summer Fellowships, and the Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program, ensuring that such transformative experiences are available to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

A longtime advocate of individuals and corporations using the power of civic engagement to address challenges, Jonathan credits his parents for instilling in him a sense of responsibility to others, and Tufts for fostering in him the importance of an active civic life.

And here’s the video where you can see Kirsten receive her Presidential Award.

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