Our final post from a new Student Stories writer comes from Mariya, a recipient of a Pickering Fellowship that helps her fund her education in return for a commitment to join the U.S. Foreign Service.
Greetings from one of my favorite study spaces at The Fletcher School: the ultra-quiet “Hogwarts Room” at Fletcher’s Ginn Library. I am surrounded by neatly stacked books, brightly lit lamps, students hard at work, and former deans looking down at us — either admiring our dedication or secretly laughing. I can never tell.
But what I can tell you is who I am and why I am here. My name is Mariya Ilyas and I am first-year MALD student. I was born in Pakistan, moved to the United States with my family at age eight, and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just seven miles south of the nation’s capital. The proximity to Washingtonian politics, exposure to diverse people and cultures, and having a dual identity cemented my interest in international affairs from an early age. I am grateful to the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which will allow me to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. diplomat and serving my country in a meaningful way.
I am here to share with you my experiences at Fletcher over the next two years. I enjoy blogging because writing for an audience allows me to process and reflect on my experiences, while also growing from them. As I navigate my Fletcher journey, my goal is to not just share the immense opportunities that are available at this school, but to also analyze how those opportunities are contributing to my personal growth and preparing me for my career. I hope that my entries will provide prospective students with another point to consider as they explore graduate school options. I also hope to look back on these posts in 2018 and reflect on my personal and professional development.
I came to Fletcher with a diverse set of experiences. I studied mathematics, sociology, and government at Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college in the town of Brunswick, Maine. My time at Bowdoin prepared me for many “real world” challenges, including the New England winters — which became particularly handy when I took up a job in Boston after graduation. As a product analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a fortune-100 company, I analyzed insurance data and implemented projects to increase growth and probability in the state of Kentucky. After gaining valuable business and financial skills, I switched gears from the corporate world to the public sector. Last year, I taught English in Antalya, Turkey through the U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. This nine-month fellowship allowed me to appreciate a different culture, learn a new language, and get a glimpse of what it is like to live abroad. My extensive travels showed me the rich history of Turkey and the country’s breathtaking beauty, as well as the strength and hospitality of its people. Lastly, my internships at The White House and the U.S. Department of State (Pakistan Desk) exposed me to my future workplace: a complex federal bureaucracy with humble public servants.
This semester, my classes include Role of Force, International Organizations, Petroleum in the Global Economy, Arts of Communication, and a yearlong EPIIC Colloquium, hosted by the Tufts Institute of Global Leadership. Although I plan to concentrate in International Security Studies and Global Maritime Studies, my strategy for graduate coursework is to expose myself to as many different disciplines and topics as possible — Foreign Service Officers are generalists, after all.
Outside the classroom, I am involved in activities that push me out of my comfort zone, challenge my assumptions, and help me develop new skills. I am a member of the Arctic Initiative and the improv group, co-leader of Fletcher Students of Color & Allies, and co-leader of the Fletcher Islamic Society (which I helped re-establish this year). I am also conducting research for the U.S. State Department’s Diplomacy Lab under Professor Eileen Babbitt and helping fundraise for the Arctic and Energy conferences coming up in February 2017. In addition to these ongoing activities, I enjoy participating in opportunities that add to my learning. For example, I was one of 40 students who represented Fletcher at the Arctic Circle Assembly Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland; I played the role of Turkey’s interior minister at this year’s SIMULEX, and I gave a TEDx-style speech about blogging as a way to bridge the academic-policy gap at the Fletcher Idea Exchange. I’ve also signed up for impromptu activities such as participating in cultural nights, hosting a Fletcher Feast, or attending Professor Hess’s annual picnic. This might seem like an overwhelming set of commitments — and at times, it can be — but if there’s one thing I have learned at Fletcher, it is that Fletcher students are exceptionally good at juggling their commitments, and that being a part of 15 things simultaneously is the norm rather than the exception.
I have been at Fletcher for almost three months now, and I could not be happier. I remember my uncle, a retired Pakistani bureaucrat, once told me that the Pakistani Government used to send its entire corps of young foreign service officers to Fletcher because of its reputation and approach to the study of international affairs. I now understand what my uncle meant. In the short time that I have been here, I feel proud to be a part of a vigorous, yet modest, community of scholars dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems through interdisciplinary approaches and an international perspective. It was not just the world-class reputation that drew me to Fletcher, however; I was also attracted to the School’s flexible curriculum (including cross-registration at Harvard), diverse student body (each of my four roommates represents a different country), and the quality of its alumni network. But above all, I chose Fletcher for its caring community.
I would like to share an anecdote to illustrate my last point about the caring community. In April 2015, I was faced with a dilemma: to enroll in graduate school or defer my admission to pursue the Fulbright Scholarship. I called the Fletcher Admissions Office to seek advice, and spoke with Dean of Admissions Laurie Hurley. Much to my surprise, she said, “Graduate school will always be here.” She encouraged me to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Turkey because she believed it was the best move for my professional and personal development. In that moment I realized the Fletcher community was genuinely committed to my success. Looking back now, deferring my admission was one of the best decisions I made, because teaching in Turkey prepared me for a richer educational experience and world perspective — and I have the Fletcher community itself to thank for that.
The second post from new Student Stories writers comes from Pulkit, who has taken a multi-step path from an engineering degree to Fletcher.
Hello! My name is Pulkit Aggrwal and I am a first-year MALD student from India. I am excited to share my Fletcher journey with all of you. I am interested in writing for the Admissions Blog because, as I share my story, I will be able to reflect and critically analyze my thoughts during my time at Fletcher. At the same time, I hope these stories will resonate with readers, who themselves are either trying to discover new fields of study or explore uncharted territories, and I hope that it will give them the confidence to try and experiment. I also hope that, at the end of two years of my program, when I read these posts and look back at my journey, I will see how much I have learned, how much I have grown as a person, and how far I have come.
I was brought up in Chandigarh, a city north of New Delhi, a capital of two Indian states, and a city designed by the French architect Le Corbusier. I studied engineering as an undergraduate. Specifically, I studied electronics and electrical communication engineering. After graduating, I worked with McKinsey and Company as an analyst in the high tech and telecommunications industry vertical. I worked for clients across the consumer electronics, telecommunication, software, and IT services value chain.
After McKinsey, I joined a hospital in an administrative capacity, working on business development and strategy. During this time, I tried to enter into the Indian Civil Services as a foreign service officer. In order to make a contribution to my community, I volunteered as a teacher with a children’s not-for-profit organization called Make A Difference. As a teacher, for about four years, I was associated with Ashiana, a shelter home for underprivileged children, where I worked, mentored, and taught children aged six to 18 years. Later, I was selected as a Global Shaper Under 30 — an initiative of the World Economic Forum — where I worked on community issues related to urban mobility, gender empowerment, and community leadership. These experiences shaped my interest in international affairs and development. It is then that I decided to pursue graduate studies, to build an understanding of key international issues and develop a complementary skill set in law and economics.
At Fletcher, I am currently pursuing courses in International Security Studies, International Organizations, Human Security, and Development Economics. These fields are intricately tied to each other. I hope to concentrate on two out of the four Fields of Study and bring in key elements from the other two so as to have a complete perspective. Coming from a physical sciences background, it is huge step for me as I make a transition and pursue studies in social sciences. It is also a steep learning process as I get introduced to new subjects, terminology and their inter-linkages.
To add an international language to my skill set, I am auditing elementary French at the Olin Language Center here at Tufts. Outside of class, I am involved in a few activities and societies at Fletcher. I am a print staff editor for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and I volunteer with the Admissions Office. I am also working on a land rights project with the Harvard Law and International Development Society.
It has been three months since I moved to Boston and started school, and Fletcher has exceeded all my expectations. More than the curriculum, it is the people I have met and the constructive challenges that I have faced that have made my graduate student life so interesting and enjoyable. I have just embarked on this journey. There is so much happening all the time that I feel like I live a lifetime every day. No day is the same. I enjoy facing these challenges and tackling them one at a time. As I gear up for the final month of my first semester at Fletcher, I look forward to sharing more from my learning and experiences.
Today, let’s meet Adi, a first-year student in the MIB program who will be writing for the Student Stories feature during his two years at Fletcher. Adi has roots in both the U.S. and Indonesia and has spent long stretches of time in each.
To be honest, I had never considered Fletcher as my destination for graduate school. I had barely heard of Fletcher in the social circles I normally operate around. And yet, here I am, three months into my academic journey as a Master of International Business (MIB) candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and it could not have been any better.
I left my previous job in Indonesia looking for new ways I could bridge the private sector’s involvement in development efforts, beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donations. Thus, in choosing my graduate school program, I looked into either a Master of Public Policy, where I could design the regulatory environment for business involvement, or a Master of Business Administration, diving right into the innovation system within corporate organizations. I was even considering a joint MBA-MPP degree. In the MIB at Fletcher, I found the ability to do both, and so much more. My daily classes are filled with learning as much about corporate financing and risk of investments as about the political risk of being in a foreign environment. I haven’t even gotten to the full range of courses that Fletcher has to offer.
I have attempted to immerse myself in the Fletcher spirit by joining the Fletcher Social Impact Group, advising a start-up team with their market entry strategy into Boston. I am organizing two separate conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with themes from innovations in international affairs to populism as a political risk. And, by attending lectures and events, I have interacted with senior managers from Boeing, Deloitte, GAP, and BCG, as well start-up founders. Sometimes, there are so many events happening that I simply cannot decide which I wish to attend. The relatively small but tight-knit community, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the wealth of event options have made the past three months very exciting, stressful, and colorful, all at the same time.
All of this excitement has made me wonder, as I reflect back to how I managed to get here: how had I never heard about Fletcher before I actually started applying? At first, I thought it was a lack of outreach from the School in Indonesia. Then, I looked at the profile of Indonesian alumni, and I saw former ministers of foreign affairs, heads of national planning, and directors from multi-national banks. I realized, there must be a Fletcher presence in Indonesia, and a pretty strong one at that. The alumni network in Indonesia, though small, actually holds key positions and are very influential. And the best part is that they, too, are proudly part of the Fletcher community.
The strength of the alumni network amazes me. I have heard about how most universities take pride in the diversity and success of their alumni, but I had never before heard, let alone experienced, how strong this alumni connection can be. Email any Fletcher graduate whose background you might be interested in, and you will very likely get a quick reply asking how they can help. In the three months I have been here, I probably have reached out to more than 50 alumni, and they all have responded, even if we needed to work around their schedules. And the more I am embedded in this community, the more I realize that this culture is not exclusive to alumni, but also current students, staff, and the faculty.
Quite simply, I feel that coming to Fletcher is one of the best decisions I have made. I cannot wait to see how the rest of my Fletcher journey will turn out. I can’t claim that I have gotten the full insight into what Fletcher has to offer, but I am definitely excited to see what else is out there.
I know that many Indonesians back home would be interested in joining this community, and will have a lot to add. And I know that many will benefit from the Fletcher experience, with the flexibility, the events, and the resources, to graduate ready to contribute back to the country. So here I am, hoping to ensure that people hear more about Fletcher. Here I am, to ensure that more Indonesians will make Fletcher their next stop.
Earlier in the fall we caught up with Adnan, McKenzie, and Tatsuo, our three returning writers in the Student Stories feature. Today I’m excited to introduce you to three new writers, Adi, Mariya, and Pulkit. Adi joined the MIB program this fall, while Mariya and Pulkit are both first-year MALD students. Mariya is a Pickering Fellow and Pulkit has a technical background — categories that represent a small but significant portion of each year’s incoming students. My hope is that applicants will see a little of themselves in the writers and that the writers will open a window for readers to view Fletcher student life.
We’ll kick off the new writers’ contributions tomorrow with Adi’s story of his path from working in Indonesia to joining the MIB program. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about these three new students.
Tagged with: Student Stories
It would be much harder and so much less pleasant to do our work if not for the help of our Graduate Assistants (GAs) — Fletcher students who work about ten hours per week in our office. In the old days (about three years ago) our office still dealt with a lot of paper — recommendations, transcripts, test scores all arrived by mail. These days, nearly everything is done through our Slate application and the GAs can offer us much more than simply cutting open envelopes. Today I want to introduce the four GAs working with us this year. You might meet them if you visit, or chat with them if you call. And now you’ll know that there’s a real person with the name signed on your email.
But first, the quickest of digressions. Today is our Early Notification deadline. I will save the GAs some work if I tell you that submitting an application on November 15 means you should zap it through by 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5). Any later will no longer be November 15. And now, with no further ado, let’s meet the GAs.
Hello future Fletcherites! I am a second-year MALD student, pursuing the International Business Relations and International Communications Fields of Study. Building on undergraduate degrees in both international affairs and photography, I am particularly interested in the impact of visual communication tools (i.e. photo and video) in the global context — especially in media and publishing. I look forward to pursuing a career in these industries when I graduate, and was fortunate to spend last summer interning with Scholastic Publishing on project management, photo editing, and business analysis.
At Fletcher, I’m regularly involved with The Murrow Center for a Digital World, serve as Managing Web Editor for Fletcher’s oldest student-run foreign policy journal, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, and am also engaged with groups such as Tech@Fletcher and the International Business Club. Prior to arriving in the Boston area, I spent four and a half years in Washington, DC, with a non-profit organization focused on global leadership development and U.S. public diplomacy. I worked primarily with the external affairs team on public programming, fundraising, and communications. I also had the opportunity to help develop strategic initiatives with the European Union, India, China, and Turkey. Then and now, I love travel, film, and tennis. I look forward to connecting with you and answering your questions about Fletcher!
Hi everyone! I am a first-year MIB student focusing on Strategic Management and International Consultancy, as well as Global Political Economy. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, I moved to Washington, DC to attend American University, where I studied international relations, focusing on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and Spanish language.
After completing my bachelor’s degree in 2012, I started working at Chemonics International as a project management team member. Six-months into my time there, I moved from the Latin America Regional Business Unit (RBU) to the Asia RBU, where I had the opportunity to learn about the culture and complexities of a region of the world that was new to me. While working in the Asia region, I was involved in projects spanning from Pakistan to the Pacific Islands that covered topics such as governance, climate change adaptation, combating human-trafficking, and economic growth. It was my work with the Vietnam Governance for Inclusive Growth project that sparked my interest in the public sector and led me to Fletcher! In my personal time I love doing Pilates and spin classes, trying new restaurants, and going to the movies. I look forward to hearing from you in the Admissions Office this year!
Hello everyone! I am a first-year MALD student, concentrating my studies in International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and International Organizations, and pursuing a certificate in Diplomatic Studies. I grew up in Spring Hill, Florida and later received my BA in political science, anthropology and a minor in Russian at the University of Florida (go Gators!). I was very fortunate to work with a professor in the political science department on a thesis related to ethnic violence against minorities in the Russian Federation. This experience sparked my interest in pursuing a degree related to international affairs.
When I graduated, I was accepted into Teach For America as a fifth-grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Halifax, North Carolina. As a teacher I honed my leadership skills, shared my passion for reading and writing with my students, and fostered lifelong relationships with my colleagues. Through learning about Teach For America’s mission, I became devoted to issues of minority rights and providing quality education to children regardless of their background or zip code.
At Fletcher, I want to focus my research on diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States. I am also interested in developing knowledge and skills related to international education and international minority rights. At the moment, I am considering self-designing my own field related to these two areas. I aspire to one day be working with an international organization that is devoted to advocating for human rights, more specifically minorities, or to within the United States government related to Eurasian or Russian affairs.
I have already become very involved on campus, and there seems to be a club for just about anything! I recently joined the Ambassachords, Fletcher’s premier a cappella group, and I have even been able to perform in one of our Culture Nights! In my spare time I love to cook, read, go for walks with my dog Obi, and spend time with my wonderful husband Brian. I am very excited to be working with the Admissions Team, and I hope that I can bring the spirit I have for this school to both current and prospective students!
Namaste! I am a second-year MALD student from Kathmandu, Nepal. I received an International Baccalaureate from the United World College of the American West in New Mexico, and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a major in psychology and double minor in economics and Spanish. As a native of a developing country, I have always been very interested in understanding and tackling the challenges of development. After my undergrad, I spent a few years working for various actors in international development in areas ranging from entrepreneurship, to local governance, social accountability, social protection, and capacity building. Immediately before coming to Fletcher, I worked for AmeriCares, an emergency response and global health international organization, helping them set up in Nepal and supporting their efforts in response to the massive earthquakes that devastated the country in April 2015.
At Fletcher, I am pursuing the Certificate on International Development, with Public & NGO Management and Human Security as my Fields of Study. This year I also have the pleasure and honor of co-leading the Asia Club and FletcherCares, which have given me more ways to engage with the Fletcher community. I am excited to be a part of this team at the Office of Admissions again this year and look forward to answering any questions you may have, in order to help you navigate through the graduate school research and application process.
Tagged with: GAs
Last fall, I invited readers to suggest topics for the blog. I think I covered them, more or less, except for one. An applicant asked whether there are aspects of international applicants’ backgrounds that the Admissions Committee finds difficult to understand. I would say that there are, fortunately, few issues that fall under that heading, though we certainly benefit from having Committee members who bring geographic diversity to our conversations.
Though I missed my chance to answer the question last year, I’m here with a response for this year’s applicants. If I were to tell readers what element of an application is likely to tie us up for a little extra time, it would be the undergraduate transcripts. Most, but not all (I’m looking at you, Hampshire College), U.S. colleges and universities issue a similar looking document, generally grading on a four-point scale. Even for those few colleges that use a different system, we’re familiar enough with them that we can easily make the adjustment. Transcripts from Japan, France, Korea, and China are equally straightforward, even if they don’t use the four-point scale.
But that still leaves many countries to confuse us, which is why we ask applicants to explain their university’s grading system. Not everyone does a good job with the explanation. In that case, we might do some research, possibly going as far as contacting the applicant to ask. In any event, we won’t make a decision on the application until we’re confident we know what we’re looking at. Even with some grading systems we see frequently, such as that commonly used in the U.K. and universities worldwide that follow the same system, we need your explanations! Guide us to a thorough understanding of one of the most important elements in your application.
Tagged with: Transcripts
Through several information sessions that I ran in the past few weeks, my travels in September/October, and the emails I’ve received, I’m very aware of the broad span of preparedness where we find our applicants in the fall. Some folks have already submitted their applications and may have been thinking about graduate school for a year or more, having gathered ample data on their different options. Others have started their search more recently, but they will still have time to prepare themselves to put together a strong application in January.
Are you in the latter group? Let me provide you with some points that you can add to your personal graduate school roadmap. Though most of our travel is behind us, we’re still offering on-campus and virtual information sessions that will help you fast-track your research. Check our calendar for everything on offer for the next month or so. And note that we’ll be participating in an APSIA Online Admissions Fair next week on November 16, through which you can gather information on Fletcher and our APSIA friends, too.
I don’t need to tell you that Fletcher has plenty of information on our website, as do our peers. Try to understand the different programs and find the best match for your objectives. Also on Fletcher’s website, information on the application process. Start creating a timeline so that you’ll be able to complete your applications with minimal stress. Contact us with your questions that aren’t answered on the website.
A bleary-eyed community filled Fletcher yesterday, having followed U.S. election news late into the night. And speaking of news, today I’ll share some items that you may have missed on other Fletcher sources.
First, for those who still want to read about politics, Fletcher alumnus and one-time presidential candidate Bill Richardson, F71, offered thoughts pre-election for what should happen post-election.
Among more recent alumni, Erik Iverson, F09, F13, has been selected as one of 16 White House Fellows this year. Erik was a friend of Admissions during his years here, and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch now-and-then since his graduation.
And, in one of those typically atypical post-Fletcher careers, Marina Pevzner Hennessy, F06, was recently the subject of a Tufts Now story about Plan Bee, her venture to bring bees to Myanmar.
Though he’s not quite an alumnus, Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Santos spent a year at Fletcher as a research fellow in the early 1980s.
A new Fletcher scholarship has recently been endowed in the name of Harry Radcliffe, F73, an award-winning journalist with vast experience.
In faculty news, Diana Chigas, F88, has been named the University’s Associate Provost and Senior International Officer. She will be responsible for engaging leaders across the schools to enhance Tufts’ outreach, impact and visibility internationally.
Retired professor William Moomaw, who maintains his connection with Tufts as co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), recorded “How Restorative Development Can Address Climate Change” with WGBH, one of our local public radio and television stations. In the interview, he discussed industrial agriculture, synthetic fertilizers and more natural approaches to farming that will revive the health of soil, water and air.
And here are two stories that interested me, and might interest you, though the link is to Tufts University more generally, not to Fletcher.
First, a statue of famed American abolitionist, John Brown, was discovered hidden at Tufts. Beyond those basic facts is a tale of museum sleuth work and the historical connections between Tufts, its neighbors, and the Underground Railroad.
And second, the story of the creation of the Daily Skimm, by an alumna of the undergraduate program at Tufts.
Last of all, I’ll leave you with the recently-launched video introducing Fletcher to new audiences. On a personal note, I’ll add only that Kaddu Sebunya, F02, was once a student member of the Admissions Committee. And that’s what’s best about my job. I get so much from interacting with folks during this brief pause in their careers. Then off they go to do great things in whatever area they choose.
This is an exciting week for a team of Fletcher students and faculty members who are attending the COP22 international climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco, along with others from Tufts. The Provost’s Office and Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy has provided funding to support the students’ travel to the talks, which will run from November 7 to 18, and where delegates will prepare for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Some of the travelers will be adding posts from Marrakech to a blog maintained by the Tufts Institute of the Environment, and I will also pick up the Fletcher students’ posts here. Meanwhile, you can follow the delegation at #TuftsCOP22. A highlight so far: Second-year MALD student from Indonesia, Angga, speaking to an Indonesian contingent.
Tagged with: CIERP
Only eight days until the November 15 Early Notification deadline. As there are hundreds of applications awaiting submission (most of which won’t turn up here until January) and only 15 ready for review, I’ll guess that this is still a good time to point you toward past blog posts about application essays. You may already have noticed that we have a whole category-worth of Admissions Tips. And then there’s a tag that captures everything we’ve written about the essays. For all the TLDR folks out there, I will summarize all the many posts this way:
Read the essay questions/topics. Write the essays. Follow the instructions regarding word count etc. (knowing that your essay will not be truncated if it goes a word over the limit, but we’ll know if it goes 100 words too long). Review what you’ve written and check that you’ve answered the question. Ask someone else to review what you’ve written and check that you’ve answered the question. Proofread. Be sure you haven’t left in a reference to another graduate school. (Yes, it happens.)
That’s it — the secret sauce. Of course, if you comb through all the posts, you’ll gather other details and also learn about my personal pet peeve: highfalutin vocabulary that randomly drops into an otherwise ordinary essay.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about essays before the January deadline, but I hope today’s brief post will arrive at the right time for November 15 applicants in the proofreading phase, and will also set January applicants up to start their writing.
Tagged with: Essays
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