Returning to the Class of 2015, Owen Sanderson was a two-year Admissions Office regular, spending time in the office as a volunteer, a paid member of the Admissions Committee, and a good source of conversation.  He was the first person I reached out to when I was looking for a helper for an APSIA graduate school fair in New York last September, and he’s the only student with whom I ever discussed options for engagement rings before he proposed.  His post-Fletcher career is typical in that it’s atypical.

“Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room,” cautions Paul Bennett the Chief Creative Officer of IDEO.  “The conventional heroic leader is a product of the past.”  Cleverness is not a ticket to success at IDEO.

Paul is right.  Despite the deep well of talent at my new employer, IDEO.org, I’ve observed that success here is fueled by one pervasive approach: a commitment to collaboration.

TODAY

Sanderson_FletcherBlog_1I write as I embark on my fifth month at IDEO.org’s New York office.  IDEO.org is a non-profit design and innovation organization associated with its celebrated Silicon Valley brother IDEO.  As a Business Designer — a unique role that blends business sensibilities with thoughtful design — I have seen firsthand how collaboration inspires seriously impressive results.  But this isn’t necessarily news to me, as group work is part and parcel of life at The Fletcher School.

Between 2013 and 2015, I spent two years at Fletcher preparing myself for a pivot into the design world.  Unconventional?  Perhaps.  Effective?  Definitely.  I have always had a decent grasp of international development, having studied it at Georgetown University and having worked in the field for nearly a decade.  However, Fletcher offered an opportunity to consider a contemporary approach to problem solving: Human Centered Design (HCD).  HCD is a creative practice that focuses on people rather than process.  The goal of HCD is to research, design, and build solutions, all while maintaining deep empathy for the women and men you’re designing for.

As a Business Designer I look to design solutions that aren’t just beautiful but viable in the emerging markets in Africa and Asia where IDEO.org works.  Life as a Business Designer takes many forms — from conducting user research to considering a market entry strategy for a new social enterprise to building partnerships with local NGOs to ensure programmatic sustainability.  It is exciting, fast-paced, and challenging.

BEFORE FLETCHER

So how did I navigate to this sweet spot between design and development?  My journey started at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC.  CSIS was hands-down the best first job out of college.  I highly recommend spending at least a few years at a DC think tank.  You’ll learn to write.  You’ll participate in incredible events.  You’ll have access to world-class personalities.  And you may even work down the hall from former statesmen Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski (I did!).  Perhaps most importantly, it was through this job I also met my future wife.  We get married in July—and I am positively joyful.

Following two years at CSIS, I sought to tone my quantitative muscles.  Management consulting called.  I spent three years at Deloitte Consulting, working alongside clients from USAID, the State Department, and beyond.  I dedicated my last year at Deloitte to an internal project that examined the intersection of government, the private sector, and this new thing called social entrepreneurship.  I cannot thank Deloitte partner Bill Eggers enough for exposing me to such interesting work.

AT FLETCHER

After five years away from school, I felt the pull.  Fletcher called.  I distinctly remember visiting the Hall of Flags as a high school junior on a college tour with my mom.  I remember being inspired.  How was I to know that ten years later I would be a temporary fixture in the Hall myself, particularly during Social Hour — Fletcher’s weekly gathering of minds and hungry grad school bellies.

At Fletcher, I focused on reconsidering the international development sector, uncovering new, innovative ways to tackle thorny poverty challenges.  I was attracted to courses like Kim Wilson’s Financial Inclusion and Bhaskar Chakravorti’s Strategy & Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business.  I refined my consultative approach in Rusty Tunnard’s Field Studies in Global Consulting — and then served as his teaching assistant during my second year.  And I put theory to practice by spending my Fletcher summer in Nairobi, Kenya at the iHub, a co-working and innovation collective.  While there I wrote my capstone on Nairobi’s tech ecosystem and then taught this capstone to Kim Wilson’s class in 2015.  Both my internship and my capstone propelled me into my current gig as a Business Designer.

AFTER FLETCHER

And so now I’m at IDEO.org.  It’s tough.  It’s dirty.  But it’s oh-so-rewarding.  Last month I spent two weeks in Kakuma, Kenya, a 24-year-old refugee camp with approximately 185,000 residents.  Read that sentence again.  A refugee camp.  A 24-year-old, temporary place of sanctuary.  But nothing is temporary in Kakuma.  It is a permanent city.  Our team touched down in Kakuma to rethink (and frankly, redesign) how refugee teachers access professional development services.  With average class sizes of over 100 students and a serious lack of material resources to support teaching, these refugee teachers are eager for support.

I went to Fletcher to learn how to solve big, hairy problems like those I saw in Kakuma.  I am at IDEO.org to solve them.  However, a lone wolf won’t solve these challenges.  As Paul Bennett said, the smartest person in the room won’t have the solution.  Paul is not alone in this belief.  He has advocates across the world, including in Kakuma.  During our second week in the refugee camp, a teacher suggested that problems in the camp are never resolved alone: “We work as a team.  No one is cleverer.”  From Medford to New York to Kakuma, collaboration appears to be the name of the game.

Sanderson_FletcherBlog_3

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The Hall of Flags is Fletcher’s town square, its crossroads, its living room — everyone walks through at some point during the day.  A highlight of my year comes when I grab my computer and my ace co-pilot, Kristen, and head out to the HoF to talk with whomever we see.  Students, staff, faculty — we don’t hesitate to keep them any of them from getting their work done, or even from crossing the Hall of Flags on the way to the door.  We started our HoF time by scanning the scene to choose our first conversational target.  Our topic for the day:  Tell us something noteworthy about your year at Fletcher.

There’s often a student staffing a table at which tickets to an event are sold.  A perfect place to start.

Carmyn, second year student pursuing dual degree with the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna (selling tickets for Americana Night):

One of the most noteworthy things for me this year were the guest and visiting speakers that came to Fletcher.  For example, I kicked off my year by attending a luncheon lecture as a part of the International Security Studies lecture series, and heard from General Petr Pavel, the Chairman of the Military Committee for NATO.  In addition, the Fletcher Security Review has also hosted some really amazing and highly experienced professionals as guest speakers.  I feel very invested and involved in the fields that I am studying.  There are so many engaging things here at Fletcher, so it’s really great to have those opportunities on the academic side, as well as many possibilities to attend social events led and organized by students.  Aside from that, just getting to know people at Fletcher has been great.  The student body here is phenomenal.

Carmyn, HoF1 

Helen, Associate Director of the Office of Career Services:

We have ten new Blakeley Fellows!  Jerry Blakeley very generously has given $50,000 for the summer of 2016 to support ten first-year students doing internships in developing countries, focused on microfinance, private sector development, public/private partnerships, NGO business development, and project financing.

Although there are other sources of funding for summer internships, this amount can significantly defray expenses for these unpaid internships.  Countries that students will be working in include Uganda, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Malawi, Indonesia, and India.  This is the ninth summer that the Blakeleys will be supporting students doing these types of internships.

Helen, HoF
Helen is such a good sport that she let Kristen convince her to come looking for us!

Halley, Staff Assistant for the Office of the Registrar (just completing her first year at Fletcher): 

It’s been really amazing meeting and interacting with so many students from all over the world and so many cultures and backgrounds, getting to know them throughout the year, and seeing them succeed academically and thrive at Fletcher.

Halley, HoF
Not content to interrupt one person at a time, Kristen and I set our sights on a study group.

Peter, second-year MIB:

I’m involved in the Fletcher Social Investment Group — one of the leadership members — and we had the opportunity to present at the CEME Fellows meeting and to get their feedback, and to share with the external Fletcher community what we’re up to.

Preetish, second-year MALD:

My entrepreneurship class in Energy, Entrepreneurship and Finance, which is what we’re currently working on.  The way energy and finance comes together in class is interesting.  I’m looking for a career in this field.

Peter:  The professor (Barbara Kates-Garnick) is also the former Commissioner of Energy in Massachusetts, so it’s really interesting.

Harper, first-year MALD:

I like the flexibility that the MALD program provides so that you can take a class like Energy, Entrepreneurship and a class like Role of Force in the same semester.

Peter group, HoF
Why interrupt only one study group?  We moved on to what we thought was another.  Turned out it was three people simply chatting together.  Nate and Cristina were both volunteer interviewers for Admissions in the fall!

Nate, second-year MALD:

It was definitely the media communications panel from the DC Career Trip, because it was very encouraging to interact with so many alums who work in a space that I’m actively pursuing a career in.  I appreciated that they did such a great job relating their Fletcher experience to their career paths and also how enthusiastic they were about making time in their day to encourage aspiring students to follow their career path.  At the panel, there were representatives from The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Inter-American Development Bank, FCW, and the Glover Park Group.

Marc, mid-career MA student:

One of the more noteworthy events?…I hate to follow and say the DC Career Trip, but in particular, I attended a small session on conflict and violent extremism at the State Department with a number of officials, and it was a good opportunity to talk about the profession, and it dovetailed with classes here.  It reminded me why I came here.  I previously worked for Chemonics, but I want to get into CVE, and it’s great to know that there are a lot of people from Fletcher doing cutting edge work in that field.

Also, I’ve taken classes in urban planning and GIS – it was a great opportunity to tie in those topics that I may not have been able to study elsewhere.

Cristina, first-year MALD:

International Negotiations with Professor Babbitt.  She’s a very dynamic professor and her command of the subject matter is impressive.  She really knows how to teach, too!

Nate group, HoF
Next I saw a familiar face from the PhD program.

Liz, MALD ‘94, PhD ’16 (who told us she was visiting Fletcher to guest lecture for Professor Conley-Zilkic’s class on Understanding Mass Atrocities):

I successfully defended my thesis in December 2015.  Since then, I’ve continued my work with folks in the U.S. government — specifically advising on the policy stance toward the current crisis in Burundi.

Liz’s dissertation title:  “Securing the Space for Political Transition: The Evolution of Civil-Military Relations in Burundi.”

Liz M, HoF
We chatted a bit more with Liz about how earning your PhD is a very big deal, and then she was off to her guest-lecture gig.

With that, we decided it was time to head back to our day-to-day work.  We’ll be back, Hall of Flags!  Until then…

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There was a time, way back in the day, when the Admissions Blog was just about the only game in town.  Now the School and its various programs/groups maintain multiple Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and even other blogs.

The LLM program, for example, has had its own blog since the start of this academic year.  Though not all the information they share pertains to students in all degree programs, it’s still worth a look!

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Following up on my post about the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition, this happy news greeted me from my inbox last Friday.  The email came from Professor Weitz, Fletcher’s Entrepreneur Coach (and an alumnus).

Dear Fletcher community,

As Entrepreneur Coach, I am pleased to report that Fletcher startups did quite well in yesterday’s Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.

A small, but loud, contingent of Fletcher students, faculty, and staff attended to cheer on our four Fletcher startup finalists:

Blue Water Metrics
PowerShare
Rashmi
Uliza!

The Blue Water Metrics team (Matt Merighi, F16, Caroline Troein, F13, Jack Whitacre, F16, and Sea Sovereign Thomas, F02) placed second in the Tufts $100K Social Impact Track, which translates into $7,000 cash in startup capital + $5,000 in free legal fees + free office space in downtown Boston.

The Uliza team (Grant Bridgman, F16, Abhishek Maity, F16, and undergraduate student Janet Jepkogei, A17) placed third in the Tufts $100K Social Impact Track, which translates into $3,000 cash in startup capital + $5,000 in free legal fees + free office space in downtown Boston.

Although they didn’t win any prize money, the PowerShare International team (Jamie Powers, F16, Tarun Gopalakrishnan, F16, Nathan Justice, A17, and Jack Whitacre, F16) and the Rashmi team (Rajiv Nair, F16, Sreedhar Nemmani, F16, and Alisha Guffey, F16) successfully competed with over 65 other Tufts startups to place as finalists in the Tufts $100K, which is a significant accomplishment.

Overall Fletcher startups represented 4 out of 6 finalists in the Tufts $100K Social Impact Track, showcasing teamwork of 14 Fletcher students and alumni.

Please join me in congratulating them today!

All my best,

Prof. Weitz

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With the Open House for admitted students now in our rear-view mirror, we’re looking ahead to April 20, the date when admitted students need to have decided whether to enroll.  This week and next, we’ll continue to take questions by email and phone, and to spend time with prospective students who visit campus.  It’s busy, but the real work is being done by the admitted students who are deciding what they want their graduate school experience to look like.  In only nine days, we’ll find out which students want their experience to look like Fletcher!

Along the way, we’ve offered several online chats.  In addition to providing an opportunity for admitted students to ask their questions, it’s a chance for the staff to sit together and chat while typing.  Students have joined us for each of the chats, and we enjoy hearing about Fletcher from their perspective.  At one chat, we talked around the table about apartment hunting and cricket playing.  A member of the Career Services staff has also joined each of the chats, and it helps us to know how they answer some of the questions that go their way.

For blog readers who have accepted a place on the waitlist, I’ll mention that there won’t be any action for a while still.  If you have questions, or if you would like to send us an update, now would be a good time to contact us.  In fact, I have two emails in my inbox right now from applicants on the waitlist.  (Answering them is my next task.)

I hope it’s helpful to learn what’s going on behind the scenes.  If you have questions you’d like me to answer, you can email me, or add your question in the comment section below.

 

It’s Friday and, having begun my week with newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2010 graduates.  Constantin is a “double Jumbo,” holding two Tufts degrees.  He combined his undergraduate BA with the two-year MALD, reducing his total study time for the two degrees from six years to five.  Few undergraduates have their requirements sufficiently complete to apply to the MALD, and only a few of the applicants are admitted.  I remember meeting Constantin before he even applied and I was very pleased that he agreed to provide a Five-Year Update.

ConstantinHonored to be one of the lucky few “BA-MALD” students at Fletcher, I still remember when I stepped into my first Fletcher class.  Intimidated by my peers, who had accumulated years of experience across an incredible variety of fields, I was also very excited to learn from and grow with them.  And so, for two years, I was fortunate to have fun learning both in the classroom and outside of it.  The students at Fletcher are really its greatest resource: sharp, cross-cultural, filled with fascinating viewpoints and open-minded.  I’m glad I have them as friends today.

Fletcher was a natural step for me at the time.  I was eager to further my studies on the complex web that is international affairs, while also building my academic background on business topics, as I had set my eyes on finance post-grad school — Fletcher was the perfect place to do it.  In the classroom, I focused on International Business Relations and Pacific Asia, while also exploring other topics of interest such as Maritime History and Comparative Legal Systems, and writing a thesis on the rapidly evolving business environment and regulatory framework for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in China.  To further my business studies, I took classes at Harvard Business School, thanks to the cross-registration agreement Fletcher and HBS share.  I also spent time with students and professors pushing ideas to develop a non-profit I had been running for a few years, and attending engaging conferences.  The academic environment at Fletcher was exciting, challenging, and fulfilling, and it left me well prepared for my next challenge.

After Fletcher, I moved to New York and joined UBS Investment Bank, where I helped advise global manufacturing and natural resource businesses on mergers and acquisitions, as well as capital market transactions.  It was great to apply the knowledge I gained at Fletcher.  Professor Jacque’s teachings in accounting and corporate finance were naturally very helpful, while the ability to see the big picture and analyze complex interactions developed in International Relations classes allowed me to add more value while working on deals.  Fletcher also strengthened my comfort working with people from different cultures in different languages.  After a few years in M&A, I started work at Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, in Paris.  The experience here has been phenomenal, analyzing potential investment targets and working alongside portfolio companies to help them grow.

Altogether, my two years at Fletcher were incredibly rewarding, from fantastic relationships, to exceptionally interesting classes, to new skills developed.  I’m proud to be a part of the Fletcher community!

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I’m a member of a city commission and we recently worked on our annual report for 2015.  Click! — a light bulb lit up over my head.  Why not have Fletcher’s student organizations write brief annual reports for the blog?  I reached out to several groups and am happy to share the summaries of their activities for the 2015-16 academic year.

Fletcher Cares
Amber Atteridge

Fletcher Cares is a public service organization that provides opportunities for volunteerism to build a stronger, more efficient, and more sustainable community network within Fletcher.  Our goal is to build collaboration wherever possible with other Fletcher and Tufts organizations and to promote public service careers.  This year Fletcher Cares participated in a winter coat drive and ran a community event “Fit for Finals” to promote health and well-being during finals.  This spring, Fletcher Cares will once again be volunteering for the Boston Marathon, hosting our annual charity dinner and auction, working with a U.S. prison reform organization, and will close out the year with a spring “Fit for Finals” event.

Fletcher Finance Club
Bryan Stinchfield

The Fletcher Finance Club’s mission is to be a platform of learning in the areas of finance and related public policy by offering extracurricular skills- and knowledge-building initiatives; and to provide a complementary channel through which members may successfully pursue a professional career in the broad financial services and banking industry.

A few events we have hosted were seminars to help students with the process of interviewing with financial firms.  This past fall we hosted an alumnus guest speaker who worked at Citibank’s infrastructure and project finance team, and members had an intimate off-the-record session on how to secure jobs on Wall Street or in energy finance.  Also related to energy finance, we hosted guest speakers from Global Focus Capital LLC and Spinnaker Oil and they laid out fundamental analysis of the current state of energy prices and what companies are doing to hedge.

In addition to guest speakers, Fletcher Finance hosts sessions about internship and job opportunities with firms in global finance.  In one such job panel with Chatham Financial, an alumna explained the need for advanced hedging instruments to operate globally.

We also work closely with the greater Tufts community.  This spring, along with the Tisch College, we co-hosted a ceremony to honor Robert Manning, current CEO of MFS Investment Management, with the Tisch College Corporate Citizen Fellow Award.  Following this event, the Fletcher Finance team toured MFS global headquarters in downtown Boston and had sit-downs with the head of Global Equity, Fixed Income, and Research for the leading investment manager.

Fletcher Finance also provides additional skills building opportunities for our club members through our technical seminars.  We’ve partnered with Tufts Finance Network to bring more finance-related events to Fletcher with a coveted financial modeling program, Wall Street Prep.

Our group members come from diverse backgrounds and we welcome those who may not have any financial background but want to learn more.  Current club co-president Michael Duh spent eight years as an auditor at a Big Four public accounting firm and will be heading to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after graduation in their financial institution supervision group.  Co-president Athul Ravunniarath  has made a name for himself in the impact investing space, having now consulted and worked for MasterCard, I-DEV, and Acumen Fund — leading investors in fin-tech and renewable energy — to which Athul brought to the table modeling, due diligence, and deal scoping skills, which he has honed with the help of the Fletcher education and Finance Club.  What Fletcher Finance allows members to do is elevate their understanding of finance not only for analysis, research, and number crunching, but also to gain the global contextual understanding that is needed to asses any financial deal.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact our elist.  The Fletcher Finance Club is honored to share more about our work and encourages future Fletcher students to carry the torch in the years to come.

Fletcher LGBTQA
Jonathan Ramteke

Fletcher LGBTQA aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in the fields of foreign policy and international relations, as well as to create a safe and inclusive community for lesbian, gay, transgender, and/or queer students and their allies.

This academic year, Fletcher LGBTQA has sponsored two lecture events on LGBTQ issues relevant to foreign policy and international relations.  In October, Professor Timothy McCarthy of Harvard University spoke about the Lavender Scare, the U.S. government’s campaign during the 1950s to persecute LGBTQ federal employees.  He described how 5,000 LGBTQ federal employees were fired, under the guise of maintaining national security, and how the events of the Lavender Scare remain relevant today because of the widespread absence of state and federal laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  In November, Maria Beatriz Bonna Nogueira, fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, spoke about the drive to include LGBTQ issues in international conversations on human rights.  As former Head of International Affairs at Brazil’s Ministry for Human Rights, she outlined Brazil’s successful efforts to advocate for LGBTQ rights in the context of international organizations.

Just this week, Fletcher LGBTQA, in partnership with Fletcher Christian Fellowship and the Religion, Law, and Diplomacy Group, offered a panel event on Global Faiths and Transnational LGBTQ Activism.  At the event, presenters from diverse traditions shared their experiences on how faith can be used as a catalyst for social justice to build transnational community and advocacy.  Speakers included Reverend Irene Monroe, a public theologian, and Kaamila Mohamed, the founder of Queer Muslims of Boston.  Tufts University Chaplain Reverend Greg McGonigle moderated.

As issues related to gender and sexuality are gaining more and more attention in foreign policy and international relations, Fletcher LGTQA, at the oldest graduate school of international affairs in the U.S., hopes to be a leader in the conversation.

Asia Club
Aditi Sethi

Asia Club provides a space for students interested in all aspects of the continent to share experiences and knowledge with one another, and to develop a diverse network of students and professionals with similar interests.  The club also works to highlight Asian culture in day-to-day student life through exhibitions and events, often in collaboration with other student clubs that also focus on the region.  Over the past year, Asia Club has organized Asia Night, one of Fletcher’s five “culture nights,” which showcased 12 cultural performances from across Asia, including martial arts, Chinese rock opera, Thai dancing, and music from various countries.  Before the end of the semester, Asia Club plans to host talks by government officials.  Along with the South Asia Club, Asia Club plans to bring Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Consul General of India, New York, to speak. Asia Club has also been working to host Mr. Scott Lai, Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston, for an intimate discussion.

FLEEC
Emma Johnston

Fletcher’s Energy and Environment Club or “FLEEC” serves several functions for the Fletcher community.  First and foremost, it is Fletcher’s internal network for all things related to the environment and energy.  It is your most accessible resource for finding students with experience or interest in those fields.  The club facilitates lectures, field trips, networking events, and panels for students interested in the International Environment and Resource Policy Field of Study.

Highlights from FLEEC this year include “The Great Debate” with Professors Bill Moomaw and Bruce Everett.  Two of Fletcher’s most well-respected professors debated the possible outcomes of the climate talks in Paris and the economics of climate change moving forward.

FLEEC leadership also worked with Harvard Kennedy School in November to organize a mixer for students interested in energy.  Students from both schools gathered at a bar in Harvard Square for a fantastic networking opportunity.

FLEEC successfully in organized a field trip to a local recycling plant.  FLEEC aims for a few technical field trips like this per year.  We believe a solid understanding of the technology helps inform the business plans and policy ideas we create here at Fletcher.

The close of the year will bring still more events, including an annual alumni networking event the weekend of graduation.  FLEEC leadership encourages input from current and incoming students on how best to tailor events to their interests.  We are always grateful for the suggestions.

Today and tomorrow, four teams from Fletcher will be showcasing their ventures at the finals of the Tufts 100K New Ventures Competition.  The full program of activities includes the competition itself, the Tufts Entrepreneurship Showcase, a keynote address from John Sculley, and the awards ceremony.

100KIn addition to the big prize, there is a $1000 audience award, so the Fletcher teams are encouraging the community to come out and vote for them.  It’s a public event and tickets are available.

The four Fletcher teams are:

Blue Water Metrics

PowerShare, which also competed last year.

Rashmi

Uliza!

And you can (as usual) follow the competition on Twitter.  Good luck to our entrepreneurial students!

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OH reception

The Hall of Flags scene for Sunday’s Open House reception.

So today we’re hosting about 130 newly admitted students for our Open House and everything is going swimmingly.  We started with a reception and alumni panel yesterday evening, with many current and new students heading off to a pub after the official event concluded.  Many of the visitors are being hosted by current students — they may have met-up yesterday afternoon or they found each other during the reception.

Then, this morning, we all reconvened.  So far, I (along with Kristen) have completed my favorite job of registering the visitors — keeps me busy, allows me to meet everyone — and I also met with our visiting mid-career MA students.  Now I have five minutes between chats during Admissions Office walk-in office hours.

Because nothing is ever as much fun if it goes predictably, Nature has given us something to talk about.  Following a very warm week last week, we’ve had snow yesterday and today.  April snow is a rare event, but not unheard of.  We might wish that it didn’t fall during the Open House, but the scenes outside each window are lovely.

Back to the office hour queue.  This will be a busy day for all of us!

 

Reports from the Class of 2015 have started to trickle in.  Today we’ll learn about the path through Fletcher of Thomas Pols, an experienced medical doctor.

A year ago I was putting the final touches on my capstone and was in the midst of my job search while trying to enjoy every moment of my last few weeks in Medford.  After having worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the years before starting Fletcher, I came to the U.S. in August 2013 with my mind set on continuing my career in humanitarian aid.  Never could I have predicted how differently my career would develop instead.

Compared to the clear structure of medical school, the flexible and interdisciplinary Fletcher curriculum was completely new to me.  Choosing from so many different topics to study while still being able to connect all these fields was an amazing experience that, over the course of two years, made me consider taking my career in new directions.  Talking with Professors Scharioth and Wilkinson was a great way to test the ideas that I had for my post-Fletcher life and, with their encouragement, I decided not to go straight back to the humanitarian field after all.

After celebrating our graduation in May 2015, the first order of business of a small group of us newly minted alumni was to travel together through the Caucasus and Central Europe before starting with “real” life.  For me, this meant a post-travel return to my native Netherlands and exploring opportunities here.

Because I wanted to explore many different opportunities, I tried to cast a wide net by doing some freelance consulting work for humanitarian NGOs, while also teaching part-time at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.  Being on the other side of the classroom just months after graduating myself was a great experience.  Focusing primarily on courses covering international relations and international law allowed me to use many of the skills and the knowledge I had gained over the previous two years.  My work at the university also brought me in contact with many interesting people who helped me continue my search for a job that would combine my medical and Fletcher backgrounds.

One of these conversations led to an introduction at Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague, where I was amazed to see how much they appreciated the interdisciplinary education I received at Fletcher.  A complex company such as Shell works in a difficult market, in difficult locations, while continuously under scrutiny; a great challenge for a Fletcher graduate.

After half a dozen meetings, interviews and assessments, I was offered a position as Global Health Advisor.  Never would I have thought that this would be the next step in my career, and I can truly say that Fletcher made it possible.

Today, nearly a year after leaving my friends in Medford, I am back visiting them in Washington, DC (where it seems that our “sixth semester” is in full swing), before I start the next step in my career.  I am actually writing this in DC after finishing Sunday brunch with a group of Fletcher graduates, who shared amazing stories of what they have been up to in the last year.

I won’t try again to predict what I will do in the future because, with a Fletcher degree, it seems any future is possible.

Thomas (second from right) and Fletcher friends in Azerbaijan.

Thomas (second from right) and Fletcher friends in Azerbaijan.

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