It isn’t only the Admissions Office that is busy this time of year.  Even while students are feeling the midterm heat, the daily parade of speakers and meetings continues, and community members manage to squeeze out the time to attend.  Most recently, two conferences bracketed this week.  The first, on Tuesday, “Thinking About Think Tanks,” was put together by Prof. Daniel Drezner, and my sources tell me it was a great success.  The site includes the Twitter conversation, which will give you a sense of the atmosphere.

Closing out the week is today’s PhD conference.  Organized by PhD program students, who also present papers or act as panel discussants, the annual event is this year entitled “Critical Perspectives: Contemporary Issues in International Relations.”  More details can be found on the day’s schedule.  This is the eighth PhD conference, and proceedings from previous events can be found on the conference website.

It isn’t like this is the one week of the semester offering a discussion-oriented event to enhance in-class learning.  Next Friday, the community is invited to the inaugural presentation of the Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe), a new collaborative effort between Fletcher and the broader Tufts community.  This first event will feature four professors, each bringing a different lens to the topic of how we manage memories of violence.  Details can be found here.

And while I’m linking to the calendar, I should point you to this newly useful resource.  While we may, in the past, have been (ahem) relaxed about ensuring that every event was listed, you’ll now be able to learn about nearly everything happening outside the classroom every day.

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I was chatting with a student last week, and she said something about her “180″ meeting.  I had the vaguest sense that I had heard of this 180 thing before, but I needed to dig through my email to find information.

Having done the digging, I can report that Tufts is one of a small number of U.S. universities hosting 180 Degrees Consulting.  Students from throughout the University were invited to apply to join as student consultants and team leaders.  180 Degrees Consulting emphasizes social impact, making the program a great fit for the Tufts group, which was especially interested in Fletcher students to serve as team leaders.   Here’s some additional information from the group’s email to students:

What is 180 Degrees Consulting?

180 Degrees Consulting is the world’s largest pro-bono student consultancy.  180 Degrees Consultants work with nonprofit organizations and social venture to maximize their social impact.  Groups of University students identify and overcome organizations specific challenges, developing innovative, practical and sustainable solutions.

Across the world 180 Degrees Consulting has worked with over 2,000 highly achieving youth consultants working in teams to overcome hundreds or challenges facing real organizations each year.  180 offers a broad range of consultant services, including strategic planning, financial management, communications and social impact analysis.

Rationale

180 Degrees recognizes that while raising revenue is crucial for not-for-profits, developing strategies to utilize existing resources most efficiently is equally important.  This is why students at 180 Degrees apply management consulting principles to the not-for-profit industry and develop business solutions to social problems.  Many organizations, constrained by a lack of resources, are unable to utilize for-profit consulting services.  At the same time, many high caliber university students are willing and able to develop solutions to challenges many organizations’ face.  180 Degrees Consulting strives to connect this source of untapped potential to the organizations that need it most.

How it works

At 180 Degrees, the mission is to create value for both the organizations and students consultants.  180 Degrees selects the most talented and socially conscious university students across each of our branches.  Students are given specialized training from a leading international management consultancy before being assigned to a project aligned with their knowledge and expertise.  Teams of five — plus a team leader — work closely with key stakeholders in the organization to define the deliverables, understand the organization’s specific challenges and create final recommendations over the course of a semester.

At Tufts, 180 Degree Consulting’s mission is to strengthen the ability of nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston Area to achieve high impact social outcomes through the development of innovative, practical and sustainable solutions.  We hope to provide a transformational experience for Tufts University students as you gain invaluable real world consulting experience by delivering free consulting services to worthwhile organizations.

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I always like applicants to know who it is who may answer the phone when they call or their emails when they write.  This year we have a small group of four dedicated student interns working in the Admissions Office.  They’ll introduce themselves in today’s post, but this won’t be the only time you’ll be hearing from them on the blog.  I’ve asked them to write about their student activities, too.  But first the intros.

RebekahRebekah: Hi everyone!  I am a second-year MALD student focusing on gender and human security.  I am originally from San Luis Obispo, California and attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for my undergraduate studies.  Prior to Fletcher I lived in Washington, DC and worked as an administrative and research assistant for an international trade consulting company, where I focused primarily on trade and investment issues in Latin America.

I spent this past summer interning with the conflict resolution NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Luanda, Angola, where I had the opportunity to work on SFCG Angola’s gender programming.  This year at Fletcher, I am excited to be serving as the co-president of Fletcher’s Gender Initiative and as the second-year Student Representative on Fletcher’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusiveness.  I also represent the Fletcher student body on the President’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force.  When I’m not on campus, I enjoy cooking, running, and exploring the Boston area. I look forward to hearing from you in the Admissions Office this year!

Justin, 2Justin: Hey!  I am Justin Peña, a second-year MALD student at Fletcher.  I’m from New York City, having grown up in the lower east side of Manhattan.  I graduated from Wesleyan University in 2012, where I majored in Government and International Politics.  My current interests revolve around U.S. Foreign Policy, with an emphasis on U.S.-China relations.  I’ve had a long interest in Chinese politics and society, which stemmed from my study of Mandarin in high school.  This had led me to study abroad in Hangzhou, China during my undergraduate years.  Prior to Fletcher, I interned for a Beijing-based NGO, the China Development Brief, which reported on civil society in China.  In Beijing, I also spent some time advising Chinese high school students seeking to matriculate in U.S. colleges.

While at Fletcher, I have decided to concentrate in Security Studies and Pacific Asia.  Outside of the classroom, I have tried to remain engaged in a number of ways.  During my first year, I worked as a research intern for the Center on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding, examining the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement process.  I had also worked with PRAXIS, Fletcher’s journal of human security.  My work with the Office of Admissions began in the latter half of that academic year. Over this past summer, I interned at the State Department’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, which exposed me a bit to the world of diplomacy.  This year, along with continuing my work with the Admissions office, I am one of the co-leaders of Fletcher’s China Studies Society.

So that’s about it for now, but I look forward to sharing more of my experiences at Fletcher as the year rolls on.

EmmaEmma: Hi!  I am a second-year MALD student from Cleveland, Ohio and Portland, Oregon.  Here at Fletcher, I focus on International Security Studies and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, with a particular interest in strategies for confronting non-state armed groups in the Middle East.  I spent last summer in Beirut, Lebanon assisting a peacebuilding and conflict resolution organization and eating all the fattoush I could.

Living close to Davis Square, just a few T stops from Cambridge and Boston, means that I get to explore my new city, eat a ton of delicious and diverse food, and indulge my love of U.S. history.  Outside of the classroom, I’m a senior staff editor for our foreign policy journal, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.  I look forward to hearing from you all soon and hopefully welcoming you to the Fletcher community!

AllisonAllison: Hi everyone!  I am a first-year student in the Masters of International Business (MIB) program.  I started at Fletcher last January, so I am one of about 40 “Januarians” at Fletcher.  For my undergraduate degree, I studied political science at Tufts.  After graduating in 2009, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work at the World Economic Forum on its social entrepreneurship initiative.  I later joined the Peace Corps as a Water and Sanitation volunteer in Peru.  Upon concluding my time with the Peace Corps, I returned to the social entrepreneurship team at the World Economic Forum.  When I arrived at Fletcher, I planned to focus on the role of the private sector in international development, but my interests have shifted as new professors and courses have given me the opportunity to explore new areas of study.  My Fields of Study are International Finance and Banking and International Business and Economic Law.  When I’m not studying, I love hanging out with other Fletcher students, going running, and cooking.

 

Way back in the August archives lives a week-long series that Christine and I put together to help you, dear applicant, with your application.  Consult our Application Boot Camp for tips on arranging supportive recommendations, writing strong essays, test scores and transcripts, and more!

I also wanted to pause for just a minute to tell you what’s happening around the Admissions Office.  Our first batch of applications for 2015 is trickling in, with the deadline for January enrollment coming up next Wednesday, October 15.  This will be our first opportunity to work with our new online application review system (exciting and nerve-racking in equal amounts).  We’re glad that the first batch of applications we’ll read on the new system is small enough to allow us to iron out some wrinkles.

Our travel season is in high gear, and it’s a rare day when every member of the staff is in the office.  We’ve already covered DC, Toronto, New York, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.  Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and other locations are still in front of us.  Having our application readers on the road complicates the January admissions process, but we always get everything done in time for admitted students to organize themselves to arrive here in mid-January.

Our student interviewers are getting into the swing of things, and we’ll soon be selecting students to serve on the Admissions Committee.  We also called on our Admissions Ambassadors to join visitors for lunch on Monday, during our Visit Day.

All in all, we’re enjoying hosting visitors at Fletcher, meeting prospective applicants on the road, and putting our systems together to make the admissions process run smoothly for everyone.

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Maki & MphoWhile I’m blogging away in my office pajamas, Boston Fashion Week is in full swing.  The arrival of troupes of designers and fashion writers might seem to have little to do with Fletcher and our admissions process, except for this:

Maki Nakata, a 2013 graduate of the MIB program, will be hosting a Fashion Week event with her new clothing firm, Maki & Mpho.  Along with designer Mpho Muendane, Maki’s objectives are that “Maki & Mpho’s designs will bring the delightful, positive, and exciting aspects of African experience to the global audience.”  More details on their philosophy, which goes well beyond design and includes a strong focus on development and cultural exchange, can be found here.

A group of current students is planning to represent the Fletcher community at the event.  While fashion/design is not a typical post-Fletcher path, creative implementation of concepts learned here definitely is.

 

Today we’re hosting the first of the fall’s Visit Days.  Prospective students will start arriving at about noon, and we’ll all have lunch together.  Then we’ll move on to an Information Session, and a student panel.  The first of the visitors have already arrived for morning interviews, and others are checking in at the office just to be sure they’re in the right place.

Visit Days are energizing for the staff, and useful for applicants.  Not only does the schedule allow a convenient way to stuff a lot of activities in a short period of time, but it’s always helpful for applicants to hear what others are thinking.  (The person obsessing over the personal statement will benefit from the questions asked by the person obsessing over the résumé, and vice versa.)  It’s helpful for the blog, too!  If I hear any good questions that I hadn’t already planned to answer, I’ll make note and cover them in the coming days.

If you aren’t joining us today but the Visit Day concept is appealing, consider joining us on November 17 for a general Visit Day, or on October 20 (PhD applicants) or October 27 (MIB applicants).

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The Struggle for PakistanToday I thought I’d highlight a book by a member of the Fletcher community.  Prof. Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Fletcher and the School of Arts and Sciences.  She’s also a friend of Fletcher Admissions, and has served many years on the Admissions Committee, always enthusiastically.  Her insightful comments are the sort that are still present around the table two years after her last stint with us.

And now, Prof. Jalal has a new book, The Struggle for Pakistan, about which she was interviewed for Tufts Now.  A timely addition to the scholarship on Pakistan, and the culmination of Prof. Jalal’s lifelong connection to the country.

 

 

StrengthI’ve been out of the office for half of each of the last two weeks.  Then Monday, Christine and I were at the Boston Idealist Grad School Fair together.  By the time I left the office yesterday for a panel discussion at Harvard, I was behind on everything — including responding to email, leading to a few complaints from people who hadn’t heard from me.  (Another day of patience should do it!)

Monday and Tuesday’s frenzy made it particularly pleasant to head back to Fletcher after the panel for a 5:30 book talk by the author and subject of Strength in What Remains.  This was the second occasion of a new tradition, “Fletcher Reads,” for which all members of the community are invited to read a book and then come together for a conversation about it.

Listening to Deo, the Burundian refugee profiled in Tracy Kidder’s biography, was like reading the second volume of the story, one in which the community health center Deo established in Burundi, Village Health Works,  is a thriving success.  The event was designed to be “off the record,” so I won’t quote anything that Tracy Kidder or Deo said, but there were many mentions of dignity for the patients who visit the center.

Earlier yesterday, I had been hearing from students that the easy first weeks of the semester were over, and they were starting to feel more pressure.  Given their time crunch, it was gratifying to see how many of them (along with faculty and staff members) attended the session, which was supposed to be preceded by reading the book.  Somehow students always manage to stretch that last little bit to learn outside the classroom, as well as inside it.

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I’ve recently written about members of the community who have turned up on NPR, and here’s a new one.  Prof. Henrikson sent me a note after John Stanwich, F88 was interviewed about the new White House Visitor Center.  John has been with the National Park Service for some time, including a stint as historian at the Adams National Historical Park right nearby in Quincy, MA, and he is currently Acting National Park Service Liaison to the White House.

On a somewhat lighter note, two Fletcher graduates have recently been on The Daily Show.  For those unfamiliar with the show, I should note that this satirical show includes language not appropriate for a family blog.  With that warning in place, first check out Amila Merdzanovic, a 2013 MALD graduate now working for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.  She appears at about the 3:00 minute mark on this story about the resettlement of refugee children.

And Hassan Abbas, F02, F08, a graduate of Fletcher’s MALD and PhD programs, took part in a lengthy interview by Jon Stewart about the situation in the Muslim world.  Hassan is currently the department chair for Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University.

 

Our final IBGC post comes from Anisha (currently a second year MIB student) and Julia (who graduated from the MALD program in May 2014).  Their research examines the impact of digital innovation in enabling urban mobility in Nairobi, Kenya.  Their post was written in July.

Navigating Silicon Savannah: Do Digital Innovation and Urban Mobility Go Together?

Urban mobility is defined as the degree of ease with which people and goods can be moved in an urban center.  As an expanding economy and East Africa’s technology hub, Nairobi has seen rapid urbanization in recent years.  According to the government of Kenya, population is set to quadruple from 3.1 million in 2014 to 12.1 million in 2030.  New construction is sprouting up almost every day.  Rural to urban migration continues to be high.  Internet and mobile phone penetration have brought along the emergence of digital commerce.  With these developments, the demand for urban mobility in Nairobi has increased much faster than in the rest of the country.

Kenya busThe Kenyatta government recognizes the need for urban mobility in Nairobi, and is making improvements to infrastructure, urban planning and regulatory frameworks.  Yet, as urban mobility demand outpaces supply, Nairobi’s private sector is creating innovative solutions for problems arising in transport and logistics today.

Our research looks at what digital innovation exists to address issues in transport and logistics, who this digital innovation is benefiting, and how the government and private sector are engaging each other.  In this blog post, we’ll discuss our research process so far.

Ask the right question, and get the right answers

Back in January 2014, when we started a literature review of urbanization-related challenges in Nairobi, we identified transport, water and sanitation as our key areas of focus.  Early into our fieldwork on the ground, we realized the need to narrow our research question further.  Two weeks of informal interviews with subjects from the private sector and technology space showed us the tremendous amount of energy around transport and logistics.  Issues in the sector range from usual suspects like traffic and parking management and bad roads, to finding locations physically because Nairobi does not have a numbered addressing system.  This experience showed us how important it is to be on the ground and talk with people personally to craft your final research questions.

Trial the methodology, and know how to revise

This period of interviewing also validated the qualitative, in-depth interview methodology we had chosen for our primary research.  The rich answers we got from our in-depth interviews were exactly what we were looking for to get insights.  At the same time, we recognized that completely open-ended interviews would give us a lot of disparate data that we would not be able to organize into themes.  Hence, we used the first two weeks to listen to subjects and construct our structured interview guide that would make data aggregation and analysis easier after the fieldwork.

Listen, and become a better researcher

One of the most critical lessons we learnt early on was to make our subjects comfortable and to listen actively in our conversations.  As much as this sounds like a soft skill, it has been crucial to making our research better.  We have developed an understanding on how to ask questions and pick up points to probe deeper.  We always functioned with one of us as lead interviewer who could keep to the structure of the interview guide, while the other would listen for insightful answers and delve into them.Kenya Collage

Network, and get a representative sample

Our research methodology required us to talk with players in the tech ecosystem, and transport and logistics sector.  While we diligently surveyed all players and reached out to them through a combination of contacts and cold calling, we found out soon enough how crucial snowball sampling was to our participant recruitment process.  We also realized how important it was to meet as many people as we could by going to events, conferences, and spending time at community spaces for tech enthusiasts.

We must note that we were incredibly fortunate that our subjects were forthcoming in providing names of people and organizations to speak to, and went out of their way to make introductions for us.  We even had some subjects telling us to talk to their competitors!

Be patient, because there will be highs and lows

Our fieldwork experience has been like Nairobi weather — mercurial.  We have had days when none of our contacts have come through, and days when we found ourselves scrambling to squeeze all our subjects into our schedule.  It took us the first three weeks to understand the nature of fieldwork, and to be prepared for the highs and lows.  Thereafter, we planned in a way that if we had a bonus number of interviews in a short span, we would stretch ourselves to complete them.  At the same time, we recognized the value of patience on days when we were unable to have a full schedule or when last-minute meeting cancellations happened.

It also made us realize that fieldwork was a 24/7 job for the brain.  Even when we were at social gatherings or dealing with vendors, shopkeepers and the like, we kept our eyes and ears open for information that could help us with our research. We also spent countless hours discussing (and redefining) the exact wording of our research together, often stuck in traffic in Nairobi or when Internet speeds were too slow to be sufficiently productive (the irony was not lost on us).

Hope for an amazing research partner because it makes research a million times better (and fun)!

There have been innumerable times when we have represented each other and our team as whole, to subjects, contacts and other people we have worked with on the project.  So, it is really important to have a great level of trust and understanding.  This really cannot be underestimated or overemphasized!  Our disparate skill sets have fused together nicely to craft a project that has thus far been immensely rewarding and informative.
Kenya cell

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