FletcherChatYou might have heard that there’s a U.S. presidential election coming up in November.  And also that the first of the debates will take place tonight, Monday.  To help you with your day-after processing of the evening’s discussions, join Fletcher’s Professor Daniel Drezner for post-debate analysis.  You can find him on Twitter tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10:00 a.m. EDT (UTC -4).  Use #FletcherChat to send your questions.

Should you be interested in some background reading, you can check out Professor Drezner’s views on many topics, including but not limited to politics and international affairs, on his Washington Post blog.

 

Lucas and I staffed the Fletcher table at yesterday evening’s Idealist grad school fair, so I thought I would write about one of the themes that emerged from the questions I heard.  Naturally, there were all the usual GRE-related queries, as well as conversations about application deadlines and other nitty-gritty topics.  But the one that I’ll comment on today has to do with the link between pre-Fletcher professional experience and post-Fletcher goals.

There are two ways to talk about this.  One is a theme that I’ve covered in the past — that Fletcher is a great place, but if the distance between your current work and your ultimate objectives is more of a canyon than a gap, then additional steps beyond a graduate degree may be required.  I’m sure I’ll discuss this again this fall, so I’m going to move on for now.

What I wanted to say today is that too many folks can’t see the value of their own professional experience.  Maybe they don’t like their current job.  Or maybe they like what they’re doing, but it isn’t what they had hoped to do, and they’re looking to Fletcher to put them back on their path.  In either case, if you — dear reader — are one of those people, I’d encourage you to think about discrete skills and knowledge that you’ll be taking away from your work.  Don’t worry that you didn’t land the ultimate international affairs position when you completed your undergraduate studies.  How many people do that?  (I’ll tell you — not too many.)  Instead, find the threads that you’ll be weaving together with your Fletcher education before you search for your post-Fletcher work.

The irony is that the questions I’ve received along these lines lately — both at the fair and in a recent on-campus conversation — have come from people with interesting and meaty experience.  They’ve really thrown themselves into something special, but because they’re looking for a shift, they’re having trouble seeing the benefit of what they’ve done.

Naturally, there’s still the challenge of identifying the types of organizations that will value your prior work, but that’s something that the Office of Career Services can help you with once you enroll.  For now, your task is to take a new approach to thinking about your experience so that you can make a compelling case for yourself in your graduate school applications.

 

Most Fletcher students have multiple academic objectives in mind when they enroll.  At the same time as they’re looking to expand their general understanding of the international affairs world, they also want to build specific skills that will help them in their career.  Beyond the usual in-class opportunities (public speaking, accounting, etc.), there are often out-of-class opportunities to focus on a key area that will support future work.  This morning, Ginn Library sent information about workshops offered cooperatively by Ginn along with the University’s Tisch Library and Data Lab.  Each workshop meets once for about 90 minutes.  Here’s what’s on offer this fall.

Collecting geospatial data using GPS handheld units: GPS is changing the way users collect and manage geographic data.  You will learn how to record locations and other survey variables in the field using GPS handheld units.  This field data can then be used for spatial analysis and visualization in ArcGIS and other open source applications, such as google earth and QGIS.

Collecting geospatial data using Survey 123 (phone app):  You will learn how to record locations and other survey variables in the field using Survey 123 (phone app).  This field data can then be used for spatial analysis and visualization in ArcGIS and other open source applications, such as google earth and QGIS.

An Introduction to Quantum GIS (QGIS): QGIS is a free, open-source software that allows you to create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.  More and more NGOs and international organizations are utilizing QGIS for their mapping and data visualization needs.  This workshop is ideal for students who have introductory knowledge of ArcGIS.  During this workshop, you will learn the basics of QGIS, including topics such as projections, selections,  layer styling, and map composition.

Mapping Open Data with R: Know the basics of R already?  Add a few lines of code to create beautiful, visually engaging maps for your next project.  This workshop will walk you through the basics of loading and manipulating open statistical and geospatial data in RStudio to create high-quality maps.  You will create choropleth maps of USA and Massachusetts using American Community Survey (ACS) data, world development indicators from the World Bank, and maps of point density and elevation.  Familiarity with data frames, installation of R packages, and geospatial data (shapefiles, rasters, projections) highly recommended.

These sessions are completely optional, but open to anyone who sees a future use for these skills.

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Monday and Tuesday slipped by me this week.  I’ve been working on several different things, but I’ve spent much of my time creating a schedule for the students who have volunteered to conduct interviews for us.  Scheduling went unusually smoothly this year, which isn’t to say that there aren’t abundant eraser shavings on and under my desk.  I needed to do significant fiddling to ensure a match between the interview timeslots and volunteers’ schedules.

We’ll kick off the fall interview program on Monday, September 26, and we have more than 25 interviewees already signed up to chat on campus or via Skype next week with our current students.  If you are applying for 2017 enrollment, and if you would like to schedule an evaluative interview, I would encourage you to grab a slot now.  You don’t need to interview in September if you don’t want to, but you also don’t want to wait until November to sign up.  There’s a good chance that everything will be booked up by then.

Remember that interviews are optional, but they are evaluative.  You’ll be talking about the basics — your background, your objectives for study at Fletcher and beyond, and what you’ll bring to the community.  I hope you’ll be among the applicants who will meet a student, whether face-to-face or via Skype.

 

Every so often I like to check in with Admissions Blog readers and have you direct (or redirect) me toward valuable content for the blog.  It’s like crowdsourcing my brainstorming.  You want to read useful information, and I want to write or recruit content that you’ll find valuable.  It’s a win-win!

To that end, please add your ideas to this ultraquick three-question survey.  If every reader provided one suggestion, I’d have topics to last me well into the winter!  And I promise to do my best with any topics you provide.  So please, help me out, cure my writer’s block, and offer up some ideas on the survey.  Every time I would otherwise be staring at a blank screen, I will thank you.

 

It’s the second week of classes (the first full week, since last week included a holiday and shopping day), and the calendar of out-of-class events already looks like this:

September 12 calendar

How does that happen?  The community goes from zero to 60 in no time flat.  Our inboxes are suddenly flooded with notices of special events, campus jobs, and administrative announcements.  But now’s also the time when students have a few extra moments to attend a special event, and those events play an important role in building the community.  It’s a challenge to stay on top of everything that’s happening, but it’s a worthy one.

(A simplified calendar of events that may be open to the public can be found on the Fletcher website.)

 

The launch of a new degree program is a big deal at Fletcher!  After a couple of years of planning, Dean Stavridis recently signed an agreement with the College of Europe in Belgium to launch the Master in Transatlantic Affairs (MTA).  Though similar to a dual degree, in that two schools are involved, the MTA is a unified program that requires study at the two institutions and an internship to earn the degree.  The first MTA students are expected in September 2017.  If you might be interested in the program, please contact us!

You can read Fletcher’s report on the program’s establishment, or check out the details from College of Europe.  Meanwhile, here’s the signing ceremony:

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I wrote last week that the Admissions staff has started to hit the road.  Last Thursday, we sent Lucas to New York for his first Idealist graduate school fair with Fletcher.  Today it’s my turn!  I’m on my way to NY for the annual APSIA fair, which is held at the Council on Foreign Relations.  It’s a busy event, but focused.  Everyone who attends is interested in some corner of the broad international affairs arena.  I’ll have two alumni with me (and plenty of water to drink).  If you’re going to be there, please stop by and say hello!

 

I tend to let National Public Radio keep me company in the morning, with the result that a member of the Fletcher community frequently joins me while I eat breakfast or commute to work.  This week, my cup of tea was accompanied by the voices of two graduates.

Yesterday I was visited by Vali Nasr, F84 — a double Jumbo (alumnus of Tufts undergraduate and Fletcher) who happens now to be the dean at Johns Hopkins-SAIS, having previously taught at Fletcher — talking about Saudi Arabia, Iran, and this year’s hajj.

And then today, it was R.D. Sahl, F95, a graduate of the one-year MA program, who will be delivering reports for a new app that makes it easy to follow politics, in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

Whether it’s an alum, a professor, or Dean Stavridis, hearing their stories and analysis over the radio is a welcome reminder that I’m part of a terrifically interesting and knowledgeable community.

 

The Hall of Flags is in full hum today, with new and continuing students popping in and out of Shopping Day sessions.  I always think of this first day of the academic year as being the start of a new “blog year,” too.

To kick off Blog Year 2016-17, I’d like to point you toward some of the blog’s past content.  For starters, there are the regular posts written for the Student Stories feature, which will continue this year with both returning and new writers.  And there are the occasional Faculty Spotlight posts — shining that light on aspects of the professors’ Fletcher life that you won’t see represented elsewhere.

Among the posts from Student Stories writers are what we call “Annotated Curricula.”  You can think of them as the roadmap that our writers took through their two Fletcher years.

For the past few years, I’ve asked alumni to write about their post-Fletcher lives, in either a one-year update or a five-year update.

And then there’s the straightforward admissions stuff.  A few years ago, a student member of the staff wrote the “Dear Ariel” column, in which she answered commonly asked questions.  I hope to bring a similar feature back this year, once our student staff is back in place.  And over the years, we’ve passed along lots of admissions tips — especially ideas for the application essays.

I hope you’ll enjoy catching up on some of the blog’s past posts.  I’m certainly looking forward to sharing details of the new Blog Year!

 

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