Are you on the East Coast of the U.S.?  Then your view today might be similar to mine.

Snow

Today is a snow day at Tufts and, in fact, throughout Massachusetts, as a blizzard Nor’easter blows through.  I can’t even say how much snow has fallen as it’s swirling all over.  In any case, enough snow has fallen to ensure I will need to dig my way out of the door.  But that’s an activity for later today.

Because the University is closed, please be patient if we can’t respond to your questions until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a minute to point out a few Admissions Blog features that I’ll be working on throughout the rest of the academic year.  First, there are the First-Year Alumni updates.  These posts, including one yesterday from Hanneke, come from the folks who were still students just a year ago.

Alumni who are further into their post-Fletcher professional lives have been providing Five-Year Updates.  This is the third year for these posts.  I started with the Class of 2007, continued through the Class of 2008, and I’m now working with our friends in the Class of 2009.  The next post in this series is coming soon!

In a few weeks, I’ll ask students to write about all the Cool Stuff they have done throughout the year.  Look for new posts in this series in April, but you can still read about last year’s activities, as well an interesting mid-MALD year.

Finally, professors have kindly taken time to write about their interests, their work with students, and their pathways into the international affairs field, and these posts are captured in the Faculty Spotlight series.

Because I’m well aware that writing for the blog falls outside of the daily routine for alumni, students, and professors, I want their posts to have a life that lasts more than a day, and I hope that you’ll scroll through the different series and read what everyone has to say.

 

Next up among our 2014 graduates is Hanneke Van Dyke, an old friend of Admissions, having served on the Admissions Committee for two years.  We miss her!  Here’s her update on her first year post-Fletcher.

As winter settles in back in the States, I’m sitting in front of a fan in my office in the relative comfort of southern hemisphere summer.  “Relative” because it’s not exactly comfortable, but after three winters in New England, I am welcoming the reprieve.

After graduating this past May from both Fletcher and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, I began a Global Health Corps (GHC) fellowship and relocated to Lilongwe, Malawi in July where I work as a Community Nutrition Support Fellow for the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI).

CDI operates as a social enterprise here in Malawi, linking commercial production of groundnuts, soya, and maize to smallholder (generally, farmers operating on small-scale family-run plots producing for both sale and household consumption) outreach programs designed to build technical knowledge around best agronomic practices in order to increase productivity, income, food security and overall well-being.  In our role at CDI, my “co-fellow” (more on that later) Hector and I are working to build a community nutrition program that is integrated into this commercial and smallholder approach.  These first few months have been dedicated to developing relationships with government counterparts and municipal leaders in the district and traditional authority where we work, building our information base by engaging in community-level discussions, and becoming more familiar with the programming across CDI’s different departments.

Hanneke & HectorGHC itself is a leadership development and placement organization that works with leading health organizations to identify talent gaps, and then competitively recruits young professionals from an array of non-medical sectors to fill those gaps.  Those in the GHC community share the common belief that health is a human right and that everyone has a role to play in advancing social justice through the health equity movement.  One of my favorite aspects of GHC is that fellows work in pairs at their placement organizations — one national fellow and one international.  My co-fellow Hector was born, raised, and educated in Malawi, and working as a pair is giving us the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other.  It is teaching us both a lot about communication, authentic partnership, and the benefits of a little constructive discord here and there.

Now in its sixth year, 128 GHC fellows (representing 22 countries) are working with 59 partner organizations in the U.S., Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia.  This diversity, both of origin and of experience and background, is so fundamental to the beauty of the Fletcher community, and it is something that was important to me to seek as I was planning my transition away from Medford.  (In fact, applications recently opened for the 2015-2016 fellow class and I encourage anyone who has an interest in global health and social justice to explore the diverse offerings.)

Hanneke, GHC Training Institute

The Global Health Corps fellows currently based in Malawi at our training institute at Yale.

Prior to Fletcher, I worked in rural community health education with the Peace Corps in Morocco and then spent a school year teaching elementary school English in the Marshall Islands with WorldTeach.  It was during this time that I began to understand the value of working closely with communities and gained exposure to an array of challenges related to health and nutrition, taking a particular interest in their effects on children.

While at Fletcher, my chosen Fields of Study were Human Security and Public & NGO Management and at Friedman, I focused on International Nutrition Interventions.  I had a bit of a unique opportunity in that I did not have to limit my course selection strategy to just one school.  While aiming to strike a balance between more theory-based coursework and more hands-on and technical coursework, the approach I took and the perspective I maintain is that Fletcher largely served to further inform the wider context of working within the international system, while Friedman largely served to develop the specific technical knowledge that would inform my day-to-day work in nutrition and food security, though of course, there was some blurring of these lines.

Courses such as Actors in Global Governance with Dean Ian Johnstone and Political Economy of Development with Prof. Katrina Burgess were exceptional in broadening my understanding of the international context.  As a Fletcher student, I also had the opportunity to enroll in a university seminar during my first semester called International Perspectives on Children in Exceptionally Difficult Circumstances (maybe the longest name of any course I’ve taken and what some of my friends will remember well as the course that made me cry every week), which served to provide more solid footing for the central purpose of my graduate studies.

Because my program spanned three years, I was able to spend two summers pursuing internships abroad:  the first, with a small NGO named Sok Sabay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, whose work is focused on early intervention for child trafficking; and the second, in Kinshasa and Bandundu Province, DR Congo, with Action Against Hunger, doing qualitative research on community-specific causes of malnutrition.  Both have proved invaluable (directly and indirectly) in preparing me for the work I am doing now and in helping me to more narrowly define my scope of work as I (attempt to) plan my career.

After all of this, it’s still easy to feel a bit scattered at times, and while I am loving learning about my new home and investing in my new community (and particularly loving mango season!), Fletcher remains solidly at my core.  I am beyond grateful for the connectivity granted by Whatsapp and Skype and am not only continually inspired as I watch the work my dear friends and classmates have committed to, both back in the States and further afield, but am regularly reminded (by the delivery of a milk frother to aid in my latte-making efforts, updates about of the goings on of Corgis around the D.C. metro area, and emails marked URGENT detailing a lobster parade in Nova Scotia) just how caring, brilliant, and hilarious they are.

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Antonia ChayesLast year, we turned the blog’s focus to members of Fletcher’s faculty.  Kicking off the Faculty Spotlight series for 2015 is Antonia H. Chayes, Professor of Practice of International Politics and Law.  Prof. Chayes currently teaches Civil-Military Relations and International Treaty Behavior: A Perspective on Globalization.  Her post is a timely piece that demonstrates how professors can redirect their research focus when world events require.

The news story about hacking Sony Pictures dominated the holiday news.  North Korea, allegedly, with its vast cyber skills, brought a major corporation to a dead halt, and moreover, exposed its seamier corporate life to a public, always voracious for gossip.  President Obama promised a proportionate response — and put blame on Sony for pulling the picture from theaters after North Korea threatened dire consequences if the picture, a silly spoof on CIA assassination efforts in the hands of bumbling journalists, were released.  Sony, and its independent theaters reconsidered, and a limited theater showing was made, accompanied by widespread home availability.  Then North Korea’s internet went down, and it has suffered short spurts of blackout.  The attribution has remained cloudy, and speculation has abounded, including the notion that a Russian group engineered the original Sony cyber exploitation simply to stir up trouble.

Then come the pundits and analysts — is this cyber-terrorism or cybervandalism?  Should this be considered another step toward cyberwar — part of the spreading inkblot of a grey area that is neither peace nor war?  In fact, this is just a minor episode in an ongoing set of cyberattacks and counterattacks throughout the world.  Banking firms have been hacked; cyber espionage from China has caused the U.S. to indict specific members of China’s military (in absentia, of course) for cybercrimes.  Have we forgotten that Estonia was brought to its knees by a cyberattack by the Russian youth group Nashe in 2007 over the removal of a statute of a Soviet soldier from the central square in Talinn?

The United States has spent billions preparing for cyberwar, yet the government lacks control of its critical infrastructure, which is most likely to be the target of an attack.  85-90% of that infrastructure in the United States and Western Europe is in private hands.  The Department of Homeland Security has been anointed to take charge of private infrastructure, and an Executive Order and a Presidential Directive have been the only means to secure support from the private sector.  Several bills were introduced in Congress to legislate minimum standards for private infrastructure, but these were defeated — even the mildest form of regulation.  Thus private industry is expected to do on a voluntary basis what it managed to defeat as a matter of regulation.  Nor it is clear which agency would run the show in a crisis — civilian or military.  The disparity between the Department of Homeland Security, whose 2015 budget request was $1.5 billion, and the combined Cybercommand and NSA, request of $5.1 billion — is enormous.

Both agencies have engaged in real world simulations, and the results have not been exactly transparent.  Some public reports, whose language is rather bland, suggest room for improvement.  And further, U.S. Supreme Court precedents such as the “Steel Seizure” case under President Truman cast a long shadow, should the U.S. government try to seize control of private infrastructure in a crisis.

The problems posed by the whole range of cyber exploitation, from cybercrime to espionage, up to attacks — are international as well as national.  There has been some progress in the NATO alliance — a Center of Excellence in Talinn, reinforcing broad concern over the attack on Estonia in 2007 and the Cyber Defense Management Board, where political, military, operational and technical staff operate at the working-level.  The Talinn manual fits cyber issues into the vast canvas of international law, and is now under revision.  At the NATO summit in Wales, September 2014, NATO announced an enhanced cyber strategy recognizing that a cyber attack might be as harmful as a conventional attack.  It affirmed that cyber defense “is part of NATO’s core task of self defense.” but added that the decision to intervene would be made on a case-by-case basis.  There is a fairly weak EU directive that urges states to take protective measures.

The Budapest convention addresses cybercrime, but in the context of urging state uniformity.  These measures, admittedly weak, represent a beginning of international cooperative action.  Many regional organizations are at similar stages.

At Fletcher, Professor Martel had been working with a group of faculty and students on several Codes of Conduct — for states, corporations, and individuals — at the request of Lincoln Laboratories.  This kind of work is the essence of Fletcher’s interdisciplinary experience.  We must honor Bill’s memory by continuing the work he so cared about.

A Code of Conduct is not yet regulation — it is a pledge of behavior whose aspiration is to change norms.  For those of us participating in the project, we hope to get widespread adoption and will be seeking foundation funding to do so.  Fletcher’s strength in both international law and cyber studies puts us in a good position to move forward.  And my forthcoming book, Borderless Wars: Civil Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty concludes with a chapter on cyberattacks seeking more robust regulation, stating “Regulation of offensive cyberattacks cannot provide the same level of reassurance that intrusive verification of visible chemical or nuclear weapons production provides.  But the very process of engaging in a widespread international cooperative effort has a deterrent effect, and may reduce, if not eliminate the threat of attack.”

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I’m starting to see a steady trickle of emails from nervous applicants, so I thought I’d provide a quick update on where we are in the process.

Let’s start with those who applied by December 20 — PhD and Map Your Future applicants.

Map Your Future application review, a manageable task, has moved along and most decisions have been released.  (Congratulations to those who have received good news!)

The PhD review process is also ticking right along, but at its own special glacial pace.  PhD applications are reviewed by a whole team of people and everything just takes a long time.  Decisions will be released by the end of March.

And for those who applied by January 10 for the MALD, MIB, LLM, or MA, we’re making real progress.  Many many of you already know that your application is complete and on its way to be read by Admissions Committee members.  Our student readers have been doing a great job, feeding applications to us staff members, and we’re all reading away.  The full Admissions Committee will meet tomorrow for the first time since the January deadline.  In other words, it’s all happening.

If you know that your application is still incomplete, I’d encourage you to do whatever you can to make it complete as soon as possible.  If you’re missing exam scores (GRE, GMAT, etc.), you can’t make the testing organizations work faster, but you can send us unofficial score reports. And if you’re missing a transcript, remember that all we need is a scanned copy of an official transcript (which you may well have already).  If you don’t have an official transcript, send us an unofficial one while you wait for the official one.

If you’re missing a recommendation, you should consider your options.  If you’re confident the recommender will send it along any day, then stick with Plan A.  If you’re not really all that sure, you may want to line up a replacement recommender.  Give it some thought, and contact us if you want to make a change.  Of course, if you’ve never followed up with your recommender, you can hardly blame him/her.  It’s your job to prompt your writer to submit the letter on time.

Finally, no matter when your application was complete, you’ll still need to be patient until late March, when we will release just about everything at the same time.  Today’s post is just to let you know that everything is moving along, and we’re feeling good about the progress we have made.

 

Although the majority of students start their studies and go straight through the relevant number of semesters on campus, plenty of students opt to pursue a dual degree or exchange program, or even take time away to work.  Jessica Meckler, who started the MALD program in September 2013, is doing just that.  Here’s her story.

Jessica M & kidsOne of Fletcher’s greatest strengths is its often-lauded flexibility.  Many other students have talked about the variety of courses and concentrations that allow students to personalize their degree to fit their professional goals, so there isn’t a need to elaborate on that.  However, the opportunity to take a leave of absence from Fletcher is another particularly useful aspect to the degree program that I would love to see highlighted more.

There are many reasons to take a leave of absence from your graduate studies: fellowships, scholarships, internships, and job opportunities.  Some of my batch mates have taken a semester off.  Others, including myself, have taken the entire academic year to pursue additional experiences that expand upon our Fletcher studies.

I am currently living and working in Pune, India as an American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellow.  The organization that I have been placed with for my 10-month fellowship is the Akanksha Foundation, an educational NGO that runs schools and after-school centers for children from low-income communities in Pune and Mumbai.

I decided to apply for the fellowship in December 2013.  Throughout the course of my first semester, I had become increasingly aware of how my limited experience in the field affected my ability to connect the theories and skills we study at Fletcher with the reality of international development work.  I was encouraged by several professors to pursue a field internship for the summer, and with my interest in Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DM&E), Prof. Scharbatke-Church was candid and helpful in explaining ways to supplement my previous experiences.  I figured that if a summer was a good idea, why not a full year?

The application process for the AIF Clinton Fellowship was a lengthy endeavor.  I submitted my written application in January 2014 and was interviewed at the end of April.  I did not learn that I would be joining the 2014-2015 AIF cohort until June, when I was already living in Dhaka, Bangladesh and interning with BRAC for the summer!  I was extremely grateful for the ease with which Fletcher students can apply for a leave of absence.  It made the process of preparing to move to India while in Bangladesh a little simpler.

Jessica MecklerOne chronic worry that arises often when I talk to people about my time off from school is the idea of falling out of the “student mode.”  While in a way this fellowship is a break from the hectic schedule of all Fletcher students, I see the work that I do at the Akanksha Foundation as a crucial aspect to my Fletcher education.  In Pune I am assisting with several curriculum and program assessments, curriculum design, system creation and implementation, and teacher training.  My work draws upon the skills that I learned during my first year at Fletcher, such as the ideas and principles from the DM&E modular series, and I have greater clarity regarding my goals for my second year at Fletcher.  There are specific skills and courses, such as Nancy Hite’s Survey Design in Comparative Political Economy and Jenny Aker’s Econometric Impact Evaluation for Development, that I will focus on when I return to Boston.  Additionally, I am using my year away from Fletcher to continue a project – which will hopefully double as a significant portion of my capstone – that I began in Dhaka.

Although only four months have passed since moving to India, I am confident that my work here will have a profound impact on my future studies and career.  Taking time off was invaluable for me, and it has given me the time and space necessary to contextualize the onslaught of new ideas that a year at Fletcher brings.  While it is very strange to imagine Medford without the familiar faces that I have come to associate with Fletcher, I am equally excited to return to school in September as I am to stay in India for six more months!

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Fletcher skiers, snowboarders, and those who like to get away spent this past weekend at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.  Travelers returned with many happy reports of the weekend.  One of the participants, Dallin — a second-year MALD student — grabbed some photos for me to share.  Though Albert and Ilana (top and middle photos below) are both snowboarding, I hear that the group tilted toward skiing.  Regardless of their ski/snowboard preference, everyone (except those who sat cozily by the fire) bundled up.  It was COLD on Saturday.

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Ilana

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Our Student Stories bloggers are back on campus and checking in.  Today, Alex reflects on his first semester in the MIB program.

My first semester at The Fletcher School was quite an experience: immersing myself in my business and energy classes, getting to know my accomplished and passionate classmates, and participating in events with Nobel laureates.

First and foremost, I have been struck by the immediate and tangible benefits of being a part of such a small, tightly knit school.  Let me give you a couple examples of these benefits from my experience so far:

Small Classes, Meaningful Discussions

Many of my classes were quite small, facilitating open and deep discussions, as well as fostering much more meaningful relationships with professors.

One example was my Managing the Global Corporation course taught by Prof. Thoman, F67, whose accomplishments and accolades include being the CEO of Xerox and Nabisco, the CFO of IBM, and a recipient of the French Legion d’Honneur.  Instead of just teaching us analytical frameworks pulled from textbooks or reviewing business cases of other people’s experiences, Prof. Thoman helped us understand how decisions are actually made in the C-suite, based on examples from his own extraordinary career.  This class only had a dozen students.

Another example was my Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy class taught by Prof. Kates-Garnick, F84, who was the Undersecretary of Energy for Massachusetts.  As Massachusetts has one of the most advanced and successful clean energy policies in the U.S., Prof. Kates-Garnick is precisely the type of person you want to learn about energy policy from.  Instead of simply discussing theoretical policies, she put us in the decision-maker’s seat and had us consider the tough trade-offs associated with different options.  This class only had seven students.

The opportunity to take courses sitting around such a small table with industry forerunners and policy makers with real-world experience reaffirmed that this school is not just teaching us theory; Fletcher truly is a school for practitioners, taught by practitioners.

Exclusive Conferences, Valuable Insights

As part of this focus on staying connected to the real world outside the halls of academia, Fletcher encourages us to attend the plethora of conferences hosted in Boston.  A great thing about Fletcher, however, is that it can help you get into the ones that actually matter.

For example, Prof. Kates-Garnick invited me to a small private conference held jointly by The Fletcher School and the Harvard Kennedy School for one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world.  The meeting, attended by the top energy minds of the two schools and the top executives of this global firm, was an eye-opening experience on how corporations inform and conduct their highest-level strategic planning process.  I was impressed by the executives’ grasp of international affairs (it came as little surprise that some were Fletcher graduates), and was reminded of the value of the Master of International Business (MIB) degree I am pursuing.

I was also able to attend a cleantech conference with the leading businessmen and women in Boston thanks to a generous grant from Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.  Just about every other person at the conference was a president or CEO, while I was one of only three students able to attend, due to the cost.  Access to the event proved invaluable, however, both in terms of the content of the panel discussions and the contacts I established; I left with an internship for the next semester doing research for a private equity fund acquiring wind farms across North America.

Not only are these types of conferences interesting, they provide access to the fields students are interested in, and to the people who shape those fields.  If it had not been for Fletcher, I would not have been able to attend, or even have heard of, these conferences.

Fletcher is a small school that delivers monumental output.  The professors and events students have access to are but a couple of the benefits of attending a small school.  It is these types of opportunities that ensures that students are at the leading edge of their fields, and that The Fletcher School stays at the forefront of the world’s most pressing issues.

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Bill Martel, 1Fletcher students, alumni, faculty, and staff learned on Monday that Prof. Bill Martel had passed away.  The community has received the news with tremendous collective sadness, reaching out to each other for help in understanding something that seems impossible to understand.

Bill made his mark at Fletcher, especially on the student community, in so many different ways.  He taught and advised a great number of students.  His focus on cyber security drew additional students to consult him on their research.  He joined the annual ski trip for a day of skiing, and he is known to have enjoyed the chili served at the Mugar Café — a typical indicator that he didn’t simply buy his lunch and run.

The Fletcher faculty is loaded with nice people, but in any group of nice people, someone can still be the nicest.  Bill was the nicest.  As he walked through the building, he greeted everyone by name.  If he didn’t recognize someone, he introduced himself.  With his incredible ice-blue eyes, he transmitted kindness and warmth.  He was one of those very rare individuals in the world about whom everyone had something good to say.

Bill was a true friend to the Admissions Office, and we loved working with him.  He served three years as chair of the Committee on Admissions, and created an atmosphere of warmth and respect.  He valued hearing what students and staff members had to say — no claims of faculty privilege for him.  He checked with us to be sure he was doing all he could, and we needed to struggle not to take advantage of his generosity.

Even in this past year, when he was dealing with a serious illness, Bill made a special effort to stay on top of Admissions news.  We would gleefully have welcomed him back to the Admissions Committee, but the dean decided to give him a light committee assignment load (like us, I’m sure, struggling not to take advantage of Bill’s willingness to jump in where he was needed).  When Bill and I exchanged emails in September, we both said we’d look forward to working together again on the Admissions Committee in 2015-16.  I truly meant it.

Unlike those who follow a typical path for a professor, taking a permanent position shortly after completing a PhD, Bill came to Fletcher with a rich teaching background, including a long stint at the Naval War College.  As a result of joining Fletcher relatively late in his career, Bill was granted tenure only last May.  Also in the spring, he was selected to receive the James L. Paddock Teaching Award.  Because of his illness, he couldn’t accept the award in person, but he had his friend and colleague, Prof. Shultz, read his speech of thanks, in which he referred to students as the “center of gravity” at Fletcher, and emphasized the importance of a positive “can-do” attitude.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who is grateful that Bill received these honors at a time when he might most appreciate them.

Bill will be formally remembered here at Fletcher in the spring.  But even outside of formal opportunities for remembrance, Bill will be on the minds, and in the hearts, of all of us who knew him.  Truly the nicest of men.  An inspiration.  And a real friend to the Admissions Office.  We’ll miss him greatly.

Bill Martel classroom

 

Every summer the Registrar’s Office compiles the Course Bulletin that students pore over before they select their classes and which, inevitably, is out of date shortly after it’s printed.  So each semester there’s a Bulletin Addendum, listing only one or two missed offerings in the fall, but often a longer list in the spring.  The list we just received for Spring 2015 includes such interesting classes that I thought I would share it with you.  I’ll provide the titles and course numbers, and you can find more info on the Course Descriptions page of the website.

DHP Division Courses

D218m: Influencing Policy and the Global Debate: Writing Analysis and Opinion

D233: Migration and Human Rights: Movement, Community, and Mobilization

P227m: Advanced Development and Conflict Resolution

P228m: Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations

P233: Information and Communication Technology for Sustainable Development

P258: Applied Research for Sustainable Development

P297: Engaging Human Security: Sudan and South Sudan

EIB Division Courses

B254: Cross-Sector Partnerships

E218: Applied Microeconometrics

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On Sunday I made a last-minute decision to jump-start my application reading on Monday.  We’ve often written about our “reading days” at home.  Past posts have always involved piles of green files (and, occasionally, cute dogs).  These days, no paper files!  Here’s how my day went.

7:30:  Move a laptop to a kitchen counter, grab a cup of mint tea in favorite frog mug, and kick off the day, starting with a quick review of email but soon moving on to the applications that were waiting for me in my queue.

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9:30:  The pain in my shoulder from being perched over a keyboard tells me it’s time for a break.  Switch to coffee (half caf/half decaf — I want to be alert but you wouldn’t want me too jumpy) in a theme-appropriate mug.  Do shoulder rolls while switching to another location — a desktop with a more comfortable chair.

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12:00:  I’ve now cleared out my queue, which means I can start plucking applications at random.  But first, lunch — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  So far as I’m concerned, peanut butter is always #1, and being at home means I can toast the bread for the sandwich.

1:00:  After lunch, I read another couple of files, but at 1:00 it’s time to park myself somewhere warm and comfortable for a conference call.  After the call, I switch back to the laptop, but on a different counter — changing chairs throughout the day is part of my reading strategy.  More tea in yet another world-map mug.

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3:30:  Emails distract me for a while.  Once I regain focus, I return to my application queue and try to finish whatever I’ve loaded in there.

4:45:  That’s it for the day.  Time to put together a quick dinner and then head out to a meeting of a community board I’m on.  A little human interaction (and a chance to be outside) won’t be a bad thing.

There are so many great things about our new online application reader system, but I’m still working on strategies for pain-free reading.  More changes of chair?  More cups of tea?  By the end of this year’s application cycle, I’ll have it all worked out.  Meanwhile, I’ve already read some inspiring essays and I know there’s more to come!

 

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