Today I’m going to gather links to news items that have flowed my way in the past couple of weeks.

I’ll start with Commencement news!  Here’s a story, with photos, that captures the events of Class Day and the Commencement ceremony itself.

Read also about two of this year’s graduates, Jeremy Blaney and Jessica Meckler, who were featured in a group of graduates of all of the University’s graduate and undergraduate programs.

Commencement featured the granting of the inaugural “Fletcher First Ten” award, to be given annually to an alumnus who has made a noteworthy contribution to the community, this year going to the inimitable Rocky Weitz, whose accomplishments outpace those of nearly anyone I know.

And speaking of awards, Center for International Environment and Research Policy researcher Rebecca Pearl-Martinez this week received the Advocacy Award from the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, MIT and Stanford University.

Next, our friends at APSIA have written a feature on alumnus Nursultan Eldosov, who currently works for the U.S. Foreign Service.

And finally, alumna Masha Gordon has climbed Mount Everest, the latest in a series of extreme adventures.  In a Facebook post, she wrote, “On May 19th at 7:30am Nepali time I became 400th woman to summit Mount Everest.  It was a culmination of a month long journey full of poetry, drama and self-discovery.  I am now just 1 summit removed from breaking female world record in Explorers Grand Slam.  Follow my journey to the peak of Denali by liking my Facebook page.”  And you can also follow Masha’s adventures on her Grit and Rock blog.  Here’s a photo that she shared, with obvious Fletcher love.

Masha Gordon

 

Throughout the summer, I occasionally take the opportunity to talk about “Our Neighborhood” by describing my own weekend activities.  Not the cutting-the-grass or scrubbing-the-floor type of weekend “fun,” but things I might do that visitors and students could easily do, too.  To that end, I usually focus on easy day trips, especially those that can be accomplished by mass transportation.

This past weekend, which included the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, delivered a little bit of every kind of weather.  It was outrageously hot on Saturday (a May 28 record-setting 92 degrees) but the temperature plummeted through the night and Sunday found us back in our sweaters, closing all the windows that had only just been opened.  Monday was less cool, but started off with a drenching downpour.  A little of everything, as I said.

So our weekend also included a little of everything.  We were hosting family (my mother-in-law) and friends (two college roommates from New York and San Francisco), and on Saturday we jumped on a ferry to George’s Island, one of several islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.  The ride, which offers great views of the city, takes about 40 minutes and delivers you to a place that seems both far from the city and also, if you gaze over the water, close to it.

George's Island view

Yesterday, yielding to the soggy morning conditions, we zipped off to the Museum of Fine Arts, only to find a zillion of our fellow art lovers waiting in line on a free-admission day.  We’re members, so in we went, and we made a beeline for Megacities Asia, an innovative exhibit that evoked the changing nature of several of Asia’s biggest cities.  Here’s an example, from Seoul:

Megacities
The idea is that not everything that is green is truly “green.”  If you’re from the U.S. or from Korea, you’ll probably seem some products you recognize.

The MFA is consistently named among the best art museums in the U.S.  It’s a gem, with several extraordinary collections and I highly recommend a visit while you’re here.

I’m sure I’ll be back with more of the local activities that my husband, Paul, and I pursue through the summer.  Stay tuned!

 

Fletcher in the summer is an entirely different workplace from Fletcher in the academic year.  A few students (graduated or continuing) can still be found, but sightings are rare and our work goes on largely uninterrupted.  Time to turn to the projects that are best tackled when fewer to-do-list items fight for our attention.

At yesterday’s retreat, we focused primarily on topics that won’t have an obvious effect on 2017 applicants, but there are a couple of points worth noting.  First is that we’ll probably keep our essay questions as they are.  Second is that we will now ask applicants to select no more than ten trips to include in the travel/study abroad/international living section of the application.  Requiring (or even inviting) everyone to list every trip meant a lot of questions about how to deal with multiple-country trips or multiple trips to a single country.  And it also meant that half of the online reader view of the application might be occupied by lists of trips.  (Of course, information about multiple international living experiences will still be of interest to us.)

We also talked about tweaks to the interview schedule, now that we have a year of experience with Skype interviews behind us.  The biggest challenge is helping applicants to understand that they need to arrange their interview appointments early.  By the time December rolls around, there are no appointments to be had.  That’s an ongoing challenge for us!

Over the summer, I might write less than usual, but I’ll be thinking about new 2016-2017 blog offerings.  I welcome your suggestions!  Share them in the comments section below or, if you prefer, send us a note.  I love reading your good ideas!

Meanwhile, today’s post is number 1500 for the Admissions Blog!  Sure, many of those 1500 were reminders of deadlines, restatements of application procedures, or other short updates.  But as I said for number 1000 and after number 500, we in the Admissions Office appreciate the opportunity that keeping a blog has offered us to connect with and offer substantive information to our applicants and incoming students.  As we motor on toward the 2000th post, thank you for reading!

 

With Commencement behind us, the Admissions Office is already looking ahead to the 2016-2017 application cycle.  To start us off, we’ll be meeting for the whole day today with a full retreat agenda.  We’ll talk through summer projects, plan travel, discuss potential changes to the Slate application, and just generally shift our thinking forward to what’s ahead of us.

Meanwhile, with nearly all students on their way to see family or start internships or freshly graduated and off to new things, Fletcher is a quiet place.  We’ll enjoy the quiet for a while, until we start wishing the students would come back to keep us company.  But first, a day away to figure out our next steps.  The office will be closed today.  We’ll be back tomorrow (Wednesday).

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

 

On an only barely related note, have I mentioned that my daughter, Kayla, was one of the many Tufts students to complete the undergraduate program with Commencement on Sunday?  No, I believe I haven’t.  Kayla has been an occasional character in the blog, when I felt that her application process related in some way to the Fletcher process, when she did something that might interest Fletcher-ish folks, or simply when she accompanied me for a donut around town.  She has earned her shout-out moment!  Congratulations to Kayla, and to all your fellow Jumbos!

 

Well.  What can I possibly say that I haven’t said before on the occasion of Commencement, an event with which I have a love-hate relationship.  I love all the joy associated with sending wonderful people off to do terrific things.  And the ceremony itself — so joyous.  I shed a few tears of happiness every year.

And hate is a strong word.  The wrong word, in fact.  I certainly don’t hate Commencement, but I am annually struck by the bittersweet nature of the event.  We in Admissions know that our closest Fletcher friends will be with us for only a couple of years, but we treasure them while they’re here.  Admissions Ambassadors, members of the Admissions Committee, Interview Volunteers, and our amazing Graduate Assistants (looking at you, David and Moni!) — the students who keep us in the know about the heart of life at Fletcher.  We so enjoy interacting with them, and we’re sorry that our relationship will change.

But change it must, as they transition from students to alumni.  And all we can hope (expect! demand!) is that they will stay in touch.

So, to my friends in the Class of 2016, keep us posted!  Drop a line now and then.  “Friend” us.  Link us in.  We want to hear from you.  After all, the true satisfaction in Admissions work comes at the far end, when we send you off into the world to do those things you wrote about in your application essays.  I can’t wait to receive your updates!

For now, BIG congratulations to you and your families, and all best wishes as you move along to your post-Fletcher life!

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Students aren’t the only members of the community who close out a chapter of their lives at Commencement.  In some years, graduation day also marks the start of a professor’s new less-than-daily relationship with Fletcher.

Alan HenriksonFollowing this 2015-2016 academic year, Alan K. Henrikson, the Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History, and Fletcher’s Director of Diplomatic Studies, will conclude his 44-year teaching career at Fletcher and move on to whatever comes next.  Professor Henrikson has taught U.S. foreign policy to international and U.S. students alike, acquiring a very loyal and devoted following among current students and alumni.

I would describe Professor Henrikson as singularly dedicated to the art of teaching.  I aim to make a distinction here between simply being a great teacher (there are many of them at Fletcher) and putting teaching at the center of everything.  It is in that devotion to the classroom that Professor Henrikson is the leader among his peers.

At the end of the fall semester, the last one in which he would teach DHP D200: Diplomacy: History, Theory, and Practice, Professor Henrikson shared two things with his colleagues on the faculty.  The first was the text of his final exam for the class, and the second was a photo.  He noted:

As you will see, if you have a chance to look through the examination paper, Diplomacy 200, which I think of as the cornerstone of diplomatic studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, “covers” nearly all of the subjects we teach at the School — and, I believe, in an integrating and integrated way.  The students draw from other fields in which they are working, as well as from their own national-cultural and personal experiences.  And, I hope, they bring a diplomatic (and diplomatic-historical) understanding back to their intellectual and other activities in those fields, now and in their future professional careers and lives.

Several members of the faculty responded to Professor Henrikson’s email and I would like to share a few of the responses.  (Note that several current professors were once Fletcher students.)

Professor Diana Chigas, F88: As an alum of D200, I can say that it was an influential course in my Fletcher education, both because of its integrated and historical perspective, and because of the infectious nature of your obvious love for diplomatic history and your commitment to your students.

Professor Ian Johnstone: I saw some of your past exams and was always impressed by the depth and scope, as well as by the way you integrate history and current events.  You outdid yourself this time!  That course is a foundation for so much of what we do at the School.  It is hard to imagine you won’t be teaching it again.

Professor Sulmaan Khan:  I agree with Ian, Alan.  It’s hard to imagine Fletcher and our broader curriculum without your teaching.

Professor Antonia Chayes: Reading your complex and erudite exam, I can only regret that I never had the chance to take your course.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti: I will write an essay response to one of your prompts (too tempting to let them go) and will struggle with knotting my bow tie over the holidays in honor of the passing of an era.

Kathleen Ryan, F87, director of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations: Also as an alum of D200, I love seeing this — both the bow ties and the test.  Really glad I took the test when I did!  You cannot know how much you mean to so many former students.  A legend.  So thrilled that you will be giving the Friday night lecture to kick off the reunion in May.  Sure to be wonderful!

Professor Leila Fawaz: A lovely tribute for a cherished teacher.  I am very glad you shared the wonderful photo with us.  We appreciate all you had done for us all at the School and the University.

Professor Elizabeth Prodromou, F83: Thank you for sharing this message and photo, both of which speak to the intellectual excitement, graciousness, and civility, which are your continuing legacy to generations Fletcher students (including many of us among them!).

In a note to me, Professor Prodromou further wrote: “He leaves an extraordinary legacy at Fletcher — his was an approach to teaching, learning, and scholarship that is rooted in a classic understanding of education as a experience in becoming a fuller, enlightened, inquisitive, and alive human being.”

And now the photo from his final D200 class, which will explain all the above references to bow ties, an Alan Henrikson trademark look.

Alan H, D200
Professor Henrikson will address the community, including this year’s graduates and alumni visiting for their reunion, tomorrow afternoon, on the topic of “Fletcher: A Great Place to Teach.”  I will miss running into Alan Henrikson in the hallways and I wish him the very best.  But I’ll give the final word to Frances Burke, one of Professor Henrikson’s students this year.  When I asked her for her thoughts, Frances wrote:

Whether sitting in Professor Henrikson’s “Diplomacy” class or his U.S. Foreign Relations classes, every moment was a treasure.  His depth of knowledge was, of course, daunting, as each comment on a historical period cascaded into the details of a particular statesman, or comments on esoteric cartography, or asides regarding a special envoy, or opinions on a crucial summit.  Most of us left lectures awestruck by our own ignorance.  Professor Henrikson’s deep, deep knowledge of American history and foreign policy was illuminated by his obvious adoration for his subjects.  During one class, when describing reportage emerging from the Spanish Civil War, he paused to sing a song of the resistance, concluded by a sweet smile and trademark laugh.  You could see how much he loved his calling.  His departure rips a great hole in the grand tapestry of Fletcher teaching, as he so vibrantly twined the threads of history, diplomacy, and foreign relations in a way only a truly gifted teacher can do.

 

What do bubble soccer, a brewery tour, a “Bechdel Test” party, and “Acro-yoga” have in common?  They’re all among the student-led activities scheduled for this week during Dis-Orientation, the natural unofficial counterpoint to August’s official Orientation program.  Like thesis haikus, Dis-O is one of those traditions that popped up one year and has been retained ever since.  And there’s a very full schedule!  Nearly every time block from 9:00 a.m. to midnight is booked with outings, parties, or opportunities to hang out with friends playing video or board games.  Sometimes two activities in the same block (Red Sox or Davis Square bar night — how to choose?).  The week’s activities will wrap up on Thursday night, after which graduating students can turn their attention to graduation rehearsals, visiting relatives, and packing their stuff.  Commencement is nearly here!

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An enduring tradition, the “thes-ku.”  For many years now, a graduating student has come forward to unleash the flood of procrastination-inducing capstone-inspired poetry.  The concept: capture the content of your capstone in haiku format (that is, three lines with five, seven, and five syllables).  Please find below a sampling of the capstone titles and related thes-kus.  Note that many, but not all, students write a traditional thesis to fulfill the capstone requirement.  Also note that I have snagged these off the Social List and am sharing them without attribution, but without objection from their writers.

One student wrote that she “mostly wrote a thesis just so I could summarize it in haiku format.”  Whether that’s 100% true or not, her thes-ku leads the collection:

Wired for Geopolitics: Incentives Shaping Technology Companies’ International Policy Decisions
Google runs the world
Because they want more profit?
It’s not that simple.

War Without Weapons: A History of International Politics in Sport and the Future of North Korea
Sports matter to Kim
It’s ideological
Let’s play together!

Systematically Seeking Shared Value: An Analysis of USAID Public-Private Partnerships
Once about leverage
Now shared value is our thing
Finding it is hard

Promoting Pluralism or Patronage?: Parliamentary Electoral System Design in Timor-Leste
East Timor elects
Few parties despite system.
Pacts spread patronage.

The Role of Congress in Offensive Cyber Operations
No one likes Congress
Cyber is so hot right now
…Checks and balances?

Fractured Lives: Personal Narratives of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Parents’ old stories
Have historical value
Who would’ve thunk it?

Feminism on the Field: Changing Attitudes about Girls’ Soccer in Southern Morocco
Girls play soccer too
Attitudes are hard to change
These girls are badass

Doing Harm: How Humanitarian Organizations Have Exacerbated Identity Conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
Conflict is the worst
But humanitarians
Could be the worst-est.

From the Jamba to Christian Dior: Fashion Trends and Regime Preservation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Kim likes fashion
Don’t be hatin’ on his vogue
It’s all political

Paying for Performance: Policy Reform to Improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Rural Bihar
Conditional cash
Sometimes it just ain’t enough
Systems change vital.

The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) in New England. Lessons Learned from Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) Independent Power Producers (IPP)
Utilities sign
Power Purchase Agreements
While solar price drops.

Life after Salesforce: User Adoption and Implementation Strategy from Social Impact Organizations
Cloud computing what
UTAUT for who
Fletcher can speak tech

The Business Case for Sustainability: Developing an Environmental Vision and Strategy at a Privately-Held Retailer
Climate change is real
You’re pretty late to the game
Let’s convince your boss

Energy is Power: The Role of Oil in Self-Determination Movements with Case Studies on Iraqi Kurdistan and Greenland
Oil runs the world
revenues or resource curse
it creates new states?

A Blend in 21st Century Warfare: The Balance of Deterrence vs. Provocation
Putin Rides Big Bears
Russia is reemerging
NATO is worried

Promoting Pluralism or Patronage?: Parliamentary Electoral System Design in Timor-Leste
East Timor elects
Few parties despite system.
Pacts spread patronage.

What is Missed When Measured:  A Systematic Review of Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Conflict-Affected Populations
Gender-based violence
Such a mouthful. Hard to rhyme.
Don’t forget the men.

Survival in the Frontier Borderlands: Widespread and Opportunistic Violence, Governance, and Livelihoods in the Karamoja Cluster
Guns be a’flowin’
Cattle raided, crops stolen
State can’t stop us now

Last, but not least, as the haiku is a revered Japanese poetry form, we have a contribution from a Japanese student, who noted that a true haiku should refer to the seasons, and who implied that this is not her best-ever haiku effort.

The United Nations, Peacekeeping Operations and Assisting Sustainable Rule of Law
背中押す  (せなかおす:Se Na Ka O Su)
法の治めし (ほうのおさめし:Ho U No O Sa Me Shi)
国づくり        (くにづくり:Ku Ni Zu Ku Ri)

The translation:
Let them build RoL
No imposition, it’s culture
A long and winding road

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Three student bloggers will graduate on Sunday, Alex, Aditi, and Ali.  They’ve all been particularly great to work with and I’ll miss them!  You can expect to see their words of farewell in the coming weeks, after they have graduated and had a chance to process their experience.  For today, we have Alex’s Annotated Curriculum for his two years in the MIB program.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Strategy Consultant, Monitor Deloitte in Washington, DC
General Manager, Valsek Nutritional Foods in Addis Ababa

Fields of Study
International Energy Studies (self-designed Field of Study)
International Finance and Banking

Capstone Topic
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements in New England (Advisor: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Develop business models and financing mechanisms to bring renewable energy to scale in new markets

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Managerial Economics
The Arts of Communication
Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy
Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (Audit)

My first semester was all about laying the groundwork for a meaningful time at Fletcher.  The core MIB classes, especially Finance, helped our cohort develop the key business skills necessary to be successful at Fletcher and beyond.  Perhaps more importantly, taking a few classes as a group really brought the MIB class together, which has been invaluable both academically and personally.  I also greatly enjoyed my elective classes like Communication and Clean Energy Policy, as mentioned in previous posts, and the professors have turned into great mentors over time.

Semester Two

International Business Strategy & Operations
Marketing Management
Macroeconomics
Political Economy & Business of the EU
Engineering, Economics, and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (at MIT)
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (Audit)

In my second semester, I finished up my MIB requirements and started to delve deeper into my energy concentration.  My business classes felt very much like B-School, in terms of the content they covered and the hard skills they built, with one big difference: I was taking them at an international affairs school.  As such, my professors and classmates brought an incredible depth and breadth of international experience to bear, and the policy context was always discussed.  I also took an enlightening Electric Power Sector class with a bunch of engineers at MIT, which really got me into the nitty-gritty details of how power systems work.  Also, Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy sponsored me to go to an energy conference at which I was able to wrangle an internship during the semester at Commonwealth Bay, a wind-energy private equity firm, where I performed market analysis and due diligence on wind projects.

Summer Internship
BlueWave Renewables

One of my professors introduced me to BlueWave Renewables, a solar-energy developer, where I got an exciting opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes and to gain further exposure to the thriving cleantech ecosystem in Boston.  As discussed in my previous post, I helped build out a platform for community solar, a new business model designed to bring solar to the three quarters of Americans who cannot own their own solar panels.  Thanks to my business and energy classes, I was able to hit the ground running and make an impact in a short period of time.

Semester Three

International Business Transactions
Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
The Art and Science of Statecraft

The third semester was my first opportunity to truly cast a wide net across the amazing diversity of classes offered at Fletcher.  International Business Transactions covered topics such as contract law, which, although it may sound dry, is where “the rubber hits the road” in business; I discovered this when I was starting a business in Ethiopia, and it is one of the reasons I decided to come to Fletcher.  Project Finance and Petroleum complemented each other very well, and contributed to my Field of Study requirements.  Leadership, which was taught by a great professor on loan from the Harvard Business School, provided a valuable soft-skill counterpoint to more analytical courses I had taken so far.  Finally, Statecraft was an interesting foray into the mental models of one of our well-known professors, renowned equally for his colorful analogies and for his direct language.  On top of all this, I also worked with the wonderful Fletcher Social Investment Group to lead a team of classmates on a consulting engagement for EverVest, a renewable energy financial analysis software startup.

Semester Four

Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
International Energy Policy
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
International Financial Management
Management, Finance, and Regulation of Public Infrastructure in Developing Countries (at Harvard)

My fourth and final semester has been great because the foundation I have built up over the last year and a half has enabled me to engage with the material in a way I could not have done before.  My two energy classes are a nice culmination to the thrust of my studies here, and indeed they provide timely input as I wrap up my thesis for the capstone requirement.  International Financial Management, affectionately dubbed “Jacques Deux” after the French-American professor who has taught a notorious regimen of finance classes for decades, proved to be as difficult and enlightening as promised.  The Infrastructure class at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided another good perspective on the matter, and a chance to meet new like-minded people.  Finally, I have supplemented my studies by conducting energy policy research for a Fletcher alumnus at EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar.

I am excited by my prospects post-Fletcher, but know that I will be sad to leave this place.  Throughout my two years here, I have had the pleasure to work with supportive professors and a diverse yet cohesive set of classmates.  As demonstrated above, Fletcher has also consistently opened doors for me, both at other top-tier schools and at cool companies.  I know I will look back fondly on my time here, and now understand more and more why the Fletcher community is so strong.

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With the Class of 2016 about to graduate in only about a week, it’s getting to be time for me to wrap-up the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010.  Today we’ll hear from Claudia Ortiz, who provided me with this short bio, in addition to her post:

Claudia Ortiz (Mexico) has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2013, when she joined as Regional Technical Specialist on Climate Change Adaptation in the regional hub for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is now based in UNDP headquarters in New York, acting as climate finance policy advisor and project manager of the Global Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme.  Before UNDP, Claudia worked with the Climate Change Team at the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, in Washington, DC.

Earlier in her career, she supported the development of Mexico’s first Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for the cement and iron and steel sectors at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC and worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Sub-regional Office in Ankara, Turkey, where she undertook research on energy policy and environmental issues in Central Asia.

Claudia OrtizIt has been almost six years since I graduated from Fletcher.  I still regard the opportunity to study there as one of the best in my life: it changed the way I see the world, transformed my career, and allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people, with very diverse backgrounds.  From the very first day of Orientation, students are constantly reminded that our most important allies are in the student and alumni community itself.  Besides this backbone virtue of the School, students are also reminded (as in the Mission and Impact statement) that as international affairs professionals, we ought to be “committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of a complex, challenging and increasingly global society,” — in other words (or, as I interpret it), we are meant to be “global citizens.”

As global citizens, we let go of nationalistic or self-interests.  Rather we exercise collaboration and compassion, as we seek to become agents of improvement for the global society, including the most vulnerable populations in it.  And, as global citizens, we are led by our never-ending hunger to explore, travel, and experience different cultures.

This concept resonates well for me with the cause to which I have dedicated my career since Fletcher graduation: to support developing countries’ access to international climate finance for initiatives, projects and programs that address climate risks.  Climate change must not be regarded an “environmental” problem.  To label it that way would be misleading, as it places emphasis on the risk being posed to ecosystems or natural habitats.  In reality, it is the human species and human development gains that are most at risk and are being severely impacted by climate change in the form of food insecurity, forced migration, destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihoods, etc.  Climate change is therefore a global development problem which does not recognize political boundaries and one which cannot be solved by acting in isolation; international diplomacy has a significant role to play.

Today, it is evident that diplomacy driven by recognition of the universal threat of climate change, but also by emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations on Earth, has succeeded in shifting the climate change paradigm.  In December 2015, the diplomatic efforts of over 150 heads of state and their delegations resulted in an unprecedented Climate Agreement, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  For the first time in history, there is global recognition that climate change is a common concern of humankind, whereby all the world’s economies need to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  Decades have been spent in breaching the gap between achieving economic growth through the use of cheaper fossil fuels and the urgent need to enhance resilience to climate change, especially in the poorest countries.  We are a privileged generation to witness a huge step in this direction.

As an officer of the United Nations, I function as an “international civil servant.”  I am not to respond to any government’s instructions (or those of any other source that is not the UN) as I carry out my duties; rather, I am supposed to bring forward only the interests of the UN.  Applying this principle has proven to be crucial for my work given that, for the past three years, I have served the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Benin, Colombia, Nepal, Fiji, and others, but not yet my native Mexico.  I have realized that the only way to thrive in different cultures or contexts while achieving common social, environmental or development objectives is by maintaining impartiality and independence.  This is, of course, challenging, as we are all calibrated to operate based on our own cultural norms, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas.  I admit that only by living the experience itself have I been able to “adapt” quickly to unknown contexts, while still managing to get the work done.

Evidently, Fletcher was the perfect launching platform for my current job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and my former position in the World Bank, another institution where staff uphold the same principles of impartiality and of a global mindset.  Fletcher is a microcosm where the exact same principles are enforced, not only to excel in the very demanding, inter-disciplinary curriculum but also to succeed as a member of the ever-present Fletcher community.  As students, we would consciously work, discuss, and even debate respectfully, without prejudice.  We established long-lasting friendships with people we never imagined we would.  I proudly say that Fletcher prepared us to confront the most compelling global challenges by making us realize that solutions can only be reached through diplomacy and collaborative action, because as citizens of ONE planet we cannot regard challenges to be the problem of “the other,” but rather, these problems and their solutions must be assumed as “our own.”

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