Currently viewing the tag: "2017 Advice"

Continuing the Q&A advice from the Admissions Graduate Assistants (GAs), we’ll turn first to a critical piece of wisdom — where to study.  As I noted yesterday, the GAs answered these questions a few weeks ago, at the very end of the spring semester.

What is your favorite on-campus study space?

Ashley: I like sitting outside of Ginn Library most of the time, because there’s plenty of light from outside and sometimes you get the pleasant break of a friend walking by and saying hello.  But if that’s not studious enough for you, the third floor of Ginn also has a bank of windows that makes working inside a lot more tolerable!

Brooklyn: The third floor of Ginn Library.  There are windows and sunlight and you can pretend that you are outside doing something more exciting than finance problem sets.

Cindy: I am the kind of person who likes my surroundings to be quiet when I am reading material for my classes.  I enjoy sitting in the Ginn Library or reserving study rooms in the Cabot basement.  If I am getting simple tasks done (checking e-mails, getting organized), I like the high-top tables in the Hall of Flags.

Dristy: In my first year, my favorite study space was the area outside Ginn Library, both for the daylight as well as the potential to socialize.  And in my second year, I spent most of my time in the Mugar Computer Lab that only Fletcher students have access to.  This was mostly because I took classes that required the use of certain software available on school computers, but it proved to be a great study and work space.

How/where did you meet most of your Fletcher friends?  (In class, Orientation, student activities?)

Ashley: I had the benefit of both of my roommates being in pre-session classes while I was getting settled in Somerville — so I met a lot of folks through them.  Certainly Orientation was the first big chance to meet new faces, but I think from there friendships developed organically, inside and outside of class, and through the friends I’d already begun to make.  I still find myself making new friends, even in my last semester.

Brooklyn: I met most of my Fletcher friends during Orientation, but didn’t really become friends until well along in the first semester.  Be open to going to social events, even through your school work might make it feel prohibitive.  Think of it as networking!

Cindy: I met most of the people I spend time with in class and during extracurricular activities that I regularly attend.  I also met some wonderful people at social hours, which happen on Thursdays.  I would recommend forming study/reading groups with classmates as a way to get to know each other, and I also recommend going to as many events as possible during the fall to meet fellow classmates early on.

Dristy: I met most of my closest Fletcher friends in class and at events/activities organized by student organizations.  Those were the natural ways to meet people with shared interests while spending time doing what we enjoy.

What is something you regret not doing while at Fletcher?  (Help incoming students to avoid making the same mistake.)

Ashley: To be honest, I am struggling to answer this question — it seems as though I’ve done a lot in two years here! — but I suppose I wish I had gone into Boston more often.  I already know the city pretty well, but there are always new things to do and places to visit.  It’s just too easy to remain in the Fletcher environs, as there is no shortage of things to do and people to see here, either!

Brooklyn: I regret not applying to internships sooner.  Not sure where you want to be?  Who cares!  If you apply to an investment bank and decide later on that it’s not a good fit for you, then you can always turn down an offer.  On the other hand, you will never get an offer if you missed the application deadlines.  You’ll never learn to swim if you don’t get in the pool!

Cindy: I regret not going to any of the Open Mic Nights this year.  I heard awesome things about them, and I wish I had made the time for at least one.  I also regret having a lot of late afternoon and evening classes this semester.  I missed some really great events that I wish I could have gone to.

Dristy: As I wrap up my time at Fletcher, when I look back, I feel honored to have had this journey, but there are two things that I will always regret not doing enough of during my time here.  First, I wish I had taken more advantage of office hour with professors.  I think it would have allowed me to strengthen my relationships with them and added significantly to my learning experience.  Second, I regret not participating enough in school-wide events, especially in my second year.  As my course load increased with the semester, it became more difficult to prioritize attending events, such as talks by guest speakers, panel discussions, etc.  These events have proven to be incredible opportunities to expand my knowledge and understanding of topics outside class and beyond my area of interest, so I definitely wish I had attended more of those during my time here.

What additional tips would you offer to incoming students?

Ashley: Enjoy your time at Fletcher!  With graduation right around the corner for me, I can assure you it goes by pretty quickly.  As important as the work you’ll be doing is, don’t forget to make plenty of time for the truly excellent community of people that Fletcher has to offer.

Brooklyn: Graduate school is what you make of it, so get involved early.  Don’t let your dreams be dreams!

Cindy: Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t worry about not being able to do everything; have an open mind; put yourself in new situations; and take the time to hang out with your friends!  Your time at Fletcher will go by so quickly, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

Dristy: I encourage incoming students to take advantage of the Shopping Day, Course Evaluations, and insights from second years/alumni to help them select courses.  I would also highly recommend taking the foreign language exam early in your time at Fletcher (especially the oral exam, which in some cases may require you to coordinate with professors outside Tufts).

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So far, I’ve shared the lists of suggested (but hardly required) reading, and now I have some advice for incoming students from our Admissions Office Graduate Assistants (GAs).  Before they left campus, we asked Ashley, Brooklyn, Cindy, and Dristy (ABC&D) for their answers to a few questions.  Their responses are below and will continue tomorrow.

Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?

Ashley: Get a little bit of a plan in order.  Some things (your finances!) require more careful planning than others, but it doesn’t hurt to get a good handle on what sorts of classes you might like to take, what your commute to campus will be like, or where you might like to explore in the Boston area.  You should be ready to deviate from that plan once you get here, but having given it some thought ahead of time will make those first few weeks a little less overwhelming and will allow you to get your footing more quickly.  Already knowing some of my options made it a lot easier to make decisions with all of the new information I got upon arrival.

Brooklyn: Prepare for the equivalency exams!  If you have studied a subject before (statistics or economics) you can test out of the lower level classes, but it’s likely that you will need a little bit of a refresher on the content prior to taking the exam.  It really helps you get the most out of your time at Fletcher because, since you are only here for two years, you don’t want to waste your time on a class you’ve already taken just because you were too lazy over the summer to crack open a book for a few hours.

Cindy: If you have time off in the summer before you officially come to Fletcher, maybe plan a trip to visit the Boston/Medford/Somerville area, just to get a feel for what it’s like to live here.  My husband and I made a trip up to secure housing, and we also took the time to visit the Tufts/Fletcher campus, eat at a couple of great restaurants, and take some scenic drives/walks around the area.

A second thing I would recommend is to brush up on your language skills if you know that you have been out of practice for a little while.  I took time over the summer to study Russian, which is the language I plan to test for, which was very helpful for transitioning to Fletcher.

Last, read up about the Design and Monitoring course offered during the August pre-session.  It’s only offered once each year, right before the fall semester, and it is also a pretty popular class.  I will be taking it this summer before I start my second year, and I wish I had talked to other students about the course when I first started, to see if it was something I really wanted to gain experience in.  I am very glad I have a chance to take it in August!

Dristy: I encourage incoming students to rest, relax, and spend time with family and friends before commencing this journey.  I also encourage brushing up on foreign language skills over the summer because, once the semester begins, it gets difficult to carve out time to prepare for the exam.  Also, those who intend on taking the economics and quantitative equivalency tests, I would encourage them to review the material over the summer.  Since the equivalency exams take place during Orientation week, you may not have time to brush up directly before the exams.

For international students, especially those who have not visited or lived in the U.S. before, I strongly encourage you to reach out to current international students to get useful insights and tips on how to navigate some of the basics in the U.S., for example, where to buy (and costs for) bedding, personal care supplies, phone plans, etc.

Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do before starting their Fletcher studies?

Ashley: Don’t stress!  Easier said than done, I know.  And certainly, don’t feel bad when you inevitably are stressed in your first semester — being back in school can be a huge adjustment, not to mention being (for many people) in a new place, meeting new people, and so on.  But you need not add to your anxiety level in these last few months before Fletcher begins with worries about how everything will go, whether you’ll make new friends, if your apartment will be livable, etc.  (Everything will go just fine and there are people to help you if it doesn’t.  You’ll absolutely make friends, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time in your apartment anyway!)

Brooklyn: Do NOT wait until starting your Fletcher studies to start thinking about bigger picture items such as “What do I want to get out of my time here?  Are there any non-academic goals I want to set?  Are there any faculty/staff who could be helpful in reaching these goals?  Where do I want to intern/work after Fletcher?  What sectors really interest me?”  School can seem pretty overwhelming at first, but if you have some of the bigger picture items at least somewhat outlined, it helps you fill in the rest of the pieces of the puzzle (like which classes to take and which extracurricular activities to get involved in) as you start moving on your first semester.

Cindy: Do not stress about housing!  I looked for hours and days in a row to try and find a place for my husband, dog, and me, and I agonized over it.  While it is tough finding a dog-friendly apartment at a reasonable price, we eventually found a place and are happy.

Dristy: It is exciting to think about classes and all the interesting things you are going to learn at Fletcher, but I would suggest incoming students not worry about figuring out classes for the fall semester or how to fulfill the breadth and depth requirements.  We offer Shopping Days at the beginning of every semester when many professors give brief introductions to the courses they are offering that semester.  I found the Shopping Days incredibly helpful to learn about courses and professors, and they helped me a lot in making decisions about what classes to take.

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Wrapping up the reading suggestions for summer 2017 is a list from the faculty.  My request to the professors was only that their book picks be interesting or have relevance to the courses they teach, but if they described a selection, I’ve included the explanation.  Where there’s no explanation of the book choice, you can find the theme by looking at the professor’s profile.

Professor Antonia Chayes

Beach Music, by Pat Conroy.  A relaxing novel before the work begins

Professor Michael Glennon

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International Law of Peace, edited by Sir Claud Humphrey Waldock and James Leslie Brierly
Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, by Rebecca Goldstein
The Essential Holmes, edited by Richard A. Posner
“Melian Dialogue,” in Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, (translated by Rex Warner)
A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt
West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
Imperium, by Robert Harris
The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind—and Changed the History of Free Speech in America, by Thomas Healy
The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, by Louis Menand
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
An Imaginary Life, by David Malouf.

Professor Hurst Hannum

While everyone by now should have read Albert Camus’ The Stranger (L’Etranger), it is worth reading again as an introduction to Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation (Meursault, contre-euquete).  The latter, a reprise of Camus from the perspective of the Arab victim in The Stranger, received well-deserved critical praise when it was published in 2015.  While not as profound as Camus, Daoud’s reply is well worth reading and offers both an anti-colonial counterpoint (not innovative, but well done) and an interesting gloss on existence and identity.  It’s probably better to read both in French, if possible, but it’s not necessary to do so.

Professor Jette Steen Knudsen

The Promise and Limits of Private Power: Promoting Labor Standards in a Global Economy, by Richard Locke.  This book is the most comprehensive study to date evaluating the impact of company codes of conduct on labor standards in global supply chains.
The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done About It, by David Weil.  This book argues that widening income inequality has more to do with organizational innovations than technological change.
Why Diversity Programs Fail,” Harvard Business Review (2016, July 1), by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev.  This is an easy to read article with a provocative view of diversity programs.
50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark.  If you have not written papers in a long time (or maybe ever) this book contains many helpful insights.

Professor Michele Malvesti

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

Professor Pearl Robinson (Professor Robinson is primarily affiliated with the Tufts Department of Political Science but also teaches at Fletcher.)
Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa, by Ousman Oumar Kane.  This is one of the best books I’ve read about Africa in the past decade.  I consider it a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the political, religious, and intellectual complexities of the Islamic landscape in contemporary Africa.

Professor Kimberly Theidon

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Professor Phil Uhlmann

In God’s Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, by David Yallop.  This is a tremendous book, regardless of your religious views.  There is much more about banking in this book than you might imagine.  Given the situation in Italy, this is really must reading.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West, by Edward Rice.  This is an awesome story, it will change you.

As a member of the Admissions staff, I freely offer my advice on putting together a strong application, but I leave it to others to provide suggestions to incoming students.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the tips I’ve collected this spring.  I’m going to start today with a summer reading list offered by Colin Steele, who just completed his first year in the MALD program.  I had put out a call to the Social List for their suggestions and, nearly instantly, received a fully formed suggested library from Colin.

Lest you worry, there truly is no required pre-Fletcher reading, but we always hear from incoming students who simply want to get their brains thinking in a Fletcher-ish way.  Colin’s list strikes the perfect balance between more and less scholarly material, and he starts by describing the principles that guided him as he made his selections.

Colin’s List

Book Listing philosophy: These are all books that have shaped my worldview, my appreciation of language, and/or how I approach Fletcher.  In general, I think about the summer before Fletcher as an on-ramp to the education itself: reading, experience, and reflection over the summer can really help get you up to speed and thus ease the transition into campus life.  (That was certainly my experience, anyway.)  As trite or generic as it might sound, I’d recommend reading at least one really fulfilling, edifying book.  Maybe you always (or never) wanted to read Cicero, but you’re worried about the state of society.  Maybe you haven’t read Steinbeck since 10th grade, or you’ve never been to the U.S.  Maybe you just haven’t read a book for real in a while.  In any of those cases, summer is a great opportunity to do so.

One final word: as Dean Stavridis writes in The Leader’s Bookshelf, it’s not about what you read — it’s how you read.  That’s certainly true of grad school, and the summer before is an opportunity to practice reading intentionally.  Whatever you choose, make it something that seems like it will frame the Fletcher education and experience you’re looking for, and approach the text that way.  That’s a habit of mind that will pay off in spades at school.

Fletcher-y books
A Passion for Leadership, Robert Gates
The latest from the former U.S. secretary of defense and author of Duty.  A short, readable, and eminently usable guide to leading and transforming organizations large and small.  Also includes a call to consider public service.

Painting as a Pastime, Winston Churchill
A very short, perhaps lesser-known work on achieving balance in life and work.  Even at Fletcher, it’s important to have interests and recreational outlets outside of work and study.

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
One of the great American novels; a thinly fictionalized account of the rise and reign of Huey P. Long of Louisiana.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
In 1933 — the same year Fletcher was founded — the U.S. ambassador to Germany has a ringside seat to Hitler’s rise.  True history told with Larson’s characteristic page-turning zip.

The Leader’s Bookshelf, James Stavridis
Fifty more book recommendations (with reviews and synopses), plus useful articles on reading, writing, and leading.  A good opportunity to get to know the dean virtually before arriving on campus.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Tom Clancy
My journey to Fletcher probably started with my first Tom Clancy book, and I went back and read a couple last summer to see how I’d find them en route to grad school.  They’re still great yarns, and this is one of the best.

The classic or classics you’ve always wanted to read: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Waltz, Kissinger, Lawrence Freedman, whomever.  Tackling some giant in your field with purpose before arriving will pay big dividends when classes start, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while.  The actual classics — Aristotle, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Laozi, etc. — are also worth it.

Finally, here’s link to a PDF version of an old article the dean wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute called “Read, Think, Write, and PUBLISH.” I printed myself a copy before I made my way to Fletcher, and it really helped shape my approach.

Not-so-Fletcher-y books
The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
Recommended to me by the person who introduced me to Fletcher 10 years ago.  A bildungsroman about a boy learning about boxing and life in apartheid-era South Africa.  (One of the top three on this list, in my opinion.)

Mink River or The Plover, Brian Doyle
Just when you thought you’d outgrown talking-animal books, Doyle comes along and convinces you that untranslated Irish and the “dark, secret tongue of bears” might actually make sense.

Blood Meridian: Or, the Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy
This is a gut-punch of a book.  McCarthy does things with the American language that you didn’t know were possible.

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
The shortest and most accessible of his books (and infinitely better than the movie).  Worth (re)reading now.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
And/or other Steinbeck, e.g. Travels with Charley.  One of the great storytellers of the American land and its people; worthwhile for both U.S. and non-U.S. students.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Norman Maclean
Very short, exceptionally well-turned prose.  For my money, some of the best writing around.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky, and This is Water, David Foster Wallace
To ponder.

Angela’s Ashes and Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
Not uplifting, but elegiac.

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