Currently viewing the tag: "Class of 2011"

The final Five-Year Update for the Class of 2011 comes from Jacqui Deelstra.  Jacqui had pursued a variety of professional experiences before she started at Fletcher, but she created a clear path for her post-graduate school career, with ICT4D the link that connects her work.

For me, the choice to go to Fletcher was pretty clear.  I wanted to increase my skills and expertise for a career in international development, and my sister had paved the way to Medford by going to Tufts herself as an undergraduate.  So when I when analyzed choices for grad school, I could not imagine a better option than to continue the “Jumbo” family tradition.

My path to Fletcher

As I was finishing up my degree in international relations and journalism at the University of Southern California, I found myself looking for opportunities to get practical experience overseas.  Through some connections I heard about Tostan, an NGO based in Senegal that focuses on women and girls’ health and human rights.  Working with Tostan on communications and donor relations, and visiting communities throughout Senegal, gave me my first exposure to the field of international development.

Over the next few years, before making my way to Fletcher, I spent two years back in Seattle, WA, my hometown, working on local youth-mentoring programs with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and spent a year in Loja, Ecuador teaching English and volunteering through the WorldTeach program.

During and after Fletcher: Finding a niche in ICT4D

As an undergraduate, while I double-majored in international relations and print journalism, my primary focus was on communications and journalism.  That passion for understanding how people access and consume information, and how it impacts their lives, has always stuck with me.  While at Fletcher I discovered the budding field of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D).  I was fascinated in thinking about how mobile devices, social media and other communication technologies were changing people’s ability to participate in government, get information on health topics, and access training and capacity building.  I focused my Fletcher thesis on how ICT was being used for government accountability and transparency programs in East Africa through field research in Tanzania and Kenya during the summer between my two years at Fletcher.

Thanks to the experience I gained with ICT4D while at Fletcher, I landed a short-term consultancy with Plan International as an ICT4D consultant.  Right after Fletcher graduation, I headed to Benin where I spent two months working with the local staff on evaluating and planning the expanded roll-out of an SMS-based pilot project.

After I returned from Benin, I joined Creative Associates, a DC-based USAID implementing partner.  At that time in September 2011, Creative had just established a Technology for Development team focused on designing and implementing ICT solutions for projects in sectors such as education, elections, and governance and civil society.  I spent five years with Creative helping to grow the Technology for Development practice, which is now known as the Creative Development Lab.  My work at Creative took me to Zambia to work on mobile solutions to support early-grade reading and to Haiti to support civil society organizations with technology for collecting and mapping electoral security data.

In February 2017, I accepted an exciting opportunity to work with the Digital Health Solutions team at PATH.  PATH is a leader in innovation in Global Health and my new position is giving me the great chance to continue to grow my career in ICT4D and to put down roots back in Seattle.

Today I balance my work in ICT4D with my family.  I have an almost two-year-old son named Elliott.  I also still benefit tremendously from the relationships I developed at Fletcher.  With my closest Fletcher friends, who are scattered all over the world, we have maintained a Skype book club, where we spend little time discussing the book, but instead have lengthy discussions on topics ranging from career challenges and successes to wedding planning.  Looking back and considering my life today, I could not be happier with my choice to follow in my sister’s footsteps and become a Tufts Jumbo by studying at Fletcher.

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This week I’m going to share two updates from the Class of 2011, with my apologies to the writers for neglecting to publish their posts earlier in the spring.  Kimberly came to Fletcher from Jamaica, which given the country’s relatively small size, immediately made her stand out my mind.

Every so often I have a flashback to Commencement day — huddling together for group photos, and then each of my friends, with cautious optimism, sharing plans for our new lives that would begin in just a matter of days.  Was that really five and a half years ago?  So much has happened.  Our class has accomplished so much.

In high school I’d made up my mind that I wouldn’t be contained by the borders of my small island; I was one of those people that Dean Bosworth spoke about at our orientation, looking to “lead an international life.”

At first, the dream manifested as a desire to join Jamaica’s foreign service, and I was fortunate to receive very clear advice from two of Jamaica’s top diplomatic professionals.  They told me that if I was serious about the foreign service, there was only one graduate school for me.  And so, before I had even decided where I would pursue my undergraduate studies, I had accepted my mission: The Fletcher School.  Though it was probably obvious, I didn’t realize at the time that they were both Fletcher grads.

One bachelor’s degree and an embassy internship later, I was heading to Medford.  I had put all my grad school eggs in the Fletcher basket and it had paid off.

By the time I arrived in the Hall of Flags, my interests had shifted.  I’d spent a year in the Ministry of Finance, working on Jamaica’s program with the multilateral banks, and I had a new mission: I was going to work at the World Bank.

I never forgot about that mission, but it lay in the back of my mind while I was busy soaking up the whirlwind awesomeness that is the Fletcher School.  This update is my love song to Blakeley Hall, Fletcher Follies, Los Fletcheros, the annual Ski Trip, and so much more.  To Professor Block, who was a stellar advisor, and to Professor Moomaw and all of CIERP.

Kimberly notes, “When a project has been a success, it makes people happy, sometimes happy enough to plant trees named after you.”

It is five and half years later, and a lot has happened.  I’ve been to several Fletcher weddings, including my own, and I ended up at the World Bank, though in a different sector than I anticipated.  In the Global Water Practice, I work on policy, planning, and capacity building related to water resources infrastructure.  Given the scale of the global water and energy challenges, I can scarcely think of a sector I would rather be working in.

While I didn’t expect my job to take me to so many construction sites, the experience has been both exciting and rewarding.  There is, at the end of the day, something special about seeing a major project coming up out of the ground and knowing you had even the smallest hand in bringing it to fruition.  When I arrive at a client’s office and someone hands me a hard hat, I know it’s going to be a good day.

If I have one misgiving, though, it is that none of my projects to date have taken me anywhere close to Jamaica.  I won’t lie; it tugs at my heartstrings to spend most of my days trying to solve problems everywhere else but there.  I tell myself that there is time for that.

In the meantime, I am enjoying all the incredible Fletcher friendships I made during those two years and the ones I continue to make.  The Fletcher family is real, so real.  It can be hard to stay in touch with folks splintered all over the globe, but nearly everywhere I go, there’s at least one familiar face and it makes all the difference.

I haven’t decided yet what my next mission will be…but I think I’m starting to get some ideas.

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Our next Five-Year Update comes from Vincent Fennell, whom I recall spent quite a bit of time around the Admissions Office during his two years in the MIB program.  I recently caught up with him at an event, and I was reminded why it was so delightful to see him regularly.

I admit there’s a certain irony in writing an update about “life since Fletcher” when I’m currently only 30 minutes away from the Fletcher campus.  However, it’s more a case of things coming full circle, rather than sitting still.  Let me explain.

Before Fletcher:

Before I joined the Fletcher MIB class of 2011, I worked at State Street Corporation in Boston.  I decided to pursue an MIB as a way of developing my passion for international business.  I had seen during my time at State Street that no business happens in a vacuum.  There are so many “non-business” variables to an internationally successful business that I felt these were best addressed in an International Affairs School.  I had already lived a pretty international life — albeit tame by Fletcher standards — but I wanted an education that could help me try to make sense of it all, help me become, in the words of the late Dean Bosworth, “culturally fluent.”

After Fletcher:

After I graduated from Fletcher in 2011, my wife, daughter, and I moved to England where I started a job at the Strategy Office for Hitachi Ltd. in their European Headquarters.  This job came as a direct result of the internship I had in Tokyo with Hitachi the summer before.  In what might be a Fletcher first, I was an Irishman who got a job in London while living in Boston after an internship in Tokyo.

Working for Hitachi was a dream post-Fletcher job for me.  Each and every week felt like an applied session of the courses I had taken at Fletcher.  Some weeks I was involved in Smart City discussions with the Japanese Ministry for Economy in Spain, while other times I was helping lay the foundations for a renewable hydrogen energy storage system at the Nissan test facility at their factory in Sunderland.  At Fletcher I had taken a course on Petroleum in the Global Economy.  This proved to be an invaluable foundation in energy discussions that I referred to constantly.

If I wasn’t focused on Smart Cities, I was helping negotiate the terms of a first of its kind Smart Energy Grid demonstration project in the UK or speaking with the Istanbul municipality about about municipal water network management systems.  This is where I gained a whole new appreciation for my negotiation course and the importance of frameworks and BATNAs (Best Alternatives to a Negotiated Agreement).

Toward the end of my tenure at Hitachi, I was asked to undertake a market analysis on the nascent “Industry 4.0” or Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Industry 4.0, simply put, is a catch-all for the automation of factories.  Through this research and by meeting with a wide variety of software companies and manufacturing companies, I found the catalyst for the next step in my career: digitization.

Digitization and Industry 4.0 were not topics I had really explored in great detail while at Fletcher.  I had taken courses in Innovation and even explored an internship with a few tech startups, but I always thought that I wasn’t “techie” enough.  I’m not a software engineer and didn’t know anything about coding.  What I experienced after Fletcher is the understanding of the critical need for both clear communication and lateral thinking in the technology arena.

Midway through 2015 I was offered a chance to move back to the U.S. and work with my former team at State Street, where I currently lead various internal digitization initiatives.  My role is to help make State Street a market leader in the financial services industry.  Digitization is rapidly changing the realm of possibilities within the financial services sector and the business is significantly different than when I left in 2011.  It’s really exciting to be at the frontier of a changing global industry.

The last thing I want to say is about the Fletcher community.  When I was at Fletcher everyone always talked about the Fletcher family as an invaluable resource.  While I was at Tufts, this was always tangible in the form of people to reach out to with career-related questions.  It wasn’t until I left Fletcher that I realized the true value of this global community.  I feel inspired, fortunate, and proud to be a member of this unique and wonderful tribe.

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Though we’re tip-toeing up to their six-year post-graduation mark, I’m happy to introduce another member of the Class of 2011.  Philippa Brown completed the one-year mid-career MA program, and is now a consultant specializing in designing and implementing programs focused on counter-terrorism and stabilization, as well as early recovery work in conflict environments.  Her bio further says that, “She has just completed a three-year posting to the British Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia, where she covered two thematic areas: leading the multi-disciplinary counter-terrorism team, and designing and delivering the UK’s bilateral stabilization program.  Prior to her work in Somalia, she designed and managed the UK’s counter-terrorism program in Pakistan, focused on criminal justice capacity building in Punjab.  Philippa also deployed to Afghanistan as part of the UK’s support to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand 2009-10.”

Pre-Fletcher Experience
As one member of the small group of “mid-career” MA students, I had already been working internationally prior to Fletcher.  After ten years working in London as a UK civil servant, I was heading the Counter Narcotics Team in the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand.  Two weeks later, I found myself at Fletcher Orientation in Medford.  It was a bit of a culture shock.

I had heard about the MA program from a work friend who was based in Khandahar, working with the U.S. military.  I mentioned my interest in going back to school to study international relations.  He said, “You’ve got to go to Fletcher.”  I had anticipated studying in the UK but had a look.  I was really impressed with the courses available, the professors (How many superstar academics is it possible to have in one school?), and the international mix of the student body.  I was further impressed when I met a current Fletcher student visiting Lashkar Gah on his summer internship — everything you hear about the Fletcher community is true!

At Fletcher
On arriving, I sat in the auditorium at Fletcher, with hundreds of other students, and felt a sense of awe.  It was even more international than I had expected.  It was hard to whittle down the list of courses I wanted to take, and I had only one year at Fletcher to complete everything.  I tried to cover a mixture, combining Professor Nasr’s Comparative Politics, Professor Maxwell’s Humanitarian Action, Professor Shultz’s Role of Force, Professor Block’s Agricultural Economics, and Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design Monitoring and Evaluation, which absolutely changed my perspective on how we can deliver better results in the field.  Even now, I feel some regret about the classes I didn’t manage to squeeze in — Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict and Professor Drezner’s Classics of International Relations.

It was intense.  I found myself working just as hard as I had in Afghanistan, but it was endlessly fascinating.  There was just so much going on that I found it really important to be selective in deciding what to take on: I really enjoyed the Security Studies Program lunches, with their fascinating speakers; SIMULEX was a lot of fun; the ski trip was FREEZING but great.  And the chance to cross-register for a couple of Harvard courses gave me a chance to widen my circle even further.

Post-Fletcher

After leaving Fletcher, I came back to the UK and left the civil service, deciding to make the leap into consultancy that I’d been considering for a few years.  Since then, I have spent almost all my time overseas: first in Pakistan working on criminal justice reform; and then in Somalia, working on counter-terrorism and stabilization.  I am currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, as well as consulting on international security issues.  I have also continued to enjoy the Fletcher family, catching up with a Fletcher crowd for dinners when transiting Nairobi, and now reconnecting with classmates back in London.  I look back on my time in Medford as a bit of a whirlwind: intense, challenging, and a period of real growth.  And I use the skills and knowledge I gained from Fletcher every single day.

In Baidoa, Somalia as British Embassy Stabilization Advisor, arriving with a delegation at the AMISOM headquarters during a visit to assess Quick Impact Projects in April 2015. (AMISOM Photo / Abdikarim Mohamed)

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In a week when much of my time has been dedicated to newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2011 graduates.  Imad Ahmed arrived at Fletcher with a varied set of experiences behind him during the five years after he had completed his undergraduate degree.  While in the MIB program at Fletcher, Imad pursued an exchange semester in Paris, and five years out, he’s continuing his education.

My Fletcher MIB taught me International Finance and International Business and Economic and Law.  Though I had read economics for my undergrad degree at University of California, Berkeley, my five years prior to Fletcher had nothing to do with either of these fields.  I co-ran a successful fundraising office for an unsuccessful U.S. presidential campaign in 2004, documented national and provincial campaigns to encourage women to run for office in Pakistan in 2005, worked as a journalist, and finally worked as an entrepreneur in London, seeking to create jobs in Pakistan.

After Fletcher and my semester at HEC Paris, I returned to London to work in frontier market private equity.  I was excited about the jobs we would and did create.  I was less excited about extracting value from negotiating hard against an African parastatal.  The Rwandan government then recruited me to assist them in negotiating infrastructure with private developers, which I did for four years, as well as serve as a Special Policy Advisor to their Secretary to the Treasury.  I served competently, in large thanks to my Fletcher education and subsequent investment associate training.  Also in large part due to Fletcher, I was never short of friends in Kigali, where I proudly held our flag and congregated our community.  I met 100 Fletcher classmates (sometimes while out dancing after midnight!), student interns and alumni (sometimes on the opposite side of the negotiating table!).

With Fletcher friends Sophia Dawkins and Bart Smit Duijzentkunst for the weekend. All smiles after a self-rescue mission when their kayak disastrously started sinking into Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Bart is an Associate Legal Officer at the UN and Sophia is now pursuing a PhD in political science at Yale.

Besides providing me with new skills and networks, Fletcher reoriented my mindset.  The uber-travelled student body motivated me to double the countries I’d lived in, and to add a fourth continent to match the class average. (With six countries to my name now that I’m five years out, I might have fallen behind!)

The mature students at Fletcher doing their second master’s degrees brought rich tales and richer philosophies.  One of them started work life as a chef, before becoming an international banker.  His words about periodically returning to school to sharpen one’s toolkit and to reflect remained with me, and allowed me to think of my own return later.  (He himself is now a research director and PhD student at Fletcher.)

The consistent theme to my career has been that I’ve operated as a critical idealist, finding gaps in the value of my work.  Following on from my work in Rwanda, I am now pursuing a PhD at University College London.  I am assessing how governments can prioritize infrastructure projects for the purpose of most effectively reducing rural poverty.

Remarking at the Financial Times Africa Infrastructure Summit on how infrastructure provides one of the more concrete paths to development.

Kicking off the updates from the Class of 2011 is Chris Berger, who had a clear focus for his Fletcher studies before he even arrived and who took full advantage of the School’s quantitative offerings.

Before Fletcher

Chris BergerI graduated from Princeton in 2006 with a degree in history and I really struggled with what I wanted to do next.  I was passionate about foreign affairs and international politics, and deeply involved in the national security discourse in the wake of 9/11.  I was also, however, fascinated by the booming financial services industry, despite having taken little interest in economics/finance during college.

Determined to explore this path, I took a job at a financial consulting firm in New York that was focused on the bond markets.  Shortly thereafter, 2008 reared its ugly head and the financial world went into a tailspin.  A series of unanswered questions began to drive my focus: What was the genesis of the financial crisis and how had it metastasized so pervasively across the globe?  Were emerging market economies and the so called “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) poised to lead to the next wave of global growth?  How would economies rebuild and how would government respond to strengthen the core of the global financial system?  Fletcher sounded like the perfect place to explore these questions and to further build my understanding of international economics.

At Fletcher

I was drawn to Fletcher’s MALD program by the flexibility of the curriculum and by the breadth of course offerings that directly appealed to my interests.  I took full advantage of this flexibility by structuring a course load centered around economics, finance, and the global political economy.  My work with Professors Klein, Krohn, and Drezner helped me to build a solid foundation in economics while also refining my understanding of the interaction between finance and public policy.  Working with Professor Krohn, I wrote my thesis on how emerging markets were, after the financial crisis, poised to decouple from the West and lead the path for GDP growth over the coming years.  (FYI — I was wrong.)  As I looked to life after Fletcher, I was determined to find a career that straddled the worlds of public policy and finance.

After Fletcher

After graduation, I was very lucky to be offered a role at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as part of their Markets Group.  The Markets Group is responsible for executing monetary policy on behalf of the Federal Reserve System and I was fortunate to join right before the start of the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing (QE3, the program implemented in the aftermath of the financial crisis to provide the market with liquidity in effort to stimulate growth).  As part of my training program I was taught how to effectively analyze and interpret movements across global financial markets and opine on broader themes across global asset classes.  My training afforded me the opportunity to lead daily meetings with the Fed Governors and the Treasury Department and allowed me to participate in briefings with the leadership of the Federal Reserve, including Chair Janet Yellen.

After three years with the Markets Group, I left the Fed to assume a private sector position within BlackRock, where I currently work.  The group I joined, called the Financial Markets Advisory group (FMA), was formed in the aftermath of the financial crisis and provides consulting services for governments, central banks and global financial institutions.  Described by The New York Times as the “go-to SWAT team in financial crises,” I have worked on a number of assignments in the U.S. and abroad, including most recently a longer term project in Frankfurt.  During my two years in the group I have been granted exposure to a broad range of issues facing the global financial system in the aftermath of the crisis, allowing me to build on my Fletcher curriculum while keeping me deeply entrenched with some of the key issues that drive my intellectual curiosity.

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During the fall, I reached out to members of the Class of 2011 and asked them to report on what they were doing during their first five post-Fletcher years.  I’ve now gathered these new Five-Year Updates, and I’ll start sharing them next week.

One could point out that by the time I publish the posts, five years has nearly melted into six, but let’s not quibble.  The updates give you a good sense of how the former students put their degrees to work in the early years after they graduated.

My assignment to the alumni is to provide readers a sense of their work before Fletcher, their academic path through Fletcher, and then their professional (and sometimes personal) lives after Fletcher.  Beyond that, the content is up to them.

Connecting with these members of the Fletcher family is a treat for me, whether or not I knew them well from their Hall of Flags days.  I always look forward to hearing how Fletcher has influenced them, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading their stories, too.

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