Currently viewing the tag: "Outside the classroom"

So here’s what I love about Fletcher students.  They are very committed to their studies and careers.  They offer support to undergraduates and they burst into the community and instantly create an organization and resource for students interested in technology.  But they are also really fun people, and a frequent autumn rallying point is the Fletcher Fútbol team.  Men and women with soccer/fútbol experience jump into their cleats and unite to compete with the teams from other area graduate schools.

When the team is successful, somehow the news even works its way to the staff.  Or sometimes it isn’t a mystery how we know.  Earlier this week, Colin, a first-year student, put his inner tabloid sportswriter to work with this Social List report on a match against Harvard Law School.

Chemistry may not be a course offered at Fletcher, but the members of Fletcher Fútbol clearly know a little something about it.  Coming off a disappointing loss in front of a home crowd to the business suits of Babson College last week, it would have been understandable for Fletcher Fútbol to be plagued with fears about their ability win a game, let alone score more than one goal in a contest.  However, buoyed by the enthusiasm that only a graduate school sports rivalry can create, and the camaraderie that can only be developed through shared struggle, they threw off the yoke of their previous shortcomings and played with a level of intensity that will surely leave the soccer gods pleased for weeks to come.

Upon arriving at the field, Fletcher Fútbol found the parking lot packed to capacity (somehow the stands were suspiciously empty though?) and intuitively sensed the magnitude of the game about to be played.  The chance had finally come to avenge the memories of broken noses that had haunted them since the 2013 season.  Only limited revenge would be possible though; certain members of the HLS team were supposedly unable to secure a legal injunction to protect themselves from the diplomatic wrath of Fletcher and thus they were only able to field 10 players for the game.

With the autumn air crisp and the stadium lights bright in the black night, it felt like all of Boston was watching as the game kicked off a little after 7pm.  From the start, Fletcher controlled the play in all areas of the field, moving the ball around at will.  But the team didn’t close on any of the opportunities they were able to create until Kiely unleashed a vicious volley from inside the eighteen that found the back of the net like a fish actively trying to be caught.  Unlike previous games though, this is not where the scoring would stop for Fletcher.  Albert and David would both score before the halftime whistle would blow.

In an attempt to reverse their fortune, HLS hoped to effectively counter Fletcher’s multi-pronged attack with a goaltending switch coming out of halftime.  It was all for naught though.  Minutes into the second half, Liam made a ballerina-esque run into the box and scored a goal, emphatically sending the message that the onslaught was not over yet.  Two additional goals followed.

At the end of the night, the imaginary scoreboard read 6-0 in favor of the diplomats from Fletcher.

And there you have it.  Sports is a natural focus for community building, and soccer/fútbol crosses international boundaries.  More than many Fletcher student activities, Fletcher Fútbol pulls the community together, whether on the field or on the sidelines.

Although Fletcher is its own unit of Tufts University, it can also be seen as the graduate program for the University’s International Relations department.  IR is one of the most commonly chosen majors for Tufts undergraduates and, because the major involves a relatively large number of requirements, the undergrad IR folks are pretty serious people.

Despite the occasional (o.k., annual) griping over undergraduates in Ginn Library, Fletcher students are genuinely supportive of their younger peers.  Here are two examples.

Last night, the Ralph Bunche Society (RBS) at Fletcher invited undergrads to learn about their experiences in the IR field.  RBS seeks to shine a light on the contributions that minorities and people of color have made in the field of international relations, and also to encourage students of color to consider educational and career opportunities in international affairs, which means this event was tied directly tied to the RBS mission.  The RBS Facebook page provides some nice descriptions of the presenters, who sought through their comments to pave the way for the undergraduates to follow in their footsteps.

On an ongoing basis, Fletcher students also guide undergraduates via the “Fletcher Mentors” program.  The program matches IR majors with Fletcher students who share similar academic or career objectives, in order to help the undergraduates develop their interests.  They might have one-on-one meetings, or attend group networking events, and there is an online discussion group.

Of course, having a robust undergraduate IR program also opens opportunities for Fletcher students to work as teaching or research assistants, and to attend relevant events sponsored by other units of the University.

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Recently two new (first-year) MALD students, Aditi Patel and Miranda Bogen, contacted me to ask if they might write about their interest in technology fields and their decision to attend Fletcher.  Today I’m sharing their great introduction to the field at Fletcher.  I should note briefly that while Aditi and Miranda are writing about their experience as MALD students, the opportunity to build in technology content is available to all students, especially those in the MIB and PhD programs.

We came to Fletcher because it is one of the leading schools of international affairs — but we also chose Fletcher because of its forward-thinking attitude toward technology, and its willingness to adapt its curriculum and resources to a changing world.

For us, it was critical to find a school that recognized the importance of technology in international affairs; from policy decision making, to crisis mapping, to the facilitation of international business.  It is almost certain that at some point in our careers, we will need the skills and vocabulary to communicate with both engineers and clients to ensure that technology is deployed correctly, regardless of whether these clients are governments, non-profits, or businesses.

Fletcher has ample opportunities for students interested in technology in international affairs.  Having recently created Tech @ Fletcher, the student club of the Hitachi Center for Technology and International Affairs, we decided to help students uncover those opportunities by gathering together some of the tech-related resources that we’ve discovered in our own application process and in our first few months on campus.

Fletcher’s flexible curriculum is ideal for “Tech MALDs” — students who are interested in focusing on technology.  Students can choose to complete one or both Fields of Study in a related discipline (International Information & Communications is a good place to start), you can focus on a different primary Field of Study with a technology angle by petitioning for tech-related coursework to count for your Fields (or using them as electives), or you can petition to create your own field of study.

Courses that have a significant technology component include International Communication (which includes a heavy dose of internet infrastructure and governance, digital media, and intellectual property), Social Networks in Organizations (this is hard-core social network analysis, not Facebook 101), GIS for International Applications (mapping technology), Foundations of International Cybersecurity, Innovation for Sustainable Prosperity, Financial Inclusion – A Method for Development, and others that are added from semester to semester depending on visiting faculty.

Fletcher students can also cross-register for courses at Harvard Business School like Launching Technology Ventures, Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education, and Strategy and Technology, or take advantage of the proximity to MIT with courses such as Corporate Entrepreneurship: Strategies for Technology-Based New Business Development or Fundamentals of Digital Business Strategy.

At Fletcher, we’re lucky to have the Hitachi Center for Technology in International Affairs, which acts as a hub for tech-related events and resources.  The center is very responsive to student involvement and will happily support student-proposed events that have something to do with technology.  The Hitachi Center hosts lectures, film screenings and even brought Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen to discuss “The New Digital Age” last spring.  The Hitachi Center also offers summer funding for students and faculty researching topics related to technology, which is a great resource for students looking to write their capstone on a topic in the field.

We were overwhelmed by the support we received from our professors and the administration to think about technology in the field of international affairs.  Professor Carolyn Gideon, who teaches International Communications and manages the Hitachi Center, focuses on information and telecommunications policy; Professor Jenny Aker is the deputy director of the Hitachi Center and studies the impact of information/information technology on development outcomes; and Dean Stavridis even moderated a panel of Fletcher alumni at the South by Southwest conference on “Foreign Policy in the Digital Age.”

All of our fellow students we’ve met have slightly different interests (technology and governance, cybersecurity, ICT4D) and we are excited to be bringing these quickly-evolving issues into the wider Fletcher community.  Over the rest of the year, we plan to use Tech @ Fletcher as a platform to create a curriculum guide for students hoping to create their own field or simply to build a solid foundation in tech as a part of other fields, work with the Office of Career Services to create more resources for students interested in a career involving technology, provide workshops and discussions on the tools we will need to manage technology-related issues in our future jobs, and communicate with our classmates and professors about the importance of technology, no matter what their main fields of study.

We both came to graduate school because we were convinced that we needed to better understand the implications of technology in our areas of study.  With all the support and encouragement we have received from Fletcher, we know we made a great choice in picking a school that meets these needs!

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It isn’t only the Admissions Office that is busy this time of year.  Even while students are feeling the midterm heat, the daily parade of speakers and meetings continues, and community members manage to squeeze out the time to attend.  Most recently, two conferences bracketed this week.  The first, on Tuesday, “Thinking About Think Tanks,” was put together by Prof. Daniel Drezner, and my sources tell me it was a great success.  The site includes the Twitter conversation, which will give you a sense of the atmosphere.

Closing out the week is today’s PhD conference.  Organized by PhD program students, who also present papers or act as panel discussants, the annual event is this year entitled “Critical Perspectives: Contemporary Issues in International Relations.”  More details can be found on the day’s schedule.  This is the eighth PhD conference, and proceedings from previous events can be found on the conference website.

It isn’t like this is the one week of the semester offering a discussion-oriented event to enhance in-class learning.  Next Friday, the community is invited to the inaugural presentation of the Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide (IMAGe), a new collaborative effort between Fletcher and the broader Tufts community.  This first event will feature four professors, each bringing a different lens to the topic of how we manage memories of violence.  Details can be found here.

And while I’m linking to the calendar, I should point you to this newly useful resource.  While we may, in the past, have been (ahem) relaxed about ensuring that every event was listed, you’ll now be able to learn about nearly everything happening outside the classroom every day.

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I was chatting with a student last week, and she said something about her “180″ meeting.  I had the vaguest sense that I had heard of this 180 thing before, but I needed to dig through my email to find information.

Having done the digging, I can report that Tufts is one of a small number of U.S. universities hosting 180 Degrees Consulting.  Students from throughout the University were invited to apply to join as student consultants and team leaders.  180 Degrees Consulting emphasizes social impact, making the program a great fit for the Tufts group, which was especially interested in Fletcher students to serve as team leaders.   Here’s some additional information from the group’s email to students:

What is 180 Degrees Consulting?

180 Degrees Consulting is the world’s largest pro-bono student consultancy.  180 Degrees Consultants work with nonprofit organizations and social venture to maximize their social impact.  Groups of University students identify and overcome organizations specific challenges, developing innovative, practical and sustainable solutions.

Across the world 180 Degrees Consulting has worked with over 2,000 highly achieving youth consultants working in teams to overcome hundreds or challenges facing real organizations each year.  180 offers a broad range of consultant services, including strategic planning, financial management, communications and social impact analysis.

Rationale

180 Degrees recognizes that while raising revenue is crucial for not-for-profits, developing strategies to utilize existing resources most efficiently is equally important.  This is why students at 180 Degrees apply management consulting principles to the not-for-profit industry and develop business solutions to social problems.  Many organizations, constrained by a lack of resources, are unable to utilize for-profit consulting services.  At the same time, many high caliber university students are willing and able to develop solutions to challenges many organizations’ face.  180 Degrees Consulting strives to connect this source of untapped potential to the organizations that need it most.

How it works

At 180 Degrees, the mission is to create value for both the organizations and students consultants.  180 Degrees selects the most talented and socially conscious university students across each of our branches.  Students are given specialized training from a leading international management consultancy before being assigned to a project aligned with their knowledge and expertise.  Teams of five — plus a team leader — work closely with key stakeholders in the organization to define the deliverables, understand the organization’s specific challenges and create final recommendations over the course of a semester.

At Tufts, 180 Degree Consulting’s mission is to strengthen the ability of nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston Area to achieve high impact social outcomes through the development of innovative, practical and sustainable solutions.  We hope to provide a transformational experience for Tufts University students as you gain invaluable real world consulting experience by delivering free consulting services to worthwhile organizations.

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StrengthI’ve been out of the office for half of each of the last two weeks.  Then Monday, Christine and I were at the Boston Idealist Grad School Fair together.  By the time I left the office yesterday for a panel discussion at Harvard, I was behind on everything — including responding to email, leading to a few complaints from people who hadn’t heard from me.  (Another day of patience should do it!)

Monday and Tuesday’s frenzy made it particularly pleasant to head back to Fletcher after the panel for a 5:30 book talk by the author and subject of Strength in What Remains.  This was the second occasion of a new tradition, “Fletcher Reads,” for which all members of the community are invited to read a book and then come together for a conversation about it.

Listening to Deo, the Burundian refugee profiled in Tracy Kidder’s biography, was like reading the second volume of the story, one in which the community health center Deo established in Burundi, Village Health Works,  is a thriving success.  The event was designed to be “off the record,” so I won’t quote anything that Tracy Kidder or Deo said, but there were many mentions of dignity for the patients who visit the center.

Earlier yesterday, I had been hearing from students that the easy first weeks of the semester were over, and they were starting to feel more pressure.  Given their time crunch, it was gratifying to see how many of them (along with faculty and staff members) attended the session, which was supposed to be preceded by reading the book.  Somehow students always manage to stretch that last little bit to learn outside the classroom, as well as inside it.

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Though it’s fair to say that Fletcher students are generally focused on their coursework and career development, they certainly don’t shy away from involvement in our surrounding community.  About a week ago, Fletcher’s Ralph Bunche Society hosted local high school students for an introduction to international affairs.  The Ralph Bunche Society’s mission is “to raise the awareness of the contributions that minorities and people of color have made in the field of international relations, and also to encourage students of color to consider educational and career opportunities in international affairs.”  RBS members Ryo and Stéphane sent me this update.

MATCH presidentAfter convening the NSC on January 31, the President decided to extend the relaxation of trade sanctions on Iran for an additional six months.

Wait, you didn’t read about this in The Times?

Well, that’s because this decision was the result of an NSC simulation, modeled after Professor Martel’s annual simulations, completed by students in Fletcher’s very own ASEAN Auditorium. In one additional twist, the roles of cabinet secretaries were not filled by a group of bleary-eyed MALDs, but rather 11 ambitious, and somewhat nervous, high school juniors.

This exercise was just one part of the Ralph Bunche Society’s (RBS) three-part program to introduce Match High School students to careers related to international affairs. The students displayed their passion and aptitude during the simulation by not only enthusiastically presenting their positions to the President, a role assumed by Terrence Stinson, 2013-14 Fletcher Military Fellow, but also by the manner in which they tied U.S.-Iran policy decisions to domestic concerns and U.S. commitments in East Asia.

Prior to the simulation exercise, our Diplomat-in-Residence, Evyenia Sidereas, spoke to the students about the U.S. Foreign Service, and provided them with information about scholarship and fellowship opportunities to study foreign languages abroad and international relations in college.  Additionally, Fletcher students and RBS members engaged in a brief dialogue with the Match High School students and described their pre-Fletcher experiences in international affairs.  Judging by the thank you letter we received from the students’ teacher, we didn’t scare them too much:

The kids had a terrific time, and definitely came away with a much clearer idea about what further study in international relations might look like.  Students at Match typically say they want to go into business, nursing, or engineering, so congratulations, because today two of my students told me that they are now considering studying politics.  They both described the work as “exciting” and “cool” — no small feat!  You were able to ensure the kids had a really eye-opening experience and the event has already had a great impact.  I’m sure it will stay with them as they move on to choosing new paths for themselves in their education.

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Just before classes ended, Liam and I discussed possible topics for his next blog post.  He mentioned how much he has enjoyed the talks he has attended throughout the semester.  Since I never manage to join these special events during the busy fall, this seemed like the perfect subject for him.  Here are Liam’s observations.

As my first semester came to a close and I feverishly studied for finals and finish term papers, I took some time to think about my Fletcher experience to date and about the aspects that stood out for me.  What has really impressed me is the access I’ve been privileged to have to senior-level leaders from throughout the world and the remarkably candid remarks they’ve made in guest lectures at Fletcher.

Early in the year, I was privileged to sit in ASEAN auditorium and listen to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia give a remarkable talk about cyber security and his country’s experience when faced with a massive cyber attack in 2007.  President Ilves was incredibly engaging and straightforward, discussing what he sees as future security challenges for Europe, and I couldn’t help but be amazed that I was listening to a standing head of state give his incredibly honest opinions.  You can get a sense of his perspective from his interview with Dean Stavridis.

As someone focusing on security at Fletcher, another incredible opportunity has been the International Security Studies Program’s luncheon series.  I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, discuss the challenges facing the Army over the next several decades and how he sees the Army adapting to that uncertain future.  I heard Dr. David Chu, President of the Institute for Defense Analyses and former Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, discuss his ideas for a responsible drawdown within the Department of Defense, based on history.  I’ve listened to General John Kelly, Commander of Southern Command, discuss the sphere and scope of his organization’s responsibility in Central and South America.  And I’ve been able to hear Major General Bennet Sacolick, Director of Force Management and Development for the Special Operations Command, discuss the Global Special Operations Forces Network and the role Special Operations units can play in the ambiguous security environment we face.  I might add that all of these events include an excellent free lunch (a must for busy graduate students) and truly invigorating discussions.

In addition to Fletcher events, I’ve attended some outstanding guest lectures within the greater Tufts community.  From former Congressman Robert Wexler discussing his vision for a two-state solution in the Middle East, to Colonel Steve Banach explaining the use of design methodology to manage complexity and change, to Colonel Bill Ostlund calling in on videoteleconference from Afghanistan to discuss his brigade’s actions in Zabul Province, I’ve been exposed to an amazing breadth and depth of speakers.

Last, due to the reputation and variety of the amazing faculty here at Fletcher, my classes have included some incredible guest lectures.  In one of the last weeks of the semester, we had a marvelous impromptu Skype session in my International Organizations class with Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu, permanent representative of Romania to the UN.  And I would be remiss if I left out the multiple opportunities that Dean Stavridis provides Fletcher students to hear him speak on a wide range of subjects, ranging from security threats to the strategic plan for the future of Fletcher and Tufts.

Simply put, it’s been an incredible experience to date, both in and out of the classroom, and I consider myself truly fortunate to have had this exposure to policy makers in all walks of life.

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Many Fletcher student clubs and organizations are designed purely with fun in mind.  Case in point:  Fermentation 101.  But most students will also connect with an organization that links to their academic interests.  Today, second-year MALD student, Dara, tells us about her work with an activity that goes beyond the walls of Fletcher.

Like many volunteers, I became involved with the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program (TU-RAP) in my first year at Fletcher because of my general interest in refugee issues.  TU-RAP pairs newly arrived refugee families in the Boston area with groups of Tufts University students.  The students visit the families’ homes regularly to lend a hand with anything the family members may need to orient themselves to life in the United States.  I learned that this may include assisting with bill paying, helping children with homework, practicing English, or teaching the family how to use public transportation.

TURAP logoAware that refugees can experience a great deal of difficulty assimilating into a new life and culture, I was really excited to join the program as a volunteer.  My group was paired with a small family from Chad: a father (Caleb), mother, and a newly born, beautiful little girl.  While the family spoke very little English, luckily two members of the volunteer group spoke moderate French.  After being cut off from the support of their resettlement agency, and with the father unable to work due to a medical condition, the family was having a hard time meeting their basic needs.  Fortunately, they received government food assistance and were permitted to stay free of charge in an apartment.  All other material necessities such as diapers and transportation fees were hard to obtain, though.

Despite their difficulties, the family did the utmost to welcome us into their home.  Each time we visited, we were provided with fresh fruit, soda and water.  While there was not much we could do to help Caleb find a job, because of his condition, we did what we could.  We practiced English with the family, helped them sort through mail, and brought over a French driving manual in preparation for Caleb’s road test.  Once, we even helped to read and translate documents to enroll the family in health insurance.  Completing the enrollment paperwork took the entire visit, but it was very rewarding to be able to help with something they needed so much.

While I’m sure our assistance really benefited the family, I think we as volunteers gained the most from the experience.  Having a close-up look at the difficulties refugees face gave us an awareness of the gravity of the problem, and helped us to appreciate the conveniences of our own lives.  What really affected me was how this family — completely uprooted from their country, isolated from their relatives, and placed in a foreign country where they neither speak the language nor know the culture — remains positive.  Until this day, I speak often to my Chadian family and am happy to know that they consider me a friend.  For me, TU-RAP has been a life changing experience.  For that reason, I joined TU-RAP leadership this year to ensure that more students and refugees in need benefit from this program.

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I like to follow the traffic on Fletcher’s “Social List,” the email list on which students communicate with each other about anything and everything.  Since the start of the semester, the prime topic has been the buying and selling of textbooks and household items, but nestled between the “for sale” and “sold” messages were others that, together, paint a nice picture.

First, there are the calls for second-year students to sign up as “buddies” for the first-years.  “Buddy” makes the arrangement sound so preschool — a more grown-up term might be “peer advisor,” because here’s how the Fletcher Buddy Program organizers encouraged new students to participate:  “We will match you up with a second-year student, whom you can ask for advice on classes, professors, work/life balance, and much more!”  Equally, the continuing students are offered the “chance to pass along some of your words of wisdom and advice, and get to know some of the awesome new members of the community.”

Then there was a job posting for tutors with the Fletcher Graduate Writing Program.  Once the program is in full swing, the PhD student-director says the writing tutors “help students with all aspects of the writing process, including topic development, research management, consultation with professors, and preparation of the final draft.”

The return to an academic setting can be a challenge for many students who may have been in the professional world for several years.  Supports such as the Buddy Program and the Graduate Writing Program help to ease the transition.

But Social List postings aren’t limited to support options.  There are also opportunities for fun!  The Fletcher Fútbol team seeks new players, writing, “It’s FLETCHER FUTBOL time once again!  If you like to play soccer, or even run around like a chicken with your head cut off, we need you!  This is Fletcher’s club team and we play other grad schools throughout the year.  Each week we’ll play one game and practice twice, and we’ll have a lot of fun and camaraderie.”  I’m a long-time fan of Fletcher Fútbol!

And the Fletcheros — Fletcher’s in-house band — are looking for new musicians:

Los FletcherosA new academic year has begun.  While reading about post-conflict reconstruction in country x, you find yourself wishing you could kick out the jams like you used to in your old band.   But you’re too busy now, you say.  Those days of sweating it out on stage and making all of your close friends bust out the electric slide are past, you say.

Think again, dear friend. For this September, your dutiful Fletcher cover band The Los Fletcheros is holding auditions for new talent.

For those of you unfamiliar with the group, for seven years a rotating cast of some of the most musically inclined Fletcherites has melted many a face with an eclectic mixture of rock, dance, pop, funk and R&B songs, both old and new.  We generally play four to five shows a year at local clubs as well as the annual ski trip, and usually have a Fletcher audience of 300-400 people.  Long story short, you do want to be in this band.

The Fletcher Social Lister, displaying all due cultural awareness, closed his email with, “Members of The Los Fletcheros, even those who do not speak Spanish, are fully aware of the grammatical incorrectness of the full name.”

There’s a student activities fair tomorrow.  Between the fair and Social List emails such as the ones sent by the Fletcheros and the Fútbolers, there’s every opportunity for students to find their outside-the-classroom place at Fletcher, as well as supports for when they’re in the classroom.

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