Currently viewing the tag: "Outside the classroom"

A public service advisory from the blogger-in-chief, in answer to the question that seems to be on every caller’s mind this morning.  What time is the deadline?  The deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5) tonight, January 10. 

And now, we return to our regular content.

My short blog survey last fall yielded many useful topic ideas.  And then there was this one:  breweries.  While I don’t know why someone thought this was a topic of vital importance to the blog, I nonetheless am happy to rise to the challenge and, moreover, to demonstrate the topic’s relevance to the Fletcher community.  I realize this frothy post might not be what you were expecting on the day of our main application deadline, but when better to distract ourselves?

So, breweries.  While Boston is not traditionally one of the main commercial brewing centers in the U.S., we nonetheless have rich local offerings.  To get you started, I’ll note four breweries in particular:  The big guys, Harpoon Brewery and Sam Adams Brewery, both in Boston; and two Somerville-based nomadic tenant brewers, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project and Somerville Brewing Company.  For a more complete reckoning, refer to the BeerAdvocate list.  A beer aficionado could happily drink local for the length of a Fletcher degree program.

But what if our aficionado wanted to talk beer with other students.  Well, then, membership in the Fletcher Fermentation 101 club would be a must.  The mission and guiding principle of the group is:

Fermented products know neither time nor borders, and have been shared and enjoyed by many cultures throughout history.  Fermentation 101 seeks to create a knowledge-sharing community at Fletcher that teaches and learns about the multifaceted wonders of fermentation.  We explore all of the possibilities of fermentation, which include beer, wine, cider, cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi, yogurt, and tempeh. Our club hosts popular “beer and cheese pairings” each semester, as well as other events such as sourdough bread making, yogurt making, beer tastings, and private tours of local breweries. All members are encouraged to share a curiosity about fermentation and a desire to be involved in the greater fermentation community around Boston.

Finally, dear blog reader who challenged me to write about breweries, there’s this.  The Boston Globe recently ran comprehensive lists of the area’s best beer bars, and followed up with the honorable mention selection.  Many of these locales are within two miles of campus.

So there you have it.  Breweries and a connection to the Fletcher community, even if the only admissions link is that we could all use a distraction today.

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Classes ended on Monday, and I can no longer put off completing this post about events at Fletcher this fall.  I started it in October and added to it in November, but I didn’t finish either time, and the notices about events kept pouring in.  The consequence of my procrastination is a bulging email folder into which I’ve shoved all the notices, while I waited for a day when I’d have enough time to sift through them and give readers a sense of the many ways to keep busy at Fletcher.

Some of each semester’s events are student organized.  There was a November screening of Restrepo, sponsored by Fletcher Students in Security, and a talk on “The U.S. Foreign Service: Behind the Scenes of American Diplomacy” sponsored by three student groups.  Earlier this month, the Asia Club, the Post-Soviet Nations Club, and Fletcher Students in Security organized an in-depth conversation about the effect of energy resources on the geopolitics of Central Asia.  The groups arranged for current students and alumni with expertise in the area to lead the discussion.  And there was my favorite annual event, Military 101, at which the Fletcher military fellows help students gain familiarity with the different military services.

The World Peace Foundation has done its part to keep students busy, offering a roundtable on the Crisis in Mali, a panel discussion of “Libya Today,” and a talk by Mary Kaldor, entitled “The New Peace.”  Dr. Kaldor left campus with a new honor for her c.v. — the University’s Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award.

There were special annual lectures, such as the 16th Richard E. Snyder Presidential Lecture at Tufts, which was delivered this year by Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, whose talk was titled, “Sticks and Stones: Freedom of Expression and Political Correctness.”  And there was the Constantine G. Karamanlis Chair in Hellenic and European Studies Annual Lecture, this year offered by Charles Dallara, Managing Director of the Institute of International Finance (and Fletcher graduate), who spoke on “The Greek Economy at a Crossroads.”

There was a timely election-related talk on “Election Aftermath: Why Should I Believe What I See on the News?” by Marian Porges, Senior Director of News Standards and Practices at NBC News (and Tufts graduate).  And business-focused students might have attended talks in the Institute for Business in the Global Context Speaker Series, including:

The Development folks made my life simple by capturing everything on a poster.

And there were the yearly Charles Francis Adams lectures, including:

  • Ambassador Robert R. King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, on “United States Policy on Human Rights in North Korea”
  • Ambassador Ron Prosor, on “The Jewish State on the Global Stage: A View from Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations”

But it wasn’t all lectures!  Other events included:

  • Library workshops on Bloomberg and Global Insight Workshop;
  • A research colloquium sponsored by The Hitachi Center for Technology and International Affairs to describe the current Fletcher School research projects that the Hitachi Center funds;
  • The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Internship Panel at which students described their experiences to students;
  • And there was cake to note the anniversary of the Marine Corps’s founding.

At an Information Session a few weeks ago, the student session leader, Hillary, summed things up by saying that there are more talks, presentations, and conferences on topics she’s interested in than she could ever attend.  And that would be true for people of all interests in this multidisciplinary community.  Ultimately, there are way more events than I can capture in one blog post.  But I hope this short list gives you an idea of all that’s happening at Fletcher during each week of the semester.   Scroll through the Fletcher calendar to see what might interest you.

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In the neighborhood?  Join us as our talented students take to the stage.  I attended a lunch-time recital earlier this fall, and I can assure you that these are serious musicians.  You’ll wish they could take more time from their normal schedules, of classes, papers, and final exams, for a longer performance.

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In April, after I wrote my last post from the Hall of Flags, I was emailing with Manjula Dissanayake, one of the students featured.  A week later, we sat down and he described the incredible path he has followed from his pre-Fletcher days to now.  With Commencement just around the corner, I’m featuring Manjula’s story.

It all starts in 2007, when Manjula was working in finance in the DC area.  He and his roommates had previously raised funds for Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, but they felt they could do more.  They decided to focus their efforts in the area of education, forming Educate Lanka.  Before long, Educate Lanka was occupying so much of Manjula’s time that he decided to dedicate himself to the effort, starting by pursuing graduate study in development and social entrepreneurship, either through an MBA or an international affairs degree.  An application process later, he enrolled in Fletcher’s MALD program in September 2010 as a Board of Overseers Scholar, and quickly got to work on building his own intellectual infrastructure to run the organization, which currently has a core volunteer staff of ten, and a larger pool of about 40 to draw upon.

I should pause here and describe Educate Lanka.  The organization’s main activity is securing micro-scholarships of $10 to $20 for students who lack funds but have a high potential to become future leaders, by connecting the kids with sponsors from around the world.  100% of the sponsorship funds go to the students.  There are no administrative expenses (this being a fledgling organization), but if something comes up, funds are raised through a separate fundraising process, which also generates some scholarships for students without sponsors.  Currently 275 students are receiving scholarships.  A total of 350 have received funds, about 30 of whom have completed school (though a few left school and the program).  There are over 400 sponsors in 15+ countries.  Once they are in the program, the kids are funded through their undergraduate studies, starting as early as fifth grade (age 10).  Over 12 million Sri Lankan Rupees (about US$100,000) has been awarded.

Back to fall 2010.  Manjula settles in, registers for courses, etc.  Good things started to happen pretty much right away.  The first was that Educate Lanka was selected to receive the funds raised through Fletcher’s annual Asia Night event.  That same semester, Manjula drew support from Empower, a project of the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership (IGL).  And Educate Lanka took third place in the Tufts 100K Business Plan Competition.  Not a bad start for one semester, and at that point Manjula started to think Educate Lanka had the potential to become a larger organization.

In spring 2011, Manjula took a microfinance class with Kim Wilson, and cross-registered for a Harvard class on education and social entrepreneurship with Fernando Reimers.  Both professors offered advice on complementary models for Educate Lanka, and on how to make the organization more sustainable and scalable.  Should it continue as a 501(c)3 (non-profit)?  Or should it turn into a blended social business?  Also that semester, after attending the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, someone referred him to USAID and the State Department, because he works with the Sri Lankan diaspora community, which led to an invitation to speak at the Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum.

Come summer 2011, while also interning in the Education Investment Group of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, Manjula was a finalist in the MassChallenge competition, as a result of which he received mentorship and guidance.  Toward the end of the summer, he used a fellowship from IGL to travel to Sri Lanka, visiting the north and east of the country, where Educate Lanka wasn’t yet working.  He returned with a sense of how to achieve near-term organizational expansion in Sri Lanka, including a corporate partnership model.

Meanwhile, Manjula’s roommate, Sadruddin, was thinking of replicating the model in Bangladesh, and had received a good response to the idea.  He hopes to pilot the project by the end of this year.  (Here they are together.)

Back at Fletcher in September 2011, Manjula reconnected with Prof. Wilson and Prof. Reimers, who together mentored him and helped him to think about global replication and to add a corporate partnership model to Educate Lanka.  An MIT class on Development Ventures required him to take his ideas and act on them.  He received another IGL/Empower fellowship to return to Sri Lanka during the winter break.  And he continued entering business plan competitions.  He was one of two finalists in the MIT 100K Elevator Pitch Competition.

His Fletcher classmates sent more funds Educate Lanka’s way from 2011 Asia Night proceeds, and Manjula was one of a small group honored as a UN Volunteer of the Year in Sri Lanka.  Also helpful, more Fletcher students were jumping on board, including a group that wrote a consulting report on the concept of distance learning in Sri Lanka.  He received additional funding from the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises, and IGL is committed to supporting Manjula, even after graduation.

In spring 2012, Manjula was a semi-finalist at the Harvard Social Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition.  And this semester also found him in two classes specifically selected to build his skills set.  Along the way, he needed to write a thesis and do the other things expected of Fletcher students.  Oh, and he attended Clinton Global Initiative University in March, and was an Echoing Green semi-finalist.  In preparing to graduate, he created his own Fletcher Field of Study:  Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in International Development.  (His second field is International Political Economy.)

I asked Manjula to reflect on his Fletcher experience, which seems to have been uniquely successful in connecting him to the local academic community.  He said that he came to Fletcher “with the idea to get more guidance, more advice” and to “test the model and see if it has legs.”  He confirmed that he was able to do that through classes, the business plan competitions, talking to mentors, seeing the response of people who believe in the Educate Lanka model (including some who want to replicate it elsewhere in South Asia and in Africa), and talking in panels and at conferences.  All of this pushed him to move Educate Lanka toward a sustainable social business model while maintaining its core scholarship model.

What’s coming up after graduation?  There are five or six fundraising events set up for the summer.  The model will be starting up in Bangladesh, leading to “Educate World” in many countries.  There’s a plan to start an online platform to arrange one-on-one mentoring for underprivileged kids, enabling knowledge-sharing between the developed and developing world (and also generating more traffic for the Educate Lanka website).  The mentoring program would offer a new means of involvement for people who can’t contribute funds, and builds the community of people Manjula says are energized with “‘change the world’ spirit.”

Finally, Manjula took a minute to say “how much I appreciate all the support and backing I have received from my fellow Fletcher students, from all three classes (’11,’12,’13) with which I had the privilege to share my experience, as well as faculty, staff, and alumni. I owe them my  thanks.”

I’m going to try to keep up with Manjula and Educate Lanka through the coming year, and I’ll report back on Manjula’s post-Fletcher path.  Based on his success in the past two years, I’m guessing there will be plenty to write about.

An established annual event is the Tufts University Energy Conference, in which Fletcher students have played important roles.  This year, the conference chair is Katie Walsh, a second-year MALD student.  Katie describes her involvement below.

At the end of this week, I, along with 34 other Tufts students (from Fletcher, the undergraduate programs, and the other graduate schools) will overrun The Fletcher School to execute the 7th Annual Tufts University Energy Conference (TEC), April 20-21.  More than eight months of planning has gone into this two-day event, with speakers arriving from all over the country and the world to speak on the issues that define our global energy economy.

TEC is an entirely volunteer student-run initiative.  We plan the content, we contact speakers, we ask for funding, we lose countless hours of sleep and send thousands of emails.  Each year, something new has been added to or tweaked in the conference offerings.  These features stem from the creativity, enthusiasm and follow-through of the conference organizers.  At last year’s conference, we introduced the Tufts Energy Competition, Tufts’ first-ever energy-focused student innovators competition, which I helped initiate as the 2011 Marketing Co-Director.  One group of winners used their prize funds to produce a resource guide on low-cost, sustainable and renewable energy technologies in Zimbabwe; the other used them for materials to create a demonstration high-performance hybrid vehicle.

By no measure am I an old hand at energy.  Before coming to Fletcher, I coordinated a Chinese language program at San Francisco State University.  My undergraduate major was history and many of my professional experiences were in international education.  My intention in coming to graduate school was to develop experience and expertise in a completely new field – energy and the environment.

Now, a year and a half into my master’s program at Fletcher, I find myself chairing this year’s energy conference, working at the University’s environmental institute, and fortunate enough to have secured internships in the energy sector both last summer and this, in Washington, D.C. and Beijing, China. When I actually have the time to think about my experiences thus far (such as to write this blog entry), I am just astounded by how much there is to take advantage of at Fletcher, and Tufts as a whole.

Two years ago at about this time, visiting Fletcher’s Open House, I don’t think I could have predicted all that I would have learned so far, the relationships I would have formed, and the opportunities that coming to this school would have afforded me.  But, in visiting the classes, meeting with professors and talking to students — I did get a feeling that Fletcher was different from any of the other graduate programs I was visiting.  I sensed that it was going to be the kind of place that would appreciate the skills I came to school with — inquiry, innovation, ability to implement and organize — and provide me with the space, mentoring and academic rigor I needed to build legitimacy in a new field.  That feeling has proven all too right.

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Participating in the Tufts Marathon Challenge is a great opportunity for students to train for and run in the Boston Marathon, one of the most prestigious such races worldwide.  This year, there’s a team of 15 Fletcher students joining the Tufts team.  They have to meet a fundraising goal as a requirement of their participation, and they have worked together (selling “King Cakes,” sponsoring an event at a nearby pub) and individually to meet the goal.

This week, three representatives of the Fletcher team went downtown to the Greek Consulate General in Boston for the ceremony of presenting traditional olive wreaths to the Boston Athletic Association, which will, in turn, present them to the Marathon winners on Monday.  Here’s Vanessa, who told me about the event, with the wreaths next to her:

And since no event would be complete without a Fletcher flag, here are runners Jon, Morgan, and Vanessa, with the Boston Athletic Association president.  To the left is another Fletcher student, Alexandros, who is the liaison between the team and the Greek Consulate.  (I’m obliged to note that the photo is from Alex Mavradis Photography.)

The marathoners have been training for months, balanced (of course) with Fletcher classes.  It’s a big task for experienced runners, and most years the Tufts team will include some relative novices.  The  runners tell their stories on their individual pages to which I’ve linked below.  So, without further ado.  Introducing the 2012 Fletcher runners in the Boston Marathon for the Tufts Marathon Challenge.  Go team!!

Rishikesh K. Bandary
Jocelyn Braddock

Sean Duggan
Rachel Fredman
Jonathan Hirsch
Kathleen Hurley
Kei Koga
Sooyeon Kang
Kosar Jahani
Maria Kingsley
Morgan Lerette
Lauren Liecau
Peter Park
Manny Peralta
Vanessa Vidal Castellanos

I was lucky on Monday to have contacted Lily, who mentioned she had spent her spring break in Singapore with the Fletcher International Business Club.  I can’t believe I nearly missed this interesting news!  Lily saved the day, and best of all, she was happy to write something for me.  Here’s Lily’s report.

While Spring break is a time to rest for most students, some find it a great opportunity to network and build the career connections that will help them land their dream job.  And so six Fletcher students, both first- and second-years, went on a week-long career trip to Singapore.  With a shared strong interest in Southeast Asia, the students met with thought leaders and business executives, company managers and representatives, to learn about the economic and business environment in Southeast Asia, as well as the career opportunities in the region.

Students met with a range of companies, from financial services groups like MasterCard and DBS, to consulting firms such as Accenture and IHS, to oil and gas companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil.  Organized through the Fletcher network, personal contacts, or simply company outreach, the meetings were an amazing opportunity to meet people with extensive experience and expertise in Southeast Asia.

A lively Fletcher community in Singapore was yet another perk of the trip.  A gathering was organized with the extensive support of the Fletcher Alumni Club of Singapore and the gracious hospitality of a Fletcher alumna. Wonderful to meet so many recent and not-so-recent alums in the region.  Their hospitality is unmatched by any measure.

As it often goes — work hard, play hard.  Singapore has some great things to offer!  The highlights:  chilli crab, Singapore sling, chicken rice, and Sentosa!

It was a packed week, exploring the city and its culture, in addition to attending business meetings. Some great videos for Fletcher Follies squeezed in as well!

Interesting – yes!  Useful – even more than I had expected!  Exhausting – to a certain degree!  Worth it – absolutely!

Southeast Asia is a booming economic region and this Singapore trip opened many doors for our Fletcher gang.  We hope to continue this entirely student-led initiative in the future!

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While it’s true that Fletcher’s Student Council couldn’t make a decision to, say, offer all students an A grade in every class, it does play an important role in representing students — their views and needs — to the School’s administration.  The Council is composed of first-year and continuing students, and there’s a rep for the PhD program.

Based on reports I’ve seen, the past few years’ Councils have been particularly active, and even hold office hours so that students can express their opinions.  True representative democracy!

But what would be the purpose of working hard on behalf of one’s constituents, if those good citizens of Fletcher never learned the results of the Council’s actions.  Creating awareness fell to Councillor Blake and friend, Lesley.  They channeled 2012′s big Oscar winner in this video report about the Council’s success in arranging after-hours availability of food and supplies — for students who can’t bear to leave the building.

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A few weeks back, a virtual Social List brawl nearly broke out among defenders of their favorite poetic tradition.  Yes, blog readers.  Fletcher students will take time away from case studies, thesis writing, extracurricular activities, and the job hunt to argue about Urdu poetry.  As I haven’t had a chance to do the discussants the courtesy of checking with them, I’m going to share the points of discussion without using names (but I can tell you that their cultural or national origins include Pakistan, India, Armenia, Iran, and possibly others).  Also, I don’t endorse any particular viewpoint (being ignorant on this great topic), and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of anything written below.  Plus, I haven’t included the many wikipedia links that were part of the discussion.  With all those disclaimers in place, the great Urdu Poetry debate:

Message 1
Dear Fletcher,
Tufts is organising an Urdu poetry recital on Thursday. Urdu is the language of the poets — that is why Urdu-speaking individuals (namely Pakistanis) are die-hard romantics.   If you are interested in the recital of some of the most influential and famous Urdu couplets — that were responsible for social movements and the spread of ideologies (including Communism), or were just some poor, talented, heart-broken dude venting — come to Cabot 702 on Thursday at 6:30 pm.

Also, we’re trying to find translations for most of the poems.  Another incentive to be there: Chai.  See you all there!

Message 2
From wikipedia:  “There are between 60 and 70 million speakers of Urdu:  There were 52 million in India per the 2001 census, some 6% of the population; 13 million in Pakistan in 2008, or 8%; and several hundred thousand apiece in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United States, and Bangladesh.”

Clearly there are more romantics in India.
#win!

Message 3
Haha!  C’mon, let the Pakistanis have the upper hand in SOMETHING! And citing Wikipedia won’t convince me. :)

Message 4
…and the tradition of Couplet poetry in the subcontinent began when Persians fleeing Shiite conversion settled in the then Mughal Empire. Writing in Persian.  See: Kabir and many others.

Indians, Pakistanis: thanks for the upper hand :)

Message 5
Are you sure?  Kabir died in 1518.  The Mughals’ reign didn’t start until 1526 when Barbur came to power.  Besides, Kabir wrote in Hindi not Persian.

Try again.

Message 6
Yes, I am sure.  Even before the Mughals, the Ghaznavids and Delhi Sultanate were jampacked with Persian poets:  Amir Khusro, the father of Qawwali; Zeb un Nissa, daughter of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb.

Message 7
The reciting of couplets on the Subcontinent stretches back into far greater antiquity than mere mediæval Gunpowder Empires.  But the Persian tradition is beautiful, and among one of its many adherents who roamed the streets of Lahore and Delhi in the seventeenth century happens to be someone close to my heart.

Upper hand, anyone? Anyone?

Message 8
There actually wasn’t ever a real divide between Persian and Hindi/Urdu in the Subcontinent’s literary tradition.  Amir Khusro wrote in both Persian and Hindvi, as did many other poets of the Mughal era.  (Hindvi being the old version of Hindustani, which would eventually evolve into Hindi and Urdu).  Urdu poets still wrote in Persian, even after Hindi and Urdu developed their own formalized languages and literary registers.  One of the great 20th century Urdu poets, Iqbal, also had an extensive catalog of work in Persian as well.  My uncle studied Persian in school while growing up in Bombay in the 1950s, and he would apparently even recite Persian poems in his sleep (much to the chagrin of my father, who was sleeping in the same room).

The fact that this is a Social List debate makes me think that Fletcher should have a Persian/Urdu poetry night…we clearly have a constituency for it.  (I’m imagining dueling Persian-Urdu ghazals…)

Message 9
And I can add that the fact that there is such a debate on the SL makes me even happier to be here at Fletcher ;) You are incredible!  Have a great day. :)

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No one on the Admissions team is afraid of a little brain-straining hard work, but this has been a long week.  Most of us worked last Saturday, and one day of recharging wasn’t enough to ease the sense that we’ve been here continuously since who knows when.  Still, it’s satisfying to move the process forward to the point where we can see beyond the boxes in the back office and imagine interactions with admitted students.  If we can only finish the rest of the tasks still in front of us…

Meanwhile, Fletcher life goes on, and the week has been filled with activities.  Just yesterday, two illustrious alums visited to chat about International Economic Policy for the 21st Century.  Later in the day, Fletcher Students in Security (FSIS) offered pizza and discussion of “From Cadet Grey to Army Green…Reflections of West Point Junior Officers Since 9/11.”  And today, Fletcher is the site of the Tufts 5th Annual China-U.S. Symposium — or, as the organizers like to call it:  塔夫兹大学中美关系年会.  (I can read that, so I know it says what it’s supposed to.)

If only there were more hours in each day.  Sigh.

But we’re keeping our noses to the grindstone and getting it done.  Attending lectures and symposia will need to wait a couple of weeks.

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