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I admit: It’s a little late to be wrapping up Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009. But when I published the most recent post, I realized that every one of the 2009ers were women. Surely there were men in that class! So I reached out to Zack, an Admissions pal from back in the day, and he zapped his post to me in a jiffy. With no further ado, the final Five-Year Update from the Class of 2009, from Zack Gold.
This is really a six-year update, written from Tel Aviv, where I’m a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). My research focuses on the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Egyptian political development, and Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. relations. I’m also an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, which recently hosted me at a conference on Eastern Mediterranean energy security in Washington.
My path to Fletcher developed at the University of Delaware. I was an undergraduate student when the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel, during the 9/11 attacks, and in the lead up to and start of the Iraq war. Over those years my background in Middle Eastern history and interfaith relations developed into an awareness of and interest in international affairs.
After graduating I worked in Washington for two years at Meridian International Center, where I helped administer the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. In between writing itineraries and booking flights, I tagged along with foreign delegations to meetings at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. I unselfishly escorted one visitor to see the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox: a public diplomacy win for Red Sox Nation!
Before graduate school I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Middle East, so I spent 14 months living, working, and studying languages in Egypt and Israel, while also traveling to Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. My on-ground experiences over that time have informed my work ever since.
This international worldview made The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy an obvious choice. I was extremely impressed with the individuals who made up the Fletcher community, and I took advantage of the flexibility in courses and coursework. In classes on decision-making, statecraft, and public diplomacy, I had the opportunity to develop projects that fit my interests: writing policy briefs, op-eds, and papers; and conducting simulations on politics in Egypt and Pakistan and on the Iranian nuclear program.
I greatly enjoyed the research and writing, not all of which was ground-breaking analysis. The Fletcher School has wisely removed the student-run blog from that time. My most worthwhile contribution probably centered on the best place to get ice cream in the area.
In 2011, two years after earning my MALD, the uprising in Egypt brought two areas of my Fletcher studies back into focus: U.S. democratization policy (about which I wrote a seminar paper) and the Muslim Brotherhood (my thesis: “The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Moderate Islamists, Moderate Democrats”). I began publishing about U.S.-Egyptian relations as an independent analyst, and in May of that year I started a research term at The Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy (since renamed the Center for Middle East Policy).
My Brookings position was a dream job. For three years I worked directly with the very scholars and practitioners whose books and articles I read at Fletcher. I learned from their experiences and guidance, and I had access to incredible leaders and thinkers around Washington and the Middle East. At the same time, I developed my own subject-matter expertise: looking closely at security in Sinai, where a jihadist insurgency threatens both Egypt and Israel.
In addition to work-related and research travel to the Middle East, and a number of independent publications, I had the privilege of authoring a Brookings analysis paper: “Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas.” That paper made its way to the director of INSS, who — in time for the fifth anniversary of my Fletcher graduation — invited me continue my research under the auspices of his institute. I’ve been here since October 2014.
We’re almost at the end of the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009, especially as they have nearly reached six years since graduating. Today’s update comes from Ivette Tarrida-Soler, who was a favorite member of the student-intern team in Admissions during her two Fletcher years. Let’s hear what she’s been up to.
Five years after Fletcher, I am now what you would call a “Eurocrat” – and proud of it! I became an official of the European Union in 2011, two years after finishing my MALD at Fletcher. Public service has always been my main objective, but I have been lucky to get experience in a variety of sectors. So today I feel like I am only beginning what I hope will be a long career in the European institutions, serving European citizens and representing the EU on the global stage.
I grew up in Igualada, near Barcelona, but got my BA at Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia. There are so many aspects of this experience that opened my mind to the world, that the B.A. in Political Science seems only an afterthought. My early professional experience at the end of university was in human rights law. During my last summer of college, I conducted research for cases related to human rights violations in Nigeria, and afterwards I worked for two years at the law firm Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., in central Philadelphia, as a paralegal for cases related to the violation of human rights during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, and to the international financing of terrorism.
This pre-Fletcher experience opened a path into a career in “something international.” My understanding of what that was, exactly, was very immature, and probably still is — but let’s just call it a good dose of “curiosity.” In any case, professional experience was key to understanding what I wanted from graduate school — which is why I gave up law school for Fletcher!
Being at Fletcher felt like academic luxury, and yet put me so close to practitioners from around the world. I was able to explore various disciplines: I focused on international security and designed my own focus on energy security, but also took courses on humanitarian aid and nutrition, economics, law, and in-depth studies into Iran and China. During the summer, I traveled to Jordan with a group of civil-military students from Tufts University and the U.S. military academies, to do research into the impacts that the Iraq war was having on that country. I wrote my thesis on nuclear proliferation while being a research associate with the nearby Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Both in 2007 and 2008, I participated in the SIMULEX crisis management exercises organized by the International Security Studies Program. Some of my fondest memories, however, are of the wonderful staff at the Fletcher’s Admissions Office, where I worked part-time, and of the prospective students who visited the school or contacted us with questions.
After graduating from Fletcher in 2009, I moved back to Europe to do a one-year traineeship at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy. I was part of a project that looked into the link between the exploitation of natural resources and armed conflict through Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis. I worked alongside engineers as the rare social scientist in the team, and learned a lot about the potential uses of mapping and geo-location analysis to study and respond to conflicts, forced migration, and humanitarian emergencies.
Then I went on to work as a political risk analyst at Maplecroft, a UK consultancy, where I carried out research and analysis of political, economic, regulatory and societal events worldwide, interpreting trends and evaluating the ensuing risks and implications for businesses operating internationally.
In 2011, I became a public official of the European Union. I first worked at the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, which looks into possible breaches of EU law around Europe and which is the only committee that directly communicates with European residents, receiving their petitions and inviting them to attend committee meetings in order to present and to discuss issues with Members of the European Parliament. Most petitions relate to infringements of environmental laws, the right to move freely around Europe, and to violations of other fundamental rights.
Since late 2013, I have been working at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, in the Terrorism and Crisis Management Unit. I work mostly on the European policies that aim to increase protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats, and in particular on the implementation of Regulation (EU) 98/2013, which restricts the public’s access to chemical substances that can be used towards the illicit manufacturing of home-made explosives.
Brussels is, believe it or not, a wonderful city. And it is also home to many Flectherites, so I continue to enjoy the Fletcher spirit and dynamism after all these years.
Tagged with: Five-Year Updates
Our next post from the Class of 2009 comes from Jelena Lukic. While at Fletcher, Jelena served as a member of the Admissions Committee, and I remember well how much I enjoyed working with her. I’m so pleased that she agreed to provide an update on her post-Fletcher life.
My journey to Fletcher started while I was working on governance and youth programs in Iraq. As a native of Serbia, prior to Iraq I had spent most of my early career working with civil society organizations in the Balkans on youth leadership and reconciliation issues. Working in a complex environment such as Iraq helped me realize that I needed to augment my degree in psychology with graduate studies in international affairs.
I chose Fletcher because its multidisciplinary and flexible curriculum enabled me to design an educational experience that would strengthen my existing technical skills and, at the same time, build a new set of professional competencies that I needed to make a career change. To marry my background in non-profit work and my growing interest in the role that the private sector can play in fragile environments, I decided to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues during my time at Fletcher.
I chose International Negotiations and Conflict Resolution and International Business Relations as my Fields of Study. The diversity and flexibility of the Fletcher curriculum allowed me to explore a broad range of CSR issues, such as through Prof. Everett’s petroleum industry class and a clean energy course with Prof. Moomaw. Knowing that the CSR efforts of many companies include health initiatives, I took a global health course. I also benefited from the opportunity to take a CSR course at Harvard Business School. In my work, I still use the analytical approaches I learned in the negotiations course with Prof. Babbitt. Appreciating that two years at Fletcher was a precious time to explore personal interests, I took courses on Iran with Prof. Nasr and oceanic history with Prof. Perry.
At the end of the day, it’s not the classes that made my Fletcher experience so special, but the lifelong friendships I developed. Step practice for the Africa Culture Night was a great getaway from number-crunching lessons. Being a student member of the Admissions Committee was one of the best jobs I ever had, and memories of the weekend on Cape Cod during “Dis-Orientation” week still make me laugh.
My Fletcher experiences led me to develop a clear goal to work on community engagement issues in the oil, gas, and mining industries. My thesis, which analyzed why the relationships with local communities are often tense, despite the many investments that oil, gas, and mining companies make in local development, helped me land a job with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group that is devoted to the private sector in developing countries.
At IFC I worked for more than three years as a Social Investment Specialist, helping oil, gas, and mining companies develop strategic community investments to enhance benefits to local communities. I was a member of the team that developed the Financial Valuation Tool for Sustainability Investments, an innovative tool that quantifies the financial return back to the company from community investments, and helps build a business case for investing in local development and communities. I also worked on developing the Water, Mining, and Communities Framework, which guides mining companies in how to effectively address social risk around water and deliver positive development outcomes.
Working at IFC, I strengthened my expertise in social sustainability. As a next career step, I wanted to experience how the public sector tackles sustainability issues. So, for the past two years, I have been working as a Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, focusing on the application of environmental and social standards in investment lending projects.
Despite having an interesting career, I don’t let my job define me. Through a Fletcher classmate, I discovered sailing as a passion in my life. Obtaining a boat-cruising certificate is one of my biggest accomplishments since graduating from Fletcher. And, of course, the Fletcher crowd joins me in annual sailing trips in the Mediterranean.
Today, let’s meet another graduate from Fletcher’s Class of 2009, Yanina Seltzer.
I was born in Argentina, raised in Costa Rica and finalized my higher education in the United States. From a very early age, I developed a global perspective, especially regarding culture, economic issues, and social realities. I was exposed to harsh economic injustices and social inequalities that sparked my passion for influencing issues surrounding poverty. In college, I focused my studies on politics, economics, and Latin American studies, in line with my upbringing. During this time, I interned at Habitat for Humanity, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
After graduation, I served as an economic analyst at Nathan Associates and as a research analyst at the Inter-American Development Bank. My academic background and professional experience prepared me for Fletcher. It was clear to me that, through my graduate studies, I could maintain my goal of decreasing poverty and inequality by continuing to focus on international development, but also could broaden my regional scope and my understanding of the role of business and the private sector.
When I arrived at The Fletcher School my academic focus was development economics and international business. Yet I also took time for establishing and enjoying community with my peers, which included dancing at nearly every Culture Night. Exploring the business and finance world would bring an important perspective to the work I had already been doing. There were two specific classes, both from my first year, that had a uniquely profound influence on my professional and personal development. The first was Microfinance: Issues and Breakthroughs with Prof. Kim Wilson, which really broadened my understanding of development. I learned that increasing economic opportunities for the poor involves an active role from the private sector, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology as a central catalyst. The second influential class was Prof. Rusty Tunnard’s class in International Consulting. Our project with Sun Microsystems crystallized for me the role that technology plays in poverty alleviation. Creating an engagement strategy for a large technology company in order to bring technology to the Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) merged my previous concepts of finance and technology with the necessary role of social innovation.
I then spent my summer in Rio de Janeiro, interning with Mobile Metrix, a social enterprise that does market research at the BOP. When I returned to Fletcher in the fall, in addition to my Fletcher classes, I cross-registered at the business and medical schools at Harvard. Through those additional classes, I learned how innovative solutions are applied around the world to solve social problems. And as I neared the end of my time at Fletcher, I knew exactly where I would land in the global economics landscape: Financial Inclusion.
After graduating, I completed a summer internship at CGAP/ World Bank. I admired the work of CGAP from afar as a graduate student. It wasn’t long before CGAP asked me to continue beyond my internship experience. My initial focus involved regulatory issues in branchless banking. My work then evolved to market-level analyses and projects centered on mobile-financial services.
In 2011, I relocated to Brazil for nine months, where I spearheaded CGAP’s Brazil strategy in financial inclusion. During this time, I solidified partnerships with some of the largest banks, such as Bradesco and Caixa. I initiated innovative projects with these actors and the private sector, facilitated regulatory discussions with the Central Bank, led workshops with banking associations and Ministries, and interacted with leading stakeholders in financial inclusion. I also led our research agenda, where I got to engage directly with hundreds of low-income customers and understand the reality of their ever-complicated needs and behaviors around financial services.
It was during this time in Brazil that I met hundreds of people living in Rio’s slums, in low-income communities in Sao Paulo, and in peri-urban towns in Recife. This direct interaction gave me long-lasting and unforgettable insights into designing products and services that empowered them and made sense for their lives. In an effort to truly support them in their economic lifestyles, hopes, needs and possibilities, it became clear that face-to-face connection would be the greatest influence in efforts to design inclusive products, services, and experiences.
Two years post-graduation, I was invited to deliver a TEDx talk in my home country of Costa Rica, which was particularly powerful for me. My talk centered on the role of technology in international development and I continue to advocate for that perspective in my current role, which includes leading CGAP’s work-stream in Human-Centered Design and Financial Inclusion and customer-centricity. It came as no surprise that the concepts behind human-centered design center on the influence that direct conversation, observation, and customer-centricity have on innovation. I have been deeply involved with a total of seven financial service providers and several world-class design firms in order to understand low-income customers and better design and deliver products and services to them.
Five years post-Fletcher I remain at CGAP, devoted to topics and concepts that are a true reflection of Fletcher’s nature. My education and my professional experience are the epitome of an interdisciplinary experience: a combination of research methods, creative thought, and business strategy that consistently anchors on the fact that real individuals and communities are the heart of everything we seek to design for and understand. I am recently married and know that my time at Fletcher prepared me for success professionally and personally! Each day, I am full of gratitude for my Fletcher experience and its extended community of alumni and educators.
Continuing to feature alumni who, last May, marked five years since their graduation, today we meet Jessica Farmer F09. Jessica pays tribute to Prof. Alan Wachman, who was himself a Fletcher grad and whose presence at Fletcher is still missed.
I went to Asia on a backpacking trip with college friends in the early 2000s and was absolutely hooked. The noise, the bustle, the food — there was something electric about this part of the world. I decided if I was going to come back long-term, I had to pick a country where learning the language would make sense for my career. I chose China, and spent a year living in a small village in Hunan.
From this time forward, for me, China’s rise was up close and personal. My village was eventually bulldozed to make way for a high-speed train station. I came to Fletcher to help put it all in context, to understand a bit of the history of this place, to read, to think, to reflect. I had the distinct honor to study under the late Alan Wachman, who I believe was one of the best minds of his generation on Northeast Asia issues. I try, and usually fail, to emulate his meticulous attention to detail, to listen for what is not said but implied. As a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, posted first to Beijing and now Tokyo, his guidance continues to edify me daily. For his tutelage and for Fletcher, I shall always be grateful.
This post won’t be typical for the Five-Year Updates. To start, it won’t be written by the featured Class of 2009 graduate. But today is a good day to recognize Amanda Judge F09, who later this afternoon will receive the second Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award. The award ceremony is timed to fall on the Friday before the March 8 International Women’s Day. According to the invitation we received to the event:
Amanda Judge is Founder and CEO of Faire Collection, a fair trade accessories brand that brings economic stability to more than 200 rural artisans in Ecuador and Vietnam. In the seven years since its founding, Faire Collection has grown from just $10,000 in start-up capital to well over $1 million in sales revenue and is committed to providing its artisans with dignified wages and holistic social programs that provide a path out of poverty. Judge, who received her MALD in 2009, developed Faire’s business plan as an independent study at Fletcher. She holds a degree in finance from Santa Clara University and worked in the private sector before launching Faire Collection.
The award was established in 2014 by the Fletcher Board of Advisors and the School’s executive leadership to honor outstanding women graduates who are making a meaningful impact in the world in the private, public, and NGO sectors.
Amanda’s post-Fletcher career certainly deserves to be recognized among those of her peers, with a Five-Year Update. Congratulations, Amanda!
The next member of the Class of 2009 to update us on her first five years after graduating from Fletcher is Sandy Kreis. In addition to the details she provides below, Sandy told me that she has two new affiliations. First, she is a visiting lecturer this semester at Tufts, teaching a course on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups for the Ex College. And she is also the Entrepreneur in Residence at Blade, a startup foundry that invests in consumer product software and hardware startups.
After graduating from Georgetown cum laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, I found myself working long hours as a lead litigation legal assistant at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York. During my time at Shearman, I started wondering why the thousands of pages I printed each day did not use recycled paper and why the lights were on 24/7 in vacant conference rooms. This rising passion for corporate social responsibility, coupled with my assignment to the Enron litigation and a new-found interest in electricity markets, led me to a job in Los Angeles with Environment America’s VIP outreach campaigns.
While in LA, my main task was to cultivate a network of high net-worth members of the arts and entertainment communities and galvanize interest around climate change advocacy. My work culminated in a fundraiser at the home of movie director Paul Haggis, where the director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim, addressed the crowd of over 100 celebrity activists. Over $30,000 was raised to fight for climate change legislation in Sacramento. Following these two different but extraordinarily useful jobs, I enrolled at Fletcher to better understand how policy impacts the deployment and growth of clean energy markets. I was drawn to Fletcher because it was one of the only esteemed academic institutions that would allow me to pursue my interest in energy policy in an global context.
Once I arrived at Blakeley Hall, I hit the ground running. It was not long before I joined forces with my classmate Jan Havránek, who had a specific interest in energy security, to launch the Fletcher Energy Consortium. I focused on taking all of the core courses of a traditional MBA program while simultaneously learning anything and everything I could about cleantech policy and technology innovation. I benefited deeply from the burgeoning cleantech scene in Boston, driven strongly by the policies created in 2008 on Beacon Hill, including the Green Jobs Act and the Green Communities Act.
Between my first and second years at Fletcher, I interned right down the road in Kendall Square at Emerging Energy Research (EER), a startup-advisory firm that tracks renewable energy markets for wind, solar, geothermal, and storage developers. I joined the North America Renewable Power Team and focused specifically on how state Renewable Portfolio Standards policies impact the demand created for clean energy development. This was my first toe-dip into the innovation and startup ecosystem in Boston, and I was hooked.
At the end of my two years as a MALD, I said goodbye to some of the best friends and contemporaries a woman could ask for and joined EER as a full-time analyst. Within a few months, we were acquired by IHS and joined forces with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, where I had the pleasure of working with fellow Fletcher alums and delving deeper into how oil and gas markets affect the potential advancement of renewable energy deployment. After two years at EER, I left for New York City where I joined the Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (ACRE) to brainstorm ways to diversify the City’s first cleantech-focused incubator into its next phase of development.
While at ACRE, I joined an incubated company, CB Insights, as the Greentech Program Manager. In the Spring of 2012, I was back in Boston as a judge of the MIT Clean Energy Prize where I met my future boss, mentor, and friend, Jim Bowen, the husband of a Fletcher alum. Jim poached me from New York and brought me back to Boston to work on the business development and international relations team at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), a quasi-government state agency charged with supporting the 5,500 clean energy companies here in the Commonwealth. It was at this time that I was designated an Emerging Leader in Energy & Environmental Policy (ELEEP) by the Atlantic Council and the EcoLogic Institute.
At MassCEC, I conceptualized, managed, and executed multiple innovative, new-growth initiatives designed to drive business for early stage companies in line with our larger strategic goals. This includes managing an annual budget of $2.5M and leading teams of over 20+ employees (from marketing, communications, legal, etc.) by acting as the central manager of the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon and the Global Cleantech Meetup. Perhaps most Fletcher-esque, I had the honor of accompanying Governor Deval Patrick on seven “innovation diplomacy” economic development missions. I successfully identified, pitched, and sold various international collaborations and events with the core goal of creating tangible relationships for the Commonwealth’s cleantech companies. On each trip, from Tokyo to Mexico City, I ran into Fletcher alumni who were either working in the target market or staffing the Embassy as a subject-matter expert. One highlight was meeting Colombian President Juan Santos F81 in Bogota and saying in Spanish, “I too am a proud Fletcher alum.” The alumni network is strong.
My tenure at MassCEC came to an end in August of 2014. These days, I am working on various projects in the innovation ecosystem here in the Commonwealth, from Descience — a startup that matches scientists with fashion designers to bring “research to the runway” — to advising a handful of cleantech and digital technology companies. The global network I have cultivated since I landed at Fletcher in 2007 has been instrumental in advancing my career to where it is today. Never forget, it is the people that make the journey, so cultivate them, and do so wisely.
In May 2014, the alumni attending their five-year reunion were members of the Class of 2009. Today, Erin Clancy will kick off the Five-Year Updates from her class. When I reach out to alumni for these updates, I ask them simply to describe their paths, starting before Fletcher and continuing through their graduate studies to their current career, as Erin does below. I’ll also point out that Erin was included among Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Under 33 for 2013, a special honor.
Prior to coming to Fletcher, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science at Whittier College and received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provided a commission into the Foreign Service upon completion of my studies at Fletcher. I was drawn to Fletcher’s interdisciplinary take on international affairs, its academic rigor, and its place in history as the first international relations graduate school in the United States and the alma mater of many distinguished public servants from countries near and far.
It did not take long until I hit my stride at Fletcher after finding my groove in a few Culture Night dance performances. In the classroom, I reveled in Fletcher’s dynamic course offerings on the political landscapes of the Middle East with Vali Nasr, and the practice of international security — seated in the front row no later than 07:40 in the morning — with Richard Shultz. I also benefited from the longstanding partnership between Fletcher and the Harvard Kennedy School where I studied national security management and negotiations. Between my first and second year, I completed a summer internship in 2008 at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria as a political officer covering human rights issues and the domestic political opposition. While working in Syria I began my thesis research on the unbreakable nature of the political-military alliance between Syria and Iran, and the impact of the Syrian-Iranian alliance on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. At the end of two wonderful years in Medford, I graduated with concentrations in International Security Studies and Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization.
After graduation, I accepted my commission into the Foreign Service in August 2009. I arrived at my first diplomatic assignment as vice consul to U.S. Embassy Damascus, Syria in July 2010, where I witnessed the slow evolution of violent Arab Spring protests until security conditions forced us to close the embassy and evacuate the remainder of our diplomatic personnel in February 2012. My assignment to Syria was quite an introduction to the Foreign Service and it profoundly shaped my personal and professional life. From Damascus, I served briefly in U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan to continue working on Syria, and transitioned to U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman where I was the political-military officer responsible for counterterrorism, political-military, and Iran sanctions issues during the lead up to the breakthrough interim agreement reached by the P5+1 negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
These days I am happy to be back home in Washington, DC, working to coordinate U.S. policy on North Africa, Syria, and gender issues in the United Nations Security Council. The highlight of my current role as a multilateral affairs officer is working closely with fellow Fletcherites throughout the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies. Interagency policy committee meetings at the White House or working group meetings on Syria or Boko Haram have become informal Fletcher reunions. Having so many Fletcherites around the table on the important policy issues of the day is a wonderful personal reminder of why this institution is so revered in the international affairs realm — Fletcher truly does create leaders with a global perspective. Not a single day has passed since graduation and my five years in the Foreign Service when I have not felt the direct positive impact of my Fletcher education, nor been so grateful to find community among the talented and inspirational alumni we have all over the world.
Our next five-year update, and probably the last word from the Class of 2008, comes from Margherita Zuin, who was co-chair of the student Migration Group and conducted interviews for the Admissions Office during her time at Fletcher. (I can still picture her coming in and out of the office.) Here’s her update which, like the résumé of anyone working for the United Nations, is loaded with acronyms.
During my years in high school, migration from Africa started to become a common phenomenon in Italy. It generated a myriad of political and legal debates and cultural challenges, not only in my country, but also in my head. This is what initially triggered my interest in international law and pushed me, as a student, to volunteer for an NGO assisting migrants from North Africa.
After law school, my passion to see and understand more about the world led me to Ecuador to provide assistance to Colombian refugees and to fight violence against women in Quito for Amnesty International. I then interned with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a focus on Italy’s role within the United Nations and development cooperation in Asia and Latin America. As a paid trainee at the European Commission in Brussels, I focused on food security in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries before traveling to Jordan for my first assignment with the United Nations. I joined UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) in Amman, where I implemented programs to support the elections and constitution-making process in Iraq.
These experiences made me realize that I wanted to keep working in international affairs, but also that I wanted to further my understanding of the complex approaches and strategies needed to address them. I had heard of Fletcher from alumni and, after having an informal interview with Laurie Hurley, the School’s director of admissions, I realized that Fletcher was the perfect place for me. The combination of academic- and professional-oriented courses was exactly what I was looking for.
My classes and professors at Fletcher taught me skills that I have put into practice since graduation. My Fields of Study were Human Security, Humanitarian Studies, and Law and Development. I still refer back to the impressive professional experiences shared in class by Professors Sarkin and Aucoin. From Professor Church, I learned the importance of always asking the “So what?” question, and I continue to use the gender lens analysis taught in Professor Mazurana’s course. My summer internship conducting research on formal and informal justice systems in Central Somalia, as well as the fascinating discussions in Professor Johnstone’s “Peace Operations” class on the political, legal, technical, and logistical challenges to deploy and work in conflict and post-conflict situations, were fundamental to my career choice.
Since graduating in 2008, I have been working for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations. For 2.5 years, I served in UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur) as Associate Gender Officer working on the political process, gender justice, and capacity-building of national institutions. In 2011, I joined the Standing Police Capacity of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), a rapidly deployable team of experts based in Brindisi (Italy), tasked to start up new operations or assist existing ones. In my capacity as Legal Officer, I deployed to UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) to help with the establishment of the Mission’s Rule of Law and Security Institutions Support Office. My work focused on addressing prolonged, arbitrary detention, and ensuring coordination of the various United Nations and national actors of the justice chain.
Since May 2012, I have been based at United Nations Headquarters in New York, first as a Judicial Affairs Officer in the Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service (CLJAS) of OROLSI, and then as a Political Affairs Officer in the Front Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions. The work at Headquarters has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the political dynamics and decision-making processes in the rule of law area in particular, but also of the United Nations system as a whole. In the near future, I hope to serve again in the field.
I use the academic knowledge and professional skills acquired at Fletcher every single day. I can also see the strength of the Fletcher community, not only because so many Fletcher alumni work in the United Nations, but also because creating partnerships, being committed to make a contribution, and building a sense of community have been essential aspects of my life in peacekeeping, especially in my field assignments.
It has been a while since we visited with the Class of 2008 for a Five-Year Update. Today, let’s read about Devon Cone’s path through and beyond Fletcher.
I still remember my first day at Fletcher. Meeting new classmates and hearing about their lives, work experiences, and interests was thrilling. I had spent 25 years developing into the new student who showed up in Medford that day; a passionate, curious person who craved new information, new places, and new ideas. The thrilling part about meeting my fellow classmates on that first day, was that they were the same kind of people! We were all coming from many different backgrounds and yet had a commonality…that of being particularly inquisitive about the world and the people and places in it.
Prior to Fletcher, I studied American Studies and Sociology; however, it was not a course in either of my majors that became a starting point for my subsequent studies and then career. While studying for my undergraduate degree, I took a course titled, “The International Political Economy of Women.” This course, team-taught by two incredibly thoughtful women, opened my eyes to issues around the world that I was eager to learn about. Prior to taking the course, I had already lived in the Netherlands, France, and Romania, and had traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia. I had interacted with people who were living lives very different to that of my own and I was interested in working in a variety of locations, however, I did not know where to focus my interests professionally.
After finishing university and working briefly in Thailand and, then, Ghana on development projects, I flew from Accra to Boston to embark on two years of graduate school, during which time I could learn, reflect, research, and move forward in studies that I was passionate about, namely, human rights. At the time I began Fletcher, I was not exactly sure what kind of career I wanted to pursue, but I knew that I wanted to work on global human rights issues, especially as they relate to gender.
Fletcher was an amazing experience of learning and growth that I will never be able to replicate. I studied Human Security and International Organizations, focusing specifically on humanitarian studies and forced migration. These Fields of Study allowed me to study with talented and insightful professors who challenged me to think critically about conflict, about security as it relates to individuals rather than the State, and about how well intentioned interventions have the capacity to bring positive change but can also cause harm. The subject matter taught at Fletcher provided me with the knowledge I needed to be useful and creative in promoting the protection of individuals in situations of forced migration and vulnerability. Karen Jacobsen’s course on Research Methods in Humanitarian Settings and Cheyenne Church’s course Monitoring and Evaluation in Peacebuilding were particularly useful skills-based classes that have provided me with practical knowledge that I have consistently referred back to in my work. Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, with Dyan Mazurana and courses with Kim Wilson and Dan Maxwell also caused me to think deeply about the theories and challenges in the field of human security.
A unique and wonderful aspect of being at Fletcher was that I was also able to study and interact with people interested in similar work at other institutions in the area. I took courses at the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government that relate directly to the work I do, responding to the needs of displaced people in conflict/post-conflict settings.
Since Fletcher, I first conducted foreign policy research at MIT and then moved to Kenya with the organization RefugePoint, founded by a fellow Fletcher alum. RefugePoint sent me to work for UNHCR in Dadaab refugee camp. Located on the border of Somalia, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world and, as such, was a place where I learned how to put theory into practice. The problems faced by individuals in Dadaab are massive, diverse, and overwhelming. I focused on identifying refugees in Dadaab who were in need of immediate assistance and protection, and on working to persuade foreign governments to resettle some of these refugees. After Dadaab, I worked on RefugePoint’s programming for urban refugees in Nairobi, which was interesting and allowed me the flexibility to come up with new ideas.
In early 2011, as uprisings began to take place in North Africa and the Middle East, I was transferred to Cairo, Egypt, where I worked for UNHCR to provide protection for refugees living in Egypt who were affected by the insecurity following Mubarak’s ouster. I interviewed Somali, Ethiopian, Iraqi, Sudanese, and Eritrean refugees for resettlement, and then transitioned to working specifically with young refugees. I worked with young people under the age of 18 without any family (unaccompanied minors) to identify the challenges they face and come up with solutions. I left Cairo in the summer of 2013 and continued to work as a Child Protection Specialist, this time being sent to Uganda following renewed fighting in Eastern DRC.
Five years on from Fletcher, I am amazed by how little I knew when I began, but also how much I learned during my time in school, and how rich and rewarding my professional life has been since graduating. I have had the opportunity to work with such a variety of people and I understand so much more about how conflict affects human beings individually. My time at Fletcher helped me to develop the skills I have needed to do my job and to serve people in the best way I can.
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