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One more November visit with the Class of 2008. Today, let’s learn what Kallissa Apostolidis has been doing in her five years since graduating from Fletcher.
Having graduated with a Philosophy degree from Smith College (2004), I returned to Greece and worked at a think-tank, called the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and at the Press Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then I went on to do a paid internship (stage) at the European Commission.
With this professional experience behind me, I entered Fletcher and focused on International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and International Security Studies. All the courses were excellent and I vividly remember classes with Professors Babbitt, Drezner, Chigas, and Aucoin. During my last semester, I was naturally preoccupied with what to do after Fletcher and engaged in long discussions with fellow students and professors. These discussions and exchanges helped me narrow down the organizations and institutions I wanted to target in my job hunt, and led me toward Interpeace.
Interpeace is an international peacebuilding organization based out of Geneva, with 18 programmes throughout the world. It started out as part of the United Nations. In 2000, it became an independent organization maintaining a unique partnership with the UN, which allows it to use both identities and to implement programmes either as Interpeace or as the UN. I joined Interpeace’s team in Geneva in December 2008 with a UN contract as a Programme Assistant, supporting our local teams in Liberia, Cyprus, and Israel. In my position it was very interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses of both institutions: the UN and a much smaller, more flexible NGO. Having stayed in that position for about two years, I then became Programme Officer for the Mediterranean and Middle East programmes. Currently I am based out of my hometown, Athens, and travel more than 50% of my time to visit our programmes. A core value of Interpeace is to have local teams in each country lead the peacebuilding programmes, and my role as Programme Officer is to support the teams in the region on all issues: fundraising, donor relations, programmatic strategy, administrative support, financial management, and policy and learning.
When I first joined Interpeace, I was the only Fletcher graduate, but I am happy to report that we have added two additional alumni and our forces now number three!
When we last featured five-year updates, it was members of Fletcher’s Class of 2007 who described their paths since graduation. But another class graduated last May, and now we turn to the Class of 2008. Kicking off the new year for this feature is Adria Chamberlain who has taken on a pivotal role in bringing together members of her own graduating class, as well as other alumni in the Boston area.
We all want to change the world for the better, right? Leave that lasting mark; help people, organizations, and cultures redefine the concept of neighbor; dramatically improve the opportunities of those who may have extremely limited ones, right? Right. The question is, how are you going to do it, and what do you need to get you there? The answer: Fletcher. Fletcher produces a feast by taking what you’ve done, challenging your notions of what should be done, and blending it together with others who are similarly driven and knowledgeable, and who come to the table with myriad experiences. It’s a feast from which you can draw unlimited nourishment both during and after your time in the Hall of Flags.
For the years between college and Fletcher, I worked in private practice immigration law — mostly on asylum cases from around the world. I found my job extremely valuable and rewarding, but was getting frustrated doing work that didn’t affect the system creating the nightmare situations these asylees had had to live through. I chose an international affairs graduate school because I wanted to play a role in improving systems, rather than administering band-aids to consequences. Thankfully, that is exactly what I get to do now. I chose Fletcher because it was the very best at the factors that were important to me about graduate school. I knew it was an incomparable feast.
My concentrations at Fletcher were Human Security Studies and Leadership Studies (self-designed). Through research and in-depth interviews of leaders at the highest levels, my thesis examined leadership differences and similarities across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Their insights and my learnings continue to aid my leadership trajectory today. I also organized the annual ski trip, and now serve as the Class of 2008 Reunion Chair.
After grad school I became a Chief of Staff on a U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts, then went on to join New Profit Inc. where I work on a rotation of special initiatives on behalf of the founder and Executive team. New Profit is a nonprofit social innovation organization and venture philanthropy fund headquartered in Boston. We invest significant growth capital in a portfolio of social entrepreneurs, work to scale their impact and drive systemic change in areas such as education, workforce development, public health, community development, and poverty alleviation.
Like Jason Taylor, Katy Bondy is an Admissions Office favorite. I can still picture her working at one of the computers. Katy’s story will most likely be the last for the 2007 class (unless one of her classmates surprises me with a post) and I’ll be moving along to the Class of 2008 soon after their five-year reunion next weekend. But first, let’s hear Katy’s story:
Before arriving at Fletcher, I worked in Washington, DC for a few years at a think tank where I focused on the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It was an interesting job where I learned a lot about the former Yugoslavia, but it was primarily administrative and I was looking for something more. Fortunately, a good friend at work, who happened to be a 2000 Fletcher grad,was patient about answering all of my questions about international relations graduate schools. It didn’t take me long to decide that Fletcher was the best fit for me, particularly after I visited the school and was interviewed by a Fletcher-student, Nirmalan, who received his MALD in 2006 and is now completing his Fletcher PhD.
While at Fletcher, I dove into my studies and the Fletcher community. I naturally gravitated towards courses on International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and I still use the skills from those classes today: Focus on interests, not positions! I also created my own Field of Study by performing analyses on post-conflict countries, such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Somalia. My favorite classes were with Professors Drezner, Martel, Babbitt, Shultz, and Chayes.
I received a great education at Fletcher and I believe it’s where I learned how to think more independently and more broadly. But what stays with me as much as what I learned in my classes are the bonds and friendships that I formed with members of the Fletcher community. I fondly remember the late night partying, greasy spoon breakfasts near the Tufts campus, and spending my days studying or writing papers in Ginn Library.
After Fletcher, like Jason, I was also selected to be a Presidential Management Fellow and I joined the Department of State where I worked on reconstruction and stabilization issues. After spending a few months in Dhaka, Bangladesh for work, I decided to join the U.S. Foreign Service. My first assignment was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which I loved, and my present assignment is in Manila, Philippines.
But no matter where I am in the world, the Fletcher network serves me well. I maintain strong ties with many of the friends I made at Fletcher, but I’m also constantly forging new friendships with other alums I’ve met since graduating. For me, the connections and bonds you make while at Fletcher are the most important (and the most fun!) aspect of your Fletcher education.
Our next Five-Year Update comes from Amlan Saha, who demonstrates true Fletcheresque qualities in a first sentence that includes words from Serbo-Croatian and Arabic and references to three geographic areas. His photo adds a third geographic area — it was taken in Guatemala. Here’s Amlan’s story:
It all started in 2001, when, over some Slovak slivovica on a felucca in the Nile, a fellow traveler who had just finished work in Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer enthused about her plans to study public policy in graduate school. I was already thinking about going back to school, but until then had spared no thought for anything other than an MBA.
Since graduating from the National University of Singapore with a degree in engineering in 1998, I had worked at a national research laboratory, set up an internet/telecoms company, which went bust in 2001 along with the collapse of the dotcom bubble, and then worked for the German engineering giant Siemens. In short, technology and business summed up my pre-Fletcher professional experience.
But I was also a nerd (still am!) who loved politics far more than sports. At around the same time that I was giving shape to my graduate school dream, oil prices hit $35 a barrel, climbing about 300 percent in just 18 months. Listening to the talking heads in the following weeks provided a timely reminder that in the business of energy, geopolitics and regulation were never far away. I was onto something.
Because my undergraduate degree was in engineering, I still wanted to do an MBA, but the conversation on the boat in Egypt led me to explore programs that brought together public policy, business decision making, and national security. The possibility of shaping political processes that create rules, regulations, and programs to impact society was exciting.
In 2004, I started attending the Fletcher (MALD) and HEC Paris (MBA) dual degree program.
The MBA part of my program, which I completed before arriving in Medford, focused on economics and finance. At Fletcher, therefore, I dived headlong into public policy and international security.
Fletcher’s MALD curriculum was flexible enough to let me to create my own “Public Policy Analysis” Field of Study from the long list of courses on offer. In fact, the list was so long, all incredibly good and tempting, that letting me choose my own classes was a bit like giving a kid the key to the candy store. I also cross-registered at the Harvard Law School.
I found Prof. Gideon’s classes particularly valuable. Skills I picked up in her classes have been extremely helpful in modeling real-life policy conundrums at work since graduation.
After graduating from Fletcher, I joined the strategic energy/environmental consulting firm M.J. Bradley and Associates. At MJB&A, I assist energy companies to navigate regulatory and market issues, assess economic implications of environmental regulations, and drive wholesale electricity market development.
Uniquely satisfying rewards at work include, among others, having the Chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate refer to my analysis when discussing energy legislation and a Congressman use my work as a prop to explain to constituents his support for an energy bill.
I am currently a Vice President at the firm.
I also write (less frequently than I would like to) a blog.
I’m going to kick off the week with a new Five-Year Update. Jason is a thoroughly memorable member of the Fletcher community, and particularly of the Admissions student staff. He both worked in the office and also served a year on the Admissions Committee. Here’s his update.
I was still in the Peace Corps when I first visited the Fletcher website. On it was a short account of one student’s Fletcher summer. I remember reading with a mix of envy and awe. The student had done seemingly everything — traveling to several Asian countries doing development work, thesis research, and some other adventures on the side. She seemed to embody everything I hoped to be: a restless mind in the thick of it, who was using grad study to actively and deliberately lay the groundwork for a future career. From that point on, Fletcher became my first choice in graduate schools. I wanted to be surrounded by students like that person. Heck, I wanted to be that person. Every Fletcher interaction that followed confirmed that Fletcher was where I wanted to be. My communication with the Admissions Office. My first visit to the Hall of Flags. I was so sure about Fletcher that it ended up being the only school I applied to. If graduate school isn’t Fletcher, I thought, then I don’t want graduate school.
Not long after, I was in the thick of my own Fletcher summer. I did project work in the bush of Uganda, followed by refugee thesis research in Central America. I finished with a leadership conference in France. I’d visited three continents in three months and got to focus on everything from activity design, to policy formation, to the dynamics of international negotiation. I’m not rich. All of this was mostly funded by Fletcher-related sources. That summer was a microcosm of the Fletcher experience itself. It’s as diverse as you want it to be. There are no limits. Fletcher gave me the freedom to mold my degree as I went along; my degree, rather than feeling like an exercise in path dependence, felt like it was in a constant, enthralling state of becoming. The rigor of study exposed my weaknesses, and the support of the School and community gave me the confidence to address them. I left Fletcher with a clear vision of the impact I wanted to make and the confidence that I had the skills to be successful.
Following Fletcher, I became a Presidential Management Fellow and worked at USAID on humanitarian food assistance programs. During my first years I worked on the Haiti earthquake response and Madagascar during a coup, and I covered Sudan during the referendum that created South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. Two years ago I converted to the USAID foreign service and am the deputy chief of the food assistance office in Ethiopia — the largest of its kind in the world. It’s a tough job but I love it. I think back often to what I learned at Fletcher and I know that the School’s equal emphasis on skill building and community were the perfect preparation for my work. My days are a jumble of activity management, policy advocacy, and negotiation — all the things that made that summer so interesting. I feel like the work I do is important and that my personal role in unfolding events matters. I took a few Peace Corps volunteers out to dinner the other night. I listened to them talk about their projects and admired their enthusiasm. Some were thinking about careers in this field. For me, Fletcher was the bridge between being a relative beginner and being a professional. I know I wasn’t the first to cross that bridge and I certainly won’t be the last.
Before starting off my master’s degree at Fletcher, I had worked for several years in the public sector of my native Romania, and I had been academically and professionally trained in law and international security studies. It was not a surprise that, in my first year at the Fletcher School, I would pursue a fairly natural continuation of related studies.
Halfway through my degree however, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and leap into uncharted territory: energy and natural resources economics. My second-year coursework ranged from Professor Bill Moomaw’s clean tech and energy policy classes, to development economics and finance. While I was working on my master’s thesis on energy policy in China, I learned about a Global Consulting class that was pairing up a small group of students with different organizations to work on their designated projects. I chose an energy consulting project proposed by Hitachi, and six months into the project I was selected to continue working at Hitachi’s headquarters in Tokyo on renewable energy projects and policy recommendations. This extraordinary opportunity to work on tangible energy projects while furthering my education has unquestionably swayed me into the professional direction that I am pursuing today.
Five years after my graduation, energy has become central to my professional craft and it blends in seamlessly with the unparalleled interdisciplinary education in international law, finance, and economics that I received at Fletcher. In my work, I assist governments in Sub-Saharan Africa — primarily in Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Lesotho — to enable the development of grid-connected renewable energy projects, to mobilize independent power producers, and to facilitate the formation of competitive electricity markets in their respective countries.
Today, I’m launching a new feature on the blog: Five-Year Updates. Think of it as a conversation among alumni at their five-year reunion. I started with the class of 2007, though graduates from that year are, in fact, soon approaching their six-year mark. The alumni writers were asked to describe their path, starting before Fletcher, then through the Fletcher years, and finishing with their post-Fletcher lives. The first Update comes from Ben Micheel.
Prior to Fletcher, most of my professional experience was in the private sector at consumer packaged goods companies. Eventually I made my way back over to Berlin, Germany where I had studied as an exchange student when I was an undergrad at the University of Washington. In Berlin I worked as a marketer for Coca-Cola, as an intern for the German Bundestag, and finally (after my acceptance to Fletcher) as a bike tour guide. Many of my American co-workers at the Bundestag were enthusiastically applying to APSIA grad schools, and I was curious to look into what they were so excited about. My undergrad degree is in business, so I didn’t have any interest in going the pure MBA route. Once I discovered the resources available to me at Fletcher, I knew it was my logical next step. So the week before Labor Day in 2005, I moved to Boston (sight unseen – I’m from a suburb of Portland, Oregon) and started my MALD.
At Fletcher I focused my studies mostly on economics, although I found time to take some great classes in the Southwest Asia concentration. I also cross registered for a couple of classes at Harvard Business School. Although all the classes were great, the paces that Professor Klein, Professor Simonin, and Professor Schaffner put my brain through proved to be most valuable. I still use the skills I learned every week in my current job. I was equally active outside of class. There are many highlights, but the annual Africana Night step show really stands out.
Directly out of Fletcher, I joined the strategy consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners – a terrific place for Fletcher grads to advance their careers in the private sector. I spent four great years there helping Fortune 500 clients improve their strategy, marketing, and pricing initiatives. Eventually I was recruited by Forrester Research (a former client), where I still work today as the Director of Pricing & Packaging. Each day brings something new, and I enjoy working through the puzzles that Fletcher so adroitly equipped me to solve. Also, on the social side of life, the post-Fletcher wedding circuit is the best!
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