Currently viewing the tag: "Five-Year Updates"

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Fletcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before Fletcher

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

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

At Fletcher

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

After Fletcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The second post for this week, and the last for the Class of 2010, comes from Hana Cervenka who, like Luis Marquez (writer of yesterday’s post) has a focus on monitoring and evaluation.

Hana (2)As I am writing this, I am just back from facilitating the traditional potato run for kids during the celebration of Norway’s national day in Jakarta, Indonesia.  In the next few days I’ll be drafting background documents and talking points in preparation for the bilateral human rights dialogue between Norway and Indonesia, planning a joint Nordic midsummer party, preparing for an upcoming ministerial visit, following up on grants to partners working on good governance, and quite possibly hopping into a few unexpected meetings as well.  This is all part of my job as a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, where I have served since 2013.  I can’t imagine that any school could have prepared me better for this career than The Fletcher School, where writing academic papers, carrying out an evaluation for a real-life organization, discussing the theory and practice of law, economics, and politics, and learning bhangra for one of the Cultural Nights are all equally natural parts of everyday life.  (To be fair, I did not learn bhangra, but many of my friends did!)

It has been a whirlwind five-plus years since I left Fletcher.  First, let me backtrack a bit.  I still remember the feeling I had when studying for my undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Oslo.  It was part delight and euphoria that the subjects that interested me most — international affairs, conflict, peace, development — were now what I spent all day studying.  At the same time, a part of me was frustrated, questioning whether all these theoretical studies were actually going to be helpful out there in the real world.  That frustration is part of what led me to Fletcher: I was sold the moment I discovered that The Fletcher School was not only top-notch academically, but that it also placed great value on combining theory and practice, and that true interdisciplinary, problem-solving cooperation between scholars and practitioners was part of the School’s DNA.

Fletcher really delivered on all its promises.  My time at Fletcher was a lot about good governance and monitoring and evaluation, with a bunch of gender thrown in.  There were also a few classes which may not have “fit in” with my grand career plan at the time of becoming a development/human rights/governance practitioner, but which I value today because they helped my versatility and understanding of other related issues.

Hana, Presidential Palace (2)The monitoring and evaluation classes I took at Fletcher were particularly important in helping me start my post-Fletcher career.  My summer internship was an M&E internship in Malawi (with an NGO started by a Fletcher alumna!) and right as I graduated, I got a fellowship with DPK Consulting to help develop the monitoring framework for a USAID funded rule of law project in Jordan.  From there, I moved to Khartoum in Sudan (then still one country).  I spent six months as a trainee at the Norwegian Embassy there and loved it so much I pretty much refused to leave.  It was such an interesting time in the country’s history: the south Sudanese people decided in a referendum that South Sudan would become an independent country six months later.  There was no way I could leave.  I was hired by the organization set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to work on the negotiations that were ongoing on the terms and practicalities of the secession.  I managed a grant in support of the negotiations, trying to have civil society voices heard and supported in the negotiations (led by the African Union) in any way needed.  Book tickets, charter flights, fix hotels?  Check.  Type up negotiating positions that were hand written?  You got it.  Take minutes from the negotiation meetings?  Sure.

Right around the time South Sudan gained its independence, I was accepted to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic training program.  I continued working on Sudan/South Sudan in my first year at the Ministry as part of my on-the-job training.  I then had a six-month full-time training in all things relating to Norwegian foreign affairs followed by another on-the-job training, this time on the Asia desk in preparation for my first posting in Jakarta.  Fletcher has been helpful every step of the way, academically of course, but in many more ways too.  The Fletcher alumni community is always there, ready for equal parts serious and fun adventures.  We even have a small (and completely unofficial!) Norwegian MFA Fletcher club including (in addition to me), my 2010 classmate Hilde, along with Jonas, F11, Torbjørn, F12, and Ina, F13.  I don’t know where I’ll go for my next posting, but I do know the Fletcher network will surely be there, wherever I may be!

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One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion.  Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years.  Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by.  So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation.  The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”

Luis Marquez PictureSix years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division.  While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher.  At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics.  Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.

The path to Fletcher

Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend.  It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here).  This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate.  Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”

Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.

I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group.  The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors.  This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).  Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps.  Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.

As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades.  However, a lot of work remains.  I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space.  While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex.  Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles.  We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International,  and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.

Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.

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With the Class of 2016 about to graduate in only about a week, it’s getting to be time for me to wrap-up the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010.  Today we’ll hear from Claudia Ortiz, who provided me with this short bio, in addition to her post:

Claudia Ortiz (Mexico) has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2013, when she joined as Regional Technical Specialist on Climate Change Adaptation in the regional hub for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is now based in UNDP headquarters in New York, acting as climate finance policy advisor and project manager of the Global Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme.  Before UNDP, Claudia worked with the Climate Change Team at the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, in Washington, DC.

Earlier in her career, she supported the development of Mexico’s first Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for the cement and iron and steel sectors at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC and worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Sub-regional Office in Ankara, Turkey, where she undertook research on energy policy and environmental issues in Central Asia.

Claudia OrtizIt has been almost six years since I graduated from Fletcher.  I still regard the opportunity to study there as one of the best in my life: it changed the way I see the world, transformed my career, and allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people, with very diverse backgrounds.  From the very first day of Orientation, students are constantly reminded that our most important allies are in the student and alumni community itself.  Besides this backbone virtue of the School, students are also reminded (as in the Mission and Impact statement) that as international affairs professionals, we ought to be “committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of a complex, challenging and increasingly global society,” — in other words (or, as I interpret it), we are meant to be “global citizens.”

As global citizens, we let go of nationalistic or self-interests.  Rather we exercise collaboration and compassion, as we seek to become agents of improvement for the global society, including the most vulnerable populations in it.  And, as global citizens, we are led by our never-ending hunger to explore, travel, and experience different cultures.

This concept resonates well for me with the cause to which I have dedicated my career since Fletcher graduation: to support developing countries’ access to international climate finance for initiatives, projects and programs that address climate risks.  Climate change must not be regarded an “environmental” problem.  To label it that way would be misleading, as it places emphasis on the risk being posed to ecosystems or natural habitats.  In reality, it is the human species and human development gains that are most at risk and are being severely impacted by climate change in the form of food insecurity, forced migration, destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihoods, etc.  Climate change is therefore a global development problem which does not recognize political boundaries and one which cannot be solved by acting in isolation; international diplomacy has a significant role to play.

Today, it is evident that diplomacy driven by recognition of the universal threat of climate change, but also by emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations on Earth, has succeeded in shifting the climate change paradigm.  In December 2015, the diplomatic efforts of over 150 heads of state and their delegations resulted in an unprecedented Climate Agreement, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  For the first time in history, there is global recognition that climate change is a common concern of humankind, whereby all the world’s economies need to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  Decades have been spent in breaching the gap between achieving economic growth through the use of cheaper fossil fuels and the urgent need to enhance resilience to climate change, especially in the poorest countries.  We are a privileged generation to witness a huge step in this direction.

As an officer of the United Nations, I function as an “international civil servant.”  I am not to respond to any government’s instructions (or those of any other source that is not the UN) as I carry out my duties; rather, I am supposed to bring forward only the interests of the UN.  Applying this principle has proven to be crucial for my work given that, for the past three years, I have served the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Benin, Colombia, Nepal, Fiji, and others, but not yet my native Mexico.  I have realized that the only way to thrive in different cultures or contexts while achieving common social, environmental or development objectives is by maintaining impartiality and independence.  This is, of course, challenging, as we are all calibrated to operate based on our own cultural norms, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas.  I admit that only by living the experience itself have I been able to “adapt” quickly to unknown contexts, while still managing to get the work done.

Evidently, Fletcher was the perfect launching platform for my current job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and my former position in the World Bank, another institution where staff uphold the same principles of impartiality and of a global mindset.  Fletcher is a microcosm where the exact same principles are enforced, not only to excel in the very demanding, inter-disciplinary curriculum but also to succeed as a member of the ever-present Fletcher community.  As students, we would consciously work, discuss, and even debate respectfully, without prejudice.  We established long-lasting friendships with people we never imagined we would.  I proudly say that Fletcher prepared us to confront the most compelling global challenges by making us realize that solutions can only be reached through diplomacy and collaborative action, because as citizens of ONE planet we cannot regard challenges to be the problem of “the other,” but rather, these problems and their solutions must be assumed as “our own.”

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As we’re rapidly approaching the end of their sixth year since graduating, let’s return to the Class of 2010, whose updates I have collected throughout the year following their five-year reunion.  Today we’ll hear from Eric Sullivan, a member of the very first MIB class.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

Eric - TeresopolisPrior to joining Fletcher as a member of the inaugural MIB class in 2008, I was one of many whose paths were shaped by the September 11th terrorist attacks and the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I was an Air Force ROTC cadet studying business and Russian at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill on that fateful day.  A little over five years later, I was a newly-minted first lieutenant supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom out of the former Baathist headquarters at the old Iraqi Air Force Academy.  That experience, along with an eye-opening study abroad experience in Russia, raised my interest in international affairs and set me on the path to Fletcher.

At Fletcher

I chose Fletcher because of the MIB program and the opportunity it offered to merge two core interests: business and international affairs.  Although the MIB program was new, the Fletcher School itself was both well-established and well-regarded.  I was particularly impressed by the School’s breadth of offerings, its reputation within the international affairs community, the success of its alumni, and the caliber of my future classmates whom I met at the Open House for newly admitted students.  I had a truly enriching experience at Fletcher.  What I appreciated the most was the ability to pursue my specific academic interests both in and outside of the classroom, with the benefit of a wide array of resources at my disposal through Fletcher and the wider Tufts community.

For example, in fulfillment of my thesis requirement, I wanted to find a way to connect my interests in social enterprise and human trafficking.  With invaluable help and guidance from my advisor, Professor Nathalie Lydler-Kylander, I developed a business case study on Made By Survivors, an NGO that uses the power of social enterprise to empower and liberate survivors of human trafficking.  With the aid of an EMPOWER social enterprise grant from Tufts Institute for Global Leadership, I traveled to India and Nepal to conduct research on several social enterprises employing survivors of trafficking and vulnerable populations.  That trip resulted in a successful case study recognized among the winners of the NextBillion 2010 Case Writing Competition and used subsequently at both Fletcher and Harvard Business School.  The wide web of support and unique opportunities available through Fletcher made such an outcome possible.

Post Fletcher

After graduation, I accepted a position as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, serving as a contract specialist at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and spending some priceless time with family.  In early 2013, I embarked on my dream job in the U.S. Foreign Service.  My first assignment was to Moscow, Russia as a consular officer, where I adjudicated nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and managed a portfolio with national security implications and numerous public diplomacy events ranging from a radio interview on a popular Moscow station to a roundtable discussion with future Russian diplomats and foreign affairs professionals.  I also had the opportunity to support the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine during the landmark presidential elections of 2014.  Though only a short two years in duration, set against the backdrop of momentous events in Ukraine, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the imposition of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions, and the granting of temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, it made for a very interesting first tour.

Following my assignment in Moscow, I was ready for a drastic change of scenery and climate.  I completed six months of Portuguese language training and I’m now assigned as a Consular Officer to the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I’m currently working in the nonimmigrant visas section, conducting interviews for Brazilians who wish to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, academics, and exchanges.  Later this year, I will have the opportunity to work as a special assistant to the Consul General.  The Summer Olympics is just around the corner, while Brazil is passing through a challenging period both politically and economically.  My second tour in the Foreign Service seems destined to be just as interesting as the first.

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It’s Friday and, having begun my week with newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2010 graduates.  Constantin is a “double Jumbo,” holding two Tufts degrees.  He combined his undergraduate BA with the two-year MALD, reducing his total study time for the two degrees from six years to five.  Few undergraduates have their requirements sufficiently complete to apply to the MALD, and only a few of the applicants are admitted.  I remember meeting Constantin before he even applied and I was very pleased that he agreed to provide a Five-Year Update.

ConstantinHonored to be one of the lucky few “BA-MALD” students at Fletcher, I still remember when I stepped into my first Fletcher class.  Intimidated by my peers, who had accumulated years of experience across an incredible variety of fields, I was also very excited to learn from and grow with them.  And so, for two years, I was fortunate to have fun learning both in the classroom and outside of it.  The students at Fletcher are really its greatest resource: sharp, cross-cultural, filled with fascinating viewpoints and open-minded.  I’m glad I have them as friends today.

Fletcher was a natural step for me at the time.  I was eager to further my studies on the complex web that is international affairs, while also building my academic background on business topics, as I had set my eyes on finance post-grad school — Fletcher was the perfect place to do it.  In the classroom, I focused on International Business Relations and Pacific Asia, while also exploring other topics of interest such as Maritime History and Comparative Legal Systems, and writing a thesis on the rapidly evolving business environment and regulatory framework for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in China.  To further my business studies, I took classes at Harvard Business School, thanks to the cross-registration agreement Fletcher and HBS share.  I also spent time with students and professors pushing ideas to develop a non-profit I had been running for a few years, and attending engaging conferences.  The academic environment at Fletcher was exciting, challenging, and fulfilling, and it left me well prepared for my next challenge.

After Fletcher, I moved to New York and joined UBS Investment Bank, where I helped advise global manufacturing and natural resource businesses on mergers and acquisitions, as well as capital market transactions.  It was great to apply the knowledge I gained at Fletcher.  Professor Jacque’s teachings in accounting and corporate finance were naturally very helpful, while the ability to see the big picture and analyze complex interactions developed in International Relations classes allowed me to add more value while working on deals.  Fletcher also strengthened my comfort working with people from different cultures in different languages.  After a few years in M&A, I started work at Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, in Paris.  The experience here has been phenomenal, analyzing potential investment targets and working alongside portfolio companies to help them grow.

Altogether, my two years at Fletcher were incredibly rewarding, from fantastic relationships, to exceptionally interesting classes, to new skills developed.  I’m proud to be a part of the Fletcher community!

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I started the week with a post from a student, so why not end the week with a graduate from the Class of 2010.  Let’s hear from Beka Feathers, whose post-Fletcher path include a law degree, as well as a new career.

Before Fletcher

Beka Feathers 1Unlike many Fletcher students, I had no prior international work experience before starting at Fletcher.  After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 2006 with a degree in international affairs, I took a position as a policy adviser for the Oregon State Legislature while applying for the U.S. Foreign Service.  I discovered a deep affinity for the work done by state and local government officials to support the everyday lives of Oregonians and to help them achieve their political and economic aspirations.  I maintained my interest in international affairs, and I saw more and more parallels between my work in Oregon state government and the needs of developing and post-conflict countries, where weak or missing governing institutions contribute to political instability, corruption, poor economic growth, and low standards of living.

Fletcher was my first choice throughout my grad school search.  I was drawn by the high caliber of the students as well as the faculty, and the collaborative atmosphere I observed on a visit.  Additionally, I wanted a practitioner-focused school that would help me meld my domestic government experience with my international career aspirations.

During Fletcher

Many students find that the focus of their studies shifts over the course of their time at Fletcher.  I stayed in the same field, but could not have anticipated how much Fletcher would change the trajectory of my professional interests.  I was lucky to end up in two important classes my very first semester: The Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Societies with Professor Louis Aucoin, and Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming with Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church.  These two classes (and many others) helped me find my true passions: working with post-conflict states to develop representative and transparent systems of government, and developing monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure that international governance interventions are having the effect that we hope they will have.

Professor Aucoin was especially influential to my course trajectory, particularly my decision to attend law school after Fletcher.  I was also fortunate to study with Professor Shultz, who taught me to seek the intersection points between “hard” and “human” security issues.  I can’t condense into a blog post how much I learned from my fellow students, who met and exceeded every one of my pre-Fletcher expectations (including introducing me to bhangra!).  Also critical was my summer work with the National Democratic Institute, where I helped to develop a set of benchmarking standards for evaluating democratic legislatures.

Following Fletcher

Beka Feathers 2After graduating, I moved down to DC for three years of law school.  Through a Fletcher friend, I was connected to the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), where I started working in my second year of law school.  I am still with PILPG today, where I have worked with clients in Burma, Georgia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among others.  I currently manage a program focused on transitional justice in Syria, but I have worked with constitution drafting committees, members of parliament, high-level peace negotiation delegations, civil society coalitions, the UN Human Rights Council, and rebel movements.  I use my Fletcher degree in my job on a daily basis.

The education I received at Fletcher allowed me to jump into my work at PILPG at a level of expertise and confidence that put me years ahead of my peers.  The friends I made at Fletcher, and the broader Fletcher community, remain a constant resource for me as well — they are my go-to experts on anything from the rules of procedure for truth commissions to best practices for post-conflict land reform to where to eat on a last-minute trip to Amman.  Beyond all that, the Fletcher ethos is a core part of my identity as a member of the international development community and continues to shape how I perceive the world and my role in it.

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