Currently viewing the tag: "Five-Year Updates"
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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