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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.
Time to check in with another 2008 graduate. Please meet Darren Long who, like our newest students, was a “Januarian.”
The Fletcher School appeals to a certain kind of person and from the moment I discovered the school, I knew I was one of those people. Fletcher’s broad, globally-oriented and cross-functional course listing matched my interests perfectly, stretching from agricultural economics to international negotiation to diplomatic history. The independence allowed by the MALD program would allow me to combine foundational courses with insightful and cutting-edge topical subjects to pursue a truly unique course of study. And the backgrounds of Fletcher’s students and alumni was proof that it was a gathering place for like-minded individuals.
I joined Fletcher at the beginning of 2007 as “Januarian,” along with about 20 other students starting at mid-year. We were immediately swept up in class schedules, along with a range of other social events. My Fields of Study were Pacific Asia and Development Economics, with a particular focus on China, where I had lived and worked prior to Fletcher. I also found Fletcher’s courses in policy analysis, international business law, agricultural policy, and analytical frameworks to be especially useful.
Following my first semester, I moved back to China for the summer to study Mandarin and prepare for Fletcher’s language requirement. While there, I connected with Ecom Trading, one of the world’s oldest physical commodities firms, and was offered a position as a commodity market analyst in Shanghai following graduation. My knowledge of Chinese political economy — which greatly impacts global commodity markets — along with agriculture, economics, and finance, made for a unique set of competencies, developed in large part while at Fletcher, that directly helped me to land the position.
I was able to build preparation for my upcoming professional role into the rest of my coursework at Fletcher, making analysis of the Chinese cotton sector the focus of my thesis, and completing a one-semester exchange program at the China Europe International Business School in the Fall of 2008. The combination of work and study helped me both prepare better for my career and make use of all of Fletcher’s many resources.
Since graduating from Fletcher, I have worked for Ecom as a commodities trader in China, Australia, and the United States. On a given day I may work on a deal with a large Asian trade house or U.S. producer; buy and sell commodity derivatives; write a market report or policy memo; analyze futures prices or supply and demand information; examine a sustainability project; or prepare a case for international arbitration. And it was my experience at Fletcher that helped prepare me for all of these endeavors and more.
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!
I’ve let a month slip by since I introduced the first member of the Class of 2008 to be profiled. Continuing with the updates from this class who graduated just over five years ago, let me introduce Carmen Arce-Bowen. I can remember working with Carmen during her application process, so it’s amazing to me that it has already been five years since she was at Fletcher!
I have always been very interested in learning about other cultures, their traditions, their food, their history and their language. I come from a medium-sized town in Northern Mexico. Most of our exposure to other cultures is only to the U.S., because of our proximity to it.
I was part of the Rotary Club Youth Exchange program after I graduated from high school. I spent a year in Germany learning its culture and language. This experience definitely solidified my desire to live in another country and be part of a multicultural and transnational community. After my year in Germany, I returned to Guadalajara, Mexico to study law in a five-year undergraduate program. While studying there, I met my now husband … who happened to be from Massachusetts! We got engaged during my last year of law school and moved to Boston in the summer of 2005.
While in school in Mexico, I interned at the Economic/International agency of the state, at the National Immigration Institute, and at a local law firm. At that time I wanted to study law in the U.S. to become an immigration law attorney and work with the Latino community.
I applied to LL.M. programs and to Fletcher, hoping eventually to complete both programs. I learned about Fletcher from a good friend of my husband who had graduated just a few years before. I was admitted to two LL.M. programs, but not to Fletcher. I decided to attend one of the LL.M. programs and re-apply to Fletcher the following year. I wanted to study policy and development, and take a more macro-level approach to immigration and other economic and social development issues. Fletcher was my top and only choice for a policy graduate program.
I started the MALD program in the summer of 2006. My Fields of Study were Development Economics and Latin America. I interned at a local international development agency called Grassroots International for a summer and throughout one academic year.
My experience at Fletcher was an intense and very rewarding one. Classes were definitely challenging, with all sorts of assignments, mid-terms and presentations. But sometimes I just couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to simply hang out and chat with my classmates (and professors) — all well-rounded, down-to-earth, smart people. We came from different paths in life, but we all had the same desire to learn and change the world.
During my second year, I became president of the Latin America club. We organized 10+ events with a budget of $500! One of the events included all the Latin American consuls in the Boston area. The consuls were grateful for this invitation and said that it was not very often they happened to be in the same room together.
Right after graduation, I worked for three years at a local non-profit organization doing economic and social development work. We organized revenue campaigns, and trained grassroots groups on the importance of civic engagement, on government transparency, and on tax revenues in the state. I did it all, from talking to the media, to training members of local unions, to writing blogs, to drafting grant proposals and grant reports. I was also very involved locally in three nonprofit boards and as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women. Networking has definitely been a key part of my professional development in Boston.
Two years ago, I came to work in the office of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick as Director of Personnel and Administration. In the personnel office we oversee applications for justices of the peace, notaries public, and public administrators in the state, along with one-day marriage designations. We also oversee the internship program for our office and run background checks on all high level managerial hires in the state.
My experience at Fletcher was one of the most rewarding of my life. It shaped how I see the world, how I interact with my colleagues, and how I see life through the lens of global understanding. I can only hope that I can pass all this experience to my three-year-old daughter – who hopefully will become a Fletcherite, too!
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