Currently viewing the tag: "Five-Year Updates"
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.
Unlike 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.
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.
After 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.
It has been a while since we heard from a member of the Class of 2010. These are the alumni whom I’ve asked to reflect on their first five years since graduating. Maria Eugenia’s study at Fletcher enabled her to craft the development career she had first started in her home country of Argentina.
Unlike many of my Fletcher friends, before attending Fletcher I had never studied or lived outside of Argentina, my home country. I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and had, what you might call, a fairly “domestic” upbringing.
When I was 21 years old, my older sister won a scholarship to study in Italy. Visiting her ended up being my excuse to travel around Europe for a couple of months. I was then finishing my studies in sociology at the University of Buenos Aires and had done development work for grassroots NGOs. During that trip I met new people, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and heard new languages. I felt so energized by those differences. I returned home with the certainty that, whatever development-related work I ended up doing after finishing undergrad (because I knew development was the field I wanted to continue in), it would be work that allowed me to explore and learn from the richness of the world and its peoples.
I arrived at Fletcher several years after that trip, with a BA in sociology, and a couple of years of experience working full time for a second-tier microfinance non-profit organization.
If I had to use a word to describe my time at Fletcher it would be “intense.” Everything was new: the way the education system was organized, the people I met, the language I spoke (it was my first time studying in English!). I learned something new every day, and in every conversation I had. I made good friends with people who came from countries that I had barely heard of before.
Having a clear focus on the field in which I wanted to work after Fletcher helped me pick my Fields of Study: I focused my studies on Human Security and International Organizations. Courses like Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Johnstone’s International Organizations, or Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict provided me with the lenses, tools, and critical thinking that I currently use to carry out my everyday tasks. Doing fieldwork during the summer between the first and second years was also a highlight of my Fletcher experience. I did an internship at a Bangladeshi NGO, focused on children’s rights. It was an unpaid internship, but Office of Career Services funding helped me cover my expenses.
After Fletcher, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland. An internship at the International Labour Organization turned into a three-year job working at the Partnerships and Development Cooperation Department. Eager to learn more about technical cooperation and finance for development, I moved to Washington, DC to join the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Team of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund. My tasks in both organizations were related to supporting project preparation, from identification (analyzing grant proposals, writing concept notes for management eligibility), to design (developing theories of change, project documents, logical frameworks, budgets), to implementation (writing progress reports, capturing lessons learned).
Mid-2014, I moved back home to Buenos Aires and continued working for these and other organizations as an independent consultant. I currently coordinate a network of 20+ funders and multilateral organizations working together to generate and share evidence-based knowledge on what works in youth employment. I also facilitate an NGO Community of Practice in Latin America, implementing youth employment projects. Working closely with both funders and implementers provides me with a unique insight into funders’ strategic thinking and implementers’ real-life challenges.
Working independently allows me to focus my time and energy on the projects that I like the most, at a particular time in my life when I really want (and need!) flexibility — my first son, Santiago, was born in March 2015. Having a good skills-set and the right network and credentials has been key to navigating this career change successfully.
Since graduating from Fletcher, I have lived in four countries, worked for two very different international organizations, traveled around 15+ other countries, and fostered friendships all over the world. I have certainly grown and achieved much more than I could even have thought I would when I first applied to Fletcher, and I am really looking forward to what the next five years will bring!
Tagged with: Five-Year Updates
Let’s close out this week with the next Five Year Update from a 2010 graduate. Rebecca is one of the growing number of Fletcher-trained M&E professionals out in the world, and here she describes her trajectory from before Fletcher to her post-Fletcher career.
After graduating in 2005 from Bates College, where I studied political science, studied abroad in Cape Town, and wrote my honors thesis on the gendered nature of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, I knew I wanted to do something international, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I decided to move to Washington, DC and see what opportunities I could find there. I ended up at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy think tank. It was a great introduction to the world of international policy. While at CSIS, I organized high-level membership meetings and special fundraising events. I got to meet Sandra Day O’Connor and travel to China and I was exposed to the field of policy and decision-making. I knew I needed to gain practitioner skills, and graduate school seemed like the logical next step. Fletcher was my first choice — I loved the close-knit community feeling I got when I visited and also that it was outside of the beltway.
At Fletcher, I studied Development Economics and Global Health Policy (a self-designed Field of Study) and graduated with a certificate in Human Security. During my first semester I signed up for a course on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. I had never heard of M&E before and didn’t realize it would have such an impact on my career. As I went through the course that semester, something clicked. I loved the idea of using my analytical skills to help development practitioners learn from and improve the work they were doing. During the summer, I traveled to Malawi with three other Fletcher students and designed an M&E framework for a girls’ education organization. For my thesis, I worked with a small global health organization to design an M&E strategy for the organization’s programming. I believe that the combination of education and practical skills in M&E I gained at Fletcher enabled me to get my foot in the door at Oxfam America after I graduated.
I started at the headquarters of Oxfam America in Boston as an intern — I tell every Fletcher student who contacts me for career advice that it’s OK to take an internship after graduating. It’s a great way to test out an organization and you get opportunities that you would not have as someone external to the organization. My internship ultimately turned into a consultancy, which turned into a full-time position. I worked for almost four and a half years in Oxfam’s Campaigns Department, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of policy advocacy monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). I worked with a variety of campaign teams based in the U.S., supporting them on all things MEL, including developing MEL plans, collecting data, facilitating debriefs and writing evaluation reports. In my last year in the department, I provided campaign MEL support to country teams and led trainings in Nepal and Spain.
My experience in policy advocacy MEL, combined with the program M&E skills I acquired at Fletcher, enabled me to transition to Oxfam’s Regional Programs Department, where I am the MEL Project Officer for domestic programs. I provide technical MEL support and make sure the different programs are effectively monitoring, reporting on, and learning from their work. After working in the international field for almost a decade, it has been rewarding to support programming in my home country. I could not have predicted this career when I first set foot in the Hall of Flags in 2008, but my two years at Fletcher had a profound impact on where I am now, and I am all the better for it.
What better way to celebrate the first work day of 2016 than to return to the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010. This post comes from Adam Welti.
Five years after graduation from Fletcher, I am currently employed by a United States Government technical agency that allows me to work with high-level political leaders to support sustainable natural resource policies — as well as farmers and young people living in and around forests and wetlands that hold some of the greatest biodiversity in the world — to develop more sustainable agricultural practices while improving livelihoods. A career at this nexus was my goal, and my Fletcher experience played a large part in helping me arrive at where I am today.
My international interests began with study-abroad trips that later led to two years with the Peace Corps in Morocco, where I served as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer in a rural Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains. Following this formative experience in Morocco, I taught English at a high school in Saint Dizier, France through the Foreign Language Teaching Program. During my time abroad, I realized I wanted to pursue graduate studies in an international affairs program that had a strong faculty and curriculum in environment and natural resource policy, to augment my undergraduate work in environment and natural resource science. I sought a school with a strong sense of community that reflected the value of community I had come to appreciate as a part of my childhood and later years in Morocco. For those primary reasons, Fletcher stood out as the logical choice for my graduate studies.
While at Fletcher in the MALD program, I focused on International Environment and Resource Policy as well as International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. I was fortunate to have a student job at the Office of Development and Alumni Relations that afforded me the opportunity to interact with the extensive Fletcher alumni network, which has truly lived up to the hype.
The summer between my first and second years at Fletcher, I served as an Advocacy Project Fellow in Liberia supporting a local non-governmental organization through capacity building and environmental education assessments. During my time in Liberia, I met the U.S. Forest Service Advisor to USAID and the Liberian government, who told me about the U.S. Forest Service’s International Programs office. It was this chance encounter that eventually led me to my current position.
Upon graduation from Fletcher, I worked with the Rainforest Alliance supporting their Forest Stewardship Council certification work. In 2011, I joined the Africa and Middle East team of the U.S. Forest Service International Programs, where I manage programs in West and North Africa. Our office works to connect the technical expertise of the 35,000 staff of the U.S. Forest Service with our partners abroad. Through technical exchange missions, policy dialogues, international seminars, and longer-term development projects, we partner with other forestry and environment agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, to sustainably manage natural resources while improving livelihoods.
My work with the U.S. Forest Service allows me to interact with high level government counterparts within U.S. government and host country agencies, as well as with resilient, inspiring farmers in some of the most beautiful places on Earth. In my work across West and North Africa, for example, I have been able to leverage my knowledge and experience in international negotiations and agreements to support capacity related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Managing a complex project and a team that works with more than 300 subsistence-level farmers to integrate fruit and timber trees into their farm lands, while improving incomes and conserving biodiversity, and at the same time informing national-level dialogues related to leveraging international carbon market funding, combines my undergraduate training with my graduate coursework. This has proven to be an ideal match and a rewarding career.
Throughout the five years since leaving the Tufts campus, I have found the Fletcher community to be incredibly strong. Whether meeting Fletcher alumni within the greater U.S. government community abroad or finding myself seated next to a fellow 2010 graduate on a flight to West Africa, the sense of community remains strong even after graduation. I am proud to be a member of the Fletcher alumni network and enjoy being able to leverage what I learned in Medford in my work across the ocean.
For our first Five-Year Update from the Class of 2010, let’s meet Naureen Kabir, whom I remember as an Admissions interviewer during her first year in the MALD program. Because of the recent event mentioned in Naureen’s post, I’d like to note that she originally sent it to me about two weeks ago.
I’ve sat down to write this update several times in the past few weeks, but I keep getting interrupted by world events. To be specific, world events in the form of terrorist attacks. Most recently it was the November 13 attacks in Paris. As an Intelligence Research Manager with the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, my days are very much dependent on terrorist activity around the world, which unfortunately seems constant these days.
I always knew that I wanted a career that had an international focus. Having spent my childhood across Europe, South Asia, and the United States significantly influenced this goal, as did having a mother who had an amazing career that let her travel the world and work on development programs that benefited women and children in the poorest of countries. I spent my summers in college working for a non-profit in Bangladesh. My dream was to follow in my mother’s footsteps and travel the world like she did.
Instead, I stayed in the U.S. after graduating from college in 2004. I spent the first year post-college working at small nonprofits, before getting a job at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
I assumed, when I was admitted to Fletcher, that while my time at CFR had broadened by interests to U.S. foreign policy issues — such as regional security and defense issues — I would still find my way back to the international development world at and after Fletcher. But the classes I took during my very first semester — Role of Force with Richard Shultz, Islam and Politics with Vali Nasr, Policy Analysis with Bill Martel, and Islam and the West with Ayesha Jalal — not only challenged and excited me, they firmly planted me in the International Security Studies camp and set the course for the next seven years of my life.
I will forever be so grateful to Fletcher for the incredible education I received during my time there. The professors I mentioned above were truly phenomenal. Professor Nasr (a Fletcher graduate who is currently the dean at Johns Hopkins SAIS), welcomed questions and debate at all times; Professor Jalal pushed me harder than anyone else to solidify my arguments and analysis; Professor Martel, whom I had the privilege to work with during my time at Fletcher, approached each day with an enthusiasm and positivity that spread to his students. And Professor Shultz, in my opinion, is simply the best.
Besides academics, I met many incredible people at Fletcher, some of whom have become dear friends. And while it often drove me crazy, my time serving as Editor-in-Chief of the The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs was a great experience and taught me skills that I have applied often in my post-Fletcher life.
Following Fletcher, I began work as an Intelligence Research Specialist with the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, as part of an analytical unit known as the Terrorism Threat Analysis Group. Five years later, I currently lead the unit, and have a team of analysts who assess global terrorist networks to determine potential threats to New York City. I spend my days monitoring global developments and attacks, reviewing intelligence assessments, and briefing the NYPD’s senior leadership on threats and vulnerabilities. I also work with the various other units within the Counterterrorism Bureau on ways to bolster security in New York City and train officers in countering specific tactics and terrorist tradecraft. While it is often hectic, and while it often means working weekends and holidays, I truly love my job and the sense of purpose that it gives me every day.
So much of what I learned at Fletcher has been directly applicable to my work at the NYPD, and I remain so grateful for the Fletcher education, as well as the faculty members and friends who have offered invaluable guidance and advice over the past several years. On a personal note, five-years post-Fletcher, my husband and I continue to live in New York City, though we are now exploring the city as parents: Last year, we were blessed with a daughter who is now a very active toddler.
All through this semester I’ve been reaching out to graduates from the Class of 2010 and asking them to write a Five-Year Update for the blog. I’ve now gathered a few posts, with promises of many more to arrive in January.
The Class of 2010 is just a little different from the Classes of 2009, 2008, or 2007 in that it was the first graduating class that included students who completed the MIB program. We’ll be hearing from some of those MIBers down the road. But tomorrow, we’ll read an update from a MALD graduate who found herself going in an unexpected direction with her career.
Some readers put in a special request for the Five-Year Updates in my November survey, and I’m happy to be bringing them back to the blog.
I admit: It’s a little late to be wrapping up Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009. But when I published the most recent post, I realized that every one of the 2009ers were women. Surely there were men in that class! So I reached out to Zack, an Admissions pal from back in the day, and he zapped his post to me in a jiffy. With no further ado, the final Five-Year Update from the Class of 2009, from Zack Gold.
This is really a six-year update, written from Tel Aviv, where I’m a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). My research focuses on the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Egyptian political development, and Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. relations. I’m also an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, which recently hosted me at a conference on Eastern Mediterranean energy security in Washington.
My path to Fletcher developed at the University of Delaware. I was an undergraduate student when the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada against Israel, during the 9/11 attacks, and in the lead up to and start of the Iraq war. Over those years my background in Middle Eastern history and interfaith relations developed into an awareness of and interest in international affairs.
After graduating I worked in Washington for two years at Meridian International Center, where I helped administer the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. In between writing itineraries and booking flights, I tagged along with foreign delegations to meetings at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. I unselfishly escorted one visitor to see the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox: a public diplomacy win for Red Sox Nation!
Before graduate school I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Middle East, so I spent 14 months living, working, and studying languages in Egypt and Israel, while also traveling to Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. My on-ground experiences over that time have informed my work ever since.
This international worldview made The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy an obvious choice. I was extremely impressed with the individuals who made up the Fletcher community, and I took advantage of the flexibility in courses and coursework. In classes on decision-making, statecraft, and public diplomacy, I had the opportunity to develop projects that fit my interests: writing policy briefs, op-eds, and papers; and conducting simulations on politics in Egypt and Pakistan and on the Iranian nuclear program.
I greatly enjoyed the research and writing, not all of which was ground-breaking analysis. The Fletcher School has wisely removed the student-run blog from that time. My most worthwhile contribution probably centered on the best place to get ice cream in the area.
In 2011, two years after earning my MALD, the uprising in Egypt brought two areas of my Fletcher studies back into focus: U.S. democratization policy (about which I wrote a seminar paper) and the Muslim Brotherhood (my thesis: “The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Moderate Islamists, Moderate Democrats”). I began publishing about U.S.-Egyptian relations as an independent analyst, and in May of that year I started a research term at The Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy (since renamed the Center for Middle East Policy).
My Brookings position was a dream job. For three years I worked directly with the very scholars and practitioners whose books and articles I read at Fletcher. I learned from their experiences and guidance, and I had access to incredible leaders and thinkers around Washington and the Middle East. At the same time, I developed my own subject-matter expertise: looking closely at security in Sinai, where a jihadist insurgency threatens both Egypt and Israel.
In addition to work-related and research travel to the Middle East, and a number of independent publications, I had the privilege of authoring a Brookings analysis paper: “Sinai Security: Opportunities for Unlikely Cooperation Among Egypt, Israel, and Hamas.” That paper made its way to the director of INSS, who — in time for the fifth anniversary of my Fletcher graduation — invited me continue my research under the auspices of his institute. I’ve been here since October 2014.
We’re almost at the end of the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2009, especially as they have nearly reached six years since graduating. Today’s update comes from Ivette Tarrida-Soler, who was a favorite member of the student-intern team in Admissions during her two Fletcher years. Let’s hear what she’s been up to.
Five years after Fletcher, I am now what you would call a “Eurocrat” – and proud of it! I became an official of the European Union in 2011, two years after finishing my MALD at Fletcher. Public service has always been my main objective, but I have been lucky to get experience in a variety of sectors. So today I feel like I am only beginning what I hope will be a long career in the European institutions, serving European citizens and representing the EU on the global stage.
I grew up in Igualada, near Barcelona, but got my BA at Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia. There are so many aspects of this experience that opened my mind to the world, that the B.A. in Political Science seems only an afterthought. My early professional experience at the end of university was in human rights law. During my last summer of college, I conducted research for cases related to human rights violations in Nigeria, and afterwards I worked for two years at the law firm Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., in central Philadelphia, as a paralegal for cases related to the violation of human rights during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, and to the international financing of terrorism.
This pre-Fletcher experience opened a path into a career in “something international.” My understanding of what that was, exactly, was very immature, and probably still is — but let’s just call it a good dose of “curiosity.” In any case, professional experience was key to understanding what I wanted from graduate school — which is why I gave up law school for Fletcher!
Being at Fletcher felt like academic luxury, and yet put me so close to practitioners from around the world. I was able to explore various disciplines: I focused on international security and designed my own focus on energy security, but also took courses on humanitarian aid and nutrition, economics, law, and in-depth studies into Iran and China. During the summer, I traveled to Jordan with a group of civil-military students from Tufts University and the U.S. military academies, to do research into the impacts that the Iraq war was having on that country. I wrote my thesis on nuclear proliferation while being a research associate with the nearby Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Both in 2007 and 2008, I participated in the SIMULEX crisis management exercises organized by the International Security Studies Program. Some of my fondest memories, however, are of the wonderful staff at the Fletcher’s Admissions Office, where I worked part-time, and of the prospective students who visited the school or contacted us with questions.
After graduating from Fletcher in 2009, I moved back to Europe to do a one-year traineeship at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy. I was part of a project that looked into the link between the exploitation of natural resources and armed conflict through Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis. I worked alongside engineers as the rare social scientist in the team, and learned a lot about the potential uses of mapping and geo-location analysis to study and respond to conflicts, forced migration, and humanitarian emergencies.
Then I went on to work as a political risk analyst at Maplecroft, a UK consultancy, where I carried out research and analysis of political, economic, regulatory and societal events worldwide, interpreting trends and evaluating the ensuing risks and implications for businesses operating internationally.
In 2011, I became a public official of the European Union. I first worked at the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, which looks into possible breaches of EU law around Europe and which is the only committee that directly communicates with European residents, receiving their petitions and inviting them to attend committee meetings in order to present and to discuss issues with Members of the European Parliament. Most petitions relate to infringements of environmental laws, the right to move freely around Europe, and to violations of other fundamental rights.
Since late 2013, I have been working at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, in the Terrorism and Crisis Management Unit. I work mostly on the European policies that aim to increase protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats, and in particular on the implementation of Regulation (EU) 98/2013, which restricts the public’s access to chemical substances that can be used towards the illicit manufacturing of home-made explosives.
Brussels is, believe it or not, a wonderful city. And it is also home to many Flectherites, so I continue to enjoy the Fletcher spirit and dynamism after all these years.
Tagged with: Five-Year Updates
Our next post from the Class of 2009 comes from Jelena Lukic. While at Fletcher, Jelena served as a member of the Admissions Committee, and I remember well how much I enjoyed working with her. I’m so pleased that she agreed to provide an update on her post-Fletcher life.
My journey to Fletcher started while I was working on governance and youth programs in Iraq. As a native of Serbia, prior to Iraq I had spent most of my early career working with civil society organizations in the Balkans on youth leadership and reconciliation issues. Working in a complex environment such as Iraq helped me realize that I needed to augment my degree in psychology with graduate studies in international affairs.
I chose Fletcher because its multidisciplinary and flexible curriculum enabled me to design an educational experience that would strengthen my existing technical skills and, at the same time, build a new set of professional competencies that I needed to make a career change. To marry my background in non-profit work and my growing interest in the role that the private sector can play in fragile environments, I decided to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues during my time at Fletcher.
I chose International Negotiations and Conflict Resolution and International Business Relations as my Fields of Study. The diversity and flexibility of the Fletcher curriculum allowed me to explore a broad range of CSR issues, such as through Prof. Everett’s petroleum industry class and a clean energy course with Prof. Moomaw. Knowing that the CSR efforts of many companies include health initiatives, I took a global health course. I also benefited from the opportunity to take a CSR course at Harvard Business School. In my work, I still use the analytical approaches I learned in the negotiations course with Prof. Babbitt. Appreciating that two years at Fletcher was a precious time to explore personal interests, I took courses on Iran with Prof. Nasr and oceanic history with Prof. Perry.
At the end of the day, it’s not the classes that made my Fletcher experience so special, but the lifelong friendships I developed. Step practice for the Africa Culture Night was a great getaway from number-crunching lessons. Being a student member of the Admissions Committee was one of the best jobs I ever had, and memories of the weekend on Cape Cod during “Dis-Orientation” week still make me laugh.
My Fletcher experiences led me to develop a clear goal to work on community engagement issues in the oil, gas, and mining industries. My thesis, which analyzed why the relationships with local communities are often tense, despite the many investments that oil, gas, and mining companies make in local development, helped me land a job with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group that is devoted to the private sector in developing countries.
At IFC I worked for more than three years as a Social Investment Specialist, helping oil, gas, and mining companies develop strategic community investments to enhance benefits to local communities. I was a member of the team that developed the Financial Valuation Tool for Sustainability Investments, an innovative tool that quantifies the financial return back to the company from community investments, and helps build a business case for investing in local development and communities. I also worked on developing the Water, Mining, and Communities Framework, which guides mining companies in how to effectively address social risk around water and deliver positive development outcomes.
Working at IFC, I strengthened my expertise in social sustainability. As a next career step, I wanted to experience how the public sector tackles sustainability issues. So, for the past two years, I have been working as a Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, focusing on the application of environmental and social standards in investment lending projects.
Despite having an interesting career, I don’t let my job define me. Through a Fletcher classmate, I discovered sailing as a passion in my life. Obtaining a boat-cruising certificate is one of my biggest accomplishments since graduating from Fletcher. And, of course, the Fletcher crowd joins me in annual sailing trips in the Mediterranean.
Today, let’s meet another graduate from Fletcher’s Class of 2009, Yanina Seltzer.
I was born in Argentina, raised in Costa Rica and finalized my higher education in the United States. From a very early age, I developed a global perspective, especially regarding culture, economic issues, and social realities. I was exposed to harsh economic injustices and social inequalities that sparked my passion for influencing issues surrounding poverty. In college, I focused my studies on politics, economics, and Latin American studies, in line with my upbringing. During this time, I interned at Habitat for Humanity, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
After graduation, I served as an economic analyst at Nathan Associates and as a research analyst at the Inter-American Development Bank. My academic background and professional experience prepared me for Fletcher. It was clear to me that, through my graduate studies, I could maintain my goal of decreasing poverty and inequality by continuing to focus on international development, but also could broaden my regional scope and my understanding of the role of business and the private sector.
When I arrived at The Fletcher School my academic focus was development economics and international business. Yet I also took time for establishing and enjoying community with my peers, which included dancing at nearly every Culture Night. Exploring the business and finance world would bring an important perspective to the work I had already been doing. There were two specific classes, both from my first year, that had a uniquely profound influence on my professional and personal development. The first was Microfinance: Issues and Breakthroughs with Prof. Kim Wilson, which really broadened my understanding of development. I learned that increasing economic opportunities for the poor involves an active role from the private sector, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology as a central catalyst. The second influential class was Prof. Rusty Tunnard’s class in International Consulting. Our project with Sun Microsystems crystallized for me the role that technology plays in poverty alleviation. Creating an engagement strategy for a large technology company in order to bring technology to the Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) merged my previous concepts of finance and technology with the necessary role of social innovation.
I then spent my summer in Rio de Janeiro, interning with Mobile Metrix, a social enterprise that does market research at the BOP. When I returned to Fletcher in the fall, in addition to my Fletcher classes, I cross-registered at the business and medical schools at Harvard. Through those additional classes, I learned how innovative solutions are applied around the world to solve social problems. And as I neared the end of my time at Fletcher, I knew exactly where I would land in the global economics landscape: Financial Inclusion.
After graduating, I completed a summer internship at CGAP/ World Bank. I admired the work of CGAP from afar as a graduate student. It wasn’t long before CGAP asked me to continue beyond my internship experience. My initial focus involved regulatory issues in branchless banking. My work then evolved to market-level analyses and projects centered on mobile-financial services.
In 2011, I relocated to Brazil for nine months, where I spearheaded CGAP’s Brazil strategy in financial inclusion. During this time, I solidified partnerships with some of the largest banks, such as Bradesco and Caixa. I initiated innovative projects with these actors and the private sector, facilitated regulatory discussions with the Central Bank, led workshops with banking associations and Ministries, and interacted with leading stakeholders in financial inclusion. I also led our research agenda, where I got to engage directly with hundreds of low-income customers and understand the reality of their ever-complicated needs and behaviors around financial services.
It was during this time in Brazil that I met hundreds of people living in Rio’s slums, in low-income communities in Sao Paulo, and in peri-urban towns in Recife. This direct interaction gave me long-lasting and unforgettable insights into designing products and services that empowered them and made sense for their lives. In an effort to truly support them in their economic lifestyles, hopes, needs and possibilities, it became clear that face-to-face connection would be the greatest influence in efforts to design inclusive products, services, and experiences.
Two years post-graduation, I was invited to deliver a TEDx talk in my home country of Costa Rica, which was particularly powerful for me. My talk centered on the role of technology in international development and I continue to advocate for that perspective in my current role, which includes leading CGAP’s work-stream in Human-Centered Design and Financial Inclusion and customer-centricity. It came as no surprise that the concepts behind human-centered design center on the influence that direct conversation, observation, and customer-centricity have on innovation. I have been deeply involved with a total of seven financial service providers and several world-class design firms in order to understand low-income customers and better design and deliver products and services to them.
Five years post-Fletcher I remain at CGAP, devoted to topics and concepts that are a true reflection of Fletcher’s nature. My education and my professional experience are the epitome of an interdisciplinary experience: a combination of research methods, creative thought, and business strategy that consistently anchors on the fact that real individuals and communities are the heart of everything we seek to design for and understand. I am recently married and know that my time at Fletcher prepared me for success professionally and personally! Each day, I am full of gratitude for my Fletcher experience and its extended community of alumni and educators.
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