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Alongside the last day of classes today, the blog’s Student Stories writers are wrapping up their commitments for the year. Gary, our writer from the PhD program, is naturally looking ahead to the writing of his dissertation and some pre-research research was involved.
You may have heard the rumor before. A student puts hundreds or even thousands of hours of work into formulating, researching, analyzing, writing and finally defending their doctoral dissertation…only for it never to be read by anyone outside the dissertation committee. To put lie to that falsehood, I plumbed the depths of the Fletcher dissertation archive held at Ginn Library. I selected from the hundreds of available dissertations by picking those written by people with whom I now have or previously have had a connection. For some writers, I have been their student somewhere along the line or they are fellow military officers (active or retired); and for others, I used their research as a resource to prepare for military operations I have personally participated in.
Just to be clear, I didn’t read the dissertations I picked out from cover to cover — after all, some of them exceed 500 pages in length. I mainly read the abstracts and the front matter to get a sense of where the writers, some now notable members of the commentariat, government, think tanks, and so forth, were in their personal journeys while writing their Fletcher dissertations. It was an intriguing experience that I may repeat in the future because I felt like there was a lot more to discover.
With those introductory remarks out of the way, I’d like to provide some general macro-level comments about the nine dissertations I examined for this post. The first notable feature of many of the dissertations was the inclusion of a curriculum vitae or CV. Invariably, these are interesting time capsules of a sort. Looking at where the writers were long ago in their personal journeys makes it easier to imagine a similar path forward for those of us studying at Fletcher today.
Some dissertations include an acknowledgments page, from which it is notable to see the personal connections and broad support required to complete any such project. Often, the authors list out their closest colleagues from among their PhD cohort, and I can imagine those groups of former students studying, debating, and analyzing together in the same spaces in the Fares PhD Research Center under Blakeley Hall where our current crop of PhD candidates does the same thing.
Finally, it’s easy to notice that the physical bulk of dissertations has changed over time. In years past, dissertations were printed only on the fronts of each leaf of paper, leaving the backs blank. This made for some massive tomes, the shelves groaning under their weight. More recently, as the available shelf space for Ginn’s green monster has dwindled, dissertations are now printed on the front and back of each page, making for far more slender volumes.
Moving on to the three dissertations I want to examine in greater detail today, the unifying theme is that they were all written by current members of the Fletcher faculty or staff. I am compelled to start with Dean Stavridis’s 1984 work, not only because he is the head honcho of the school, but also because of the unique marking on its front cover. I would wager that it is one of the only, if not the only, Fletcher dissertation whose demand might warrant such a marking.
Dean Stavridis’s 1984 dissertation was entitled “Marine Technology Transfer and the Law of the Sea,” and it tipped the scales at an impressive 529 pages. I’d say he was ahead of his time in seeing the intrinsic value of the Law of the Sea treaty and suggesting ways in which it could be improved to increase the chances of full Western (read U.S.) buy-in/ratification, but that wouldn’t be a surprise. Our dean is characteristically ahead of his time on many issues, which I think we will eventually see in cyberspace and the idea of a new triad consisting of cybercapabilities, special operations forces, and unmanned platforms, among other topics. Like me, Dean Stavridis attended Fletcher as an active duty military officer.
Next of the reviewed dissertations is Professor of Practice Michele Malvesti’s 2002 work, “Risk-Taking in Countering Terrorism: A Study of U.S. Presidential Decisions to Use Special Operations and Covert Action.” Her dissertation is an examination of prospect theory as applied to decisions to conduct counterterrorism missions during the Carter and Reagan administrations. An interesting note: Professor Malvesti went directly from completing this PhD to working on counterterrorism issues on the National Security Council Staff for five years and, as a result, she is an example of a great resource who has “been there, done that” at very high levels of the U.S. government. I was fortunate to take her National Security Decision Making course last semester, and I found it to be very engaging. Bridging the gap between the policy world and academia, the course is loaded with top-notch guest speakers, contacts of Professor Malvesti from her time in government. Last semester we heard from the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the Assistant Washington Editor for The New York Times, and many more. For those reading who will someday attend Fletcher, I highly recommend the course.
Last for today, a look at the 1998 dissertation of Professor Sung-yoon Lee, “The Antinomy of Divine Right and the Right to Resistance: Tianming, Dei Gratia, and Vox Populi in Syngman Rhee’s Korea, 1945-1960.” It is an examination of the seemingly opposing forces of Confucianism and democracy in Korea during this period. I am currently a student in two courses with Professor Lee and last semester I took another one of his courses. (One of my concentration areas at Fletcher is Pacific Asia, and my dissertation research is related to China-North Korea relations, so it makes sense that I would take many of his courses, as he is one of American academia’s premier Korea experts.) With the shifting relationship between the U.S. and North Korea throughout this academic year, it is not surprising that Professor Lee has been in great demand as a live commentator on numerous television and radio programs. He records many of these from Fletcher’s world-class television studio, part of the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World.
If you’re ever visiting Fletcher’s Ginn Library and you’d like to see something a little different than books, desks, and hard-working students, swing over to the Fletcher Perspectives Gallery. There you’ll find a collection of student photography from travels near and far.
If you’re not going to be on campus or in the library any time soon, all of the photos, going back to 2016, can be found on the Perspectives website.
So far this week I’ve pointed you toward a student’s suggested summer reading list and a student-run blog. Today I’d like to highlight the Capstone Projects that students have written and then shared with the Tufts Digital Library.
The current Capstone requirement allows for a final product in many different forms, including a thesis. Not so many years ago, a traditional thesis was the only option. As a result, the projects can be found in two places: under Fletcher Capstone and under Fletcher Thesis, with some overlap between the two. There are many summers worth of reading in there, but of course you can pick and choose.
“This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden,” writes Rumi, my favorite poet. Jalaluddin Rumi — for those of you who don’t know — was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. I love his poetry because his metaphors are so powerful, and I constantly find ways that his words relate to my own life experiences.
Spring break was quite rejuvenating. Unfortunately the Fletcher Pakistan Trek did not work out, so instead I went home to Alexandria, VA. I soaked in the sunshine during the annual Washington, DC cherry blossom festival, drank lots of Pakistani chai and Kashmiri kahwa, and ate a ton of my mom’s delicious homemade foods. The nourishment was much needed, as it brought back to life my exhausted soul. My “inward garden” is now full of excitement for the second half of this semester, prayers for my final exams and projects, and well wishes for my peers who are graduating in May.
When I arrived back on campus last Monday, I smiled ear to ear when I noticed — quite literally! — an “inward” tree blossoming near the Ginn Library’s main entrance. This wasn’t just any tree, however. Instead of cherry blossoms or flower buds, strips of pure white, pastel green, and soft peach cotton pieces hung from its branches.
I knew what this was: it was a “Wish Tree.”
Let me back up and tell you a little about how this tree came about. Over winter break, Ginn Library solicited photographs from students, staff, and faculty for their Perspectives Gallery, an exhibit that “highlights world cultures with the hope of promoting understanding and tolerance.” I submitted a few shots from my time in Turkey, and much to my surprise, two of my photographs were selected for the gallery. One of these photos depicted an unusual tree that, when I first saw it, gave me a weird sense of déjà vu, but moments later, took me down memory lane.
The tree reminded me of driving up the curvy, dirt road towards our home in a mountainous village in northwestern Pakistan, when we would always pass by a tree, outside of a cemetery, draped in colorful scraps of cloth. When I would wander the road on my own, this tree served as a familiar landmark that I was close to home. During these excursions, I always wondered why people forgot to pick up their laundry from the tree.
On a visit to Pakistan in summer 2011, I finally asked my father why people tied cloths to this tree and left them there. He explained that the cloths were a physical representation of prayers or wishes that people were asking God, and because trees are sacred creations and symbols of life, people hoped to connect with God through nature. Often the prayer or wish is related to health or fertility, but it could also be a request for help, guidance, repentance, strength, or hope.
When I stumbled upon the “Wish Tree” during my travels in Cappadocia, Turkey last year, I was reminded of my father’s words. But unlike the tree from my childhood, this tree had noticeably more white cloths than colorful strips, and instead of being next to a cemetery, it rested next to a rack of broken pottery. In Islam, white symbolizes purity and peace, and is the color that is worn at funerals. I was captivated by the irony of this scene — the colorful pottery hanging by a dried up riverbed, horses roaming in search of grass or water, deserted caves longing for their inhabitants and worshipers; yet the living tree reaching toward heaven in the clear blue skies, its branches heavy with wishes, dreams, and hopes of people from around the world. I would never have realized at first glance that this abandoned scene was home to such a beautiful spiritual life.
Tying cloths to trees is an ancient tradition that is actually quite common across many cultures around the world. The ritual is practiced by the Irish, Scottish, Thai, Chinese, Tibetans, and even Native Americans, to name a few.
When I shared this story with library staff members Cynthia Rubino and Anulfo Baez, they were inspired to bring the Wish Tree to Fletcher. Thanks to their creativity and efforts, anyone who walks through the Ginn Library can now jot down wishes and hang them on the tree. I invite all visitors to Fletcher this spring to stop by Ginn, grab a black Sharpie and a piece of cloth from the basket, and make a wish. And because you’ll be in the library, here’s a reminder from Rumi: “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
I wrote last week about skills workshops that the Ginn Library will offer this fall, and there’s no denying that technology (teaching it, managing it) is a major component of the library staff’s work. But books remain the defining characteristic of a library, and Ginn Library assistant, Lori Zimmerman, recently shared information about a special new collection.
Late in August, a delivery arrived from Dean Stavridis’s office: a cart filled with books by Fletcher faculty and alumni, most with handwritten dedications from their authors to Dean Stavridis or his predecessor, Dean Stephen Bosworth. The books have been placed on display outside the reference and technology offices in the library’s main reading room, and the three packed shelves provide a visual representation of the impressive scholarly work by Fletcher faculty members and graduates.
The diverse book cover designs hint at the breadth of the Fletcher community’s areas of interest. Laurent Jacque’s Global Derivative Debacles: From Theory to Malpractice, its cover showing a digital illustration of a tightrope walker suspended between mountains of numerical data, sits above Leila Tarazi Fawaz’s A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War, its cover showing an early-twentieth-century photograph.
Thank you to Dean Stavridis for providing this sample of his personal book collection. We invite anyone to come in and browse through the books; if one piques your interest, it’s likely the library has a copy available to be checked out and read at your leisure.
Most Fletcher students have multiple academic objectives in mind when they enroll. At the same time as they’re looking to expand their general understanding of the international affairs world, they also want to build specific skills that will help them in their career. Beyond the usual in-class opportunities (public speaking, accounting, etc.), there are often out-of-class opportunities to focus on a key area that will support future work. This morning, Ginn Library sent information about workshops offered cooperatively by Ginn along with the University’s Tisch Library and Data Lab. Each workshop meets once for about 90 minutes. Here’s what’s on offer this fall.
Collecting geospatial data using GPS handheld units: GPS is changing the way users collect and manage geographic data. You will learn how to record locations and other survey variables in the field using GPS handheld units. This field data can then be used for spatial analysis and visualization in ArcGIS and other open source applications, such as google earth and QGIS.
Collecting geospatial data using Survey 123 (phone app): You will learn how to record locations and other survey variables in the field using Survey 123 (phone app). This field data can then be used for spatial analysis and visualization in ArcGIS and other open source applications, such as google earth and QGIS.
An Introduction to Quantum GIS (QGIS): QGIS is a free, open-source software that allows you to create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. More and more NGOs and international organizations are utilizing QGIS for their mapping and data visualization needs. This workshop is ideal for students who have introductory knowledge of ArcGIS. During this workshop, you will learn the basics of QGIS, including topics such as projections, selections, layer styling, and map composition.
Mapping Open Data with R: Know the basics of R already? Add a few lines of code to create beautiful, visually engaging maps for your next project. This workshop will walk you through the basics of loading and manipulating open statistical and geospatial data in RStudio to create high-quality maps. You will create choropleth maps of USA and Massachusetts using American Community Survey (ACS) data, world development indicators from the World Bank, and maps of point density and elevation. Familiarity with data frames, installation of R packages, and geospatial data (shapefiles, rasters, projections) highly recommended.
These sessions are completely optional, but open to anyone who sees a future use for these skills.
If you ask second-year MALD/MIB students, or those in the one-year MA or LLM programs, about their Capstone Projects this week, you’ll find them in every stage of the process: research, writing, editing, DONE! The capstones take a variety of forms — from group work on a business plan to a traditional thesis — and the form might play a role in determining the process.
The Ginn Library invites students to share their capstones each year via the Tufts Digital Library, and some do. While we wait for the 2016 graduates to complete their projects, you can consult the archives to read the works of the Class of 2015.
Though many others at Fletcher have offered their thoughts, I haven’t posted anything yet on the passing earlier this month of Stephen Bosworth, the dean of Fletcher from 2001 to 2013. Readers who want to know more about him could read the University’s report, or this obituary from The Boston Globe, or perhaps this blog post from Fletcher Professor Daniel Drezner.
Although Fletcher grew significantly and there was a great deal of change during his term as dean, I would still describe Dean Bosworth as a quiet and thoughtful presence around the School. In that light, it’s particularly interesting to note the scope of people who commented on his death, from Secretary of State John Kerry, to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, to the Ambassador to North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Dean Bosworth served under two Tufts University presidents, Larry Bacow and Tony Monaco, and was ambassador under three U.S. presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton), in addition to serving as special representative to North Korea for President Obama.
A new portrait of Dean Bosworth was added to the Ginn Library reading room in October and the gathering was an opportunity for many to share kind words about him. There will also be a memorial service for Dean Bosworth in February. His many accomplishments, in so many different settings, will be recognized, I’m sure.
Returning again to the Faculty Spotlight series, today we’ll read about Professor Sulmaan Khan, who is actually on sabbatical this semester. When he rejoins us at Fletcher in the spring, he will teach The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs and Foreign Relations Of Modern China, 1644 to the Present. He also teaches China’s Frontiers.
FRAGMENTS OF A FLETCHER LIFE
Fall — one of those glorious New England fall days when you long to feel the wind in your face. “We’re going outside today,” I announce to the class. Nods of approval. We settle down on the grass, the leaves red and gold around us, and talk of Chinese foreign relations. Later, trying to write about it, I will forget what it was we discussed that particular day. (It was too late in the semester for Koxinga, that crazy warrior whom Japan, Taiwan, and China all claim for their own; it was too early for Deng Xiaoping, with the pragmatism he brought to China and the carnage he unleashed at Tiananmen Square. We could have been talking about the Taiping rebellion or we could have been talking about the Korean War — as I say, I cannot be sure). But I will remember the red-tail.
A pair of red-tailed hawks has been nesting near Fletcher at least since I started here in 2013. And as we talk, one of them comes soaring in upon the winds — a huge chocolate-brown and white hawk, the red tail like fire in the autumn sky — to land in the tree behind us. I pause, mid-lecture, to point it out to the class. For a large bird, the red-tail can be astonishingly adept at hiding; this one chooses to blend almost entirely into the branches. I wait till everyone has seen it before carrying on. It is important, of course, to know the details of China’s past. But you cannot let magic pass you by, and there is something magical about red-tails.
As geniuses go, Bismarck is an astonishingly divisive figure. (But then, so too is Henry Kissinger, who wrote more insightfully about Bismarck than any other historian). I have been trying to explain Bismarck’s problem to my class on The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs: his diplomacy was too complex, too intricate for most people to understand. There was shock, horror when his successors discovered the treaties he had made, the web of alliances and obligations virtually impenetrable to them. Good as he was, I tell the class, he could not prepare the way for his successor.
“I don’t think he can be called good then. That level of disorganization is unacceptable,” says one of my students. A good leader, she explains, creates a system and grooms people who can work it.
“But is it is his fault?” I ask. “Can you blame him if no one else was quite smart enough to understand how the treaties worked?” This is the central argument about Bismarck, and the class — a confident, stimulating bunch — will be at it for the rest of the session.
“He could have color-coded them,” says another student decidedly. She has, I have to acknowledge, a point there.
Ellen McDonald is our research librarian, and, as I invariably tell students working on their capstones, the smartest person at Fletcher. She knows almost everything and what she doesn’t know, she knows how to find out. She is also incredibly idealistic. She believes deeply in the holy myths of academe, in its commitment to seeking truth, the freedoms it grants you for that quest. She has spent time in jail for protesting defense policies she found abhorrent; she has been a foster mother to numerous children. She is as formidable a combination of intellect and heart as one can encounter, and I always come away from conversations with her feeling inspired.
Today, Ellen is talking about elephants.
“Do you know that in the time we have been talking an elephant has been slain?” she asks.
I do know that. In my heart of hearts, I still want to be a naturalist.
“I’ve created a research guide on illegal wildlife trafficking,” she says, punching it up. It is an impressive piece of work.
“We have to save the elephant,” Ellen tells me. “Are you in?”
How could I not be?
In spring, students’ minds turn to their futures. For the second years, there is the job hunt. For first years, the questions are, if not as pressing, perhaps more tortuous. “What is the best way of using this summer to ensure I get a job next year? Can I balance what I want to do with the responsible thing to do? If I do something this summer and don’t like it, can I do something else next year, or has the chance been missed?”
A student has come to me with a gleam in her eye and a ramble planned: she wants to take the Trans-Siberian railway. It is a glorious trip: she will meet people she would never have dreamt of, see Russia and China the way few people have. For a student of international affairs, it will be a learning experience better than any internship. I am proud that she is brave enough to reach for this.
“Take the train,” I say. “You won’t regret it.” I feel a surge of gratitude for my own teachers, for their wisdom in telling me to trust my instincts and take a trail even if I didn’t know where it would lead. One has an entire lifetime to be grown-up and responsible; giddy adventure just might be good preparation for that lifetime. At the very least, it will be fun.
She takes the train. She writes to me in Russian a few months later. She has had a grand time.
At graduation, one of the speakers talks about the problems the world faces: the poverty, the inequality, the death penalty and how it is still practiced in Boston. She is passionate; she is logical; she is all one hopes a speaker would be. “What did you think of it?” students ask later. “We hear some people thought it might not be appropriate.”
“I loved it,” I say. It is their day and they deserve all the congratulations coming their way — but it is wise to temper those congratulations with a reminder that there is work to be done. “I don’t want you to get too comfortable,” I say. “And I’m glad she didn’t let you.”
I think about this as I walk back down towards the Davis Square T-stop. I will not be back to the comforts of Fletcher next fall: a sabbatical has rolled around, and I will be off in Asia, doing research for a book on Sino-Japanese relations (at least, that’s how it starts out. Books are living things; they become what they want to become, regardless of what you plan for them). One needs a change to stay fresh, and I am glad for the chance to head to Japan, China, and Taiwan, to see new places and hear new things. But I will miss Fletcher. It is like nowhere else I know.
A shadow falls on the grass, and I look up. Overhead, a red-tail is climbing in lazy spirals. It circles once more as I watch, then veers off towards Fletcher and is gone.
There is so much going on at Fletcher these days that I can hardly highlight every event, but my good pal, Prof. Leila Fawaz has recently published a new book and it’s such a useful historical perspective on current events that I want to bring to readers’ attention her talk tomorrow. Here’s the announcement. If you’re visiting Fletcher, I hope you’ll attend.
Please join the Ginn library as we welcome
to discuss her new book
Friday, April 3rd, 2015, 2:30– 4:00pm
Ginn Library Reading Room
With introductory remarks from Prof. Jeswald Salacuse
Refreshments will be served and a book-signing reception will follow in the Fares Center.
The Great War transformed the Middle East, bringing to an end four hundred years of Ottoman rule in Arab lands, while giving rise to the Middle East as we know it today. A century later, the experiences of ordinary men and women during those calamitous years have faded from memory. A Land of Aching Hearts traverses ethnic, class, and national borders to recover the personal stories of the civilians and soldiers who endured this cataclysmic event.
Leila Tarazi Fawaz is Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University.
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