Currently viewing the tag: "Maliheh"

Time for another round of thanks and farewell to a graduating student.  Maliheh contributed several posts to the blog this year, despite a heavy in-class and out-of-class workload, and a PhD admissions process that involved twenty schools and one lucky program that she has chosen to attend.  I first “met” Maliheh more than a year before she enrolled in the MALD program, when she first corresponded with our office.  Once I met her, I became a huge fan.  As much as I’ll miss her at Fletcher, I wish her the very best in her coming years of academic toil.  But before Maliheh leaves Fletcher, she offers this last post.

malihehIt is just that time of the year when everyone at Fletcher is finishing exams and preparing for their upcoming internship or new job.  I was preparing for my own internship last year at this time.  Everyone would tell me about Fletcher’s incredibly rich alumni network, but before experiencing it myself, I had no clear idea what a valuable resource this network can be.

From the first day I started my work at the World Bank, I tried to expand my professional connections by networking with people in other departments at the bank.  To my surprise, in almost every department I could find a Fletcher alum with whom I could meet and talk.  Even non-Fletcher people knew very well about Fletcher and would remind me that two current World Bank vice presidents are Fletcher alumni.

Working in the MENA region at the bank, it was not uncommon to hear people speaking in Arabic or Farsi, which I also used in speaking with my supervisor most of the time.  You can imagine that it is not easy to pick out English words exchanged in the middle of a conversation that is not in English, but “Fletcher” is a different kind of English word!  One day, in the midst of a long conversation in Farsi with my supervisor, and in a quite crowded venue, I said “Fletcher” to refer to a specific theory I had learned in one of my classes, and then returned to Farsi for the remainder of the conversation.  The woman sitting next to us picked out that one word and turned to me.  She asked, “I heard you say Fletcher.  Are you a Fletcher alum or student?”  And a very nice conversation followed from there!  Later I thought again about what I had heard before coming to the World Bank about Fletcher’s network, and felt very proud to be part of this extensive and supportive community!

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Incoming Fletcher students have their first interactions with the Office of Career Services during Orientation, which means everyone focuses early on sharpening professional profiles and identifying internship opportunities.  Today, Maliheh tells us how she built her partnership with OCS.

My experience with the Office of Career Services at the Fletcher School has been wonderful.  From the first day, the staff has gone above and beyond in supporting me with my career search.  As an international student, I was facing unique challenges as I sought to build my career and find an internship.  Aside from employment restrictions imposed by U.S. immigration regulations, I was concerned about cultural differences that could affect my ability to successfully present my qualifications.  I was surprised to learn how different an American résumé looks from a résumé I might prepare for employment in my home country.  I had heard something about “networking” as a job-search strategy, but didn’t know that in the U.S., the primary way people get professional positions is through networking appropriate and effective contacts.  I didn’t even have any idea on how I could begin the networking process.

In my search for a summer internship, I relied on the help of Career Services.  The diverse skills and knowledge of the OCS staff matches pretty well with the diverse student body at Fletcher.  Getting a job or an internship in an international organization can be challenging, but there are many opportunities to get your “foot in the door,” which all need a good knowledge of the organizational structure and business culture in that organization.  Before I began my search for an internship within the UN and the World Bank, Career Services helped me in building my résumé and tailoring it to the needs of these organizations, and they helped me to find the appropriate way to approach my contacts.

Initially, I would stop by OCS every other day to ask very detailed questions on how to correspond with my contacts, but gradually I could be more independent than that.  Their assistance helped me find a place where I truly enjoyed working, the World Bank. During my summer at the World Bank, I was amazed to discover how many Fletcher alumni are working there, including two of the bank vice presidents, Rachel Kyte and Hassan Tuluy.  Using the Fletcher network, when I was at the bank, I was offered another internship position at the World Resources Institute, where I had always dreamed to work.  After two months of research at WRI, I received an award that is offered to WRI’s best summer researcher.  I mention this not to brag, but to say that all Fletcher students have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their careers.

About one year ago, as a first-year MALD student, I was filled with fear and stress about the internship search.  I knew that finding a substantive internship can be difficult even for U.S. students, and the challenge would be greater for me, an international student.  By the end of the spring, having drawn on the support of OCS, I was fortunate to be able to select from several internship offers.  Now, as a graduating MALD student, I am extremely grateful for the resources offered within Career Services as they helped me in reaching the next phase of my career path.  Looking forward to my next job search, I no longer have the fear I felt only a year ago.

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Fletcher students generally take four classes per semester, which means that Maliheh, whose progress through the second year of the MALD program we’re tracking in the blog, has now completed her twelfth class.  She offered to provide comments on those classes that had a particularly strong impact on her intellectually.  Here are her notes.

As I had mentioned in my previous blog post, I chose to apply to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in order to gain an international perspective on development and the socio-economic systems in which development takes place.  As a means of complementing my quantitative background, at Fletcher I took classes in econometrics, econometric impact evaluation, development economics, development aid in practice, and agricultural and rural development.  Compared to all the exposure that I had to different disciplines in physical science, I found economic analysis to be a hard and complex subject.  In many cases, it seemed far more complex than analysis in the physical sciences, simply because we cannot usually run controlled laboratory experiments, and because people do not always behave predictably.

I ran my first regression in the summer of 2004, as a student at Sharif University in Iran.  I was working as a research assistant, though I did not understood regression at the time.  After taking Econometrics (EIB E213) with Prof. Jenny Aker, today I understand that the study aimed to use regression to uncover and quantify interesting causal relations.  Prof. Aker equipped us with the facts, intuition, and experience necessary for independent econometric research and for critical reading of empirical research papers, which opened the door for me, creating  many opportunities to work at international organizations.

I used the skills I had learned in Prof. Aker’s class last summer, working at the World Bank, Office of the Chief Economist for the MENA Region.  The paper that resulted from my research will be presented at the 19th Annual Conference of the Economic Research Forum in Kuwait in March.  I found econometrics to be a field in which many abuses are possible, and in which things can go wrong with every step, from the formulation of the original ideas for the problem, to the printing of the final report.  Being statistically literate helps in recognizing when to be skeptical about statistical claims.

Born and raised in the Iranian countryside, I had the powerful experience of living in a rural area where my mother was our village’s only teacher.  I was in close contact with acute poverty and famine in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war, and I could see how being poor can affect the way people think, decide, spend, eat, and educate.  Though, at that time, I could not foresee any solutions for these challenges, I have always been motivated by a desire to find solutions.  Later in my studies, I learned that connecting the poor to the growth process is the unifying theme of many development agencies.

In development economics with Prof. Steven Block, we learned more about poverty and its relationship with inequality and growth, long-run economic growth, short-run recovery from economic shocks, and major public-policy challenges facing governments when they implement economic interventions.  I also learned that a state’s natural resource wealth, including energy resources, can negatively influence its economic development, through currency appreciation, market volatility, political shortsightedness, and reactionary vested interests.  Therefore I could answer my old question on why resource rich countries, such as Iran, perform poorly on improving economic outcomes.

Spending last summer working at the World Bank, I also became aware of the tremendous policies and programs initiated and implemented by international organizations, and I was always wondering how they measure whether a particular intervention, policy change, or program actually causes change in development outcomes.  I found answers to my question back at Fletcher in the fall, when I took Prof. Aker’s course in econometric impact evaluation in which we were provided with a set of theoretical, econometric, and practical skills to estimate the causal impact of a policy or program.

Thus, not only did Fletcher’s curriculum help me to connect my past aspirations to my future goals, but my education at Fletcher was well matched with the need in industry.  There was a neat back-and-forth between what I learned, how I was able to apply it, and new questions that emerged and would be answered in later classes.  The relevance of my Fletcher curriculum so far has ensured there was never a gap between what I learned in the classroom and what I saw applied in the field.

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Today I’m introducing the second student who is participating in the Student Stories feature in the blog.  Maliheh Birjandi Feriz is a second-year student pursuing Development Economics and  International Environment and Resource Policy as her Fields of Study.  Like Mirza, who told his story a few weeks ago, I asked Maliheh to contribute to this blog feature simply because I’ve enjoyed getting to know her.  I hope blog readers will find her story interesting.

When I first applied to Fletcher, I didn’t know how it would change the path of my career.  I knew my background had many valuable elements, but I hadn’t found a way to fit the pieces together.

I received dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Industrial Engineering and Petroleum Engineering from the Sharif University of Technology (known as the MIT of Iran), and a Master of Business Administration from the same university.  One of the best things about an engineering career is the wide range of projects you can work on.  I’ve done everything from computer programming to simulate an oil reservoir, to a system-dynamics analysis exploring the impacts of deforestation on household income.  Although it might sound unrelated, the analytical skills I acquired in engineering came into play as important factors in explaining my success in business.  Through my experience working on practical projects, I learned that engineers who turn into organization managers and leaders need not completely give up their technical creativities; a high ranking manager can also be a technology expert, and in fact, this combination of expertise is well suited to the rapid pace of innovation and global competition.  As an entrepreneur, I launched my own management consulting firm, and tried to sell multidisciplinary services in a market that was then blind to environmental values, and also ignorant of young women entrepreneurs, which brought me enormous cultural challenges.

Through running my own business and face-to-face conversations with senior-level managers, I became aware of my then very local perspective on environmental systems, without a clear connection to the broader regional and global efforts.  However, finding a graduate program in which I could enhance my knowledge of global environmental issues, and at the same time interact with people who can see both sides of this interdisciplinary spectrum, was not an easy task.

This was my motivation for applying to the Fletcher School.  I came to Fletcher intending to leverage my experience on environmental policy-related issues and reorient it through an international lens, but I found that my coursework had an even more profound impact.  In my previous degree programs, disciplines were kept strictly separate.  At Fletcher, I found that the pieces fit neatly together through an interdisciplinary approach.  With an opportunity to select classes from several disciplines simultaneously, I was able to uncover my own competitive advantage, which will shape my career for the rest of my life.  Moreover, I have taken advantage of this multidisciplinary environment in different ways to sharpen my skills in research, leadership, teaching, writing, and communicating with others.

At Fletcher, I found people were genuinely interested in different cultures.  To declare oneself as Iranian was not an unusual thing.  From my first visit to The Fletcher School, and seeing the flags of all countries (including Iran’s) around the Hall of Flags, I realized that it is safe here to say, “I am an Iranian.”  Not only did I feel completely comfortable with my classmates, but here I was also exposed to a very diverse environment.

Now I am in my second year at Fletcher.  I spent last summer as a consultant at the World Bank, and I am preparing applications to PhD programs.  Although only a little more than a year has passed since I first enrolled at Fletcher, I feel like I’ve gained ten years worth of perspective on how my academic and professional experience will fit together in the future.  I don’t think I could have gained this perspective in any other way.

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