Currently viewing the tag: "MIB"

Time to return to the first-year students who I hope will be two-year bloggers, sharing their Fletcher stories with you.  Today we’ll meet McKenzie, who describes her path to the MIB program and her first two-plus months in it.

McKenzieHi everyone!  My name is McKenzie Smith.  I’m thrilled that I will be sharing my experiences in the Master of International Business (MIB) program over the next two years.  To get started, let me share a bit about where I come from, where I’m going, and how I plan to use my time at Fletcher — the things I imagine you’re considering yourself.  In short, I’m here at Fletcher to explore the growth and adoption of impact investment that helps develop emerging markets.  In particular, I’m interested in the role that capital flows can play in encouraging businesses to consider their environmental, social, and governance impacts on society in the course of their operations.

Before Fletcher, I spent four years as a consultant helping public- and private-sector clients solve complex challenges related to strategy and operational efficiency, organizational design, and large-scale program management.  I also supported business development efforts for multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia.  Prior to that, I taught kindergarten in Colorado after studying international development and international politics at Georgetown University.  One thing I’ve learned from my varied experience is that tackling multi-dimensional challenges necessitates interdisciplinary solutions.  Leveraging finance to build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote economic transformation requires a complex set of actors, from investors to academics, NGOs to businesses, who must work in a coordinated manner to enable citizens and businesses to create economic value.  Achieving this through a lens of social impact can be even more challenging as investors and entrepreneurs seek to create social value that does not cause a loss of financial returns.

Yet, while facilitating the growth and adoption of impact (or “socially responsible,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance/ESG”) investing is fraught with obstacles, I find myself saying, “Challenge accepted!”  In fact, individuals around the world can and are finding innovative ways to blend social value with financial returns.  A growing number of investors from the millennial generation are demanding it, and more and more institutions are devoting resources to research and fund development that creates opportunities for investors to “put their money where there values are.”

I could keep going, but I’ll jump to the question you’re likely asking at this point: in light of these goals, why Fletcher?  In short, I came to Fletcher to focus on international finance and social enterprise in emerging markets because Fletcher offers the right mix of rigorous MBA-type skills and an understanding of the multiple social, political, and economic issues inherent in conducting business around the world.

In terms of core business and finance skills, this semester alone I’m taking courses in corporate finance, global investment management, and financial statement management.  I’m building concrete skills in valuation, financial analysis, portfolio construction, and strategic decision making.

In terms of social enterprise in emerging markets, I’m taking a course called “Emerging Africa,” which examines the role of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the private sector in African economies’ transformations.  This course is unique at Fletcher, especially for MIBs.  While many of us considered traditional MBAs and could have found similar courses in those programs, we would not have had the chance to take these courses alongside friends focused on human security, development economics, negotiation and conflict resolution, security studies, or environmental and energy policy.  Because the growth of entrepreneurship in emerging markets is intimately intertwined with an in-depth understanding of many of these issues, the Fletcher experience for students interested in international business cannot be beat.

As before, I could certainly go on.  In some ways, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just arrived!  At the same time, already in the second half of my first semester at Fletcher, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies.  I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you as the year progresses.

Until next time,

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With a fluid community of students who are on campus for only one or two years, it is often possible for new members of the community to take leadership roles in the organization of their choice.  Student blogger Ali recently took the helm for Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter.

The last time you heard from me, I had just returned from the annual Net Impact conference in Minneapolis.  That was a few months ago, and a lot has happened since then!

After the conference, projects with several of the contacts I met came to fruition: A corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant from VOX Global hosted a campus workshop on CSR consulting tools within the communications realm, looking at stakeholder mapping, the Global Reporting Initiative, and more.  The community relations manager from Southwest Airlines expressed an interest in receiving graduate assistance with partnerships along the airline’s new international routes, and is now sourcing that help through Fletcher’s Global Consulting class, taught by Prof. Tunnard every spring.  Lastly, a CSR analyst from Brown-Forman agreed to come speak at Fletcher’s upcoming Sustainability Conference, hosted by the school’s Institute for Business in the Global Context, and to meet with Net Impact members separately.

All these very exciting turns have been part of my pathway to becoming the new president of Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter, as the previous co-presidents head off to exciting beginnings — one to complete her dual MALD-MBA degree at IE Business School in Madrid, and the other to continue her independent research with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Mentorship and leadership transitions between first- and second-year students are an important part of daily life at Fletcher, since the school has an abundance of student clubs and traditions that need to be carried on from year to year.

My Net Impact experience was a highlight of my first semester, and probably will continue to be one throughout my two years here.  It allows me to work in teams with some of my favorite classmates to plan events; to contact professionals and create programming that empowers students to drive social impact; to develop leadership skills for my resume; and to connect with other Boston-area students to participate in Net Impact events with the broader national network.  I look forward to updating you when I discover what summer internship it helps me land!

Until then, I’ll leave you with a video of my favorite Fletcher moment in 2014: waltzing with MALD student Peter Worth in front of the Symperoper in Dresden, Germany.

It was our submission to Fletcher’s annual “Where The Hell Is Fletcher?” video.  Here’s a past version, which I highly recommend you watch!

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Our Student Stories bloggers are back on campus and checking in.  Today, Alex reflects on his first semester in the MIB program.

My first semester at The Fletcher School was quite an experience: immersing myself in my business and energy classes, getting to know my accomplished and passionate classmates, and participating in events with Nobel laureates.

First and foremost, I have been struck by the immediate and tangible benefits of being a part of such a small, tightly knit school.  Let me give you a couple examples of these benefits from my experience so far:

Small Classes, Meaningful Discussions

Many of my classes were quite small, facilitating open and deep discussions, as well as fostering much more meaningful relationships with professors.

One example was my Managing the Global Corporation course taught by Prof. Thoman, F67, whose accomplishments and accolades include being the CEO of Xerox and Nabisco, the CFO of IBM, and a recipient of the French Legion d’Honneur.  Instead of just teaching us analytical frameworks pulled from textbooks or reviewing business cases of other people’s experiences, Prof. Thoman helped us understand how decisions are actually made in the C-suite, based on examples from his own extraordinary career.  This class only had a dozen students.

Another example was my Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy class taught by Prof. Kates-Garnick, F84, who was the Undersecretary of Energy for Massachusetts.  As Massachusetts has one of the most advanced and successful clean energy policies in the U.S., Prof. Kates-Garnick is precisely the type of person you want to learn about energy policy from.  Instead of simply discussing theoretical policies, she put us in the decision-maker’s seat and had us consider the tough trade-offs associated with different options.  This class only had seven students.

The opportunity to take courses sitting around such a small table with industry forerunners and policy makers with real-world experience reaffirmed that this school is not just teaching us theory; Fletcher truly is a school for practitioners, taught by practitioners.

Exclusive Conferences, Valuable Insights

As part of this focus on staying connected to the real world outside the halls of academia, Fletcher encourages us to attend the plethora of conferences hosted in Boston.  A great thing about Fletcher, however, is that it can help you get into the ones that actually matter.

For example, Prof. Kates-Garnick invited me to a small private conference held jointly by The Fletcher School and the Harvard Kennedy School for one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world.  The meeting, attended by the top energy minds of the two schools and the top executives of this global firm, was an eye-opening experience on how corporations inform and conduct their highest-level strategic planning process.  I was impressed by the executives’ grasp of international affairs (it came as little surprise that some were Fletcher graduates), and was reminded of the value of the Master of International Business (MIB) degree I am pursuing.

I was also able to attend a cleantech conference with the leading businessmen and women in Boston thanks to a generous grant from Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.  Just about every other person at the conference was a president or CEO, while I was one of only three students able to attend, due to the cost.  Access to the event proved invaluable, however, both in terms of the content of the panel discussions and the contacts I established; I left with an internship for the next semester doing research for a private equity fund acquiring wind farms across North America.

Not only are these types of conferences interesting, they provide access to the fields students are interested in, and to the people who shape those fields.  If it had not been for Fletcher, I would not have been able to attend, or even have heard of, these conferences.

Fletcher is a small school that delivers monumental output.  The professors and events students have access to are but a couple of the benefits of attending a small school.  It is these types of opportunities that ensures that students are at the leading edge of their fields, and that The Fletcher School stays at the forefront of the world’s most pressing issues.

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Completing the round of posts from our returning student bloggers, Mark looks back at his first year at Fletcher from his second-year vantage point.

Mark Attia 1I recall that when I arrived on campus last fall to begin the MIB program, I observed our second-year brethren interacting in the halls after returning from summer.  Like long-lost siblings reunited, not a twosome could pass each other without a hearty embrace.  Equally memorable was learning of all the impressive and often exotic ways the MIB’s had spent their summer.  But what was even more inspiring to me was the certainty with which second-years assured us that we, too, are embarking on what promised to be a spectacular year.  They were right.  Our first year has since passed in a blink, and I, for one, learned first-hand what was behind all that enthusiasm.

I last wrote in the spring on how I was developing my own area of expertise by tailoring coursework to specific academic and professional goals.  I was focused on learning about international project and infrastructure finance, and looking for an opportunity to break into the field.  Thanks exclusively to the Fletcher network, I landed a position with OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which was, without exaggeration, exactly what I was aiming for.  OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, and it offers a range of products designed to help U.S. firms invest in emerging markets.  OPIC also plays a meaningful role in advancing foreign policy goals in a way that I characterized as “fostering peace, through superior debt financing,” which is my own commentary on how militarism has been eclipsed by more subtle measures of economic statecraft and leverage.

I joined the Structured Finance division, where my team and I worked on loans for large and complex multi-party projects, including a wind farm in Pakistan, a concentrated solar power plant in Israel, and a social-impact-oriented housing finance facility in Haiti — projects that cost over one billion dollars together.  My responsibilities included credit analysis, due diligence, research on foreign regulations, economic assessments, and interpreting elaborate concession and loan agreements; all tasks that required me to draw on my training outlined in my earlier post on a daily basis.  But what arguably proved to be most invaluable was a broad and nuanced understanding of the global context in which I was operating, enabling me to offer authentic perspectives on matters with an insight that only Fletcher can provide.

The experience convinced me that, in purely commercial terms, the MIB program equipped me with precisely the right set of skills and body of knowledge to excel in an internationally focused financial career that was otherwise entirely new to me, and it was Fletcher that made the opportunity possible.  But the value Fletcher creates for us does not stop there.  In my case, I have participated in the Building Bridges Symposium to learn from the industry’s foremost thought leaders, and have been provided connections to many astonishing alumni in the field, including international banker John Greenwood (F04), prolific builder Philip Asherman (F04), and pioneer Mimi Alemayehou (F98).  These are just a fraction of the resources available to us, all part of a brilliantly executed mission to prepare future leaders for the global stage and illuminate a path forward.

Returning to campus this fall, I was greeted in the hallway by our dean, James Stavridis (F83, F84 and the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, mind you), who inquired about my summer with equal fascination as a parent.  The moment was striking, and reinforced a sentiment solidifying in my mind since I first witnessed those second-year classmates interact.  There is an unmistakable culture that resonates throughout Fletcher, a kind of kinship that binds not only students together, but also us to our faculty, to our staff, and to our alumni.  In my view, our culture is the real prize, the engine of enduring value, and an honor to be a part of.  Like my classmates before me, I know first-years will discover their untapped potential, see locked doors swing open, and become a part of the Fletcher family, as I have; and all after merely one year.

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Earlier this year, the Institute for Business in a Global Context took a look back at what it has accomplished in its first three years (and what it currently does) in pursuit of its mission to focus “on the interplay between global business and the key forces that shape the context in which enterprises operate.”  The result was a nice publication!  Take a look!

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Whether on paper or online, reading the newspaper is nothing new to Fletcher, but the MIB program has recently given new meaning to the phrase.  Kristen tells us more.

This academic year, the MIB program has launched a new lecture series called Fletcher Reads the Newspaper.  The series gathers Fletcher faculty and guests to debate, from an interdisciplinary perspective, several sides of a recent business-connected news item. Topics this year ranged from the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh to Edward Snowden’s impact on Google.

The goal of Fletcher Reads the Newspaper is to bring the faculty’s multiple viewpoints together for students in a way that doesn’t always happen in a classroom setting.  Once the professors have established the context for the problem, Dean Chakravorti runs a case-style discussion through which student attendees solve a problem related to the challenge.  These sessions give students the opportunity to be analytical and thoughtful about the headlines we see every day.

You can read more about recent sessions, including full event reports, on our website.

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It had always been my plan to line up a first-year MIB student to contribute to the Student Stories in the blog.  I just hadn’t anticipated it would take me until March.  My own lack of speed notwithstanding, I’d like to introduce Mark Attia, a first-year (at least for two more months) MIB student.  Following his second year, Mark will leave Tufts with two master’s degrees — from Fletcher and from the department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.  That (MIB and UEP) is, to date, a unique combination, and today he writes about how he (or you) can develop expertise at Fletcher.

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Mark and his sidekick, Hazel.

For Fletcher students with wide-ranging curiosities, choosing from some 80 fascinating courses offered each semester is like shopping in an “intellectual candy store,” as one of my professors put it.  But, for those of us who have more narrowly focused interests, it may not be obvious how Fletcher’s interdisciplinary curriculum will make it possible to build a thorough body of knowledge in the area of your unique passion.  After all, there may not be a specific course on, say, private equity frameworks for emerging markets, impact investing, or sustainable commodity financing.  Yet each of these are precisely the kind of subject areas that some of my classmates are exploring, well beyond the scope of our syllabi.

To a great extent, the well designed and complementary Fields of Study and breadth requirements will help concentrate your efforts.  Even so, there is yet another avenue through which you can develop your own area of expertise: within most courses, you’ll find the flexibility to select case studies and write research papers on matters of your choosing pertaining to the subject area.  In my experience, this option is a powerful way to examine an area of scholarship from multiple perspectives, and emerge from Fletcher fully armed with an arsenal of hand-picked skills and knowledge.

Here is how I am approaching developing my own areas of expertise.  But first, let me give you a bit of background.  In my view, global urbanization is the most consequential development of our lifetime; a phenomenon which carries far-reaching implications for all facets of the socio-economy, environment, and business.  I see a rapidly evolving world where our attention will increasingly be focused on the opportunities found in emerging-market cities, and I turned to The Fletcher School to deepen my understanding of this global urban context.  Before Fletcher, I had a mix of experience, including with a major water utility and a low-income housing finance bank, and I subsequently pursued a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning here at Tufts.  For my Fletcher Fields, I selected International Finance and Banking and International Political Economy.  My aspiration is to harness these experiences and learning and join a private firm with global reach engaged in developing core civil infrastructure assets and real estate.

Right from the start, I began asking questions relevant to my interests.  For example, what is the role of real estate bubbles in triggering a financial crisis?  In one elective, History of Financial Turbulence and Crises, I was able to research elements of the relationship, and discovered ill-forgotten lessons from around the world.  How do we solve inhumane slum conditions in frontier cities?  In Development Aid in Practice, I presented to the class on an innovative incremental-housing solution that is addressing the burgeoning urban slums in India.  How is urbanization impacting the environment?  In Elements of International Environmental Policy, I wrote a final paper on the benefits and challenges for cities and surveyed policies aimed at sustainable urban development.  How do we finance the infrastructure that the world needs to grow?  In Large Investment and International Project Finance, our case analyses covered sectors from high-speed rail, to the Three-Gorges Dam, toll-roads in Europe, and oil assets in Kazakhstan.  How do we negotiate cross-boarder deals?  In Mergers & Acquisitions, a law class, I examined the takeover of Australian infrastructure assets by a Canadian firm.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

In total, I have largely relied on the magic of the proven Fletcher formula to guide my learning.  But I have also been encouraged and given the resources to dig deeper into my passion through my coursework.  (By the way, I am entirely ignoring the irreplaceable contribution of our extraordinary classmates, faculty, and guest speakers in this discussion, but these are easily the subject of other posts.)  If you’re not sure where your passion lies, at Fletcher you will embark on an intellectual adventure that will expose you to a world of fascination.  But, if you are confident that you know your academic goals, Fletcher offers a limitless reservoir of resources and opportunities to help you achieve these goals and emerge exceptionally well prepared for any career.

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An eagle-eyed reader yesterday picked up on what appeared to be a blog error, but actually reflects some news.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that there is no midyear (January) admission for MIB students.  Then last week that changed, to allow prospective MIB students the option of applying to start their degree studies in January.  The eagle-eyed reader had spotted the new deadline/enrollment information on other pages of the website.

What was going on behind the scenes?  Not all that much, to be honest.  Over the life of this relatively new program, there had been a few students who started in January instead of September.  That is, they were admitted for September, but something kept them from enrolling in the planned semester.  (The explanations were usually visa problems or personal emergencies.  Students with other issues would have been advised to defer their enrollment for a year, to the following September.)  Although there are some challenges for MIBers who start in January (for example, they don’t meet their classmates in the pre-session), the challenges turn out to be surmountable, and we made the decision to allow students to make their own decision on when to enroll.

We still anticipate that the majority of MIB students will start in September, but we will no longer mandate it.  If January is the right time for you to start your studies, we invite you to apply to either the MALD or MIB program.  And, since the application is ready for you (and is due October 15 for January enrollment), feel free to get started on those essays!

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When I returned from vacation this week,  I was pleasantly surprised to find that staff members are no longer alone in the building (with the occasional visit from a professor and/or the GMAP program).  The MIB pre-session started on Monday and runs for two weeks.  Although the pre-session is part of the MIB core curriculum, incoming and continuing students in other programs are also invited to participate, and some do.  So by the time I walked past the library this morning, I could already see two study groups hard at work.  Like robins in the spring, MIBers are harbingers of a new season to come — in this case, the start of the academic year.

Even more activity awaited the Admissions team when we returned from lunch yesterday.  (Team lunch:  a great idea, contributed by Christine, to get us all out of the office at the same time.)  As we approached the building, we saw a veritable crowd outside the front entrance. Though not Fletcher students, it was good to see the participants from Women2Women.  They must have been here for their session with Prof. Tunnard, who presents a workshop on “Using Social Media for Social Change.”  My daughter, Kayla, participated in W2W two summers ago.  It’s a really interesting program that brings together powerful young women from around the world.

The pre-sessioners will still be here next week, and then orientation starts the following Monday, August 26.  WOW!  I am not happy at how quickly the summer has gone, but I am definitely looking forward to meeting the new students we’ve been working with since we first read their applications!

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A prospective applicant asks:  What can an applicant with a less quantitative background do before applying, to enhance chances of admission?

My answer is going to depend on the applicant’s goals and where the applicant is in life.

If the applicant is still pursuing an undergraduate degree, my advice is certainly to take micro- and macro-economics and statistics courses before graduating.  A solid economics foundation is what many of our peer schools are looking for, too.

If that undergraduate ship has already sailed, and if the applicant is interested in Fletcher’s MIB program or a quant-focused curriculum in the MALD, MA, or PhD program, I would generally suggest either taking classes in economics and/or statistics before applying, or at least making arrangements to take them before the wished-for enrollment date.  Getting strong grades for the quantitative work before applying is particularly important for those who either have lackluster quantitative scores on the GRE or GMAT exams, or who had only modest success in quantitative courses while an undergraduate.  (If you can do better than your grades or test scores indicate, you’ll want to prove it!)  If, on the other hand, you can present evidence (such as test scores and grades) of strong quantitative ability, you may be able to get away with simply telling us in advance of your January-to-August plan to make up for your lack of quantitative training before starting Fletcher classes.

If the applicant predicts a complete life of quantophobia and has no interest in quantitative Fields of Study at Fletcher, I would probably suggest taking economics and statistics/quantitative reasoning before enrolling anyway, but not necessarily for admissions purposes.  So long as past testing and course grades demonstrate adequate command of quantitative matters, what the Admissions Committee will want to see is proof of ability to survive our basic economics and quantitative reasoning classes (or even to test out of them).

What does this lack of a single standard mean?  It means that, for all degree programs, Fletcher’s Admissions Committees review an applicant’s full application.  There’s never a lone criterion on which decisions are based.  Rather, depending on which degree program an applicant hopes to pursue, we look at all the information in an application to gauge potential for success both overall, and in quantitative coursework in particular.

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