Currently viewing the tag: "MIB"

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.

Mark Attia 1

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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I’m going to return to a more admissions-related topic today.  Recently, we were asked how an applicant could choose between the MALD and the MIB programs.  I asked Kristen, our MIB expert, to lay it all out.

When talking with prospective students, one of the first questions we often hear is, “Which Fletcher degree is right for me?”  While our five degree programs are suited to different professional interests and levels of experience, there is enough overlap among them that prospective applicants might feel torn in deciding between two different degree programs.  And because all of our students can take all of the same classes, the differences blur even more.  An MIB taking Peace Operations?  Sure!   An LLM in Corporate Finance?  Of course!

So, as applicants narrow their choices, the questions we hear go something like this: Am I really mid-career enough for the MA, or is the MALD better for me?  I’d like to enter the PhD program eventually, but should I start with the MALD?  And then there’s the question I’m addressing today: I’m interested in building business skills.  Is the MIB or the MALD the better choice?

The MIB and MALD programs share some fundamental similarities: both include classes in all three divisions, both require students to complete two Fields of Study and a capstone project, and both allow students to pursue business studies.  The main difference lies in that last point.  MALD students may choose International Business Relations as a Field of Study, requiring four classes in business.  MIB students, on the other hand, complete a full core curriculum that includes business and international affairs classes, as well as a Field of Study in a specialized business area (Strategy, Finance, Marketing, or NGO Management).  The MIB curriculum ensures that students have a foundational business education that delves into accounting, finance, strategy, marketing, statistics, and economics, and this curriculum (and the consequent “B” in the MIB degree name) is a signal to employers that, yes, this is a bona fide business degree, just as you would see in any more traditional business school.

If you are torn between the MIB and the MALD, ask yourself a few questions: How much business am I looking for in my degree?  Am I looking to go into an industry that values a business degree?  Do I prefer a more structured curriculum?  And if you continue having a hard time grappling with these questions, please do not hesitate to call or email our office and we can talk about your career goals and the best degree for you.

And speaking of traditional business programs, this raises the second question: What about the MIB versus an MBA?  The answer to this question is a bit simpler to describe.  It is, quite simply, a matter of context.  Where business schools almost exclusively focus on internal company matters (with some nods to market forces here and there), Fletcher is evenly weighted between the internal and the external.  That is:  What happens outside of company walls that makes for high risk or good opportunity?  What are the market forces and cultural elements and policy factors and legal frameworks that affect a business?  It’s this deep attention to context — what we call contextual intelligence — that distinguishes the MIB.

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Prospective students always ask about the path to Fletcher from wherever they are in their education or professional life.  Today I’m introducing first-year MIB student, Scott Snyder, the next participant in the blog’s Student Stories feature, and I’m going to do so by walking you through his résumé.  Scott and I sat down recently to talk about the different intertwined factors that led him to enroll at Fletcher last fall.  Though résumés generally flow reverse chronologically, my goal is to walk you from start to finish, so let’s start with Scott’s undergraduate education.

Union College, Schenectady, NY; BA in political science, minor in history, June 2004
Research Assistant – Political Science Research Grant, Summer 2003
Semester Abroad, University of Ireland, Galway

Scott was a political  science major with an international relations focus.  His thesis was on the war in Iraq.  He also had the opportunity to participate in an internship that turned into an independent study project.

Office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Albany, NY; Intern, September 2003-March 2004
•    Organized conference involving Senator Clinton, the mayors of five major Upstate New York cities and their economic development staff, federal government officials, and business and economic development experts, to discuss the Renewal Community program.

Scott’s supervisor always required interns to take on a project, and Scott’s was to consider how the Renewal Community program (a piece of domestic economic development legislation) was implemented in the area near Union College.  The project led to the conference described above, a great introduction to politics, Scott said.

Margaret Walsh for Family Court Judge, Albany, NY; Campaign Manager, June-October, 2004
•    Managed a campaign that placed a progressive underdog judicial candidate in office.  Involved in all aspects of the campaign including development, communications, oversight of headquarters, and volunteer organization.

Once the internship was complete and Scott graduated from Union College, his internship supervisor helped him get a job with a candidate for a local judicial position.  Scott was thus the 22-year-old, nearly completely inexperienced, campaign manager.  Judge Walsh won the election.  The campaign reinforced Scott’s interest in politics.

What to do after the election?  Scott decided to move to Washington, DC, a fun place to be as a newly-minted graduate.

Campaign for America’s Future, Washington, DC; Program Assistant, April-October 2005 
•    Collaborated on Project for an Accountable Congress – a campaign to educate the public about ethical lapses of members of Congress, including paid media, press releases, constituent outreach, research and events.

Even as he worked at Campaign for America’s Future, Scott was planning his next step, which he thought would be the Peace Corps.  But having completed most of the Peace Corps application process, he decided instead to move to Norfolk, VA for a new opportunity.

Operation Smile, Inc., Norfolk, VA; Mission Coordinator, March 2006-February 2007
•    Administered pre-mission organization, on-the-ground logistics, and post-mission assessments for medical programs aimed at surgical repair for children with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.  
•    Recruited and led international medical volunteers, coordinated local patients and families, and communicated with local hospitals and governments to perform over 125 surgeries in a 10-day period for each medical program, with an average of six missions per year in China, Kenya, Peru and Cambodia.

Scott didn’t know at the time that his year in Norfolk was only step one of a six-year career with Operation Smile.  In fact, Norfolk wasn’t exactly where he wanted to be, given that he had enjoyed living in DC, but his job required about six months of travel each year, and he was working with a great group of people.

Operation Smile was expanding, and he, along with another coordinator and friend, took positions with a new Hanoi office, requiring a two-year commitment.  Though based in Hanoi, he spent much of his time in other Asian locations.

Operation Smile, Inc., Hanoi, Vietnam; Regional Program Coordinator, February 2007-May 2009
•    Increased surgical productivity through logistical troubleshooting, staff development, and programmatic upgrades.  Conducted trainings for local staff in partner countries at headquarters in Vietnam and Norfolk, VA and in the field.

At the end of the two years in Hanoi, Scott decided to step away from Operation Smile.  He took some time to prepare for graduate school and consider other professional opportunities.  What he found was that his best opportunity was back with Operation Smile.

Operation Smile, Inc., Norfolk, VA; Senior Program Coordinator, November 2009-May 2010
•    Directed a scale-up medical program in Guwahati, India.  Created new initiative to be replicated around the world, which increased surgical capacity from 150 patients treated during a mission to 967 in a three-week period.
•    Facilitated program coordination for United States Navy Pacific Partnership.  Conducted two missions aboard the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and Dili, Timor-Leste.

Scott had been thinking that he would go to business school, and he applied for enrollment in 2010.  Instead, he left Norfolk yet again, this time for China, where he was charged with smoothing the occasional cultural differences and communication problems between Operation Smile and their Chinese partner foundation.  Plus, he would gain experience in project management and fundraising, skills he wanted as he moved forward in his career.

Operation Smile, Inc., Beijing, China; Program Development Manger, May 2010-May 2012
•    Managed programmatic and development team of five in China.  Created and managed a $1.5 million budget per year, raised over $500,000 from companies and individuals within China, and oversaw the completion of more than 30 medical missions and 5,000 free surgeries performed.
•    Developed strategy and initiated execution of Operation Smile’s 20th Anniversary in China – The March of Smiles — involving medical conferences, fund raising galas, and medical programs that operated on over 3,000 children in 2011.

This time, Scott was really ready to pursue a graduate degree.  In fact, he applied in 2011 to Fletcher’s MIB program, having decided that the MIB’s blend of a core business curriculum and international relations courses was exactly what he needed.  It was the only program to which he applied — a risky strategy that worked out for him — and then he deferred his admission.  2011-2012 was an enjoyable year, especially because his grad school plan was in place.  He left Operation Smile in May 2012 and spent the summer in Beijing working on his language skills.

The Fletcher School, Tufts University, Medford, MA, 2012-2014
Master of Arts in International Business
•    Concentrations:  International Political Economy, Strategic Management, with China focus
•    Activities:  Non-Profit Sector Representative on Committee for Career Services, VP of ASEAN Society, International Development Group, Asia Club, Tufts Marathon Challenge

Scott is hoping to transition careers from global health to economic development, ideally at an international organization such as the World Bank.  What ultimately sold him on Fletcher was the great network of alumni at organizations that interest him, a network that he believes will be a stronger support in his future job search than having a more traditional degree, such as an MBA.  Meanwhile, he says he’s “learning a ton” and is getting great base knowledge in finance and accounting.  His only regret from last semester was that the transition back to the classroom was a challenge, and he didn’t take advantage of lectures and other special events, at least not as much as he would have liked.  He hopes to do more of that this spring.

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