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With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher. Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.
As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it! My first semester of graduate school was done. I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom. I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life. I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs. Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.
Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena. Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle. Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it). Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction. I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development. I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting. This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated. Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.
A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model. Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year. During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing. A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere. More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact. Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing. Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating. Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations. Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.
Orientation came and went, and the fall semester began. I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation. Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector. It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created. Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia. Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context. Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.
Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds. As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models. At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds. Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model. As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors). The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society. This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success. An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government. Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia. Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me. The way I thought about my career developed again. This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing. This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.
Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing. The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there. I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation. Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving. With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted. I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester. Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.
Today, let’s meet Adi, a first-year student in the MIB program who will be writing for the Student Stories feature during his two years at Fletcher. Adi has roots in both the U.S. and Indonesia and has spent long stretches of time in each.
To be honest, I had never considered Fletcher as my destination for graduate school. I had barely heard of Fletcher in the social circles I normally operate around. And yet, here I am, three months into my academic journey as a Master of International Business (MIB) candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and it could not have been any better.
I left my previous job in Indonesia looking for new ways I could bridge the private sector’s involvement in development efforts, beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donations. Thus, in choosing my graduate school program, I looked into either a Master of Public Policy, where I could design the regulatory environment for business involvement, or a Master of Business Administration, diving right into the innovation system within corporate organizations. I was even considering a joint MBA-MPP degree. In the MIB at Fletcher, I found the ability to do both, and so much more. My daily classes are filled with learning as much about corporate financing and risk of investments as about the political risk of being in a foreign environment. I haven’t even gotten to the full range of courses that Fletcher has to offer.
I have attempted to immerse myself in the Fletcher spirit by joining the Fletcher Social Impact Group, advising a start-up team with their market entry strategy into Boston. I am organizing two separate conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with themes from innovations in international affairs to populism as a political risk. And, by attending lectures and events, I have interacted with senior managers from Boeing, Deloitte, GAP, and BCG, as well start-up founders. Sometimes, there are so many events happening that I simply cannot decide which I wish to attend. The relatively small but tight-knit community, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the wealth of event options have made the past three months very exciting, stressful, and colorful, all at the same time.
All of this excitement has made me wonder, as I reflect back to how I managed to get here: how had I never heard about Fletcher before I actually started applying? At first, I thought it was a lack of outreach from the School in Indonesia. Then, I looked at the profile of Indonesian alumni, and I saw former ministers of foreign affairs, heads of national planning, and directors from multi-national banks. I realized, there must be a Fletcher presence in Indonesia, and a pretty strong one at that. The alumni network in Indonesia, though small, actually holds key positions and are very influential. And the best part is that they, too, are proudly part of the Fletcher community.
The strength of the alumni network amazes me. I have heard about how most universities take pride in the diversity and success of their alumni, but I had never before heard, let alone experienced, how strong this alumni connection can be. Email any Fletcher graduate whose background you might be interested in, and you will very likely get a quick reply asking how they can help. In the three months I have been here, I probably have reached out to more than 50 alumni, and they all have responded, even if we needed to work around their schedules. And the more I am embedded in this community, the more I realize that this culture is not exclusive to alumni, but also current students, staff, and the faculty.
Quite simply, I feel that coming to Fletcher is one of the best decisions I have made. I cannot wait to see how the rest of my Fletcher journey will turn out. I can’t claim that I have gotten the full insight into what Fletcher has to offer, but I am definitely excited to see what else is out there.
I know that many Indonesians back home would be interested in joining this community, and will have a lot to add. And I know that many will benefit from the Fletcher experience, with the flexibility, the events, and the resources, to graduate ready to contribute back to the country. So here I am, hoping to ensure that people hear more about Fletcher. Here I am, to ensure that more Indonesians will make Fletcher their next stop.
In the first of the Student Stories posts for 2016-2017, McKenzie reports on her internship in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer.
Howzit future Fletchies! It was great to return to town after three months in South Africa this summer (or winter, as it happened to be in the southern hemisphere).
Living in Johannesburg, I worked at Edge Growth to expand the 10X-entrepreneur (10X-e) program for scale-up or growth-stage startups across South Africa. Through my job, I helped develop materials for 10X-e bootcamps and facilitated one-on-one growth strategy and execution workshops for portfolio companies of Edge’s flagship impact fund, the Vumela Fund. I also got to support the Vumela Fund directly, helping strategize pipeline development and deal sourcing efforts and contributing to the due diligence of a prospective investment.
Fletcher students use their internship to accomplish a number of different goals. Some use it to “test out” a new career field or to gain practical skills in a specific area, others to explore a new region of the world, and still others to conduct research for capstones. Through my internship, I reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in impact investing and gained experience working alongside a fund investing in growth-stage companies in an emerging market setting.
But summer internships aren’t only for professional growth — I took the opportunity to travel and see as much as possible of South Africa over weekends and public holidays. I attended braais (like barbeques), where I feasted with friends on grilled meats and braaibroodjes (pretty much a grilled cheese sandwich with onions and tomato), while discussing local politics and the municipal elections that were to take place in August. I attended my first-ever rugby match to watch South Africa’s beloved Springboks take on the Irish (and win!). I explored food markets in the reviving central business district of Jo’burg. I visited the sobering apartheid museum to steep myself in the rich yet horrifying past, and did yoga on Constitution Hill (a former prison and now the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court), in honor of Mandela Day.
I was also able to travel to both Cape Town and Durban in the course of my work, and spent time hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head or dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean after facilitating workshops for some of Vumela Fund’s portfolio companies. Finally, while in Tanzania for a separate project with an Omidyar Network portfolio company, I met up with a classmate working in Arusha to take a short safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed my summer and was able to find the perfect mix of professional experience and personal growth. While I was sad to leave a country I was only just beginning to know, I’m excited to be back at Fletcher and kicking off my second year. At the same time, I know that each semester goes by in the blink of an eye and I am trying to savor every day. For those of you looking to begin grad school this time next year, remember to enjoy the next eight-to-ten months, in between drafting your personal statements and updating your résumé. The time will be gone before you know it!
The photo is from my favorite hike in South Africa (so far — I hope I’ll get back for more one day…). It shows me halfway up the India Venster trail on Table Mountain, with a view of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean in the background among the mist and clouds.
Fletcher couples are just the best. I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings. Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple. Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program. Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned. After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.
Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story. The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!
Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog. Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.
Wow – what a year! I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies. I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here. As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me. I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.
It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions. It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once. I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher. I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.
At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me. Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.
As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found. Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less. In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip. In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management. In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school. In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston. And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.
This leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher. The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals. I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process. The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities. While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.
With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold. First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs. The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you. This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now. Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies. I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies. For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall. For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!
Recently graduated student bloggers Ali, Alex, and Aditi are wrapping up their stories for the blog. First to report on the conclusion of her Fletcher experience is Ali.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing to you with excitement about the end of first year and my summer internship at YUM! Brands. Today, I write with even more enthusiasm about the completion of my degree and my return to that same place.
Fletcher has been a wonderful two years for me. I’ve made new friends and colleagues; gained the knowledge and experience I need to transition to the private sector; accepted a fantastic job in my hometown; and completed a capstone project that took me back to Brussels, where my professional journey began.
It was interesting to end my Fletcher career back in Belgium, thanks to capstone research funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. During my spring break there, terrorist attacks at the airport and local metro station made international news that showed me Belgium is not the same place I lived before. Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares. Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant amongst microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country. Just like the little country I love, I have changed and become more exposed to the world, too. While many students at Fletcher dedicate their lives to careers abroad, I can’t imagine not using my new travels and knowledge to return home and create change from there.
At YUM! Brands, I’ll be working to explore the material impact of extra-financial environmental, social, and governance issues and to improve the company’s performance and transparency around them. I’ll communicate proactively with key stakeholders, like investors, and use their feedback to drive internal change, as well.
Fletcher isn’t just a place for students desiring careers in governments and non-profits abroad. It’s also a great training ground for people looking to transform the world of business right here in America.
See everyone back in Kentucky soon!
Three student bloggers will graduate on Sunday, Alex, Aditi, and Ali. They’ve all been particularly great to work with and I’ll miss them! You can expect to see their words of farewell in the coming weeks, after they have graduated and had a chance to process their experience. For today, we have Alex’s Annotated Curriculum for his two years in the MIB program.
Strategy Consultant, Monitor Deloitte in Washington, DC
General Manager, Valsek Nutritional Foods in Addis Ababa
Fields of Study
International Energy Studies (self-designed Field of Study)
International Finance and Banking
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements in New England (Advisor: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher)
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Develop business models and financing mechanisms to bring renewable energy to scale in new markets
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
The Arts of Communication
Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy
Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (Audit)
My first semester was all about laying the groundwork for a meaningful time at Fletcher. The core MIB classes, especially Finance, helped our cohort develop the key business skills necessary to be successful at Fletcher and beyond. Perhaps more importantly, taking a few classes as a group really brought the MIB class together, which has been invaluable both academically and personally. I also greatly enjoyed my elective classes like Communication and Clean Energy Policy, as mentioned in previous posts, and the professors have turned into great mentors over time.
International Business Strategy & Operations
Political Economy & Business of the EU
Engineering, Economics, and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (at MIT)
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (Audit)
In my second semester, I finished up my MIB requirements and started to delve deeper into my energy concentration. My business classes felt very much like B-School, in terms of the content they covered and the hard skills they built, with one big difference: I was taking them at an international affairs school. As such, my professors and classmates brought an incredible depth and breadth of international experience to bear, and the policy context was always discussed. I also took an enlightening Electric Power Sector class with a bunch of engineers at MIT, which really got me into the nitty-gritty details of how power systems work. Also, Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy sponsored me to go to an energy conference at which I was able to wrangle an internship during the semester at Commonwealth Bay, a wind-energy private equity firm, where I performed market analysis and due diligence on wind projects.
One of my professors introduced me to BlueWave Renewables, a solar-energy developer, where I got an exciting opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes and to gain further exposure to the thriving cleantech ecosystem in Boston. As discussed in my previous post, I helped build out a platform for community solar, a new business model designed to bring solar to the three quarters of Americans who cannot own their own solar panels. Thanks to my business and energy classes, I was able to hit the ground running and make an impact in a short period of time.
International Business Transactions
Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
The Art and Science of Statecraft
The third semester was my first opportunity to truly cast a wide net across the amazing diversity of classes offered at Fletcher. International Business Transactions covered topics such as contract law, which, although it may sound dry, is where “the rubber hits the road” in business; I discovered this when I was starting a business in Ethiopia, and it is one of the reasons I decided to come to Fletcher. Project Finance and Petroleum complemented each other very well, and contributed to my Field of Study requirements. Leadership, which was taught by a great professor on loan from the Harvard Business School, provided a valuable soft-skill counterpoint to more analytical courses I had taken so far. Finally, Statecraft was an interesting foray into the mental models of one of our well-known professors, renowned equally for his colorful analogies and for his direct language. On top of all this, I also worked with the wonderful Fletcher Social Investment Group to lead a team of classmates on a consulting engagement for EverVest, a renewable energy financial analysis software startup.
Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
International Energy Policy
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
International Financial Management
Management, Finance, and Regulation of Public Infrastructure in Developing Countries (at Harvard)
My fourth and final semester has been great because the foundation I have built up over the last year and a half has enabled me to engage with the material in a way I could not have done before. My two energy classes are a nice culmination to the thrust of my studies here, and indeed they provide timely input as I wrap up my thesis for the capstone requirement. International Financial Management, affectionately dubbed “Jacques Deux” after the French-American professor who has taught a notorious regimen of finance classes for decades, proved to be as difficult and enlightening as promised. The Infrastructure class at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided another good perspective on the matter, and a chance to meet new like-minded people. Finally, I have supplemented my studies by conducting energy policy research for a Fletcher alumnus at EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar.
I am excited by my prospects post-Fletcher, but know that I will be sad to leave this place. Throughout my two years here, I have had the pleasure to work with supportive professors and a diverse yet cohesive set of classmates. As demonstrated above, Fletcher has also consistently opened doors for me, both at other top-tier schools and at cool companies. I know I will look back fondly on my time here, and now understand more and more why the Fletcher community is so strong.
As we’re rapidly approaching the end of their sixth year since graduating, let’s return to the Class of 2010, whose updates I have collected throughout the year following their five-year reunion. Today we’ll hear from Eric Sullivan, a member of the very first MIB class.
Prior to joining Fletcher as a member of the inaugural MIB class in 2008, I was one of many whose paths were shaped by the September 11th terrorist attacks and the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was an Air Force ROTC cadet studying business and Russian at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill on that fateful day. A little over five years later, I was a newly-minted first lieutenant supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom out of the former Baathist headquarters at the old Iraqi Air Force Academy. That experience, along with an eye-opening study abroad experience in Russia, raised my interest in international affairs and set me on the path to Fletcher.
I chose Fletcher because of the MIB program and the opportunity it offered to merge two core interests: business and international affairs. Although the MIB program was new, the Fletcher School itself was both well-established and well-regarded. I was particularly impressed by the School’s breadth of offerings, its reputation within the international affairs community, the success of its alumni, and the caliber of my future classmates whom I met at the Open House for newly admitted students. I had a truly enriching experience at Fletcher. What I appreciated the most was the ability to pursue my specific academic interests both in and outside of the classroom, with the benefit of a wide array of resources at my disposal through Fletcher and the wider Tufts community.
For example, in fulfillment of my thesis requirement, I wanted to find a way to connect my interests in social enterprise and human trafficking. With invaluable help and guidance from my advisor, Professor Nathalie Lydler-Kylander, I developed a business case study on Made By Survivors, an NGO that uses the power of social enterprise to empower and liberate survivors of human trafficking. With the aid of an EMPOWER social enterprise grant from Tufts Institute for Global Leadership, I traveled to India and Nepal to conduct research on several social enterprises employing survivors of trafficking and vulnerable populations. That trip resulted in a successful case study recognized among the winners of the NextBillion 2010 Case Writing Competition and used subsequently at both Fletcher and Harvard Business School. The wide web of support and unique opportunities available through Fletcher made such an outcome possible.
After graduation, I accepted a position as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, serving as a contract specialist at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and spending some priceless time with family. In early 2013, I embarked on my dream job in the U.S. Foreign Service. My first assignment was to Moscow, Russia as a consular officer, where I adjudicated nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and managed a portfolio with national security implications and numerous public diplomacy events ranging from a radio interview on a popular Moscow station to a roundtable discussion with future Russian diplomats and foreign affairs professionals. I also had the opportunity to support the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine during the landmark presidential elections of 2014. Though only a short two years in duration, set against the backdrop of momentous events in Ukraine, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the imposition of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions, and the granting of temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, it made for a very interesting first tour.
Following my assignment in Moscow, I was ready for a drastic change of scenery and climate. I completed six months of Portuguese language training and I’m now assigned as a Consular Officer to the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’m currently working in the nonimmigrant visas section, conducting interviews for Brazilians who wish to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, academics, and exchanges. Later this year, I will have the opportunity to work as a special assistant to the Consul General. The Summer Olympics is just around the corner, while Brazil is passing through a challenging period both politically and economically. My second tour in the Foreign Service seems destined to be just as interesting as the first.
This week is April vacation week for Massachusetts school children, and I’m going to use that as my explanation for turning the clock back to the March spring break for Fletcher students. Student bloggers McKenzie and Tatsuo will each describe their travels far from campus. First, McKenzie writes about the trip she planned with friends.
I’m back from a brief blog hiatus these past few months and want to share an update from an amazing spring break trip I took at the end of March. Along with five other Fletcher friends, I traveled to New Delhi, India for what was one of the more action-packed yet wonderful spring breaks I’ve had.
After 22 hours of travel, our crew arrived in hazy New Delhi at roughly 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Unsure of the time and date, we hopped in a car sent by a classmate of ours who grew up in the city and we sped toward her family’s home, where we were greeted with hot showers and a wonderful, homemade breakfast.
Soon we loaded back in a car and headed just outside the south side of Delhi to a garment factory in Faridabad. A classmate on our trip who previously worked at Gap arranged the visit, as the factory was the first in Gap Inc.’s network to launch the PACE (Personal Advancement & Career Achievement) program, designed to empower women working in the factory and and to provide leadership development to enhance their careers and build confidence. After learning about the program’s origins, we met with some of the women who had attended the program and since advanced to line management positions. Then, we got to tour the factory and see the production first-hand. The experience overall was a lot to take in, but it was truly a Fletcher-esque opportunity.
Following the factory visit, we returned to our friend’s home in time to change and head to her cousin’s house to watch what we learned was a very important cricket match. If my understanding is correct, India-Pakistan cricket matches of the type and level we got to watch are not very frequent, which meant the celebration was on par with some of the better Super Bowl parties I’ve heard about back in the States. At around 11:00 p.m. that night, we returned home for some much-needed sleep. And that was just the first day.
Over the next few days, we traveled to Agra and Jaipur to see several famous monuments, treat ourselves to some fabulous Indian food, and browse Jaipur’s famous fabric and other markets. On Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to New Delhi in time for one of the greatest national holidays I’ve had the privilege to experience: Holi.
Holi is a Hindu religious festival that, from what I was told, celebrates the conquering of good over evil and the coming of spring. The night before Holi, many people light a bonfire, which signifies the burning of Holika. Our hosts also tossed wheat chaffs into the fire as a symbol of thanks for the impending harvest.
The next day, we had the opportunity to “play Holi” with our friend’s extended family, which consisted first of a short Hindu ceremony with all the family present. The ceremony ends with some tame additions of colored powder to the foreheads of those present, after which the family moves to an outdoor courtyard and the fun really begins. While you start the day in pristinely clean clothes, you end up covered in pink, blue, green, yellow, red, and orange dye – in your clothes, in your hair, on your face, and in my case even in your contact lenses (one of mine was bright yellow!). Everywhere. I promise, it’s a great time. The most wonderful part of Holi is that truly everyone participates. Young and old, men and women, everyone joins in and plays. The kids of the family even developed a full attack plan complete with code words: they hoped to distract us by shouting “hamburger!” then lure us “with words” to be subsequently doused by water balloons and water guns. I suppose they have a few more years to learn the finer points of diplomacy and international affairs…
The day culminated in what has to be a family-specific tradition: each of us in turn was dunked in a barrel drum of homemade, bright yellow flower dye. Even three weeks after Holi, there were still minor tints of that yellow in my hair. It was a great reminder of a wonderful trip, and is a great example of the many ways that Fletcher students contrive to fill their time with enriching yet adventurous trips during their time away from school.
Throughout their time at Fletcher, the Admissions Blog’s student writers primarily discuss their extracurricular lives, whether through student activities, internships, or the job hunt. But I have been asking all the second-year bloggers to provide an overview of their academic work by creating an “annotated curriculum.” As you’ll see from Ali‘s notes below, a lot of thought went into her course selections for the MIB program and, in the context of her other posts, I hope it will paint a picture of her curricular life. (Note that (1) MIB students take an “overload” of five credits in two of their four semesters, and (2) Ali switched programs directly before starting her first semester.)
Program Manager, Fulbright Commission, Brussels, Belgium
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Investor relations and corporate responsibility
I came to Fletcher to learn how to promote private-sector investments in international social and environmental initiatives. As I prepare to leave, I’m confident I’ll be able to use my new corporate finance vocabulary and arsenal of corporate responsibility strategies, gleaned from the classes below, to do just that.
Semester One (5 credits)
- Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
- Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization
- Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
- Corporate Management of Environmental Issues
- Financial Statement Management
- Managerial Economics
Registering for Fletcher’s Strategic Management summer pre-session course was one of the best decisions of my Fletcher career. Coming from Belgium’s public sector, I wanted to introduce myself to basic business concepts and arrive early to campus to give myself time to adjust. I enjoyed the course material and MIB students so much that, by the time the Fall semester started, I switched from the MALD to the MIB program myself! The Admissions team made the application/transition process easy, and my decision resulted in a more structured curriculum with the opportunity to take more credits overall. I slowly strengthened my quantitative skills in the Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Managerial Economics courses similar to those found at most business schools, and supplemented them with two electives in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability to familiarize myself with the field. These courses gave me the confidence I needed to assume leadership of Fletcher’s Net Impact Club and begin networking with corporate responsibility professionals from Coke, Southwest Airlines, and other leading companies at the network’s 2015 annual conference.
Semester Two (5 Credits)
- Data Analysis & Statistical Methods for Business
- International Business Strategy & Operations
- Political Economy & Business of the EU
- Marketing Management
- Lean Six Sigma
The second semester of my first year was full of more MIB requirements – marketing, regional studies, macroeconomics, and stats. My regional EU studies course was particularly insightful because Professor Laurent Jacques is an EU citizen and provided a firsthand perspective of the political and business environment there. Luckily, I still had room for two electives since this course and marketing were only half credits, so I took International Business Strategy & Operations and Lean Six Sigma, for which I cross registered at Tufts University’s Gordon Institute. International Business Strategy & Operations was one of my favorite classes at Fletcher – I enjoyed working with classmates to make recommendations about where to invest in sovereign bonds, and I used the class paper I wrote about Brown-Forman’s internationalization opportunities as an incubator for my capstone project this year. Lean Six Sigma is such a practical skill to have, and the Gordon Institute offered me a certificate for completion of the course. Being able to cross-register between schools like that is an oft-overlooked Fletcher benefit. Overall, I recommend taking five credits each semester the first year for MIB students because – even though it was stressful with internship hunting – I’m even busier spring semester this year!
Global Sustainability, YUM! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), Louisville, KY
I was blessed with a wonderful summer internship at YUM! Brands. Thanks to some networking and hard work, I landed a position on the Global Sustainability team, where I reported directly to the Chief Sustainability Officer on water stewardship and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Investor Relations strategies. You can read more about my internship here, so I’ll spare the details. What’s worth noting is: I was able to transition to the private sector; after living abroad for two and a half years, I really enjoyed working at home; and I received my internship offer only a few weeks before the semester ended. People spend most of spring semester at Fletcher worrying themselves away about internships. Overall lesson: don’t do that to yourself! It all works out in the end.
Semester Three (4 Credits)
- Mergers and Acquisitions: An International Perspective
- Legal and Institutional Aspects of International Trade
- Processes of International Negotiation
- International Business Transactions
Ah, the last year of graduate school. It was time to take it easier with four credits so that I could pursue a part-time job. I ended up obtaining a great position as an intern ESG analyst at Breckinridge Capital Advisors – a $22 billion investment advisor in downtown Boston. You can read about how much I enjoyed breaking out of the Fletcher “bubble” to commute downtown and try my hand at investment management here. I would definitely suggest waiting until second year to pursue a significant internship, though it was hard to balance with the intense set of Corporate Law classes listed above. I was pleased with the classes used to fill my International Business & Economic Law concentration – especially Mergers & Acquisitions – but it was probably too much to enroll in them all at once. Spread them out! By my third semester, I was also winding down my leadership of Fletcher’s Net Impact Club, as well, so I recommend throwing yourself into club activities and leadership roles in the first year while you can.
Semester Four (4 Credits)
- Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
- Securities Regulation: An International Perspective
- Project Management and Software Methodologies
- Independent Study – Capstone
- Cross-Sector Partnership
- Understanding and Influencing Operations as an Investor, Harvard Business School (through cross registration)
In my final semester, I’ve chosen to enroll in a lighter course load with a capstone-based independent study course to give myself the time I need to continue interning at Breckinridge, apply for jobs, and complete a really awesome capstone project and report. My internship at Breckinridge lets me solidify my new learning from graduate school, and applying for jobs has been a full-time job in itself! Soon, I hope to return to my hometown in Kentucky to work for a company in the corporate responsibility or investor relations space. My activities at Fletcher continue to keep me in touch with companies I’d like to work for – my colleagues from my internship at YUM! Brands will come to Boston in February for a Net Impact Career Summit I’ve helped plan — and my capstone project will send me back to Brussels and Amsterdam this month to do field research for my Brown-Forman business proposal. It’s all coming to an end so fast. I’m excited for what’s ahead, and I hope to finish the semester strong!
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