Currently viewing the tag: "PhD"
One day last week I was toiling away in my office when I was told that Courtney was asking to see me. I assumed it was a current student, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find, instead, Courtney Fung, F12, a PhD graduate who is now a professor at the University of Hong Kong, and was spending a day on campus. Courtney and I go way back to her application days. Then she spent a year on the Admissions Committee. One way or another, I feel like we were in regular contact throughout her years at Fletcher. The last time she visited, she left an umbrella in my office, and I’ve kept it for her (while, admittedly, also using it on occasion if I forgot to bring one). It always makes me think of Courtney, and though I encouraged her to take it with her last week, she didn’t. I’ll offer it to her again the next time she visits. Until then it serves as a nice reminder.
The students in the PhD program are very special members of the community. Not only do they bring academic strength and the tenacity needed to complete a dissertation, they also have significant professional experience. The communications office has been interviewing students periodically and these are the profiles that have been written so far.
Self-profiles of more students are available on our website.
Also last week, I received a link to a podcast that a recent PhD graduate had recorded as a guest. On the podcast, Michael Sullivan, who just defended his dissertation in September, discusses leadership, resiliency, and the charity event he organized, “Shootout for Soldiers.” He talks about his experience at Fletcher at about the 40-minute mark of the interview. It’s a good listen in general, but particularly for anyone curious about the U.S. military officers who step away from the day-to-day of their careers to pursue a degree at Fletcher.
Today we’ll hear from Gary, our Student Stories blogger in the PhD program, who will return to the U.S. Marine Corps after he completes his Fletcher studies. Though I’ve often watched as a parade of limousines and police cars escort a dignitary to Fletcher, I had never thought about the behind-the-scenes efforts to make the visit happen, and I’ve learned something from Gary’s post!
One of the great benefits of being a student at Fletcher is the visits of many senior officials and policymakers. This includes not only leaders from the diplomatic, political, and business realms but also senior military leaders. For my service, the U.S. Marine Corps, the fall semester saw a “bumper crop” of such visits. During October and November, the International Security Studies Program (ISSP) hosted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Fletcher alumnus General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (the senior uniformed officer in the entire U.S. Armed Forces); the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller (the senior officer in my service); and Lieutenant General David Berger, the commander of the largest field command in the service, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. Between them, these three officers brought more than 120 years of combined service in the Marine Corps to the table. However, I’m not going to talk about what they presented during their visits — in part because two of the lectures took place at ISSP luncheons, which are conducted off-the-record — but instead I’ll take a look “behind the scenes” at what goes into making a visit for one of these senior military officers happen. (The Boston Globe carried an article about General Dunford’s visit here.)
As one might expect, a great deal of coordination typically goes into a visit by a senior leader. Planning begins months in advance. ISSP mails out the official invitations. For last semester’s visits, this step took place before I even arrived on campus in September. After that, suffice it to say that there are a lot of emails exchanged and phone calls placed to work out visit itineraries, menus, locations where people can change from civilian clothes to uniforms or vice versa, and more. Sometimes the group emails a questionnaire with the questions they need answered for their planning process to move forward. If one of the senior officers is arriving via nearby Hanscom Air Force Base, then there are additional considerations involving the base protocol officer, base operations, and so on. If they arrive via Logan Airport, there is a different set of considerations. There is local coordination for security and ground transportation. For an ISSP fellow designated as the AO (“action officer”) for a visit, one of the key things to learn right away is the key contacts on the visitor’s staff — it might be more than one person.
For ISSP military fellows (who spend a year at Fletcher on a non-degree basis), coordinating these visits provides an opportunity to interact with the “brain trusts” behind the senior leaders. Depending on where they are, these groups have different names — Action Group, Staff Group, etc. — but are composed of some of the sharpest young officers in the ranks. For General Neller and General Berger, their teams consisted entirely of Marines, but General Dunford’s staff features officers from across the services and some Department of Defense civilians. These organizations house planners, subject-matter experts, advisors, and speechwriters. In addition to the planning groups, the senior military officers also have aides de camp in charge of coordinating logistics and other general-purpose matters. It can end up being a pretty large retinue of folks when all is said and done — half a dozen people, or more.
After completing their studies, Fletcher graduates in uniform can end up working in these commander’s groups, based on their developed skills in diplomacy and negotiation, oral and written communication, and statecraft. For example, the director of General Berger’s Commander’s Action Group, LtCol Sea Thomas, attended Fletcher immediately upon graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. (He was a MALD classmate of Fletcher Professor Rocky Weitz!) On General Dunford’s Chairman’s Action Group, LtCol Todd Manyx (ISSP Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow in 2007-08) serves as a special assistant, and Army COL Abigail Linnington, who holds a Ph.D. from Fletcher (2013), is the director of the organization. From the outside looking in, these groups appear to do meaningful, relevant work directly for senior leaders whose voices count.
It was a great professional honor for me to meet and interact with these three senior Marine Corps leaders. It is not all that often that a mid-grade officer such as me has the chance to meet top leaders. I had served with General Berger previously in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005, so it was great to catch up with him now that he has ascended to near the pinnacle of his profession. During General Dunford’s visit, Professor Hess did me the great honor of providing an introduction to the general, and we spoke briefly, comparing our experiences as Marine Corps fellows at Fletcher. However, the highlight for me was riding with General Neller from the airport to Fletcher, ostensibly as the “on-site lead,” bringing the senior officer up to speed on the “lay of the land” before he steps out of the vehicle and begins the luncheon event. That did happen, but I also had the chance to chat with my service’s top officer about family, hopes for future assignments, and challenges and opportunities for the Corps. That’s not something that happens every day — except maybe at Fletcher!
When high-level visits happen, things can get pretty exciting. You must remain flexible when things change, sometimes even as the visit is already in progress, such as if a flight is delayed and you need to adjust the agenda in real time dynamically. But once the visits end, things return to normal fairly quickly. Then it’s back to classes — until the next visit!
The second of the new Student Stories bloggers is Gary, who started the PhD program in September. Today he shares the long road that he took to Fletcher.
My path to Fletcher started in 2012. I was living in the Denver, Colorado area and I’d just completed a two-year stint on the Olmsted Scholar Program, studying for a master’s degree and living in Taiwan with my family. It was time to pick my next big “stretch” goal. After doing some research, I discovered that one lucky Marine Corps officer per year was assigned to a fellowship at The Fletcher School. From the Fletcher website, it looked like a dream come true – immersed in international affairs, surrounded by students from all corners of the globe, making connections and building relationships. How could I make it happen? I knew that because of my rank and career timing, it would be a few years before I would be eligible for the fellowship, but in the meantime, I wanted to fill any gaps in my resume to make myself as competitive as possible. Reflecting back now, this sounds a lot like the advice that Fletcher’s Office of Career Services has provided to all the first-years as we navigate the excellent Professional Development Program, designed to prepare us for post-Fletcher careers just as we begin our studies here.
I reached out to that year’s Fletcher Marine Corps fellow to ask how I could maximize my competitiveness for the fellowship. He wrote back almost right away — his advice was just to keep on doing what I was doing. And make sure to rank Fletcher at the top of my list when it came time to complete my “dream sheet” ranking of schools and fellowships available for majors, the next military rank higher than mine at the time. While I was happy to have received a response so quickly, I was a little disappointed with the answer — was there really nothing I could do to prepare as I waited several years to become eligible?
In the summer of 2016, I had been promoted to the appropriate rank and it was time, at last, to fill out my “dream sheet.” Of all the excellent options, I ranked Fletcher #1, just as I had earlier been told to do. In the meantime, I had completed an additional master’s degree and been published in a few outlets to maximize my competitiveness. I put some thought into a rationale for why I should be chosen over all the other majors in the Marine Corps for this opportunity, wrote it up to accompany my dream sheet, and hit send. More waiting ensued.
The news came through in December 2016. I was in Okinawa, Japan, near the end of a three-year assignment. I logged into my email early one morning, and there they were, the results of the selection board – I was going to Fletcher! Later, I would be told that because of Fletcher’s foreign language proficiency requirement, the officer selected for the fellowship was the first one picked from the entire cohort of several hundred officers.
After the elation of being selected for Fletcher had subsided a bit, I analyzed the situation. Of course, I still needed to apply and gain admission. Typically, the Marine officer at Fletcher pursues the one-year mid-career MA degree program, which is ideal for obtaining a great master’s degree while keeping officers close to their normal military career track. This was the path taken by the Marine Corps’ most famous Fletcher alum, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and things turned out well for him! However, coming into the fellowship I already had two master’s degrees and had recently begun looking for a way to get started on a PhD. I knew that Fletcher had a great PhD program, but by the time I received notice from the Marine Corps, the application deadline had already passed. I reached out to the Admissions team, and they agreed to allow me to submit a late PhD application. I turned my focus to producing a quality application and submitted it as soon as I could. I’d already been waiting years for this opportunity, but I would have to wait a little longer for the results. No matter what happened, I was bound to have a positive outcome: in either the MA or PhD program, I would be at Fletcher the following fall.
When the admissions result came back in March 2017, my unit was in the midst of a major theater military exercise involving many foreign partners in Japan and Korea. I had to read the notice a couple times to make sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Every time I looked at the letter, it still said the same thing: I had been admitted to the PhD program! I excitedly told my boss, who relayed the news to our organization’s commanding general and, during the busy ongoing exercise, I soon had a brief meeting with Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, who congratulated me in person and told me to do great things, study hard, and make the Corps proud.
Now, as what I believe to be the first active-duty U.S. Marine Corps officer in Fletcher’s PhD program, I continue to work to define the administrative parameters associated with the opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, Marines typically get only one year at Fletcher — not enough time to make much headway on a PhD. But I was pleased by the flexibility and openness I found as I worked with key Marine Corps stakeholders. To my delight, all parties reached an agreement allowing me to have a second year at Fletcher. During the two years, I should be able to complete the three semesters of coursework required for external PhD admits and the written and oral comprehensive exams in my two concentration areas (International Security Studies and Pacific Asia), and defend a dissertation proposal — ambitious but not impossible to achieve, if planned and executed properly.
Unlike most other students writing on the Fletcher Admissions Blog, as a career military officer with over 18 years of service, I also come to Fletcher with my family, a wife and two sons. We’ve greatly enjoyed the few months we’ve had in the Boston area since moving here in July and are looking forward to taking advantage of the diverse range of opportunities and activities in our home community of Arlington and in the surrounding towns, cities, and states. One simple thing we enjoyed over the summer was easy access to great biking on the Minuteman Bikeway. Now fall’s brilliant foliage and crisp, cool morning air is a great treat that we haven’t always been able to enjoy as we have moved between Hawaii, California, Taiwan, Colorado, Japan, and now Massachusetts.
Fletcher’s communications folks have been writing profiles of PhD candidates throughout this year. In total, there are about 60 students in all phases of the PhD program. Numbers vary significantly year to year, but about 15 are generally here taking courses, and then another dozen are preparing for comprehensive exams. The remainder are writing their dissertation proposals or the dissertation itself, and for those phases they might be on campus, or they might be off wherever their research takes them. Rather than sending you searching for the profiles, I’m going to highlight them here.
Roxani Krystalli: “When I look at who fills key roles within leading organizations working on gender issues, it is often a Fletcher alum. The list of faculty either teaching explicitly on gender issues or incorporating a gender perspective into their courses is ever evolving. I am excited to continue to support the current and future leaders of the Gender Initiative in their endeavors, and look forward to sharing what we learned with peers at other institutions, while also replicating some of our key lessons to reflect on other dimensions of identity, power and inequality within The Fletcher School.” (Long-time blog readers might remember the posts that Roxani (who also goes by Roxanne) wrote while she was in the MALD program.)
Melanie Reed: “I have done consulting work for a number of public and private institutions, including the OECD, Transparency International, the Chr. Michelsen Institute (an international development research group based in Norway), and others. This work helps me stay on top of current trends in the area of anti-corruption. It is important to me that I don’t get so involved in my own research that I miss changes in the international landscape around me. Doing work on the side is challenging in terms of maintaining balance, but it also helps me maintain perspective about where my work fits into the larger picture.”
Rizwan Ladha: “From a very young age, I was interested in global affairs because my parents are from Pakistan and Uganda; they told me so much about their own history and background growing up, as well as their struggles coming to the U.S. My father was a Ugandan political refugee during the 1970s, so I was always aware of the fact that the world is much bigger than Atlanta, where I grew up, and Georgia Tech, where I majored in International Affairs.”
Lami Kim: “As a former practitioner, I believe that tackling complex issues in international politics requires us to look at the many differences of each issue. As my dissertation is highly interdisciplinary (involving the subjects pertaining to the military, security, legal, economy, etc.), I am certain that I chose the best place” to study.
The full profiles, and other news about the PhD program, can all be found here.
Like Oscar and Felix of The Odd Couple, the two programs with a deadline today are an unlikely pairing. Our youngest applicants — those who apply to the MALD or MIB programs through the Map Your Future pathway — and our academically most advanced applicants — those aiming for the PhD program — are in the final stages of application preparation, if they haven’t submitted their materials already. And just as the two programs are different, our reasons for assigning them this December 20 deadline have little in common.
PhD applications face a particularly long review process, involving not only the PhD Admissions Committee, but also potential faculty advisors. Every admitted PhD student needs to be assigned an advisor at the point of admission and it’s meant to be a relationship that continues throughout the student’s time at Fletcher. All this review takes time and we realized years ago that the process would go more smoothly if we started the clock ticking earlier, though PhD applicants are notified of the decision on their application at the same time as everyone else.
For Map Your Future applicants, our thinking was simply that we wanted to be able to offer a little extra time for pre-application communication/counseling and that’s easier to do in December than it is in January.
A quick check this morning showed me that we already have quite a few PhD and MYF applications ready to be reviewed, and many more in another phase of preparation. For those still adding the finishing flourishes to their applications, you have until 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC -5) tonight.
The last few weeks have been busy around the school. Students are seriously engaged in classes/exams/capstones as well as internships/jobs and lectures/conferences. And then…
…everything shifts as students pack their bags and head south to Washington, DC for the annual Career Trip. While they are in DC, students can attend information sessions, panels, receptions, networking events, informational interviews, and lunches. There’s a schedule that requires careful planning for the attendees, lest they create an impossibly manic two-day agenda for themselves. So they pick and choose, based on their sector and organization interests. Then most of them will come together for a reception with alumni.
For a taste of one of the Career Trip activities, you can join current PhD students and alumni of the program for a panel discussion at the United States Institute of Peace. “From Civil Resistance to Peaceful Revolution” will be aired live from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST. (I will try to update this post with the video of the panel.)
Post-panel update: Here’s the video of the event.
Meanwhile, as the total list of organizations with which students will connect is way too long to include here, I’ll just provide this partial list of companies, offices, and agencies that will be represented by Fletcher alumni:
Abt Associates, Inc.
Albright Stonebridge Group
American Friends Service Committee
American Petroleum Institute
American Red Cross
Association of Climate Change Officers
Biotechnology Innovation Organization
Blue Compass, LLC
Bogota Employment Project
Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
Boston Consulting Group
Capgemini Government Solutions
Center for Complex Operations, NDU
Clifford Chance US LLP
Coalition for Justice
Congressional Research Service
Council on Foreign Relations
Covington & Burling, LLP
Creative Associates International
Cypress International, Inc.
Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board
Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Financial Integrity Network
Foreign Policy Magazine
German Marshall Fund
Global Professional Search
Glover Park Group
Goodwin Procter, LLP
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Human Rights Campaign
I.D. Inspiring Development GmbH
Inter-American Development Bank
International Finance Corporation
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Baltimore
Koltai and Company, LLC
Latin America Working Group
Metis Strategy LLC
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
Millennium Challenge Corporation
MSI, Tetra Tech Company
National Defense University
National Democratic Institute
National Nuclear Security Administration
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
Office of Management and Budget
Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Open Government Partnership
Orange Tree, LLC
Organization of American States
Partners for Development
Paul, Weiss LLP
Population Services International
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Regulatory Strategies and Solutions Group
Rocket Media Group
Rudaw Media Company
Save the Children
Search for Common Ground
Sidar Global Advisors
Social Impact, Inc.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Rec
Strategic Capacity Group
Teach For All
Team Red, White and Blue
The Aspen Institute
The Buffalo Group
The Cohen Group
The Hudson Institute
The New York Times
The Scowcroft Group
The Stimson Center
The White House
The World Bank
Thompson Hine LLP
U.S. African Development Foundation
U.S. Codex Office
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of the Treasury
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S.-Indonesia Joint Council
Under Armour Inc.
United Nations Foundation
United States Export-Import Bank
United States Institute of Peace
Valuing Voices at Cekan Consulting, LLC
Viper Analytics, LLC
World Environment Center
World Vision International
Even as our focus is fixed on wrapping up the Early Notification process and preparing for the applications that will greet us on or before January 10, there’s another deadline coming up on Sunday, December 20. That’s when we’ll receive two very different sets of applications: for the PhD program, and for Map Your Future.
Many years ago, we moved the PhD program deadline from January to December so that we would have extra time to let the process run. There’s a committee of five professors and several staff members who review the applications, and need time to do so. In addition, dissertation proposals are shared with members of the faculty to ensure there’s a good match between the applicant’s interests and faculty expertise. All of that takes time, and kicking off the process ahead of the January rush has served us well.
When we were considering the application process for the relatively new Map Your Future pathway to admission to the MALD or MIB programs, we decided that the December 20 deadline would work for these applicants, too, though they could hardly be more different from those who apply for the PhD. Map Your Future is for students currently in their last year of undergraduate study (or six months post graduation) who, if admitted, will enroll at Fletcher in two years. So the applicants we’ll consider this month will finally start their Fletcher classes in September 2017 (if they are 2015 graduates) or September 2018 (if they are 2016 graduates). This path works well for applicants who want the security of a graduate school admission offer, but who also want to pursue professional experience before starting their graduate studies.
When we consider MYF applicants, we are really looking for indications of potential. We like to see a strong academic profile and some early professional and international experience. Of course, your typical 21-year-old will not have the experience of our average student admitted directly to the MALD or MIB program, but (in a sense) we make a bet that our admitted MYF students will accrue a lot of great experience in the two years before they enroll.
The MYF application is pretty much the same as for students who apply directly to the MALD or MIB. Any tips that I might give to a MALD/MIB applicant would be appropriate for an MYF applicant, too. It’s only the review process that differs. Now that the second group of MYF admitted applicants has enrolled, we are happy to see how well this option is working.
Today I’m excited to share the last of this semester’s posts by our Student Stories writers. Excited, especially, because I’m welcoming back Roxanne, who was one of our first student bloggers back in 2012, when she was starting at Fletcher in the MALD program. Since then, she completed her MALD in 2014, with a focus on human security, gender in international studies, and transitional justice. After graduating, she accepted a position as the Program Manager of the Humanitarian Evidence Program at the Feinstein International Center, right here at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. In September, Roxanne also became a Fletcher PhD student, researching the politics of victimhood in armed conflict. I’m super happy that she has agreed to rejoin the blogger crew, and also that we now have a writer who will reflect on the PhD program. Today, a timely post about a conference coming up on Saturday.
When Jessica asked me to return to the Admissions Blog, I accepted with delight. The secret is that I have not left the Fletcher community since my graduation with my MALD in 2014 — and I will gladly tell that story in an upcoming blog post. Today, however, I have stopped in to share some exciting news regarding Fletcher’s first Conference on Gender and International Affairs.
Long-time blog readers may remember that there has been growing momentum surrounding the incorporation of gender analysis into Fletcher’s international curriculum. One of the causes dearest to my heart while I was a MALD student was the Gender Initiative, which I co-chaired and wrote about in this past post. The goal of the student-run Gender Initiative is to create and support academic and professional opportunities related to gender analysis in international studies for interested students and faculty at Fletcher. In the past four years alone, and following the strong legacy of past gender-related activities in the Fletcher community, the Initiative has seen the creation of new courses with an explicit focus of gender analysis, the gathering of data regarding the gender (and other aspects of identity) of the guest speakers invited to Fletcher, the organization of professional seminars and panels on gender-related careers, and a proposal to create a Gender in International Studies Field of Study, which was just approved last month by the Fletcher faculty!
This year’s excellent Gender Initiative leadership, accompanied by the phenomenal leadership of Fletcher’s Global Women organization, has worked hard to organize Fletcher’s first ever conference on Gender and International Affairs: Avenues for Change. Panel topics span sectors and interests, and they include gendered perspectives on inclusion through technology; a discussion of reproductive health, justice, and rights; and gendered aspects of urban displacement in crises. The keynote of the conference will be Dr. Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost feminist scholars on gender, conflict, and militarism. Fletcher Professors Kimberly Theidon, Dyan Mazurana, Kimberly Wilson, and Rusty Tunnard all have places in the program, and we expect many more faculty will participate in the sessions.
This is an exciting moment for researchers, practitioners, and advocates of gender analysis at Fletcher. Even more exciting is the fact that you can join us: attendance is not limited to members of the Fletcher community, so if you are in the area or have colleagues who may be interested, please feel free to share the information and register to attend! If you do come, please say hello — and stay tuned for a conference recap, as well as an update on my path since graduating from the MALD program, in my next Admissions Blog post.
I work pretty closely with applicants to the PhD program, and I should write more to help them. The deadline for applications is December 20. That’s a little less than three months off and, given the requirements of the application, it’s definitely not too late to get started. There’s only one deadline each year, and only September enrollment is possible.
The PhD application requires all the usual elements (transcripts, test scores, essays, etc.), but applicants must also submit a master’s thesis (or major research paper) and a preliminary dissertation proposal. While the proposal should be well developed, it’s understood that a student’s ultimate dissertation will reflect learning and growth from three semesters of Fletcher classes. Though it is not required that applicants contact members of the Fletcher faculty before applying, I can say that nearly all of our successful applicants have done so. Reaching out to Fletcher professors gives you a chance to confirm that your interests are aligned with theirs. All admitted PhD students are assigned an advisor, and the expectation is that students will stick with that advisor all the way through.
Beyond that, most successful PhD applicants will include two recommendations from professors who can reflect on their work, and most will be asking professors from their master’s-level work to write the recommendations.
I should pause to note that applying directly to the PhD program requires a master’s degree. Students without a master’s degree, or those who have a degree that lasted only one year, need to start with the MALD (usually) or MIB (also possible) degree.
We’ll be conducting two virtual information sessions, on October 15 and November 16. There’s also more information that I can pass along. If you’re interested, please contact us!
Orientation for new students starts today, meaning that Fletcher will not be occupied solely by staff members, as it has been for several weeks. Classes start up on Monday, which is when we’ll see the returning students.
While everything is so quiet (and we’re waiting for the flood of applications that will pour in at the end of this week), I wanted to share two recent op-eds written by our PhD candidates. First, David Knoll, who is in the final stages of dissertation writing, took a break to do some other writing, in this case for Time magazine online. His opinion piece appeared in December, shortly after the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.
Finally, if you’re like me, you receive news about Fletcher from many sources — the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Despite these many prompts, it took me until today to watch the latest video from Dean Stavridis. If you’re hoping to enroll in 2015-16, I encourage you to take a look. He lays out many initiatives for the coming year, even as he describes the results of our work in 2014.
Oh, and of course, Dean Stavridis is a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program.
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