Currently viewing the tag: "Roxanne"

My thanks to Roxanne for her comprehensive description of the process.  Take it away, Roxanne!

First of all, it was so wonderful to meet many of the prospective members of the incoming class last week! We are sad to part with our second-year students soon, and getting to hear the stories of the incoming class gave many of us a lot to look forward to! One of the questions that emerged through these conversations was about the Fletcher summer internship search process. While it is very challenging to speak about a universal Fletcher experience, given that interests vary widely in this diverse community, I would like to shed some light on how some Fletcher students begin to think about their summer internships. Feel free to also browse the post I wrote about this topic in February, right before the DC Career Trip.

Setting goals for the summer: The first, and perhaps hardest, step in the internship search process is defining the summer experience we each wish to have. Some Fletcher students consider themselves “career changers,” shifting away from the professional field in which they worked prior to Fletcher and towards new endeavors. Other Fletcher students wish to use the summer to build their international or field experience, so they are explicitly looking for opportunities outside the United States. Yet other students wish to conduct research that will culminate in a capstone project, thesis, PhD proposal, or other document — either in parallel to an internship or instead of one. Some classmates wish to obtain or apply particular skills, such as quantitative analysis, crisis mapping, or practicing a language. Yet others want to remain in the same sector they were in prior to Fletcher, but wish to diversify the organizations and partners with which they have worked by building new institutional relationships over the summer. As you can see, there is no pattern that defines every Fletcher summer experience: The locales that host us for the summer range from Boston to Japan, from the public to private sector, from paid consultancies to research initiatives, and from entirely new endeavors to a return to beloved projects.

The critical role of mentorship: Mentorship is a critical component of developing a clearer sense of our goals for the summer. Conversations with professors or guest speakers at Fletcher events, as well as informational interviews with alumni, help us clarify our vision for what we seek to accomplish over the summer. Prior to both the New York City and DC career trips, the Office of Career Services compiles a lengthy list of alumni, including their professional affiliations and contact information. Students arrange many chats with alumni both during the Career Trips and outside of them in order to better understand potential summer opportunities. Informational interviews continue through the spring and they often end with a clearer “next step” for the students or an introduction to someone who may be of further help.

The Fletcher network does not just consist of faculty, staff, and alumni; rather, students themselves are an invaluable resource to their peers. During the second semester, many emails are sent on the Social List (our beloved and informal email list) asking if fellow students have worked in X country or with Y organization or if they know a particular individual. Many coffee chats emerge from these emails and it is always a delight to put each other in touch with people we have met or places we have worked, in the hope that we can create more opportunities for our peers.

Applying to summer positions: The Office of Career Services plays an instrumental role in coaching students through the application process. Once we have identified the types of opportunities we wish to apply to, we can make appointments with Career Services staff to review our résumés and cover letters, conduct mock interviews, receive assistance in negotiating potential compensation — or even in proofreading our communications with potential employers! For students who wish to conduct research or work on a Fletcher-affiliated project, whether in the Boston area or beyond, conversations with professors and campus centers that are supervising these initiatives are an important part of building future relationships.

Funding the summer experience: The availability of funding differs greatly among the various sectors in which Fletcher students immerse themselves for the summer. There are many opportunities to fund the summer experience for those who have received an unpaid internship. The Office of Career Services has a simple application for summer funding, and these resources are supplemented by other research centers on campus that can provide financial support, such as the Tisch Active Citizenship Fellowship Program or the Feinstein International Center. Some professors  and departments make grants available for language study or for internships in a specific sector or region of the world. Additionally, there are Boston-area resources, such as the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School Summer Fellowships, that are accessible to Fletcher students because of the partnerships between Fletcher and the funding institutions. Students in the private sector or those who have secured paid consultancies for the summer may follow a slightly different process.

Pre-departure preparations: There is never a dull moment at Fletcher, even with an internship and funding secured! The months prior to departing for the summer are filled with building skills that may be essential for our research or employment, from training ourselves in statistics or ethnographic interviewing to brushing up on language skills and conducting pre-thesis research. In the next month, I will also be offering a “blogging and social media” workshop for Fletcher students, so we  can compile a document of our online presence, enabling us to follow each other’s summer journeys and learning. A classmate is in the process of compiling a Google Map with Fletcher summer internship locations, so we can find community wherever we go. The bottom line is that this is an exciting, exhilarating process, which — like most other processes at Fletcher — requires putting ourselves out there, being curious and open to learning, and leveraging the power of this community to create opportunities for all.

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In this installment, Student Stories blogger Roxanne shares some of the academic rituals she has started developing at Fletcher, including her experiences attending conferences and workshops in her field of study.

I have written about the “exhale” I associated with the feeling of semi-permanence that a two-year Master’s degree program afforded me, after a few years of relatively nomadic work abroad.  In addition to the content of the learning, I looked forward to the rituals and rhythms of an academic life — ranging from establishing traditions as simple as having a favorite library desk (mine: on the 3rd floor by the windows) or having a studying playlist, to finding an academic mentor and crafting papers word-by-word and footnote-by-footnote.  Academia differs from field work in conflict management not only on account of the different kinds of impact these sectors make, but also in terms of the lifestyles they entail.

In the past month, I have had the privilege of indulging in another beloved – or dreaded, depending on your level of dorkiness and/or outlook – academic ritual: the conference.  The Fletcher School and Tufts at large are bursting at the seams with summits, conferences, and workshops this spring, but some of us have been traveling beyond this community as well.  Shortly after the DC Career Trip, I went to New York to attend “Deconstructing Prevention,” a conference on the prevention of mass atrocities.  What drew me to the event was a panelist list full of the authors whose work I footnoted regularly, and the practitioners of genocide prevention whose articles I have bookmarked for years.  Therein, for me, lies one of the greatest sources of exhilaration about returning to an academic environment, after a few years as a practitioner of conflict management around the world: One can, even for a few days, be in the presence of, or in conversation with, the individuals who shape the direction of their field of work, study, and interest.  What was previously a remote and theoretical study can become an interaction and a present conversation, in ways that humanize intellectual pursuits and spark curiosity.

In a sense, what I describe above is similar to the feeling I had when I arrived at my first field placement as a gender and conflict management professional in Egypt.  At the time, I was craving a more intimate look into the questions I had been studying from afar, a diminishing of the distance I perceived between me and impact.  Returning to academia – even if this is a temporary return – has cast new distance between me and field work, but has placed me closer to the minds who form much of the discourse in this field.  A lot of the explorations remain theoretical in their content, but being in the same geographic area as many academics and practitioners has motivated me to ask more questions, establish more mentoring relationships, and seek to learn from and alongside anyone who can share their knowledge.

In addition to Deconstructing Prevention, I had the pleasure of attending “Advocacy in Conflict,” a terrific week of events planned by the Fletcher School’s World Peace Foundation.  The public event and closed seminars drew together many human rights advocates, humanitarian personnel, journalists, and academics.  Later this semester, I hope to attend a conference on gender and armed conflict, an event on public speaking, and a workshop on gender mainstreaming.  Fletcher’s location in the vibrant academic community of the Boston area is conducive to these explorations.  Additionally, Fletcher makes available a small amount of discretionary funding to students who wish to attend conferences, enabling us to learn from our peers and other institutions.  Next time you see me at a conference, please do say hello!

Medford-Somerville mapAs I mentioned, last week was spring break for students.  Roxanne used her time to write about how she likes to spend her Sundays when not on vacation.  She also suggested that I explain why we refer to the campus as being in Medford/Somerville.  This old map shows why.  The dotted line is the Medford/Somerville boundary.  The highlighted portion is Fletcher field, and the F represents Fletcher (though not to scale).  So you can spend happy hours walking on and off Fletcher field, crossing town lines as you do so.  (Medford.  Somerville.  Medford.  Somerville.)  But back to Roxanne.  Here’s her prescription for a perfect spring Sunday:

As I write this blog post, I am pretending the winter is over.  The snow melting in the driveway co-exists with buds on trees, and the part of me that was looking forward to experiencing four distinct seasons upon her arrival in the Northeast is ready for the next season to arrive.  I have cherished the long, slow, beautiful Boston fall and the accompanying foliage, the many snowflakes of winter and the legendary Fletcher Ski Trip and snowball fight they inspired, and I am now ready for the river to thaw.  In the spirit of sharing what I am looking forward to in the Fletcher neighborhood, here is a glimpse into what would constitute my perfect spring Sunday in Medford/Somerville.

First, a sacred ritual of the weekend: brunch.  Better yet, an affordable, graduate-student-friendly brunch.  Sound Bites and its stuffed French toast are favorites, as are their bottomless coffee and the Syrian managers with whom I reminisce about our time in Aleppo, particularly at a time when Aleppo is the site of much heartbreak.  Renee’s Café, open from Wednesday to Sunday, is another favorite local business, whose menu is colorfully handwritten onto a chalkboard and whose staff members fill a weekend with smiles.  And if you are in a rush and must skip sit-down breakfast, you have to stop by Magnificent Muffin, where the line snakes out the door for the yummiest muffins and iced coffee in the neighborhood.  Now, allow me to cheat for a minute and veer away from my weekend plan, and say that if this were the middle of the week, you would not be able to skip Masala. On weekdays, their $8 all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, with free servings of garlic naan, is a culinary highlight and the warmth of the Masala employees is equally memorable.

Back to the vision of a sunny spring weekend, though….The kayak that is defrosting on the balcony wishes to go for a float down Mystic River, around the corner, perhaps all the way to Mystic Lake.  And if we are in more of a biking mood, the Minuteman Bikeway is — you guessed it — around the corner as well.  Middlesex Fells Reservation is a terrific place to hike, and the watertower at the top offers beautiful views of downtown Boston.

Speaking of downtown Boston…on the first Friday of the month, a number of Boston museums — including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront — offer a “Night at the Museum,” with DJs, wine, and an opportunity to wander through the galleries with a different ambiance.  Museum admission is free with a Tufts ID — and while you are exploring, do not miss the courtyard of the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

At this point, you have likely run out of weekend time, and that is before I have had the chance to share a few other Boston favorites:  bookstores, cafés, experiences around my former neighborhood of Harvard Square, and all the talks, panels, and events happening at the many universities around town.  Stay tuned for more tours of the area, and hopefully, for some images of spring to complement the photographs of Fletcher seasons.

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The final word of the week on the Office of Career Services and the career trip to Washington, DC comes from Roxanne, who is using the trip to think through her internship objectives.

Prior to arriving at Fletcher, permanence was fleeting.  My work with women affected by conflict drew me from one country to the next, uprooting me from one community only to parachute into another.  In addition to the questions this model raised about the continuity and sustainability of impact, the lifestyle also made me crave tucking the suitcase away and putting down roots.  The depth of these roots was not important; I did not, at the time, long to own a home of my own and grow old there.  But when I arrived at Fletcher, I found myself relieved that I could have a permanent address that, in turn, allowed me to build routines and relationships that were difficult to sustain while I did field work in conflict management.

For the first five months after arriving in the U.S. to enroll at Fletcher, I did not board a single flight, perhaps out of a resistance to burst the bubble of permanence I have come to cherish.  I finally traveled for the New York City Career Trip, organized by the Office of Career Services to allow students to consider their career and internship options.  This week, I am heading to Washington with my classmates for the DC Career Trip and the itinerary is packed with site visits at international organizations, government agencies, and NGOs.  The internship search requires each of us to consider a set of questions:  Do I wish to remain in the U.S. or work internationally?  Am I hoping to use the summer experience to gain insight into a potential career track, build a relationship with a new organization, deepen an existing relationship with an institution, or try something entirely new to me?  Am I honing a specific set of skills, diversifying my experience, or attempting to create a medley of all possible options?

Self-reflection is the first, and perhaps the most critical, step of the process.  Identifying mentors and soliciting input is a necessary next step.  Through conversations with professors and career advisors here, as well as in late-night discussions with classmates, we each seek to figure out which organizations and opportunities suit our personal and professional priorities.  Once we have honed a list of organizations that interest us, the process of networking kicks into high gear.  That is where Fletcher’s current students and alumni are the most powerful resource, helping their peers connect with current or former employers or with organizations of interest.  It is a season of email writing, of introducing new colleagues to old supervisors, and new friends to old mentors who may be able to guide them.  Many of us have scheduled informational interviews during the DC Career Trip to gain a better understanding of the professional trajectory in our fields of interest and of the best way to prepare for a career in them.

To that end, during the DC Career Trip, I will be having coffee with a Fletcher alumna with vast experience in the intersection of gender and conflict.  I will also participate in a site visit to a research and policy group that focuses on women in conflict areas, and attend a panel on conflict resolution-related opportunities.  At each of these events, I will be reflecting on the skills I need to develop, the questions I should be asking of myself and others in this field, and the roles and careers in this field that I may not have otherwise been aware of or considered.

A lot of these professional questions intersect with the personal questions I was considering prior to coming to Fletcher:  Am I envisioning a career in constant motion?  Do I picture myself living internationally or within a particular country?  In the field or at headquarters?  Working with the UN, as I once did, or with a different agency?  In a research and policy-oriented role or on the implementation side of projects?  Stay tuned for the answers in my next installment of the Student Stories series….

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Today is Shopping Day, when students can sample new course offerings.  The regular class schedule will kick off tomorrow and, before it does, Roxanne shares her observations on her first Fletcher semester.

Selecting courses for a new semester has always been one of my favorite times in the academic life cycle. Before I dive into the Spring 2013 course offerings at Fletcher, I would like to reflect on some of my favorite moments from my first semester.

As part of a group project to present on the conflict in Rwanda in the 1990s, I read Scott Straus’s The Order of Genocide.  Through interviews with convicted prisoners who confessed to their involvement in the Rwandan genocide, Straus sought to understand why individuals participate in acts of mass violence.  In an excerpt from the book, he articulated the question that guides his research in a way that deeply resonated with my own interests:
“I never expected to be in Zaire or Rwanda or to cover raw violence, but once I witnessed such events, I could not let go of them easily. Eventually my trauma formulated itself as an intellectual question: Why does violence of this magnitude happen?”

The causes of violence, as well as responses and strategies for prevention, were a recurrent motif in my studies this semester.  Another highlight, however, emerged out of my participation in a luncheon series on non-violent, rather than violent, conflict.  The International Security Studies Program (ISSP), in partnership with the International Center on Non-Violent Conflict, offered a series of luncheon lectures on civil resistance and non-violent movement formation.  The backgrounds of fellow participants in this series range from journalism and community organization, to veterans and PhD students.  As Jessica has written in the Admissions Blog many times, there are more events and luncheon series at Fletcher than one could possibly attend, and this program on Nonviolent Civil Resistance has been among my favorites.

Another series of events that created many cherished memories for me is Fletcher’s Cultural Nights.  These events showcase the many regions of the world from which students hail, through singing, dancing, musical performances — or even videos inspired by the various regions we are celebrating!  Along with nine of my friends, I performed in a Balkan dance medley on Mediterranean Night, showcasing a Greek, Bulgarian, Bosnian, and Turkish traditional dance.  Fiesta Latina was also full of warmth and laughter, and I am already looking forward to more of these cultural events next semester.

Student collaboration is not only a theme of how we celebrate and dance, but also how we learn and study. My study group for Peace Operations met every Tuesday to discuss the assigned reading for the class.  The group consisted of five first-year students who had met during orientation, decided to help one another navigate the extensive reading load, developed a template for taking notes, and organized review sessions for themselves before the midterm.  This was a perfect complement to learning inside the classroom, and was always something to look forward to in my calendar.  Admittedly, it is initially challenging to adapt to the coordination and compromise required to co-write group papers or divide the workload and responsibilities of group presentations — but I am beginning to enjoy this process, and I’m grateful for the many life lessons along the way.

When I reflect on the moment I first felt at home at Fletcher, I think of Professor Dyan Mazurana’s lecture during a Fletcher Global Women lunch event.  Professor Mazurana spoke about her work on gender and mass atrocities, retraced her path to her current endeavors, and shared the personal and professional challenges and rewards of being in this field.  I felt similarly exhilarated attending an event by the Boston Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights, which featured Nadine Puechguirbal, the Senior Gender Adviser for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and Cynthia Enloe, one of the leading thinkers on gender and international politics.  It is refreshing to leave the campus and experience Boston’s thriving academic and professional community.  Finally, no mention of my cherished memories of the semester would be complete without acknowledging the Fletcher Storytelling Forum, the project Katherine Conway-Gaffney and I co-created earlier this year.  Listening to my classmates’ experiences of home and away has made me grateful to belong in the Fletcher community.

All the books I borrowed from the various Boston libraries have now been returned to their shelves, and I am getting ready to browse the 2013 course offerings.  In the next two months, we can look forward to the legendary Fletcher Ski Trip, a concert by our favorite school band, Los Fletcheros, and the NYC and DC Career Trips.  Stay tuned for updates, and Happy New Year!

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It turns out I needn’t have worried about sustaining the blog’s new Student Stories feature.  I started off with only two students — Mirza and Maliheh, plus Manjula on the alumni side — but today I’m introducing Roxanne Krystalli, who has an interest in writing and who volunteered to be included.  I love volunteers!  Roxanne is a first-year MALD student, studying International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.  For her second Field of Study, she is in the process of designing one on the theme of Gender and Conflict.  Prior to Fletcher, she worked with women affected by conflict, in affiliation with the United Nations, Peace in Focus (co-founded by current MIB student Kate Fedosova, and Kyle Dietrich, 2009 MALD graduate), and other organizations in Egypt, Uganda, Colombia, Guatemala, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.  Today, Roxanne tells us about her interests and a special project she has initiated.

I arrived at Fletcher with three different, but connected, interests:  First, I came here to further study the intersection of gender and conflict, which I had explored in my field work with ex-combatants in Colombia, survivors of sexual violence in East Africa, and women parliamentarians in the Middle East.  Second, I was fascinated by non-violent movements and civil resistance, with which I became better acquainted through the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.  And third, the thread that tied everything together was my fervent belief in the power of storytelling.  Whether as a co-designer and implementer of curricula on creative peace-building through visual and written stories in post-conflict areas, or as a budding writer, photographer, and blogger, I was fascinated by the power of stories to air grievances, generate empathy, move individuals to action, and create community.

In Fletcher classrooms, stories are rigorous, academic, footnoted.  This made my MALD classmate, Katherine Conway-Gaffney, and me wonder:  What about the other stories?  The more personal stories?  The stories the members of this community carry within them?  Katherine and I first met through the “buddy program” that pairs incoming first-year students with second-year students with similar interests, and we quickly discovered that we both believed the power of this community lies in the narratives that exist within it.

It is this shared belief in the power of storytelling that led us to co-found the Storytelling Forum.  The format is simple:  Students are invited to share stories that have affected their lives and work, in response to question prompts.  This is not an academic discussion, or a how-to; rather, it resembles the conversations that would unfold at a café among friends.  Our first evening of sharing stories, moderated by Professor Eileen Babbitt, revolved around the theme of the personal dimensions of work, and the thrills and challenges of an international life, while the second evening focused on notions of home and family.  Students’ suggestions for future storytelling evenings include topics ranging from questions of love, solitude, and companionship, as they relate to an international career, to stories about humility, uncertainty, or grief.  The project is independent and student-run and, since many of the stories are so personal, we have restricted readership to members of the Fletcher community.

My first semester at Fletcher has been nothing short of humbling and inspiring.  Looking into the various stories that inhabit this community, and slowly seeing how they intersect or diverge, fuels my gratitude for being here.  Stay tuned for more updates on stories from the Fletcher community!

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