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The final update on the fall 2015 semester comes from Tatsuo, who, like Ali and Aditi, took a heavy course load last semester. In fact, I would describe it as an extremely challenging semester for anyone, and particularly for a non-native English speaker just starting his Fletcher studies.
In my first semester at Fletcher, I took four courses: Law and Development; Development Economics: Policy Analysis; Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance; and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies. Every course was interesting, but especially Law and Development, which was one of the reasons that I chose the School. Thus, I want to introduce the course in this post.
Law and Development dealt with development theory and implementation of development policies from the legal perspective. It was an interdisciplinary fusion of international development and legal studies. The combination of two fields, law and international relations, is characteristic of one of the unique qualities of The Fletcher School of “Law and Diplomacy.” In the course, some students did not have legal expertise or practical experience; therefore, the legal materials that we reviewed in the class were not too difficult or specialized. But I hardly felt bored in the class, although I have five years’ experience as a legal officer, managing legislation and implementing laws and orders.
I found the class engaging for a few reasons. First, I was a beginner in international development studies. Thinking about how we could manage issues of international development through legal schemes and techniques was very exciting and helpful for my future career when I will be involved in regional development as a public legal officer.
Second, and more importantly, the course gave us opportunities to think about fundamental questions of law. Developing countries and regions tend not to have adequate legal schemes, bureaucracies, or precedents. Thus, they cannot rely on routine procedures or ways of thinking, and they face fundamental questions that we, developed countries’ officers, likely ignore. What is law? What is a court? What is justice? What is development? Some people think that these questions are not practical, but I certainly do not agree with them. In interdisciplinary or emergency cases, including one I have experienced personally, we have to face such questions. Just after the Great Japan Earthquake in 2011, we wanted to skip or abolish many legal procedures for rapid rescue and recovery. However, even in this emergency situation, in order to evade these established legal schemes, we needed to identify truly necessary legal procedures. I remember that we discussed “What is the government?” and “To what extent could we pursue coercive actions without any democratic or legal procedures?” in those chaotic days.
The professor of the Law and Development course is Jeswald Salacuse. He has a great reputation both in practical fields (the former president of international arbitration tribunals of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) and academia (he is also a former dean of The Fletcher School and the founding President of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs). In previous work as a legal assistant, he actually pursued law and development issues in developing countries. As a result, his lectures incorporated not only theoretical and text-based knowledge but also vivid recollections of experiences in the field. Although he has had such a prestigious career, he was very friendly and approachable for his students. His class was one of the largest lecture classes at Fletcher, but even with about 30 to 40 students in the class, I did not feel any difficulty asking questions. Professor Salacuse also seemed to like interactive lectures. Additionally even outside the class, the professor kindly helped me with class assignments and papers.
The course dealt with vast areas of law and development. Reading assignments were huge, especially for non-native English speakers like me, so I organized a reading group with other five students. We read and summarized each assigned reading and discussed them each weekend. That was very helpful for understanding background material for the course, and the discussions with students who have diverse backgrounds were also really interesting.
One thing about the course that I regret was my decision to write a paper. We were offered the choice of taking a final exam or writing a research paper. I chose to write the paper. During the first half of the semester, I was struggling to manage the course’s assignments, and I wasn’t able to start writing until after mid-term exams. That meant that writing my draft of the paper overlapped with presentations for final presentations, exams, and papers for my other courses. If my schedule management had worked better, I could have done more to improve the final version. Although I did not receive the grade I had hoped for on the report, it was the only thing I regret about the course.
The average Fletcher student is not here to goof off. On the contrary, most students are both challenged by their coursework and also inclined to inch right up against the boundaries of the maximum they can handle at any given time. Last Thursday, Ali shared details of her fall 2015 semester, which pushed her academically and forced her to employ advanced time management skills. I have two more fall wrap-ups to share, from Aditi and Tatsuo, and they both describe tough semesters. Today, let’s read about Aditi’s experience in her second year in the MALD program, and the reality of how challenging a semester can be.
As a second year student at Fletcher, a lot of things are easier this year — for example, knowing where to find a microwave when Mugar Café is closed, or how early to get to Social Hour for food, or how to petition anything you don’t really want to do. But between worrying about careers, life after May, campus jobs, classes, and a Capstone Project, second year is still very challenging. One of the things my friends and I have struggled with this year is dealing with these stresses without letting them get the better of us.
It’s really easy to lose perspective at Fletcher. We’re so engrossed in campus life that it’s hard to focus on making sure we’re not over-extending ourselves, especially because we want to challenge ourselves and get involved as much as possible. It’s also hard to find the time to stay engaged with life outside Fletcher — the friends, family, and other communities that we built long before arriving here.
Last semester, I decided to push myself academically and take classes that I personally found very difficult. A lot of my friends made similar decisions. While the classes were very rewarding and I learned a lot, by the middle of the semester I was burned out and struggling to keep on top of everything. I just couldn’t juggle classes, work, the unavoidable necessities of regular life (you know, laundry, groceries, cleaning…), and friends and family. At one point, I was concerned that instead of really understanding and learning in my classes, I was just rushing through the motions of finishing one assignment after the next. Everything came to a head when I had a series of personal commitments, and I found myself unable to keep up with anything, academic or personal. Several of my second-year friends were in the same situation, and we all realized that rather than making the most of our Fletcher experience, we were selling ourselves short by not investing the time necessary to truly enjoy it.
In retrospect, I think that much of my stress and anxiety could have been avoided had I been more realistic about my plans for the semester. Yes, I wanted a challenge — but I wasn’t honest with myself about what I need to stay sane and happy, such as finding time to cook, spend time with my friends, stay connected to my family and relationships outside Fletcher, and get enough movement and exercise. Many of us also delayed taking advantage of some of the great resources available to us here, such as Tufts Mental Health Services and our Fletcher community of friends.
Fletcher is a fantastic experience, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the most of graduate school and cram in as much as possible. In the middle of all that we have going on here, it’s essential to remember to take care of ourselves and keep this experience in perspective! I overextended myself last semester, but I don’t regret pouring all my energy into it. As I start a new semester, I will learn from the experience, and plan my time in a way that fosters both my learning and my overall happiness, a suggestion I would give to anyone planning to come to Fletcher.
New students (the 2016 group of “Januarians”) have been participating in their Orientation this week, and continuing students will return on Tuesday. Today, let’s hear from Ali about her extremely busy fall semester.
As winter break comes to an end, it’s hard to believe that I have only one semester left! The fall was a whirlwind of finding balance between strengthening last year’s skills and pursuing new growth ahead.
My internship at Breckinridge Capital Advisors — mentioned in my last post — was definitely something new. I expanded my terminology within fixed income investing; experienced work in a medium-sized enterprise; and familiarized myself with downtown Boston, which I’m sad to say that I (and many of my peers) didn’t do in my first year. It was overwhelming to balance school with work three days a week, but I’m glad I made time to do the internship. I’m constantly reminded that this is the last time in my life when I’ll be encouraged to learn as much as I contribute at work. I’m excited to continue interning there during my final semester.
My law courses in Trade Law, International Business Transactions, and Mergers & Acquisitions were all new for me, too. I can’t recommend taking three law classes in one semester without a legal background, but Fletcher’s law professors succeeded in pushing me and teaching me to think in a new light. I’m confident my familiarity with corporate law will differentiate me from other job-seeking graduate business candidates and will help me in future executive corporate roles.
It hasn’t all been new, however. I had a great time attending my second annual Net Impact conference in Seattle, WA, building off of last year’s experience. It has been awesome to grow the club at Fletcher — we had five people attend the conference this year! — and to plan another fun semester of events, including an intimate speaker session with Talbot’s head of supply chain sustainability and a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) certification workshop for students that will take place with Boston College’s Net Impact Club this spring. A year ago, the second-year students passed the running of the club on to Chelsey and me, and now it’s fulfilling to pass it off to first-year students Ben and Harper. I’m excited to see where they take it!
Stay tuned for adventures in my final semester, when I’ll return to Belgium over spring break with funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context to do field research for my capstone project!
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.
The last post written by our first-year student bloggers comes from Adnan, who is in the MALD program. As he’ll explain, Adnan and I met at the earliest stages of his graduate school search and it has been a pleasure to keep up with him for more than a year. He was also the very first new student I ran into on the first day of Orientation in August. We were both walking up to Fletcher, and it seemed like an especially fitting start to the new academic year. Naturally, I reached out to him when I was thinking about whom to ask to do some blogging over the next two years. Here’s his story.
Three months in, I’m happy to report that Fletcher is everything I’d imagined it to be, and so much more. My journey began last fall while I was visiting my alma mater, the University of Toronto, and happened to attend the APSIA fair they were hosting. At the time, I was working in Lahore as an associate editor at Newsweek Pakistan, where I had started off as a staff reporter in 2011. I had also been admitted to an international affairs program at another graduate school that spring, but deferred the offer because I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right choice for me. Meeting representatives of various schools at the fair was a great way to get a sense of what else was out there, but the Fletcher booth is where I ended up spending most of my time. I had an engaging conversation with Jessica about whether I’d be a good fit, and it motivated me to make a trip down to Medford.
Visiting campus convinced me that Fletcher was where I wanted to be. I signed up for an interview and a coffee-chat with a student, met with a faculty member, attended a talk, and stayed overnight with a student who heard about me through the mighty Social List. Each activity offered a different perspective on life at Fletcher, and I was able to get answers to all my questions. The diversity of its curriculum, and the freedom to tailor a program to suit my interests were an important part of Fletcher’s appeal, as was its prestigious reputation. What drew me most to the school, however, were Fletcher’s extraordinarily amicable people. Everybody I interacted with seemed genuinely interested in helping, and as I can attest now, it wasn’t just about making a visitor feel welcome, but is very much a part of Fletcher’s culture. I’m lucky to have gotten in, and glad I chose well.
With my background in journalism, I knew that International Information and Communication would be one of my concentrations. This semester, I’m taking International Communication, the required course for that field. Of the many topics covered in class, it’s been fascinating to study the changing context in which global media operates. I am also taking both parts of Social Networks in Organizations, which work toward the field too. Additionally, I am fulfilling my breadth requirements for one ILO course with International Legal Order, and for a required DHP class with Global Political Economy. The second field of study I’m interested in is Strategic Management and International Consultancy. Though this is technically a field for the MIB degree, the flexibility of Fletcher’s programs allows MALD students like me to petition to complete it. To get my foot in the door, I joined the student-run service, 180 Degrees Consulting, and am leading a project to help a nongovernmental organization develop a communication strategy.
While classes are rigorous and demanding, they are one among many sources of learning at Fletcher. Coursework is complemented by daily events that range from conferences and panel discussions, to workshops and film-screenings, often leaving us spoiled for choice. Another great resource is Fletcher’s diverse student body, just casually hanging out with whom can be educational. Through clubs, students arrange organized activities and events too, my favorite of which so far have been the culture nights. I danced in a Bollywood performance at Asia Night, learned Salsa for Fiesta Latina, and am already excited about Africana, Americana, and Mediterranean nights next semester. With everything that goes on, and limited time at hand, coping with the fear of missing out can be a Fletcher student’s biggest challenge. As I learn to prioritize to ensure I make the most of my time here, I look forward to sharing my Fletcher experience with you.
Time to return to the first-year students who I hope will be two-year bloggers, sharing their Fletcher stories with you. Today we’ll meet McKenzie, who describes her path to the MIB program and her first two-plus months in it.
Hi everyone! My name is McKenzie Smith. I’m thrilled that I will be sharing my experiences in the Master of International Business (MIB) program over the next two years. To get started, let me share a bit about where I come from, where I’m going, and how I plan to use my time at Fletcher — the things I imagine you’re considering yourself. In short, I’m here at Fletcher to explore the growth and adoption of impact investment that helps develop emerging markets. In particular, I’m interested in the role that capital flows can play in encouraging businesses to consider their environmental, social, and governance impacts on society in the course of their operations.
Before Fletcher, I spent four years as a consultant helping public- and private-sector clients solve complex challenges related to strategy and operational efficiency, organizational design, and large-scale program management. I also supported business development efforts for multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia. Prior to that, I taught kindergarten in Colorado after studying international development and international politics at Georgetown University. One thing I’ve learned from my varied experience is that tackling multi-dimensional challenges necessitates interdisciplinary solutions. Leveraging finance to build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote economic transformation requires a complex set of actors, from investors to academics, NGOs to businesses, who must work in a coordinated manner to enable citizens and businesses to create economic value. Achieving this through a lens of social impact can be even more challenging as investors and entrepreneurs seek to create social value that does not cause a loss of financial returns.
Yet, while facilitating the growth and adoption of impact (or “socially responsible,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance/ESG”) investing is fraught with obstacles, I find myself saying, “Challenge accepted!” In fact, individuals around the world can and are finding innovative ways to blend social value with financial returns. A growing number of investors from the millennial generation are demanding it, and more and more institutions are devoting resources to research and fund development that creates opportunities for investors to “put their money where there values are.”
I could keep going, but I’ll jump to the question you’re likely asking at this point: in light of these goals, why Fletcher? In short, I came to Fletcher to focus on international finance and social enterprise in emerging markets because Fletcher offers the right mix of rigorous MBA-type skills and an understanding of the multiple social, political, and economic issues inherent in conducting business around the world.
In terms of core business and finance skills, this semester alone I’m taking courses in corporate finance, global investment management, and financial statement management. I’m building concrete skills in valuation, financial analysis, portfolio construction, and strategic decision making.
In terms of social enterprise in emerging markets, I’m taking a course called “Emerging Africa,” which examines the role of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the private sector in African economies’ transformations. This course is unique at Fletcher, especially for MIBs. While many of us considered traditional MBAs and could have found similar courses in those programs, we would not have had the chance to take these courses alongside friends focused on human security, development economics, negotiation and conflict resolution, security studies, or environmental and energy policy. Because the growth of entrepreneurship in emerging markets is intimately intertwined with an in-depth understanding of many of these issues, the Fletcher experience for students interested in international business cannot be beat.
As before, I could certainly go on. In some ways, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just arrived! At the same time, already in the second half of my first semester at Fletcher, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies. I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you as the year progresses.
Until next time,
Today, I’m happy to introduce the first post from one of the new students who will report on their Fletcher experience in the Student Stories feature. Tatsuo and I met last summer when he had recently arrived on campus, and I’m very excited to be able to highlight the experience of a student from Japan. Fletcher benefits every year from the perspective of Japanese students, many of whom, like Tatsuo, have been sponsored by the organizations for which they work. I’ll let Tatsuo supply the details.
Hello! I am Tatsuo Sakai, a first-year MALD student. I feel very happy to have the opportunity to share with you my future tough, but surely enjoyable, days at Fletcher, by posting in the Admissions blog.
My first-priority interest at Fletcher is international development. I’d like to study theories and practical implications of development today. I think there is a lot of room to pursue interdisciplinary work examining development studies for developing countries and regional development policies in well-developed countries. I believe such integrated studies can contribute to both the less developed countries and to disadvantaged areas in well-developed countries.
Additionally, I am also interested in security studies. As I will explain later, a position in homeland security is one of my future possible jobs.
Before Fletcher, I worked in the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), as a legal officer in three areas:
1) The city planning division
2) The international affairs office for Civil Aviation, and
3) The road administration division.
During my five years in MLIT, I worked on planning policies for reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011; negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other economic partnership agreements; reform of public road policies, including the introduction of private funding into public infrastructure projects; and promoting disaster response capabilities.
As a ministry official who was assigned to study abroad with a Japanese government long-term fellowship, I had some options for my graduate studies, from the west coast to the east coast, and including public policy schools or design/planning schools. Finally, I decided to study at Fletcher for three reasons.
1) Fletcher’s broad and flexible curriculum
I am a person who cannot narrow my interests into a certain area. Thus, in my work, I was in charge of broad fields, from very domestic policy, such as city planning legislation, to global negotiations with foreign counterparts, for example for the TPP. I may even be assigned to be a Coast Guard officer in the future. I am curious about and able to enjoy everything I encounter. In this, my first semester at Fletcher, I am taking four courses — Law and Development, Development Economics: Policy Analysis, Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance, and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies. The classes are very diverse, from law to economics to security studies. Fletcher has courses and professors with expertise in many different areas, and we can take any courses we want within the program’s flexible requirements.
2) The community
Fletcher is well known, even in Japan, for its strong community. After other Japanese students and I received our admission decisions from Fletcher, one of Fletcher’s alumni, the Pakistani ambassador in Japan, held a welcome party at his official residence. We met many alumni from various government sections and countries. I also feel the strength of the Fletcher community as a student here. It’s my first time living in a foreign country, but I enjoy and relax with friendly support from classmates, even in an unfamiliar environment and with a tough workload. I surely believe that the tight bonds in the community will contribute to our success around the world.
3) Fletcher’s reputation in international affairs
As you know, Fletcher is the oldest graduate school for international relations in the world. We have a lot of successful alumni who have built a great reputation for the School in the United Nations, World Bank, or other international organizations, and of course, governments and the private sector. The reputation prevails even where I didn’t expect it. When I traveled to a rural town in Montana this summer, I wore a sweatshirt with a Fletcher logo. An old couple asked me, “Are you a Fletcher student?” I said yes, and then, they said, “You can save the world! Please do it!” I was surprised and really proud at that moment.
I have nearly completed my second month at Fletcher. I’m looking forward to experiencing many strange, curious, surprising, and enjoyable events during my two years. I hope you will enjoy sharing my experience at Fletcher through my posts in the blog!
Time to wrap up the reports on summer internships. Today, Ali tells us about her summer at YUM! Brands, a major multinational company that just happens to be located in her home town of Louisville, Kentucky.
When’s the last time you looked at a utility bill? What about 20,000 utility bills? That’s what I was doing this summer at YUM! Brands — the parent company for KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.
- What is the role of a for-profit company in addressing global climate change and water scarcity?
- How do we communicate with franchisees about sustainability and cost tradeoffs in the supply chain?
- What’s the best way to collect and manage CSR (corporate social responsibility) data from places like the U.S., China, and Australia? Are we only responsible for equity markets, or are we responsible for franchisee markets, too?
- What do investors care about, and how does sustainability affect YUM!’s stock price?
- Should investors and governments encourage utilities to standardize units, billing cycles, and other statement features, as they increase their corporate water and greenhouse gas accounting requests, too?
Under the guidance of the Chief Sustainability Officer and YUM!’s Global Sustainability team, I collaborated with employees from government affairs, foundation, supply chain, IT, investor relations, and more, to author the company’s WDP (water disclosure project) report; develop its water stewardship strategy; select a new data management system; and engage employees, investors, and ESG (Environmental, Social And Governance) research agencies, around YUM!’s sustainability efforts and their connection to its stock price.
I enjoyed my time at YUM!, and this semester, I’m continuing my work from there through my involvement with Net Impact and my internship at Breckinridge Capital Advisors, where I’m learning about sustainability from the fixed income investor’s perspective.
Breckinridge actively recruits Fletcher students, and I’m grateful that coming here for my degree gives me the opportunity to shift my career focus and intern in different settings than I’ve worked in before.
I’m looking forward to reporting more about the great and final year ahead!
Thanks to the Leir Fellowship that supports Fletcher student internships, I was able to work in Rwanda over the past summer. It was my first experience traveling to Africa, but having spent time in India, the U.S., and South America, I felt as though I was well-prepared for what the experience might throw my way. In some ways, I was right: I wasn’t overwhelmed by the crowds, or paralyzed by the sight of poverty, or surprised at the presence of expensive restaurants and a thriving nightlife with international music playing at every club. In several other ways, however, I found that the experience was new in ways I had not anticipated.
The organization I was working with, Manos de Madres Rwanda, works in partnership with a local clinic that has worked in Kigali for over a decade. The patients are women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Several grew up orphaned, and most are desperately poor. The clinic provides its patients with physical and psychological care, and Manos de Madres offered to partner with the clinic to provide the women with livelihoods and skills training. The organization has a program manager, a marketing manager who I helped hire during my time there, and three young “Cooperative Agents” who are part-time staff and also patients of the clinic. This team runs a number of different programs with various cooperatives of women: an organic market garden called Baho; a screen-printing business called Dutete; a jewelry-making cooperative called Ejo Hazaza; and a microloan program for young mothers.
My day-to-day work consisted of visiting each of the cooperatives and participating in their meetings, followed by team meetings with the Manos staff. Although I was originally hired to start work on Manos’ monitoring and evaluation of its programs, it quickly became clear that the need of the organization was improved general management. I had to be responsive to the needs of the organization, and although I wanted to test my newly-minted monitoring and evaluation skills, I realized that it would be a far more impactful contribution to help the team with its daily management and putting in place systems and processes. I spent a lot of my time conducting trainings with the team—on business plan creation, so they could work better with the cooperatives; on reporting; and on using Excel. I created a new reporting structure for the Manos team to use and trained them on how to fill out and submit reports.
Living and working in Kigali was a mixed experience for me. It was my first time living in a country where I was absolutely unable to communicate with most people around me, and before this summer, I definitely underestimated the impact this would have on me. Being unable to communicate with the women we worked with was incredibly frustrating, as I always had to request translation or else be left out of the conversation. It made me deeply uncomfortable, and it has made me question the effectiveness of working in a country for which I have no local language or context skills. It will make me think twice about future career decisions, and tread carefully and think through my own assumptions before embarking on a career living or working in an environment where I do not speak the language.
Aside from the personal growth and thoughts about how I would like to shape my career, I had the opportunity to see a lot of the country. I hiked up a volcano to see a crater lake at the top, and went on my first African safari at Akagera National Park. The country was phenomenally beautiful, with the bus rides being more than enough of a treat to justify a disappointing destination, had there actually been one!
I was also very interested to see how Rwanda is changing its national image from a country scarred by genocide, to one that is increasingly a tourist and investment destination. The process of building this new identity while remembering and memorializing the genocide is a tricky balance, and one that I am curious to learn more about.
Professionally and personally, this summer in Rwanda has helped me solidify how I want to build my life and career post Fletcher — it was a perfect way to tie together my first and second year at Fletcher.
Fletcher is not the type of school where everyone hopes to spend the summer as a consultant or banker in New York. Ask a dozen people here what they did for their summer internship, and I bet you will get a dozen completely different answers. With people scattered across the world doing everything under the sun, it would be quite difficult for me to describe the average Fletcher internship. Instead, I can at least provide you with one data point by telling you about my summer, spent in the most unlikely of places for a Fletcher student: Boston.
My internship was with a rapidly growing solar energy project development company in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, which I secured with the help of one of my professors. I worked to build out their “Community Solar” offering, which is the hot new thing in the industry: instead of mounting panels on their roofs, anyone can subscribe to centralized solar installations, effectively opening up the market for the 80% of people who could not go solar previously. As you may remember from earlier blog posts, I am interested in innovative business models and financing mechanisms for clean energy infrastructure, so this was right up my alley. Furthermore, working on the development side provided a good experiential addition to my internship with the wind energy private equity firm last semester; now I know both the money side and the project side of the deal.
Actually getting to build out a new product offering, with all the requisite business processes, was a great opportunity as well. In my previous role as a strategy consultant, I was generally looking at the bigger picture instead of tackling all the nitty-gritty pieces of building something new. It was an eye-opening experience, which brought some concreteness to my thinking.
The size of the company was another aspect I enjoyed: at 45 employees, it was much smaller than Monitor Deloitte and much bigger than some of the start-ups I have worked with in the past. At this size, a company has the expertise and basic processes in place, but does not yet have the silos that beset many larger organizations. I felt empowered to reach across the organization, make decisions, and execute as I saw fit, which I greatly enjoyed. Also, I was excited to be surrounded by experts in all aspects of building our energy sources of the future.
So, while I have to admit I was jealous at first of all my friends jetting off to cool and exotic places for their summers, I ended up being happy that I kept mine local. One of the great perks was my commute, which included biking along charming Charles Street in Beacon Hill, through the verdant Public Gardens, and then down bustling Newbury Street in Back Bay. I feel lucky that I was one of the few who got to stay in Boston, and appreciate the opportunities and beauty of the great city in which we live.
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