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It’s great to have the Student Stories bloggers back on campus.  I’m in the process of selecting new writers even as continuing writers are sending me their first posts of the academic year.  Kicking off the summer reports is Mariya.  As it happens, she first wrote about her summer for the Fletcher News & Media page.  Check that out for the details on her work.  Today, she’ll tell us about some of her out-of-office activities.

While my internship at U.S. Embassy Bangkok was phenomenal, I want to share with you adventures that occurred outside the office.  Here is an assorted list of 14 unexpected things I did this summer — mostly in Bangkok, but also a few in South Korea and Singapore — that are not mentioned in the interview linked above.

1. Kissed, fed, and bathed with elephants at an elephant sanctuary in the northern city of Chiang Mai.  I learned that elephants are not camera-shy — one of them even flapped his ears in a video with me!  Too bad the elephants were a bit heavy to zip line with me afterward.

2. Became addicted to “boba” (bubble tea), especially green tea flavor.  I also loved coconut water, which I ordered at my every meal; and yes, I carved out the coconut with a spoon afterward.

3. Ate a range of exotic fruits I had never heard of or seen before, including mangosteen, pomelo, rambutan, water chestnuts, dragon fruit, papaya, and durian (known as the “King of Fruits”).  Fresh fruit from the street vendors was only $1.20 — I felt like the queen of fruits.

With Fletcher friends.

4. Toured various temples in Bangkok with Fletcher classmates Jittipat and Takuya.  In Thai, “wat” means temple, and it was interesting to learn about and compare the architecture and intricate designs of Wat Pho, Wat Saket (Golden Mount), Loha Prasad, Wat Benja, and the Grand Palace.  “Wat” fun!

5. Interviewed a Fletcher alumni couple, Deputy Chief of Mission Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond, over lunch at their home.  Keep an eye out for the exclusive interview coming soon in my next blog post!

6. Visited pork, cattle, poultry, and dairy farms to learn about the efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  My internship supervisor was keen on my learning about the interagency process at an embassy and I definitely learned a lot about the “farm to table” supply chain process.

7. Shopped until I dropped — literally — at the Chattuchuk Weekend Market.  After a few hours in the heat and maddening crowds at the market, which sold everything you could ever imagine at bargain prices, I would come home and collapse on my bed.

8. Snorkeled for the first time during a speedboat daytrip to Phi Phi Islands with my college friend Dashawn, who was traveling for the first time outside of the United States.  Our weekend in Krabi also included riding ATV’s through a muddy obstacle course, riding an elephant through the jungle, shopping for gifts at the night market, and attempting to hike the monkey-ridden Tiger Cave Trail before sunset.  I am honored that Dashawn spent his first international trip with me.

9. Rode motorbikes that weaved through traffic.  While not the safest choice, they were definitely faster than the local “tuk tuk,” Thailand’s version of a rickshaw.

10. Invested in a custom-made suit in Phuket after feeling major FOMO (fear of missing out) when another visiting friend purchased multiple suits for his business school endeavors.  Tuk tuk drivers have a habit of dropping you off at suit stores to lure you in, and it’s quite tempting (case in point), so be careful if you visit Bangkok!

11. Relaxed at the spa at least once a week.  Thai massage is famous for combining acupressure techniques and yoga postures; in other words, compressing, pulling, stretching and rocking your body in every which direction.

12. Was captivated by the beauty of Super Trees and multimedia shows on the waterfront in Singapore.  Shortly after Ramadan, on Eid al-Fitr holiday, I was lucky to tour the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, because it is open to the public only a few times during the year.  Singapore is known for its “racial harmony” and it was beautiful to see a mosque, Hindu temple, and a Buddhist temple lined up on the same street downtown.

13. Walked through the Third Infiltration Tunnel, one of four known tunnels under the border between North Korea and South Korea, as part of a tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).  During the DMZ tour, we also visited Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, and the Dora Observatory, where I looked across the border into North Korea.  I felt like I was at the juncture of history and present.

14. Had serendipitous encounters with Fletcher friend Angga and a high school friend in Seoul. The Fletcher family, and apparently the West Potomac High community, is in every corner of the world.

A wise man once said, “we have nothing to lose but a world to see.”  With that mindset, I said yes to every adventure that knocked on my door, and blogged, as much as I could, about all of them.

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Student blogger Mariya, who will soon start her second year in the MALD program, has filed an early report on her summer, starting with the first phase of her multi-country experience in Asia.

After a short visit home, my summer started with a stint on the other side of the world.  In late March, I was accepted to the Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship, an all-expense paid two-week cultural exchange program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China that “provides young U.S. and Canadian students and professionals an opportunity to explore Taiwan through workshops, lectures, home stays, historic site visits and extensive cultural immersion activities.”

I found out about this opportunity through a former Fletcher participant who advertised it on the Social List over winter break.  Although I had a summer internship lined up at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok via the Pickering Fellowship, I decided to try my luck and squeeze in the Mosaic Fellowship before departing to Thailand.  Thanks to Professor Ian Johnstone who wrote my letter of recommendation, I was able to secure this fellowship.

Mariya, Alexis, and Meredith at the Mosaic Taiwan gala.

I was very excited to learn that two of my Fletcher friends – Alexis and Meredith – were also selected to participate.  A Boston-based Taiwan diplomat told us over a pre-departure lunch in Davis Square that three students from one school was quite rare because the ministry tries to optimize its outreach by selecting one student per school.  I guess Fletcher kids just blew them away with strong applications!

It was my first time traveling to East Asia, and Taiwan was a wonderful introduction.  The Mosaic Taiwan program was well-organized, engaging, and eye-opening.  Our agenda was jam-packed with activities, starting at 8:00 a.m. every day and ending around 8:00 p.m.  The experience was enriched by the other participants — 25 Americans from across the United States and five Canadians — all of whom brought a unique perspective to the program.  And of course, it wouldn’t be an international trip without a Fletcher connection: a recent Fletcher graduate connected us to his parents who kindly treated us to dinner.

Here is a snapshot of what we were up to for two weeks:

  • Tours: We got a feel for Taipei through a city tour that shed light on the history and culture, Japanese-style buildings, and early churches.  We also toured street markets where we tried the famed delicacy “stinky tofu,” miscellaneous chicken parts, exotic fried seafood such as octopus and squid balls, and for those who could indulge, pork blood popsicles.
  • Site Visits: We visited landmarks such as the Taipei 101 Financial Tower, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Chimei Museum, and National Palace Museum.  We also visited the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) as well as the Foreign Ministry.
  • Lectures: There was an emphasis on the educational component of this trip.  We attended lectures on topics including Taiwan-U.S. relations, cross-strait relations, defense policy, economic and energy polices, and healthcare.  These lectures enhanced my understanding of how regional history has shaped present-day Taiwan.  They also broadened my perspective on East Asian geopolitics.
  • Workshops: The program had an equal balance of hands-on activities.  We learned Chinese calligraphy with brushes (my favorite workshop); carved bamboo sticks to design harmonicas; hand made zongzi (rice and beans stuffed in large flat bamboo leaves) in a small village; kickboxed each other during martial arts; and wrote tea-making songs with the traditional sio-po-kua rhythm.
  • Overnight Trip: We took a high-speed railway to the southern city of Tainan, where we learned about Taiwan’s efforts to protect its natural resources.  We took a boat tour of Taijiang National Park and visited Fort Zeelandia and AnPing Tree House.
  • Local Organizations: Whereas the lectures gave us an overview of the island’s history and current affairs, and the workshops immersed us in Taiwanese culture, it was the visits to local organizations and companies that gave us insight into Taiwan as a functioning modern society.  By meeting with leaders of Kaiser Pharmaceutical, Design School, XYZPrinting Company, and Garden of Hope Foundation (humanitarian), we learned about Taiwan’s diverse industries and social efforts.  Exchanging views with students from the National Taiwan University was inspiring — the young people are very passionate about social and democratic progress in their country.  In fact, during our trip, Taiwan became the first in the region to legalize gay marriage.
  • Food: This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the trip for me.  I am not a picky eater, but my dietary restrictions as a Muslim made it difficult for me to enjoy the meals, almost all of which included pork or were cooked in pork oil.  Still, I managed to indulge in seafood, fried rice, noodles, and vegetable soups and salads.
  • Group work: What made the Mosaic Taiwan fellowship so special was the collaborative component.  On day one, we all formed groups that became our official teams for the program.  At the fancy Opening Ceremony, the teams performed group chants for Taiwan representatives and Canadian and American government officials — we even made headlines in Taiwan Today.  Each group had a unique personality; my team, Love Taiwan, was voted “Most Enthusiastic.”  The Closing Gala Ceremony was our final celebration, where we were recognized for our participation with an official award and we performed salsa dancing and sang an acapella song.

After this trip, I can truly understand why the Portuguese sailors called Taiwan “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) when they arrived at its shores in 1542.

Mariya with the “Love Taiwan” group.

 

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I’m going to close out this blog week with the post that wraps up Tatsuo’s Fletcher experience.  It’s hard to believe that I met Tatsuo almost exactly two years ago, and he’s already back in his job with the ministry in Japan that sponsored his studies.  As much as any student I’ve known, Tatsuo made the most of his two years away from the workplace.  He traveled widely in the U.S. and beyond, pursued an exchange semester in Paris, had an internship last summer (relatively uncommon among students who will return to their pre-Fletcher workplace), and while on campus, built community with fellow students interested in Japanese culture and food.  In today’s post, he describes his return to work at the ministry.

Two months ago, I graduated from Fletcher and came back to Japan.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I am readjusting quickly to Japanese life and work.  I miss my days in the school on the hill, but I already feel like they passed years ago.

I’ve settled in Kasumigaseki, the district that is home to almost all Japanese central government agencies, and I am serving as the Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Division in the Public Transport Department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

In Japan, maybe like some other countries, the name of the government district — “Kasumigaseki” — is sometimes used as a word to symbolize “conservative,” “sectionalism,” or “stubbornness.”  However, we, the people in Kasumigaseki, are now facing the tide of many and great social and economic trends.

My new position is one of the difficult but interesting positions through which the government is facing change and challenges.  Due to Japan’s aging population and the end of high economic growth, Japanese cities and towns, especially in rural regions, are struggling with economic and social stagnation.  In these areas, public transportation faces decreasing demand.  Many local bus companies will be bankrupted.  Japanese Railway and other railway companies abolished many “unprofitable” routes that are still critical for the local society and economy.  A decade ago, some free-market-oriented policies that eased or abolished governmental regulations to control transport companies accelerated the trend.

My task is to revitalize regional economies and societies such as these to reconstruct the transport networks.  Many bus routes and railways were built in the age of high economic growth.  Most of these networks are inefficient for current demand, while the companies have heavily subsidized them and lost the capability to adjust to social/economic change.  Moreover, there are many innovations on the horizon to bring a new future to public transport, such as automated driving.

This work needs very broad cross-sector approaches and communication.  I am working with many colleagues beyond a single department, ministry, or regional government.  I work with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and many businesses to tackle regional transport projects.  This complex approach is needed because we have to connect multiple transport modes, many industries, various technologies, and diverse thoughts.

The position has another unique dimension.  It is very close to “ground-level.”  MLIT is generally field-site oriented: there are tens of thousands of engineers and technocrats, in many branches all over the country, with a big influence on politicians and local governments through the huge infrastructure budget.  However, even in MLIT, such detailed field work that I am tackling is really rare.  For example, I have to check local governments’ transport network plans.  I am sometimes thinking about the location of a bus stop or route because of these very detailed transport network plans.

Although I am enjoying my new responsibilities (while struggling with terrible Japanese working conditions…) some colleagues or friends have said it’s unfortunate that this position is too domestically-focused for a person who just returned from studying in a foreign country.  They said that such a “global” person as me should be appointed to some kind of international work, for example international treaty negotiation, promoting infrastructure exports, or diplomatic postings to foreign countries.

However, in Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan, and many other places I visited throughout the world, I realized a truth.  To be a “global” person, we need to have “local” expertise.

I enjoyed working in Timor-Leste, not because my English was fluent or I had completed a year of studies, but because my transport/infrastructure expertise was very rare and important for the country.

Imagine if I had no expertise in Japanese industries, infrastructure technologies, or at least the culture and the society.  If I had one of those “international” positions, what should I negotiate for?  What should I promote to export?  How could I represent Japan?

Before Fletcher, I was a man who simply adored the image provoked by the words “global” or “international.”  But Fletcher taught me many dimensions of global politics, international business, and the lives of people in the world that I didn’t know.  I didn’t learn only on the Fletcher campus, but everywhere in the world that Fletcher opened up for me, such as Timor-Leste, Paris, Israel, and Central Asia.

My new position will give me very deep and special experiences and knowledge about regional public transport.  Many places in the world have interest in the questions: How can we build a transport network in areas without good economic/social conditions?  How can the public sector and private sector cooperate to manage transport infrastructure while maintaining market competition and people’s welfare?  Therefore I think that while this new position seems to be very “local” at first glance, it can strengthen my “global” career.

So now I am working in Kasumigaseki with big Fletcher pride.  If you visit Japan, please let me know, so we can talk about the hill in Medford.  🙂

And, if you do visit, I also strongly recommend that you stay not only in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka.  Please go to our beautiful regions — using public transportation!

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With today’s post from Pulkit, we’ll have heard about the summer activities for all three of our student bloggers who will be continuing on at Fletcher (and in the blog) in September.

Hello!  I hope all the readers of the Fletcher Admissions Blog are enjoying their summer; and if you are an admitted student, I look forward to meeting you soon.  It feels nice to be writing and sharing again.  The end of the spring semester was very busy — from winding up school with tests and assignments, to moving out of Blakeley Hall into a new apartment and traveling.  There is much to share, and I hope my story and experiences at Fletcher will resonate with you one way or another.

Pulkit (front right) with Fletcher’s other students from India.

Let me begin my telling you about my favorite class this past semester.  In comparison, it felt like spring semester went by faster than the fall semester.  I took three classes at Fletcher; the fourth was offered jointly by Fletcher, the Tufts Friedman School, and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.  International Humanitarian Response was taught by Dr. Stephanie Kayden of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Dr. Daniel Maxwell of Tufts Feinstein International Center.  The classes met every Wednesday at Harvard, centrally located in Cambridge.  It was one of my favorite classes for many reasons.

First, I had the opportunity to step off the Tufts Medford campus every week, taking the #96 bus from Tufts down to Cambridge.  Second, my classmates came from different schools — from Fletcher, Friedman, Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Medical School — making it a real collaborative environment to engage and to study.  Third, I took the opportunity to lead my project and assignment group.  Managing and collaborating with peers at different locations and liaising with other project groups was a good challenge to have this semester.  Fourth, the class had a simulation exercise towards the end of April.  The entire class, along with over a hundred volunteers, camped at the Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover to put into practice much of what we learned about humanitarian response during our classes.  The simulation had everything — UN Cluster System coordination meetings, minefields, fake militia, armed attacks on the camp, and rationed food and water supply.  I made so many mistakes through the three days of the exercise, but overall the experiential component made it a great learning experience.  (Here’s a story about a previous year’s exercise.)

Beyond the spring’s exciting classes, I also kept myself busy with extra-curricular activities.  Every Saturday, I volunteered with Teach-in CORES, a volunteer collective of Tufts University students, working with the Committee On Refugees from El Salvador, in Somerville, to teach literacy and English as a second language, and prepare the participants for the U.S. citizenship exam.  On Thursdays, I would make it a point to go to the open-to-the-public seminars on nuclear policy and nuclear non-proliferation at the Project on Managing the Atom, at Harvard Kennedy School.  I also took the opportunity to recite a couple of poems at the student-led Fletcher Open Mic Nights, a wonderful forum to express and share.

After finishing my exams and submissions, I decided to visit my family back in India.  Before that, however, moving out of Blakeley Hall was challenging.  I had to drag all my belongings into the basement of a house I was going to move into for the next academic year.  After bidding good-bye to graduating friends and winding up some important chores, I was excited to fly back to India for a short visit.  It was really special to go back home, as I was visiting after ten months.  It was surprising to me that I got absorbed into the Indian way of life as soon as I arrived back home.  I was eating street food, navigating through the thick Indian traffic, and meeting cousins and friends on the go.  It was like I had never left India.

During my time in India, along came an opportunity for the summer, and I grabbed it with both hands.  Professor Ian Johnstone offered me a teaching assistant (TA) position for a summer exchange program.  Since I had never assisted a professor, there was a steep learning curve for me.  For example, as a TA, I led review sessions —  which meant I needed to review what I had learned myself during the last semester.

As I write, I am glad to share that I have settled in my new house, and I am enjoying my summer with some time for reading, cooking, swimming, and cycling, meeting friends, and traveling in and around Boston.  I hope to share again towards the end of the summer!

At the end-of-year Diplomat’s Ball.

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This week I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year updates from our Student Stories writers.  We’ve already heard from Mariya and Pulkit’s report will appear later this week.  Today we’ll hear from Adi, who is back in Indonesia for the summer.

Just like that, I finished my first year of graduate school.  In a typical two-year graduate program, the most common question at the end of the spring semester is, “What’s your plan for the summer?”, which is really saying “Do you have an internship or not?”  Of course, there are people who are not doing an internship this summer.  They might be using the time to do research, work on their Capstone Project, travel, or relax before the start of another intense academic year.  But my sense is that when my classmates asked me the question, what they really wanted to know was what internship offers I had or hadn’t received.

I know I found myself asking that same question to others with the same intention in mind.  As I carried out my search, there were many reasons why I asked.  Getting inspiration on where else I could apply or tips on how my classmates successfully secured those internship offers, or simply to calm my nerves that someone else out there also hadn’t yet solidified their summer plans.

Indonesian Fletcher family: Adi and his wife with Angga, after Angga received the Presidential Award in May.

I remember that, at the beginning of the year, many of the second-year students assured the first years that we should not worry — by the end of the spring semester, everyone would have solidified their summer plans.  They told us that some students will receive an offer earlier than others, but this is not due to their qualifications.  It is simply a reflection of the different timelines of hiring companies, and the wide variety of interests of Fletcher students.  Investment banks and management consulting companies finish their hiring in the fall or early spring.  Many multinationals and international agencies do not start accepting applications until midway through the spring semester.  Other companies simply accept internship applications throughout the year until they hit their quota.

Nonetheless, we first years couldn’t help but stress out a little about getting an internship, so we tried to start as early as possible.  Right from the beginning of the fall semester, I approached quite possibly every single resource that I thought could connect me with an internship opportunity, starting with the obvious, the Office of Career Services (OCS).  I met with Elana Givens, the OCS director, to talk about my interests and start planning out my internship search strategy.  I attended many coaching sessions led by OCS staff throughout my first year.  I approached Dorothy Orszulak, Director of Corporate Relations for the Institute for Business in the Global Context, to ask what exactly hiring managers in the private sector are looking for in internship candidates.  I met with Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and Kristen Zecchi to find out how previous MIB students leveraged their degree to identify internship opportunities.  Professors were also fantastic resources.  It is through my discussions with Professor Jacque and Professor Schena that I found many ideas on organizations and people to reach out to.  And then, of course, there was the structured Professional Development Program curriculum to help me with my résumé and cover letter, making informational interview requests, and acing interviews.

The winner’s prize for the annual MIB first-years vs. second-years kickball game.

After laying the groundwork with these resources, I started expanding my network.  My first thought was the second-year students.  Through casual conversations, I managed to figure out who interned where in the previous summer.  Then, I followed up on the conversations with an email asking if they would be willing to chat over coffee about their experience, both the internship search and the responsibilities of the position.  It was fascinating to hear their stories.  One student interned at a venture capital start-up in Seattle that did not have an official internship pipeline.  He simply cold-emailed the company, explaining his background and his interest in working for them over the summer, and luckily that is where he ended up.  Another student leveraged multiple contacts to reach a very busy director of a tech start-up in Kenya, who then replied “I just received two separate emails referring you to my company.  Let’s talk.”  These are only two of the many interesting stories I heard by talking to second-year students.

I had started the fall semester looking to pursue an internship at a management consulting company.  From the onset, I had heard warnings that even getting an interview would be extremely hard for non-MBA candidates.  I reached out to every single person I could who was even remotely connected to the consulting industry.  I worked together with my classmates to practice case interviews.  I attended workshops and webinars about the consulting industry.  During winter break, I received invitations for first-round interviews with Bain and BCG.  In the end, I didn’t make it over the final hurdle at either organization, but I am thankful to have gone through the experience.  I definitely think that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had I not reached beyond the companies’ online application portals.

In the end, it all worked out.  The advice from second-year students at the beginning of the fall semester turned out to be true.  We all ended up with a satisfying summer plan and my first-year MIB cohort has embarked on our respective summer journeys.  It may not have been what we thought we would be doing when we started planning, but some of us ended up with something better.  As for me personally, I ended up joining Citibank’s Commercial Banking team for the summer and I’m definitely enjoying the challenge.

What a journey it has been!  I’m already looking forward to regrouping with my classmates for our second year.

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The Admissions Blog’s Student Stories writers are busy with their summer activities, but I have end-of-year reports from them to share.  I’ll start with this post from Mariya, who pursued an outrageously busy schedule during the spring semester.

It’s hard to believe that my first year at Fletcher has come to an end.  It feels like yesterday that I was meeting new people at Orientation, figuring out my classes, and making sense of my new community.  Over the last ten months, a lot has happened; at Fletcher, in the United States, and around the world.  The frequency of breaking news buzzing on my phone made it difficult at times to focus on my studies, but as any student or professor would tell you, consuming articles from a variety of sources is an important part of a Fletcher education.  These unofficial “supplemental readings” became topics of discussion in classes and our homes, in the Mugar Café and on the Social List.  In these spaces, we analyzed and debated world events in a way that challenged our long-held beliefs and pushed us outside our comfort zones.  At those moments, I couldn’t help but be grateful.  What a privilege it is to be a student now — to study history, to discuss the present, to prepare for the future, to think out loud and debate different ideas.

While the real world seemed to be in disarray, I was struggling to manage my own world at Fletcher.  My second semester was especially challenging because I took six half- or full-semester courses including two at Harvard, audited three classes including intermediate Spanish, and was an active leader of three campus clubs.  In this post, I’d like to highlight one of those clubs: The Fletcher Islamic Society (FIS).

When I arrived at Fletcher in September, I learned that FIS was not an active group.  With others, I applied for club funding and we were able to re-charter it.  The purpose of the Fletcher Islamic Society is to create a space that furthers the understanding of Islam in different social, cultural, political, ethnic, and spiritual contexts.  By hosting speakers, engaging in community service, and facilitating open dialogue, our hope is to foster an environment where Islam can be understood in all its complexity and diversity.  We collaborate with the Tufts Muslim Chaplaincy and the Tufts Muslim Student Association student group for recurring events such as Jummah (Friday) prayers and Quran recitation circles.  This year, FIS was one of the direct beneficiaries of a new prayer room that allows Muslim students to pray in a convenient space and for others to meditate.

I would like to highlight a few events that FIS organized to give you an idea of the types of student-inspired programming that is a norm at Fletcher.

  • In sponsorship with the Fares Center, we hosted Pakistani Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Rizwan Shiekh, who spoke to an audience of about 40 students about the “knowns and unknowns” of Pakistan from a security perspective.  Pakistan is often a case study in Fletcher courses, and it was refreshing to hear a different perspective from a career diplomat about the role of the military in public life and foreign policy, as well as in diplomatic initiatives.
  • Shortly after the 2016 election and the highlighting of the Khizr Khan family, FIS leaders sought to bring attention to Muslims serving in the armed forces.  In partnership with the International Security Studies Program (ISSP), FIS invited to campus MIT Professor of Military Science Captain Nadi Kassim who delivered an engaging luncheon talk titled “Muslim Americans in the Armed Forces: The Story of a 1st Generation Palestinian-American.”  This event was highlighted in the Muslim Chaplaincy’s Spring newsletter.
  • Another popular event that FIS sponsored this semester was a panel discussion titled “Spooks Islam: Reflection on Intelligence, Counterterrorism and the American Muslim Experience.”  In addition to sharing their experiences of working in counterterrorism as black Muslims, Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Yaya Fanusie engaged students with career advice — and some students even landed summer internships with their organizations!
  • In late April, FIS hosted an intimate coffee discussion with one of Fletcher’s distinguished alums, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, F90.  Once the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Mr. Chaudhary shared anecdotes of his time at Fletcher and his diplomatic journey and advice for students as we navigate our futures.

Of course, there’s never a shortage of events to attend at Fletcher.  But what I love about being a student club leader is the flexibility and discretion afforded to us in creating programming that we feel benefits the community.  If there is something you want to see at campus, you can make it happen.

Aside from organizing and attending events, I had the opportunity to participate in some, too.  For example, I performed my values speech from the Arts of Communication course at the spring Fletcher Faces of Community, presented my undergraduate research at Tufts’ South Asian Political Action Committee Symposium, and shared my poem titled “The Dream That Is” at the Spring Recital.  The semester ended with the annual Diplomats Ball (or “Dip Ball” for short), which was the perfect way to top off the year.  I’ve had an incredible time at Fletcher so far, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to enroll here.  I’m spending the summer in Taiwan and Thailand — I look forward to writing to you from there!

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With less than three days until the Class of 2017 gathers to start their celebration with toasts, speeches, and diploma collecting, let’s take a look at the curriculum that Adnan put together for himself in the past two years.  We often say (with likely complete accuracy) that no two students ever take precisely the same set of classes in the MALD program and I hope these annotated curricula help make that clear.  Note that Adnan pursued three Fields of Study.  Only two are required, but many students will complete a third.  And also note that Adnan audited two classes.  A “certified audit” is noted on the student’s transcript.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I worked as a staff reporter and later an associate editor at Newsweek in Lahore, Pakistan.

Fields of Study
International Information and Communication
International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
International Business Relations

Capstone Topic
Self Determination in the Context of the Kashmir Conflict.

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I would like to pursue a career at the United Nations.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

International Communication
Social Networks and Organizations – Part I
Social Networks and Organizations – Part II
Global Political Economy
International Legal Order

Returning to school after a five-year gap was exciting, but it also required a great deal of readjustment.  With my background in journalism, I knew International Information and Communication was going to be one of my Fields of Study, so I took the core/required class for it and also both halves of Social Networks.  International Communication with Professor Gideon, whom I had also chosen as my faculty advisor, was among my favorite classes because of the wide range of topics it covered that I could relate to my work experience.  Social Networks offered a fascinating new way of discovering hidden connections in data sets.  It also helped me acquire hard skills like using social network analysis software such as UCINET and NodeXL.  Looking back, I think opting to complete my breadth requirements in my first semester with foundational classes like International Legal Order and Global Political Economy was a wise decision because it strengthened my base for future coursework in international relations.

Semester Two

Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
Data Analysis and Statistical Methods
Theories of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
The Arts of Communication
Contemporary South Asia (Certified Audit)

International Business was another interest, and I loved that I had the option of contrasting my IR coursework with such classes.  In Strategy and Innovation we studied real-life cases of some of the world’s leading businesses and came up with creative solutions to actual challenges they faced.  An important lesson I learned here was how complex problems can be tackled by asking the most basic questions about the task at hand.  Statistics offered a great opportunity to sharpen my quantitative skills, and Arts of Communication was a unique experience.  Not only did we learn that public speaking, like any skill, can be improved tremendously through rigorous practice, but we got the chance to hear speeches from our classmates and learn things about them we would not have otherwise.  In my second semester, I also decided that I wanted to learn about conflict resolution — it’s applicable everywhere and the Field of Study is a Fletcher flagship.  The core/required class I took provided a solid base for understanding the roots of a variety of conflicts.  Contemporary South Asia didn’t fulfill any of my requirements, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to study with Professor Ayesha Jalal, a renowned Pakistani historian whose work I had been following long before Fletcher, so I audited it.  I’m glad I was able to do it because it was the first time I looked at South Asia, where I had lived most of my life, through an academic lens, and it provided a fresh perspective on my knowledge of the region.

Summer Internship
UNICEF in New York.

Semester Three

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Processes of International Negotiation
Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights
Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age (cross-registered at Harvard Kennedy School)
Cultural Capital and Development (Certified Audit)

Corporate Finance, the core requirement for the International Business Relations field, was the most challenging class I took in my third semester.  The syllabus was extensive and the workload rather heavy, but looking back it’s also among the classes from which I gained the most practical knowledge.  International Negotiation was also an extremely practical class.  In addition to learning negotiation techniques and practicing them during simulations in class, the assignments that required us to rigorously analyze a conflict of our choice and propose strategies for negotiation taught me a step-by-step method of approaching intractable problems.  I took Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights purely out of an interest in understanding the cause of modern day conflicts and found my Capstone idea here.  Cross-registration at Harvard is a great opportunity we are offered, one I had wanted to pursue since my second semester.  Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age, taught by Nicco Mele who runs the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at HKS, perfectly complemented my International Communication class from my first semester.  Whereas the latter was more academic and theory-based, the former looked at current issues in the digital world and linked them to politics.  After reading the syllabus for Cultural Capital and Development, I was too intrigued to ignore it, so I audited the class.

Semester Four

Peace Operations
The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs
Introduction to Economic Theory
Independent Study with Professor Hurst Hannum for my Capstone Project

It’s hard to believe my final semester is now over.  Time flies at Fletcher, and I’ve hardly had a chance to reflect on the past two years.  This semester I completed my Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Field of Study with Peace Operations.  What I liked most about it is that it brought together elements of international law, conflict resolution, politics, and history.  A guest speaker in one of our classes said, “peace operations really are the arena of international politics.”  I couldn’t agree more and feel it’s a great class to take in one’s final semester.  Leaving my economics requirement hanging till my last semester was probably not the brightest idea, but with everything else I was trying to squeeze in, it never fit into my schedule earlier.  The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs was my favorite class this semester.  It pushed me to think critically and place decision makers in context to understand the policies they pursued.  I left each session with a life lesson, in addition to some very peculiar facts.  Did you know whales are crucial to security?

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Commencement is coming up soon and three of our student bloggers — Tatsuo, McKenzie, and Adnan — will soon be moving on.  Today, let’s look at how McKenzie pieced together her MIB curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Managing Impact: How Impact Funds Can Go Beyond Measuring to Manage Impact Performance Throughout the Fund Lifecycle

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Help build the impact investing field and channel more capital to investments that provide both financial and positive social or environmental returns

Curriculum Overview

Semester One: 5 credits

Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Managerial Economics (½ credit)
Global Investment Management
Emerging Africa in the World Economy

Activities:

The first semester of the MIB program is dominated by core courses that really build the foundational finance, accounting, and strategy skills of a typical business program.  This also means that, as a cohort, we take nearly all our classes together, which is a key driver behind the really strong bonds among MIB students.  Of our core courses, I really enjoyed the economic theories underlying business decisions discussed in our Managerial Economics course.  My favorite course of the semester, however, was Global Investment Management.  I wasn’t sure it was a good decision to take it in my first year, given my business experience to date had focused on strategy, management, and operational efficiency — in short, nothing related to investing or portfolio management.  Perhaps as a result, it is probably the course in which I learned the most at Fletcher in such a short period of time, and it helped me build a strong relationship with Professor Patrick Schena, whose support and mentorship has been an invaluable part of my Fletcher experience.

Finally, I’m a strong believer that the Fletcher “curriculum” is incomplete without mention of the extracurricular activities that abound at this school.  The activities we pursue are more than likely the talking points we use in interviews for summer internships and jobs.  I knew early on that the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) was one student club that I wanted to be actively involved in, so I joined an FSIG advisory project while also competing in the CFA challenge.  Last, these activities wouldn’t be complete without mention of the periodic MIB “family dinners” and other social events like Culture Nights and Los Fletcheros concerts that make Fletcher the unique community that it is.

Semester Two: 4 credits

Marketing Management (½ credit)
Macroeconomics
International Financial Management
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (½ credit)
Political Economy of Development

Activities:

  • FSIG advisory project and transition onto FSIG management team for 2016-2017 school year
  • Two-week off-campus certificate program in impact investing and social enterprise management, through the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

In my second semester, I nearly completed my core MIB requirements, with the exception of International Business Transactions.  My favorite courses of the semester were Global Private Equity and International Financial Management.  The first, because much of the coursework involved practical applications of private equity concepts.  For example, we had to develop and pitch an investment thesis as though we were raising a fund.  And later in the semester, we conducted due diligence on real companies whose management we were able to interview to develop our investment recommendation.  International Financial Management surprised me in the extent to which our conversations went beyond finance to the strategic imperatives at the foundation of corporate financing decisions, which help companies manage many types of risk exposure.  I really got a lot out of the course.

On the student activities front, besides transitioning into the CEO position of FSIG, I also took two weeks “off” during the semester to attend a training in impact investing.  I’m not sure that I’d recommend swapping 10 hours in Fletcher classes for 40 hours a week of training — plus catch-up work for Fletcher in the evenings — but by strategically taking only four credits this semester and choosing project teams that were willing to work around my schedule, I was able to make it work.  Plus, the network I built through the certificate program helped me score an exciting summer internship with Edge Growth in South Africa.

Summer Internship
Edge Growth (Johannesburg, South Africa)

As I wrote in a prior post, my time with Edge Growth was a great learning experience.  My boss, Jason, really pushed my thinking about how companies need to evolve on multiple levels when transitioning from their startup phases to more targeted growth and scale phases.  As mentioned, I used my internship as an opportunity to confirm my interest in impact investing and in working with emerging market companies, which definitely colored how I think about the firms I targeted in my job search.

Semester Three: 5 credits

International Business Transactions
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
Econometrics
Market Approaches to Development
Independent study (capstone)

Activities:

  • FSIG management
  • MIINT team lead (part of FSIG)

By far one of my favorite courses at Fletcher, and one I recommend everyone take, is our new professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s course on leadership, teambuilding, and organizations.  I had managed small teams working as a consultant, and Professor Ebrahim’s course provided the perfect time and space for me to reflect on my own leadership style, while learning from the experiences of others in this 100% case-based course.  Professor Ebrahim has an uncanny knack for facilitating discussion and connecting insights from across cases to bring a classroom and content to life.  I also took Econometrics, which allowed me to hone my technical skills and prepare for a spring course on Econometric Impact Evaluation.

Outside of classes, most of my spare time was spent working with Fletcher’s MIINT team to source and screen potential impact investments.  I really enjoyed this portion of the MIINT competition in particular, as it exposed me to a multitude of innovative business models and entrepreneurs who are using market-based solutions to profitably improve the lives of people in emerging markets.

This semester was also the point at which all my activities, coursework, and summer internship experiences converged.  I reached out to connections I’d made in South Africa who turned into resources for the MIINT competition.  I found myself having business development calls for MIINT that led to partnership opportunities for FSIG advisory projects, or drawing on concepts from my International Business Transactions course to think through the risks associated with a potential MIINT investment.

Finally, at some point in this semester, I realized just how far I’d come since my first day in the August pre-session.  I had taken a leap of faith from a comfortable job and had bet on a non-traditional business program, and I felt it was all worth it.  All I had to do was land a job that fit my long-term career goals and enjoy the rest of my time in school, and I could consider grad school at Fletcher a complete success.

Semester Four: 4 credits (that felt like 8…)

Econometric Impact Evaluation
Global Financial Services
The Arts of Communication
Business at the Base of the Pyramid (Harvard Business School)

Activities:

  • Received funding for January capstone travel and research from the Dean’s Research Fund and the Institute for Business in the Global Context
  • FSIG management (transitioned to new leadership)
  • MIINT team lead (continued from fall)
  • TA, International Financial Management
  • Finished capstone!
  • Found a job!

In retrospect, my fourth semester at Fletcher is about twice as loaded as I had intended it to be.  Business at the Base of the Pyramid at HBS is my favorite class, but I would argue that responsibilities outside of class have dominated my time.  I’ve pretty much been running full speed ahead since January, when I received funding to conduct interviews in Nairobi, Kenya to support my capstone.  February flew by, and included a trip to California on a career trek offered by the organizers of the MIINT competition.  In March, I entered multiple rounds of interviews for a few dream jobs, juggling them with multiple Skype sessions and another trip to the west coast, along with my TA responsibilities, coursework, and futile attempts to create time to finish my capstone.  And then I traveled to Philadelphia with Fletcher’s MIINT team for the official competition.  While the hectic hustle has been well worth the chaos, I’m excited to have officially ended my job search (!), passed FSIG off to an amazing new leadership team after spring break, and wrapped up the MIINT.  This has left some down time to spend with the amazing friends I’ve made, before we graduate and move off to all corners of the globe.

I never quite knew what to expect from grad school, especially given the diversity of paths that Fletcher students take.  As I sit here, with only two weeks until I graduate, I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by or how much I’ve managed to squeeze into just two short years.

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Throughout these past two academic years, you’ve been reading the stories of three students, Tatsuo, Adnan, and McKenzie.  Now it’s time for them to describe their academic pathways for us in their “annotated curriculum” posts.  The first of these is from Tatsuo, who spent three semesters at Fletcher and his fourth semester in an exchange program in Paris.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Administrative (Legal/Policy) Officer, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Tokyo, Japan

Fields of Study
Law and Development
Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy (self-designed Field of Study)

Capstone Topic
“The Needed Technocratic Bureaucracy for Transport Infrastructure Development in LDCs: An Assessment of the Case of Civil Aviation Policies in Timor-Leste” (Advisor: Professor James Fry)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Return to the Ministry as a deputy director to manage Japanese infrastructure policies, including overseas development aid projects.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Law and Development
Development Economics: Policy Analysis
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies

In my first semester, I took two courses on international development studies, which was my top priority for study at Fletcher.  Additionally, I took two courses on finance and security.  These were not the focus of my professional career, but I had heard that the school has a long and deep tradition in the field of security studies and it has also developed resources for business studies.  All of these courses were good for connecting me with Fletcher’s traditional and more recently developed strengths, and it was a good foundation for me as I planned my academic life at Fletcher.

Semester Two

Global Maritime Affairs: International Trade, Security, Energy, and Environmental Issues at Sea
Science Diplomacy: Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean
The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917
International Investment Law
The Islamic World: Political Economy and Business Context (0.5 credit)

Based on my experiences in my first semester, I decided to make my course range broader than what I originally expected.  I had already planned to choose Law and Development as my first Field of Study, and I thought I would also have another development-related second Field.  However, I changed my mind, and decided to design my own Field of Study.  I selected from Fletcher resources linking multiple fields, including security, science, and business to form “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy,” and I included various courses ranging from conventional diplomatic studies to emerging fields in science and business.

Summer Internship
The Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste

A second-year MALD student introduced me to the Timor-Leste office of the Asia Foundation, a global international development NGO.  The vice director of the office was also a Fletcher alumnus and he gave me an interesting opportunity to experience the realities of international development.  As I described in a previous post, I focused on policy development for the Timorese civil aviation market based on my practical experiences in Japan and academic studies at Fletcher.  It was the first time for me to live in a “least developed country” and also a great opportunity to connect practical expertise, academic theory, and the actual needs of the people in the field.

Semester Three

Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present
Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders
Political Speechwriting
African Key Economic Issues
Economics and Globalization
Japanese Politics and International Relations (audit)
French A1 (audit)

In my third semester, I studied at Sciences Po in Paris through a Fletcher exchange program.  I took diplomacy and development courses similar to those that I took at Fletcher, in order to compare different perspectives and approaches.  Additionally, I learned about areas in which France leads the world, such as project management and public relations.  I enjoyed not only great French cuisine and wine, but also unique approaches that were very different from what I studied in the U.S.

Semester Four

The Strategic Dimensions of China’s Rise
Cross-Sector Partnerships
International Humanitarian Response (offered jointly by Tufts Friedman School and Harvard School of Public Health)
U.S.-European Relations Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall  (0.5 credit)
Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies (audit at Harvard Graduate School of Design)

In my fourth and final semester, I am taking courses that I chose based only on my curiosity, because I had already taken all my required courses.  Cross-Sector Partnerships and International Humanitarian Response are practical and case-study-based courses that are good for wrapping up my study and internship experiences in the MALD program.  China’s Rise is also a very realistic security studies course, taught by Professor Yoshihara from the U.S. Naval War Collage, that can test what I learned about diplomacy and security.  I expect to acquire another European perspective from U.S.-European Relations, taught by Professor Scharioth, a former German Ambassador to the U.S.  I also wanted to extend my perspective by auditing a Harvard Graduate School of Design course that introduces the views of designers and architects.

When I am back with the Japanese Government, many and various tasks are waiting for me, from economics to security to East Asian security crises to preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  I am very excited to tackle these issues by using the skills and experiences that I acquired in my two years at Fletcher.  It will be very interesting and exciting.  At the same time, however, I wish I had one more year, or at least one more semester, at Fletcher.

Our student blogger Mariya has inspired a special project at the Ginn Library, and today she tells how the “Wish Tree” came about.

“This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden,” writes Rumi, my favorite poet.  Jalaluddin Rumi — for those of you who don’t know — was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.  I love his poetry because his metaphors are so powerful, and I constantly find ways that his words relate to my own life experiences.

Spring break was quite rejuvenating.  Unfortunately the Fletcher Pakistan Trek did not work out, so instead I went home to Alexandria, VA.  I soaked in the sunshine during the annual Washington, DC cherry blossom festival, drank lots of Pakistani chai and Kashmiri kahwa, and ate a ton of my mom’s delicious homemade foods.  The nourishment was much needed, as it brought back to life my exhausted soul.  My “inward garden” is now full of excitement for the second half of this semester, prayers for my final exams and projects, and well wishes for my peers who are graduating in May.

When I arrived back on campus last Monday, I smiled ear to ear when I noticed — quite literally! — an “inward” tree blossoming near the Ginn Library’s main entrance.  This wasn’t just any tree, however.  Instead of cherry blossoms or flower buds, strips of pure white, pastel green, and soft peach cotton pieces hung from its branches.

I knew what this was: it was a “Wish Tree.”

Let me back up and tell you a little about how this tree came about.  Over winter break, Ginn Library solicited photographs from students, staff, and faculty for their Perspectives Gallery, an exhibit that “highlights world cultures with the hope of promoting understanding and tolerance.”  I submitted a few shots from my time in Turkey, and much to my surprise, two of my photographs were selected for the galleryOne of these photos depicted an unusual tree that, when I first saw it, gave me a weird sense of déjà vu, but moments later, took me down memory lane.

The tree reminded me of driving up the curvy, dirt road towards our home in a mountainous village in northwestern Pakistan, when we would always pass by a tree, outside of a cemetery, draped in colorful scraps of cloth.  When I would wander the road on my own, this tree served as a familiar landmark that I was close to home.  During these excursions, I always wondered why people forgot to pick up their laundry from the tree.

On a visit to Pakistan in summer 2011, I finally asked my father why people tied cloths to this tree and left them there.  He explained that the cloths were a physical representation of prayers or wishes that people were asking God, and because trees are sacred creations and symbols of life, people hoped to connect with God through nature.  Often the prayer or wish is related to health or fertility, but it could also be a request for help, guidance, repentance, strength, or hope.

When I stumbled upon the “Wish Tree” during my travels in Cappadocia, Turkey last year, I was reminded of my father’s words.  But unlike the tree from my childhood, this tree had noticeably more white cloths than colorful strips, and instead of being next to a cemetery, it rested next to a rack of broken pottery.  In Islam, white symbolizes purity and peace, and is the color that is worn at funerals.  I was captivated by the irony of this scene — the colorful pottery hanging by a dried up riverbed, horses roaming in search of grass or water, deserted caves longing for their inhabitants and worshipers; yet the living tree reaching toward heaven in the clear blue skies, its branches heavy with wishes, dreams, and hopes of people from around the world.  I would never have realized at first glance that this abandoned scene was home to such a beautiful spiritual life.

Tying cloths to trees is an ancient tradition that is actually quite common across many cultures around the world.  The ritual is practiced by the Irish, Scottish, Thai, Chinese, Tibetans, and even Native Americans, to name a few.

When I shared this story with library staff members Cynthia Rubino and Anulfo Baez, they were inspired to bring the Wish Tree to Fletcher.  Thanks to their creativity and efforts, anyone who walks through the Ginn Library can now jot down wishes and hang them on the tree.  I invite all visitors to Fletcher this spring to stop by Ginn, grab a black Sharpie and a piece of cloth from the basket, and make a wish.  And because you’ll be in the library, here’s a reminder from Rumi: “Raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

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