Currently viewing the tag: "Student Stories"

Yesterday’s post may have been my last word on Commencement for 2015, but it isn’t the last word on the lead-up to the event.  That will come from Alex who, as a continuing student, would nonetheless have been welcomed for the Dis-Orientation activities organized by the graduating class.  Dis-Orientation originated several years ago as the counter-point to the academic-year-starting Orientation program.

Shortly after the year’s last class was attended, the last final exam taken, and the last term paper handed in, it was time for “Dis-O.”  As any end of term should be celebrated, Fletcher’s time-honored Dis-Orientation is a week of fun activities, great parties, and even some light “vandalism.”

In an impressive feat of organization, students planned dozens of events spread over the week following the end of the semester; this year there were 45 activities over seven days.  These events ranged from movie screenings in Fletcher’s main auditorium, to daylong trips to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard and the battlefields of Lexington and Concord.  Athletic activities were also included, such as a softball game and a MALD vs. MIB cricket match, both of which were guaranteed to be a cultural experience for many of the players.  Of course, a couple of parties were also in order, ranging from traditional celebrations in one of Fletcher’s “color houses” (e.g., the green house, yellow house, or “Casablanca,” that several students share) to a Hawaiian luau (complete with a dunk tank, of course).  Finally, following the Tufts tradition of painting the cannon located in the center of campus, students sneakily painted it a blazing Fletcher-orange in the dark of night.  They were disappointed, however, to find it painted over by other “vandals” within hours.

Not only is Dis-O a great way to celebrate the culmination of a successful year with our friends and classmates, I find it to be a fitting representation of what exactly is special about Fletcher’s culture.  First, due to The Fletcher School’s long history, traditions like Dis-O (and even individual events within it) have turned into institutions, serving to connect Fletcher students across generations.  Second, events like these do not plan themselves, but instead are a product of a student body with impressive leadership capabilities and a tremendous commitment to their fellow classmates.  Additionally, the wide range of events demonstrates the diversity of interests across the student body, which has been a wonderful source of mind-opening experiences throughout the year.  Finally, Dis-O evinces Fletcher students’ ability to balance work and fun: I bet you would have been just as likely to find people at the cricket match discussing India’s clean energy policy as you would to find them asking what exactly a “wicket” is.

Whether traditions such as Dis-O are the cause or the result of the strong community here, I do not know.  Probably a little bit of both.  What I do know, however, is that few other schools are as tightly knit as Fletcher, and that I cannot wait to come back next semester.

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This is the first year when providing an “annotated curriculum” is a mandatory (o.k. — strongly suggested) topic for graduating student bloggers.  Here’s Diane‘s review of her four semesters in the MALD program.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Oxfam Australia, Australia
Jewish Aid Australia, Australia

World Food Programme (internship), Nepal

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (internship), New York

Fields of Study
Development Economics
International Negotiation & Conflict Resolution

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Humanitarian policy

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

  • Agriculture and Rural Development in Developing Countries
  • Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies
  • Econometrics
  • Law and Development
  • Quantitative Methods (1/2 credit)

In the summer before arriving at Fletcher, I made the decision to pursue studies in food security in Africa, a topic I am passionate about.  I also really wanted to strengthen my economics skills.  I arrived at Fletcher excited by the many and varied classes in areas I wanted to study.  I jumped right into it, taking a heavy load in my first semester.  After placing out of the basic economics requirement during Orientation, I was able to get my quantitative, economics, and law requirements out of the way this semester.  I enjoyed taking Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies, as this class is offered jointly by Fletcher and the Friedman School of Nutrition and it was held at the downtown campus.  It was a heavy first semester load, and I am not sure I would recommend to incoming students that they take 4.5 credits.

Semester Two

  • Development Economics: Macroeconomics Perspectives
  • Econometric Impact Evaluation for Development
  • Microfinance and Financial Inclusion
  • Strategic Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations
  • French (audited)

After practicing my French over winter break in Montreal, I came back to Fletcher for my second semester, determined to pass my language requirement.  I am pleased that I focused on it this during my first year, because I was quite stressed about the requirement, and by spring break I had passed both the written and oral exams.  I decided to try out some different classes at Fletcher, and found myself learning about technology for development, and loving the topic.  Both the marketing class and Prof. Wilson’s Microfinance class were outside of my comfort zone.  They were both probably the most interesting and practical classes I have taken at Fletcher.  My Development Economics and Impact Evaluation classes helped me complete my Development Economics requirements.  I also spent the semester applying for internships for the summer.  In the end everything came together, I finished my first year at Fletcher, and spent my summer interning with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) in Northern Ghana.

Summer Internship
Innovations for Poverty Action, Tamale, Ghana

I was keen to use my summer to gain more field experience, and I really wanted to work on a research project.  After taking Econometrics and Impact Evaluation in my first year, applying to IPA seemed like a natural choice.  My offer from IPA came through on the day of my last exam, right before I flew home to Australia for a couple of weeks of R&R.  I then spent about 2.5 months with IPA in Ghana.  It was great from the perspective of allowing me to further develop skills and knowledge I had gained in my first year at Fletcher.  It was also useful from the perspective that I was able to rule out impact evaluation as a future career choice.  This allowed me to refocus my second year at Fletcher in a different direction.

Semester Three

  • Processes of International Negotiation
  • Microeconomics
  • Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (1/2 credit)
  • International Economic Policy Analysis (audited)
  • Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change (Harvard Kennedy School)

I returned to Fletcher with some new goals.  I decided to go back to basics a little bit, so I took Microeconomics, which I loved, as Prof. Tanaka included a lot of very practical applications.  I also took Processes of International Negotiation, which fulfilled my DHP requirement.  I wasn’t super keen on taking this class, but I ended up really enjoying it, and continued on to make this one of my Fields of Study, fulfilling the other requirements in my last semester.  Because I had always been interested in logistics and business operations, I decided to take Managing Operations.  It was fast and furious, and I learned a lot really quickly and enjoyed the business focus.  I also decided to finally take the opportunity to cross-register at Harvard.  I really wanted to take a management or leadership class, and ended up in Exercising Leadership.  It was a great experience, as the class was all about personal leadership failures.  I enjoyed getting off the Tufts campus two days a week and exploring Harvard Square some more.  I also worked as a Research Assistant at the Feinstein Center, which was almost like taking another class, as I worked 10 hours each week on a research project.  I really enjoyed this experience; I learned some important skills and became a better researcher.

Semester Four

  • Leadership on the Line (Harvard Kennedy School January term)
  • Negotiation and Mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • Engaging Human Security: Sudan and South Sudan
  • Seminar on Program Monitoring and Evaluation (Friedman School of Nutrition)

My parents came to visit over winter break, and it was great to show them a little of the country I have called home the last two years.  I left my parents a few days early, because I was enrolled to take a J-term class at Harvard.  This was a follow-on to the leadership class I took in the fall.  It was a fantastic experience, however J-term classes do cut into the first week of the Fletcher schedule, which makes it a more stressful start to the semester.  But after attending classes full time for two weeks, and a final paper, I was done, and able to take three classes the rest of the semester.  Again, I worked as a research assistant for the Feinstein Center, and served on the Admissions Committee, so I was glad to be taking a lighter course load.

I decided that, given I had finished most of my requirements and completed the economics classes I had wanted to take, I would select classes that interested me on a more personal level.  This led me to take the Israel-Palestine negotiations class.  This has definitely been the most interesting class I have taken at Fletcher.  Prof. Rouhana had a guest speaker involved in the negotiations almost every week.  We were then invited to dinners with the guest speakers, and it was a fabulous opportunity to engage in study of the conflict in a really focused way.  I also decided to take the opportunity to take a class with Prof. Mazurana and Prof. de Waal on Human Security in Sudan and South Sudan.  This was a great way to bring together a lot of what I had learned at Fletcher and also fill some gaps in my knowledge.  I also cross-registered at the Friedman School to take their M&E class.  It was fun to spend a day a week at Tufts Boston campus, particularly as the weather got nicer and I could walk through the Boston Common on my way to class.  I decided that I would work on my thesis over the summer, building on the final paper I am writing for the Sudan class, while I look for work.

As I wrap up my two years at Fletcher and begin my search for my next job, I can honestly say that the diversity of classes I have taken here has allowed me great flexibility in the type of roles I am able to apply for.  That, as well as access to other schools in the area, is why I have enjoyed the Fletcher curriculum so much.

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As admitted applicants make their decision to enroll at Fletcher, they then turn their attention to arranging housing for September.  Our blogger, Diane, lived in Blakeley Hall last year (2013-2014) and gathered some thoughts on living there from her fellow dorm-mates.  I should note that the majority of our students live off-campus, in apartments in surrounding communities, but for some new students, a room in Blakeley is just right.  Also, last summer (2014), the Blakeley kitchen was renovated, expanded, and improved, taking care of some of the issues that existed a year ago.  Here are Diane’s reflections:

blakeleyFor many incoming students, particularly those new to Boston, the question of where to live can be quite daunting.  In my first year at Fletcher, I chose to live in Blakeley Hall, a dormitory specifically for Fletcher students.  Much like any housing situation, living in Blakeley has its advantages and disadvantages.  Blakeley has space for around 80 students.  Each student has a private bedroom within a suite that has a living room shared with one or two other students.  There is one bathroom on each floor, shared between four or five people (two suites).  The kitchen, common room, and laundry room are shared by everyone.  There are seven separate towers, each with its own door, and they do not interconnect.  So what does this mean for a student who chooses to live at Blakeley, and what kind of students decide to live there?  I interviewed a few students who lived there with me last year to capture the different experiences they had.

Eric, Canada:

1) Your favorite thing about living in Blakeley: My favorite things about living in Blakeley were the spontaneous moments of fun that were enabled by living with 80 other Fletcher students: participating in an impromptu cricket match or poker game; sharing a drink or meal with others on a Monday night, just because; and the always lively discussions on topics such as nuclear proliferation, Pakistani politics, or Tibet’s struggle for independence, which were a regular part of a dinner conversation.

2) Your least favorite aspect of living in Blakeley: Sharing a bathroom with four other people, sharing a fridge with 12, and having to go outside to get to the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: I will remember the kindness and generosity of my fellow Blakeley residents when they offered to share their home-cooked Indian meals, apple pies, and Thanksgiving feasts.

Justin, America:

1) Your favorite thing: The three-minute commute to class.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The towers are not interconnected.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Unexpectedly getting amazing spiced tea from Elba on the way to class in the morning.

Jessica, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite aspect of living at Blakeley was the community.  I got to live and learn with 83 wonderful people.  Whenever I needed a break from studying, I always went to the kitchen to have tea and talk.  There were parties, barbecues, and Game of Thrones evenings.  There were midnight birthday celebrations and snowball fights.  Living at Blakeley helped me make many close friendships, and I am so grateful that I have those people in my life.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The shared kitchen.  So many people in one kitchen: it got rather cozy at times.  I got to try some amazing food, though!

3) Your Blakeley memory: My Blakeley memory is our “Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” that was held the Sunday before the actual holiday.  Thanksgiving is a big celebration in my family, and I wanted to share the tradition with my friends.  With the help of many Blakeley residents, we made dinner for about 50 people — including two 20-lb turkeys, 15 lbs of mashed potatoes, 10 lbs of apple crisp, salad, stuffing, cornbread, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, brownies, and more.  It was incredible to see how many people pitched in to help with the cooking and the decoration of the common room.  It was a fun night, and it helped distract us from thoughts of our upcoming finals!

Deepti, India:

1) Your favorite thing: It’s the perfect place to get to know your new classmates well and adjust to a new environment or country!

2) Your least favorite aspect: The space constraint.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Impromptu conversations over food in the common kitchen!

Xiaodon, America:

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to duck back home for a coffee break between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: Overcrowding in the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Too many.  Here’s a random one: epic essay-drafting all-nighter in the common room near exam period with Fedra, Clare, Cilu, Caleb, Juanita, and other sleep-deprived supporting characters.

Sid, India:

1) Your favorite thing: Feeling of community — I made friends from all over the world.  The kitchen was one of my favorite places (also one of the reasons that prompted me to move out) as I got to make new friends.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen and the laundry room were too far from my room, especially during winters.

3) Your Blakeley memory: FRIENDS!

Paula, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite thing about living in Blakeley was the chance to become good friends with people from all over the world.  I think living in a dorm together inevitably builds a special sense of camaraderie among Blakeley residents that’s otherwise harder to come by in a graduate program.

2) Your least favorite aspect: My least favorite thing about living in Blakeley is having to share a kitchen with 80+ other people.

3) Your Blakeley memory: My favorite Blakeley memory is Thanksgiving 2013 — everyone cooked and ate together and there was truly a feeling of Blakeley being a second family for all of us.

Diane, Australia (that’s me):

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to take a nap between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen, particularly if you don’t live in a tower that interconnects with it.

3) Your Blakeley memory: The snow day — everyone went to Fletcher Field and had a giant snowball fight, and then we came inside and made pancakes and hot chocolate.

So you can see, living in Blakeley can be lively, convenient, entertaining, and full of fun, but it also has its downsides, particularly if you like to cook a lot on your own.  I am glad I got to experience an American dorm, and was able to live for a year on the Tufts campus, which is beautiful in all seasons.

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Last week I came to a sudden realization that I had never written anything, or had a student write, about exams.  Neither midterms nor finals.  Seemed like a major oversight, since exams certainly have an impact on students’ graduate school experience.  Aditi has plugged that gap by writing about the most recent round of midterms.

Spring break this semester was a much-needed pause from our busy Fletcher lives.  Between midterms and various internship and job applications, all of us at Fletcher were pretty much at maxed-out levels of exhaustion!

Midterms are usually a combination of exams, presentations, and papers, depending on the classes you take.  For instance, my Econometrics class had an in-class, closed-book traditional exam, while my Financial Inclusion class had a group presentation.  I personally found midterms to be somewhat more stressful this semester than in the fall, since one of my classes is at the Friedman School, which follows a slightly different schedule than Fletcher.  Although the advantage of the mismatched schedules was that my exams and papers were spread out over two weeks, the downside was that my “midterm week” lasted twice as long.

In addition to midterms, if you happen to be taking half-credit courses, then those classes are either beginning or ending (depending on which half of the semester they are scheduled for) while you’re trying to focus on exams.  In my case, I am taking Advanced Evaluation and Learning, which takes place over the second half of the semester, so as we were studying for midterms and preparing for presentations, those of us in this class were also trying to keep our heads above water with all the assigned reading.

But of course, midterms come and go.  The major stress during spring semester midterms is related to the internship and job hunt process, since everyone is trying to balance applications and interviews with their coursework, other activities, and campus jobs.  It definitely began to feel like the universe had conspired to make sure all deadlines fell into the same two-week period.

In the middle of all my stress and exhaustion, a friend said something that both made me laugh and also gave me a lot of perspective, when I complained to her about how hard grad school is.  “Yeah, it’s hard — but it’s hard in a really easy way.  Exams, papers, and presentations…let’s compare that for a second to the issues we’re trying to learn about: Poverty, terrorism, malnutrition….  Give me grad school any day!”

So now you know why I’m complaining about midterms on this blog instead of by talking to my friends.

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The blog has some new readers, so I wanted to introduce you to the writers in the Student Stories feature.  This is the third year for this feature, which aims to highlight the path through Fletcher of a few of our students.  I try not to assign subjects for their posts.  Rather, they write about topics of importance or interest to them, and some are able to write more than others.  Let me, then, introduce each of them.

This year’s writers are:

Aditi: first-year MALD student from India

Alex: first-year MIB student, with a focus on clean energy

Ali: first-year MIB student, who originally applied through Fletcher’s Map Your Future pathway to admission

Diane:  second-year MALD student from Australia

Liam:  second-year MALD student, taking time out from the U.S. Army

Mark: second-year MIB student who has also completed a degree at Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy program

Previous year’s writers were:

Maliheh F13, MALD

Mirza F14, MALD

Roxanne F14, MALD

Scott F14, MIB

And in the first year of this fledgling effort, I also included a first-year graduate, Manjula, who gave me the idea to create Student Stories, which then led to the posts from First-Year Alumni.  I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through and reading about their Fletcher experiences.

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I always prefer sharing a student perspective on Fletcher life, rather than writing myself.  Today I’m sharing a post Alex sent along last week about the new Strategic Plan.  When I say “new,” I mean newly completed.  It has been in the works for more than a year.  Let’s let Alex tell you about it.

Right now, Fletcher students are in a very short-term mindset.  Survive midterms.  Land an internship.  Make it to Spring Break.

Luckily, the administration is thinking a little bit more long-term, and has recently developed a new Strategic Plan for The Fletcher School: To Know the World.  The five-year plan’s vision is to go even further to make Fletcher the “premier institution for preparing a highly selective and diverse network of global leaders, whose influence is felt across the public, private and non-profit sectors.”

The plan includes four overarching, mutually reinforcing objectives:

  • Relevance: enhance professional and academic preparation of students as problem solvers, future leaders and agents of change;
  • Reputation: bolster the School’s reputation by increasing research productivity and impact on decision makers;
  • Resources: ensure a robust and more diversified revenue stream to support pursuit of School’s mission;
  • “Right Stuff”: maintain a sustainable, diverse and high-quality student body across all our degree programs.

These objectives are supported with myriad initiatives, from strengthening research centers and enabling professors to do more research, to upgrading facilities and leveraging technology to enhance learning.  I would highly recommend looking through the plan, to see where Fletcher will be going in the next couple of years.

Of course, I was most curious about what the immediate impacts of the plan will be for current, admitted, and prospective students.  How will Fletcher actually be different in the Fall of 2015?  So I went right to the source, and met with Dean Stavridis.

The Dean mentioned a number of exciting plans, but a couple stood out.  The administration is in the process of hiring a professor with expertise in cyber, to help keep Fletcher on the cutting edge of this growing field.  They are also building a television studio on site to help facilitate media appearances by the faculty (Dean Stavridis, alone, has done over 160 in the last 12 months!) and for use in classes such as The Arts of Communication (one of my favorite last semester).  Finally, one of the most exciting plans in the works is establishing a strategic partnership with a globally-focused think tank in Washington D.C.; this will provide an opportunity to collaborate on research, participate in exchange programs, obtain internships, and in general serve as a home base for Fletcher in the nation’s capital.

At a school known for producing exceptional strategic thinkers, it is fitting that Fletcher should have such a stellar Strategic Plan.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

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Returning to the students writing about their Fletcher experience, today Liam describes his progress on developing his Capstone Project, which is both a graduation requirement and an opportunity for students to build a curriculum that meets their individual needs.  New students arrive at Fletcher with the full range of thinking on their capstones — from no idea whatsoever what they’ll write, to perfect clarity on their topic and planned field research.  All have the option of selecting an “incubator” course, which is designed to help them develop their ideas and research.  Liam has opted to write a traditional academic thesis, but other project formats are also options.

As I begin to wind down my time at Fletcher — and thus have to start ramping up my capstone efforts — I thought a post about lessons I’ve learned regarding the capstone process could be useful.

First, it’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you want to do for your capstone when you come to Fletcher, or really even through the first semester.  I spent my entire first year thinking about a topic for my thesis that, at year’s end, I ultimately decided just wasn’t where I wanted to go.  That’s okay.  I found that meeting about twice a semester with Professor Shultz, my advisor, was a lifesaver, because as we began a dialogue about what I was planning and where I had trouble, he asked good questions that prompted me to think about what it was I really wanted to get out of the experience.  Shifting gears at the end of my second semester meant that I had more of a focus over the summer to do research.

One thing I wish I had done better throughout my first three semesters was to tie term papers to my thesis topic.  I’m writing about the U.S. Army’s security force assistance efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to compile best practices on what works going forward, but the only course for which I’ve written a paper relevant to that topic was for Internal Conflicts and War, my capstone “incubator” class.

Obviously, not every class is going to be a good option for writing a paper that pertains to your thesis.  But instead of writing papers on the Iran Hostage Crisis (Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies), the U.S. mission in Somalia in the 1990s (Peace Operations), or right wing terror groups in the U.S. (Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism), I probably could have chosen topics for those classes that, while not fitting perfectly into my thesis, were at least relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I certainly learned a lot in the research and writing of those papers, but I probably could have been more strategic in picking topics that would support the research for my thesis.

Another thing that is important to note is that if you want to do any type of interviews, you need to put in for an institutional review board.  It’s not that big of a deal, but even if you’re requesting a waiver, it’s still a process through Tufts that takes some time, so I would recommend doing it as soon as you have an idea what you want to research.

Your capstone really is what you make of it.  In my experience, I feel I missed a chance to tie more papers to my thesis, especially since I knew my topic by my second semester.  However, the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is to sit down with your capstone advisor early, and then at least once or so a semester, to just spitball ideas on what you are thinking and where you want the process to go.  I’ve gotten a hold of some great resources that way, and it has kept me on track as I try to finish up one of the last remaining milestones of my Fletcher experience.

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With a fluid community of students who are on campus for only one or two years, it is often possible for new members of the community to take leadership roles in the organization of their choice.  Student blogger Ali recently took the helm for Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter.

The last time you heard from me, I had just returned from the annual Net Impact conference in Minneapolis.  That was a few months ago, and a lot has happened since then!

After the conference, projects with several of the contacts I met came to fruition: A corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant from VOX Global hosted a campus workshop on CSR consulting tools within the communications realm, looking at stakeholder mapping, the Global Reporting Initiative, and more.  The community relations manager from Southwest Airlines expressed an interest in receiving graduate assistance with partnerships along the airline’s new international routes, and is now sourcing that help through Fletcher’s Global Consulting class, taught by Prof. Tunnard every spring.  Lastly, a CSR analyst from Brown-Forman agreed to come speak at Fletcher’s upcoming Sustainability Conference, hosted by the school’s Institute for Business in the Global Context, and to meet with Net Impact members separately.

All these very exciting turns have been part of my pathway to becoming the new president of Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter, as the previous co-presidents head off to exciting beginnings — one to complete her dual MALD-MBA degree at IE Business School in Madrid, and the other to continue her independent research with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Mentorship and leadership transitions between first- and second-year students are an important part of daily life at Fletcher, since the school has an abundance of student clubs and traditions that need to be carried on from year to year.

My Net Impact experience was a highlight of my first semester, and probably will continue to be one throughout my two years here.  It allows me to work in teams with some of my favorite classmates to plan events; to contact professionals and create programming that empowers students to drive social impact; to develop leadership skills for my resume; and to connect with other Boston-area students to participate in Net Impact events with the broader national network.  I look forward to updating you when I discover what summer internship it helps me land!

Until then, I’ll leave you with a video of my favorite Fletcher moment in 2014: waltzing with MALD student Peter Worth in front of the Symperoper in Dresden, Germany.

It was our submission to Fletcher’s annual “Where The Hell Is Fletcher?” video.  Here’s a past version, which I highly recommend you watch!

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I’m a big advocate of using the admissions waiting period (between submitting the application and hearing back from schools) to line up your financial plan.  (That’s assuming you haven’t done so already, which is an even better idea!)  Today, student blogger Aditi helps you out with information about working on campus, with special notes for international students like herself.

Deciding to come to graduate school is a daunting process, not least because it most often means giving up a regular income for two (or more!) years.  For international students in particular, dealing with unfavorable exchanges rates while adjusting to a new environment can be very overwhelming.

Although a few previous blog posts have talked about jobs on campus, they have all referred specifically to teaching or research assistant positions.  However, these positions are limited in supply, and most Fletcher students work in more traditional “office” jobs within the larger Tufts community — for example, one of my jobs is helping with prospect research at the Tufts Advancement (fundraising) office.

Before embarking on the hunt for a job, it’s important to bear in mind that international students face certain restrictions to working here, including not being allowed to work off-campus or more than 20 hours a week (though few students can spare the time for that, anyway!).  Upon arriving at Fletcher, all international students are briefed on the process they need to go through in order to start working on campus, including getting a social security card once you have a job.  Reiko Morris, the international student advisor, is a wonderful resource and always takes the time to answer any questions people have.

Having worked on campus in the U.S. as an undergrad, I came to Fletcher under the assumption that I would find a job soon after arriving, and budgeted for graduate school accordingly.  However, it wasn’t until well into my first semester that I found a job — which led to much panic, re-planning my finances, and feeling stressed instead of enjoying my first few months here.  I did eventually find two different jobs, and here are some tips I learned along the way:

Finding a job:

  • If you’re planning your budget for graduate school with a student job in mind, remind yourself to be patient about finding a job when you get here.  I made the mistake of assuming I would get a job quickly, and was stressed when it didn’t happen as fast as I thought it would.  In retrospect, I should have given myself at least a semester to settle in and look for a job.
  • Fletcher sends around emails to all students when jobs here become available, but remember that there are jobs in the wider Tufts community that are available to Fletcher students as well. There is an online resource (JobX) that you will become familiar with, which is usually the best place to look for student jobs.  Remember that in addition to serving as a teaching assistant (TA) for Fletcher classes, you can also look into TA-ing undergraduate courses at Tufts.
  • It might seem like a lot of jobs are only open to work-study students (and therefore not to international students), but don’t get discouraged!
  • In terms of deciding what kind of job to get, it’s important to be clear on what your goals are: do you want any job that pays, or do you want a job that ties neatly into your academic and career goals?  Obviously, it’s ideal if the job does both, but those jobs are rarer to find.  If you are very determined to find a job that is directly relevant to you, remember that that might mean spending more time looking, and passing up on other jobs in the meantime.

Managing your time:

  • The number of hours per week that Fletcher students work varies considerably.  Last semester, I was able to work a full 20 hours per week (which is more than most students do) but of course, this might change based on my courseload in coming semesters.  Working 20 hours a week was very challenging, and I had to learn how to manage my time well.  It also means that you face a very difficult trade-off in terms of attending all the amazing events, lectures, and parties at Fletcher!  One piece of advice I received was particularly helpful in navigating this trade-off, and that was when a friend told me that I have to decide whether financial stress or time-management stress is harder for me to deal with.  I decided that financial stress worried me more, and that I could find ways to manage my time efficiently.  However, if managing your time well is difficult for you, then it’s probably not a great idea to work more than 10 hours each week.

The process of finding a student job and then working while at Fletcher can be overwhelming, and in retrospect, I wish that I had approached the process more calmly.  If you would like to talk more about working on campus as an international student, leave your questions as a comment on this blog.  I’d be happy to answer!

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Our Student Stories bloggers are back on campus and checking in.  Today, Alex reflects on his first semester in the MIB program.

My first semester at The Fletcher School was quite an experience: immersing myself in my business and energy classes, getting to know my accomplished and passionate classmates, and participating in events with Nobel laureates.

First and foremost, I have been struck by the immediate and tangible benefits of being a part of such a small, tightly knit school.  Let me give you a couple examples of these benefits from my experience so far:

Small Classes, Meaningful Discussions

Many of my classes were quite small, facilitating open and deep discussions, as well as fostering much more meaningful relationships with professors.

One example was my Managing the Global Corporation course taught by Prof. Thoman, F67, whose accomplishments and accolades include being the CEO of Xerox and Nabisco, the CFO of IBM, and a recipient of the French Legion d’Honneur.  Instead of just teaching us analytical frameworks pulled from textbooks or reviewing business cases of other people’s experiences, Prof. Thoman helped us understand how decisions are actually made in the C-suite, based on examples from his own extraordinary career.  This class only had a dozen students.

Another example was my Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy class taught by Prof. Kates-Garnick, F84, who was the Undersecretary of Energy for Massachusetts.  As Massachusetts has one of the most advanced and successful clean energy policies in the U.S., Prof. Kates-Garnick is precisely the type of person you want to learn about energy policy from.  Instead of simply discussing theoretical policies, she put us in the decision-maker’s seat and had us consider the tough trade-offs associated with different options.  This class only had seven students.

The opportunity to take courses sitting around such a small table with industry forerunners and policy makers with real-world experience reaffirmed that this school is not just teaching us theory; Fletcher truly is a school for practitioners, taught by practitioners.

Exclusive Conferences, Valuable Insights

As part of this focus on staying connected to the real world outside the halls of academia, Fletcher encourages us to attend the plethora of conferences hosted in Boston.  A great thing about Fletcher, however, is that it can help you get into the ones that actually matter.

For example, Prof. Kates-Garnick invited me to a small private conference held jointly by The Fletcher School and the Harvard Kennedy School for one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world.  The meeting, attended by the top energy minds of the two schools and the top executives of this global firm, was an eye-opening experience on how corporations inform and conduct their highest-level strategic planning process.  I was impressed by the executives’ grasp of international affairs (it came as little surprise that some were Fletcher graduates), and was reminded of the value of the Master of International Business (MIB) degree I am pursuing.

I was also able to attend a cleantech conference with the leading businessmen and women in Boston thanks to a generous grant from Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.  Just about every other person at the conference was a president or CEO, while I was one of only three students able to attend, due to the cost.  Access to the event proved invaluable, however, both in terms of the content of the panel discussions and the contacts I established; I left with an internship for the next semester doing research for a private equity fund acquiring wind farms across North America.

Not only are these types of conferences interesting, they provide access to the fields students are interested in, and to the people who shape those fields.  If it had not been for Fletcher, I would not have been able to attend, or even have heard of, these conferences.

Fletcher is a small school that delivers monumental output.  The professors and events students have access to are but a couple of the benefits of attending a small school.  It is these types of opportunities that ensures that students are at the leading edge of their fields, and that The Fletcher School stays at the forefront of the world’s most pressing issues.

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