Currently viewing the tag: "Why Fletcher?"

This is the Fletcher Admissions Blog, and it might seem that one of my tasks is to answer directly the question of why an admitted applicant should decide to enroll at Fletcher.  As it happens, several years ago I created a “Why Fletcher” tag, but it only has a few posts in it:  the one when we asked students in the Hall of Flags why they had enrolled; the one in which I shared the results of an informal survey on the topic; the one that a student wrote about how it’s really okay to spend two years away from the Beltway.  In total — not even enough posts for Why Fletcher to appear in the tag cloud.

The paucity of posts reflects my understanding that admitted students don’t want to make their enrollment decision on the basis of the opinions of an Admissions staff member.  Plus, isn’t this entire blog an answer to the Why Fletcher question?  There are the stories of our faculty members, who are both experts in their fields (as you would expect) and also interesting individuals.  There’s all the information about our students, including their reports on interesting things they do each year, and their ongoing stories.  And there are our alumni, particularly those who graduated a year ago or five years ago, and whose trajectories are most relevant for someone who is about to start graduate school.

Within posts, there are many references to the exciting work being done by our programs and centers, such as the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, the Institute for Business in the Global Context, and the International Security Studies Program.  And last, there’s all sorts of good stuff cookin’ at the Office of Career Services, not to mention in our neighborhood.

So, to me, it’s obvious why a student would want to spend one or two (or even more) years at Fletcher.  I hope that after doing your research, including reading through the blog archives, you’ll agree!  But I know that I won’t be the one who ultimately convinces you.

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This has been the post-admissions-decision week when I have felt most overwhelmed by the pace of work, made worse by a busy week at home that left no extra time to extend my work day.  Lengthy or detailed blog posts have been one of the casualties.

Today I’m going to share a few sentences that have come my way and that I think capture the nature of Fletcher.  The first comes from Ben Mazzotta, a member of the research staff of the Institute for Business in the Global Context who is also a graduate of the MALD and PhD programs, and who is about to embark on a new adventure on assignment for USAID.  In a note of farewell, Ben wrote:

It has been a privilege to work here, where so many people genuinely come to work in the morning with the belief that we can solve the world’s problems, and then set about doing exactly that.

For students, this is their school, but for faculty and staff, this is our workplace, and Ben has captured the reason why so many of us have dedicated many years to working here.

The second note also came from an alumnus, in this case one who has gone on to become the ambassador from Pakistan to Japan.  After hosting an event for newly admitted students in Tokyo, Ambassador Amil reported back on the brief speech he gave at the event:

My message was that Fletcher has given so much to us in building bridges of understanding and hope, and it is important to maintain that connectivity.  I made friends for life there!

We Admissions staffers are proud of the role we play in building the Fletcher student and alumni communities.  In a busy week, reading these brief but timely notes reminds us of the impact we hope to have.

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The morning after the Open House for us, but we know that many of yesterday’s visitors are continuing a school-by-school tour of the east coast, so let’s stay with the topic of choosing a grad school.

Responding to last week’s blog reader survey, one wag of a respondent asked:  What sets Fletcher apart from X and Y?  Please make my choice easier :).  Of course, the reader didn’t write X and Y, but rather the names of two of our friendly competitor schools.  I’ve taken out the names because we never say anything negative about our peers.  Not even when they create copycat admissions blogs. ;-)

But I digress.

So relying on the power of the Social List, I asked students to tell me why they chose Fletcher.  Here, in no special order, are the responses.

Three things.  First, the flexibility of the curriculum, which personally I preferred over more structure.  Second, the fantastic professors who are very rooted in practice.  Third, the dynamic energy of the students, who have more diverse experiences and perspectives than I think I’ve seen anywhere else!

The sense of community I perceived among Fletcher students I met before enrolling was one of the biggest factors for me.  I also liked how flexible one could be academically at Fletcher.

The key feature of Fletcher that led me to enroll here was the focus on the intersection of the private and public sectors.  I’m interested in how private businesses can work with public sector institutions, and my experiences here at Fletcher, inside and outside the classroom, have helped me further my pursuit of such a career.  I applied and was accepted to several joint degree (MBA/MA in IR) programs and Fletcher was able to combine both of these aspects without my needing to enroll in such a three-year program.

I chose Fletcher because I love public service. I plan to work for an international organization, and later return to Colombia to serve my country and further international cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.  Accordingly, I decided to come to The Fletcher School to learn the necessary skills in the area of international law.  I want to focus on how international agreements can affect state behaviors on security and foreign policy, and the importance of including human rights in public policies related to security and transnational crime.  The Fletcher School is an international forum of leadership.  I have access to world-leading professors and experts in international law and security, and that has been awesome!  I want to dedicate this period of my life to my education, and in the long-run devote all of my energies to working toward a better future for Colombia.

I chose Fletcher for two main reasons.  First, and most important from my perspective, was the incredible sense of community at Fletcher.  In all of my interactions with alumni, current students, administration, and faculty, I felt a truly unique sense of community that I really admired and wanted to be part of.  Visiting Fletcher confirmed that for me, when I got to see for myself the collaborative and supportive nature of the student body, and just how open, inviting, and incredibly diverse Fletcher students are in their experiences and passions.  In addition, I chose Fletcher because of the flexibility of its curriculum. I find it extremely valuable that I have so much autonomy over the classes I take here.  I like being able to broaden my academic experience with classes in several fields that interest me (development economics, diplomacy, and gender studies).  Having no specific core requirements has left a lot of flexibility to study what I am most passionate about, while still leaving me the opportunity to challenge myself with difficult ‘core-like’ courses (statistics, econometrics, etc.) when I choose to take them.

I just want to respond to one concern that I’ve heard raised about Fletcher, in comparison to some other schools: “I’m not sure if suburban Medford is where I want to be for my mid-twenties” — i.e. I’d rather be in the heart of an urban center with lots of exciting diversions for twenty-somethings.  First of all, Fletcher isn’t very far at all from plenty of exciting cultural diversions in Davis/Cambridge/downtown Boston, etc.  But I think in general, making a decision about grad school based on whether the location has those types of things is not necessarily very fruitful.  The reality is that grad school is a lot of work, and no matter where you’re located, you won’t have that much time to be exploring cities and going to clubs/plays etc.  That isn’t really the purpose of grad school, after all.  That definitely doesn’t mean that grad school has to be all work and no fun — it just means that in your free time you may be more focused on getting to know the interesting people around you, which you can do whether you’re in a hip club or at a dinner party at someone’s house.  I think of my mid-twenties as the last time I’ll be able to really fully immerse myself in an academic community, both a community inside of the classroom and outside, whereas I’ll have more than enough time to live in the heart of big cities for the rest of my life.

Finally, there’s this story:

I decided to enroll in Fletcher after a fairly circuitous path. When I was an 18-year-old international relations major,  I always considered Fletcher the place one would naturally aspire to go for grad school. However, instead of following my intended path of becoming a diplomat, I graduated wanting to become a community organizer and urban farmer.  Years later, after a variety of professional experiences related to sustainable agriculture and community development in Chicago and Thailand, I thought that urban planning and environmental policy programs would be the best fit for my graduate education.  Therefore, I applied to graduate programs that were apples and oranges when compared to each other: urban planning, public policy, agriculture, and environmental management.  Fletcher was the only APSIA school to which I applied, and the only one that was explicitly internationally focused.  I knew in the back of my mind that Fletcher was the only place that would truly allow me to explore the wide variety of interests I had, particularly as related to human security, systems thinking, environment and resource policy, and international development.

There were multiple aspects of Fletcher that ultimately led me to enroll here. The first was flexibility, both in the admissions process (I deferred so I could stay longer in Thailand to work and travel) and in academics. The second was financial. Fletcher seemed to be the only school that truly understood my situation after volunteering in Thailand for a year.  The third, and most important, was the community.  Given the fact that I couldn’t attend the Admissions Open House, I relied on Skype and email to contact as many Fletcher students as possible from Thailand.  While I waited weeks to hear back from students at other schools, Fletcher students responded promptly and at length.  What I loved from the students was a continuous theme of “Tell me about yourself and allow me to help you figure out how your interests could fit in at Fletcher. We want you to make the best decision for YOU, not because ‘Fletcher is the best place.'”  Today, I could not see myself anywhere else.  The community has been outstanding and, thanks to my Field Studies in Global Consulting class this semester, I’ve rediscovered my passion for urban planning and housing issues, and will be self-designing a field of study in international urban planning and development.

As you can see, students come to their decision in different ways, but I hope you’ll note the two key themes that emerge:  flexibility in the curriculum, and the community.  They’re two of the consistent qualities of a Fletcher education.

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On Tuesday, Jeff and I decided that the time had come again for us to hang out in the Hall of Flags and chat with students.  With the Open House right behind us and admitted student decisions in front of us, the question of the day was obvious:  Why did you choose to come to Fletcher?

We started our conversation with two students from Germany who first met each other here.

Frieder, second-year MALD, told us that just over two years ago, he was “Ready to apply to ten programs.  Fletcher was number one — my favorite — on the list.  Then I received early admission.”  Story over.  But he also said, “Fletcher was my favorite because of having access to law classes, along with the opportunity to focus on business and economic development” (which is his career direction).  “It’s a unique combination.”

Joachim, second-year MALD, said he likes several things:  “The broad range of courses at your disposal.  The small size of the community.  And the closely-knit alumni network.  I really like the Boston location, too.  Personally, I also like the way the nice Tufts campus is quiet, but you can still get to New York or D.C. easily.”

But then Joachim made a distinction between why he chose Fletcher and why he likes it now.  Coming to the end of his Fletcher experience, he says it’s “The people in the community and the diversity are what I like the most, and you can meet a Fletcher student or Fletcher alumni anywhere in the world.”

Next we called over Kartik, second-year MALD from India, who was chatting with Hanneke.  Kartik used to work in our office, but now he’s a big time teaching assistant and doesn’t visit us enough anymore.  :(  Anyway, Kartik, who pre-Fletcher had been working in the local area, told us how he ended up at Fletcher.  “I took the T to Davis Square, and took a left turn, and here I was.  It felt like home.”  (Hanneke made fun of him just a little for this sweet sentiment.)

Then along came Jeff, a second-year MALD from Canada.  He said, “I joined Fletcher because of its reputation for academic rigor, great student body, and connection to the broader Boston academic community.”

Second-year MIB Jonathan came by and told us, “Fletcher offers really unique and interesting opportunities.  I had a great internship experience in Hong Kong, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything more conventional.”  He and Jeff had met up while Jeff was in Hong Kong for recruitment travel last fall.

Manjula, second-year MALD from Sri Lanka, said, “I was making a career change from finance to international development and social entrepreneurship, and Fletcher offered the diversity and flexibility, along with the skills and resources I needed, so I could explore new fields and make that switch.”  (I should also mention that Manjula is a rock-star in the community for what he has already achieved.)

Interrupting a study group, we found out that Alicia, second-year MALD from Jamaica, chose Fletcher, “because it’s such a nice warm and friendly place.”  And James, first-year MIB, chose Fletcher because it provides, “a more interesting international exposure than the other schools I applied to.”

Barry, mid-career MA, told us, “I came to the Open House last year and met with current students and faculty, and I was extremely impressed.  Yesterday was a little reminiscent for me.”

We wandered over to a table where students were selling Africana Night tickets.  Tallash, first-year MALD from Kenya, chose Fletcher because of the flexibility of the degree programs.  She said she is focusing on international environmental policy and development economics, and “doing so much in a two-year program that it’s like doing three different master’s degrees.”

Martin, second-year MIB, liked that “The MIB program offered a unique opportunity to integrate international business and international relations in one program, compared to a dual degree in parallel.”

Along came Dean Bosworth, who good-naturedly told us he chose Fletcher because, “I was offered a job, and I needed a job.  I was stepping down as ambassador to Korea.”  (I hope he also appreciated the warm community!)

Ethan, PhD candidate, joined us.  He and I did a quick reminisce about how I interviewed him a bunch of years ago when he applied to do his MALD.  He chose Fletcher because of “the ability to build a program with interdisciplinary balance.”  And also because the faculty includes “a healthy mix of practitioners and academics.”

Katie, first-year MALD from Egypt and Admissions intern said, “I like to know that I can leave campus and then come back to this warm Fletcher-orange environment.”

Sebastian, first-year MIB from Ecuador, took the broad view.  “World economics are going through a transition and the existing model of business study needs a new perspective, so the MIB program was perfect for my interests.”

And the last word is going to go to Liz, for about four years the first person you’d see when you entered the Admissions Office.  Liz told us, “I came to Fletcher because I was making a career shift and Fletcher was the right place to marry my workplace skills and my desire to work with students again.”

And that’s Liz’s last word in the Admissions Blog.  She has successfully pushed her career transition forward, and yesterday started her new post in the Tufts Residence Life office.  We wish her all the best!

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A few weeks ago, when Jeff and I were hanging out in the Hall of Flags, Jeff prevailed upon Summer to write about her decision to leave Washington, D.C. and head north for graduate study at Fletcher.  Here are Summer’s thoughts on the matter:

I’m one among many Fletcher students who’ve migrated north for graduate school from the nation’s capital.  For those of you debating whether to uproot your inside-the-beltway careers for a couple years in Boston, here’s a short list of FAQs gathered from a few Washingtonians-turned-Fletcherites:

Q: But why would I leave all this great networking?!
A: Don’t worry, your house of business cards will not collapse on itself when you move to Boston.  In fact, you can get your very own Fletcher business cards on our ready-made template as soon as you get here, so you can keep right on networking like nothing has changed.  Fletcher’s Office of Career Services plans annual events connecting Fletcher students with alumni in Boston, New York, and D.C.  But you’ll have the opportunity to meet plenty of academics and practitioners in your field right here in Medford, or at one of the many other universities you’ll have access to in the Boston area.  The greatest networking you may do here, however, is with your classmates.  The diversity of perspectives in a Fletcher classroom means that you have something to learn from everyone.  For me, the decision to come here was about focusing my networking, not curtailing it.

Q: Do I need to buy multiple pairs of long underwear?
A: Probably.  But not this winter — we’ve barely seen snow.  And the two coldest experiences of my life still rank:  1) the day I spent hours shivering under the Washington monument to watch Obama take the oath on a jumbotron; and 2) snowshoeing up Connecticut Avenue on my commute in the midst of Snowpocalypse.  Boston weather was my go-to small talk when I first decided to move.  (For example: Random colleague: “Are you excited about Boston?” Me: “Yes, but I’m going to freeze! I’ve never lived in the north, unless you count Northern Virginia!)  Keep your credit card in your wallet ’til you see snow on the ground.

Q: Does Medford have a Georgetown Waterfront?
A:  No.  But we do have the Charles River nearby, which is debatably cleaner than the Potomac.  My problem is that there is too much to do in Boston.  And if you think that Medford may be too far away from the action for your taste, here’s a useful analogy:  Medford/Somerville/Cambridge is to Boston as Clarendon/Courthouse/Rosslyn is to D.C.  And there is a lot to do right here in our neighborhood.  I have a list of restaurants and bars to try that is longer than my non-salaried self can afford, and when it comes to music, festivals, day trips, and things to do on the cheap, the options are endless.

Q: Can I still read Politico from Boston?  What about The Onion?
A:  Yes, and (thank goodness) yes.  Thanks to the advent of the internet, you will have immediate access to all the policy wonk blogs available to your friends working on the Hill.  You can still tweet, Facebook, and g-chat awesome new posts to everyone in your world-wide network.  What’s better, you’ll have a whole new network of internationally wonky friends to share them with — when you’re not too busy reading books, that is.  And once you’ve had time to fall in love with Medford, you can even profess your feelings on the Admissions Blog for all your D.C friends to read.

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