Why Fletcher?

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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