Though we’re tip-toeing up to their six-year post-graduation mark, I’m happy to introduce another member of the Class of 2011. Philippa Brown completed the one-year mid-career MA program, and is now a consultant specializing in designing and implementing programs focused on counter-terrorism and stabilization, as well as early recovery work in conflict environments. Her bio further says that, “She has just completed a three-year posting to the British Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia, where she covered two thematic areas: leading the multi-disciplinary counter-terrorism team, and designing and delivering the UK’s bilateral stabilization program. Prior to her work in Somalia, she designed and managed the UK’s counter-terrorism program in Pakistan, focused on criminal justice capacity building in Punjab. Philippa also deployed to Afghanistan as part of the UK’s support to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand 2009-10.”
As one member of the small group of “mid-career” MA students, I had already been working internationally prior to Fletcher. After ten years working in London as a UK civil servant, I was heading the Counter Narcotics Team in the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand. Two weeks later, I found myself at Fletcher Orientation in Medford. It was a bit of a culture shock.
I had heard about the MA program from a work friend who was based in Khandahar, working with the U.S. military. I mentioned my interest in going back to school to study international relations. He said, “You’ve got to go to Fletcher.” I had anticipated studying in the UK but had a look. I was really impressed with the courses available, the professors (How many superstar academics is it possible to have in one school?), and the international mix of the student body. I was further impressed when I met a current Fletcher student visiting Lashkar Gah on his summer internship — everything you hear about the Fletcher community is true!
On arriving, I sat in the auditorium at Fletcher, with hundreds of other students, and felt a sense of awe. It was even more international than I had expected. It was hard to whittle down the list of courses I wanted to take, and I had only one year at Fletcher to complete everything. I tried to cover a mixture, combining Professor Nasr’s Comparative Politics, Professor Maxwell’s Humanitarian Action, Professor Shultz’s Role of Force, Professor Block’s Agricultural Economics, and Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design Monitoring and Evaluation, which absolutely changed my perspective on how we can deliver better results in the field. Even now, I feel some regret about the classes I didn’t manage to squeeze in — Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict and Professor Drezner’s Classics of International Relations.
It was intense. I found myself working just as hard as I had in Afghanistan, but it was endlessly fascinating. There was just so much going on that I found it really important to be selective in deciding what to take on: I really enjoyed the Security Studies Program lunches, with their fascinating speakers; SIMULEX was a lot of fun; the ski trip was FREEZING but great. And the chance to cross-register for a couple of Harvard courses gave me a chance to widen my circle even further.
After leaving Fletcher, I came back to the UK and left the civil service, deciding to make the leap into consultancy that I’d been considering for a few years. Since then, I have spent almost all my time overseas: first in Pakistan working on criminal justice reform; and then in Somalia, working on counter-terrorism and stabilization. I am currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, as well as consulting on international security issues. I have also continued to enjoy the Fletcher family, catching up with a Fletcher crowd for dinners when transiting Nairobi, and now reconnecting with classmates back in London. I look back on my time in Medford as a bit of a whirlwind: intense, challenging, and a period of real growth. And I use the skills and knowledge I gained from Fletcher every single day.