Returning to the Class of 2016, sometimes an update on a Fletcher graduate also captures information on one of our programs. Although it’s a tiny percentage of graduates who find a post-student life here, some do. And one of those is Matthew Merighi, F16, who for the past year has been the Assistant Director of Maritime Studies at Fletcher.
I never expected to end up working with Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program (MSP). My original plan was to attend Fletcher and use my degree to go back into the U.S. federal government. But obviously, Fletcher had an effect on me.
Before coming to Fletcher, I was a civilian employee in the U.S. Air Force’s International Affairs Office. I worked as a liaison with other air forces, as an executive officer for a one-star general, and a tradeshow director for a member of the Senior Executive Service. I came to Fletcher planning to study security studies to deepen my knowledge of the field before going back into public service.
The breakthrough came when taking Professor (now Emeritus) John Perry’s Maritime History and Globalization course in the fall of 2014. No one who took a course with Professor Perry has ever forgotten it. He was a fantastic lecturer and he presented the maritime domain in such a compelling way that I was hooked. I worked for him as a research assistant and continued to take courses under Professor Rocky Weitz, F02, F08, MSP’s current director, when he came back to Fletcher in 2015.
MSP’s real strength is its interdisciplinary approach, linking security, business, environment, and law. It added a salt-water perspective to how I view the world and forced me to think about international issues in a holistic way. As an example, the introductory course in the field, Global Maritime Affairs, touches on a broad array of topics ranging from military buildups in the South China Sea to the ecological threats facing global fisheries and the economics of the shipping industry. To be an effective maritime policy expert, you need to be literate in all of the dimensions of those challenges, rather than narrowly focused on a single specialty.
For my part, I feel very fortunate to be where I am. Maritime studies as a field is quickly going from a niche topic to a cornerstone of policy and business. Whether it is understanding the Arctic, climate change, or global trade patterns, having a maritime perspective is a key distinguisher for would-be practitioners. MSP is also working on original research into cutting-edge maritime security issues, expanding its offerings of both academic and professional events, and supporting student projects in all maritime fields. Outside of Fletcher, I also am building a nonprofit startup, Blue Water Metrics, to crowdsource data-gathering on ocean health as part of a Fletcher co-founding team. Being a part of a new venture, alongside my work with MSP’s efforts to train the next generation of maritime leaders, is truly an honor.
(The video below is Matthew’s talk from the Fletcher Ideas Exchange.)