PhD Takes Over the Blog!

Hello blog readers!  It’s me, Jessica, newish director of Fletcher’s PhD Program in International Relations.  Dan has generously offered me the blog for a few days so that I can tell you about the program and our amazing students.

First, an acknowledgement: Most readers of the Admissions Blog will never be interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, and that’s exactly as it should be.  A PhD requires a serious and long-term commitment to a very specific topic and, while the degree is an essential credential for certain career paths, it’s unnecessary for others.

But anyone interested in Fletcher, whether in the MALD, the MIB, the LLM or any of the other master’s programs, should know that among the people in the actual or virtual Hall of Flags are about 50 students pursuing classes or conducting research in the PhD program.  They’re on their way to a career in academia or policy or, very often, a mix of the two.  They have rich professional experience and excellent academic records.  You might meet them in Econometrics, while they’re in the coursework phase, or they might be a TA for one of your professors.  They add to Fletcher’s vibrant intellectual life every year.

There are two paths to the PhD program.  The first is to complete one of Fletcher’s two-year master’s programs, either the MIB or, much more commonly, the MALD.  The second path is to apply directly to the program after receiving a master’s degree, similar to the MALD/MIB, at another institution.  Right now, about one third of our 48 students received their master’s degree from another program.  The other two-thirds completed the MALD.

In the next three days, I’m going to introduce three students who are in different phases of the program.  The long road to the doctorate starts with classes — about four for students who have completed the MALD, and eight to twelve for others.  Most students stay close to campus both for classes and for the second phase, too, when they complete their comprehensive examinations (an undeniable ordeal through which students demonstrate mastery of their subject) and then defend their dissertation proposal.  For the third phase, when they write their dissertation, they may stay close to Fletcher or they may spend extended periods conducting research somewhere else in the U.S. or the world.

When I stepped into the program director role, I already knew most of the students — some of them quite well.  I’ve felt very fortunate that everyone has greeted me with good will, but they definitely keep me on my toes.  As one student put it, when he identified a flaw in a survey I had sent out, “We’ve been trained to find unanswered questions.”  I love that.  It’s a treat to have a job that involves interacting regularly with such intelligent and interesting people.

I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Fletcher’s PhD students, even as you probably won’t consider applying to the program yourself!  Our takeover of the blog will continue tomorrow, when I’ll introduce a student who is completing the coursework phase this semester.

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