PhD Week Post #2: MYF to MALD to PhD

Today is Day 2 of the PhD program’s occupation of the Admissions Blog and I (Jessica) want to introduce the first of the students who have prepared a post.  Nicholas has a uniquely long connection to Fletcher, which he will tell you about below.  He graduated with his MALD in 2020 and is completing his PhD coursework (the first phase of the program) this semester.

In retrospect, my road to pursuing a PhD at Fletcher seems both counter-intuitive and surprisingly linear.  I first applied to Fletcher through the Map Your Future (MYF) track while still an undergraduate studying international relations and Russian studies at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.  MYF gave me an automatic two years’ worth of deferment with my admission, which I then ended up stretching to four years total, before finally matriculating as a MALD.

The first of those years I spent in Moldova, teaching English on a Fulbright scholarship and working with the U.S. embassy in Chisinau to implement civic education and scholarship programs for underprivileged youth.  A job with the National Endowment for Democracy, supporting grassroots human rights and democracy assistance initiatives in Russia and Eurasia, brought me back to the U.S. for the next three years.

Much as the time between my application and enrollment took me across the world and back again, my time at Fletcher did the same.  I initially expected that I would build on my democracy studies background and regional focus on the post-Soviet space, but I quickly found myself gravitating to the Gender Analysis and Intersection Studies program, where courses with Professors Mazurana and Theidon captured my imagination and piqued my “feminist curiosity,” as Cynthia Enloe calls it, about turning the lens of area studies onto U.S. foreign policy.

One of the most formative (and most fun) of my Fletcher experiences was the summer between my first and second year of the MALD, which I spent interning with the U.S. embassy in Riga, Latvia and planning the 5th annual Conference on Gender and International Affairs (CGIA) with an amazing team of Fletcher colleagues.  Seeing diplomacy in action at the embassy and hearing about all of the incredible work being done by the CGIA panelists and participants inspired me.

By the time my third semester of the MALD was ending, I knew that I wanted to stay on at Fletcher to pursue a PhD and find my own place to contribute to the research-policy-practice “pipeline.”  Now I’m doing just that, finishing my final semester of coursework and looking ahead to developing a research project exploring the treatment of sexual and gender minorities in U.S. interpretations of international human rights law!

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