PhD Week Post #4: A PhD ‘Triple Jumbo’

When PhD students (technically, at this stage, “PhD Candidates”) have completed their classes and comprehensive exams, and they’ve successfully defended their dissertation proposals, they move directly to the final dissertation research and writing phase.  Though many stay nearby and continue to teach and write at Fletcher or other units at Tufts, some will follow their research, their work, or their families to other locations.  Andrea Walther-Puri, who completed both her MALD and her BA at Tufts, describes her path here.

Hi, I’m Andrea Walther-Puri, a triple jumbo and non-resident PhD who focuses on security and defense sector reform on the African continent.  I completed my MALD in 2009, worked for the State and Defense Departments on U.S. counterterrorism policy towards Africa, and then entered the PhD program in 2015.

Throughout and since, I have grappled with the effectiveness of peacebuilding interventions in counterror contexts — to better develop and refine core peacebuilding tools and power projection strategies.  In the nearly twenty years since 9/11, the U.S. has spent over a trillion dollars globally on the assumption that supporting peacebuilding interventions in counterterror contexts reduces the terrorist threat to the U.S.  Yet aid’s effectiveness to promote security is undermined if it exacerbates the effects of conflict on vulnerable populations within recipient states.  More directly, I ask: what does a “successful peacebuilding intervention” mean in the context of counterrorism?  My dissertation focuses on the African Sahel, where a dramatic escalation of terrorism-related violence has occurred in the past fifteen years.

In addition to dissertating, I love spending as much time as possible outdoors, yoga, and making yummy food for my family.  My better half, Munish (also a Fletcher alum), and I have also been working on expanding our brand/brood, which successfully resulted in two rambunctious additions in 2017 and 2019.

The last twelve months have been about learning how to navigate through the darkness of this pandemic by focusing on the light — the beautiful and unexpected silver linings: trading commuting for more one-on-one time with the kids or substituting daycare uncertainties in NYC for French preschool in the NJ burbs.  We now cohabitate in a multigenerational, trilingual household, so the Fletcher prep has started early!  As everything is now digital, I am greatly enjoying the increased Fletcher resources available to non-resident PhD candidates.  I have already benefited from meeting a few newer generation security- and Africa-focused PhD candidates and look forward to meeting more in the months to come!

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