Posts by: Jessica Daniels

In a short while, my Admissions pals will all arrive at my house (our occasional “conference center”) for our annual early-summer retreat.  While there are scattered days remaining between now and September when we’ll all be in the office, there aren’t a lot of them and the next ones are in mid-July.  Today seemed like the day to sit together and do a little planning.

The summer-ish retreat is when we would usually make decisions on changes to the application.  This year, we’ve already discussed some rewording of the questions on the application form, and I don’t anticipate any other significant changes.  (Naturally, if there are going to be any, I’ll keep you informed.)  We’ll spend some time today on upcoming major changes to the Fletcher website — we’re looking forward to a totally new design, though probably not until later in the fall.  We’ll also talk about the new Master of Global Business Administration program and how we present it in Admissions materials.  In other words, most of what we’ll discuss won’t be of much interest to blog readers.

Discussions complete, the Admissions Office will reopen tomorrow.

 

Not only did Pulkit graduate in May, but he was one of the two students elected by their peers to give speeches at Commencement.  For his final post as a Student Stories writer, he has shared his speech with the blog.  I can confirm that Pulkit carefully followed his father’s advice that he describes below.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

Thank you for this greatest honor.  For a boy from India, whose parents always pushed him to go beyond what he thought he was capable of, this is big.  I cannot express how happy I am in this very moment.  There is no place I would rather be, than here — to celebrate with you all.

I see happy and smiling faces.  Did you know that in Hindi, Pulkit means Happiness.  My father gave me this name.  Before I began this journey here at the Fletcher School, he also told me to greet everyone with a big smile.  That there was no comparison to a smile, and that the smile is the most lethal weapon ever invented and produced.  He asked me to proliferate smiles and happiness.  Even if you tear up today, those are tears of happiness.

As we all turn a page today, firstly, it is befitting of me to thank you and pay my respects.

In Sanskrit, there is a word, and most of you must have heard it.  It is a beautiful word: formed by the amalgamation of two words – नमः and ते, नमस्ते (namaste) and means “I bow to Thee.”  It is very analogous to the Japanese tradition of bowing in respect.

Today, I bow to thee, Dear Fletcher School.  As an institution of learning and a place I am proud to call home; your warmth embraced and held me, nurtured me, and nudged me forward.

I bow to thee, Dear Professors, in reverence and gratitude.  When you shared your knowledge, you shared it with utmost honesty.  You implored us to listen intently, question the status quo, and to zealously advocate for the weak and powerless.

I bow to thee, Dear Staff.  Thank you for guiding and supporting us all throughout.  You made life easier for us.

I bow to thee, Dear Family and Friends.  Thank you for all your sacrifices.  You struggled before me in order for me to be here.  You were there since the very beginning — from scrambling to find resources to fund our education, to keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, and for encouraging us all along the way.

To Fletcher spouses — for taking care of home and children, and lending support as we labored through our assignments.  It wasn’t easy.  Thank you.

I bow to thee, Dear Classmates, my friends and peers.  Your exemplary courage and due diligence to work on the most pressing global issues and your tenacious pursuit of knowledge is immensely commendable.  I am proud to be one of you.

The first time I had heard about the Fletcher School, I was sitting in a cubicle in India — in the process of finding purpose in the work that I was doing.  As I was rummaging through Fletcher’s website, I remember thinking to myself, “I can never get there.”  Since my admission to the Fletcher School, it has been a remarkable and extraordinary journey of self-discovery.  We are here now, ready to Commence.  A big part of my journey, my story, has been you, my fraternity at the Fletcher School, and your powerful, captivating stories.

What is it about institutions that makes them so powerful?  Apart from the ideas that dwell there, it is the people, and here at Fletcher, I have found and interacted with the best.  I have found inspiration in your stories.  We realized in one form or other that these stories were the common thread that bound all of us — in classrooms, during study groups and case study preparation, during educational tours, and during cultural nights.  When you generously and thoughtfully shared your experience, you stimulated my curiosity.  When you asked the tough questions, you challenged me and my assumptions.  You forced me to think critically.  As I interacted with you, my dear friends and classmates, I started internalizing bits and pieces of you.  These interactions gave me an opportunity to dig a little deeper, to introspect, and critically analyze my own history and my perceptions of your history.

I know that I have changed and I know I am taking a part of you with me.  I know this is true for you too.  Let me share a story.  I live with four housemates, from Japan, France, Brazil, and the United States.  Over the year, organically, we cultivated a habit of dining together.  Every night when the weary souls would get back home, we would share our resources, and cook together.  Our understanding of each other has now come to a point where we all prefer a French croissant for breakfast every Sunday morning, and the Indian Basmati rice for dinner.

To me that is what Fletcher embodies — an oasis of knowledge and a place of confluence of peoples from all across the globe and from different walks of life.  At Fletcher, I have learned to listen to people’s stories with humility, and most importantly to appreciate the diversity of opinion.

Even as I continue to thank Fletcher, I nudge it to be more inclusive of diversity of ideas and people.  We, too, owe a bit of ourselves to this institute — and hope we all will contribute to the growth of this institution and for the next generation of students’ ability to be here.

We are ready to commence our journeys with a mix of pride, jubilation, and expectation.  As my friend Lauren pointed out, Fletcher has set the wheels in motion and now we are to keep moving them forward.  We are to use the foundation that Fletcher has help us lay, and in furtherance of it as we continue to seek, we are to find the answers.  In the words of Mark Watney, from the movie The Martian, “You begin.  You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next.  And If you solve enough problems, you’re home.”

In time, as we all move on to taking roles in different institutions and organizations, the challenge is not whether we will be successful.  After all, we are walking in the shoes of legends.  The challenge is to work in contexts of discrimination and with marginalized communities.  The challenge is how to lead others and to be a resource for everyone in the face of adversity.  To that effect, I encourage you to treat the world with compassion and kindness.

Today, whether you are an MIB, an LLM, an MA, a MALD, a MAHA, or a PhD — as my friend Clare shared with me, a common characteristic that binds all of us is a sense of pragmatic optimism for the world.  Whether through business, security, diplomacy, gender studies, civic or humanitarian action, we at Fletcher believe that people-to-people cooperation and international cooperation ought to and can build a better future for the world.

I sincerely hope we all continue to place faith in that belief.

You are extraordinary, Fletcher.

Watch the speeches given by Pulkit (starting at about 17:30) and Laurance below.

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Two significant announcements came our way in the last few weeks.  You may have heard one or both, but they’re important enough that I’ll share.

The first is that, following five years at Fletcher, Dean Stavridis will be stepping down in August.  You can read about it here.  The school will be led for a year by an interim dean, Ian Johnstone, a highly respected member of the faculty (and a nice guy!).  The wheels have already started turning on the search for a new dean, who will presumably be in place on or about July 1, 2019.  As the article mentions, Dean Stavridis will remain involved in several projects that will draw him back to campus with some frequency.

The second announcement is that, starting in May 2019, Fletcher will offer a new digitally mediated business program for working professionals.  The new Master of Global Business Administration will draw from existing expertise at Fletcher, both in offering a business curriculum and with programs that blend online and in-person learning, as is the case for our ten-plus-year-old Global Master of Arts Program.  Planning for the program has been underway for about a year, so now that all the approvals are in place, the groundwork has been laid for a smooth start in only 11 months.

We don’t always expect big announcements in the summer, but these are two of them!  Of course, the blog will keep you informed about developments in both throughout the year.

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Once we turned the corner from May to June, we started looking toward summer travel and related activities.  For a quiet time of year, we have a lot going on.  Check out our travel calendar and you’ll find the four graduate school fairs (each with an alumni panel) that our staff will attend.  We’ll kick off the calendar next week (Wednesday, June 20) at Fletcher with Boston Summerfest — organized jointly by Fletcher and four of our closest pals — and continue to later “fests” in Washington, DC and New York.

The four Summerfests aren’t your only opportunity to interact with Fletcher this summer.  In a growing list of cities, from Austin to Ouagadougou, you can join a current student (or two) and a small group of applicants for a Coffee Hour.  These are casual opportunities to ask questions and just chat with folks who share your interests.

We hope you’ll join us this summer!

 

The final post this week from our continuing Student Stories writers comes from Akshobh.

Professor Sulmaan Khan is the eternal polymath – he knows everything about everything.  Hyperbole aside, all of Professor Khan’s students agree that he is the ultimate historian with domain knowledge second to none.

Professor Khan’s Historian’s Art class outside Ginn Library. I am in the front row in a brown jacket, not quite acclimatized to the weather.

I took Professor Khan’s Historian’s Art class this spring.  The class is as esoteric as the name sounds.  It’s certainly a class for history connoisseurs, however with a twist.  The key element of the class lies in being able to transport yourself into the shoes of decision makers at various times in history, forgetting what you know and trying to rationalize why they did what they did at that point in time.  The class ensures you don’t fall into the hindsight fallacy and that you understand the extenuating circumstances that existed then, and that as a result, shaped key world events.

One of Professor Khan’s interesting traits is to be able to conduct his classes outside.  Naturally, a New England winter precludes this happening too often.  But one fine March day, we found ourselves seated on the grassy lawn.  Professor Khan reassured us that it was spring and ergo when the weather is pleasant, it’s time to make full use of it.

“I still see snow, professor,” remarked one of my classmates, pointing to a muddy block of ice.  “Well, it’s New England, so you’re always going to see snow,” remarked Professor Khan.  “But, snow should not be the key factor in ascertaining whether it’s spring time or not; it’s actually robins,” he explained.

It was almost as if Professor Khan then put on his ornithology hat and stated, “People presume that the sighting of a robin is the first sign of spring in the U.S. and that robins are not seen in winter.  This is a myth.”  He stated confidently, “Robins are seen in winter; however, they’re seen in the trees, since it is too cold for them to be on the ground to forage.  In spring, they are seen scurrying away on the ground.”  And sure enough, we turned to find two robins on the ground, in their search for worms while we searched for answers to some of history’s biggest questions.

The spring semester is a peculiar time at Fletcher.  Unlike the fall semester, you don’t come onto campus with trees in bloom and the sun shining brightly, and there are certainly no robins hopping on the ground.  Instead, you walk in after a relatively cold winter break, with more cold weather ahead.  Spring doesn’t arrive till late March or early April, which is the business end of the semester.

Except for Januarians, who are just starting their studies, the spring semester is the antithesis of the fall semester, and that’s not even referring to weather.  For second years, it’s the last hurrah of their Fletcher sojourn and that means capstone season, along with fulfilling last course requirements and the job hunt.  For first years, you’ve dipped your toe in the Fletcher well in the fall, and the second semester is now balancing your classes with the internship hunt.

While a Fletcher curriculum can be both exhaustive and (given the workload) exhausting, the internship hunt is almost a fifth course.  Or maybe like one or two whole courses, where you need to keep putting in the research and tidying up your résumé, writing succinctly yet waxing lyrical about your experiences in cover letters.  The internship search has no fixed timeline and is a continuous work in progress.  It concludes only when the dotted line has been signed.

My unsolicited advice is that, as hackneyed as it may sound, it is important to start early; perhaps start in the winter break if you have to.  I got so caught up in my classes, assignments, and club activities that I didn’t start hunting till March.  Fortunately, after an exciting spring break visit to Israel & Palestine, my internship found me.

I will be working with the South Asia center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, focusing on U.S. foreign policy and business engagement with the region.

As I wrap up my first year, I’m looking forward to an exciting summer.

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Kaitlyn is a local — or almost local, given that her home area of Cape Cod is a region unto itself.  For her final post of this academic year, she has suggestions for summer fun to share with incoming students or anyone else in the region.

The warm weather is here!  And the sun’s returned with it.  It’s surreal to think about, but as of Wednesday, May 9th, I’m a Fletcher second year.  The last month of the semester was quite hectic, but we’re past it, and with half of us having graduated, it’s high time for celebrations — and taking advantage of the wonderful summer weather.  There are plenty of exciting things to do in Boston in the summer time.  Here’s my top five ways to take advantage of the sun.

1. Hiking in the Middlesex Fells

The Boston skyline from the Middlesex Fells.

Just a 15-minute drive from Fletcher, the Middlesex Fells consists of beautiful hills and forests that surround reservoirs and ponds.  This state reservation has bike and walking trails of varying difficulty, so you could do what I did in March and take an easy stroll around the lakefront, or you could try what we’ll be doing this week and hike up the hills for beautiful views of Boston.  The area is quiet and tranquil, with a visitor center, a zoo just to the north, and a boathouse that opens at the end of May for anyone interested in renting a kayak or canoe.  All the trails are loops, and the Fells website has estimated hiking times for each one.  Pack some snacks, some water, and a camera, and enjoy the great outdoors.

2. See Shakespeare on the Common

Every summer in July and August, the Boston Common (easily accessible by Park Street Station on the Red and Green line) hosts Shakespeare on the Common, where open-air Shakespeare performances go on in the early evenings.  It’s the perfect outing for anyone staying in the area for the summer or returning early from an internship.  This year, they’re performing Richard III.  Go early, bring a blanket or folding chair, and grab a good seat.  You can buy snacks from one of the vendors on the Common or cross the street and pick up something from one of the surrounding restaurants.

3. Kayak the Charles

The activity I most looked forward to during the week before graduation was joining other students for kayaking the Charles River.  It’s a fun daytime activity.  You can rent a kayak by the hour and see Boston from the river.  The closest starting place is in Kendall Square, just a few T (subway) stops from Tufts.  Go on a warm sunny day and be prepared for your Fletcher friends to splash you.

4. Take a tour on the Duck Boats

If you’d like to spend a day being a proper tourist in Boston, a duck boat tour is one of the best ways to do it.  The signature boats that carry our sports teams in parade processions will bring you all around the city to view historic sites.  Then, most exciting, they’ll drive right off the road and into the Boston Harbor (it never gets old).  So you’ll see Boston from the water, too, and maybe hear a story or two about the Boston Tea Party.

5. Walk the Freedom Trail

If you’re interested in being a tourist, or learning more local history, or if you liked my hiking suggestion earlier but would rather hike in the city, check out the Freedom Trail!  Just follow the red-brick road!  The Freedom trail is a 2.5-mile red-brick line that leads you down Boston’s sidewalks and to many of its historical sites and museums.  Go with friends or with a tour guide.  Who knows — you might even see a pilgrim or a revolutionary soldier.

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Last week, we heard from Mariya and Adi, two of our newly graduated Student Stories writers.  This week, I’m turning back to our continuing bloggers for their end-of-spring reflections.  Today, Gary reports on his first year in Fletcher’s PhD program.  He will complete his coursework in the fall semester and move on to his comprehensive exams and dissertation.

As the spring semester came to a close, I paused to reflect back on my first year of doctoral studies and attempted to put it into context.  Remarkably, it is the fourth year of full-time study I’ve enjoyed since the completion of my bachelor’s degree in 2004 (all while serving on active duty in the Marine Corps).  I was previously fortunate to spend three consecutive years as an Olmsted Scholar (one year of language training in California, while simultaneously working on an associate’s degree in Mandarin Chinese, followed by two years in a master’s program in Taiwan).  As a military officer, it is unusual to have the opportunity to follow those years of school with additional graduate studies.  In that regard, I’ve benefited from the recent emphasis that my service has placed on developing officers with doctorates, paving the way for what I am doing now.  I’ve been deeply impressed with the quality of the first year of my education at Fletcher, and I am very happy that I will have another year here to continue my work.  Following a vote in May by the PhD Committee, I have now advanced to PhD candidacy.

An aspect of the program that I have appreciated is Fletcher’s PhD colloquium, a forum for doctoral students and candidates to present their research to their peers and faculty members and receive feedback and (constructive) criticism before making their actual dissertation proposal defense or conference presentation.  Some students also use the colloquium at a later stage in their dissertation research and writing process, presenting at the colloquium only a short time before they plan to defend their dissertation in front of their committee, almost like a “dry run.”  For example, at a colloquium session in late January 2018, we heard David Wallsh, currently a Research Analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses, present his dissertation research, entitled “Switching Sides: Foreign Policy Realignment in Egypt and Syria.”  Wallsh integrated the feedback he received at that colloquium session and then successfully defended his dissertation in April.  He graduated from Fletcher at Commencement last month.

Over my two semesters at Fletcher, a total of a dozen of these sessions have taken place about every couple weeks.  Since Fletcher PhD candidates have wide-ranging research interests, we get to enjoy presentations that run the gamut of topics.  For example, last fall, PhD candidate Fang Zhang gave a presentation entitled, “How Governments Mobilize Finance to Support Innovation: The Case of the Domestic Clean Energy Sector,” which she later presented in a revised form at a China Global Research Colloquium at Boston University.  Ben Naimark-Rowse presented on communication across enemy lines; Jamilah Welch presented on her research into the adoption of new agricultural technologies in Niger, centered on Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags; and this past March, Andrea Walther-Puri presented on “Assessing the Impact of U.S. Military Counterterrorism Assistance.”

In addition to being a venue for presenting research, the colloquium also periodically serves as a forum for mentorship by the more senior PhD candidates.  For example, a panel of students has spoken about what to expect and how to prepare for comprehensive exams, which come after completion of the coursework phase.  We’ve also enjoyed a panel featuring senior PhD candidates who have attended the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research at Syracuse University, which we are all encouraged to attend after completion of the second year in the program.  Finally, we’ve also included students and faculty from the new joint Tufts-Fletcher PhD in Economics, and Public Policy program, inviting them to join the colloquiums and other social events put on by the Fletcher PhD program.

Looking ahead for me, one additional semester of coursework remains.  Last summer before matriculating at Fletcher, I attended the Public Policy and Nuclear Threats workshop run by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at University of California-San Diego, which was an excellent venue for recalibrating my mind for the academic challenges and opportunities that doctoral studies experience, and for networking with students, professors, and policymakers in the nuclear realm.  This summer, I’ll likely get started on developing and working through the reading lists for my concentration areas, International Security Studies and Pacific Asia, in preparation for the comprehensive exams that I plan to take in the spring of 2019.  During May and June I’ve attended or will attend some interesting conferences in Washington, DC and Philadelphia.  Later in the summer, I’ll attend the Aspen Security Forum and a seminar in history and statecraft for PhD students at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin.  I’m happy that the Clements Center seminar will provide another rich learning and networking environment to keep me invigorated between semesters.  Around those events, I’ll do some road-tripping with my family, spanning much of the continental United States, continuing to enjoy being back in our home country after several years assigned overseas.

Last summer, as my family drove across the country moving to the Boston area to start at Fletcher, we made a couple of stops.  One of them was at Fallingwater, arguably American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous work, located in western Pennsylvania not far from Pittsburgh.  I’d long wanted to see that work in person, at least since high school (which for me was the early 1990s), so it was a big deal to me to finally see it.  As an architecture aficionado, I hope to stake out a few more American classics on my wanderings this summer.

With my family at Fallingwater, near Mill Run, PA, July 2017.

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This week’s blog posts will come from our three continuing Student Stories writers, Gary, Kaitlyn, and Akshobh.  All three posts will wrap up their writers’ spring semester and start looking toward the summer.  The semester seems to close so quickly, and the building empties out so quickly, but only two weeks ago there were plenty of students keeping us company.

Stay tuned for Gary’s post tomorrow.

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Let’s continue hearing from our newly-minted Fletcher alumni.  Today, Adi will give us his reflections on his two years in the Master of International Business program.  From his first post to his last, Adi’s entries on the blog have described a thoughtful process of evolution.

With the passing of Commencement, I can now officially call myself a Master of International Business.  It has been two years full of learning, exploration, and struggles.  It has also been two years full of friendships, group dynamics, and interactions with experts, which have helped me tremendously to grow as a professional and individual.  Now that my Fletcher journey is over, and as I embark on the next step in my career, the one question I ask myself is “Did I achieve everything I wanted to achieve when I decided to enroll at Fletcher?”  I thought it would be an interesting exercise to reflect on this question.

With classmates before Class Day

I came to Fletcher having worked in fundraising and corporate engagement at a healthcare-focused non-profit.  I wanted to explore new ways the private sector can be involved in development and social impact, beyond the traditional CSR funding allocation that corporations typically put towards social activities.  At Fletcher, I was introduced to the idea of impact investing as a method to allocate much needed capital in social development and grassroots innovation.  Even beyond impact investing as seed or growth capital, in these two years I also learned about ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing, both as an exclusive strategy and as a portfolio diversification option.  At this point, I am very interested in pursuing impact investing as a career, if not immediately after Fletcher, then in the near future.  In this sense, I did achieve what I wanted coming into Fletcher.

At the same time, I realize that for me to truly understand the value of impact investing, I have to have strong knowledge and experience in investment itself.  Impact investing is still very much a niche market, with many questioning the financial return such investment will be able to generate.  If I do not understand how to generate financial returns through investment activities, I will not be able to grow the field of impact investing.  Following two years at Fletcher, I have a lingering sense that I could have done more to improve my knowledge on investment management, either through my choice of summer internship, the classes I took at Fletcher, or even cross-registration opportunities at other schools.  All of these thoughts crossed my mind at different point as graduation loomed near.

But now that graduation is in the past and I actually have time to reflect, I realize there’s no use overthinking things I cannot change.  What I can do now is move forward and build upon my past decisions.  I have skills, background, and knowledge to leverage into a career in investment management, or even in impact investing right away.  I need to give credit to the things that I have done, and not worry about what I haven’t.  With greater perspective on my two-year journey at Fletcher, I’m better able to value the activities and experiences that will contribute to a career in investment management and/or impact investing.

So I would say that I did achieve what I sought from my graduate education, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as planned.  In fact, I’m glad my two years at Fletcher did not go according to expectation — that’s the beauty of graduate school, and places like Fletcher.  It can be a place to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge that you know you need and want, in order to be a better professional and individual.  But it can also be so much more.  It’s a place to explore and try out new fields and activities, some that you never thought you would engage in.  Many of the things that may not seem connected to your planned studies and career may still end up enriching your experience and shaping your perspective.  So thanks for the two years, Fletcher!  It’s been a great ride.

The Class of 2018 MIB graduates

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It’s hard to believe that two academic years have passed since I met Mariya after she had volunteered to join our team of Student Stories writers.  Her first post, which already described a busy student, was a hint of the highly involved member of the community she would become.  Today, Mariya shares her thoughts following her graduation.

Dear Readers, today I write to you as an alumna of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy!  On Sunday May 20, I walked across the stage, shook Dean Stavridis’s hand, and received my diploma, officially marking the end of my two years at Fletcher.  I delayed writing this post because I did not want to confront this reality.

Graduation Day was overwhelming.  Like a metaphor for how I was feeling, the cloudy, overcast weather slowly morphed into a sunny, clear day.  I was teary-eyed during the morning champagne breakfast when my peers gave toasts and recalled fun memories.  A few short hours later, I felt electrified by the energy of my classmates as, per tradition, we screamed the loudest during the campus-wide Tufts Commencement on the Jumbo Quad every time Fletcher was called.  As the sun shone brighter and it became humid under the tent, my excitement grew.  Following the advice of distinguished alumna Masha Gordon, F98, who spoke on Class Day, I tried to take it all in and enjoy the moment.  In between hugs and kisses, flowers and balloons, pictures and videos, I soaked up the last precious moments we had together as a class.

If I am being honest, it feels surreal to call myself an alumna.  It feels like yesterday I posed in front of the Fletcher placard and walked into the Hall of Flags for the first day of orientation.  A few days ago, I struck the same pose, except this time in a black gown.  Looking at both photos side by side, I cannot believe how much I have transformed over the past two years.

Fletcher will always be special to me for a number of reasons.  It is not only an academic institution where I gained training, education, and skills, but also a home where my friends are like my family.  It is not only a school that provided me with numerous opportunities, but also a space where I grew as an individual and leader.  As I leave Fletcher, I walk away not only with my diploma but a treasure trove of stories, memories, and experiences that profoundly impacted me.  This journey, of course, would not have been possible without first and foremost the Pickering and Hedges Scholarships, my family who made numerous sacrifices so I could continue to study stress-free, professors who challenged and encouraged me, and friends who cheered me up.

When I woke up on the morning after Commencement, it felt strange to have nothing scheduled on my calendar; no classes, no group meetings, no Social Hours, no lectures from prominent guests.  I imagine this feeling of incredulousness will stay until I physically fly out of Boston to start the next chapter of my life.  Fletcher, readers, you’ve been good to me.  Until next time!

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