Posts by: Jessica Daniels
Today we’ll hear from Gary, our Student Stories blogger in the PhD program, who will return to the U.S. Marine Corps after he completes his Fletcher studies. Though I’ve often watched as a parade of limousines and police cars escort a dignitary to Fletcher, I had never thought about the behind-the-scenes efforts to make the visit happen, and I’ve learned something from Gary’s post!
One of the great benefits of being a student at Fletcher is the visits of many senior officials and policymakers. This includes not only leaders from the diplomatic, political, and business realms but also senior military leaders. For my service, the U.S. Marine Corps, the fall semester saw a “bumper crop” of such visits. During October and November, the International Security Studies Program (ISSP) hosted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Fletcher alumnus General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (the senior uniformed officer in the entire U.S. Armed Forces); the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller (the senior officer in my service); and Lieutenant General David Berger, the commander of the largest field command in the service, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. Between them, these three officers brought more than 120 years of combined service in the Marine Corps to the table. However, I’m not going to talk about what they presented during their visits — in part because two of the lectures took place at ISSP luncheons, which are conducted off-the-record — but instead I’ll take a look “behind the scenes” at what goes into making a visit for one of these senior military officers happen. (The Boston Globe carried an article about General Dunford’s visit here.)
As one might expect, a great deal of coordination typically goes into a visit by a senior leader. Planning begins months in advance. ISSP mails out the official invitations. For last semester’s visits, this step took place before I even arrived on campus in September. After that, suffice it to say that there are a lot of emails exchanged and phone calls placed to work out visit itineraries, menus, locations where people can change from civilian clothes to uniforms or vice versa, and more. Sometimes the group emails a questionnaire with the questions they need answered for their planning process to move forward. If one of the senior officers is arriving via nearby Hanscom Air Force Base, then there are additional considerations involving the base protocol officer, base operations, and so on. If they arrive via Logan Airport, there is a different set of considerations. There is local coordination for security and ground transportation. For an ISSP fellow designated as the AO (“action officer”) for a visit, one of the key things to learn right away is the key contacts on the visitor’s staff — it might be more than one person.
For ISSP military fellows (who spend a year at Fletcher on a non-degree basis), coordinating these visits provides an opportunity to interact with the “brain trusts” behind the senior leaders. Depending on where they are, these groups have different names — Action Group, Staff Group, etc. — but are composed of some of the sharpest young officers in the ranks. For General Neller and General Berger, their teams consisted entirely of Marines, but General Dunford’s staff features officers from across the services and some Department of Defense civilians. These organizations house planners, subject-matter experts, advisors, and speechwriters. In addition to the planning groups, the senior military officers also have aides de camp in charge of coordinating logistics and other general-purpose matters. It can end up being a pretty large retinue of folks when all is said and done — half a dozen people, or more.
After completing their studies, Fletcher graduates in uniform can end up working in these commander’s groups, based on their developed skills in diplomacy and negotiation, oral and written communication, and statecraft. For example, the director of General Berger’s Commander’s Action Group, LtCol Sea Thomas, attended Fletcher immediately upon graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. (He was a MALD classmate of Fletcher Professor Rocky Weitz!) On General Dunford’s Chairman’s Action Group, LtCol Todd Manyx (ISSP Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow in 2007-08) serves as a special assistant, and Army COL Abigail Linnington, who holds a Ph.D. from Fletcher (2013), is the director of the organization. From the outside looking in, these groups appear to do meaningful, relevant work directly for senior leaders whose voices count.
It was a great professional honor for me to meet and interact with these three senior Marine Corps leaders. It is not all that often that a mid-grade officer such as me has the chance to meet top leaders. I had served with General Berger previously in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005, so it was great to catch up with him now that he has ascended to near the pinnacle of his profession. During General Dunford’s visit, Professor Hess did me the great honor of providing an introduction to the general, and we spoke briefly, comparing our experiences as Marine Corps fellows at Fletcher. However, the highlight for me was riding with General Neller from the airport to Fletcher, ostensibly as the “on-site lead,” bringing the senior officer up to speed on the “lay of the land” before he steps out of the vehicle and begins the luncheon event. That did happen, but I also had the chance to chat with my service’s top officer about family, hopes for future assignments, and challenges and opportunities for the Corps. That’s not something that happens every day — except maybe at Fletcher!
When high-level visits happen, things can get pretty exciting. You must remain flexible when things change, sometimes even as the visit is already in progress, such as if a flight is delayed and you need to adjust the agenda in real time dynamically. But once the visits end, things return to normal fairly quickly. Then it’s back to classes — until the next visit!
Fletcher was closed yesterday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, but we’re back today for a shopping spree. Shopping for classes, that is. Students have the opportunity to listen to an introduction that may guide their choice of whether to take a class, and with introductions offered all day, a lot of their questions will be answered. The day is broken into 50-minute blocks. During each block, professors give two 20-minute presentations, with the remaining ten minutes available for students to move from one introduction to another. Registration is ongoing this week, and classes begin for real tomorrow. (Not every class is included in Shopping Day. Most of the options are new classes, or classes offered on Monday/Tuesday because those didn’t meet this week.)
Shopping Day isn’t the only activity bringing a little buzz to the building. Last Wednesday, the new Januarians arrived for Orientation. In three days, they gathered all the information that it takes us a week to present to fall semester enrollees, and in just a few weeks they’ll be indistinguishable from the students who started last August. Team Admissions joined the fun on Thursday to lead some icebreakers, including a scavenger hunt. I don’t want to point fingers, but a few of my Admissions pals are a little over-competitive!
We always enjoy a few quiet weeks to get projects done, but by the time students return from winter or summer break, we’re ready for them. It will be a treat to welcome them back and hear their updates. Speaking of which, with the spring semester starting, I’d better speed up the sharing of fall semester updates from the Student Stories writers. I’m going to dedicate more blog space to them this week and next. I hope you’ll check them out.
Tagged with: Shopping Day
It has been a while since the blog featured a Five-Year Update, and I’m excited to kick off the profiles from the Class of 2012 — a group that seems especially full of wonderful people. I’m extra pleased that the first of these posts comes from Vanessa Vidal Castellanos, whom I interviewed for her MALD application in 2011 and I’ve been in contact with ever since. Vanessa is currently serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. When she was a student, she appeared in the Admissions Blog before running in the Boston Marathon.
This Five-Year Update is written from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I have been since September 11, 2017 — such an important date for many around the globe. As I booked my travel to permanently change stations, the travel agent hesitantly asked: “Are you sure you want to travel from the United States to Saudi Arabia on September 11?” Honestly, the significance of that date hadn’t crossed my mind. I thought back to exactly five years earlier when I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America on September 11, 2012. That day, as I prepared to introduce our speaker before the swearing-in ceremony for the new Foreign Service officers like me, I choked and contained tears while watching on television as then President Obama and the Secretary of State received the bodies of those who had been killed in service in Benghazi, Libya. It was at that moment that I realized how honored and proud I was to be joining the diplomatic corps of the United States.
My diplomatic career began after my admissions interview to The Fletcher School, which is when I first considered the U.S. Foreign Service. I knew I wanted to work in public service, but also knew something was missing from most of the jobs I had heard of, and that was the international component. Thanks to Jessica, who encouraged me to apply for the Pickering Fellowship after my admissions interview, I became a Pickering Fellow. After graduating from Fletcher, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service — exactly the career I had dreamt of, I just didn’t know the name for it. I went on to complete an internship at the operations center in Washington, DC, covering East Asia and the Pacific, but in tune with everything that was happening in the world. I remember every day was something new, and briefing high-level officials as an intern was nerve-racking to say the least. I questioned if I would be able to fulfill my five-year contract as part of the Fellowship.
After serving in various capacities at U.S. embassies in Tunisia, Switzerland, Zambia, and now in Saudi Arabia, I understand and appreciate the value of diplomacy to create mutual understanding between the people and governments of different countries. I absolutely love engaging the people of the host country, hearing about their needs and dreams, and finding ways the U.S. government can provide support. I have always said the United States is not a perfect country, but we have tons to share and I am glad to have resources at hand that I can offer and that mutually benefit others and the United States. It’s not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes perspectives are controversial. However, having people-to-people conversations about those standpoints and then influencing U.S. foreign policy, even if only in the slightest, is reassuring.
There is no question that without my education at Fletcher — thorny and touchy discussions, mock chief of staff meetings, public diplomacy, negotiation simulations, and sample policy briefs — and the network of friends I built, I would not have this diplomatic career. The Fletcher community at the Department is real and truly vibrant. (I always had my doubts if it could live up to the hype, during the annual Fletcher D.C. networking events.) I am grateful for my Fletcher experience and the international worldview it gave me; I could not imagine my life without it!
Check out Vanessa’s video, which the U.S. Embassy shared on its Facebook page. It’s from a series in which Embassy staff share details about their home towns.
Today’s post offers information that doesn’t change year to year, but I hope that reading it today will help you navigate the post-submission application process.
With no further delay, if you submitted an application yesterday for the January 10 deadline, let me congratulate you on having completed most of your work! The burden is now on us. Or, at least, the burden will be on us when your application is 100% complete, including the pieces that you didn’t submit yesterday: primarily, recommendations and standardized test scores. You’ll know the application is 100% complete when you receive an email from us. Until then, you need to keep an eye on things.
To that end, here are the instructions for tracking your application.
AFTER YOU SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION, your Application Status page will display the information you need.
To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or save the application link. You will log in with the email and password you used when you created your application.
How do I know if my application is incomplete or complete?
Even after you have submitted all the required materials, your application will wait until a staff member has reviewed each document to check that it is correct and legible. Only then is the application considered complete and ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee. Your Application Status page displays the most up-to-date information on your application status. Please allow us up to 10 days after we receive your materials to update your record. It isn’t that checking each application takes a long time, but there are a great number to review and we want to get it right.
Your application will be marked as incomplete if we find that items are missing, your transcripts are difficult to read or not translated into English, or your application fee has not been received (with the exception of fee waivers). If we are missing materials or cannot read application documents, we (Fletcher Admissions) will contact you.
Fletcher Admissions will also send you a confirmation email when all of your application materials have been compiled and your application is ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee. Once your application is complete, there’s nothing more you need to do (except wait).
Please Note: Whether your application is processed first or last has no bearing on your admissions decision. But you do need to ensure that you have sent us all the needed materials.
What could possibly hold up my application?
Assuming you did absolutely everything you’re supposed to do (including ordering your test scores), and submitted all the pieces you need to submit (including scanned copies of official transcripts), the glitch that affects the largest number of applications is recommendations that fail to arrive. It is so mean when current or former professors or supervisors agree to write a recommendation for an application due January 10, and then don’t submit it! But the fact that you have my understanding doesn’t relieve you of the need to get that recommendation. You need to do just the right amount of reminding, but when it becomes clear that the recommender is simply not going to come through, then you need to find and register a new recommender.
When will I receive my decision?
Decisions will be released toward the end of March. We will send a message to the email address you used on your application. March decision information will also include details about scholarship awards for students admitted in March or in December (Early Notification).
If you have further questions, please email us or call us at +1.617.627.3040.
Please use the email address that you included in your application on all email messages to the office. We try to respond to every message on the same day we receive it, but due to the large number of emails we receive, it can take several days for us to reply to you.
This part of the admissions process certainly requires some patience. Whether you’re waiting for confirmation your application is complete, or for the answer to a question, or for your decision to arrive in March, you can be sure we’re working as hard as we can to make everything go quickly and smoothly. It’s in the interest of the Admissions staff, as well as that of our applicants.
Continuing to catch up with our student bloggers following the fall semester, today we’ll hear from Adi, who is now one semester from completing the MIB program.
Now that I have officially finished the fall semester, I can reflect on what happened, while also looking ahead to my final semester at Fletcher. What was particularly different compared to my first year at Fletcher was the feeling of freedom and flexibility in choosing my courses. With most of my MIB core requirements out of the way, I see way less of MIB classmates whom I saw pretty much every day last year, while meeting new students and even fellow second years whom I never met until this semester. (Surprising as that is, it does happen.) My second year is all about electives. I do have one more requirement, but I have decided to push that to my final semester. So, my fall schedule was completely of my choosing. I ended up enrolling in the Art and Science of Statecraft with Professor Drezner, Processes of International Negotiations with Professor Babbitt, Large Investment and International Project Finance with Professor Uhlmaan, and Petroleum in the Global Economy with Professor Everett. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic mix of finance, markets, politics, and hard and soft skills, with topics that complemented each other surprisingly well.
My Fields of Study at Fletcher are International Banking and Finance as well as International Political Economy (IPE). Project Finance and Petroleum both fit my IPE Field of Study, although I think even if they didn’t, I would still have taken these two courses out of curiosity and interest. Negotiations could have satisfied my DHP requirement, but I already had a DHP course, so I took the course purely out of recognition of the importance of being an exceptional negotiator in whatever professional path I end up pursuing. Statecraft was taken out of curiosity. After all, Fletcher is a school of diplomacy, and Professor Drezner is one of the better-known names not just in the school, but in his field of expertise.
In the end, the courses were a great mix. The cases discussed in Project Finance were fantastic, ranging from aluminum mines in Mozambique to stadium public financing for the Dallas Cowboys. Petroleum was definitely an eye-opener into just how deeply ingrained petroleum is in the fabric of today’s society. I may not agree with every single perspective presented in the class, especially on the topic of petroleum’s impact on climate change (understanding Professor Everett spent years at Exxon-Mobil), but it is definitely exciting to hear a well-structured and logical argument that is counter to what I am accustomed to hearing. The two projects from Negotiation gave me the opportunity to dig deep and analyze the discussions between Indonesia and Freeport, operator of the biggest goldmine in the world. Finally, in what other class but Statecraft with Professor Drezner would you have a simulation on how countries are supposed to react in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
Thus, my suggestion for future MIB students trying to figure out what to take for their electives is to take the best courses Fletcher has to offer. Obviously, try to get any required courses out the way (in the first year if possible). I would highly recommend the four courses that I took this semester, but your interests may not be the same as mine. I only suggest that you not limit yourself to business courses at Fletcher. For MIBs, our distinguishing quality compared to MBA graduates is Fletcher’s non-business courses, whether in law, security, or even gender studies. Recognizing that these are courses that reflect Fletcher expertise would translate to us being equipped with knowledge and skills that make us unique and competitive in the job market, even as we seek MBA-type positions in consulting, investment banking, or multinational corporations. Plus, I personally find it interesting to learn about something totally outside my main area of study — it enriches the learning process.
I think many Fletcher students agree that we came here wanting an education that would give us a multidisciplinary perspective. Thus, at some point in our studies, we need to take a course that is the best Fletcher has to offer, slightly disregarding whether the topic is what we intend to build a career in. I don’t plan to have a career in conflict resolution or policymaking (although never say never), but I am confident that skills from courses on negotiations and statecraft will come in handy, even if I do pursue a career in financial services as I plan to right now.
Fletcher is still a quiet place with most students still on their winter break, but the Admissions Office isn’t quiet at all. We’ve had a few visitors today for the last of the on-campus interviews, and two of our Graduate Assistants — Cece and Cindy — are back at work. Naturally, the inbox is keeping them busy, as folks send last minute questions.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), the Admissions staff will be meeting off-site for the day, but Cece and Cindy will take care of your last-minute application questions. And then the following day (Wednesday) is the January 10 deadline, when we’ll receive most of the year’s applications. Naturally, I hope you’re not waiting for the ultimate last minute (11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-4)) to submit your application, but I reluctantly concede that it’s too late to pester you to submit early.
Meanwhile, review of the applications submitted by December 20 for the PhD program and the Map Your Future pathway is well underway. PhD applicants will still need to wait until late March to receive their application results, but MYF applicants will hear this month.
Back to all the January 10 applicants. What can/should you be doing now to ensure smooth submission of your application? I’m going to assume you’ve completed most parts of it, so the big task now is a careful proofreading. Make sure your essays are correct, no longer have editing marks in them, and don’t include mention of any of the other schools to which you’re applying. (Yes, that happens. Too often!) Double check your email and mailing address. For the mailing address, please use standard punctuation and upper/lower case. It’s amazing how many people provide us with an address that isn’t actually useful for mailing things. Take a few minutes and write out abbreviations that might not be clear to us, even if they’re completely clear to you and your peers with the organization. And do return to your essays and make sure they answer the question we’ve asked.
Above all, remember that the application you send us is the one we’ll review. Unless there’s a technical problem that results in an illegible attachment, we expect you to get it right the first time. So proofread proofread proofread! And we look forward to reading your application.
The second student blogger end-of-semester wrap-up comes from Kaitlyn, who like many of her fellow students, appreciates a busy schedule.
This first semester, especially the second half, was a whirlwind of activity. It had never felt so bizarre as when I passed in my last final exam and stepped outside the doors of Fletcher to realize there was nothing else on the day’s — or the week’s — itinerary. After four months of non-stop activity it was nice to stroll across campus in the crisp winter air and soak in the relief that everything, for now, was done. At the same time I felt restless. Having an open itinerary might be refreshing to some, but my natural mode is to be busy. Hence, as soon as exams were done: I baked chocolate cake for my classmates so we could all celebrate, finished the puzzle we’ve all been working on in the Ginn Library, and then sat down to write this blog post. The principle topic on my mind was reflection: how did I feel after one semester? What were my resolutions going into the next one?
1. It is okay to explore a lot of Fields of Study – and it’s easier than I thought.
At the beginning of the semester, surrounded by many peers who were already firmly established in their careers, it was tempting to think that I should have a very clear idea of the Fields of Study I wanted to focus on, and the specific classes I wanted to take.
And then I talked to more second years.
The advice I got from them ranged from: “don’t worry about Fields of Study — just take whatever looks interesting,” to “take one that will get you a job and one that is for fun.”
I’m too much of a planner to like the first option, but the middle ground between the two is one that suits me well: plan one, and give myself the freedom to build the second one based on what’s most interesting. There are plenty of opportunities to explore different subjects, even with only 16 credits in the MALD program. Auditing courses, attending special events, and talking to peers and professors are all ways my fellow first years and I have found to explore Fields of Study that didn’t fit in our schedules. There’s also always that one class that takes you completely by surprise – as was the case for me and Art & Science of Statecraft. I took it because it fulfilled a breadth requirement and looked the most interesting. Turns out, it was my favorite class from my first semester! I’ll be taking the follow up course in the spring. I am not sure it will be part of a Field of Study, but if my experience in education has taught me anything, it is that following my interests is the most rewarding way to go.
2. Fletcher’s community really is the best.
I cannot emphasize enough how much everyone supports each other. It is much different than undergrad; here everyone is equally passionate about their courses and equally invested in the quality of their work. My study groups worked well together for the first time in my life, and I had my first good (actually amazing) experience with a group project in “Gender, Culture, and Conflict.”
And outside classes, our community in Fletcher’s dorm has become very close knit: we organized movie nights during exams, celebrated birthdays, and organized “Blakeley chats,” where our peers could give mini-presentations about their work and their experiences. By far the high point of my semester was one of these community moments: Medford had its first snow just before finals started. And my excitement and celebration over that was exponentially more memorable and special because I could share it with my friends and fellow bloggers (shout out Akshobh and Prianka) for whom it was a “first snow.”
1. Garder plus du temps pour pratiquer le Français
I worked hard this semester on reading and writing French. I reached the point where I could do both without translating back to English, a proficiency goal I never thought I’d reach. Next year I’ll take the oral half of my French proficiency exam and (security clearance pending) have an internship in Paris this summer. Thus, my second resolution is to invest more time into practicing my conversation skills — by taking advantage of the language courses offered at Tufts’ Olin Center and carefully planning my spring classes around a French audit.
2. Get More Involved!
There’s never time to do everything that’s going on at Fletcher. I didn’t try too hard to do so while adjusting to the rigors of grad school. With my first semester over, my most important resolution for 2018 is to add more activities to my schedule: get more involved with clubs, attend more events, and buy a giant paper calendar to better plan my job and classwork around events.
Here I am, in my kitchen, watching the snow swirl around outside the window. In one laptop window, I’m writing this post. In another, I’m participating in a pre-deadline online chat, along with all my other Admissions pals. We’re connected to each other with a conference call, so that we can ensure we answer all the questions that are coming our way. (There’s enough of a lull now that I can listen in and write this post at the same time.) Before the online chat began, we discussed our snow-day attire and agreed that “athleisurewear” is the uniform of the day. Laurie is wrapped in a blanket and several of us are wearing our warmest wool socks.
Other conversations we’re having in the background include our own typos. (In fact, I just typed an answer that included one.) Lucas is the moderator for the chat, and he’s able to catch our most egregious mistakes.
Back to the snow. If you’re in the U.S., you might be experiencing much of what we are here — a long week of cold days with today’s snowstorm arriving like the unwanted icing on the cake. It won’t surprise you that Tufts University is closed for the day. It’s always an easier decision to close when we’re on winter break and there aren’t students on campus to worry about. I think the Admissions team is united in feeling grateful that we can participate in the online chat from the comfort of our homes.
We’ll stay on top of the email inbox today, and we’ll most likely be back in the office tomorrow. Feel free to send along your questions and we’ll respond as quickly as we can. Meanwhile, if you’re on the east coast of the U.S., stay safe and warm!
Every year I introduce our new graduate assistants, and I write posts as needed about new staff members. But I generally (and inexcusably) neglect to tell you about the long-time staff. In fact, you may be wondering whom I’m referring to when I mention Liz or Kristen, or another of my Admissions pals. Today I’ll fix that. Note that all of us do a little of everything, but each of us has greater responsibility for certain projects or programs. My introductions focus on the activities that distinguish us from each other. With that, please meet us!
In alpha order, we have:
Dan may be best known to blog readers as the human friend of Murray, our canine pal, but even more noteworthy is that Dan is the lone Fletcher graduate among us. He had previously worked in international education, and a post-MALD position in Fletcher Admissions was a natural for him. Dan is also the Admissions liaison to the LLM program. He reads LLM applications and works with the program staff throughout the application process.
Jessica is me! In addition to the blog, I’m the Admissions link to the PhD program. Anything else you might need to know about me has turned up in some past post.
Kristen is unlike the other members of the staff in that her desk is not within the Admissions Office. She’s upstairs with other folks working on Fletcher’s business programs, reflecting her dual-focus. Like the rest of us, she does a little of everything, but she manages the Admissions process for the MIB program, and also oversees some content aspects of the program itself.
Laurie is the director of Admissions (the assistant dean, to be precise) and naturally she has a hand in everything. Laurie doesn’t have a Fletcher degree, but she’s still a double Jumbo, with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts.
You’ll hear from Liz if you have sent us a question about the May Your Future pathway to admission to the MALD or MIB program. And once MYF applicants have been admitted, it’s Liz who provides them with a pre-enrollment Fletcher community. Liz is also the master-organizer for our fall visit days and spring open houses.
Lucas oversees our Slate application system with zen-like calm. No matter what crazy request we make, he’s likely to make it happen. The interview program took a step into the 21st century this year when Lucas created a mechanism for our volunteer interviewers to receive reminders and for them to file their reports directly into Slate. It’s a behind-the-scenes change, but if you participated in an interview, you benefited from his work.
Marquita is the newest member of the Admissions Staff and anyone who visits will find her out front in the office. We gave her a couple of months to learn everything she would need to know about Fletcher, and then we passed her the task of organizing the winter break coffee hours. Apparently, details do not faze Marquita.
And that’s the Admissions team. You don’t need to worry about keeping track of who does what, but I hope this makes it clearer why you’re hearing from one of us rather than another.
The Admissions Office wasn’t closed last week, but it was a lonely place for Marquita, who was keeping everything going. We’re back today and ready to take your questions ahead of the January 10 deadline. Send us an email, give us a call, or participate in our online chat on Thursday. We look forward to hearing from you!
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