Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Hey friends!  Many of you have a little extra time away from your day-to-day this week, so I would like to remind you that the official January 10 deadline is coming up, but it’s not too late to assign yourself an arbitrary double-advance-deadline that will be your ticket to submitting all your materials on-time and without errors.  I’m telling you, based on many years of experience, that it’s a rare soul who enjoys the experience of running straight up to the last minute (11:59 p.m. EST).  At the very least, please (PLEASE!) complete your application one day early, review it to be sure it contains everything you do want and nothing you don’t, and submit it on the morning of January 10.  While it makes no real difference to the Admissions Office if you submit early or late, it is better for you to submit early.  Trust me.  I’ve seen it all.  You don’t want to know.  Just do it.  You’ll thank me.


With the fall semester behind us, the Admissions Blog Student Stories writers are starting to report in.  Today we’ll hear from Mariya, who kept herself more than busy throughout the semester.

Hello readers!  It has been a while since I last wrote.  Let me take a moment to update you about my life at Fletcher.  Traditional wisdom has it that your third semester at Fletcher is the hardest — this has certainly been true in my case.

For me this year has been about change.  Physically, I moved into new, smaller apartment two streets over from my previous home, and acquired two lovely roommates: Riya, an old friend from last year; and Misaki, a first-year student from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.  Academically, I decided to switch up my security and diplomatic history courses with finance and investment courses.  Thanks to the flexibility of a Fletcher curriculum, doing so was no problem. And personally, I am making conscious efforts for self-care, including making time for mindfulness and spirituality.  I am grateful to the Tufts Chaplaincy and Fletcher’s meditation room, which have facilitated this growth.  Change is often stressful, but for me, it has been refreshing and beautiful.

Earlier this semester, Fletcher alumnus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford came to campus for a talk.  He said something that particularly resonated with me.  “To be successful,” he said, “surround yourself with good people.”  As I reflect on my fall semester, I feel grateful to be surrounded by good people who share my passions, challenge and motivate me, and make me appreciate the Fletcher community all the more.

Here’s a list of activities that have pushed me to new horizons — I hope it gives you a flavor for what a busy second-year MALD student looks like.

♦ Competing in a research challenge. Four peers and I submitted a 22-page report resulting from eight weeks of research, interviews, and model valuation for a medical device company as part of the Boston CFA Research Challenge.  Thanks to Professor Patrick Schena and mentor Cameron for their guidance and expertise.  We’re hoping to advance to finals like last year’s team!

♦ Serving as a TA.  I welcomed the quintessential graduate student experience: serving as the teaching assistant for an undergraduate course called “Peace Through Entrepreneurship,” taught by Fletcher alumnus Steven Koltai.  It has been an absolute pleasure working with and learning from both the professor and the highly motivated students.  One of my favorite moments from class is teaching economic development theory.

♦ Staying hopeful. Former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra and now Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont sat down with Fletcher’s State Department Fellows (Rangel, Pickering, and Payne) and shared his experiences and advice.  His wisdom gave us hope to continue our chosen paths in diplomacy.

♦ Sharing ideas.  I am so proud of the Fletcher Islamic Society for hosting a number of impactful events this fall, including an ISSP luncheon with Fletcher alumnus Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry, a guest lecture on the Palestinian Diaspora, a panel discussion about intersectionality and diversity in the Muslim community at the Gender Conference, and most recently, a community dialogue on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

♦ Interviewing leaders. What a privilege to sit down with Ambassador Chaudhry and with Sean Callahan, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and interview them for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

♦ Role playing.  “Representing” the Chinese defense ministry, I helped my team devise a strategy to effectively respond to the hypothetical unfolding crisis on the Korean Peninsula for this year’s SIMULEX.

♦ Exchanging perspectives.  My “U.S.-Russia Relations” course, which Skypes with students at MGIMO university in Moscow, has given me an appreciation for the Russian perspective on world affairs.  It was great fun to moderate a panel on the “Instability in the Middle East and the Threat from Radical Jihadism” at the Fletcher-MGIMO Conference on U.S.-Russia Relations.

♦ Learning from professionals.  In Professor Michele Malvesti’s “National Security Decision Making” course, it was an honor to be in the presence of high-profile individuals who came to class as guest speakers to share their knowledge with us.  We had the privilege to learn from General Tony Thomas (Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command); Mr. Thomas Shankar (Assistant Washington Editor of the New York Times); The Honorable Derek Chollet (Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs); and The Honorable Nicholas Rasmussen (Director of the National Counterterrorism Center).

♦ Leading a workshop.  Recognizing the importance of professionally marketing ideas, Pulkit and I led a “Blogging and Website Design Workshop” supported by the Ginn Library and the Murrow Center.

♦ Celebrating Diwali.  Dressed in salwar kameez, saris, and kurtas, Fletcher folks came together to celebrate Diwali, Hindu festival of lights.

♦ Meeting a celebrity.  It was inspiring to learn about Michael Dobbs’ path from Fletcher to the House of Lords.  He was on campus for a two-week stint, teaching a leadership workshop, engaging in lectures and debates, and meeting students one-on-one.

♦ Cruising the Boston Harbor.  Thanks to a classmate’s friend, about twenty of us enjoyed a BBQ lunch on a cruise boat in the Boston Harbor.  What fun!

♦ Sharing my experiences.  My summer in Bangkok affected me in more ways than one.  After reflecting on my faith journey, I decided to share my poem “Return to Spirituality” at the Winter Recital in the Goddard Chapel earlier this month.

♦ Enjoying a home-cooked meal. There is no replacement for the intimacy and the deep connection that is shared when someone invites you to their home.  Thanks to the lovely Airokhsh for hosting a delicious Afghan meal for 15 or so of her female friends and allowing us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of student life.

♦ Organizing a Trek.  Much of my energy was devoted to organizing the first-ever Fletcher Pakistan Trek.  Though the trip won’t, in the end, take place, the leadership team and I worked hard to raise funds, design a robust itinerary of meetings and outings, coordinate with local contacts, and work within the school guidelines to make this opportunity available for 10 classmates.

♦ Presenting in London.  More details coming in the next post!

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Please note that the Admissions Office, and the rest of Fletcher and Tufts University, will be closed today and tomorrow (Tuesday) for the Christmas holiday.  We’ll also be closed on Friday and on Monday, January 1, for the New Year’s holiday.

If you have questions on any of these days when the Admissions Office is closed, please feel free to send them by email.  We’ll respond as soon as we can.

I wish all the readers of the Admissions Blog happy holidays and a happy and healthy start to 2018!


Who reads a lot?  Students read a lot!  So, on behalf of the blog, Kristen invited students to suggest winter reading for all of us.  The list below is a mix of books connected to specific classes, along with books that would appeal to someone with Fletcher-ish interests.  And here’s the list, with the name of the student doing the recommending in “Fletcher orange.”

Ankit: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
“This book provides a riveting account of a South African childhood at the time of apartheid and beyond.  A must-hear audiobook for anyone remotely interested in that era in South Africa.”

Meera: The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene: An Intimate History, both by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Emperor of All Maladies is a surprisingly gentle and empathetic discussion of the history of cancer and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.  The Gene: An Intimate History discusses the discovery of the gene and the history of genetics.  Again, highly recommended for non-scientists interested in science-y things.”

Filip: The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong
“The book is an amazing read for people interested in how judges really decide cases.  In a time when the Supreme Court had to decide cases related to abortion, the death penalty, and Watergate, it shows how many judges make a decision based on their personal preferences first, and only then start looking whether they can couch their decision into a legalistic framework.”

Jared: Submission: A Novel, by Michel Houellebecq
“Taking place in 2022, a political satire where a traditionalist and patriarchal Muslim party aligns with the socialist party to win the French presidential election.”

Utsav: The Zero Marginal Cost Society, by Jeremy Rifkin
“This book changed the way I think about technology, society, and emerging trends important for humanity’s future.  What was also amazing is that the author is a Fletcher alumnus  (F68) and has the same birthday as mine, 26th January!”

Julio: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard
“If you like history, and particularly ancient history, you’ll love this book.  It takes you on a journey through Roman history in a really amenable way while based on the latest research and findings.  I particularly love how it allows you to peek into Roman daily life though anecdotes and stories, and how it connects the politics of Ancient Rome with today’s world politics.”

Protiti: This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
“It’s a feel-good romance where the woman is actually in control, not a damsel in distress.”

John: Alamut, by Vladimir Bartol
“This is, perhaps, my all-time favorite.  Written by a Slovenian in 1938, it serves as an allegory for the absolutist fascist state of Mussolini.  It is set in 11th century Persia and details the story of Hassan ibn Sabbah, the leader of the hashishin cult, from which we derive our English word “assassin.”  The book is also loosely the basis for the Assassin’s Creed video game series.  Aside from the elegant writing and capturing imagery, the reader will be struck when they realize their empathy is directed as the 11th century equivalent of modern suicide bombers.”

Kelsey: “Leasing the Rain,” by William Finnegan
“This article is from a 2002 issue of the New Yorker, but is very Fletcher-y (especially for MIBs/business MALDs).  It’s about how privatization can go terribly wrong when community stakeholders are not engaged.”

Claudia: Havana: A Subtropical Delirium, by Mark Kurlansky
“I just finished reading Havana and it was great!  Lots of history but a very easy, engaging read.”

Iain: Dune, by Frank Herbert
“A 1965 science fiction classic that I finally read for the first time this semester.  Life on the desert planet of Arrakis touches on so many dynamics that are relevant to international politics today, from climate change and resource scarcity to inequality, great power relations, religious fervor, and guerrilla warfare.”

Colin recommends a few books:
Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers, by Richard Neustadt and Ernest May
“The core text of The Historian’s Art, this book has changed how I view ‘time as a stream’ and make decisions.  In a tweet, don’t rush into anything … and be very careful with analogies!”

The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker
“The single most influential book I’ve read at Fletcher (and not for class).  The subtitle says it all: this is ‘the definitive guide to doing the right things well.’  Fletcher folks can do many things well, but choosing which are the right ones to focus on can be challenging.”

The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman
“Or any of her books, for that matter.  Tuchman is a splendid writer, and each of her books memorably and cogently address important events that formed the world we live in.”

The Leader’s Bookshelf, by James Stavridis
“As soon as I decided to come to Fletcher, I started reading what the dean was writing.  Here, he writes on reading — a passion of his, and a key skill for any Fletcher student.  From this book, I learned a lot about how to read (and picked up a few suggestions on what to read).”

Laura: The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
“It’s a beautifully illustrated wordless graphic novel that captures the experience of displacement and immigration.  Anyone who has felt like ‘a stranger in a strange place’ will be able to connect with the story and artwork.  Can’t recommend enough, and neither can Amazon.”

Greg: Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden
“Written by the author of Black Hawk Down, this is a meticulously researched, well-rounded, and vivid description of arguably the most important battle of the Vietnam War.”

Hiram: Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“Though well-known in some national security circles, it’s a book I wish more people read — people in economics and STEM in particular.  It presents a deeper and more multidisciplinary way of thinking about risk, and even when readers disagree on some particulars, they will learn from it and do their jobs more conscientiously.”

Oleksandr recommends two books:
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam
“The Korean War, with its causes and consequences, is crucial to understanding the Korean Peninsula today, and why the Asia-Pacific looks the way it does.  David Halberstam, who wrote The Best and the Brightest while toiling as a visiting professor at Fletcher, delivered yet another page-turner.”

Shoe Dog: a Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight
“Phil Knight takes readers back to the days when he himself was a young graduate of a small business school (Stanford) with no clue nor vision for what to do next.  His journey is both fascinating and inspiring.”

Ryan: The Taking of K-129: The Most Daring Covert Operation in History, by Josh Dean
“I actually bought this book a few weeks ago to use as a source while writing a Fletcher term paper on U.S. covert operations decision-making at the Presidential level during the Cold War, but I accidentally ended up reading it in 24 hours — it didn’t necessarily expedite the paper-writing process, but I was hooked from page one.”

Jonathan: Windfall, by Meaghan L. O’Sullivan
“It’s a very new book that observes that: 1) fracking has created a boom in cheap, cleaner fossil fuels; 2) this unconventional oil and gas revolution is putting tremendous economic and political pressure on OPEC countries/Russia; 3) climate change is demanding cleaner technologies still.  Given those observations, O’Sullivan argues that the ‘energy abundance’ will have massive geopolitical implications, causing civil strife and destabilization in legacy producer states and economic booms in states that embrace unconventional production and clean energy technology.”

And several students suggested a book by a member of the student community: Heil Hitler, Herr Göd: A Child’s WWII Memoirs from Occupied Austria, by A. P. Hofleitner
It’s about his grandfather’s experience as a child in Austria during WWII.

So there it is — more reading than any of us will do during the winter, but plenty to pick from if you’re interested.  Happy reading!

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At our Admissions team meeting last week, I asked what I thought would be an easy question.  I figured it would be nice to offer some application tips, and I asked my Admissions pals to suggest things that make them happy when they’re reading applications.  Such a simple request!  Or not!  It turns out I had, instead, opened a big ol’ can of worms.

What I discovered is that, in some areas, our preferences are not in line.  Interesting!  I always assume that everyone will agree with me!  (In a perfect world…)  So today’s post will capture the points on which we achieved clear consensus, in hopes that blog readers who are starting or editing an application can benefit.  And it isn’t that our points of disagreement result in differing application evaluations.  Simply that what has another staffer smiling ear-to-ear may not affect me at all.

The part of the application on which we agree the most is the résumé.  We all like to see a nice clean résumé, listing (in reverse chronological order) your professional and academic experience.  Different settings call for different résumés, but the Admissions Staff all noted that we don’t need to see special colors, quotes from inspiring leaders, or your list of favorite movies.  Stick to the basics and make it readable.  (And then chat with me about movies after you’re admitted.)  While we encourage you to keep the résumé to two pages, we won’t penalize you if you go over, so please, no teeny-tiny fonts.  Check out these posts for more tips on the résumé.

Kristen went further to say that she’s happy when the employment information in the application and in the résumé match up.  It’s so much easier to understand your story if you don’t leave us struggling to figure out whether your job lasted one year or one month.

Dan likes when applicants synthesize their interests and note the links between their experiences.  It might be clear to you why you went from this to that, but if you don’t lay it out, maybe we won’t see the connection.  When we do, we’re happy.

Next, Laurie mentioned, and we all agreed, that you should use the “additional information” section of the application wisely.  DO use it to explain why your first undergraduate year resulted in such poor grades, or why your Peace Corps experience ended abruptly, or that you are planning to plug a gap and take economics in the spring.  DO NOT use it to explain a single B on an otherwise perfect transcript, or anything else that really doesn’t need explaining and/or could be interpreted as whining.

Liz and I disagreed about what essay structure makes us happy.  I personally like to see the applicant’s objectives right at the top.  Liz likes when the applicant builds the narrative and states the goals later on.  One thing we agree on — if you actually answer the question we’ve asked, your goals will be clear to us after we read the essay.

And speaking of essays, one of my pet peeves is when applicants are obviously using a thesaurus to make random word changes.  Instead of, “I walked to the store,” the essay will say, “I perambulated to the emporium.”  Sure, the essay is a type of formal document, but it calls for clear, personal writing — not someone else’s idea of fancy words.  I try to keep this from being an annual theme, but perhaps I’ve written about it before…. For that matter, the Blog archive includes quite a few essay tips.  Make sure your essays work together to tell us your story and to describe your goals, and we’ll all be happy!

Lucas mentioned that he likes when he sees all the information he needs in the transcripts.  You should be including documentation of all courses that counted toward your undergraduate degree (and graduate degree, if applicable).  We don’t need to see anything else.  No certificates.  No high school diploma.  But we absolutely want to see grades from your semester/year studying abroad or from the first university you attended before you transferred.  When all the details are included and clear, we’re happy.

Now that I’ve given you this list of what makes the Admissions team happy, I can also tell you not to worry that some strange unmentioned preference will doom your candidacy.  That is absolutely not the case!  My experience is that there’s a strong convergence of views on the quality of an application.  The matter of our preferences relates more to the pleasure we take in reviewing it.  There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing a nice clean application, but it’s the underlying qualities that result in a decision to admit an applicant.

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Rather than wait until the Admissions Office is already closed for the holidays, I thought I’d highlight our schedule and some key dates coming up in the next few weeks.   This week, of course, there’s tomorrow’s December 20 “odd couple” MYF and PhD application deadline.  Our staff is here to answer your questions!  Send them along.  (If your question is what time on December 20 you need to submit the application, the answer is no later than 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5).)

Then, the University will be closed on:
Monday, December 25
Tuesday, December 26
Friday, December 29
Monday, January 1

On the 27th and 28th, Marquita will be here to take your calls and emails.  The rest of the staff will return on or around January 2.  That will give us plenty of time to reconnect with applicants aiming for the January 10 deadline.  Note that those who are still working on their applications can take advantage of a pre-deadline online chat on January 4.  Sign up here to ask your questions, or — sometimes even more helpful — to hear the questions of others.


Laurie gets the credit for the topic of today’s post.  She had learned that two of our new students were friends from their undergraduate days.  One of the two, John, is an Admissions Graduate Assistant, who told us, “Courtney and I met during our freshman year at Vanderbilt University and remained friends throughout our time in Nashville.  After graduation, we went our separate ways and fell out of touch.  Three years later, we were surprised to find ourselves together again in the MALD program at The Fletcher School!”  I asked John and Courtney to interview each other, and today’s post is the result.

John Zeleznak: We knew each other mostly through Model UN at Vandy, but we actually met first semester in a first-year writing seminar.

Courtney Hulse: That’s right!  But it was a math class.

JZ: So, the real question is: what were we thinking?

CH: I was thinking, “This is the way I’m going to avoid taking calculus.”  And then I ended up taking calculus anyway.

JZ: The same thing happened to me!  The writing seminar was called Cryptography.

CH: It was a cool hybrid between a history class, an English class, and a math class.  We did problem sets on basic cryptanalysis, and we also wrote papers on the historical context in which the codes were used.  I liked it because it was interdisciplinary.

JZ: Definitely!  And clearly we’re both still gravitating towards interdisciplinary curricula.

JZ: So for the past few years, I’ve been in China, and you’ve been in New York.  When I saw that you were in the Fletcher Facebook group, I messaged you and was like “Oh my gosh–are you going to Fletcher?”  And we reconnected and met up during orientation.

CH: I was so happy to know that I’d already have a friend at Fletcher.

JZ: A friendly face in the midst of the craziness that is orientation.  So tell me what you’ve been up to since graduation.

CH: I actually found out I got a job on the same day we graduated.  I was literally still wearing my cap and gown.  I moved to New York to join the policy team at the UN Foundation.  It was 2014 and the Sustainable Development Goals dominated the work until the agenda was agreed in September 2015.  Then the work shifted to other portfolios, like UN reform and peacebuilding.

JZ: Wow!  What was the most interesting part of your work with the UN Foundation?

CH: My favorite part was witnessing the race for Secretary General because it was much more transparent than it had ever been.  The president of the General Assembly used his position and influence to draw attention and legitimacy to a UN Resolution about reforming the way UN leaders are chosen.  He helped make selection more inclusive.  I followed the race for our organization.  It was fascinating to see these major changes happening from up close.

JZ: I can see why!  Was it your work at the UN Foundation that motivated you to pursue a degree at Fletcher?

CH: I noticed that many of the people who were doing the types of jobs that I eventually wanted to pursue had done graduate programs in diplomacy and international relations.  My boss at UNF had been a professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, so the first time I heard about Fletcher was actually at a panel that she was speaking on about IR graduate programs.

JZ: That’s pretty great.  So what solidified Fletcher as your top choice?

CH: I loved how interdisciplinary it is.  I’ve always been interested in the places where academic fields overlap.  In undergrad, I used political science and anthropology to look at how different cultures interact with each other and to understand public diplomacy.  I wanted to do more of that type of work in grad school.  I also loved how welcoming everyone is.  When I visited, the students I met treated me like their friend.  The Fletcher alumni I met shared fond memories, and it was wonderful to hear that they are still in touch with the with the people they met at Fletcher.  That element of community was something that I really valued and wanted to be a part of.

CH: So tell me more about what you were doing after undergrad and what drew you to Fletcher.

JZ: For the past two years, I’ve been serving with the Peace Corps as an Education Volunteer in southwestern China.  I was teaching at a university in Chongqing, which is a city of about 8.5 million people.  I was teaching mostly oral English, but since my students had pretty solid English skills, my department let me teach public speaking, debate, and negotiation.

CH: That’s so cool.

JZ: It was such a great experience, not only teaching English, but focusing on these specific skills and trying to get my students to be comfortable speaking English in a more informal setting.  I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues, my students, and exploring China.  My counterparts and I hosted a Peace Corps international creative-writing competition, convened discussion groups, and held holiday parties.  I think language study in China is very different than in other parts of the world, so one of the focuses of my service ended up being to encourage my students and colleagues to have fun with using English in unscripted situations.

CH: That’s really interesting. So what drew you to Fletcher?

JZ: After undergrad, I knew I wanted to get a graduate degree, but I was unsure about what to focus on.  I didn’t want to commit time and money to a degree that I wasn’t passionate about, so I took some time.  While I was in China, I realized I had a strong interest in forced displacement and migration, which may have stemmed from the experiences I had working with resettled refugee communities during undergrad.  I was looking at programs that had a strong background in international affairs, but that allowed me to focus on that subject.  Still, I recognized that there was a good chance that I would change my mind — being abroad for so long, readjusting to the U.S., and being back in an academic environment.

CH: So you didn’t want to commit to a program that only focuses on refugees and resettlement.

JZ: Exactly.  The interdisciplinary features of Fletcher’s curriculum were a big draw for me as well.  I was also really impressed by the Fletcher community and how it was highlighted at career fairs and virtual information sessions.  I had heard from current students about how there were a lot of opportunities to get involved on campus and that the student community is really active.  Having a strong sense of community was one of the reasons why I ended up at Fletcher.  There is also a large Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community here which has been really great as I readjust to life in the U.S. and life as a grad student.

CH: That’s so important.  This transition can be really stressful — from applying to deciding to moving to actually starting school.

JZ: Absolutely.  So, if you could give prospective students one piece of advice about applying to graduate school, what would it be?

CH: Talk to people!  And, if you can, visit.  I know that’s not feasible for everyone, but I remember when I visited thinking that these were my people.  Seeing campus really solidified my decision to come here.  If that’s not an option for you, talk to people who’ve gone through this experience.  Fletcher alumni are all over the world, and they love talking about their time here.

JZ: I would also say really get to know your program.  Know your school, but really know the opportunities that exist within your program, both with regards to the curriculum and to your career goals.  You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going, but you do need to think about how a program might help you get there.

CH: I really love that Fletcher has a required Professional Development Program during the first semester.  The staff urges us to ask ourselves questions about what we want to do and how we can structure our time here to prepare ourselves for a career in international affairs.  I’ve found it useful to be considering these questions early on.

JZ: I agree.  There’s a lot of self-reflection, and that’s been really helpful.

CH: If you can figure out where the gaps are, you can make a plan for filling them.

JZ: At this point, we’ve been at Fletcher for almost a semester.  What’s been your favorite part of your classes, your time on campus, your time in Boston?

CH: Probably the speaker events.  I’ve loved hearing from the impressive people who come to campus and from the professors who are already here.  They’ve spoken on such a wide range of issues and current events, and they’ve been very candid.  It’s also been fascinating to hear about the experiences that other students have had

JZ: For sure.  Everyone here has such different backgrounds, and yet, we seem to find a lot of connections.  Whether it’s working with the same person or living in the same part of the world or concentrating in the same fields, the people at Fletcher make the world seem a little more connected.  And I guess the fact that we both ended up here is a good example to make that case!

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Twice a year, we’re lucky to be able to connect prospective students with current students over a cup of coffee in a city near you.  How does this happen?  We ask students to volunteer, and they do!  Once they have pinned down a date and location, we’re in business.  As of today, the cities in which we’ll offer coffee hours is:

Abu Dhabi, UAE
Amman, Jordan
Ann Arbor, MI
Atlanta, GA
Bogotá, Colombia
Boston, MA
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Dallas, TX
Dubai, UAE
Dublin, Ireland
Geneva, Switzerland
Hanover, Germany
Havana, Cuba
Islamabad, Pakistan
Karachi, Pakistan
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Los Angeles, CA
Mexico City, Mexico
Minneapolis, MN
Mumbai, India
New Delhi, India
New York, NY
Norfolk, VA
Phoenix, AZ
San Antonio, TX
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Seoul, South Korea
Taipei, Taiwan
Tbilisi, Georgia
Tokyo, Japan
Toronto, Canada
Washington, DC

There’s a good chance that more locations and dates will be added.  You can learn more here and sign up here.  (Filter for “off-campus events.”)  Don’t leave our students sitting by themselves in a café!  Join them, and other prospective students, for coffee/tea/whatever and a chat!


This is one of those weeks that most clearly brings home that we are a single Admissions Office in the middle of several admissions cycles.  Our newest Januarians are preparing for Orientation in just over a month.  The majority of our September 2018 applicants are completing their applications before our January 10 deadline.  Applicants to the PhD program and MYF pathway to the MALD or MIB are six days out from their December 20 deadline.  And earlier this week we released decisions on our Early Notification (EN) applications for September 2018 enrollment.

To those EN applicants who were admitted, congratulations!  Learning in December that you have been admitted is a great opportunity to plan for your graduate studies.  Some of you have already sent questions to the Admissions email, and we’ll be getting back to you, as well as reaching out to everyone else who was admitted.  We enjoy the opportunity to work with some real live admitted students while we’re also reading applications.

Today, though, a few words for those who weren’t admitted.  To those who were denied admission, please let me say that we’re sorry to make these decisions, but we hope it will help you craft your strategy on where to apply in January.  Later in the spring, you will also be welcome to request feedback on your application.

This post is really for those applicants whose applications were deferred for review in the spring, a good news/bad news situation.  We know that you didn’t submit an application in November in hopes of waiting until March for a decision.  On the other hand, you have the opportunity to update us on your application during the next few months.  If you choose the right update, it can be the difference between bad news and good news in March.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we’re not asking to be flooded with extra information, but here are suggestions of what we’d like to see:

  • An updated transcript that reflects grades received since you submitted your application;
  • New standardized exam (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS) score reports;
  • A revised résumé that includes information on a new job position;
  • An additional recommendation that sheds light on an aspect of your background you weren’t able to illuminate in other parts of the application.

Updating your application is strictly optional, but I’d encourage you to think through whether you have something useful to add.  And in that case, don’t turn down the opportunity!

What should you update? Well, you probably (in your heart of hearts) can identify the weaker areas of your application.  That’s where you should focus.  Are there any documents, or is there anything extra that you can say, that will help us to understand or interpret the weak points in your application?  If so, go ahead and update.  For example, did you decide it would be better not to mention the causes of your weak undergraduate semester?  I’d encourage you to explain it, particularly if it pulled down your overall GPA.  Did you indicate that your language skills are not strong enough to pass our proficiency exam?  Send us information on your plan for achieving proficiency before the end of the summer.  Did you mistype your years of employment at a certain job, making it look like you were there for two months, rather than four years and two months?  You can make that correction now.  And, if your GRE/GMAT scores were significantly lower than you expected, you may want to take the test again.  Note here that I’m not telling you to take the standardized exam again.  I’m encouraging you to review your credentials and make that decision for yourself.  The same is true for your TOEFL/IELTS.  If your scores are low, but you have continued to study English since your first test date, it could be worth it to retest.  Give it some thought.

Another suggestion:  If, upon reflection, your essay didn’t state your goals as clearly as you would have liked, send us a clarifying email!  We won’t substitute it for your personal statement, but it will certainly be reviewed.  This could be particularly helpful if you’ve taken steps to learn more about your ultimate career goal.

Possible additions to your application need not be limited to what I’ve listed above.  The key question to ask yourself is:  Does this actually add anything?  If the information is already included in your application, then there’s there’s not much value in sending it again.  An additional academic recommendation will add little to an application that already includes two.  On the other hand, a professional recommendation will add a lot to an application that only includes academic recommendations.  Think it through before you flood us with info, but don’t hesitate to send something that will give your application a happy bump.

Whether you were offered admission this week, or you were told we’ll reconsider your application in the spring, we look forward to hearing from you and to working with you during the coming months.  Please be sure to contact us with your questions.

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Several new professors have joined the Fletcher faculty this year.  Today, I’d like to introduce one of them, Chris Miller, Assistant Professor of International History.  Professor Miller is creating new programming on Russia, and will be teaching U.S. Foreign Policy, 1898-Present, Contemporary Issues in U.S.-Russian Relations, and Russian Foreign Policy from Peter the Great to Putin.  Here he describes the roots of his focus on Russia.

It has never been possible to make sense of international politics without understanding Russia, but the past several years have highlighted the importance of Russia in spheres as diverse as the Middle East to North Korea to cybersecurity.  At Fletcher, I am excited to work as part of a group of faculty who are building up Russian studies via conferences, student exchanges, guest speakers, internships in Russia, and student research projects.

This semester, I taught a course on U.S.-Russian relations that was video-linked with MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations), a Russian university.  We have a dozen students at Fletcher and a dozen at MGIMO, and we meet once a week to discuss and debate contemporary issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship.  In 2018, in addition to a course on the history of U.S. foreign relations, I’ll also teach a course on Russia and the World, from Peter the Great to Putin.

My own engagement with Russia began with my PhD at Yale in the history of the Cold War.  As part of research on my dissertation, I spent two years digging through Soviet archives in Moscow.  My aim was to understand the demise of the Soviet Union — a period when, in six short years the USSR went from being the world’s largest superpower to a group of 15 separate countries, all of which faced political dissolution and economic collapse.  I wanted to know why, during the 1980s, China succeeded in moving from socialist central planning to a capitalist market economy, but when the Soviet Union tried to make that same transition, it fell apart.

After looking through a number of Russian archives, including in the personal papers of Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, I wrote a book titled The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy. When I was research and writing the book, I also taught at a university in Moscow, the New Economic School.

I was living in Russia in 2014, when the war with Ukraine began and Russia annexed Crimea.  That same year coincided with a surprise crash in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export.  Low oil prices combined with Western sanctions pushed the Russian economy into a painful recession.  Many Western experts predicted that Russia would face economic collapse and be forced to make political concessions in order to get sanctions lifted.

But this didn’t happen — and it created another puzzle.  Contrary to many initial expectations, Russia faced little difficulty in weathering the economic crisis, and has yet to compromise in exchange for sanctions relief.  It chose this path despite a sharp fall in living standards, particularly in 2015.  It is often argued that rising wages — made possible by high oil prices — underwrote Putin’s popularity in the 2000s, but falling wages and falling oil prices did not seem to dent his popularity after 2015.  To explore the making of Russian economic policy, I’ve just finished a new book Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia, which will be published in March 2018.

My next research project will explore the history of Russian diplomacy in Asia, with an eye toward understanding the factors that have repeatedly driven cycles of Russian engagement and disengagement in Asia.  Like the United States, Russia is today “pivoting” toward Asia.  But Russia has historically pivoted toward Asia roughly once a generation.  Will today’s pivot prove more durable or more successful than previous efforts?

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