Posts by: Jessica Daniels

Yes, sure, it’s a University holiday today, but I can still give you a link or two, can’t I?

You’re wrapping up your application, I hope, so let me point you to our latest word on the essays: our thoughts on Essay One and Essay Two.  While I’m at it, here’s everything else we’ve posted.

Happy writing!  Don’t forget to proofread!

 

I remember reading with my kids a book about kindergarten students who think their teacher lives at school (shuffling down the hall in her pink slippers and bathrobe).  I’m confident that no Fletcher students imagine a similar scene of professors and staff members drinking hot cocoa in the Hall of Flags, but I can tell you what it is like here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s:  Quiet.  Very quiet.  Students are gone — taking time with family or friends in the area or far away.  Professors are gone — even if they’re still grading exams and papers, they’re generally not doing it at Fletcher.  And many staff members are gone — with students and professors away, it’s a perfect time for us to take vacation.

But the School is still open, and in the Admissions Office, we continue moving the application process along.  That said, the Office will be closed tomorrow and Friday for the New Year’s holiday.  We’ll be back on Monday, and we hope that we will be greeted by some applications that are submitted over the holiday weekend.

All of us in the Office of Admissions send our wishes to you for a happy and peaceful 2016!

 

Let’s talk about that deadline thing.  Yes, I know, you’ve got plenty of time before January 10.  Sure, the New Year’s holiday is coming up and you don’t want to work on an application on a special day.  And of course, you certainly don’t want to zap through an application loaded with errors.  On the other hand…do you want to submit your application on Sunday, January 10, along with nearly 1000 other people?  No.  You do not.

HomerSo let me, once again, assume my position on your right shoulder as your Deadline Angel.  Allow me to persuade you to submit your application ahead of the deadline.  Because January 10 is a Sunday, I would like to suggest Thursday, January 7 as an ideal day.  If you zap it through next week, you will soon know — before your less persuadable peers even click submit — whether your application is complete or if we need you to follow up with additional materials.  Won’t that be nice?  And won’t that be much nicer than potentially needing to wait until mid-January to know that we are unable to read your transcripts (or that there is some other easily fixable problem)?

Best of all, by submitting the application a few days ahead of the deadline, you ensure that you are not “that guy.”  You know, the guy who contacts us after the deadline and tells us he was confused as to whether we meant before or after midnight (we mean 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5) on January 10), or something else like that.  Don’t be that guy.

Finally, the materials due by the deadline are your parts of the application: the form, the essays, etc.  DO NOT hold your application to wait for recommenders or for test scores.  While we prefer to have everything in place before the deadline, your application will not be considered late because a recommender is still working on your letter.

Is that enough to convince you to submit early?  I hope so.  You’ll be happier if you do.  And we will, too.

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Our next post in the Faculty Spotlight series comes from Andrew Hess, Professor of Diplomacy and Director of the Southwest-Central Asia and Islamic Civilization Program.  Professor Hess currently teaches Southwest Asia: History, Culture, and Politics, The Globalization of Politics and Culture for Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and The Globalization of Central Asia and the Caucasus.  In his post, Professor Hess describes the curriculum changes he has needed to make to keep his courses current.

image_Hess_AndrewThe courses I offer in the fall semester deal with an explosion of complex conflicts from Eastern Europe to China.  Happily this should improve employment opportunities for future diplomats!  But the down side of all this violent activity means I need to constantly adjust course curricula.

In the interest of keeping up with all the turmoil, I am going to describe the additions to our previous semesters’ battles by trying to understand radical change in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the emerging nation states along the southern edge of the former Soviet Union.  I, however, offer no guarantee on including all that may happen in Southwest and Central Eurasia: I find this region has indeed earned its reputation for being a land of unpredictability.

Diplomacy 265 (The Globalization of Politics and Culture for Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) was originally dedicated to understanding the international and internal politics related to key diplomatic issues of the three non-Arabic language speaking nation states east of Iraq, south of Central Asia and west of India. Alas, the power of twenty-first century global change makes it ever more difficult to explain what is happening in this region on the basis of only a national analysis.

The big issue is: Why so much violence and so little in the way of diplomatic solutions in this huge chunk of Eurasia?  The answer is, no doubt, going to be complex; and among the various new explanations for this bleak situation I suggest that the intensified impact of three global trends in this sub-division of Southwest Asia have added to the forces of instability already underway in this strategically important portion of Eurasia.

Very briefly these “trends” are:

  • The absence of a balance of great powers for Eurasia as a whole has intensified powerful regional struggles on a global level (think about the states and-non government organizations who might want to take advantage of weak states);
  • Second, the widespread inability of Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian governments and societies to cope institutionally with a global acceleration of social and cultural change is certainly behind recent upheavals (which terrorist group do you follow on Pakistan’s northwest frontier);
  • Finally, what to do about a new geopolitics of energy (there is an ongoing gas revolution) for a region (the Central Eurasian Energy Ellipse) that provides, maybe, seventy percent of the world’s oil and gas resources;

And while we are talking about diplomatic problems involving commerce, we should not forget that Afghanistan is probably the world’s largest producer of heroin.

The Globalization of the South Caucasus and Central Asia (Diplomacy 267) course came to the Fletcher curriculum as a response to the increasing strategic importance of this slice of Eurasia during the period of the Cold War (1953-1991).  But the politics of the old bipolar struggle in Eurasia has now been replaced by conflicts between of new nation states now emerging from within the former body of the Soviet Union and the effort of the ruling elite of the Russian Federation to restore in some fashion the prestige of the Russian state.

Meanwhile huge technological forces associated with the economic development of all of Eurasia are linking the heartland of the Continent with the global economy: starting in the last quarter of the twentieth century the almost simultaneous growth of global oil production in the Soviet Union and the transfer under European control of high level petroleum skills into the Persian/Arabian Gulf arena set the stage for the modern geo-politics of energy in Eurasia.  So the two courses (Diplomacy 265 and 267) complement each other in the sense that great and small powers have to develop policies to defend their strategic interests in the production, processing, and transportation oil and gas.

Starting last fall, I have expanded the coverage of the 267 course to include a wider range of states along the edge of the southern frontier of the former Soviet Union.  In the west, we will argue that the Russian seizure of the Crimea is part of the larger political struggle for political power in the center of Eurasia; and it is an event that should be included within the wider Eurasian geo-politics of energy (gas supply for Europe).  At the eastern edge of former Soviet frontier we need to study the diplomatic problems of Russia’s new energy relations with China, in relation to the interests of Eurasia’s Turkish speaking states and societies.  (Uyghurs!).  And of course, I have added some new material concerning the technical revolutions taking place in the petroleum sector, where the international impact is not so clear at this time.

Finally, my current research asks, what role does the sectarian dispute between the Sunni and Shi’i versions of Islam play in the contemporary politics of Southwest Asia?

Outside of the classroom, the Southwest-Central Asia and Islamic Civilization Program involves students in the selection of speakers and the generation of discussions of key events involving Southwest and Central Asia.  When there is student interest, the Program sponsors the online journal (Al Nakhlah) as an effort to encourage students to publish their research papers.  We usually employ two student editors for this project.  And the program also supports summer research efforts for those students who are in the MALD or PhD programs and are working on a topic related to the Southwest and Central Asian courses.  Last, during the fall semester, we celebrate social and cultural cohesion at an annual picnic.

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A note to let you know the Admissions Office holiday schedule.  In general, we’ll be open our usual 9:00-5:00 hours throughout the next few weeks.  We will be closed, though, on:

Thursday, December 24
Friday, December 25
Thursday, December 31
Friday, January 1

Feel free to zap us an email on any of those days and we’ll respond when we’re back at work.

 

One of my very favorite activities this semester was a series of three “fireside chats,” on “The Beauty of Mathematics,” offered by second-year MALD student, Abhishek Maity (who credited Professor Kim Wilson for the idea).  Inviting students to “geek out on mathematics,” the three sessions covered fractals, the mysteries of the infinite, and “what is reality.”  Invitations to the sessions noted, “We spend a lot of time discussing moral and ethical questions at The Fletcher School, so take some time to explore wider philosophical ideas of nature, art, and mathematics.  No knowledge of mathematics required.”

The three sessions drew between 40 and 60 students each.  An astounding total for an event that would ask students, already busy with their own academic activities, to delve into challenging material on another field.  Sure, pizza was offered, but pizza can be found in many places, whereas a student-led discussion of advanced mathematics was offered on only three fall dates.

 

All Early Notification applicants should know by now that decisions were released last week.  To those who were admitted, congratulations!  I hope you’ll enjoy the extra time to plan for your graduate studies.  You will be hearing from members of the Admissions staff to whom you can send your questions.  We’re really happy to start growing the September 2016 entering class!  All that said, this post is not so much for you.

Next, let me say that I’m sorry to bid farewell to a group of applicants who were denied admission.  We always regret making these difficult decisions, but we hope it will help the applicants make their choices on where else they should apply.

This post is really for those applicants whose applications were deferred for review in the spring, a good news/bad news situation.  The bad news is the lack of happy admissions news, but the good news is that you still have the opportunity to try to bring about happy news in March.  Our Admissions Committee will gladly review an update to your application!  But what makes a useful addition?  Here’s a list of updates that we particularly value:

  • 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.

Before I go on, I’ll emphasize that no one is required to submit an update.  Not at all!  But you are invited to submit one, and why would you turn down this opportunity?

What type of optional update is best for you?  Well, the first thing to do is consider whether you have your own suspicions regarding weaker aspects of your application.  Are those aspects something you can improve on?  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 pulls 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.

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.  That is, an additional academic recommendation will add little to an application that already includes three.  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 us 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 be in touch if you have questions.

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The semester ended last Friday and, with students tucked quietly into study nooks, I’m going to take some time today (and maybe on a couple of future days) to tie up loose blog ends.  Specifically, I have a zillion notes to myself to feature this event, or that bit of news, or something else that could be of interest, but that’s where things stopped — as notes, but not as blog posts.  There are so many ways to gather information about Fletcher, and I don’t assume that anyone relies solely on the blog, but some information is important enough to share, even if I know you may have read it elsewhere.  With that out of the way…

There’s this Tufts Now article about Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., F92, and his new role as Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And there’s this November interview that Professor Antonia Chayes gave to the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law about her new book Borderless Wars: Civil-Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty.  The current Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Alexander Ely, is a Fletcher MALD graduate from the Class of 2013, and a former editor of The Fletcher Forum.

Another Tufts Now article highlighted research conducted by second-year MALD student (and U.S. Marine Lieutenant) Matthew Cancian and Professor Michael Klein about quality and preparedness of Marine officers.  A special melding of a security studies topic and economic analysis.

And yet another article quotes Matan Chorev, F07, about the impact that a member of the Tufts University faculty had on his career.  (Scroll down about midway through the article.)  I recall Matan as a young (direct from undergraduate) Fletcher student, but an especially well-prepared one.

Until this fall’s talk by Gerry Ford, F84, the founder and chairman of Caffè Nero, I knew he was a graduate of Tufts University, but I didn’t know he was a Fletcher graduate.  Now I do!  A new Caffè Nero was opened in downtown Boston this year.

Last (for today) a bit of history.  In 1990, Tufts President Jean Mayer convened a group of university presidents from around the world to sign the Talloires Declaration, a plan for incorporating sustainability into higher education.  The University’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Talloires Declaration (named for the Tufts European campus where the meeting occurred) included events related to climate change organized by many Tufts student groups, departments, and offices.  The events were detailed on this web page.

 

Professor Leila Fawaz was kind to make me aware of a post she recently wrote for the blog of the American Historical Association, and the AHA was kind, in turn, to let me repost her piece on the Admissions Blog.  Professor Fawaz was the first recipient of Fletcher’s inaugural Faculty Research Award for her book, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War.

“Understanding the Present: The Impact of World War I in the Middle East”

Watching the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, I cannot but recall the suffering of Middle Eastern people at another time of great upheaval: during the First World War and following its settlement.

First British Guard, Jaffa Gate, 1917. Credit: Library of Congress.

The history of the Great War helps us to understand how the violent past is responsible for the current turmoil in the Middle East. Historians have covered the destruction caused by the First World War in Europe extensively, but many in the West do not realize the level of destruction and upheaval it caused in the Middle East. The losses in the Middle East were staggering: the war not only ravaged the land and decimated armies, it destroyed whole societies and economies. In this way, the experience of World War I in the Middle East is perhaps more akin to the experience of World War II in Europe. The social, economic, and psychological effects were deep and devastating.

The title of my book, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War (Harvard University Press, 2014), which I spoke on recently at the Washington History Seminar, comes from a line in the journal of a Turkish feminist, Halidé Edib. In an episode about her travels by train through villages from Anatolia to Homs during the Great War, she remarked on a haunting sense of misery. In the villages, not a man was to be seen because so many had died or been conscripted. Locusts had devoured fields. Famine shadowed families and took many lives. She wrote, “I have seen, I have gone through, a land full of aching hearts and torturing remembrances” (1). As the memory of the war evolved decades later, people began to describe it as a great war of suffering—the safarbarlik, or mobilization—in which barefoot soldiers crossed cities, deserts, whole regions away from their homes, and millions of civilians faced starvation, disease, relocation, and levels of misery so profound and so lasting that their memory was passed on from one generation to the other.

Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia. Credit: The National Archives (United Kingdom).

The conclusion of the war introduced additional political upheaval to the region. In the West the war solidified already formed national identities. But in the East it shattered the imperial Ottoman system that, for all its faults, let a multiplicity of identities coexist for much of the time. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, drawn during the war in 1916, divided the region into spheres of influence between the British and the French: roughly, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq were designated British while Lebanon and Syria were assigned to the French, should the Allies win the war. No representatives of these regions were privy to the agreement. It was negotiated in secret and contrary to the principles of self-determination that would become a centerpiece of Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” plan for world peace at the end of the war. The French Mandate that replaced the Ottomans in 1923 introduced a new foreign rule to the Lebanese and Syrian people, who once again had no say in their government. The region was thus entrapped in new structures of imperial governance, and the foundations were laid for enduring mutual suspicion.

When the Islamic State bulldozed the berm between Iraq and Syria in June 2014, it publicized the event as the destruction of the Sykes-Picot border. The reference is indicative of the level of lingering resentment towards the West’s unilateral redrawing of borders 100 years ago. Why are old agreements from a century ago at the center of heated debates in the Middle East? The answer is that the suffering the region endured during the Great War lives on in the memory of its people, and decisions made then continue to affect relations among Middle Eastern peoples to this day.

The current refugee crisis is an opportunity to reflect back 100 years ago to the mistakes made following the Great War that caused—and continue to trigger—so much suffering and conflict. This is why the study of history is invaluable to understanding the present. Like memory, history’s influence is not fleeting but longstanding. We must account for it as we move forward.

Note

1. Halidé Edib, Memoirs of Halidé Edib (London: John Murray, 1926), 375.

 

Even as our focus is fixed on wrapping up the Early Notification process and preparing for the applications that will greet us on or before January 10, there’s another deadline coming up on Sunday, December 20.  That’s when we’ll receive two very different sets of applications:  for the PhD program, and for Map Your Future.

Many years ago, we moved the PhD program deadline from January to December so that we would have extra time to let the process run.  There’s a committee of five professors and several staff members who review the applications, and need time to do so.  In addition, dissertation proposals are shared with members of the faculty to ensure there’s a good match between the applicant’s interests and faculty expertise.  All of that takes time, and kicking off the process ahead of the January rush has served us well.

When we were considering the application process for the relatively new Map Your Future pathway to admission to the MALD or MIB programs, we decided that the December 20 deadline would work for these applicants, too, though they could hardly be more different from those who apply for the PhD.  Map Your Future is for students currently in their last year of undergraduate study (or six months post graduation) who, if admitted, will enroll at Fletcher in two years.  So the applicants we’ll consider this month will finally start their Fletcher classes in September 2017 (if they are 2015 graduates) or September 2018 (if they are 2016 graduates).  This path works well for applicants who want the security of a graduate school admission offer, but who also want to pursue professional experience before starting their graduate studies.

When we consider MYF applicants, we are really looking for indications of potential.  We like to see a strong academic profile and some early professional and international experience.  Of course, your typical 21-year-old will not have the experience of our average student admitted directly to the MALD or MIB program, but (in a sense) we make a bet that our admitted MYF students will accrue a lot of great experience in the two years before they enroll.

The MYF application is pretty much the same as for students who apply directly to the MALD or MIB.  Any tips that I might give to a MALD/MIB applicant would be appropriate for an MYF applicant, too.  It’s only the review process that differs.  Now that the second group of MYF admitted applicants has enrolled, we are happy to see how well this option is working.

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