Posts by: Jessica Daniels

I reached out recently to Carolyn McMahon (Class of 2012 graduate and current Fletcher staff member), who is the program officer for the Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion run by the Institute for Business in the Global Context.  I was unfamiliar with the details of the program, one of many that takes place around the usual degree programs, so let’s let Carolyn tell us about it.

Central Bankers.  Financial regulators.  Quick, what comes to mind?  Navy blue suits?  Entrenched bureaucracies?

How about: Inventive Thinkers.  Creative collaborators.  Alternative Pedagogy.  Peer-learning.  Challenging Assumptions.

150427_16707_FLPFI083.jpgWhen we tell people about The Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion (FLPFI), it’s tough to counter these initial impressions.  Still, what we’re doing with this nine-month fellowship couldn’t be farther from a stodgy executive training.

FLPFI recruits and trains promising mid-career financial regulators from emerging and frontier market economies to bring fresh innovative thinking to financial policies and regulation.  Recruits are not only stewards of their countries’ financial stability but have professional mandates to create and promote safe and useful services for citizens at every income level, particularly the poor.

True to Fletcher’s ethos, the FLPFI experience is participatory and peer-based, with a commitment to honing practical skills and ensuring real world impact.

An innovative nine-month fellowship:

Since welcoming our first Fellow cohort in 2011, we’ve hosted 55 Fellows from 32 countries.  Their financial inclusion agendas are as diverse as their origins.  Fellows tackle challenges like SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) financing, mobile services and payments, insurance, and agent banking.  On campus, Fellows meet Fletcher students and faculty, forging connections that have led to collaborations like summer internships and research opportunities.

Fellows of FLPFI spend nine months with a team of Fletcher faculty and industry experts.  They bring national expertise in regulation and new ideas for addressing financial inequities in their home countries.  Through online video modules, discussions, and in-person residencies, Fellows hone their policy ideas.  They learn best practices in financial inclusion policymaking from lecturers, Fletcher faculty, and each other, through highly participatory, charette-style sessions.  They learn methods of problem analysis and solution generation.  They test old assumptions and develop new theories.  They learn how to deploy media and public speaking to spread their ideas.  They inform and challenge each other.

Small program, big impact

150427_16707_FLPFI204.jpgFellows return home to implement their policies, armed with sharpened professional skills and fresh analytical perspectives.  They galvanize the support of high-level bureaucrats, and often partners such as CGAP, GSMA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  FLPFI Fellows join a special part of the Fletcher community, creating a network of support, friendship and change makers within financial regulation.  Alumni What’sApp groups are aflutter even after graduation: on Monday, a Central Banker is posting a photo of his newborn; Tuesday, another is challenging conventional wisdom of small dollar accounts; and that afternoon a group is planning a rendezvous at the next international conference in Brazil.  The friendships built at FLPFI, like so many at Fletcher, transcend time zones and geographies.

Despite the program’s youth (the fourth cohort will graduate in September), several successful national policy victories have already been achieved by the Fellows.  Beyond regulatory change, program alumni benefit from continued support and elevated professional opportunities.  Many are invited to speak in international fora, take on leadership roles in regional organizations, and contribute to the global financial inclusion policy agenda.

Still, the program’s ability to forge lasting relationships across continents is a testament to its success and great potential.  FLPFI has succeeded in creating a microcosm of the Fletcher master’s experience for a group of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of their countrymen through more inclusive financial regulation.  Many great things lay ahead as the program enters its fifth year.

Inclusion fellows

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Continuing to aim for suggestions in a mix of fields, here’s the latest installment of the (utterly optional) summer reading list, provided by Fletcher professors.

The first suggestion comes from an unexpected place.  After last week’s posts ran, I received a note from Erin Coutts, the Outreach Coordinator for the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute.  She had bumped into a tweet of one of the book lists and wanted to add a suggestion.  She wrote:

Jeffrey Ashe, a Research Fellow at Tufts’ Global Development And Environment Institute, has recently published In Their Own Hands: How Savings Groups are Revolutionizing Development, a history of community finance and financial empowerment.  Kim Wilson, a Fletcher Lecturer in International Business and Human Security and co-editor of Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings, called the book “essential for any practitioner interested in helping the poor transform small amounts of money into meaningful ways of changing their lives.”  In the book’s forward, Frances Moore Lappee proclaims that the stories in this book bury the myth that poor people have too little to save and that financial independence begins with a loan.

I’m happy to spread the word about a book by a Tufts professor, and I appreciate that Erin reached out to tell me about it.

Prof. Schaffner recommends The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Community on the Brink of Change, by Roger Thurow, noting that it “follows four real farm families in western Kenya through a year of hunger and hope.  It’s a great introduction to the difficult choices faced by poor rural households (something development economists think about a lot), which engages the heart as well as the mind.”

And, our last suggestion for today comes from Prof. Henrikson, who writes, “I would recommend:  Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.  The book is a remarkably candid reflection on American leadership, government and politics, written from a personal perspective and from deep knowledge of the affairs of the world.  It shows realism at its best, with humanism (and not simply power) at its center.”

FP sectionAround this time, blog readers tend to fall primarily into two groups — enrolling students and prospective students who are just getting going on their graduate school search.  For this latter group, I thought I’d share a special supplement to the December/January issue of Foreign Policy, entitled “Leaders in Higher Education.”  In addition to the advertisements from Fletcher and our peers, the article highlights the work of Dean Stavridis as an organizational leader and scholar.  Click on the photo to read more.

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CoolerBack in January, the Office of Admissions received silver level certification from the Tufts Office of Sustainability Green Office Certification Program.  Now that our online application process is a very light user of paper, we have our sights on gold level certification.  Making that leap will take some work, but we can tick the first box: we have given up our water cooler.  As such, we paused for a moment to say farewell as the cooler, and its empty bottles, hit the road.

Going for gold will require some more intentional changes than we needed for the silver level.  That particular accomplishment followed naturally from changes we made for other reasons (i.e. the new application).  But there’s no reason not to aim high!

 

 

I’m going to end my week the same way as I started it — with summer reading suggestions from the faculty.  In response to my request, the law faculty provided the most, and most varied, choices.  Here is Prof. Glennon’s list — so interesting! — ranging from weighty to light:

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari (Prof. Glennon’s top pick.)
The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International Law of Peace, edited by Sir Claud Humphrey Waldock and James Leslie Brierly
Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, by Rebecca Goldstein
The Essential Holmes, edited by Richard A. Posner
“Melian Dialogue,” in Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, (translated by Rex Warner)
A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt
West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
Imperium, by Robert Harris
The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind—and Changed the History of Free Speech in America, by Thomas Healy
The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, by Louis Menand
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Perhaps you’ll want to dive into Thucydides on the beach, or read Catch-22 on your way to work.  But it’s summer, and you might enjoy Prof. Knudsen’s suggestion: John Oliver on social responsibility in fashion (April 26, 2015).  She notes, “This is maybe on the light end — but definitely interesting as a bit of preparation for my Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization seminar.”

Would I prefer to be swimming at Walden Pond every warm summer day?  Yes, I would.  But I have to admit to a (perhaps nerdy) appreciation of summer Admissions work.  Without the volume of visitors or the pressure of application deadlines, we are left free to, well, get stuff done.  Thus the team sat down on Tuesday and collectively mulled the question of whether we should change the essays for the upcoming application cycle.  In the end we did.  Minimally.  So for those who are already thinking about such things, an advance look at the essays for January or September 2016 applications.

Essay 1: (600-800 words, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.  Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career.  Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.  Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?  If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Essay 2: (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
To help the Committee on Admissions get to know you better, please share an anecdote, or details about an experience or personal interest, that you have not elaborated upon elsewhere in your application.

If you have already prepared essays (not that likely, I understand, but just in case), I hope you’ll agree that the current prompts reflect only the slightest change from what we used last year.  In fact, there are only two differences:  1) We stopped calling Essay 1 a personal statement, in the hopes that people will actually read the question.  (Admissions tip:  Read the question before writing/uploading the essay.)  2) And we changed the wording for Essay 2 to give applicants slightly more guidance, without actually limiting the scope of what you can write about.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll also note the other essays that particular applicants need to submit.

Those who have applied before must submit the Reapplicant Essay.  (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Please explain how your candidacy has changed since your last application.

Those who are applying to the PhD program must submit the PhD Essay. (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Please explain why you believe a PhD from a multidisciplinary program in international affairs at a professional school, as compared with a doctorate from a conventional program in a single academic discipline, advances your intellectual and professional ambitions.

Those who are applying through our Map Your Future pathway to the MALD or MIB program must complete the Map Your Future Candidates Essay. (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
What professional opportunities do you plan or hope to pursue during the next two years? What do you hope to learn and what skills do you hope to cultivate?

Finally, while not an essay, I’ll also include the prompt for Additional Information (single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include information regarding your academic records, plans to retake standardized tests or any other information relevant to your application.  Please do not upload writing samples.

What common instructions could I provide for all of these essays?  First, there’s the aforementioned “read the question.”  We’re well aware that applicants are feeling the pressure of a big task, with deadlines, with which they want to be successful.  But that doesn’t mean that you can slap the same essay onto an infinite number of applications.  Sure, go ahead and grab paragraphs from a “master essay,” but be sure that those paragraphs meet your objective of answering our question.  Keep the length under the maximums, but don’t spend hours struggling to cut those last ten words.

Beyond those technical tips, a little content guidance.  Make sure it’s easy for tired readers of Essay 1 to identify your objectives.  If we need to read your essay over and over in search of your goals, then you have not really answered the question.  I personally like a crisp statement of goals in paragraph one or two.  Don’t make us dig.

Describing your goals means the essay will be essentially forward looking.  You’ll want to refer back to your relevant experience, but don’t allow yourself to be sucked too far back into your distant past.  If your distant past is highly relevant, then write about it in Essay 2.

All of this is WAY premature.  There’s no obligation to start your application this early.  (And, in fact, you won’t be able to access the application online until August.)  But if you’re in the process of gathering info and ideas, this post was for you.

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Every day is quiet at Fletcher in the summer.  Until suddenly, there are dozens of people around for the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.  The program just got going yesterday, with an Introduction to Civil Resistance.  (The website includes a reading list for those who want to know more).   You can already sense the richness of the discussion via Twitter.

The Fletcher Summer Institute is organized jointly by Fletcher and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  And it appears from the program’s history, that this would be the tenth annual Summer Institute.

 

Incoming students often ask us for a pre-Fletcher reading list, but, frankly, we don’t have one.  In fact, there is no reason at all why incoming students should worry about completing preparatory reading.  (Brushing up language and quant skills is a different matter.)  Nonetheless, it’s not like you shouldn’t or couldn’t do a little prep.  Or maybe you’d simply like to let experts in various fields point you toward their favorites, saving you the time and trouble of reading everything out there and making your own choices.

Whatever your reasons for wanting a reading list, and whether you are an incoming student or considering applying in the future, I am happy to help.  As in past years, I asked our professors for suggestions, but I made the request very broad, so that I wouldn’t be supplying a tedious list of text books.  Here are the ideas that I offered in my request for suggestions:

  • A book that you assign for your class and that incoming students might benefit from reading at a leisurely pace in the summer;
  • A book that provides good contextual explanation of your field;
  • Fiction or popular non-fiction that provides context for your field;
  • Articles or blogs that incoming students may not already know about;
  • A newly published book of your own that provides general context.

Today I’ll share the first batch of suggestions, covering much of the territory (from politics to business) of the Fletcher curriculum.

From Prof. Ladwig, the 2014-15 European Union Fellow in Residence: The Foreign Policy of the European Union, by Stephan Keukeleire and  Tom Delreux.  Prof. Ladwig notes, “I would recommend one particular book — not because it is about a subject I could be perceived to be selfishly promoting, but because it simply is the authoritative and well written book on foreign policy and one of its key players.”

From Prof. Salacuse:, a lawyer by training who has done a great deal of work on negotiations: Thirteen Days in September — Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, by Lawrence Wright.  Prof. Salacuse notes, “For students interested in international conflict resolution, the Middle East, or just international relations generally, I would strongly recommend this book, for a readable, day-by-day account of what transpired at the Camp David negotiations in 1978, leading to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.  It nicely captures all the frustrations and successes of those talks and the impact of the three protagonists’ personalities on the process.”

And from Prof. Jacque, who guides students to an understanding of international finance, several selections from diverse genres: Capital in the 21st Century, by Thomas Piketty; Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis; The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; and his own Global Derivative Debacles: From Theory to Malpractice.

I’ll be back with more suggestions throughout this month.

Though nearly everyone studying at Fletcher is enrolled in a degree program, the School also offers some special programs on a regular or occasional basis.  An annual example is the Tavitian Scholarship program.  A recent article in the Fletcher alumni magazine and on the Tufts Now site tells us:

Now in its 16th year, the program, funded by the Tavitian Foundation, has paid for more than 250 early and mid-career Armenian officials to study at the Fletcher School. Not just for diplomats anymore, the program offers executive training to a range of Armenian government officials and central bankers. The latest scholars arrived on campus in January.

Read more about the program’s origins, faculty, and graduates.

 

I’m really sorry that Liam’s two years as a student blogger (and at Fletcher in general) have come to an end.  He has been a great partner in this project.  He will soon return to his career with the Army, which supported his studies to develop him as an officer.  Today, he shares reflections from his grad school experience.

Liam, 2014-2One of the most valuable characteristics of my Fletcher experience has been discussion, both in and out of the classroom, especially when it builds on the diversity of the student body.  As I look back on my two years here, I can’t help but think that many of my most significant takeaways came from classroom exchanges with such an amazing collection of people.  From them, I’ve learned an immense amount about the world, and along the way, I also have made some life-long memories.

One classroom example I would highlight is Prof. Khan’s course, The Historian’s Art.  Regardless of your academic and professional background, if you take one course at Fletcher, this should be it.  The timeless skills I acquired to interpret history through the lens of contemporary affairs are amongst the most important I gained at Fletcher.  Moreover, Prof. Khan’s teaching style, forcing you to take a side on a historical issue, to not waver, and to use empathy, detachment, and relentless skepticism in looking at anything, will inevitably help you become a better thinker.  In addition, and the point of this post, is that the variety of students in this class, from journalists to MIBs to military officers to Peace Corps volunteers, made discussions vibrant, insightful, contentious, memorable, and effective.  The unique nature of my fellow students ensured that, while there was always something to be learned, there were also multiple occasions where Harry Potter or Jurassic Park entered the discussions.  That’s just Fletcher.

As I sit here and reflect, I am filled with a wave of emotions and memories from the past two years.  While the class discussions I described above are an important part of the Fletcher experience, so, too, are the projects and papers you turn in, the lessons you learn from readings and in class, and the advice you get from sitting down with professors during office hours.  Everything that comprises the academic side of the Fletcher experience makes you a stronger professional, capable of returning to your old line of work or starting in a new career field, and better equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century.  Learning at Fletcher embodies a remarkable combination of academic skills with real world perspective that is unmatched.

But I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Fletcher community.  The students and professors are what enable these meaningful classroom-based discussions.  Simply put, Fletcher attracts the most amazingly diverse cross-section of intelligent, caring, compassionate, and humorous people imaginable.  When I look back to when I was applying to Fletcher from Afghanistan in the fall of 2012, I remember reading through course catalogs and the CVs of professors whose interests matched mine, and I was hooked.  As important as that was to my enrollment choice, it wasn’t until I met my classmates at Orientation that I realized how glad I was that I made the decision to come to Fletcher.  Relationships are key to success in life, and after Fletcher, I am certain that I will go forward with a wide network of connections — throughout virtually any imaginable profession and region — that I could not have acquired in any other place.  If you’re reading this blog and thinking about applying to Fletcher, I can tell you that, if I had to make the choice one hundred times, I would make the same choice one hundred times.

And, so, as I look back on what has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, what I will remember are the people.  The people are what makes Fletcher what it is, and I wouldn’t trade the experience of our shared discussions for anything in the world.

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