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Continuing an annual tradition, it’s Valentine’s Day, which calls for stories of Fletcher couples.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading about these eight alumni who gained more than an education from their Fletcher experience.

Eric, F95, and Caroline, F95
We were both dating other people our first year at Fletcher.  One of us was unceremoniously dumped at the end of that year, the other nearby with soothing words.  Those soothing words continued all summer by phone with Eric in DC and Caroline at Middlebury.  Feelings intensified when reunited in Medford that fall, with the minor issue of one outside relationship still in the mix.  Awkwardness was averted by hiding behind study dates that were almost always followed by dinner.  When the issue finally came to the fore, Eric asked Caroline, “Why are you afraid of trying this?”  Her answer: “Because it might work.”  Dating ensued.  MALDs were minted with no jobs in sight.  Caroline went to Philly, Eric to Chicago.  We reunited for a Fletcher classmate’s wedding, at which point another Fletcher classmate told us to choose to be together.  Engagement followed, though the engagement ring was quickly returned in favor of two tickets to Hong Kong, where we worked, lived, and had two daughters over eight years.  We’ve now been together 24 years, married almost 21.  We’re happily settled in Seattle and about to send our oldest daughter off to college.  How time flies!

The happy couple and their Fletcher friends — in a photo of a print from a pre-digital photo album.


Cass, F16, and Matheus, F16

We met at the New York Career Trip student/alumni reception.  After a few months, Matheus asked Cass on a date during Americana Night and she agreed after watching his performance on guitar.  We were married in Manhattan at New York City Hall with a handful of friends, totally impromptu.  We still wear the wedding bands that we ordered with same-day delivery from Amazon Prime, and we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at our Fletcher graduation together.

 

Sarah, F10, and Trevor, F11
Sarah and Trevor first met at Fletcher in 2010, and quickly bonded over their shared love of single malt Scotch and Professor Glennon’s classes.  In 2014, they made it official at a small wedding at a Virginia winery, attended by Fletcher friends from around the globe.  The couple make their home with their pup Diesel in Washington, DC, where Sarah is a Lead Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and Trevor is the Deputy Head of Policy for the DC office of the International Committee of the Red Cross.  They enjoy travel, hiking with Diesel, hanging out with their fellow Fletcher alums in DC, and trying not to be too anxious about the state of the world.

 

Mary, F88, and Jim, F87, FG89
Fall 1986: Mary arrives at Fletcher as a new first year.  Settling into the dorm, she keeps meeting second-year students who say: “Oh, you were in the Peace Corps?  You’re interested in Students for Development Studies?  You should meet Jim!”  Jim returns from a summer internship in Somalia, reconnecting with friends who keep saying: “Hey, there’s a new first-year student you have to meet — her name’s Mary!”  And so we were matched before we met.  Turns out we had lots more in common than met the eye: similar family backgrounds and deeper values, etc.  A year later, we’d been married and welcomed Baby Aaron into our family in Blakeley Hall, where we had taken the job of resident directors.  Diapers before diplomas!  The Fletcher community was so warm and welcoming; our memories from those days are precious.  We headed to Washington, DC with degrees in hand, and Baby #2 on the way.  Since then, we’ve lived and worked in Thailand, Jerusalem (where #3 son was born), Croatia, and Vietnam, having wonderful family adventures along with great professional experiences.  Both of us still work in international development, currently living at home base in the DC area, where we continue to treasure Fletcher friendships as much as ever.

 

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Today’s update from the Class of 2012 is special in many ways.  First, it has been written jointly by two MALD graduates, Aaron Morris and Ho-Ming So Denduangrudee.  Second, Ho-Ming sent it along only a few days after bringing a new baby into their family.  Third, Ho-Ming and Aaron make up one of the first Fletcher Couples I featured on the blog.  Finally, as a first-year student, Ho-Ming wrote about her long path to Fletcher.

Pre-Fletcher

Similar to a lot of future Fletcher classmates, it turns out we lived and worked at random places at the same time: Boston, post-undergrad where Aaron worked in investment consulting and Ho-Ming worked as a research assistant and at a climbing gym; Thailand, where Aaron worked on the Thai-Burmese border with former political prisoners on advocacy projects, and Ho-Ming worked on indigenous rights and community development projects across the region; and Colorado, where Aaron valeted cars and ski bummed, and Ho-Ming worked for a small human rights defenders fund.  Aaron knew he wanted to contribute to bridging the business and international development worlds, and Ho-Ming was interested in minority rights.

At Fletcher

We met on the first day of orientation and were on seemingly different tracks: Aaron was a development economics/security studies MALD and eventually became an advisee of Professor Block; Ho-Ming went to Fletcher to study human rights with Professor Hannum, who had previously taught one of her early mentors at the UN.  At Fletcher, we were constantly challenged to work on and be exposed to topics beyond the scope of our respective foci, whether by each other or by our peers, professors, the curriculum, or the institution.  We quickly learned there are no silos in our interrelated world, and a Fletcher education continually underscores this.  Some horizon-broadening moments were more trying than others — for instance, that semester when Aaron convinced Ho-Ming that taking Professor Jacque’s Corporate Finance class would be a great idea.  It is a great idea.  There may be some tears and terror alongside learning, but it is worth it.  (Opposite of a pro tip: if you actively try to avoid eye contact, rest assured, Professor Jacques will call on you.)

Post Fletcher

After graduation, Aaron took a job in Jakarta with the ASEAN basketball league in business development and strategy, and Ho-Ming signed on to work on indigenous rights and sustainable development as part of a United Nations forestry initiative.  In four wonderful years in Indonesia, Aaron ended up taking a job as a management consultant at Bain & Co., and Ho-Ming returned to community-based work through the Samdhana Institute.

Our Fletcher roots continue to manifest throughout our careers and lives.  While Ho-Ming was at the UN, Professor Moomaw facilitated key introductions to support the Government of Indonesia delegation during global climate change COPs, Fletcher alumni and students joined us as colleagues at various moments in our respective careers, alumni were generous with sharing their networks and many became close friends.  We even managed to expand the community in a small way, when a dear colleague and friend opted to attend Fletcher for a mid-career MA.  We were fortunate to be able to attend his graduation in Medford, which coincided with our five year reunion.

We are currently located in San Francisco, prompted by an internal transfer opportunity through Aaron’s work.  Ho-Ming has kept a foot in Southeast Asia, building fun partnerships, including this one one linking the outdoor industry, climbing, and an incredible indigenous activist/regional MP to pilot ecotourism and support indigenous tenure security in remote Eastern Indonesia.  She’s recently taken on a new position strengthening institutional partnerships at Build Change, a social enterprise focused on enhancing disaster resilience and recovery for low income neighborhoods in emerging markets.

Fletcher expanded our horizons and imbued in us a truly interconnected perspective on the world.  On the macro policy and industry level, this has been invaluable.  On a civic and personal level, particularly in divisive times, we are grateful that Fletcher taught us — above all — to listen and always be mindful of a bigger picture.  We might not always agree, but Fletcher has emphasized to us the importance of trying to understand.  As partners, as parents, we strive to serve as resources for each other and, we hope, a wider community that bridges industries, nationalities, and worldviews.  At Fletcher, we were given the tools to foster similarities that drive all of us, to strengthen the connections between us and, not least, to be thoughtful and reflective — to engage and look for ways to be inclusive, share responsibilities. and be thoughtful about how we can create a better world.

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. 

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In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond.  Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met. 

How did you meet at Fletcher?

From the Haymond photo album: Dusadee Haymond in front of Fletcher Field during her student days, with Fletcher buildings in the background

Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there.  The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time.  She was already a diplomat for Thailand.  She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors.  A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.

We dated the summer after my first year.  Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year.  We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts.  There was no email.  Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.

Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai!  But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year.  Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989.  For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters.  Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.

PH:  Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.

Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.

Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?

PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa.  The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger.  When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco.  So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation.  It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.

When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long.  And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.

DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD.  So I set the condition for getting married.

From the Hayden photo album: Peter and Dusadee Haymond (side-by-side on the right) with fellow Fletcher students.

Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?

DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English.  I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.

PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot.  Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.

What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?

PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes.  Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history.  For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning.  I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.

DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history.  I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite!  For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.

Any final words?

DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.

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If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service.  Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate).  The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.

It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere.  This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages.  I’d like to share the story of two of them.

During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand.  As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum.  My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally.  One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee.  She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher.  I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand.  It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher!  I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.”  Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”

I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed.  One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound.  In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).

Q:  Tell me a little about your backgrounds.

Dusadee Haymond:  I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy.  My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north.  I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.

Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing.  We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine.  I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University.  My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.

What was your path to Fletcher?

PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service.  They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai.  Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations.  I was interested in something international.  I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer.  The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston.  He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west.  I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.

DH: I always wanted to study in America.  But my family comes from middle class.  Both my parents worked for the government.  So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams.  I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship.  In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.

What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?

PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development.  I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people.  For me, it’s been a great bargain.

DH: Destiny.  Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university.  I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?”  I took it and passed it.  Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny.  I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes.  I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.

Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years.  I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long.  We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision.  So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>

PH: We had a big decision to make.  We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry.  Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side.  That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.

Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?

DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO).  It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you.  But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc.  And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do.  But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive.  The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses.  My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse.  I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own.  I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea.  One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education.  I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia.  Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.”  No questions asked.

Can you tell me more about your writing?

DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write.  So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.”  I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing.  I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment.  When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time.  The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”

I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.

Was interracial marriage difficult?

DH: It was tough at the beginning.  During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand.  A lot of them married Thai wives.  Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated.  When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself.  Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians.  Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man.  Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him.  And Pete has proved himself.  They’re all very proud of him.

PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.

How many languages do you speak?

PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]

DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin.  My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities.  I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group.  I  took it as a compliment!  But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.

Where have you served?

PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand.  My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos.  It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos.  I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside.  We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems.  It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?

PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open.  You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it.  But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.

The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world.  Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world.  In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill.  For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.

Depends on what your stomach is for risk.  I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own.  The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure.  I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.

DH:  If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit.  Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment.  Foreign Service is a family decision.  It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.

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In case you missed it, click on the photo to the right and it will take you to a nice feature highlighting the experience of 11 Fletcher alumni currently working at the United Nations.  Graduates of the MALD, PhD, and GMAP programs are included, and one — Ana Garcia, F13 — wrote one of the blog’s earliest “First-Year Alumni” updates.  It looks like her job search turned out just fine!

Fletcher alumni are sprinkled throughout the United Nations, both in New York and in regional offices.  Other graduates whom the blog has featured are Claudia Ortiz and Margherita Zuin, both of whom were based in New York at the time they wrote their Five-Year Update posts.

 

A few years back, Devon Cone, F08, shared her five-year update with the Admissions Blog.  Since writing, Devon has continued her refugee work, shifting locations several times and organizations at least once.  She is still engaged with refugee issues, currently as the Director of Protection Programs at HIAS.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading the update she wrote previously and watching as she discusses her post-Fletcher experience on this video.

 

You may already have heard that Michael Dobbs, probably best known to blog readers as the author of House of Cards — but also a politician, political commentator, and the holder of three Fletcher degrees (including the PhD, F73, F75, F77) — is in residence at Fletcher this month as Visiting Professor of Contemporary Politics.

While here, Lord Dobbs has already given a book talk, met students and faculty for coffee, and participated in a lunchtime discussion, and he is leading a three-session workshop on political leadership.  (You can read more about the residency at The Boston Globe.)  But the event most relevant for those who are not on campus will take place today (Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)).  This afternoon you can tune in (via the Fletcher Facebook page) for a “Fletcher Reads the Newspaper” discussion/debate on “Nationalism vs. Globalism: Will Brexit be the Ultimate Litmus Test?” with Lord Dobbs and Professor Amar Bhide sharing their opinions on the topic, moderated by Senior Associate Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti.

Please join us and watch the debate sparks fly!

 

David Tykvart was an Admissions staff favorite during the two years when he worked in the office.  With his post, I’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2016 on their first year post-Fletcher.  David’s early career is a good example of how an international career can be based in one’s home country.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was standing in the Hall of Flags one April, jet-lagged from having flown in the night before from the Czech Republic and taking a quick break from my Fulbright teaching duties to try to make the decision on what graduate program to attend.  The few hours I spent seeing Fletcher firsthand during the Admitted Student Open House solidified for me that Fletcher was more than an academic program with famous professors at the forefront of research on topics from international law to the role of gender in post-conflict reconstruction, who were drivers of important policy decisions as practitioners; or big name administrators like the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  That day was the beginning of a lifelong journey.

Fletcher was the perfect fit for me.  I arrived thinking that I would join the U.S. Foreign Service.  Most of my international experience was in South America and Eastern Europe.  I had studied international relations, Spanish, and Russian as a college student, and spent most of my summers in South America leading service immersion projects in Quito and working with indigenous communities.  I also studied the West African education system in Ghana, worked at the U.S. Embassy in Peru, spent a year in the Czech Republic as a Fulbright Scholar, and even dabbled in the NGO world working at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  I always loved exploring the world and getting to know the people and diverse cultures along the way.

I can say that the majority of my classmates’ accomplishments and experiences outnumbered mine.  For example, in my class there were: leaders in the armed forces; diplomats from all over the world; an individual who trained local journalists in Iraq to help build the nascent press corps; UN and OSCE employees; educators; medics who worked for Doctors without Borders; conflict resolution experts who worked with the Rohinga.  It was these individuals who became my Fletcher family.  And they very much are today, a year after having left.

As I said, Fletcher is more than an academic program.  It’s a community full of people from all around the globe who are very similar in their passion for the world and making it a better place, but also different in the sense that they bring their views, passions, cultures, and experiences to Medford, Massachusetts.

Besides the incredible student body, the curriculum at Fletcher is designed to give you the flexibility to pursue your interests, while giving you an opportunity to explore new fields of study and to build new skill sets.  For example my two areas of study were Human Security and Democracy & Good Governance.  I was always interested in democratic strengthening and the democratic backsliding we are witnessing throughout the world today, and I was able to create my own Field of Study that aligned with my interests and career aspirations.  I also was able to take a wide variety of classes that mixed theory with practice.  I learned how to write memos and give brief oral briefings working with the former German Ambassador to the United States.  I wanted to strengthen my quantitative skills so I took Econometrics and Corporate Finance.  I learned how to look at global events on a macro and micro level, and learned how to apply the lessons of history into decision making today.  I took classes such as Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, Rule of Law in Post Conflict Societies, Law and Development, and Migration and Governance in the Global South.  I was even able to squeeze in some classes that were fun and fascinating like Maritime History and Globalization.  One of the hardest parts about being a Fletcher student is trying to narrow the variety of fascinating classes to four per semester.

But much of the learning and Fletcher experience takes place outside of the classroom.  There is a multitude of ways to be involved and there is a club for literally every interest.  Personally, I was a co-president of the European Club, a researcher on the Fletcher-ICRC joint research study on conflict migration in the Sahel, and I worked in the Admissions Office.  We had culture nights that would bring everyone together; social hours every Thursday in the Hall of Flags; a ski trip to Maine; group hikes; and performances by the Los Fletcheros — the immortal Fletcher cover band.  Not to mention the countless impromptu group outings that led to the inevitable bar crawl with friends.  I even was part of a 12-person Fletcher Ragnar team (FletcherRunEmployed) running a 200 mile team relay that took us to the tip of Cape Cod.  I have friends who have told me they are jealous of my Fletcher crew and how close we are.

While most Fletcher graduates end up somewhere abroad or on the U.S. East Coast, my path took me to Chicago.  During my second year at Fletcher, I was named a Presidential Management Fellow and accepted a position with the Chicago Asylum Office with the Department of Homeland Security.  Currently, I am detailed to the Southwest Border where I work with families from around the world seeking humanitarian protection.  I never imagined that I would be interviewing asylum seekers, coordinating logistics, serving as the on the ground liaison with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and would work with various stakeholders throughout DHS, the private sector, and the advocacy community all at the same time.  Throughout my job search, the Fletcher community never failed me as I spoke and met with Fletcher alums throughout my agency who helped provide me with the insight and advice I needed to get to where I am today.  And no doubt I was able to get to places I never dreamed of today because of my Fletcher experience.

In addition to working in asylum, back at home in Chicago, I also began serving as a board member on the Chicago Sister Cities Prague Committee to keep me connected to the Czech Republic, even as my Fulbright days have long passed, which has allowed me to continue dabbling in what I consider to be public diplomacy.

It has been a little over a year since I graduated and I miss Fletcher.  I had to skip my Fletcher graduation because my sister graduated from college on the same day.  When I returned, my Fletcher family threw me my own graduation: they pulled out the champagne, had me put on a robe, and marched me to campus, through the Hall of Flags and straight to the Registrar’s Office where my diploma was waiting for me.

Now, my former classmates, who are now my lifelong friends, are all over the world and not a day goes by that I don’t hear from one of them.  And when we are all reunited, it feels like we were never apart.  One recent day, at 6:00 a.m. in the lobby of my hotel at the Southern Border, I ran into a good friend from Fletcher.  We used to be in the same study group for our Gender and Conflict class, and she was also sent to the Southern Border as a refugee officer.  When we saw each other at the coffee bar, I was reminded that inevitably our many paths will cross, and whether it is in DC, abroad, or at the Southern Border, we will always be there to support each other.  Because we are forever part of the Fletcher family.

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I was walking outside the building at about 4:00 yesterday and saw a cluster of students huddled around suitcases.  They were in the first stages of their trip to Iceland for this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, the world’s largest gathering of Arctic-oriented policy makers, business people, and other stakeholders.  The Fletcher contingent, including students, faculty, alumni, and staff members, is organized by Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program, in collaboration with Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, Science Diplomacy CenterInternational Security Studies Program, LLM Program, Institute for Human Security, and Institute for Business in the Global Context, as well as Pan-Arctic Options and the Institute for Global Maritime Studies.  Having so many different organizations on board means that students were able to have their participation subsidized with a travel stipend, in hopes (expectation!) that Fletcher would (for the third year in a row) bring the largest non-Icelandic academic delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly.

A key link between Fletcher and the Arctic Circle Assembly is Fletcher alumna Halla Hrund Logadóttir, F11, who is organizing the Arctic Innovation Lab component of the Assembly.  According to the Fletcher trip organizers, the Arctic Innovation Lab is a platform to bring young and entrepreneurial thinkers into the Arctic debate to help solve its myriad social, economic, and political challenges.  Each participant gets two minutes to pitch an idea, which can be related to anything, but the focus is on sustainable solutions, and then students participate in round-table discussions with experts on their idea.  The top three ideas will be selected as winners by the event organizers.I always feel an ongoing connection to students whom I meet before they apply.  Way back in (probably) 2008, I interviewed Halla before she applied to Fletcher.  It’s very satisfying for me to see the relationship she has built with current students and staff.And Fletcher’s connection to the Arctic won’t end with the Arctic Circle Assembly.  In February, students will organize the seventh annual Fletcher Arctic Conference.

Here is a short video that shows images from last year’s Arctic Circle Assembly and Arctic Innovation Lab and an article on the ideas presented at the Arctic Innovation Lab.  Of course I don’t yet have photos from this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, but you can follow along on Twitter as Fletcher participants post their observations and the organizers tweet about each day’s panels and events.

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