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With the Class of 2016 about to graduate in only about a week, it’s getting to be time for me to wrap-up the Five-Year Updates from the Class of 2010.  Today we’ll hear from Claudia Ortiz, who provided me with this short bio, in addition to her post:

Claudia Ortiz (Mexico) has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2013, when she joined as Regional Technical Specialist on Climate Change Adaptation in the regional hub for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.  She is now based in UNDP headquarters in New York, acting as climate finance policy advisor and project manager of the Global Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme.  Before UNDP, Claudia worked with the Climate Change Team at the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, in Washington, DC.

Earlier in her career, she supported the development of Mexico’s first Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for the cement and iron and steel sectors at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC and worked at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Sub-regional Office in Ankara, Turkey, where she undertook research on energy policy and environmental issues in Central Asia.

Claudia OrtizIt has been almost six years since I graduated from Fletcher.  I still regard the opportunity to study there as one of the best in my life: it changed the way I see the world, transformed my career, and allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people, with very diverse backgrounds.  From the very first day of Orientation, students are constantly reminded that our most important allies are in the student and alumni community itself.  Besides this backbone virtue of the School, students are also reminded (as in the Mission and Impact statement) that as international affairs professionals, we ought to be “committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of a complex, challenging and increasingly global society,” — in other words (or, as I interpret it), we are meant to be “global citizens.”

As global citizens, we let go of nationalistic or self-interests.  Rather we exercise collaboration and compassion, as we seek to become agents of improvement for the global society, including the most vulnerable populations in it.  And, as global citizens, we are led by our never-ending hunger to explore, travel, and experience different cultures.

This concept resonates well for me with the cause to which I have dedicated my career since Fletcher graduation: to support developing countries’ access to international climate finance for initiatives, projects and programs that address climate risks.  Climate change must not be regarded an “environmental” problem.  To label it that way would be misleading, as it places emphasis on the risk being posed to ecosystems or natural habitats.  In reality, it is the human species and human development gains that are most at risk and are being severely impacted by climate change in the form of food insecurity, forced migration, destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihoods, etc.  Climate change is therefore a global development problem which does not recognize political boundaries and one which cannot be solved by acting in isolation; international diplomacy has a significant role to play.

Today, it is evident that diplomacy driven by recognition of the universal threat of climate change, but also by emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations on Earth, has succeeded in shifting the climate change paradigm.  In December 2015, the diplomatic efforts of over 150 heads of state and their delegations resulted in an unprecedented Climate Agreement, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  For the first time in history, there is global recognition that climate change is a common concern of humankind, whereby all the world’s economies need to act together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  Decades have been spent in breaching the gap between achieving economic growth through the use of cheaper fossil fuels and the urgent need to enhance resilience to climate change, especially in the poorest countries.  We are a privileged generation to witness a huge step in this direction.

As an officer of the United Nations, I function as an “international civil servant.”  I am not to respond to any government’s instructions (or those of any other source that is not the UN) as I carry out my duties; rather, I am supposed to bring forward only the interests of the UN.  Applying this principle has proven to be crucial for my work given that, for the past three years, I have served the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Benin, Colombia, Nepal, Fiji, and others, but not yet my native Mexico.  I have realized that the only way to thrive in different cultures or contexts while achieving common social, environmental or development objectives is by maintaining impartiality and independence.  This is, of course, challenging, as we are all calibrated to operate based on our own cultural norms, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas.  I admit that only by living the experience itself have I been able to “adapt” quickly to unknown contexts, while still managing to get the work done.

Evidently, Fletcher was the perfect launching platform for my current job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and my former position in the World Bank, another institution where staff uphold the same principles of impartiality and of a global mindset.  Fletcher is a microcosm where the exact same principles are enforced, not only to excel in the very demanding, inter-disciplinary curriculum but also to succeed as a member of the ever-present Fletcher community.  As students, we would consciously work, discuss, and even debate respectfully, without prejudice.  We established long-lasting friendships with people we never imagined we would.  I proudly say that Fletcher prepared us to confront the most compelling global challenges by making us realize that solutions can only be reached through diplomacy and collaborative action, because as citizens of ONE planet we cannot regard challenges to be the problem of “the other,” but rather, these problems and their solutions must be assumed as “our own.”

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A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted the United Nations speech of Fletcher professor and alumna, Rachel Kyte.  Shortly thereafter, another graduate, Cornelia Schneider, F06, wrote to make me aware of the signing ceremony speech of Dr. Cristiana Pasca, a 2014 graduate of the PhD program and 2006 MALD graduate, and currently the Environment Minister of Romania.   Click on the photo below to watch the speech.

Christiana Pasca
It’s always satisfying to see our graduates in action, and I also particularly appreciate how alumni watch out for each other, such as in this case when Connie took the time to make me and the alumni office aware of the great work her MALD classmate is doing.

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As we’re rapidly approaching the end of their sixth year since graduating, let’s return to the Class of 2010, whose updates I have collected throughout the year following their five-year reunion.  Today we’ll hear from Eric Sullivan, a member of the very first MIB class.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

Eric - TeresopolisPrior to joining Fletcher as a member of the inaugural MIB class in 2008, I was one of many whose paths were shaped by the September 11th terrorist attacks and the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I was an Air Force ROTC cadet studying business and Russian at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill on that fateful day.  A little over five years later, I was a newly-minted first lieutenant supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom out of the former Baathist headquarters at the old Iraqi Air Force Academy.  That experience, along with an eye-opening study abroad experience in Russia, raised my interest in international affairs and set me on the path to Fletcher.

At Fletcher

I chose Fletcher because of the MIB program and the opportunity it offered to merge two core interests: business and international affairs.  Although the MIB program was new, the Fletcher School itself was both well-established and well-regarded.  I was particularly impressed by the School’s breadth of offerings, its reputation within the international affairs community, the success of its alumni, and the caliber of my future classmates whom I met at the Open House for newly admitted students.  I had a truly enriching experience at Fletcher.  What I appreciated the most was the ability to pursue my specific academic interests both in and outside of the classroom, with the benefit of a wide array of resources at my disposal through Fletcher and the wider Tufts community.

For example, in fulfillment of my thesis requirement, I wanted to find a way to connect my interests in social enterprise and human trafficking.  With invaluable help and guidance from my advisor, Professor Nathalie Lydler-Kylander, I developed a business case study on Made By Survivors, an NGO that uses the power of social enterprise to empower and liberate survivors of human trafficking.  With the aid of an EMPOWER social enterprise grant from Tufts Institute for Global Leadership, I traveled to India and Nepal to conduct research on several social enterprises employing survivors of trafficking and vulnerable populations.  That trip resulted in a successful case study recognized among the winners of the NextBillion 2010 Case Writing Competition and used subsequently at both Fletcher and Harvard Business School.  The wide web of support and unique opportunities available through Fletcher made such an outcome possible.

Post Fletcher

After graduation, I accepted a position as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, serving as a contract specialist at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and spending some priceless time with family.  In early 2013, I embarked on my dream job in the U.S. Foreign Service.  My first assignment was to Moscow, Russia as a consular officer, where I adjudicated nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and managed a portfolio with national security implications and numerous public diplomacy events ranging from a radio interview on a popular Moscow station to a roundtable discussion with future Russian diplomats and foreign affairs professionals.  I also had the opportunity to support the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine during the landmark presidential elections of 2014.  Though only a short two years in duration, set against the backdrop of momentous events in Ukraine, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the imposition of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions, and the granting of temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, it made for a very interesting first tour.

Following my assignment in Moscow, I was ready for a drastic change of scenery and climate.  I completed six months of Portuguese language training and I’m now assigned as a Consular Officer to the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I’m currently working in the nonimmigrant visas section, conducting interviews for Brazilians who wish to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, academics, and exchanges.  Later this year, I will have the opportunity to work as a special assistant to the Consul General.  The Summer Olympics is just around the corner, while Brazil is passing through a challenging period both politically and economically.  My second tour in the Foreign Service seems destined to be just as interesting as the first.

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I love hearing from alumni, and not only when they send me news for the blog.  But if they happen to send something newsworthy, well, I’m certainly going to seize the opportunity to share.

On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by an email from Atanas, a 2015 grad.  He recently started in a new position at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, working on climate resilience.  I’ll let him continue the story:

Last week I was lucky to be working at the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General on the organization of the Paris agreement signature ceremony, and on Friday, I witnessed first-hand this historic moment.  I met a few presidents, including Colombia’s President and Fletcher grad Juan Manuel Santos, and had a brief chat with Leo DiCaprio who is UN Messenger of Peace and delivered a speech during the ceremony.  It was certainly a day to remember.

But one of the most powerful experiences I had was listening to a Fletcher alumna who spoke on a panel in the afternoon of the same day — Rachel Kyte, who is the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and Special Representative of the Secretary General.  She talked only for five minutes but completely captivated the audience and, according to everyone working in this area, hers was one of the best speeches given in a long time.

I’ll plug in a few details about Rachel Kyte.  She’s a 2002 graduate of the GMAP program and, also, currently a Fletcher professor of practice of sustainable development, associated with the Center for International Environment and Research Policy.

The forum at which Atanas heard her speak was “Taking Climate Action to the Next Level: Realizing the Vision of the Paris Agreement.”  Click the photo below to hear her comments following a question at about 1:47:00.

Professor Rachel Kyte, F02, speaking before a UN panel on climate change.

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I have a little something different to offer today.  Remember Mirza?  He was a MALD student who wrote for the blog in 2013-14 and 2014-2015, and since then he has been alternating work that builds on his Fletcher studies with a continuation of the music career he had pre-Fletcher, with the duo Arms and Sleepers (AAS).  Recently, I read something he had posted on his Facebook page and asked if I could share it on the blog.  It struck me as bringing together so much of what makes Mirza interesting — his personal history, his directness and honesty, his work as a musician, and the insights he will have developed at Fletcher.  I’m glad he agreed to let me share his thoughts.  Post-Fletcher careers in the arts are not typical, but those graduates who pursue them are not alone. 

As a further introduction, today Mirza noted, “I have performed in Georgia the country and Georgia the U.S. state; Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia; Athens, Georgia and Athens, Greece; (the) Mexico and New Mexico.”  He definitely covers a lot of territory.  Speaking of which, let me share his upcoming tour schedule.  If you live or are traveling in any of these locations, I’m sure Mirza would be happy to see you.  He has always welcomed Fletcher alumni, students, and even applicants to his performances in the past.  

And with that, I’ll let Mirza share his story.  

I’ve been telling this story at my shows on the current tour so I’ll share it here as well, especially as I am in northern Greece at the moment.

Being a musician and doing this for a living, I often feel conflicted about the importance and impact of what I do, compared to what’s happening in the world.  I arrived at Amsterdam airport the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and was traveling to Greece via Brussels airport last week.  I am now in northern Greece about to play three shows, practically right next to the refugee camps where people have only one thing on their mind: survival.  I’ve been on that side as well.  When I left Bosnia with my mother in 1992, we only had survival on our mind, too.  We were lucky to escape the war, but we wanted the world to pay attention to our struggles and help us start a new life somewhere else.  Almost every country closed its borders to us, and hours (many hours) spent waiting in line at the Norwegian/Swedish/Canadian/etc. embassies resulted in nothing but rejection.  We were lucky, once again, to be taken by the U.S. after years of trying.

Today, I am on the other side, doing something I love and something that I helped build myself.  I perform music across the world, and even if I am only a small artist, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that people are willing to pay me to come to their country and play a show.  So as I am writing this in Thessaloniki, Greece, I feel weird because I think about some western artist who might have been performing in Croatia at the same time that my mother and I were traveling on ferries and buses with two suitcases looking for a better future.  Now that western artist is me.

I keep saying that music is important, because it is.  At almost every show I meet someone who tells me how much our music has impacted him/her.  In Bristol, UK, a girl was crying after our show because she heard her favorite song live; in Chongqing, China, someone told me our CD was the first she ever purchased outside of China; in Guatemala City, the show organizer told me that our music opened his eyes (ears?) eight years ago to all kinds of new music he never knew about before; in St. Petersburg, Russia, a young girl told me that she has a heart condition and can’t go to loud shows, as per her doctor, but came to my show anyway and felt free for the first time in a long time; a girl in Poznan, Poland recently got sick and ended up in a wheelchair — she told me that my show was an hour during which she could forget about all the overwhelming negativity in her life; in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, I was thanked endlessly for not canceling my tour and for being one of the only artists to play in the eastern part of the country; in 2009, we wrote a song that was the first thing a newborn in Nashville, Tennessee heard; a guy flew on a plane in Russia for the first time just to come to an AAS show; and I continue receiving Facebook messages from young people in Tehran, Iran telling me how much our music has been influential in the city’s underground electronic music scene.  These are not ego-boosters, but little stories that are important to me because they involve people’s actual lives, and it is unbelievably humbling to have any amount of impact in someone else’s life.

So I don’t know, I continue feeling conflicted because I’ve been on both sides — I’ve been a refugee who nobody wanted and I’ve been a teenager/adult who needed music to get through difficult times.  As I play these shows in northern Greece over the next three nights, I’ll be doing plenty of self-examination and figuring out how to best contribute positively in this messy world, with and without music.

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Returning to the Class of 2015, Owen Sanderson was a two-year Admissions Office regular, spending time in the office as a volunteer, a paid member of the Admissions Committee, and a good source of conversation.  He was the first person I reached out to when I was looking for a helper for an APSIA graduate school fair in New York last September, and he’s the only student with whom I ever discussed options for engagement rings before he proposed.  His post-Fletcher career is typical in that it’s atypical.

“Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room,” cautions Paul Bennett the Chief Creative Officer of IDEO.  “The conventional heroic leader is a product of the past.”  Cleverness is not a ticket to success at IDEO.

Paul is right.  Despite the deep well of talent at my new employer, IDEO.org, I’ve observed that success here is fueled by one pervasive approach: a commitment to collaboration.

TODAY

Sanderson_FletcherBlog_1I write as I embark on my fifth month at IDEO.org’s New York office.  IDEO.org is a non-profit design and innovation organization associated with its celebrated Silicon Valley brother IDEO.  As a Business Designer — a unique role that blends business sensibilities with thoughtful design — I have seen firsthand how collaboration inspires seriously impressive results.  But this isn’t necessarily news to me, as group work is part and parcel of life at The Fletcher School.

Between 2013 and 2015, I spent two years at Fletcher preparing myself for a pivot into the design world.  Unconventional?  Perhaps.  Effective?  Definitely.  I have always had a decent grasp of international development, having studied it at Georgetown University and having worked in the field for nearly a decade.  However, Fletcher offered an opportunity to consider a contemporary approach to problem solving: Human Centered Design (HCD).  HCD is a creative practice that focuses on people rather than process.  The goal of HCD is to research, design, and build solutions, all while maintaining deep empathy for the women and men you’re designing for.

As a Business Designer I look to design solutions that aren’t just beautiful but viable in the emerging markets in Africa and Asia where IDEO.org works.  Life as a Business Designer takes many forms — from conducting user research to considering a market entry strategy for a new social enterprise to building partnerships with local NGOs to ensure programmatic sustainability.  It is exciting, fast-paced, and challenging.

BEFORE FLETCHER

So how did I navigate to this sweet spot between design and development?  My journey started at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC.  CSIS was hands-down the best first job out of college.  I highly recommend spending at least a few years at a DC think tank.  You’ll learn to write.  You’ll participate in incredible events.  You’ll have access to world-class personalities.  And you may even work down the hall from former statesmen Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski (I did!).  Perhaps most importantly, it was through this job I also met my future wife.  We get married in July—and I am positively joyful.

Following two years at CSIS, I sought to tone my quantitative muscles.  Management consulting called.  I spent three years at Deloitte Consulting, working alongside clients from USAID, the State Department, and beyond.  I dedicated my last year at Deloitte to an internal project that examined the intersection of government, the private sector, and this new thing called social entrepreneurship.  I cannot thank Deloitte partner Bill Eggers enough for exposing me to such interesting work.

AT FLETCHER

After five years away from school, I felt the pull.  Fletcher called.  I distinctly remember visiting the Hall of Flags as a high school junior on a college tour with my mom.  I remember being inspired.  How was I to know that ten years later I would be a temporary fixture in the Hall myself, particularly during Social Hour — Fletcher’s weekly gathering of minds and hungry grad school bellies.

At Fletcher, I focused on reconsidering the international development sector, uncovering new, innovative ways to tackle thorny poverty challenges.  I was attracted to courses like Kim Wilson’s Financial Inclusion and Bhaskar Chakravorti’s Strategy & Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business.  I refined my consultative approach in Rusty Tunnard’s Field Studies in Global Consulting — and then served as his teaching assistant during my second year.  And I put theory to practice by spending my Fletcher summer in Nairobi, Kenya at the iHub, a co-working and innovation collective.  While there I wrote my capstone on Nairobi’s tech ecosystem and then taught this capstone to Kim Wilson’s class in 2015.  Both my internship and my capstone propelled me into my current gig as a Business Designer.

AFTER FLETCHER

And so now I’m at IDEO.org.  It’s tough.  It’s dirty.  But it’s oh-so-rewarding.  Last month I spent two weeks in Kakuma, Kenya, a 24-year-old refugee camp with approximately 185,000 residents.  Read that sentence again.  A refugee camp.  A 24-year-old, temporary place of sanctuary.  But nothing is temporary in Kakuma.  It is a permanent city.  Our team touched down in Kakuma to rethink (and frankly, redesign) how refugee teachers access professional development services.  With average class sizes of over 100 students and a serious lack of material resources to support teaching, these refugee teachers are eager for support.

I went to Fletcher to learn how to solve big, hairy problems like those I saw in Kakuma.  I am at IDEO.org to solve them.  However, a lone wolf won’t solve these challenges.  As Paul Bennett said, the smartest person in the room won’t have the solution.  Paul is not alone in this belief.  He has advocates across the world, including in Kakuma.  During our second week in the refugee camp, a teacher suggested that problems in the camp are never resolved alone: “We work as a team.  No one is cleverer.”  From Medford to New York to Kakuma, collaboration appears to be the name of the game.

Sanderson_FletcherBlog_3

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It’s Friday and, having begun my week with newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2010 graduates.  Constantin is a “double Jumbo,” holding two Tufts degrees.  He combined his undergraduate BA with the two-year MALD, reducing his total study time for the two degrees from six years to five.  Few undergraduates have their requirements sufficiently complete to apply to the MALD, and only a few of the applicants are admitted.  I remember meeting Constantin before he even applied and I was very pleased that he agreed to provide a Five-Year Update.

ConstantinHonored to be one of the lucky few “BA-MALD” students at Fletcher, I still remember when I stepped into my first Fletcher class.  Intimidated by my peers, who had accumulated years of experience across an incredible variety of fields, I was also very excited to learn from and grow with them.  And so, for two years, I was fortunate to have fun learning both in the classroom and outside of it.  The students at Fletcher are really its greatest resource: sharp, cross-cultural, filled with fascinating viewpoints and open-minded.  I’m glad I have them as friends today.

Fletcher was a natural step for me at the time.  I was eager to further my studies on the complex web that is international affairs, while also building my academic background on business topics, as I had set my eyes on finance post-grad school — Fletcher was the perfect place to do it.  In the classroom, I focused on International Business Relations and Pacific Asia, while also exploring other topics of interest such as Maritime History and Comparative Legal Systems, and writing a thesis on the rapidly evolving business environment and regulatory framework for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in China.  To further my business studies, I took classes at Harvard Business School, thanks to the cross-registration agreement Fletcher and HBS share.  I also spent time with students and professors pushing ideas to develop a non-profit I had been running for a few years, and attending engaging conferences.  The academic environment at Fletcher was exciting, challenging, and fulfilling, and it left me well prepared for my next challenge.

After Fletcher, I moved to New York and joined UBS Investment Bank, where I helped advise global manufacturing and natural resource businesses on mergers and acquisitions, as well as capital market transactions.  It was great to apply the knowledge I gained at Fletcher.  Professor Jacque’s teachings in accounting and corporate finance were naturally very helpful, while the ability to see the big picture and analyze complex interactions developed in International Relations classes allowed me to add more value while working on deals.  Fletcher also strengthened my comfort working with people from different cultures in different languages.  After a few years in M&A, I started work at Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, in Paris.  The experience here has been phenomenal, analyzing potential investment targets and working alongside portfolio companies to help them grow.

Altogether, my two years at Fletcher were incredibly rewarding, from fantastic relationships, to exceptionally interesting classes, to new skills developed.  I’m proud to be a part of the Fletcher community!

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Reports from the Class of 2015 have started to trickle in.  Today we’ll learn about the path through Fletcher of Thomas Pols, an experienced medical doctor.

A year ago I was putting the final touches on my capstone and was in the midst of my job search while trying to enjoy every moment of my last few weeks in Medford.  After having worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the years before starting Fletcher, I came to the U.S. in August 2013 with my mind set on continuing my career in humanitarian aid.  Never could I have predicted how differently my career would develop instead.

Compared to the clear structure of medical school, the flexible and interdisciplinary Fletcher curriculum was completely new to me.  Choosing from so many different topics to study while still being able to connect all these fields was an amazing experience that, over the course of two years, made me consider taking my career in new directions.  Talking with Professors Scharioth and Wilkinson was a great way to test the ideas that I had for my post-Fletcher life and, with their encouragement, I decided not to go straight back to the humanitarian field after all.

After celebrating our graduation in May 2015, the first order of business of a small group of us newly minted alumni was to travel together through the Caucasus and Central Europe before starting with “real” life.  For me, this meant a post-travel return to my native Netherlands and exploring opportunities here.

Because I wanted to explore many different opportunities, I tried to cast a wide net by doing some freelance consulting work for humanitarian NGOs, while also teaching part-time at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.  Being on the other side of the classroom just months after graduating myself was a great experience.  Focusing primarily on courses covering international relations and international law allowed me to use many of the skills and the knowledge I had gained over the previous two years.  My work at the university also brought me in contact with many interesting people who helped me continue my search for a job that would combine my medical and Fletcher backgrounds.

One of these conversations led to an introduction at Royal Dutch Shell in The Hague, where I was amazed to see how much they appreciated the interdisciplinary education I received at Fletcher.  A complex company such as Shell works in a difficult market, in difficult locations, while continuously under scrutiny; a great challenge for a Fletcher graduate.

After half a dozen meetings, interviews and assessments, I was offered a position as Global Health Advisor.  Never would I have thought that this would be the next step in my career, and I can truly say that Fletcher made it possible.

Today, nearly a year after leaving my friends in Medford, I am back visiting them in Washington, DC (where it seems that our “sixth semester” is in full swing), before I start the next step in my career.  I am actually writing this in DC after finishing Sunday brunch with a group of Fletcher graduates, who shared amazing stories of what they have been up to in the last year.

I won’t try again to predict what I will do in the future because, with a Fletcher degree, it seems any future is possible.

Thomas (second from right) and Fletcher friends in Azerbaijan.

Thomas (second from right) and Fletcher friends in Azerbaijan.

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I started the week with a post from a student, so why not end the week with a graduate from the Class of 2010.  Let’s hear from Beka Feathers, whose post-Fletcher path include a law degree, as well as a new career.

Before Fletcher

Beka Feathers 1Unlike many Fletcher students, I had no prior international work experience before starting at Fletcher.  After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 2006 with a degree in international affairs, I took a position as a policy adviser for the Oregon State Legislature while applying for the U.S. Foreign Service.  I discovered a deep affinity for the work done by state and local government officials to support the everyday lives of Oregonians and to help them achieve their political and economic aspirations.  I maintained my interest in international affairs, and I saw more and more parallels between my work in Oregon state government and the needs of developing and post-conflict countries, where weak or missing governing institutions contribute to political instability, corruption, poor economic growth, and low standards of living.

Fletcher was my first choice throughout my grad school search.  I was drawn by the high caliber of the students as well as the faculty, and the collaborative atmosphere I observed on a visit.  Additionally, I wanted a practitioner-focused school that would help me meld my domestic government experience with my international career aspirations.

During Fletcher

Many students find that the focus of their studies shifts over the course of their time at Fletcher.  I stayed in the same field, but could not have anticipated how much Fletcher would change the trajectory of my professional interests.  I was lucky to end up in two important classes my very first semester: The Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Societies with Professor Louis Aucoin, and Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming with Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church.  These two classes (and many others) helped me find my true passions: working with post-conflict states to develop representative and transparent systems of government, and developing monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure that international governance interventions are having the effect that we hope they will have.

Professor Aucoin was especially influential to my course trajectory, particularly my decision to attend law school after Fletcher.  I was also fortunate to study with Professor Shultz, who taught me to seek the intersection points between “hard” and “human” security issues.  I can’t condense into a blog post how much I learned from my fellow students, who met and exceeded every one of my pre-Fletcher expectations (including introducing me to bhangra!).  Also critical was my summer work with the National Democratic Institute, where I helped to develop a set of benchmarking standards for evaluating democratic legislatures.

Following Fletcher

Beka Feathers 2After graduating, I moved down to DC for three years of law school.  Through a Fletcher friend, I was connected to the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), where I started working in my second year of law school.  I am still with PILPG today, where I have worked with clients in Burma, Georgia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among others.  I currently manage a program focused on transitional justice in Syria, but I have worked with constitution drafting committees, members of parliament, high-level peace negotiation delegations, civil society coalitions, the UN Human Rights Council, and rebel movements.  I use my Fletcher degree in my job on a daily basis.

The education I received at Fletcher allowed me to jump into my work at PILPG at a level of expertise and confidence that put me years ahead of my peers.  The friends I made at Fletcher, and the broader Fletcher community, remain a constant resource for me as well — they are my go-to experts on anything from the rules of procedure for truth commissions to best practices for post-conflict land reform to where to eat on a last-minute trip to Amman.  Beyond all that, the Fletcher ethos is a core part of my identity as a member of the international development community and continues to shape how I perceive the world and my role in it.

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It has been a while since we heard from a member of the Class of 2010.  These are the alumni whom I’ve asked to reflect on their first five years since graduating.  Maria Eugenia’s study at Fletcher enabled her to craft the development career she had first started in her home country of Argentina.

Pre-Fletcher

MariaUnlike many of my Fletcher friends, before attending Fletcher I had never studied or lived outside of Argentina, my home country.  I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and had, what you might call, a fairly “domestic” upbringing.

When I was 21 years old, my older sister won a scholarship to study in Italy.  Visiting her ended up being my excuse to travel around Europe for a couple of months.  I was then finishing my studies in sociology at the University of Buenos Aires and had done development work for grassroots NGOs.  During that trip I met new people, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and heard new languages.  I felt so energized by those differences.  I returned home with the certainty that, whatever development-related work I ended up doing after finishing undergrad (because I knew development was the field I wanted to continue in), it would be work that allowed me to explore and learn from the richness of the world and its peoples.

I arrived at Fletcher several years after that trip, with a BA in sociology, and a couple of years of experience working full time for a second-tier microfinance non-profit organization.

At Fletcher

If I had to use a word to describe my time at Fletcher it would be “intense.”  Everything was new: the way the education system was organized, the people I met, the language I spoke (it was my first time studying in English!).  I learned something new every day, and in every conversation I had.  I made good friends with people who came from countries that I had barely heard of before.

Having a clear focus on the field in which I wanted to work after Fletcher helped me pick my Fields of Study: I focused my studies on Human Security and International Organizations.  Courses like Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Johnstone’s International Organizations, or Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict provided me with the lenses, tools, and critical thinking that I currently use to carry out my everyday tasks.  Doing fieldwork during the summer between the first and second years was also a highlight of my Fletcher experience.  I did an internship at a Bangladeshi NGO, focused on children’s rights.  It was an unpaid internship, but Office of Career Services funding helped me cover my expenses.

Post Fletcher

After Fletcher, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland.  An internship at the International Labour Organization turned into a three-year job working at the Partnerships and Development Cooperation Department.  Eager to learn more about technical cooperation and finance for development, I moved to Washington, DC to join the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Team of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund.  My tasks in both organizations were related to supporting project preparation, from identification (analyzing grant proposals, writing concept notes for management eligibility), to design (developing theories of change, project documents, logical frameworks, budgets), to implementation (writing progress reports, capturing lessons learned).

Mid-2014, I moved back home to Buenos Aires and continued working for these and other organizations as an independent consultant.  I currently coordinate a network of 20+ funders and multilateral organizations working together to generate and share evidence-based knowledge on what works in youth employment.  I also facilitate an NGO Community of Practice in Latin America, implementing youth employment projects.  Working closely with both funders and implementers provides me with a unique insight into funders’ strategic thinking and implementers’ real-life challenges.

Working independently allows me to focus my time and energy on the projects that I like the most, at a particular time in my life when I really want (and need!) flexibility — my first son, Santiago, was born in March 2015.  Having a good skills-set and the right network and credentials has been key to navigating this career change successfully.

Since graduating from Fletcher, I have lived in four countries, worked for two very different international organizations, traveled around 15+ other countries, and fostered friendships all over the world.  I have certainly grown and achieved much more than I could even have thought I would when I first applied to Fletcher, and I am really looking forward to what the next five years will bring!

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