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Today I’m happy to report on the latest accomplishment of 2006 MALD graduate Cristiana Paşca Palmer.  I can do so thanks to the outreach of her 2006 classmate Cornelia (Connie) Schneider.

Pasca PalmerFirst, the news.  Cristiana was recently appointed Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Cristiana has a long record of accomplishment in the environment arena, and has been actively engaged in international climate talks.  After receiving her MALD, Cristiana stayed on at Fletcher for her PhD studies (receiving the degree in 2014), during which she had a fellowship with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.

This is the second time I’ve highlighted Cristiana’s accomplishments, both times because Connie, who is very accomplished herself(!), contacted me.  This is such a sweet tradition and finding Connie’s email message in my inbox this morning was a highlight of my day.  I love how alumni cheer for each other, both because such mutual support is wonderful, and also because it reminds me what a special community I am part of.

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If you’ve had your eye on the news about travel technology startups in the Boston area, you’ve already heard of Emily Bernard, a 2013 MALD graduate, who is the co-founder and chief brand officer of PlacePass.com, a travel technology startup based in Cambridge.  Emily describes PlacePass as a “metasearch engine that enables travelers to instantly compare hundreds of tour and activity websites simultaneously,” and says that, with PlacePass, “travelers can find high-quality local experiences in more than 180 destinations, and save money and time by booking online.”  You can read more about PlacePass and the local travel startup scene in the Boston Globe and on BostInno (an online resource for the local tech and startup community).  Today, Emily tells us how Fletcher prepared her for her current work.

Five Ways Fletcher Prepared Me to Be a Travel Entrepreneur

09/30/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - Head-shots of students, faculty, staff, and employers, for the purpose of LinkedIn photo. (Zara Tzanev for Tufts University)

Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask me about my path to PlacePass.  “What inspired you to establish a travel technology startup?”  “How did you decide this was the right opportunity?”  “What gave you the confidence to lead a startup organization?”  These are excellent, welcome questions — and not always easy to answer.

The truth is, like that of many entrepreneurs, my journey to PlacePass has been a winding one.  I’m still discovering how the narrative fits together.  I’m delighted and surprised by the ways my past experiences have aligned to bring me here.  But one thing is for certain: Fletcher is a key part of the story.

There are countless ways in which Fletcher prepared me for PlacePass.  I’ve gathered a few of them here, and am hopeful they will be useful for prospective Fletcher students interested in the wild, wonderful experience of entrepreneurship.

  1. Global Perspective

A global perspective is the hallmark of a Fletcher education.  From the diversity of the student body to the course offerings to international internships, Fletcher is constantly looking outwards.  This perspective has been essential in my role at PlacePass.  Though based in Cambridge, we are a global company, already serving more than 180 destinations.  Our strategic vision must take into account global trends, global tastes, and global risks.  We must consider how our brand and product offerings will be perceived in various markets and in diverse cultural settings.  I feel well-equipped to tackle these tough decisions because of my Fletcher education.

  1. Commitment to Sustainable, Inclusive Business Practices

From the start, my co-founder Ethan and I have been committed to sustainable, inclusive business practices.  We believe the travel industry has a key role to play in building more prosperous communities around the world.  My Fletcher education has given me the inspiration and tools I need to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy that contributes to the community in a meaningful way and sets us up for long-term success.  I’m very proud to share that, for every tour booked on PlacePass, we donate $1 to EGBOK, a non-profit in Cambodia that provides vocational training in hospitality for at-risk youth.  It’s a wonderful partnership and we look forward to expanding this initiative to other countries as PlacePass continues to grow.

  1. Industry Expertise

Fletcher’s highly flexible curriculum gives students the space to explore the industries, topics, and issues of interest to them.  For me, that was travel and hospitality, and during my Fletcher tenure I found many ways to strengthen my expertise in this area.  For example, I spent my summer internship at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO in Paris, where I explored the economic and environmental impacts of World Heritage site designation.  In my thesis, advised by Professor Carolyn Gideon, I evaluated how Brand USA (the U.S. tourism promotion agency) markets our country to international visitors.  For a course on risk management, I studied how Arctic tour companies de-risk their voyages and work to ensure the safety of their passengers while preserving the perception of a high-adrenaline adventure.  In a course on leadership, I studied how managers of the Marriott Islamabad responded to a terrorist attack on the hotel.  And finally, in an entrepreneurship marketing class, I developed a marketing strategy for a culinary travel start-up.

  1. Project Management Capabilities

It’s all about execution for early-stage startups.  Founders must work with limited resources and limited time to bring their idea to fruition.  At PlacePass, that means I’m focused aggressively on good project management.  Whether we’re planning out a marketing campaign or developing a roadmap for the next iteration of our website, it’s essential that we plan and execute well.  At Fletcher I was able to develop very strong project management capabilities through group projects and by completing my thesis.

  1. The Fletcher Network

The strength of Fletcher’s alumni network is unparalleled.  It still amazes me how the Fletcher community comes together to provide answers, questions, connections, ideas, and inspiration.  This has been crucial for me at PlacePass on a number of fronts.  When I face a question or issue I can’t solve internally, I have an entire network of Fletcher colleagues ready to help point me in the right direction.  Traveling for work, I know that there will always be Fletcher friends or Fletcher connections willing to meet me and help me navigate a new city or culture.  Most importantly, my Fletcher classmates provide much-needed personal support as I pursue this venture.  It’s not easy starting a business, and I am grateful for and humbled by the encouragement and enthusiasm my classmates have demonstrated.

Emily and team

The PlacePass team (Emily, with Ethan Hawkes, co-founder, and Jeff Mathew, CTO) testing out virtual reality travel experiences in their Cambridge office.


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A bleary-eyed community filled Fletcher yesterday, having followed U.S. election news late into the night.  And speaking of news, today I’ll share some items that you may have missed on other Fletcher sources.

First, for those who still want to read about politics, Fletcher alumnus and one-time presidential candidate Bill Richardson, F71, offered thoughts pre-election for what should happen post-election.

Among more recent alumni, Erik Iverson, F09, F13, has been selected as one of 16 White House Fellows this year.  Erik was a friend of Admissions during his years here, and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch now-and-then since his graduation.

And, in one of those typically atypical post-Fletcher careers, Marina Pevzner Hennessy, F06, was recently the subject of a Tufts Now story about Plan Bee, her venture to bring bees to Myanmar.

Though he’s not quite an alumnus, Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  President Santos spent a year at Fletcher as a research fellow in the early 1980s.

A new Fletcher scholarship has recently been endowed in the name of Harry Radcliffe, F73, an award-winning journalist with vast experience.

In faculty news, Diana Chigas, F88, has been named the University’s Associate Provost and Senior International Officer.  She will be responsible for engaging leaders across the schools to enhance Tufts’ outreach, impact and visibility internationally.

Retired professor William Moomaw, who maintains his connection with Tufts as co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), recorded “How Restorative Development Can Address Climate Change” with WGBH, one of our local public radio and television stations.  In the interview, he discussed industrial agriculture, synthetic fertilizers and more natural approaches to farming that will revive the health of soil, water and air.

And here are two stories that interested me, and might interest you, though the link is to Tufts University more generally, not to Fletcher.

First, a statue of famed American abolitionist, John Brown, was discovered hidden at Tufts.  Beyond those basic facts is a tale of museum sleuth work and the historical connections between Tufts, its neighbors, and the Underground Railroad.

And second, the story of the creation of the Daily Skimm, by an alumna of the undergraduate program at Tufts.

Last of all, I’ll leave you with the recently-launched video introducing Fletcher to new audiences.  On a personal note, I’ll add only that Kaddu Sebunya, F02, was once a student member of the Admissions Committee.  And that’s what’s best about my job.  I get so much from interacting with folks during this brief pause in their careers.  Then off they go to do great things in whatever area they choose.

 

I always consider myself fortunate when alumni make me aware of their activities.  Today, I’m happy to point you toward a blog post by Kiely Barnard-Webster, a 2015 MALD graduate, who has written on the question of “Are Women Less Corrupt?”  As Kiely notes in her bio, she is “Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar.  Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at The Fletcher School.”

Kiely graduated before we launched our year-old Gender Analysis Field of Study, but the subject has been pursued here for many years.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more alumni heading in that career direction as time goes on, and I’ll look forward to sharing more of their work.

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I was recently emailing back and forth with Atanas, a 2015 graduate, and he told me that Fletcher folk (mostly alumni) in New York would be gathering for a picnic last Saturday.  You can be sure that I didn’t let a moment pass before writing back to ask for a photo.  So here are 20-plus Fletcher people and one dog, gathered in New York’s Bryant Park on a beautiful summer evening, after the other 20-plus people had left (or before they arrived).  40 to 50 picnickers in total!  Go Fletcher-in-NY!

NY picnic

 

PicnicI received a lovely note the other day from Clare, a newly graduated MALD, telling me about the “Left Behind Group,” which she described as “a mix of the graduating class, rising second years, PhD students, and other Fletcher affiliated folk in the area over the summer.”

The Left Behind Group has been gathering weekly for the “Fletcher Picnic Series” organized by Molly, another new alum.  They’ve picnicked in a variety of local spots, both on campus — the roof of Tisch Library — and off — Nathan Tufts Park at nearby Powderhouse Circle, and wanted to spread the word to incoming students.  I was happy to share the details with folks I know are in the area, and I’m equally happy for blog readers to know that the Fletcher community adapts to new circumstances and locations, and always finds a way to come together.

 

I’ve decided to focus much more of my energy on finding Fletcher couples.  My long-term goal will be to have a lovely collection to share on Valentine’s Day.  Shorter term, I’m just delighted to hear from folks whose relationships formed on campus.

Hanneke + AndrewWe first read about Hanneke when she told us how she heard about her admission to Fletcher.  More recently, she reported on her first year post-Fletcher.  And today, I’m so happy to tell you about her wedding last spring to Andrew, a fellow MALD student.  Although Andrew started his Fletcher studies one year after Hanneke, they both graduated in 2014 because she took an extra year to complete a dual degree with The Friedman School.  Hanneke was a multi-year friend of Admissions — volunteer interviewer, member of the Admissions Committee — and one of these students we are sorry to say goodbye to.  But we’ve kept in touch and I couldn’t be happier that she and Andrew (whom I regret I didn’t get to know) met here!

Some details from their story that Hanneke provided:

  • At the April 2012 Admitted Students Open House, Andrew sat in on a student panel.  Hanneke was one of the presenting students.  He mentioned this to her when they re-met in fall 2012.
  • They started dating in fall 2013, during her third year and his second year, largely helped along by time spent together with Fletcher Runners.
  • They got engaged in Johannesburg in 2015 while she was living in Malawi.
  • Their wedding was in Austin, Texas, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  (Note the beautiful wildflowers in their photo.)
  • Fletcher was very well represented at the wedding and on the dance floor.
  • The tie that Andrew and his groomsmen wore is from their classmate Dan’s Corridor NYC clothing line.

Hanneke is currently working with the World Food Programme in their Siem Reap, Cambodia office, as part of the Leland International Hunger Fellows program.  Andrew has been conducting research remotely for a U.S. based organization.  Soon, they will be moving to Phnom Penh, where they will stay for another year.

And here’s the Fletcher contingent.  So many familiar faces — I love Fletcher weddings!

Hanneke + Andrew, Fletcher guests

 

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Fletcher couples are just the best.  I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings.  Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple.  Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program.  Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned.  After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.  Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.

Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story.  The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!

Fumi and Ryota

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Unless an additional report surprises me by popping into my inbox, today we’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2015.  The final word comes from Dallin Van Leuven, whose post-Fletcher job didn’t appear immediately after graduation, but was the right opportunity when it did arrive.

Greetings from Beirut!

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Dallin (far left) with fellow Fletcher students/alumni and other friends while in Washington, DC for an interview. (He reports, “I didn’t get the job.”)

The year following my graduation may have taken me halfway across the world, but it has carried my career a lot further.  Granted, the job search was longer and more difficult than I anticipated, but Fletcher was a big help throughout: from helping me leverage the networking I had done while in Boston to find open positions and get interviews; to receiving (at times last-minute) support from the Office of Career Services on my CV, cover letters, interviews, and salary negotiations; to giving me consultancy opportunities while I looked for the right job (or any relevant position, for that matter).

One perfect example of this support would be the continued mentorship of Professor Dyan Mazurana.  We, along with fellow Fletcher alumna Rachel Gordon, finalized our collaboration on a book chapter, “Analysing the Recruitment and Use of Foreign Men and Women in ISIL through a Gender Perspective,” which was published in February in the book Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond.  Moreover, Professor Mazurana nominated me for a Visiting Fellowship with the Feinstein International Center.  There, we were able to continue working together on an important issue: conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence in African conflicts.  I will forever be grateful for the support Fletcher’s staff and faculty have given me both during and after my time there.

Most of my last year was spent in my home state of Idaho.  It was a great opportunity to be with family and old friends in a beautiful place while I searched for that elusive first post-Fletcher job.  Before starting my MALD, I worked in education in Egypt.  Not long after I arrived, the Arab Spring came to Egypt, and it cemented in me a desire to work in countries experiencing conflict and transition, focused on alleviating the negative effects of conflict.  Fletcher, for me, was the perfect place to make that adjustment in my career’s trajectory.

With luck and perseverance, I finally found it.  After New Year’s, I moved to Lebanon to begin work with Search for Common Ground, the world’s oldest and largest peacebuilding organization.  Here, I work on projects designed to build a stronger civil society and better social relations across dividing lines.  I research conflict drivers and lessons learned from similar projects, sometimes advising on programs in other countries or on the design of future initiatives.  I love it!

As a testament to the reach of Fletcher’s network, I was able to talk with a Fletcher colleague who interned here last summer to figure out if the office really was a place I would want to work.  I’ve been able to “pay it forward” by helping facilitate a new Fletcher student’s interview; she started her internship here last month.  I run into Fletcher alumni all of the time — through work, at social gatherings, and as they pass through Beirut.  In fact, while standing in the visa line during my first arrival to the city, I ran into someone I graduated with who is also living and working here.  The most remarkable of these meetings was definitely with a very successful alumna who is working for peace here in the region.  She beamed at hearing I was a fellow graduate and happily exclaimed, “Fletcher ruined my life!”  Thanks to her experience as a student, she left a successful career in the private sphere to pursue a successful, but more challenging, career in peacebuilding.

While “ruined” probably isn’t the term I would normally use, I can certainly agree with the sentiment.  Thank you, Fletcher, for “ruining” my life and putting me on the path I am on now!

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One of the opportunities I most value about my job is following students from their application phase, through their time at Fletcher, and then on to their post-Fletcher life.  A good example would be my connection with Diane Broinshtein, whom I first met when I was her application interviewer back in August 2012.  Then, after she had started her Fletcher classes, I reached out to her to write for the blog, and she was a trusty friend of Admissions throughout her two years in the MALD program.  Naturally, I’ve asked her to write an update on her first year post-Fletcher.  Those wondering what classes prepared Diane for her current work might want to read her Annotated Curriculum.

It’s hard to believe that a year has just passed since I finished at Fletcher.  In many ways I feel like I never left, and in other other ways Fletcher feels like a lifetime ago.

Diane in TurkeyIn my last post, shortly after I graduated in 2015, I explained that I was joining GRM International as part of their Young Professionals Program.  I moved from Boston to Brisbane, Australia and began my operations rotation.  On my second day of work, the company rebranded itself as Palladium, in order to unite a number of different brands under a new umbrella.  Because the company now included business areas other than those it did when I was first hired, the reorganization provided with me with some new and interesting opportunities.

In January, I moved to our London office to start a rotation with our Strategy Execution Consulting group. While it is not an area I considered working in prior to Fletcher, I felt the diversity of my Fletcher education prepared me perfectly to jump into the team.  In this role I helped bridge the divide between the international development side of the business and the strategy consulting side.  I found myself constantly going back to skills, knowledge, and coursework I learned at Fletcher to assist me whenever I was confronted with a new and challenging task.

My new rotation has taken me to Bristol, UK to join our Environment and Natural Resources team, working specifically on humanitarian projects.  It’s nice to be working again in a sector I know well and that I concentrated on in my studies.  A year out of Fletcher, three cities and three roles later, I have just begun to test the limits of what Fletcher taught me — I find myself using Fletcher in some way each day.

After Bristol, I am not sure where I will end up, but I know for certain that wherever it is, there will be a Fletcher network to support me.  Being part of the alumni community has been a wonderful experience.  In Brisbane I managed to squeeze in two visits from Fletcher friends, one who was working in Canberra and another working in Papua New Guinea.  But when I moved to London, I was even more connected.  London is a place where people are always passing through, so there were many Fletcher catch-ups over dinner.  I’m already trying to encourage fellow Fletcher grads to visit me in Bristol, but if they don’t come to me, I’ll see them when I travel in Europe.

Diane London

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