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Our next post from the Class of 2009 comes from Jelena Lukic. While at Fletcher, Jelena served as a member of the Admissions Committee, and I remember well how much I enjoyed working with her. I’m so pleased that she agreed to provide an update on her post-Fletcher life.
My journey to Fletcher started while I was working on governance and youth programs in Iraq. As a native of Serbia, prior to Iraq I had spent most of my early career working with civil society organizations in the Balkans on youth leadership and reconciliation issues. Working in a complex environment such as Iraq helped me realize that I needed to augment my degree in psychology with graduate studies in international affairs.
I chose Fletcher because its multidisciplinary and flexible curriculum enabled me to design an educational experience that would strengthen my existing technical skills and, at the same time, build a new set of professional competencies that I needed to make a career change. To marry my background in non-profit work and my growing interest in the role that the private sector can play in fragile environments, I decided to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues during my time at Fletcher.
I chose International Negotiations and Conflict Resolution and International Business Relations as my Fields of Study. The diversity and flexibility of the Fletcher curriculum allowed me to explore a broad range of CSR issues, such as through Prof. Everett’s petroleum industry class and a clean energy course with Prof. Moomaw. Knowing that the CSR efforts of many companies include health initiatives, I took a global health course. I also benefited from the opportunity to take a CSR course at Harvard Business School. In my work, I still use the analytical approaches I learned in the negotiations course with Prof. Babbitt. Appreciating that two years at Fletcher was a precious time to explore personal interests, I took courses on Iran with Prof. Nasr and oceanic history with Prof. Perry.
At the end of the day, it’s not the classes that made my Fletcher experience so special, but the lifelong friendships I developed. Step practice for the Africa Culture Night was a great getaway from number-crunching lessons. Being a student member of the Admissions Committee was one of the best jobs I ever had, and memories of the weekend on Cape Cod during “Dis-Orientation” week still make me laugh.
My Fletcher experiences led me to develop a clear goal to work on community engagement issues in the oil, gas, and mining industries. My thesis, which analyzed why the relationships with local communities are often tense, despite the many investments that oil, gas, and mining companies make in local development, helped me land a job with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group that is devoted to the private sector in developing countries.
At IFC I worked for more than three years as a Social Investment Specialist, helping oil, gas, and mining companies develop strategic community investments to enhance benefits to local communities. I was a member of the team that developed the Financial Valuation Tool for Sustainability Investments, an innovative tool that quantifies the financial return back to the company from community investments, and helps build a business case for investing in local development and communities. I also worked on developing the Water, Mining, and Communities Framework, which guides mining companies in how to effectively address social risk around water and deliver positive development outcomes.
Working at IFC, I strengthened my expertise in social sustainability. As a next career step, I wanted to experience how the public sector tackles sustainability issues. So, for the past two years, I have been working as a Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, focusing on the application of environmental and social standards in investment lending projects.
Despite having an interesting career, I don’t let my job define me. Through a Fletcher classmate, I discovered sailing as a passion in my life. Obtaining a boat-cruising certificate is one of my biggest accomplishments since graduating from Fletcher. And, of course, the Fletcher crowd joins me in annual sailing trips in the Mediterranean.
One of our 2014 graduates, Jennifer Ambrose, contributed a post to WhyDev, a blog she edits that focuses on improving development and international aid. In the post, she answers the question on many of our minds — how we can help Nepal. Her key point:
Do not go volunteer in a crisis. Do not send stuff (pillowcase dresses, ski jackets, stuffed animals, old medical equipment, notebooks, yoga mats…) to a disaster zone. DO donate money! Choose an established professional organization, one that works in disaster response and has experience in Nepal — the likes of CARE, Mercy Corps, the Red Cross or MSF.
Her post includes a Storify, compiling Twitter posts of advice from development experts on how to help. And how not to.
We’re rapidly approaching the one-year post-Fletcher mark for the graduates in the Class of 2014. Today we meet Julia Leis, whose path from pre-Fletcher to her current location involved several countries on three continents. Julia used her time at Fletcher to develop her interests and explore new areas, resulting in the perfect job that weaves everything together.
While working at an agricultural school for Burmese youth in northern Thailand in March 2011, I confronted two major decisions: 1) which career/life path to choose; and 2) whether to return to the U.S. that August. I knew I wanted to continue my education and, while my undergraduate studies at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service had prepared me well in international relations, picking the right graduate program was a challenge.
The decision was complicated because I felt I had too many interests. Urban planning, social enterprise, natural resource management, and public policy all fascinated me, as each area incorporated my previous work experience and passions. In addition to these interests, I knew I wanted a graduate school with an international focus on development. Thanks to mentors and supportive family back home in Chicago — and a Fletcher student, who I found through the Fletcher Admissions Blog and who Skyped with me while I was in Thailand — I found the ideal place, where I would have the flexibility and support to pursue multiple avenues of interest: The Fletcher School.
Now, four years after I considered my future plans, I can happily report that enrolling at Fletcher was the best decision I ever could have made. Not only did I find an incredible group of friends and peers at Fletcher, but I was able to pursue all of my interests in various capacities through courses, by organizing conferences, and in research assistant positions.
The sense of community that I found at Fletcher from the first day was unparalleled. The first weeks of school were both exciting and overwhelming, as I struggled to find the right balance between building off my previous background and exploring new subject areas. By the end of my first year, while I knew I wanted to pursue a career abroad, I did not know in what capacity.
In between my first and my second year at Fletcher, I was able to pursue an internship with Millennium Challenge Corporation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, working on agricultural development, M&E, and land tenure reform projects, which allowed me to broaden my development skill set while working in a French-speaking context.
In my second year at Fletcher, I cross-registered for a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, under Visiting Professor David Sanderson, called Design for Urban Disaster. This course, along with Field Studies in Global Consulting with Prof. Rusty Tunnard, reignited my interests in complex urban issues, resilience, and human-centered design, and I considered more seriously pursuing a career in humanitarian response. With the support of Prof. Tunnard, I also self-designed a Field of Study in international urban planning and development. In January 2014, I joined a graduate school field trip with Prof. Sanderson to Léogâne, Haiti, to conduct a participatory evaluation on transitional shelters.
In preparing for life post-Fletcher, I attended an Office of Career Services information session with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the fall semester of my second year, and I decided to apply to their International Development Fellows Program (IDFP). My interest in the IDFP was further solidified by courses such as Essentials of Humanitarian Action and Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies with Prof. Dyan Mazurana and Prof. Elizabeth Stites.
CRS selects approximately 20 IDFP fellows each year, and places them across CRS country programs in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and Central America. I discovered that at least one Fletcher student had done the IDFP each year prior to me in places such as Haiti, Kenya, and Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza. I was able to connect with these talented alumni, who highlighted what an excellent opportunity the IDFP offered to pursue a humanitarian career abroad, as a majority of fellows will, after nine to ten months, transition to program manager positions within CRS. I knew that the IDFP would allow me the chance to work closely with communities and partners at the local level, and with an organization I deeply respected. I was fortunate to be selected and offered a position with the CRS Philippines country program in early May, and my posting was scheduled to begin in September 2014.
As I graduated in May 2014, I needed to find summer employment to get me through to September. Again, Fletcher provided me and other students with an excellent opportunity to conduct field research related to topics that interested us. I joined my phenomenally talented research partner Anisha Baghudana (MIB ’15) in Nairobi, Kenya as Junior Research Fellows with the Institute for Business in the Global Context and MasterCard Worldwide. We completed a qualitative study on how digital innovation is improving urban mobility in Nairobi. Connecting with Nairobi’s tech and start-up community provided an exciting glimpse into how entrepreneurs are creating solutions to solve some of Nairobi’s biggest urban transport challenges, including traffic congestion, poor road quality, and safety and security for passengers and pedestrians.
In my current position as a CRS fellow in the Philippines, where CRS has been working since 1945, I have worked with exceptionally talented Filipino and international colleagues in Manila, Davao, and Tacloban City. In Eastern Leyte and Samar, CRS is responding with Shelter, WASH, and Livelihoods programming after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the area in November 2013. I’ve supported multiple projects, including an urban disaster risk reduction program called SUCCESS (Strengthening Urban Communities Capacity to Endure Severe Shocks) in Metro Manila, and the December 2014 Typhoon Hagupit emergency response in Eastern Samar. My training from the class on Essentials of Humanitarian Action proved extremely useful and applicable, as I helped with shelter and WASH kit distribution in affected communities, wrote situation reports, and attended coordination meetings with local government agencies and UNOCHA.
Like Hanneke, while I dearly miss my family back in Chicago and my Fletcher family, I never cease to be amazed at how close we remain. Despite being in vastly distant locations now, such as South Sudan, Washington, DC, Uganda, Nepal, Guatemala, and Boston, we support each other in any way we can, especially as the transition after grad school is not always a smooth one. They have supported me through countless Skype calls, and even with a month-long visit to the Philippines. It is this unique network of support that so attracted me to Fletcher in the first place, and I know that it will remain with me for years to come.
Today, let’s meet another graduate from Fletcher’s Class of 2009, Yanina Seltzer.
I was born in Argentina, raised in Costa Rica and finalized my higher education in the United States. From a very early age, I developed a global perspective, especially regarding culture, economic issues, and social realities. I was exposed to harsh economic injustices and social inequalities that sparked my passion for influencing issues surrounding poverty. In college, I focused my studies on politics, economics, and Latin American studies, in line with my upbringing. During this time, I interned at Habitat for Humanity, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
After graduation, I served as an economic analyst at Nathan Associates and as a research analyst at the Inter-American Development Bank. My academic background and professional experience prepared me for Fletcher. It was clear to me that, through my graduate studies, I could maintain my goal of decreasing poverty and inequality by continuing to focus on international development, but also could broaden my regional scope and my understanding of the role of business and the private sector.
When I arrived at The Fletcher School my academic focus was development economics and international business. Yet I also took time for establishing and enjoying community with my peers, which included dancing at nearly every Culture Night. Exploring the business and finance world would bring an important perspective to the work I had already been doing. There were two specific classes, both from my first year, that had a uniquely profound influence on my professional and personal development. The first was Microfinance: Issues and Breakthroughs with Prof. Kim Wilson, which really broadened my understanding of development. I learned that increasing economic opportunities for the poor involves an active role from the private sector, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology as a central catalyst. The second influential class was Prof. Rusty Tunnard’s class in International Consulting. Our project with Sun Microsystems crystallized for me the role that technology plays in poverty alleviation. Creating an engagement strategy for a large technology company in order to bring technology to the Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) merged my previous concepts of finance and technology with the necessary role of social innovation.
I then spent my summer in Rio de Janeiro, interning with Mobile Metrix, a social enterprise that does market research at the BOP. When I returned to Fletcher in the fall, in addition to my Fletcher classes, I cross-registered at the business and medical schools at Harvard. Through those additional classes, I learned how innovative solutions are applied around the world to solve social problems. And as I neared the end of my time at Fletcher, I knew exactly where I would land in the global economics landscape: Financial Inclusion.
After graduating, I completed a summer internship at CGAP/ World Bank. I admired the work of CGAP from afar as a graduate student. It wasn’t long before CGAP asked me to continue beyond my internship experience. My initial focus involved regulatory issues in branchless banking. My work then evolved to market-level analyses and projects centered on mobile-financial services.
In 2011, I relocated to Brazil for nine months, where I spearheaded CGAP’s Brazil strategy in financial inclusion. During this time, I solidified partnerships with some of the largest banks, such as Bradesco and Caixa. I initiated innovative projects with these actors and the private sector, facilitated regulatory discussions with the Central Bank, led workshops with banking associations and Ministries, and interacted with leading stakeholders in financial inclusion. I also led our research agenda, where I got to engage directly with hundreds of low-income customers and understand the reality of their ever-complicated needs and behaviors around financial services.
It was during this time in Brazil that I met hundreds of people living in Rio’s slums, in low-income communities in Sao Paulo, and in peri-urban towns in Recife. This direct interaction gave me long-lasting and unforgettable insights into designing products and services that empowered them and made sense for their lives. In an effort to truly support them in their economic lifestyles, hopes, needs and possibilities, it became clear that face-to-face connection would be the greatest influence in efforts to design inclusive products, services, and experiences.
Two years post-graduation, I was invited to deliver a TEDx talk in my home country of Costa Rica, which was particularly powerful for me. My talk centered on the role of technology in international development and I continue to advocate for that perspective in my current role, which includes leading CGAP’s work-stream in Human-Centered Design and Financial Inclusion and customer-centricity. It came as no surprise that the concepts behind human-centered design center on the influence that direct conversation, observation, and customer-centricity have on innovation. I have been deeply involved with a total of seven financial service providers and several world-class design firms in order to understand low-income customers and better design and deliver products and services to them.
Five years post-Fletcher I remain at CGAP, devoted to topics and concepts that are a true reflection of Fletcher’s nature. My education and my professional experience are the epitome of an interdisciplinary experience: a combination of research methods, creative thought, and business strategy that consistently anchors on the fact that real individuals and communities are the heart of everything we seek to design for and understand. I am recently married and know that my time at Fletcher prepared me for success professionally and personally! Each day, I am full of gratitude for my Fletcher experience and its extended community of alumni and educators.
This has been the post-admissions-decision week when I have felt most overwhelmed by the pace of work, made worse by a busy week at home that left no extra time to extend my work day. Lengthy or detailed blog posts have been one of the casualties.
Today I’m going to share a few sentences that have come my way and that I think capture the nature of Fletcher. The first comes from Ben Mazzotta, a member of the research staff of the Institute for Business in the Global Context who is also a graduate of the MALD and PhD programs, and who is about to embark on a new adventure on assignment for USAID. In a note of farewell, Ben wrote:
It has been a privilege to work here, where so many people genuinely come to work in the morning with the belief that we can solve the world’s problems, and then set about doing exactly that.
For students, this is their school, but for faculty and staff, this is our workplace, and Ben has captured the reason why so many of us have dedicated many years to working here.
The second note also came from an alumnus, in this case one who has gone on to become the ambassador from Pakistan to Japan. After hosting an event for newly admitted students in Tokyo, Ambassador Amil reported back on the brief speech he gave at the event:
My message was that Fletcher has given so much to us in building bridges of understanding and hope, and it is important to maintain that connectivity. I made friends for life there!
We Admissions staffers are proud of the role we play in building the Fletcher student and alumni communities. In a busy week, reading these brief but timely notes reminds us of the impact we hope to have.
Tagged with: Why Fletcher?
One of the more commonly selected Fields of Study at Fletcher is International Environment and Resource Policy, which also has an associated research center. If you plan to pursue environment study at Fletcher, you’ll want to check out the CIERP website, which includes several profiles of alumni working in the field.
If you’re especially interested in the CIERP community, you’ll also want to read about the faculty and staff. It’s worth noting, too, that CIERP hires students for several research positions each fall.
Tagged with: CIERP
Continuing to feature alumni who, last May, marked five years since their graduation, today we meet Jessica Farmer F09. Jessica pays tribute to Prof. Alan Wachman, who was himself a Fletcher grad and whose presence at Fletcher is still missed.
I went to Asia on a backpacking trip with college friends in the early 2000s and was absolutely hooked. The noise, the bustle, the food — there was something electric about this part of the world. I decided if I was going to come back long-term, I had to pick a country where learning the language would make sense for my career. I chose China, and spent a year living in a small village in Hunan.
From this time forward, for me, China’s rise was up close and personal. My village was eventually bulldozed to make way for a high-speed train station. I came to Fletcher to help put it all in context, to understand a bit of the history of this place, to read, to think, to reflect. I had the distinct honor to study under the late Alan Wachman, who I believe was one of the best minds of his generation on Northeast Asia issues. I try, and usually fail, to emulate his meticulous attention to detail, to listen for what is not said but implied. As a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, posted first to Beijing and now Tokyo, his guidance continues to edify me daily. For his tutelage and for Fletcher, I shall always be grateful.
My email exchange recently with Sebastián went beyond learning about his Defying Gender Roles initiative. He also told me about a long-standing tradition for a group of Washington, DC-based Fletcher alums to gather for breakfast every Tuesday. And he sent a photo of the Very Early Breakfast Club, composed of members of the classes of 2012 and 2013, last week at the Flying Fish Café. All of the Very Early Breakfast eaters live in the Mt. Pleasant area. In any neighborhood, DC is thick with Fletcher alums!
This post won’t be typical for the Five-Year Updates. To start, it won’t be written by the featured Class of 2009 graduate. But today is a good day to recognize Amanda Judge F09, who later this afternoon will receive the second Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award. The award ceremony is timed to fall on the Friday before the March 8 International Women’s Day. According to the invitation we received to the event:
Amanda Judge is Founder and CEO of Faire Collection, a fair trade accessories brand that brings economic stability to more than 200 rural artisans in Ecuador and Vietnam. In the seven years since its founding, Faire Collection has grown from just $10,000 in start-up capital to well over $1 million in sales revenue and is committed to providing its artisans with dignified wages and holistic social programs that provide a path out of poverty. Judge, who received her MALD in 2009, developed Faire’s business plan as an independent study at Fletcher. She holds a degree in finance from Santa Clara University and worked in the private sector before launching Faire Collection.
The award was established in 2014 by the Fletcher Board of Advisors and the School’s executive leadership to honor outstanding women graduates who are making a meaningful impact in the world in the private, public, and NGO sectors.
Amanda’s post-Fletcher career certainly deserves to be recognized among those of her peers, with a Five-Year Update. Congratulations, Amanda!
A 2012 grad, Sebastián Molano, with whom I’ve occasionally been in contact over the past two-plus years, recently wrote to tell me about a new project he has started. I’m going to let him introduce it.
In order to contribute to the current struggle for gender equality, last January I created Defying Gender Roles. This is an initiative that seeks to challenge harmful gender roles by creating a space to share thoughts and views about the nuances of being men and women today, and through it we aim to foster and promote diversity.
Last month, we launched our Facebook group and we have over 800 followers. With this group we seek:
- To bring attention to the harmful gender roles that are part of our daily life and to how they affect our ability to be who we want to be.
- To “de-normalize” practices that perpetuate gender inequality and reinforce harmful traditional gender roles.
In this project, I have the support, ideas, and energy of five Fletcher alums: Joya Taft-Dick F11, Megan Rounseville F12, Sean Lyngaas F12, Amos Irwin F12, and Ana García F13.
I was invited recently to give a TEDx Talk at Colby College, where I spoke about what it means to be a man today and the struggle for achieving gender equality. (A link to the talk should be available soon.)
With International Women’s Day coming on Sunday, March 8, I’m happy to be able to point to work that Fletcher grads are doing on behalf of gender equality.
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