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I’m coming to the end of the oh-so-optional summer reading list.  Here’s this week’s installment.

Prof. Papa, F03, F10 (a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program) wrote, “This is a super-exciting time for sustainable development and global governance because of major geopolitical and environmental challenges, which we will cover in my course Sustainable Development Diplomacy.  Two brand new books can put students on the frontiers of the current debates:  Want, Waste or War? The Global Resource Nexus and the Struggle for Land, Energy, Food, Water and Minerals, by Philip Andrews-Speed, Raimund Bleischwitz, Tim Boersma, Corey Johnson, Geoffrey Kemp, and Stacy D. VanDeveer Routledge; and The BRICS and the Future of Global Order, by Oliver Stuenkel.”

For Fletcher’s Processes of International Negotiation course, Prof. Babbitt suggests the classic, Getting to Yes.

Prof. Trachtman, accepting my invitation to make us aware of professors’ own writing, points us to his The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue and Win, which he wrote based on his teaching experience and believes will be “excellent preparation for law courses.”

Prof. Lavdas also pointed us toward a book that he co-authored, the timely Stateness and Sovereign Debt: Greece in the European-Conundrum.

Finally, Prof. Mankad recommends Resonate by Nancy Duarte, as well as This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Womenby Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.

It’s Monday, so it must be time for another set of book suggestions from Fletcher faculty members.

From Prof. Conley-Zilkic at the World Peace FoundationRegarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag; The Garden of Evening Mists: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide, by Tan Twan Eng; and The Blood Telegram, by Gary Bass.  With her focus on mass atrocities, Prof. Conley-Zilkic’s suggestions will always be meaningful, but also unsettling.

Prof. Everett wrote, “I would like to suggest The Prize by Daniel Yergin, which is a great read and will introduce students to the long historical connection between the oil industry and geopolitics.”

Prof. Hannum, one of the law professors who provided their picks, suggested The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day, by David J. Hand.

And Prof. Klein notes, “For background reading, I would suggest Alan Blinder’s book on the financial and economic crisis, After the Music Stopped.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I arrived at Fletcher this morning, I was greeted by a crowd of students eating breakfast before one of the few official events of this week leading up to graduation.  Now they’re receiving instructions outside, with further details on Sunday’s sequence of events.

Last week and this, I’ve tried to catch up with students to say goodbye.  On Sunday, I’ll see a few more, and I hope I’ll meet some family members.  It is a little sad that students with whom I had frequent contact, or who may just have been out there adding to the buzz, will no longer be part of my daily life.  But that’s how it’s supposed to happen, and they’re going on to great things.

John PerryMeanwhile, there’s another very significant goodbye in front of us.  John Curtis Perry, Henry Willard Denison Professor of Japanese Diplomacy, who has taught at Fletcher since 1980, will be delivering a farewell lecture to mark his formal retirement.  Early in my Fletcher career, my office was right near Prof. Perry’s, giving me a chance to get to know him and chat often.  I don’t see him as much these days, but we did exchange emails after students labeled him “legendarily awesome” last fall.

In anticipation of Prof. Perry’s lecture this afternoon, a first-year student, Jack, wrote a letter to honor him.  Jack wrote:

The Fletcher School stands unique among graduate programs because of its maritime studies program. Prof. John Curtis Perry is largely responsible for this program’s success and its mission to reawaken our awareness of oceanic nations’ connection — social, economic, and cultural — to the sea.  On the eve of Prof. Perry’s retirement, I wanted to offer a short reflection and thank you.

As a member of the Fletcher faculty, Prof. Perry united students in his maritime courses for thirty five years.  Recognizing Prof. Perry’s scholarship and contributions to Japanese-American relations, the Japanese government awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure.  His insistence on quality made all of his lectures shine like his eyes, with brilliant intensity.

In addition to his exceptional kindness, Prof. Perry has long personified the pursuit of wisdom.  By bringing our class out of the classroom, he reminded us of the wider world beyond Fletcher.  We took excursions to the granite piers of New Gloucester, the Boston MFA’s maritime collection, and even to the private library in his own home.  One thing I’ve learned from Prof. Perry is that the mind must be exposed to the elements.

Such learning is an active thing, requiring the energy that Prof. Perry embodies, bounding down Fletcher’s staircases, wearing blazing red Nikes with academic regalia, and occasionally injecting profanity to keep lectures interesting!

While Prof. Perry may be retiring, his students have now become teachers.  Both Prof. Toshi Yoshihara and Prof. Rocky Weitz carry on the oceanic tradition at Fletcher in their distinct ways.

It has been an honor to have joined the ranks of Prof. Perry’s maritime students.  From one pupil amidst a sea of students, friends, and colleagues, thank you Prof. Perry for your ideas, wit, and example.  Fair winds and following seas!

 

Catching up with an event from earlier this month, I’m happy to be able to share links to results and findings from Lean Lab, co-hosted by Fletcher, the Feinstein International Center, and MIT’s D-Lab.  The Lean Lab was a gathering that grew out of Lean Research to discuss a rigorous, relevant, ethical approach to research in vulnerable settings.  Key players in Lean Lab include Prof. Kim Wilson, as well as our old blog friend, Roxanne Krystalli.  Roxanne shared these links with the community:

  • Key insights from the day can be browsed here.
  • A draft of the Lean Research working paper, as well as a framework of questions to ask ourselves when designing and implementing field research, are available halfway down the page here.
  • Follow @Lean_Research on Twitter for more.

Besides Prof. Wilson and Roxanne, another Fletcher graduate Rachel Gordon F12, worked on the implementation of the event, as did several current Fletcher students.

 

Continuing this spring’s installment of the Faculty Spotlight series, today we hear from Prof. Ayesha Jalal, who holds a dual appointment between Fletcher and the Tufts University History Department, and is the Mary Richardson Professor of History.  Prof. Jalal is spending the year teaching in Lahore, Pakistan, but when on campus she teaches Contemporary South Asia, and Islam and the West.

Ayesha JalalMisconceptions about history abound and one result has been a growing dissonance between the historian’s perspective and the more presentist views generally favored by policy makers.  Teaching “Contemporary South Asia” and “Islam and the West” at the Fletcher School enables me to interact with a diverse group of students with varied interests, ranging from development, security studies, conflict resolution, international business, and South West Asia.

Several of the Fletcher students I have taught have gone on to assume positions in the policy-making hierarchy as well the non-governmental sector.  A better understanding of history, and appreciation of the value of the historical method in particular, can help navigate the often confused and confusing nature of politics in our troubled world.

Fletcher’s vibrant international community of students, scholars, and practitioners is a perfect setting to discuss the complex issues that are bedeviling the contemporary world, whether the presence of Al-Qaeda in the tribal badlands of north western Pakistan; the specter of chaos symbolized by the rise of ISIS; or the persistence of poverty, discrimination and abject deprivation in a nuclearized South Asia.

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There is so much going on at Fletcher these days that I can hardly highlight every event, but my good pal, Prof. Leila Fawaz has recently published a new book and it’s such a useful historical perspective on current events that I want to bring to readers’ attention her talk tomorrow.  Here’s the announcement.  If you’re visiting Fletcher, I hope you’ll attend.

Please join the Ginn library as we welcome

Leila Fawaz

to discuss her new book

A Land of Aching Hearts:  the Middle East in the Great War

Friday, April 3rd, 2015, 2:30– 4:00pm

Ginn Library Reading Room

With introductory remarks from Prof. Jeswald Salacuse 

Refreshments will be served and a book-signing reception will follow in the Fares Center.

The Great War transformed the Middle East, bringing to an end four hundred years of Ottoman rule in Arab lands, while giving rise to the Middle East as we know it today.  A century later, the experiences of ordinary men and women during those calamitous years have faded from memory.  A Land of Aching Hearts traverses ethnic, class, and national borders to recover the personal stories of the civilians and soldiers who endured this cataclysmic event.

 Leila Tarazi Fawaz is Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University.

 

The next in our series of Faculty Spotlight posts comes from Steven Block.  Prof. Block currently teaches Development Economics: Macroeconomic Perspectives, Agriculture and Rural Development in Developing Countries, and Political Economy of Reform, Growth, and Equity.  It was also announced today that Prof. Block will serve as Academic Dean in 2015-2016.

Steven BlockMy interest in economics came initially from outside the field.  During my senior year in college, I took a class on the politics of hunger.  I found the topic compelling, and after graduating volunteered at Oxfam America.  A year later, I stumbled into a class on the “economics of the world food system” and I was swept away by the realization that the dry and seemingly counterintuitive theories that filled my introduction to economics curriculum could actually be applied to analyze and propose solutions to a real-world problem that mattered.  My professor in that class would later become my PhD thesis advisor, and we still collaborate on research over thirty years later.

I hope that my own teaching at Fletcher has the same effect on my students.  In my class on food policy and agricultural development, I try to demonstrate the value of applied economic theory as a tool to understand the complex and emotionally vexing issue of world hunger.  The topics that I cover in that class include the design of policy interventions to protect nutritionally vulnerable consumers, as well as interventions to generate income for smallholder farmers.  These challenges are magnified by the recognition that consumers and producers of food often have conflicting interests (that is, producers prefer high food prices, while consumers prefer low food prices).  Resolving such conflicting interests among groups in society inevitably leads to issues of political economy – another core focus of my teaching and research.

These topics also motivate much of my academic research.  In recent years (often in collaboration with colleagues at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy), I’ve investigated the measurement and determinants of agricultural productivity in Africa, the roles of maternal education and economic growth on child nutritional status, and the politics of agricultural trade policy in Africa.

My broader interest in development economics stemmed from my initial interest in hunger issues.  Needless to say, hunger has its roots in poverty.  But the relationship between poverty and hunger is complex, with causality running in both directions at once.  I’m particularly interested in the potential for agricultural development to contribute to the broader process of economic development.  Thus, core topics in my development economics class include poverty, equity, and the effect of economic growth on both.  Since poverty in developing countries is disproportionately rural, development strategies that include agriculture have the potential to generate “pro-poor” growth.

While I take every opportunity in class to demonstrate the uses of economic theory in addressing these issues, I also stress the need for interdisciplinary approaches.  Towards that end, I teach a class on the political economy of growth and equity in developing countries.  Part of the motivation for the class is the recognition that while economic models can prescribe the “right” answers to policy challenges, politicians often make other choices — frequently to the detriment of a majority of their own citizens.  In this class, we explore various paradigms that seek to explain the too frequent observation of politicians sacrificing social welfare for political survival.

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