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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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One of the Ginn Library research librarians, Ellen McDonald, asked members of the faculty to tell her what they have been reading in this snowy winter.  This is not an assignment for students (current or incoming)!  But if you happen to be curious about what they recommend, feel free to peruse the list.

From that page, you can also click through other Ginn Library resources, which will give you insight into what students consider important in their academic work.

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Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, lecturer in Human Security.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church teaches a series of intensive short-term classes, including Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.

Cheyanne ChurchColleagues sometimes ask me why I stopped working in peacebuilding to be an evaluator.  I respond by asking: how is determining the dynamics of a conflict and its actors, and the ability of an intervention to catalyze change, anything but peacebuilding?  Understanding how change happens in complex conflict and fragile affected states, be it on issues related to corruption, rule of law, or conflict, has been the focus of my career as a practitioner-scholar.  In my opinion, this is the crux of all forms of international development and peacebuilding.

As a practitioner-scholar I purposefully straddle the theory and practice communities.  The issues, challenges, or questions I identify on the ground when working with partners such as the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), or the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) directly feed my research and, by extension, my teaching.  Real cases are always part of class discussions to bring to light the complexity of issues.  In addition, through my organization Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, students have the opportunity to engage in projects that are committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues.

Equally, my academic work influences my practice as it enables me to not only stay current, but to critically assess the potential value of theory against real challenges.  For instance, I am leading a project, funded by the Department of State, that seeks to operationalize new approaches to corruption in the justice sector in conflict affected states.  The impetus for the project came from teaching a course on Corruption and Conflict where it was clear that the proposed solutions in academia were not bounded by the practical realities of the contexts in which these responses need to be implemented.

The courses that I teach at the School are unique in a number of ways, primarily because they emphasize skills development and are offered in a three-part series taught in an intensive format.  Working daily with students who are exclusively committed to the course creates a unique classroom experience characterized by camaraderie and a dedication to understanding how and why change happens.  This camaraderie and engagement often lead to long-term relationships with students.

As a result I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with and learn from the alumni of my classes.  Fletcher alumni now include a growing cadre of professionals who call the discipline of evaluation their profession.  At the 2013 American Evaluation Association conference, over 30 alumni were in attendance in their professional capacity.  They are found working throughout implementing actors and donors in the international community.  I am proud to say they are advancing the practice of evaluation, from which the School in turn benefits, as they act as guest speakers, offer topics for capstones, and establish internships.

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Antonia ChayesLast year, we turned the blog’s focus to members of Fletcher’s faculty.  Kicking off the Faculty Spotlight series for 2015 is Antonia H. Chayes, Professor of Practice of International Politics and Law.  Prof. Chayes currently teaches Civil-Military Relations and International Treaty Behavior: A Perspective on Globalization.  Her post is a timely piece that demonstrates how professors can redirect their research focus when world events require.

The news story about hacking Sony Pictures dominated the holiday news.  North Korea, allegedly, with its vast cyber skills, brought a major corporation to a dead halt, and moreover, exposed its seamier corporate life to a public, always voracious for gossip.  President Obama promised a proportionate response — and put blame on Sony for pulling the picture from theaters after North Korea threatened dire consequences if the picture, a silly spoof on CIA assassination efforts in the hands of bumbling journalists, were released.  Sony, and its independent theaters reconsidered, and a limited theater showing was made, accompanied by widespread home availability.  Then North Korea’s internet went down, and it has suffered short spurts of blackout.  The attribution has remained cloudy, and speculation has abounded, including the notion that a Russian group engineered the original Sony cyber exploitation simply to stir up trouble.

Then come the pundits and analysts — is this cyber-terrorism or cybervandalism?  Should this be considered another step toward cyberwar — part of the spreading inkblot of a grey area that is neither peace nor war?  In fact, this is just a minor episode in an ongoing set of cyberattacks and counterattacks throughout the world.  Banking firms have been hacked; cyber espionage from China has caused the U.S. to indict specific members of China’s military (in absentia, of course) for cybercrimes.  Have we forgotten that Estonia was brought to its knees by a cyberattack by the Russian youth group Nashe in 2007 over the removal of a statute of a Soviet soldier from the central square in Talinn?

The United States has spent billions preparing for cyberwar, yet the government lacks control of its critical infrastructure, which is most likely to be the target of an attack.  85-90% of that infrastructure in the United States and Western Europe is in private hands.  The Department of Homeland Security has been anointed to take charge of private infrastructure, and an Executive Order and a Presidential Directive have been the only means to secure support from the private sector.  Several bills were introduced in Congress to legislate minimum standards for private infrastructure, but these were defeated — even the mildest form of regulation.  Thus private industry is expected to do on a voluntary basis what it managed to defeat as a matter of regulation.  Nor it is clear which agency would run the show in a crisis — civilian or military.  The disparity between the Department of Homeland Security, whose 2015 budget request was $1.5 billion, and the combined Cybercommand and NSA, request of $5.1 billion — is enormous.

Both agencies have engaged in real world simulations, and the results have not been exactly transparent.  Some public reports, whose language is rather bland, suggest room for improvement.  And further, U.S. Supreme Court precedents such as the “Steel Seizure” case under President Truman cast a long shadow, should the U.S. government try to seize control of private infrastructure in a crisis.

The problems posed by the whole range of cyber exploitation, from cybercrime to espionage, up to attacks — are international as well as national.  There has been some progress in the NATO alliance — a Center of Excellence in Talinn, reinforcing broad concern over the attack on Estonia in 2007 and the Cyber Defense Management Board, where political, military, operational and technical staff operate at the working-level.  The Talinn manual fits cyber issues into the vast canvas of international law, and is now under revision.  At the NATO summit in Wales, September 2014, NATO announced an enhanced cyber strategy recognizing that a cyber attack might be as harmful as a conventional attack.  It affirmed that cyber defense “is part of NATO’s core task of self defense.” but added that the decision to intervene would be made on a case-by-case basis.  There is a fairly weak EU directive that urges states to take protective measures.

The Budapest convention addresses cybercrime, but in the context of urging state uniformity.  These measures, admittedly weak, represent a beginning of international cooperative action.  Many regional organizations are at similar stages.

At Fletcher, Professor Martel had been working with a group of faculty and students on several Codes of Conduct — for states, corporations, and individuals — at the request of Lincoln Laboratories.  This kind of work is the essence of Fletcher’s interdisciplinary experience.  We must honor Bill’s memory by continuing the work he so cared about.

A Code of Conduct is not yet regulation — it is a pledge of behavior whose aspiration is to change norms.  For those of us participating in the project, we hope to get widespread adoption and will be seeking foundation funding to do so.  Fletcher’s strength in both international law and cyber studies puts us in a good position to move forward.  And my forthcoming book, Borderless Wars: Civil Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty concludes with a chapter on cyberattacks seeking more robust regulation, stating “Regulation of offensive cyberattacks cannot provide the same level of reassurance that intrusive verification of visible chemical or nuclear weapons production provides.  But the very process of engaging in a widespread international cooperative effort has a deterrent effect, and may reduce, if not eliminate the threat of attack.”

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Bill Martel, 1Fletcher students, alumni, faculty, and staff learned on Monday that Prof. Bill Martel had passed away.  The community has received the news with tremendous collective sadness, reaching out to each other for help in understanding something that seems impossible to understand.

Bill made his mark at Fletcher, especially on the student community, in so many different ways.  He taught and advised a great number of students.  His focus on cyber security drew additional students to consult him on their research.  He joined the annual ski trip for a day of skiing, and he is known to have enjoyed the chili served at the Mugar Café — a typical indicator that he didn’t simply buy his lunch and run.

The Fletcher faculty is loaded with nice people, but in any group of nice people, someone can still be the nicest.  Bill was the nicest.  As he walked through the building, he greeted everyone by name.  If he didn’t recognize someone, he introduced himself.  With his incredible ice-blue eyes, he transmitted kindness and warmth.  He was one of those very rare individuals in the world about whom everyone had something good to say.

Bill was a true friend to the Admissions Office, and we loved working with him.  He served three years as chair of the Committee on Admissions, and created an atmosphere of warmth and respect.  He valued hearing what students and staff members had to say — no claims of faculty privilege for him.  He checked with us to be sure he was doing all he could, and we needed to struggle not to take advantage of his generosity.

Even in this past year, when he was dealing with a serious illness, Bill made a special effort to stay on top of Admissions news.  We would gleefully have welcomed him back to the Admissions Committee, but the dean decided to give him a light committee assignment load (like us, I’m sure, struggling not to take advantage of Bill’s willingness to jump in where he was needed).  When Bill and I exchanged emails in September, we both said we’d look forward to working together again on the Admissions Committee in 2015-16.  I truly meant it.

Unlike those who follow a typical path for a professor, taking a permanent position shortly after completing a PhD, Bill came to Fletcher with a rich teaching background, including a long stint at the Naval War College.  As a result of joining Fletcher relatively late in his career, Bill was granted tenure only last May.  Also in the spring, he was selected to receive the James L. Paddock Teaching Award.  Because of his illness, he couldn’t accept the award in person, but he had his friend and colleague, Prof. Shultz, read his speech of thanks, in which he referred to students as the “center of gravity” at Fletcher, and emphasized the importance of a positive “can-do” attitude.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who is grateful that Bill received these honors at a time when he might most appreciate them.

Bill will be formally remembered here at Fletcher in the spring.  But even outside of formal opportunities for remembrance, Bill will be on the minds, and in the hearts, of all of us who knew him.  Truly the nicest of men.  An inspiration.  And a real friend to the Admissions Office.  We’ll miss him greatly.

Bill Martel classroom


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