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Just yesterday, I posted a link to a profile of Rizwan, a PhD candidate. And then today, he sent along this fun photo with the explanation below. This strikes me as a great example of an area (nuclear policy) where there’s no specific Field of Study, but nonetheless, there’s a cluster of expertise that enables students to pursue their objectives — true for so many different focus areas. (Plus there’s that special Fletcher family aspect, too.)
Rizwan’s note to me and a few others:
Please find attached a photo of nuclear policy-focused Fletcher students and alumni from across the last 30 years! We are currently gathered in DC for the biannual Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference. From left to right:
Emma Belcher (F04, PhD F10), Director for International Peace and Security at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Chen Kane (PhD F04), Director of the Middle East Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Steve Miller (PhD F88), Director of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School
Mathew Cravens (F18)
Clark Frye (F17)
Rizwan Ladha (F12, PhD F17), Research Fellow at the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School
Wendin Smith (PhD F01), former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, U.S. Department of Defense
Lami Kim (F13, PhD F18), Research Fellow at the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School
Travis Wheeler (F15), Research Associate in the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center
Amanda Moodie (F11), Assistant Research Fellow in the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University
Not pictured, but also attending the conference: Janne Nolan (PhD F83), Research Professor and Chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group at the Elliott School, George Washington University
Fletcher’s communications folks have been writing profiles of PhD candidates throughout this year. In total, there are about 60 students in all phases of the PhD program. Numbers vary significantly year to year, but about 15 are generally here taking courses, and then another dozen are preparing for comprehensive exams. The remainder are writing their dissertation proposals or the dissertation itself, and for those phases they might be on campus, or they might be off wherever their research takes them. Rather than sending you searching for the profiles, I’m going to highlight them here.
Roxani Krystalli: “When I look at who fills key roles within leading organizations working on gender issues, it is often a Fletcher alum. The list of faculty either teaching explicitly on gender issues or incorporating a gender perspective into their courses is ever evolving. I am excited to continue to support the current and future leaders of the Gender Initiative in their endeavors, and look forward to sharing what we learned with peers at other institutions, while also replicating some of our key lessons to reflect on other dimensions of identity, power and inequality within The Fletcher School.” (Long-time blog readers might remember the posts that Roxani (who also goes by Roxanne) wrote while she was in the MALD program.)
Melanie Reed: “I have done consulting work for a number of public and private institutions, including the OECD, Transparency International, the Chr. Michelsen Institute (an international development research group based in Norway), and others. This work helps me stay on top of current trends in the area of anti-corruption. It is important to me that I don’t get so involved in my own research that I miss changes in the international landscape around me. Doing work on the side is challenging in terms of maintaining balance, but it also helps me maintain perspective about where my work fits into the larger picture.”
Rizwan Ladha: “From a very young age, I was interested in global affairs because my parents are from Pakistan and Uganda; they told me so much about their own history and background growing up, as well as their struggles coming to the U.S. My father was a Ugandan political refugee during the 1970s, so I was always aware of the fact that the world is much bigger than Atlanta, where I grew up, and Georgia Tech, where I majored in International Affairs.”
Lami Kim: “As a former practitioner, I believe that tackling complex issues in international politics requires us to look at the many differences of each issue. As my dissertation is highly interdisciplinary (involving the subjects pertaining to the military, security, legal, economy, etc.), I am certain that I chose the best place” to study.
The full profiles, and other news about the PhD program, can all be found here.
Tagged with: PhD
I enjoy hearing stories from students about the moment they learned they were admitted to Fletcher. Today, student blogger Pulkit tells us his story.
At Fletcher, time flies by very quickly. I cannot believe that it has been seven months since I moved from India to the United States. I have learned so much during this time — both academically and generally. My interests at Fletcher have shaped up, but they also continue to evolve. I suppose I have become a little wiser and better at managing my time. But this is only my second semester. There is still so much to be learned, so much to be discovered, and so much to be explored.
It has also been a year since my admissions decision came out. I presume some of you might have received yours recently. I know — it is a time of anxiety and anticipation. I vividly remember this time last year. It was a glorious day that changed my life and I would like to share my admissions outcome story with all of you.
I have shared this story with only a few close friends, but it will always be my quintessential Fletcher moment. It was March 11, and all throughout the day, I was nervously checking the Admissions Blog for any updates regarding the admissions process. Through Jessica’s previous posts I had known that Fletcher would announce decisions on the 11th of March. It had been two months since I filed my application, and my nerves were on edge.
That evening, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Indian Standard Time (IST), as often happens in India, the electricity went off. It was surely going to be an unusual evening for me. In another part of the world that is nine and a half hours behind IST — in the U.S. — admissions decisions still had not been released. With a power back-up, I frantically refreshed my internet browser. In a couple of hours, the power back-up died. At that point I had limited access to the internet, so my frequency of checking for updates gradually declined. The night’s electricity blackout lasted for a good eight hours. At 2:00 a.m., with still no electricity in the neighborhood and no results outcome in sight, I decided to retire for the night. I was at my parents’ house, and they had already gone to sleep.
A half-hour later, as I restlessly tossed and turned in bed, I saw the street light across my room switch on. The electricity was back! I decided to give it another try and check for any updates. I quietly tiptoed into the living room. Without making any noise, I switched on my laptop, opened my inbox, and voilà — there was an email that said there was an update to my admissions application. I quickly logged into my Fletcher application account.
The moment is still very clear in my memory. Call it dramatic, if you may. I opened the link and the first word that I noticed on the letter said, “Congratulations!” Heart pounding, I left my laptop as it was, and without even reading the entire contents of the admissions offer, ran towards my parents’ room. I turned on the lights and loudly woke them up. I hugged them and shared the news. It was such a joyous moment.
From my classes at Fletcher and Harvard, to attending amazing guest lectures and training workshops, to visiting New York and Washington for career trips, to swimming at the Tisch gym, to experiencing and enjoying my first snow storm — a lot has happened since I arrived in August. The coming few weeks in March and April will be even more exciting. I am traveling to Israel on the Fletcher Israel Trek and it will be my first travel to the Middle East. For April, I have five long-form papers and two presentations due for four of my classes.
As the whiteness of this winter turns into yellow and green of the spring, I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. But it all started with the night I learned my admission outcome.
The subject of science and diplomacy has been growing quickly as a focus at Fletcher in the last few years. First, we have been fortunate to add a faculty member, Professor Paul Berkman, who is teaching Science Diplomacy: Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean. Not unrelated, the School has participated several times in the annual Arctic Circle Assembly and, in February, Fletcher hosted a student-led conference on the Arctic. But that’s not all! The Fletcher Science Diplomacy Club (SciDip) has organized participation in a semester’s worth of activities. Here are a few of the highlights.
The Science Diplomacy Club hosted several talks on relevant topics, including:
⇒ Dr. Frances A. Colón, the Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, spoke at the “Fletcher Disrupts: Dusting Off Diplomacy” conference and the club hosted at a lunch-talk for group members.
⇒ Dr. Roman Macaya, Ambassador of Costa-Rica to the U.S., a science diplomacy practitioner and enthusiast, will speak this month about his work and experience.
The SciDip students were fortunate this year to be able to participate in several sessions when the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) held its annual meeting in Boston in February. The meeting’s theme was “Serving Society Through Science Policy.” The group arranged free admission for panels including “Networks of Diasporas in Engineering and Science Forum” and “How do Science, Technology and Engineering Diasporas Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals?” Students also participated in “The Science Diplomacy Education Network” event, hosted by AAAS, designed to “highlight institutional and student-driven approaches to science diplomacy education.”
The final AAAS-related event was a panel dialogue at Fletcher among Science & Technology Advisors to Foreign Ministers. (So interesting!) Here’s a story about a busy weekend that included both this event and the Arctic Conference.
Those are just a few of the SciDip events that have already taken place or are coming up this semester. More broadly, in the Boston area, there is a critical mass of graduate schools and universities that focus on science, diplomacy, policy, or science and diplomacy policy. I expect that this is an area that will continue to grow at Fletcher.
Today I’m happy to share a post from Taji, a first-year MIB student who wanted to contribute to the blog. I enthusiastically agreed! I always like to add an extra student voice, and Taji is writing about a special aspect of his experience — that students from Japan in the Boston area are in good company.
Hi everyone! My name is Daiki Tajima (although most of my friends call me “Taji”) and I am a first-year Master of International Business (MIB) student from Japan. I would like to share my experience as a Japanese student at Fletcher and in the Boston area. Being a Japanese student at Fletcher has been very fruitful for me and I would like more Japanese students to come to Fletcher for their graduate studies.
Let me tell you about my journey to Fletcher. As an undergraduate, I participated in a study tour to Mongolia, which included visits to some orphanages. During a tour, I met an orphan called Bayaraa. He lost his mother to disease and his father couldn’t care for him. None of his relatives took him in and he finally came to the orphanage. I felt angry about this unfairness, but it inspired me to choose international development as my future career. I initially pursued work in the non-profit sector, but then concluded that business can make a bigger impact.
For two years after my graduation from the University of Tokyo, I worked in Tokyo for Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. Then I moved to an Indian consulting firm called Corporate Catalyst India, where I liaised between Japanese clients and Indian staff inside the company. During my three-year stay in India, I was selected as an official coordinator for a Japanese government-related organization, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), where I promoted business matching between Indian SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and Japanese SMEs. Based on those experiences, I decided to study international development through business, and that brought me to the Fletcher MIB program, which is designed like a dual MBA and international affairs degree, a perfect fit for my academic interests.
With more than a semester already passed since I enrolled at Fletcher, I would strongly say that studying here has been even better than I expected. There are several reasons for this, but I will mention three that especially affect Japanese students.
First of all, there are many Japanese students at Fletcher, and they support me in various ways. In 2016, 22 Japanese students entered the Fletcher School with many different backgrounds, including coming from the Japanese government, military, and private companies. During a summer course that helped some new students gain academic skills in English, I had a study group with Japanese students where everyone created presentations to share their backgrounds before coming to Fletcher. It was eye-opening for me to hear the stories of government and military work, since I am from the private sector. During the first semester, I also joined study groups with Japanese students to help us keep up with fast-paced courses. The Japanese students at Fletcher have been so cooperative and hardworking, and we encourage each other to succeed.
Second, there are plenty of opportunities for extracurricular activities specifically focusing on Japan. At Fletcher, there is a Japan Club, which hosts events related to Japan, U.S.-Japan relations, and East Asia. The club also hosts weekly Japanese Tables at Mugar Café, where students gather to speak/learn Japanese or to discuss topics related to Japan.
In addition, for Fletcher’s Asia Night event, many Japanese students, along with Korean, Taiwanese, American, and Palestinian students, performed “Soranbushi,” a Japanese traditional dance. “Soranbushi” is originally a dance for fishermen in the northern part of Japan, and Japanese students not only taught the dance but also the backgrounds of each movement (for example pulling the fish net) of the dance. Further, before the actual performance, there was a video showing the lives of Japanese fishermen, in order to promote cultural understanding. Performing a Japanese traditional dance with different countries’ students was quite an exciting moment and we got a big round of applause after the performance, which made me feel very emotional.
Finally, in the Boston area, there are lots of Japanese restaurants and some grocery stores that offer foods imported from Japan so I don’t miss my home country’s foods. One of my favorite Japanese restaurants is “Yume Wo Katare” at Porter Square, not far from campus, which serves ramen noodles with pork broth soup. “Yume Wo Katare” is a unique restaurant, whose name means “Share Your Dreams.” Customers have the option to stand up and share their dreams with everyone after eating their ramen noodles. I was surprised to see that so many of the restaurant’s customers are American, and many people shared dreams when I went there. I also shared my dream and said, “I would like to contribute to poverty reduction!!” I hope to achieve my dream through classes, student clubs, networking, and other activities at Fletcher.
Being a Japanese student at Fletcher and in the Boston area has been very valuable for me. I am now writing about my experiences at Fletcher in a blog in Japanese. In addition to my own story, I am sharing personal interviews with international students from Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, India and other countries in order to show the diversity of Fletcher’s student body.
Since English is not my mother tongue, writing a blog post in English is quite difficult for me. However, I would like to keep sharing my experiences at Fletcher with English language readers. At the same time, I will also keep providing updates on my Fletcher days in my blog for Japanese readers.
Tagged with: MIB
Sorry for my week-long silence! We’re at one of those points in the year when it’s hard to make time for creative blogging. And that makes it a perfect day to highlight two student initiatives, both of which provide community and personal nourishment.
The first is a lovely little offering from “the Yellow House” (the inhabitants of one of the houses on the perimeter of campus that is rented perennially by Fletcher students). Starting last semester, the Yellow House folks have invited the community for weekly Hot Cocoa Fridays. Warm drinks and friendship are served. An especially relaxing way to close out the week.
And another meal-based activity comes from the Culinary Diplomacy Club. Fletcher Feasts is a series of dinners offered and attended by students, faculty, and staff. The club reports that over 280 people have participated as guests or hosts this year. Hosts are invited to prepare a meal of their choice and to say how many others (between four and ten) they can accommodate. The guests pay a modest fee to cover the costs of the hosts, and the small gatherings ensure conversation. The fifth Fletcher Feast took place last week and another is already on the calendar for March.
Whether through an official organization or some folks’ generosity, student-led events such as these add so much to the community, ensuring connections among students who may not meet in the classroom or other more formal settings. And in the case of Hot Cocoa Fridays or Fletcher Feasts, those who attend get a hot drink or a meal, too!
Tagged with: Community
Coming up next week: A full schedule of discussions of super timely topics. For this fourth annual Innovate Tufts Week, the Fletcher student organizers invite all to join a week of “mindful disruption, as we deconstruct the world’s most pressing challenges, work through tangible solutions, and ultimately arrive at actionable outcomes—innovation in practice.”
Here’s the rundown of the Innovate Tufts: Fletcher Disrupts events, which I have taken directly from the email invitation I received this week. Visitors are welcome and the descriptions include the option to sign up. Note that the venues are close to Fletcher on the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus.
Fletcher Disrupts: The Refugee Crisis
Sunday, February 12, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Cheryl A. Chase Center, Tufts University
This human-centered design workshop, led by Continuum Innovation, will address the state of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people in 2017. Following overviews by guest speakers from six Boston-based refugee organizations, participants will work together in groups to develop creative approaches to tackle varying refugee challenges, receiving feedback from practitioners and refugees as they map out solutions. Sign up here early to ensure your spot in the workshop!
Fletcher Disrupts: Dusting Off Diplomacy
Monday, February 13, 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Breed Memorial Hall, 51 Winthrop Street
This session will highlight innovative approaches to diplomacy, including climate diplomacy, culinary diplomacy, start-up diplomacy, and science diplomacy! Experts from each area will outline the idea behind their disruptive approach and discuss how it succeeds in “dusting off diplomacy.” A pitch idea exchange will follow (sign up here if you’d like to pitch your idea!), enabling demo participants active in the innovation community a chance to present their novel approaches and get on-the-spot expert feedback. Register here to attend.
Fletcher Disrupts: Colombia’s Struggle for Peace (A Case Study)
Wednesday, February 15, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cheryl A. Chase Center, Tufts University
Using recent events in Colombia as a case study, this session will highlight innovative techniques being utilized in Colombia’s peacebuilding process. With expert facilitators, participants will delve into the four-steps of peacebuilding — conflict prevention, management, aftermath, and rebuilding — and learn about innovative peacebuilding techniques Colombia has employed in each stage and where it can move from here. Register here to attend.
Fletcher Disrupts: Networking
Thursday, February 16, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cabot 7th Floor, Tufts University
Join us for networking disrupted—an opportunity to network with speakers and guests from throughout the week, as well as professionals from various sectors working on innovation in their fields. This “world cafe” style event will feature a roundtable setup, with each table covered in butcher paper and supplies in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas and visual tying-together of sessions from throughout the week. Register here to attend.
Tagged with: Conferences
Today I’d like to wrap up the fall semester reports from our first-year Student Stories writers. We’ll hear about Mariya’s semester and, particularly, her experience in the Arts of Communication class.
As I boarded my flight to Washington, DC from Boston Logan International Airport on December 17, I breathed a sigh of relief that my first semester was finally over. But a few moments later, the math major in me realized that a quarter of my entire graduate career was behind me. With this epiphany, I felt both sad and surprised at how quickly time flies. I had been so consumed with my classes, activities, campus lectures, and studying in Ginn Library’s “Hogwarts” room, that how September became December? This I do not remember.
OK, so I know that was kind of corny, but I hope it made for a good sound bite. As I reflect on my classes from the fall semester, Arts of Communication stands out as particularly special, challenging, and rewarding. I must admit, however, that I initially had no intention of taking this course after browsing through Fletcher’s course catalog that brimmed with exciting classes across diverse disciplines, regional studies, and practical skills. I accidentally stumbled upon Arts of Communication during Shopping Day and became intrigued by the syllabus and Professor Mihir Mankad’s pitch. I went back to the ever-stressful task of finalizing my course schedule and scribbled in Wednesday evenings for a full-semester course on how to become an effective communicator.
In Arts of Communication — or AoC for short — we learned by doing. We learned to connect with an audience by practicing logos, pathos, and ethos in our presentations. We recorded ourselves as we learned to face the camera and report from a studio. We practiced job interviews, debated controversial issues, and held press conferences (where I acted as the recently elected Muslim mayor of Chicago). Perhaps most important, we learned through active listening and observing, as well as giving and receiving feedback with humility. We were very fortunate that our class coincided with the U.S. presidential election, which enriched our learning experience. The campaign cycle provided live debates, speeches, and advertisements for us to dissect and analyze.
What made AoC unique among my fall semester courses, however, was the appeal to different emotions and the closeness of the class. I did not expect a graduate course to make me laugh and cry; yet, I found myself chuckling as my peers amused the class with wit, and silently sobbing as they shared personal experiences. Through speeches, debates, videos, and impromptu gigs, AoC continually pushed us out of our comfort zones, yet our common vulnerability and trust in each other bonded us as a community. By the middle of the course, we had become a family that looked after each other and served as a mutual support system.
The course itself was time-consuming and challenging. At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mankad said that becoming a better speaker would require dedication outside of the class. The video assignment, for example, took me hours to complete: in addition to careful coordination of attire, setting, sound and lighting, I edited my clips into a coherent movie. Although I felt frustrated during the process, I am grateful to the patience of my classmate Yutaro, who taught me iMovie software so that I could produce a six-minute Snapchat video. Similarly, the “value speech” was a challenging exercise for me. Modeled on the “This I Believe” project, the purpose of the exercise was to write and share in four minutes a core value that guides our daily lives. I reflected deeply upon my life experiences, went through multiple iterations of speechwriting, and spent days rehearsing my value speech with family, friends, and roommates. I delivered a speech about why one particular conversation with my father made me realize how much I value his support.
Through AoC, we grew as individuals and as a class. We will share the special bond we forged in this course for the rest of our lives, and for that we are truly grateful to Professor Mankad. As, in his past career, he had been a television anchor in India, a consultant for top firms, and a director of a foundation, Professor Mankad brought a depth of experience to the classroom. Moreover, his dedication to all 60 of his students — 30 in the full course, 30 in the module-version of the class — was evident by his accessibility, detailed feedback, and time he spent listening to hundreds of speeches. It is no surprise the course has attracted the highest numbers of cross-registered students at Fletcher. In my conversations with Professor Mankad, he told me that his favorite parts of teaching AoC is getting to know each student’s story, and helping them improve in this important area. To express our gratitude, students organized a flash mob to the tune of a commercial Professor Mankad once performed in, and created a tribute video to surprise him at the semester-end’s celebration.
I am eager to apply the skills I have gained in AoC in all aspects of my life. My first stab of pushing myself as a public speaker was in early December at a forum organized by the Fletcher International Law Students Association, where I presented on the legal aspects of UN Article 2(4), a topic I had become extremely interested in through my International Organizations course.
This semester, I am eager to take a course at Harvard, switch up my extracurricular activities, and participate in the conferences I have been helping to organize. However, I am the most excited about co-leading Fletcher’s first-ever spring break trek to Pakistan (which received over 50 applications!) with my peers Ahmad and Seher. Stay tuned, because my next post will probably be from Islamabad or Lahore, inshallah!
The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School. It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976. It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.
I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum. So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal. I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.
After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process. The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs. It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published. Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations. The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor. Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition. Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum. Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively. The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations. The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total. In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.
The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations. The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits. The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic. The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow. The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. The third cycle involves editing the citations. The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules. Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review. The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes. This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.
The fall semester was busy. My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing. As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy. There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted. During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.
And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum. After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check. The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.
While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership. These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.
Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun. At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff. For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized. I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team. I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.
With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher. Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.
As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it! My first semester of graduate school was done. I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom. I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life. I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs. Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.
Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena. Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle. Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it). Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction. I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development. I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting. This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated. Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.
A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model. Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year. During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing. A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere. More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact. Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing. Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating. Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations. Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.
Orientation came and went, and the fall semester began. I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation. Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector. It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created. Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia. Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context. Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.
Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds. As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models. At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds. Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model. As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors). The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society. This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success. An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government. Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia. Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me. The way I thought about my career developed again. This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing. This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.
Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing. The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there. I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation. Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving. With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted. I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester. Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.
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