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One of the most robust of the sub-communities within the broader Fletcher community is that of returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs).  They’re also a social bunch, and they organize themselves each year for activities.  To that end, students are invited to indicate where they completed their Peace Corps experience.  Here’s the list for this year.

Albania
Azerbaijan
Benin
Cambodia
Cameroon
China
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Ghana
Guinea
Indonesia
Kosovo
Liberia
Macedonia
Madagascar
Morocco
Namibia
Nepal
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Rwanda
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Swaziland
Tanzania
Thailand
Ukraine

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The final new Student Stories introduction comes from Akshobh, who started the MALD program in September after a journalism career.  Akshobh is a regular presence in the Admissions Office, conducting interviews for us each Friday.

In front of the Singapore skyline in my last week in the city state.

Leaving Singapore was excruciatingly hard!

I grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), India and moved to Singapore fresh out of journalism school, knowing few people and precious little about the city state.

It then became home for seven amazing years, in two different journalism jobs, first with ESPN STAR Sports, and then as a business news reporter and producer with Channel NewsAsia (part of MediaCorp) the largest PAN-Asian English news broadcast channel in the region.

I often say that my career in journalism was a serendipitous affair.

The final 18 selected from India – I am third from the right in the second row.

I inadvertently stumbled into the auditions of ESPN STAR’s nationwide hunt for a presenter — through a show called Dream Job.  The winner of the program would be offered a one-year contract as a sports presenter.  I was short-listed in the final 18 among 100,000 applicants.  As one of the final 18, I would go through several televised rounds of high-level sports quizzes and debates, conduct mock interviews, and host mock sports bulletins in front of an elite panel of judges.  Each episode was broadcast on the network’s leading channel and beamed right into the homes of people across India.

Through the show, I realized I wanted to get into broadcast journalism and applied to journalism school.  One of the internships I pursued was with the same host network — my boss happened to be one of the judges who had seen me on the show and he offered me an internship in Singapore.  On completing a two-month internship, I was offered a full-time job for after my final semester in journalism school.

Interviewing Feon Ang, Vice President of LinkedIn, Singapore.

After a few years with a sports broadcast network, I segued to working for Channel NewsAsia as a business news reporter and producer.

I covered news pertaining to Singapore’s economy, and interviewed economists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers across a gamut of industries.  I soon realized that I was fortunate to meet, and get these fantastic perspectives, from industry leaders; however I myself would also need to develop these skills and build on domain expertise.  The most conventional option was to look at business school after a few years of working, but I was more passionate about geopolitics, foreign policy, and diplomacy.

As a business reporter in Singapore, I saw the intersection between geopolitics and macroeconomic events.  Decisions made by governments affected economies and the private sector.  Hence I realized that a program at Fletcher would provide the best of both worlds.  Like all prospective students, I cast my net wide, applying to a host of business and international affairs school.  But the acceptance from Fletcher made all the difference.  Not only was Fletcher the first to accept me, but the outreach from the Admissions Office, current students, and alumni was so welcoming and hospitable.  My visit to campus as an admit sealed the deal.  I understood just why Fletcher epitomizes community.

Me on the left, interviewing a tour guide in the city of Mumbai, India.

This was back in 2016, however a sudden family emergency — the prospect of applying for my permanent residence in Singapore — weighed down on my decision to start in fall of 2016.  The only viable option was to request an unlikely deferral.  And to my surprise back then, the Admissions Office understood my predicament and ensured that I was able to defer my admission to 2017.

Staying on for another year in Singapore provided by far my most fulfilling professional year.  I moved to a new team at work, where I got to do longer and more in-depth business stories and travel to India to report on a country special episode.

At TEDx NTU in Singapore in October 2016.

In addition to my work, I was invited last year to give a TEDx talk at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore on journalism and was fortunate to moderate high-level panel discussions on media, technology, millennial employees, and smart cities across a range of events.

Then of course, the time came to be “shipping up to Boston.”  Having lived for seven years on the equator, the only weather change I was used to was between rain or no rain.  Moving from the tropical warmth of Southeast Asia to the blistering blizzards of New England was going to be a challenge.  But if anything, the warmth of the Fletcher community will be enough to fight off any New England cold.

For me, I refrain from referring to “grad school” since I feel it homogenizes Fletcher with all other grad schools.  Fletcher epitomizes diversity, like no other.  The diversity isn’t just in terms of nationalities represented (though, the Hall of Flags shows that).  The diversity at Fletcher is in terms of backgrounds, thought processes, and interests.

From human rights, to climate change, to gender studies, to energy, to diplomacy, to security studies, to understanding private sector merger & acquisition deals, there is truly something for everyone at Fletcher.  I feel positively overwhelmed with how much there is going on here.

Within my first few weeks, I was already co-chair of the ASEAN Club, taking up roles at Tech@Fletcher, a member of the Fletcher Political Risk Group, getting involved with the Murrow Center’s first televised bulletin, an Admissions ambassador, and interviewing experts for the Fletcher Security Review.

With Lord Michael Dobbs, Fletcher Alum and Author of House of Cards.

There is no normal day at Fletcher, although some days would include lunch and a political communications workshop with one of Fletcher’s finest alums — Lord Michael Dobbs, followed by a special guest lecture in class from a four-star general talking about national security decisions.

Fletcher’s biggest asset is truly its community.  From Fletcher’s Annual Faculty and Staff Waits On You Dinner, where faculty and staff don aprons and scurry along, carrying dishes to serve their students, to Fletcher Feasts, where students are randomly assigned to a host to break bread (sometimes literally) in the comfort of a home-cooked meal hosted by one of their own classmates, to when a professor opens up his house to students for a lazy Saturday afternoon picnic.  Or the creativity of students at Fletcher to come up with an open-mic night for the melodic voices, the amateur guitarists, and even for intimate poems and stories.

One of my best memories pertaining to Fletcher reflects the community, and came before I enrolled.  I met with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, F76, in Singapore, an Indian parliamentarian, former UN Diplomat and author — one of Fletcher’s best-known alumni.  As busy as he is, he simply said that when a Fletcher connection reaches out, he makes time for them.  That’s the meaning of community!

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We’ve already met two of our new Student Stories writers, Kaitlyn and Gary, and today Prianka introduces herself.  She is the first regular Admissions Blogger in the LLM program!

Hello!  Namaste!  Sawadika!  Salaam alaikum!  Bonjour!  Konnichiwa!  Ni Hao!  Hola!  Guten tag!  Ola!  Merhaba!  Shalom!

A peek into the Fletcher world – a melting pot of cultures, languages, and much more!  From me personally:  Namaskara, vanakkam, or namaste!

Prianka, second from right, with Fletcher friends at a Red Sox baseball game.

To introduce myself, I am from India and I’m enrolled in the Master’s in Law program at Fletcher.  A question that I have found difficult to answer since coming to Fletcher is exactly where in India I am from.  I was brought up in Bangalore, spent five years in law school in Jodhpur, and after that a little more than four years working in Delhi.  While Bangalore is always home, Delhi is my home away from home.

One of the goals that I set for myself at Fletcher was to challenge myself and to sign up for new experiences.  Contributing to the Admissions Blog would be one of the new experiences that I am quite excited about.

Before Fletcher, I worked in the field of international trade at Ernst & Young and thereafter a law firm, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan.  As a lawyer working in the international trade team in both organizations, I worked primarily on trade remedy investigations.  I was advising companies across the globe and the government of India on trade remedy matters.  International trade was an area that interested me in law school and I gradually developed an affinity for it during my professional career.  A couple of years into my work, I realized that getting a holistic understanding of this area of law was important for me, in order to fill the gaps in the experience that I had gained working in the field.

That need led me to apply to the LLM program at Fletcher.  The run-up to deciding whether or not I was ready to take the plunge of going back to school was quite daunting.  Was I ready to take a break for a year professionally, not have a paycheck come in at the end of the month, and make my first journey towards the west?  Two months into my Fletcher journey and I’ve had no reasons to doubt my decision.

The courses have definitely been challenging on many levels and I realize that they have exposed me to areas and aspects that I never considered would be part of my journey.  An interesting facet of the Fletcher program is that, though I’m in the LLM program, all my classes are with students from the other programs as well.  So even when I’m in a law course, my peers are not necessarily lawyers, but rather, come from diverse backgrounds.  Naturally, therefore, discussions haven’t focused only on the letter of the law, but also the other aspects that influence the law, such as politics, economics, and social context.  That being said, every now and then I do find myself pining to argue about the difference between a “may” and “shall” or between a “probable,” “possible,” or “plausible” in a legal provision!

Over the next few blog entries, I hope to be able to give someone looking to understand Fletcher a bird’s eye view into the LLM program through my journey.  However, I believe that a disclaimer would be important — as with any journey, there are many paths to the destination, and my path is just one of the routes!

If the last two months were anything to go by, I’m certain that the rest of the year at Fletcher is going to be intellectually stimulating.  As a person who has a fondness for lists, I hope to cross off all my academic goals by the end of this journey.  On a more personal note, I have a bucket list of sorts that I consider as important.  It varies from buying a lottery ticket that the Boston billboards depict as having a high probability of success (and something that’s banned in most Indian states); to building a snowman, since this is going to be the first time that I’ll be in sub-freezing temperatures; to going to a baseball game and knowing more than “1, 2, 3 strikes, you’re out.”  I have been told it’s a peculiar list, but for me it seems quite normal, considering I’m an international student.

I look forward to sharing, and to reporting on my endeavors in making headway on my bucket list!

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I never post as much as I should about the fabulous work done by the student editors of The Fletcher Forum.  Partly compensating for my recent lapse, I’m going to share the list of articles I recently received in a Forum newsletter.  Note that, “Founded in 1975, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is the student-managed foreign policy journal at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  The publication provides a broad, interdisciplinary platform for analysis of legal, political, economic, environmental, and diplomatic issues in international affairs.”  And you can follow the Forum on Twitter.  Happy reading!

The highlights:

An Interview with Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry, F90, talks about the challenges of Pakistan’s engagement with the U.S. and Afghanistan and his time at Fletcher when the Berlin Wall was coming down.

Debunking Three Myths about Libya’s Civil War

Libya expert Jalel Harchaoui discusses some common misconceptions about Libya’s civil war.

An Interview with Scott McDonald, CEO, Oliver Wyman

Read as Scott McDonald, CEO of Oliver Wyman, talks about when it’s appropriate for businesses to take up a political mantle.

State Department Reorganization: Little to Show, Much to Worry About

“Staff reductions at the State Dept appear to be connected to the White House dictated goal of a 30% budget cut, but no specific logic has been described and the number appears disconnected from the unfinished reform effort.”  Ronald E. Neumann expounds here.

An Interview with Paul Lambert: Understanding the Importance of Religious Literacy

What does religious literacy mean in a business context?  Fletcher alum Paul Lambert helps us unpack this complex topic and understand the importance of religious literacy.

Additional articles:

Challenges in Global Leadership by Adm. James Stavridis, USN (ret.)

Trump’s Misunderstanding of the U.S.-Japan Alliance by Pamela Kennedy

Honing a BS Detector, Fostering Bilateral Ties: The Life of an Honorary Consul General, Krista Bard

Colombia’s Peace Deal: Rocky Road to Implementation as Targeted Killings Persist by Laura Cuéllar

Blockchain For Government by Jennifer Brody

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In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond.  Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met. 

How did you meet at Fletcher?

From the Haymond photo album: Dusadee Haymond in front of Fletcher Field during her student days, with Fletcher buildings in the background

Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there.  The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time.  She was already a diplomat for Thailand.  She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors.  A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.

We dated the summer after my first year.  Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year.  We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts.  There was no email.  Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.

Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai!  But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year.  Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989.  For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters.  Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.

PH:  Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.

Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.

Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?

PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa.  The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger.  When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco.  So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation.  It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.

When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long.  And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.

DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD.  So I set the condition for getting married.

From the Hayden photo album: Peter and Dusadee Haymond (side-by-side on the right) with fellow Fletcher students.

Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?

DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English.  I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.

PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot.  Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.

What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?

PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes.  Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history.  For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning.  I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.

DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history.  I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite!  For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.

Any final words?

DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.

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If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service.  Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate).  The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.

It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere.  This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages.  I’d like to share the story of two of them.

During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand.  As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum.  My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally.  One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee.  She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher.  I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand.  It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher!  I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.”  Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”

I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed.  One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound.  In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).

Q:  Tell me a little about your backgrounds.

Dusadee Haymond:  I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy.  My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north.  I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.

Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing.  We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine.  I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University.  My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.

What was your path to Fletcher?

PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service.  They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai.  Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations.  I was interested in something international.  I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer.  The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston.  He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west.  I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.

DH: I always wanted to study in America.  But my family comes from middle class.  Both my parents worked for the government.  So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams.  I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship.  In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.

What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?

PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development.  I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people.  For me, it’s been a great bargain.

DH: Destiny.  Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university.  I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?”  I took it and passed it.  Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny.  I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes.  I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.

Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years.  I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long.  We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision.  So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>

PH: We had a big decision to make.  We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry.  Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side.  That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.

Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?

DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO).  It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you.  But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc.  And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do.  But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive.  The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses.  My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse.  I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own.  I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea.  One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education.  I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia.  Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.”  No questions asked.

Can you tell me more about your writing?

DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write.  So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.”  I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing.  I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment.  When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time.  The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”

I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.

Was interracial marriage difficult?

DH: It was tough at the beginning.  During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand.  A lot of them married Thai wives.  Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated.  When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself.  Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians.  Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man.  Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him.  And Pete has proved himself.  They’re all very proud of him.

PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.

How many languages do you speak?

PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]

DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin.  My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities.  I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group.  I  took it as a compliment!  But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.

Where have you served?

PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand.  My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos.  It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos.  I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside.  We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems.  It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?

PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open.  You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it.  But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.

The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world.  Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world.  In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill.  For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.

Depends on what your stomach is for risk.  I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own.  The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure.  I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.

DH:  If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit.  Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment.  Foreign Service is a family decision.  It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.

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The second of the new Student Stories bloggers is Gary, who started the PhD program in September.  Today he shares the long road that he took to Fletcher.

My path to Fletcher started in 2012.  I was living in the Denver, Colorado area and I’d just completed a two-year stint on the Olmsted Scholar Program, studying for a master’s degree and living in Taiwan with my family.   It was time to pick my next big “stretch” goal.  After doing some research, I discovered that one lucky Marine Corps officer per year was assigned to a fellowship at The Fletcher School.  From the Fletcher website, it looked like a dream come true – immersed in international affairs, surrounded by students from all corners of the globe, making connections and building relationships.  How could I make it happen?  I knew that because of my rank and career timing, it would be a few years before I would be eligible for the fellowship, but in the meantime, I wanted to fill any gaps in my resume to make myself as competitive as possible.  Reflecting back now, this sounds a lot like the advice that Fletcher’s Office of Career Services has provided to all the first-years as we navigate the excellent Professional Development Program, designed to prepare us for post-Fletcher careers just as we begin our studies here.

I reached out to that year’s Fletcher Marine Corps fellow to ask how I could maximize my competitiveness for the fellowship.  He wrote back almost right away — his advice was just to keep on doing what I was doing.  And make sure to rank Fletcher at the top of my list when it came time to complete my “dream sheet” ranking of schools and fellowships available for majors, the next military rank higher than mine at the time.  While I was happy to have received a response so quickly, I was a little disappointed with the answer — was there really nothing I could do to prepare as I waited several years to become eligible?

In the summer of 2016, I had been promoted to the appropriate rank and it was time, at last, to fill out my “dream sheet.”  Of all the excellent options, I ranked Fletcher #1, just as I had earlier been told to do.  In the meantime, I had completed an additional master’s degree and been published in a few outlets to maximize my competitiveness.  I put some thought into a rationale for why I should be chosen over all the other majors in the Marine Corps for this opportunity, wrote it up to accompany my dream sheet, and hit send.  More waiting ensued.

The news came through in December 2016.  I was in Okinawa, Japan, near the end of a three-year assignment.  I logged into my email early one morning, and there they were, the results of the selection board – I was going to Fletcher!  Later, I would be told that because of Fletcher’s foreign language proficiency requirement, the officer selected for the fellowship was the first one picked from the entire cohort of several hundred officers.

After the elation of being selected for Fletcher had subsided a bit, I analyzed the situation.  Of course, I still needed to apply and gain admission.  Typically, the Marine officer at Fletcher pursues the one-year mid-career MA degree program, which is ideal for obtaining a great master’s degree while keeping officers close to their normal military career track.  This was the path taken by the Marine Corps’ most famous Fletcher alum, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and things turned out well for him!  However, coming into the fellowship I already had two master’s degrees and had recently begun looking for a way to get started on a PhD.  I knew that Fletcher had a great PhD program, but by the time I received notice from the Marine Corps, the application deadline had already passed.  I reached out to the Admissions team, and they agreed to allow me to submit a late PhD application.  I turned my focus to producing a quality application and submitted it as soon as I could.  I’d already been waiting years for this opportunity, but I would have to wait a little longer for the results.  No matter what happened, I was bound to have a positive outcome: in either the MA or PhD program, I would be at Fletcher the following fall.

When the admissions result came back in March 2017, my unit was in the midst of a major theater military exercise involving many foreign partners in Japan and Korea.  I had to read the notice a couple times to make sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me.  Every time I looked at the letter, it still said the same thing: I had been admitted to the PhD program!  I excitedly told my boss, who relayed the news to our organization’s commanding general and, during the busy ongoing exercise, I soon had a brief meeting with Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, who congratulated me in person and told me to do great things, study hard, and make the Corps proud.

Now, as what I believe to be the first active-duty U.S. Marine Corps officer in Fletcher’s PhD program, I continue to work to define the administrative parameters associated with the opportunity.  As I mentioned earlier, Marines typically get only one year at Fletcher — not enough time to make much headway on a PhD.  But I was pleased by the flexibility and openness I found as I worked with key Marine Corps stakeholders.  To my delight, all parties reached an agreement allowing me to have a second year at Fletcher.  During the two years, I should be able to complete the three semesters of coursework required for external PhD admits and the written and oral comprehensive exams in my two concentration areas (International Security Studies and Pacific Asia), and defend a dissertation proposal — ambitious but not impossible to achieve, if planned and executed properly.

Unlike most other students writing on the Fletcher Admissions Blog, as a career military officer with over 18 years of service, I also come to Fletcher with my family, a wife and two sons.  We’ve greatly enjoyed the few months we’ve had in the Boston area since moving here in July and are looking forward to taking advantage of the diverse range of opportunities and activities in our home community of Arlington and in the surrounding towns, cities, and states.  One simple thing we enjoyed over the summer was easy access to great biking on the Minuteman Bikeway.  Now fall’s brilliant foliage and crisp, cool morning air is a great treat that we haven’t always been able to enjoy as we have moved between Hawaii, California, Taiwan, Colorado, Japan, and now Massachusetts.

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As promised yesterday, four new students are joining the Admissions Blog to share their Fletcher stories.  First up is Kaitlyn, who traveled a path from Massachusetts to New York to three other countries, only to find her international affairs home back in Massachusetts.

Hi all!  My name’s Kaitlyn, I’m a MALD student and I’m really excited to share the next two years of my Fletcher journey with you.

I’m a local: I was born and raised in Sandwich on Cape Cod, and have been all over Massachusetts and New England.  This might shock you, but winter here is my favorite season.  (I’ve even gone winter camping!)  All that home-town savvy has come in handy when my peers want advice about where to visit, and how to survive the winter.  (Pro Tip: cotton is rotten.  Fleece and polyester are your best friends.)

Prior to Fletcher, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Writing from Ithaca College in New York, where it is is even snowier than Massachusetts.  At Ithaca, I came to the conclusion that while I loved writing, I wanted to find something important to do with it.  My search for that purpose led me to a minor in International Communications and an internship with a London politician.  As a result, I fell completely in love with international affairs as a junior in college – too late to change my major.

Fletcher was an easy choice.  My earlier pivot towards international affairs was more difficult.  After graduating from Ithaca, I felt unsatisfied with my job options, but with a bachelor’s degree in a subject that was decidedly not related to international affairs, I wasn’t sure  if I should commit to the career change.  I needed time and space to think it over.  So I spent a year teaching English in the Czech Republic and France, and then completed a year of service with AmeriCorps right here in “Beantown.”  Both were instrumental in my decision to study at Fletcher.

In Europe, I was immersed in cultures and languages with which I was wholly unfamiliar.  It was my first time arranging my own travel and visas.  More importantly though, it was 2015.  I planned my trip to the Czech Republic while listening to the BBC, day-by-day, documenting the Greek economic crisis, and I began teaching there at the height of the migrant crisis (about which my Czech students had a very different opinion than me).  Witnessing Europe’s migrant crisis through that lens affected me greatly and left me considering what I could study that would allow me to help people caught in migrant situations, which I could see the existing system was not equipped to deal with.  It meant that, by the end of that winter, the question I was asking myself was not: “Is international affairs right for me?”  Instead it was: “What program?” And: “What do I need?”

As I was researching master’s programs, I began a year of service with AmeriCorps, which exposed me to the stark realities faced by minorities and migrants in my own country.  The demographics of the Boston charter school where AmeriCorps placed me were half students who hadn’t succeeded in the public school system, and half who didn’t have the English level to matriculate into an American high school.  I once again had students who didn’t share my cultural or, often, language background.  And I had students who were refugees, or ought to have been.  It was a crash-course in cross-cultural relationship building and a sobering learning experience on the hardships faced by people driven out of their homes by poverty, violence, or disaster.  I hadn’t needed to travel to a different continent to learn about the realities of human migration, or how the current international system lets people fall through the cracks.  There was a whole microcosm of people with first-hand experience sitting in my Intro to English class, right at home in Massachusetts.

Human migration wasn’t the only thing closer to home than I thought.  When I found Fletcher, it didn’t take long for it to stand out as my first choice.  I was excited by the flexible curriculum and the Human Security field, and (contrary to most of my peers) even more excited by the prospect of another New England winter.  Fletcher seemed perfect.  And there it was – a 20 minute drive away.

I’ve been a student for a little over two months now, and it more than exceeds my expectations.  I’m in my favorite kind of place — a community of people with a wealth of diverse experiences.  I feel very fortunate that I get to learn with and from them everyday.

At Fletcher, I live in Blakeley Hall, an on-campus housing option specifically for Fletcher students.  It was a blessing coming out of AmeriCorps (a volunteer job) to skip the stress of searching for an affordable apartment.  And everyone here appreciates that Blakeley is a two-minute walk from class.  I love living with this vibrant slice of the whole Fletcher community — even if sharing a kitchen is a daily exercise in negotiation and patience.  Yes, the bedrooms are small, but I’m not in my room enough to notice.  I’m at events, or workshops, or splitting a table in the library’s “Harry Potter room” with my friends, while we study and appreciate our mutual obsession – coffee from the red machine outside the library door.

So here I am: done with mid-terms, and midway through the first course in the Human Security field.  I’m familiarizing myself with Turabian style citations and working a few hours a week with the Tufts Literacy Corps.  I also spent two weekends last month in a mediation certification program.  There are some challenges: I am still trying to improve my time management so I can fit in more clubs and events, and winter is coming a lot slower than I want.  One thing’s clear though – with my B.A. in writing, I feel right at home here.

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It’s always a pleasure for me to get to know students through their writing for the Admissions Blog, and in that spirit, I’m delighted to introduce four new bloggers for this year.  Joining Adi, Mariya, and Pulkit are Akshobh, Gary, Kaitlyn, and Prianka.  Like many of our past bloggers, Akshobh and Kaitlyn are students in the MALD program.  They’ll be writing throughout their two-year experience at Fletcher.  Prianka is the blog’s first LLM writer!  She’ll be at Fletcher for only one year, but she’ll provide a welcome glimpse into LLM life.  And Gary is a new student in the PhD program, and the first who will write consistently about his experience.  Students can enter the PhD program after completing the MALD or MIB, or they can apply after completing a master’s degree at another university.  Gary took the latter route.  We know he’ll be on campus for two years, and I hope he’ll be able to make time for the Admissions Blog throughout both years, but we’ll figure it out as we go.

All of the blog’s writers are volunteers who applied for the opportunity.  Many of our interactions consist of me reminding them over and over to submit a post, followed by them reminding me to publish what they’ve given me.  (They have the better excuse, but I do struggle sometimes to be systematic in my posting.)  They’ve been given assignments and deadlines, but within that structure, I want them to tell the story that best reflects their experience.  Flexibility to build around a core structure is a key aspect of many dimensions of the Fletcher experience.

The first of the posts from our new bloggers will appear tomorrow.  While you’re waiting, feel free to peruse past writing.  The Table of Contents I provided earlier this semester will help you figure out who’s who.

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It has been a pleasure to share the reports from students who participated in the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik last month.  The final report comes from Kevin, who is in the LLM program.

Over a long weekend in October, Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program led a 37-person contingent to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Hosted by a non-profit and non-partisan organization based in Reykjavik, the assembly brings together an interdisciplinary network of representatives from government, academia, NGOs, and indigenous communities to discuss development of the Arctic and its global relevance.  For students honing the skills required to address complex problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective, the Arctic Circle Assembly offered a robust opportunity to learn about issues that will demand growing international attention in coming years.

Kevin (far right), Harris, and Katrina (whose report appeared on the blog last week).

While the conference agenda included a broad range of topics, as an American attorney with a Navy background, I found three to be particularly compelling.  Each illustrates the multi-disciplinary nature of emerging issues: (i) East Asian Engagement in the Arctic, (ii) Legal Uncertainties in a Changing Environment, and (iii) The Role of the U.S. Coast Guard in the Arctic.

East Asian Engagement in the Arctic.  Diplomatic representatives from China, Japan, and South Korea spoke during plenary meetings of the Arctic Circle Assembly, taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss their nations’ respective records of Arctic engagement and cooperation.  The representatives emphasized their nations’ contributions to Arctic scientific research, while referencing their desire for an increased role in Arctic governance.  The Chinese and Japanese representatives also specifically addressed opportunities for shared economic development.  Taken together, the statements illustrated the geopolitical implications of opening Arctic sea lanes and prospective resource development in the central Arctic.

Legal Uncertainties in a Changing Environment.  A number of speakers present for the Arctic Circle Assembly addressed implications of a changing Arctic environment for relevant legal regimes, from application of environmental protections under the Endangered Species Act in Alaska to unresolved questions associated with the United States’ voluntary exclusion from the UNCLOS regime and development of its continental shelf.  Senior representatives from Iceland, Russia, and the United States also discussed questions related to fisheries management and migrating fish populations, a topic with significant implications for both domestic economies and international relations.

The Role of the United States Coast Guard in the Arctic.  On the second day of the assembly, the Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Michel, spoke to the combined delegation from The Fletcher School and Harvard Kennedy School.  In a wide-ranging conversation, Admiral Michel discussed the size and significance of the United States icebreaking fleet, the Coast Guard’s support for scientific research in the Arctic, as well as the unique role the Coast Guard plays in building and maintaining relationships in the maritime domain.

On the whole, the Arctic Circle Assembly presented a vibrant opportunity to learn about matters of interest from people of differing experience and perspective, many of them at the forefront of their disciplines.  It also proved an opportunity to build relationships with counterparts both from Fletcher and around the world.  And, perks being what they are, many of us from the Fletcher contingent capped off the assembly with a drive over the Continental Rift.  On the whole, a productive weekend!

(Kevin notes that the statements in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, or any of their components.)

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