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Let’s continue hearing from our newly-minted Fletcher alumni.  Today, Adi will give us his reflections on his two years in the Master of International Business program.  From his first post to his last, Adi’s entries on the blog have described a thoughtful process of evolution.

With the passing of Commencement, I can now officially call myself a Master of International Business.  It has been two years full of learning, exploration, and struggles.  It has also been two years full of friendships, group dynamics, and interactions with experts, which have helped me tremendously to grow as a professional and individual.  Now that my Fletcher journey is over, and as I embark on the next step in my career, the one question I ask myself is “Did I achieve everything I wanted to achieve when I decided to enroll at Fletcher?”  I thought it would be an interesting exercise to reflect on this question.

With classmates before Class Day

I came to Fletcher having worked in fundraising and corporate engagement at a healthcare-focused non-profit.  I wanted to explore new ways the private sector can be involved in development and social impact, beyond the traditional CSR funding allocation that corporations typically put towards social activities.  At Fletcher, I was introduced to the idea of impact investing as a method to allocate much needed capital in social development and grassroots innovation.  Even beyond impact investing as seed or growth capital, in these two years I also learned about ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing, both as an exclusive strategy and as a portfolio diversification option.  At this point, I am very interested in pursuing impact investing as a career, if not immediately after Fletcher, then in the near future.  In this sense, I did achieve what I wanted coming into Fletcher.

At the same time, I realize that for me to truly understand the value of impact investing, I have to have strong knowledge and experience in investment itself.  Impact investing is still very much a niche market, with many questioning the financial return such investment will be able to generate.  If I do not understand how to generate financial returns through investment activities, I will not be able to grow the field of impact investing.  Following two years at Fletcher, I have a lingering sense that I could have done more to improve my knowledge on investment management, either through my choice of summer internship, the classes I took at Fletcher, or even cross-registration opportunities at other schools.  All of these thoughts crossed my mind at different point as graduation loomed near.

But now that graduation is in the past and I actually have time to reflect, I realize there’s no use overthinking things I cannot change.  What I can do now is move forward and build upon my past decisions.  I have skills, background, and knowledge to leverage into a career in investment management, or even in impact investing right away.  I need to give credit to the things that I have done, and not worry about what I haven’t.  With greater perspective on my two-year journey at Fletcher, I’m better able to value the activities and experiences that will contribute to a career in investment management and/or impact investing.

So I would say that I did achieve what I sought from my graduate education, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as planned.  In fact, I’m glad my two years at Fletcher did not go according to expectation — that’s the beauty of graduate school, and places like Fletcher.  It can be a place to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge that you know you need and want, in order to be a better professional and individual.  But it can also be so much more.  It’s a place to explore and try out new fields and activities, some that you never thought you would engage in.  Many of the things that may not seem connected to your planned studies and career may still end up enriching your experience and shaping your perspective.  So thanks for the two years, Fletcher!  It’s been a great ride.

The Class of 2018 MIB graduates

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It’s hard to believe that two academic years have passed since I met Mariya after she had volunteered to join our team of Student Stories writers.  Her first post, which already described a busy student, was a hint of the highly involved member of the community she would become.  Today, Mariya shares her thoughts following her graduation.

Dear Readers, today I write to you as an alumna of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy!  On Sunday May 20, I walked across the stage, shook Dean Stavridis’s hand, and received my diploma, officially marking the end of my two years at Fletcher.  I delayed writing this post because I did not want to confront this reality.

Graduation Day was overwhelming.  Like a metaphor for how I was feeling, the cloudy, overcast weather slowly morphed into a sunny, clear day.  I was teary-eyed during the morning champagne breakfast when my peers gave toasts and recalled fun memories.  A few short hours later, I felt electrified by the energy of my classmates as, per tradition, we screamed the loudest during the campus-wide Tufts Commencement on the Jumbo Quad every time Fletcher was called.  As the sun shone brighter and it became humid under the tent, my excitement grew.  Following the advice of distinguished alumna Masha Gordon, F98, who spoke on Class Day, I tried to take it all in and enjoy the moment.  In between hugs and kisses, flowers and balloons, pictures and videos, I soaked up the last precious moments we had together as a class.

If I am being honest, it feels surreal to call myself an alumna.  It feels like yesterday I posed in front of the Fletcher placard and walked into the Hall of Flags for the first day of orientation.  A few days ago, I struck the same pose, except this time in a black gown.  Looking at both photos side by side, I cannot believe how much I have transformed over the past two years.

Fletcher will always be special to me for a number of reasons.  It is not only an academic institution where I gained training, education, and skills, but also a home where my friends are like my family.  It is not only a school that provided me with numerous opportunities, but also a space where I grew as an individual and leader.  As I leave Fletcher, I walk away not only with my diploma but a treasure trove of stories, memories, and experiences that profoundly impacted me.  This journey, of course, would not have been possible without first and foremost the Pickering and Hedges Scholarships, my family who made numerous sacrifices so I could continue to study stress-free, professors who challenged and encouraged me, and friends who cheered me up.

When I woke up on the morning after Commencement, it felt strange to have nothing scheduled on my calendar; no classes, no group meetings, no Social Hours, no lectures from prominent guests.  I imagine this feeling of incredulousness will stay until I physically fly out of Boston to start the next chapter of my life.  Fletcher, readers, you’ve been good to me.  Until next time!

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In the last weeks of the semester, our Student Stories bloggers started wrapping up their posts for the year.  Akshobh traveled to Israel and Palestine with a group of students over the March Spring Break, and he sent me this report.  (Further spring semester posts will be appearing throughout the rest of May and June.)

When it comes to travel, let me facetiously say that I can classify people in two distinct categories.  There are those who travel and then there are those who stay at home, watching the travel channel.

I was definitely in the former bucket.  Since 2010, I had made myself a promise — every year I would visit one place that I hadn’t seen before.  And sure enough, my itchy feet and desire to see the world ensured that promise stayed on course.

Taking a hiatus from the working world and investing your time and money in graduate school creates a lot of challenges, one of them being limited ability to pamper yourself with a fancy holiday.  Fortunately, one of the many alluring aspects of coming to Fletcher are student-led treks.  This past spring break, one had an eclectic mix to choose from: traveling to Russia (on an official Fletcher trip), or on student-led treks to Mexico, or to the Middle East, to visit Israel and Palestine.

The Israel and Palestine trek is the longest running student-led trek at Fletcher, and visiting these regions epitomized why I came to Fletcher in the first place — to get an in-depth understanding of the protracted saga and try and comprehend the viable diplomatic solutions that may exist.  But equally important, it was a treat for history aficionados to tour sites of mythological and archaeological importance.  Visiting Israel was definitely an item to check off the bucket list and, with all needed caveats regarding visas and immigration queries, we found ourselves driving to the holy city of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv airport.  Our tour leaders featured two second-year and two first-year students, a Fletcher PhD graduate now working with the Israeli Government, and our British tour guide, Samuel, who has spent the last seven years in Israel and had hosted three previous Fletcher groups.

Our tour of Israel began in the old city of Jerusalem, a revered place with some of the holiest sites for the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  Jerusalem has been one of history’s greatest players and it attracts devotees and tourists alike.

In addition to the sacred sites, there are also the souks (traditional Arabic market places) adorned with handicrafts and souvenirs and selling spices that will satiate both your palate and your tourism appetite.

A visit to the holy city would have been incomplete without going to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Remembrance Center) and hearing first-hand from a Holocaust survivor gave us goosebumps.

You wouldn’t get a fair perspective on relations between Israel and Palestine if you visited only Israel and heard only the Israeli perspective.  On the second day of our visit, we crossed East Jerusalem (the predominantly Arab part of the city) to Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

Amal Jadou, F09, speaking to us about Israel-Palestine issues.

Our first stop was the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where we met Amal Jadou, who is currently the Assistant Minister on European Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To add to her impressive credentials and role, she is also a 2009 Fletcher PhD graduate.  After briefing us on geopolitical affairs pertaining to Israel and Palestine, she fondly reminisced about her Fletcher classmates and her time at Blakeley Hall, and even asked us to pass on her regards to Professor Babbitt and Professor Schultz.

Geopolitics of the region were an important part of our visit to Palestine, but we were especially impressed later in the day when we met social entrepreneurs who, despite the hardships in the region, had created dynamic startups leveraging technology and employing local youth.  Their goal was to add a new chapter to the Palestine story.

During our weeklong excursion, we traversed the Israeli countryside so much that we saw the borders with three of Israel’s four neighbors, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (but not Egypt).  My personal favorite was being on the banks of the Jordan river, so nonchalantly separating Israel and Jordan.

On the banks of the Jordan River. The people behind me in Jordan, while I remain on the Israeli side of the border.

Our trek was far from being only about serious discourse on Middle Eastern issues.  While we heard from a range of speakers — from the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli parliamentarians to Palestinian entrepreneurs and government officials to humanitarian aid workers — our trip included the quintessential tourist experience as well.

From floating in the saline waters of the Dead Sea, to driving all-terrain vehicles in the Golan Heights, having a desert party on the Israel-Jordan border, gorging on the various renditions of Israeli hummus, savoring shakshuka, sipping from one of Israel’s finest vineyards, experiencing Tel Aviv nightlife, or just dancing to Israeli music on the bus while driving through the countryside, it’s fair to say that nearly fifty of us “broke bread” (sometimes literally, with hummus) in the finest fashion.

Apart from satiating my appetite with gastronomic delights, this trip also greatly satisfied my intellectual curiosity to travel to a region I had read so much about but never had the chance to experience.

A beautiful windy day with the Tel Aviv skyline behind me.

Even Fletcher’s finest courses on the Middle East couldn’t provide the same holistic perspective without a visit to the region.  As a former journalist, I can say that sometimes the political headlines and op-eds don’t tell you the complete story.  It’s having conversations with the people, experiencing the history, witnessing the culture, and gorging on the smorgasbord of Middle Eastern delicacies that paints a much clearer picture.

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Although only three of this year’s Student Stories writers are second-year students, a total of four will graduate on Sunday.  Prianka has completed the requirements for the one-year LLM program and will join Adi, Mariya, and Pulkit at Commencement.  Here is Prianka’s Annotated Curriculum for her year at Fletcher.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys, New Delhi, India
Consultant, Ernst & Young LLP, New Delhi, India

Capstone Topic
Enforceability of Transparency Requriements Relating to Trade Remedy Measures

Curriculum Overview

LLM students are required to complete five credits within the International Law and Organization (ILO) division, one from Diplomacy, History and Politics (DHP), and one from Economics and International Business (EIB).  The course requirements are definitely a lot more straightforward than they are for the MALD or MIB program, but it is a rigorous nine months completing eight classes and a capstone.

Semester One

Public International Law
Actors in Global Governance
Legal and Institutional Aspects of International Trade
Process of International Negotiation
Microeconomics (audit)

A challenge in selecting your courses as an LLM student is being fairly certain in the first semester of the courses that you will take in the next semester, too.  Particularly for EIB and ILO, a number of the courses require an introductory course as a prerequisite, meaning that you either take the introductory course in the fall semester with the aim of taking the higher-level course in the spring semester, or you won’t be able to take the higher-level course at all.  With that in mind, I audited an introductory course in economics to be able to take a higher-level course in the spring semester.  Auditing the class also helped me understand whether I would be able to handle the higher-level course.

International law and international trade were two areas of law that I was keen on studying coming into Fletcher.  The course on global governance was a good mix of international relations and law, which was important for me as I had not taken an international relations course during my undergraduate degree.  Looking back, the first semester was definitely a good initiation to being back in school.  I was also involved with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs as their Legal Staff Editor.

Semester Two

International Treaty Behavior: A Perspective on Globalization
International Investment Law
International Trade and Investment
International Intellectual Property (January term at Harvard Law School)

The second semester was definitely a lot more challenging than my first.  Added to the academic rigor, the fact that the temperature dipped to -18 degrees Celsius (converting it to Fahrenheit makes it seem warmer in my head) made it hard to get out of bed on most mornings!

My second semester started a bit early as I took a January term course on intellectual property at the Harvard Law School.  Two main reasons for taking the course were, first, to reduce my course load during the rest of semester, as the January term starts and ends before the spring semester begins.  Second, the professor who taught the course at Harvard was a well-renowned expert in the field.

International Trade and Investment was my first economics class in over six years, but I’m happy to report that I have officially gotten over my phobia of economics!  Just as my law classes at Fletcher have brought in aspects from other fields, International Trade and Investment was a course on economics against the backdrop of law and policy.

An interesting aspect of the other two law courses that I took in the second semester, was that simulations were part of the curriculum.  In the course on International Investment Law, the class was divided into teams to negotiate an investment treaty.  Similarly, in the course on International Treaty Behavior, we had a simulation in which students were given roles as various countries and organizations with the aim of negotiating a treaty.  This definitely brought an interesting perspective to both classes.

In addition to continuing my role as an editor at The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, I was the team leader for a project with the Harvard Law and International Development Society.  With completing the capstone and coming to terms with the fact that I would soon be done with grad school, it was definitely a jam-packed semester.

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Continuing to shine a light on the academic experiences of our graduating Student Stories writers, today we’ll look at Mariya‘s Annotated Curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I worked as business analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston (two years) and taught English in Antalya, Turkey through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (one year).

Fields of Study
International Security Studies
International Business Relations
Global Maritime Affairs (self-designed)

Capstone Topic
Destruction of Cultural Property During Armed Conflict in Bosnia & Armenia

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
U.S. Foreign Service

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

The Role of Force in International Politics
International Organizations
Petroleum in the Global Economy
The Arts of Communication
EPIIC Colloquium

Activities:
Fletcher Islamic Society; Fletcher Students of Color & Allies; Fletcher Arctic; Improv Group

Directly before coming to Fletcher, I was teaching English at a Turkish University.  Being in a school setting made my transition to graduate school easier, but I grossly underestimated the rigor of the Fletcher curriculum.  In fact, I was not sure what to expect and I certainly did not know what to study, given my wide interests.  My conversation with Mary Dulatre, F12, the friendly Fletcher Registrar and alumna, gave me comfort.  She helped me decide on two of Fletcher’s most popular classes, the Role of Force (RoF) taught by Professor Richard Shultz and International Organizations (IO) taught by Professor Ian Johnstone, which gave me a foundational introduction to international relations and international law, respectively.  As the core requirement for International Security Studies, RoF piqued my interest in the security field and pushed me to seek Professor Shultz as my thesis advisor.  Petroleum in the Global Economy helped me understand the important role of oil in world affairs while the Arts of Communication sharpened my public speaking skills.  As an ambitious first-year, I also decided to take the EPIIC Colloquium course offered by the Institute of Global Leadership, bringing my course load to 4.5 credits.

Semester Two

Global Maritime Affairs
Maritime Security (1/2 credit)
Selected Issues in Law of the Sea (1/2 credit)
Civil Resistance: Global Implications of Nonviolent Struggles for Rights & Accountability (1/2 credit)
Leadership and Ethics in American Foreign Policy (at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS))
Democracy, the Incomplete Experiment (at Harvard Law School)
Economic Problems of Latin America (Certified Audit)
Current Topics in International Relations (1/2 credit, Unofficial Audit)

Activities:
Fletcher Islamic Society; Fletcher Students of Color & Allies; Fletcher Arctic Conference VI; Tufts Energy Conference; TA, “Law of the Sea” at Fletcher (Professor John Burgess)

My second semester was by far my busiest and most enjoyable.  I took four modules (half-credit courses), two regular classes, a certified audit, and — believe it or not — an unofficial audit.  After attending the Arctic Circle Conference in Iceland in October 2016 with the Fletcher Maritime Program, I became extremely interested in water studies.  Under the supervision of Professor Rockford Weitz, I decided to self-design a field of study in Global Maritime Affairs.  I have enjoyed learning about the role of water in international trade, security, law, human rights, and communication; water essentially touches everything.  I also enjoyed my classes at Harvard.  At the Kennedy School, I took Leadership and Ethics in American Foreign Policy, taught by Professor Joseph Nye.  A paper I wrote for his class examining the role of morality in three presidential legacies was published in the newly-launched student section of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.  Similarly, I loved taking a course on American democracy at the Harvard Law School, where we explored topics such as immigration, religion, media, and elections.  The timing of the course was impeccable, given the American political climate at the time. Inspired by the topic of religion in American politics, my classmate and I wrote an opinion piece criticizing the Muslim Ban” that was later published in the Kennedy School Review.

Lastly, when I learned that Professor Monica Toft, the head of the Center for Strategic Studies, would be teaching a course on current topics in IR, I simply could not resist.  Luckily for me, the timing worked out and I was able to squeeze the module in my schedule.  Although I did not receive credit for the course, I thoroughly enjoyed completing all readings and assignments for the seminar.  In fact, the memo on Turkey’s relationship with NATO I wrote as a final exam was published in the Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy, where I am now a regional editor and regular contributor.  Although this semester was the most rigorous, it really gave me the opportunity to explore a wide range of academic interests.  My coursework this semester exemplifies the flexibility of a Fletcher curriculum.

Summer Internship
Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship (two weeks)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Public Affairs Section (10 weeks)

Semester Three

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Global Investment Management
National Security Decision-Making: Theory and Practice
Contemporary Issues in U.S.-Russian Relations
Processes of International Negotiation (Certified Audit)

Activities:
CFA Challenge; Women in International Security; Editor, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs; Editor, Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy; TA,“Peace Through Entrepreneurship” at Tufts University (Professor Steven Koltai, F78)

Whereas semester two kept me happily busy, semester three challenged me in more ways than one.  My course load was quite hefty and I experienced some personal life setbacks.  Corporate Finance, the core requirement for the International Business Relations field, is perhaps the hardest class I have taken at Fletcher.  In addition to class time, we were required to attend review sessions, complete individual problem sets, and prepare case studies in groups.  Professor Laurent Jacque has taught this course to generations of Fletcher students and, looking back, it’s among the classes from which I gained the most practical knowledge.  Although I do not plan to become a private equity analyst anytime soon, it was also useful to learn about strategic investments and product portfolio management in the Global Investment Management course.  In contrast, National Security Decision-Making and U.S.-Russia Relations classes were very relevant to my anticipated diplomatic career.  Both courses gave me a better understanding of history, lessons learned, and techniques to move forward given contemporary challenges.  Another useful course for my career was International Negotiation, which allowed us to practice our negotiation skills during in-class simulations.

Semester Four

Lobbying: Theory, Practice, and Simulations (1/2 credit, January term at HKS)
Econometrics
International Financial Management
Innovation Field Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities (at HKS)
U.S.-European Relations Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall
International Criminal Justice (Certified Audit)
Power in World Politics (Unofficial Audit)

Activities:
CFA Challenge (Americas Regionals); Women in International Security; Fletcher Arctic Conference VII; Editor, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs; Editor, Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy; TA, “Public Opinion & Foreign Policy” at Tufts University (Richard Eichenberg)

Selecting courses for my final semester was one of the hardest things I have done at Fletcher.  I went back and forth on a number of classes; in fact, curating my schedule was such a conundrum that I did not finalize it until the add/drop deadline.  My econometrics course, which I am taking to fulfill my EIB requirement, is a very practical one, as it teaches us how to build good research models and be critical of quantitative methodologies; but I wish I had taken it in my first year so that I could have applied those skills in research for my capstone.  Advice to prospective students and first years: do NOT save your core requirements until the last semester!

I decided to take International Financial Management to top off my International Business Relations field of study and also because I think it will be useful for my future career in understanding world markets.  To switch up my quantitative course load, I decided to take Innovation Field Lab at HKS, co-taught by the mayor of Somerville Joe Curtatone.  It’s a unique course in that students act as consultants for city governments to help them solve public challenges.  My team, for example, is working with the City of Lawrence to help the government manage and resolve distressed properties through discovery, design, and delivery.  Last but not least, the U.S.-EU Relations course, as well as my two audits, directly contribute to my professional training at Fletcher.

Looking back, it’s been an exciting yet humbling journey.  I never imagined I would be able to accomplish this much when I first arrived in Medford.  But it’s true what they say: never say never.  I guess the journey continues…

In addition to Adi, three more Student Stories writers will graduate on May 20, and I plan (hope) to share Annotated Curricula for all in these next two weeks.  I’ll start today with Pulkit, who is wrapping up exams for his MALD degree.  Note that while MALD and MIB students are required to complete two Fields of Study, Pulkit has chosen to complete three.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
B.E., Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, Punjab Engineering College, India
Research Analyst, McKinsey & Company, Gurgaon, Haryana, India
Executive Director, Phoenix Hospital, Panchkula, Haryana, India
Global Shaper, World Economic Forum

Fields of Study
International Security Studies
Humanitarian Studies
International Organizations

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I hope to work in the humanitarian sector or in community development – especially in education or public health.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Design and Monitoring for Peacebuilding and Development (½ credit)
The Role of Force in International Relations
International Organizations
Sustainable Development Diplomacy
Health, Human Security and Emerging Pathogens (½ credit)
Varieties of Corruption (½ credit, Certified Audit)
Elementary French I (Audit)

Before coming to Fletcher, I knew I wanted to take a mix of skills-based and academic courses — and to focus on security studies and international organizations law.  I hit the ground running by starting with a pre-session module on Design and Monitoring with Professor Scharbatke-Church.  This module set the tone for me in terms of the rigor and effort professors would expect from their students.  It also helped me set foot in a new academic environment.  During orientation, I passed the economics equivalency exam, so that I could take an advanced economics course in the future.  I took required courses in the International Security Studies and International Organizations Fields of Study, which were basically foundational courses in political science and international law.  I was very motivated in my first semester, and I ended up taking a heavy courseload — with four credits, including two modules, and two audits.  I audited Elementary French at the Olin Center for Language and Cultural Studies, which is a great resource for Fletcher students.  I was also involved in a pro-bono consulting project with Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS).  In hindsight, overall, my first semester was very rewarding.

Semester Two

Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors (January-term, ½ credit)
International Humanitarian Response
Nuclear Dossiers: U.S. Priorities, Dilemmas and Challenges in a Time of Nuclear Disorder
Non-Proliferation Law and Institutions
Peace Operations
Elementary French II (Audit)

I took a short break of about a week after finishing my first semester requirements, and was back in the classroom for the January module on Evaluation.  In the spring semester, two courses were being offered on nuclear security and policy, and I thought it was a great opportunity for me to study that subject area.  The Non-Proliferation Law and Institutions course was outside my comfort zone, but I still enjoyed learning about international treaties and law on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.  I also decided to take Peace Operations with Professor Ian Johnstone to learn about international efforts in peacekeeping.  To try something new and different, I took International Humanitarian Response, a course that opened an interest area in humanitarian studies and response.  This course also included a three-day field simulation in Andover, MA.  I continued to audit French at the Olin Center.  By the end of the semester I had finished my field requirements for International Security Studies and International Organizations.

Summer

Teaching Assistant/Research Assistant to Professor Ian Johnstone
Non-resident Research Assistant, Pacific Forum CSIS
International Summer Academy at the Institute for Peace and Dialogue in Baar, Switzerland
Graduate Assistant, Office of Development and Alumni Relations (ODAR), The Fletcher School

My summer was made up many different opportunities and experiences — from being a teaching and research assistant (TA/RA) to Professor Ian Johnstone to traveling to Austria and Switzerland to spending time in Boston.  It was a little unstructured, but very rewarding again.  You can read more about my summer experience here.

Semester Three

Gender, Culture and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Development Economics: Policy Analysis
International Humanitarian Law
Education in Armed Conflict (at Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Politics of the Korean Peninsula: Foreign & Inter-Korean Relations (Certified Audit)

This semester was probably one of my busiest.  I have detailed my responsibilities for the Fall 2017 semester in this blog post.  Since I had already completed my two field requirements, I decided to explore and pursue the Humanitarian Studies Field of Study.  Before beginning the semester I passed the equivalency exam for the quantitative reasoning requirement.  With an engineering background, I decided that I didn’t want to take a quant course, and wanted to use that saved credit to take something different.  For the economics breadth requirement, Policy Analysis with Professor Julie Schaffner was very rigorous and challenging.

The Gender, Culture, and Conflict and Humanitarian Law courses were exceptional — and gave a theoretical and legal perspective to human security and humanitarian response.  I personally think every student who studies security studies as a field of study should be required to take the Gender class.  Using a gender lens makes one understand and realize the consequences of war — on people, their livelihoods, as well as the political economy of a state.

For my class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I worked on a narrative project of a refugee whose education had been disrupted because of conflict.  In addition to the course work, I was a TA for the International Organizations class, managing editor for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, and on the Student Council.

Semester Four

GIS for International Applications
Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization
U.S. Policy in South Asia
Negotiation Workshop (at Harvard Law School)
Forced Migration (½ credit, Audit)

I stayed in Boston over the winter break and it was a particularly cold winter.  At the end of my third semester, I had finished all my field and breadth requirements.  During the fall semester, I had also been accepted for the spring into the Negotiation Workshop at the Harvard Law School — which was a nine-hour class every week.  Including the travel time back and forth to Harvard and the preparation for the class, it was a big time commitment.  After speaking to my peers who had taken this class in the past, I decided to commit to it and build my class schedule around it.  The class was my first foray into the field of negotiation — and the class itself was structured so that we were expected to practice the science of negotiation by means of simulation exercises.  The class was exceptional because it helped me reflect on my own behavior and to learn from others.

I took Corporate Social Responsibility with Professor Jette Knudsen, basically to expand my worldview and take a case-study-based class in the Economics and International Business Division.  The class helped me understand the complex relationship between the private sector and government regulation, and the social responsibilities of privately owned businesses.  I took the U.S. Policy in South Asia class as a supplement to my capstone thesis on non-proliferation law in the context of U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement.  Over this semester I also finished a non-resident consulting project with the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

With a heavy courseload, the extra-curricular activities, and my part-time work responsibilities, I knew I would be stretching myself to finish my capstone.  I was also enjoying my classes and final semester at Fletcher — so, I decided to extend my program and work on my thesis over the summer, while I look for work.  It is amazing to think that we are two weeks away from graduation.  It has been a remarkable and astounding journey of learning.  The diversity of classes and the opportunities I have had at Fletcher have truly exposed me to the field of international relations.  As I prepare to wrap up my assignments, graduate, and transition into the summer, I can honestly say that it has been a blast.

 

With no advance planning on my part, it looks like this will be Student Stories week!  Today we’ll hear about Mariya’s Spring Semester. 

Green grass, colorful flowers, and trees in bloom — spring is finally here!  As I sit on the third floor of Ginn Library staring out at our beautiful campus, I can’t help but smile and feel grateful for spring.  Although I still have a few finals left before I officially fulfill all my graduation requirements, I thought I’d take a break from studying and reflect on some of the highlights of my spring semester.

Russia Trek — From March 15-25, I participated with 15 peers in the first-ever spring break study trip to Russia.  Organized and sponsored by the newly launched Russia and Eurasia Program, the trip felt like an experiential sequel to the U.S-Russia Relations course I took last semester.  Whereas the course gave me an academic foundation to understand the U.S.-Russia relationship, the trip provided a hands-on opportunity to negotiate and learn from colleagues at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, experience Russian culture, and nurture friendships that will last a lifetime.  We spent a weekend in St. Petersburg and a week in Moscow, where our trip culminated in presenting our negotiated memos on cybersecurity and the North Korean crisis to the Russian Foreign Ministry and U.S. Embassy Moscow.  In addition to these milestones, I enjoyed roaming the Red Square at night, eating eclectic cuisines from post-Soviet countries, indulging in modern art at the Hermitage Museum and Tretyakov Gallery, shopping for matryoshka dolls and ushanka fur hats, and touring the many Orthodox churches including the famous, onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral.  And, of course, I ran into the Fletcher family in Moscow: Maria and Nikita, who were exchange students at Fletcher during my first semester.  Overall, it was an incredible trip and I’m very humbled for having had the chance to experience Russia.  Who knows, maybe I will be posted there one day!

Capstone — I am relieved to say that my capstone is written and submitted!  Although I had been doing research all year long, including original interviews, I did not begin writing until after returning from Russia.  The topic for my thesis — destruction of cultural property during armed conflict — was inspired by my travels, particularly in Turkey where I saw a lot ruined sites and landmarks.  Using Bosnia and Armenia as case studies, I delved deeper into ethnic warfare, protection of cultural property under international law, and memory politics.  It was stressful and hectic to complete my master’s thesis in four weeks, but I disciplined myself to take advantage of every bit of free time I had.  I would like to recognize my capstone advisor, Professor Richard Shultz, who was instrumental not only in my thesis-writing, but also my entire Fletcher career.  My classmates and I created a tribute video for him as a token of our appreciation, highlighting memories from his famed Role of Force course in the International Security Studies field.

Innovation Field Lab — Given my desire for a career in public service, I decided to take “Harvard Innovation Field Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities.”  Co-taught by Professor Jorrit de Jong and Mayor of Somerville Joe Curtatone, the course expanded my knowledge, thinking, and approach to public sector problem solving.  The class not only gave us tools and expertise but also an opportunity to apply them to the problem of distressed properties in six Massachusetts cities.  My colleagues Adam, Carlos, Kysie and I worked with the City of Lawrence by conducting field visits, interviews with officials, and meetings with key stakeholders.  After semester-long research, we pitched three innovative and actionable solutions in a presentation to Mayor Dan Rivera on our last class.  I feel empowered having taken this course and I am excited to apply the framework of “discovery, design, and delivery” to international problem solving.

DC Career Trip — It feels like ages ago, but in mid-February, a month after returning from Beirut, I participated in the DC Career Trip organized by the hardworking staff in the Office of Career Services (OCS).  The two-day trip is an opportunity for career exploration, information-gathering about specific organizations, and networking with practitioners across career fields through site visits, lunch panel discussions, and evening alumni networking receptions.  Many students in the past were able to secure internships or jobs from this exclusive opportunity.

Although I feel blessed to already know what I will be doing after Fletcher, I decided to participate in the DC trip to familiarize myself with the Fletcher alumni community in Washington, which is home to me.  In my actual home in Alexandria, my parents hosted a Fletcher Feast for my friends and we enjoyed a traditional, home-cooked Pakistani meal and a “Fletcher cake” to top off the weekend.

Alrighty, back to studying for international financial management and econometrics!

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I just sent off the Student Stories blogger crew for 2017-18, following our annual gathering.  Back to studying and paper-writing they went, following the only hour of the year when we all come together.  Six of this year’s seven bloggers were able to attend.  Here’s the group:  Pulkit, Adi, Mariya, Prianka, Akshobh, and Gary.

I had hoped we had picked a time when everyone could come, but schedules are very unpredictable this time of year and Kaitlyn was unable to join us.

It is truly a joy to work with these writers.  They have all volunteered their time for at least one year and whether they blow right past a deadline or submit a post on time, I never take for granted their generosity!  I’ll miss working with Pulkit, Adi, and Mariya, who are graduating after two years of blogging, as well as Prianka who will complete the one-year LLM (and her blogging commitment) this month.  I hope (expect) to welcome Akshobh, Gary, and Kaitlyn back for another year of writing in September.

One additional note.  I’m not the only one who appreciates these folks.  They’ve all been busy with multiple commitments throughout the year.  I’d like to highlight, though, that Pulkit recently received the Presidential Award for Civic Life, one of the University’s highest honors for students.  I’ll let Pulkit tell you more via a tweet.

Congratulations, Pulkit, and fellow graduates Mariya, Adi and Prianka!  Thank you to all the student bloggers for your help all year!

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Alongside the last day of classes today, the blog’s Student Stories writers are wrapping up their commitments for the year.  Gary, our writer from the PhD program, is naturally looking ahead to the writing of his dissertation and some pre-research research was involved.

You may have heard the rumor before.  A student puts hundreds or even thousands of hours of work into formulating, researching, analyzing, writing and finally defending their doctoral dissertation…only for it never to be read by anyone outside the dissertation committee.  To put lie to that falsehood, I plumbed the depths of the Fletcher dissertation archive held at Ginn Library.  I selected from the hundreds of available dissertations by picking those written by people with whom I now have or previously have had a connection.  For some writers, I have been their student somewhere along the line or they are fellow military officers (active or retired); and for others, I used their research as a resource to prepare for military operations I have personally participated in.

Fenway Park doesn’t have the only Green Monster in the Boston area…here is Ginn Library’s own “green monster” of Fletcher dissertations.

Just to be clear, I didn’t read the dissertations I picked out from cover to cover — after all, some of them exceed 500 pages in length.  I mainly read the abstracts and the front matter to get a sense of where the writers, some now notable members of the commentariat, government, think tanks, and so forth, were in their personal journeys while writing their Fletcher dissertations.  It was an intriguing experience that I may repeat in the future because I felt like there was a lot more to discover.

A 341-page dissertation on left (from 1993), and on the right a 360-page dissertation from 2012.

With those introductory remarks out of the way, I’d like to provide some general macro-level comments about the nine dissertations I examined for this post.  The first notable feature of many of the dissertations was the inclusion of a curriculum vitae or CV.  Invariably, these are interesting time capsules of a sort.  Looking at where the writers were long ago in their personal journeys makes it easier to imagine a similar path forward for those of us studying at Fletcher today.

Some dissertations include an acknowledgments page, from which it is notable to see the personal connections and broad support required to complete any such project.  Often, the authors list out their closest colleagues from among their PhD cohort, and I can imagine those groups of former students studying, debating, and analyzing together in the same spaces in the Fares PhD Research Center under Blakeley Hall where our current crop of PhD candidates does the same thing.

Finally, it’s easy to notice that the physical bulk of dissertations has changed over time.  In years past, dissertations were printed only on the fronts of each leaf of paper, leaving the backs blank.  This made for some massive tomes, the shelves groaning under their weight.  More recently, as the available shelf space for Ginn’s green monster has dwindled, dissertations are now printed on the front and back of each page, making for far more slender volumes.

The cover of Dean Stavridis’ 1984 dissertation. Don’t try to check this one out!

Moving on to the three dissertations I want to examine in greater detail today, the unifying theme is that they were all written by current members of the Fletcher faculty or staff.  I am compelled to start with Dean Stavridis’s 1984 work, not only because he is the head honcho of the school, but also because of the unique marking on its front cover.  I would wager that it is one of the only, if not the only, Fletcher dissertation whose demand might warrant such a marking.

Dean Stavridis’s 1984 dissertation was entitled “Marine Technology Transfer and the Law of the Sea,” and it tipped the scales at an impressive 529 pages.  I’d say he was ahead of his time in seeing the intrinsic value of the Law of the Sea treaty and suggesting ways in which it could be improved to increase the chances of full Western (read U.S.) buy-in/ratification, but that wouldn’t be a surprise.  Our dean is characteristically ahead of his time on many issues, which I think we will eventually see in cyberspace and the idea of a new triad consisting of cybercapabilities, special operations forces, and unmanned platforms, among other topics.  Like me, Dean Stavridis attended Fletcher as an active duty military officer.

Next of the reviewed dissertations is Professor of Practice Michele Malvesti’s 2002 work, “Risk-Taking in Countering Terrorism: A Study of U.S. Presidential Decisions to Use Special Operations and Covert Action.”  Her dissertation is an examination of prospect theory as applied to decisions to conduct counterterrorism missions during the Carter and Reagan administrations.  An interesting note: Professor Malvesti went directly from completing this PhD to working on counterterrorism issues on the National Security Council Staff for five years and, as a result, she is an example of a great resource who has “been there, done that” at very high levels of the U.S. government.  I was fortunate to take her National Security Decision Making course last semester, and I found it to be very engaging.  Bridging the gap between the policy world and academia, the course is loaded with top-notch guest speakers, contacts of Professor Malvesti from her time in government.  Last semester we heard from the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the Assistant Washington Editor for The New York Times, and many more.  For those reading who will someday attend Fletcher, I highly recommend the course.

Last for today, a look at the 1998 dissertation of Professor Sung-yoon Lee, “The Antinomy of Divine Right and the Right to Resistance: Tianming, Dei Gratia, and Vox Populi in Syngman Rhee’s Korea, 1945-1960.”  It is an examination of the seemingly opposing forces of Confucianism and democracy in Korea during this period.  I am currently a student in two courses with Professor Lee and last semester I took another one of his courses.  (One of my concentration areas at Fletcher is Pacific Asia, and my dissertation research is related to China-North Korea relations, so it makes sense that I would take many of his courses, as he is one of American academia’s premier Korea experts.)  With the shifting relationship between the U.S. and North Korea throughout this academic year, it is not surprising that Professor Lee has been in great demand as a live commentator on numerous television and radio programs.  He records many of these from Fletcher’s world-class television studio, part of the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World.

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Time’s ticking down!  Only two more days (today and Monday) of classes this semester.  Let’s meet more of the students whom the Student Council profiled recently.  Note that all of these students are in programs less represented in the student community.  As I think blog readers will know, the MA and LLM are one-year Fletcher programs.  The MAHA is a one-year program jointly offered by Fletcher and the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.  The MATA is our new program offered jointly with the College of Europe.  And the PhD in Economics and Public Policy is offered jointly with, and administered by, the economics department in the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Rick Murray (MA program)

What are you studying at Fletcher?
I am in the one-year MA program and focusing on security and strategy.  Having only two semesters here at Fletcher is really tough because there are too many great courses to choose from and whittling them down to just eight is a challenge!

What did you do before Fletcher?
I have been a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Navy for a little more than 11 years and will return to flying out at sea after graduation this May.

Where are you from?
As I know is the case with many Fletcher students, this question is complicated.  I am originally from Annapolis, Maryland but only lived there until age 10.  I spent the rest of my childhood in France (3.5 years), Switzerland (two years), Texas (one year), and finally Atlanta, Georgia for my final two years of high school.  People often assume one of my parents was in the military, but actually it was my father’s work in the mobile telecom industry throughout the 1990s that had us relocating so often.

What is your favorite, most unique place you have ever been or traveled to?
My favorite place is at the top of any ski resort (doesn’t matter where, so long as there is snow!).  A unique place I’ve been to was Tarifa, Spain with my wife a few years ago.  It’s a small town on the southernmost tip of Spain (just west of Gibraltar) and known for its fantastic wind surfing and hippie vibe that make it a pretty cool little spot in Andalucía.

Who are your favorite writers?
Hemingway and Steinbeck, but it’s been a while since I picked up any of their works.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
My grandparents, all of whom are still alive and in their 90s now.  Each of them has had a big impact on who I am.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming a Naval Aviator.  It was my goal ever since I was a very young child.

Which living person do you most admire?
My wife, Rachel.  I’ve thrown her a lot of curveballs in the 7.5 years we’ve been married, particularly the amount of time I’ve been absent and the frequency with which we’ve relocated.  Despite the challenges of being a military spouse, she’s been able to earn her graduate degree and professional license in clinical social work (a five-year process), build herself a successful and very diverse career, all while becoming a fantastic mother.  Her determination and commitment are absolutely incredible.

What has been a challenge you have faced during your career or time at Fletcher?
Juggling Fletcher’s workload with my two-year-old son running around has been tough.  But it offers me the opportunity to mix up my reading list with some different literature like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and other child favorites.

What has been your favorite moment at Fletcher so far?
I love the classroom discussion.  I haven’t been disappointed in any class I’ve taken.  The event programming has been amazing as well; the guest speakers are one of the best parts of the experience here.

Laura Schiemichen (MATA program)

What are you studying at Fletcher?
I am a first-year in the Transatlantic Affairs (MATA) Program.  Next year I’ll be at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, riding along canals on bikes and learning all about the EU.  Boston has a special place in my heart, though 😊

What did you do before Fletcher?
I spent three years in Washington, DC, first working on anti-trust cases in economic consulting and then for the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  While I enjoyed the data work in my first job, consulting wasn’t for me.  I was much happier in the Monitoring and Evaluation department at MCC, where I worked on projects in Jordan, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin.

Where are you from?
I was born in Berlin, Germany and my family is now in Hamburg, but I moved every two years growing up.  I think of home as people, rather than a place.

What is your favorite, most unique place you have ever been or traveled to?
I visited my best friend’s grandmother on her cattle ranch in Argentina some years ago and rode horses everyday.  It was a good excuse to get a cowboy hat.

Who are your favorite writers?
Cheryl Strayed/Dear Sugar.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
My mom.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Performing at the Lyceum Theater (home of the Lion King musical) in London.  I joined a hip-hop dance team as a way to goof around and have fun, but the experience became so much more than that.  We practiced six days a week, became family, and worked towards our goal together.  We also goofed around…a little.

Which living person do you most admire?
Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton (Go Wellesley!)

What has been a challenge you have faced during your career or time at Fletcher?
Time.  How to use it well.  How to get more of it.

What has been your favorite moment at Fletcher so far?
No grand moment here, just the everyday moments when I’m studying with a friend in the Hall of Flags, sharing snacks and coffee.

Girija Bahety (PhD program in Economics and Public Policy)

What are you studying at Fletcher?
I am pursuing a PhD in Economics and Public Policy.  It’s a new joint PhD program between the Economics Department and Fletcher and I am one of the first students in the program, which aims to bring economics into answering policy-relevant research questions.

What did you do before Fletcher?
I worked as a consultant/development economist for an international development consultancy firm called Oxford Policy Management in India and the UK for six years.

Where are you from?
New Delhi, India.

What is your favorite, most unique place you have ever been or traveled to?
Leh and Ladakh Valley, India.

Who are your favorite writers?
Arundhati Roy, William Dalrymple, Haruki Murakami, Julian Barnes.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
I have been inspired by many women and men in life.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My independence.

Which living person do you most admire?
My parents.

What has been a challenge you have faced during your career or time at Fletcher?
Being a part of a new program that no one had heard of before and building relationships at Fletcher.

Ana María Pérez (LLM program)

What are you studying at Fletcher?
I’m doing the LLM.  It’s a one-year program for lawyers who want to specialize in international law.

What did you do before Fletcher?
I was Training Manager at the Latin-American and the Caribbean office of  J-PAL, the MIT Poverty Action Lab.  There I worked with different governments to evaluate and improve their social programs and public policies.  I was also volunteering with Amnesty International Chile, working especially with Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

Where are you from?
I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina.  But I must say that 1/3 of me is Chilean, given that I lived there for more than eight years.

What is your favorite, most unique place you have ever been or traveled to?
Palestine.  I went there one year ago and it was a life changing experience.

Who are your favorite writers?
I love Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
My grandfather.  A Spanish man who crossed the Atlantic by ship when was a teenager, escaping from a civil war and looking for a better life.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Professionally, creating new things from scratch, such as a new national institution in Chile or the first Diploma in Impact Evaluation for J-PAL.  Personally, my enormous adaptation skills in life.

What has been a challenge you have faced during your career or time at Fletcher?
Time management.  I’m usually too optimistic planning how much time things are going to take me.

What has been your favorite moment at Fletcher so far?
Many!  I have loved being at Fletcher since the first week, when you start meeting all the great people who are coming to this school.

Ahmad Shakeb (MAHA program)

What are you studying at Fletcher?
I’m in the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance program.

What did you do before Fletcher?
I worked for ten years with different humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan.  My last post was at UNOCHA, as a program officer, managing the Common Humanitarian Fund.

Where are you from?
Afghanistan.

What is your favorite, most unique place you have ever been or traveled to?
Monterey, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S state of California.  I visited this place as soon as my winter break started.  It was special to me because one of my best friends (who is no longer in this world) had lived and studied there.  It reminded me of all the good stories and memories he had shared with me.  On top of that, I visited his fiancée, too, who goes to the same school where he had studied.

Who are your favorite writers?
Steve Coll and Husain Haqqani.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
My late best friend, Naqib Ahmad Khpulwak. Despite all the hardship he had in his life, he achieved so much, ultimately becoming a professor at the American University of Afghanistan and the Rule of Law Manager at USIP-Kabul before the age of 31.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Working for the United Nations and getting into Tufts University.

Which living person do you most admire?
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the current President of Afghanistan.  With few resources, he has managed to do so much for our country.  Wherever he goes, he put peace and development at the top of his agenda.

What has been a challenge you have faced during your career or time at Fletcher?
Losing my best friend in the complex attack on the American University of Afghanistan.  When I learned about the attack, I promptly arrived in the area, but police had cordoned it off and didn’t let me go inside to help my friend.  I spent the whole night on the street outside of the university compound.  It took the police the whole night to rescue students and faculty.

What has been your favorite moment at Fletcher so far?
After my arrival in Boston, I was so homesick and was looking for another Afghan.  My most favorite moment was when I first met three other Afghan students all at once at the Hall of Flags.

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