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Gathering information about the graduate schools to which you apply is an important part of the application process.  And, though I hope you’ll stay tuned to the blog, I also recommend you take a look at what our friends in the Fletcher communications office are offering.  First, they consolidate materials, such as op-eds written by Fletcher faculty and students or longer publications including books and articles.  They also highlight print/radio/TV comments or interviews.  And my favorite offerings are Fletcher Features, stories written about the community and events at Fletcher.

Today, I’ll direct your attention to one of the features — an interview with Rizwan Ladha, PhD candidate and Admissions pal.  I love his reference to “a global circle of people who have been through this tiny school at the top of a hill in Medford.”  Rizwan has been a star throughout his MALD and PhD studies, and it’s great to see the spotlight shined on him.

 

Our final summer report from the writers in the blog’s Student Stories feature comes from Adnan, who spent two months 200 miles from Fletcher.

Yes, you’ve heard that the interests and experiences of Fletcher’s student body are diverse.  (We love that about us, and even within the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy program, often call ourselves Peace MALDs, War MALDs, Business/Money MALDs, or Skills MALDs to highlight our various specialties.)  But you won’t truly appreciate our eclecticism until you hear about the places we go during the summer.  From volunteering for refugees in Greece and doing development work in Ghana to interning at NATO’s office in Italy and the State Department in DC, my classmates were scattered across the globe between mid-May and end-August.  Though my own internship took me only 200 miles from Boston, it gave me an around-the-world, Fletcher-like experience.

Adnan_UNICEFUNICEF’s Headquarters in New York is where I interned for two months this summer.  I worked in the New Talent Unit of the Division of Human Resources where I assisted the New and Emerging Talent Initiative team as they prepared to launch their recruitment campaign in August.  Now in its ninth year, NETI is UNICEF’s professional development program that offers opportunities in various functional areas at duty stations around the world.  I helped the NETI team with outreach and with developing a communication strategy.  This included drafting and monitoring targeted ad campaigns for NETI job openings on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Ads, which I particularly enjoyed.  My job also included writing content for and managing NETI’s internal website and social media pages, and preparing documents for performance reviews of current NETI candidates.

A lot of what I did was linked to my prior work experience in journalism and to my International Information and Communication Field of Study at Fletcher, so my internship allowed me to further develop my skills and add a new perspective.  I also benefited tremendously from working closely with a small team as it gave me greater responsibility and the opportunity to be fully engaged while I gained insight on human resources, UNICEF, and the UN at large.  Being at Headquarters provides interns considerable access to networking opportunities with UN staff, and to a fairly diverse set of events.  I was lucky to be able to attend the first-ever townhall meeting with the candidates running for Secretary General of the UN; the World Humanitarian Day event which included moving speeches by a Syrian refugee family and by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie; and a concert by the Oscar winning composer A.R. Rahman on India’s Independence Day, a pass that I got minutes before the show.

When my friends asked me about my internship, I’d tell them it was like being back at Fletcher.  My colleagues were all from different countries and the work environment was very congenial.  Furthermore, I was surrounded by equally diverse fellow interns who were wonderful to hang out with.  Sounds familiar, no?  And Fletcher is indeed everywhere.  I connected with a number of alumni working at the UN who were very generous with their time and advice.  Additionally, about a dozen of my classmates were interning in New York, too — at UN agencies and elsewhere — and a bunch of 2016 grads had also moved to the city to start or look for jobs.  We met up often to explore everything that New York has to offer, and it was always great fun!  Overall, my summer was a rewarding experience, both professionally and personally, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way

Adnan_UNICEF_2

UN interns (including Adnan) and UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake rooting for Team Refugees at the 2016 Olympics as part of a UNICEF campaign.

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At noon today, Kristen and I will be offering an information session for Tufts undergraduates studying international relations.  We enjoy connecting this way with our friends in the School of Arts and Sciences, one of the two main undergraduate programs, along with the School of Engineering.  We’ll be joined by two Double Jumbos, who will describe their path from when they graduated from Tufts to when they enrolled at Fletcher.  Though Kristen and I have been offering these sessions each fall for several years now, today’s blog post is about a new cooperative initiative, launched by two second-year MALD students, Rafael Loss and Suzanne Webb. 

Before you read Rafael’s report, I want to take a second to point out that students develop many new activities each year.  With a good plan and a little hustle, you can make any number of things happen.  And one brief explanatory note: Packard Avenue is the street running in front of Fletcher.  You’ll see the reference in Rafael’s story below.

Over the past months, Suzanne Webb and I have worked hard to create the inaugural Building Bridges Research Symposium, an undergraduate research symposium, which will take place at The Fletcher School this Friday, November 4th.

In conversations with students, staff, and faculty, both at Fletcher and at the various undergraduate programs at Tufts University, we heard time and again people lament the perceived “Packard Avenue gap”: the sense that there is little exchange between graduate and undergraduate students.  We know that Fletcher is sometimes perceived as its own little galaxy in the Tufts universe.  Likewise, Fletcher students usually encounter Tufts undergraduates only in Ginn Library during finals, when everyone is fighting for study space.

Given the vast experience of Fletcher students in all areas of international affairs and beyond, and Tufts students’ equally diverse research interests, we thought that a research symposium would be a great forum for exchange to bridge the gap.  We approached Fletcher administrators and established contacts with Tufts undergraduate degree programs and Tufts institutions including the Jonathan M. Tisch College for Civic Life and Tufts’ Institute for Global Leadership.  Everyone we spoke to enthusiastically supported our idea and made valuable suggestions for the event.

In addition to the great advice, we were also extremely fortunate to receive funding from the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement.  Thanks to their generous support, our presenters and audience members will be well caffeinated and fed at the event.

On September 16th, we sent out the call for applications for the inaugural Building Bridges Research Symposium and only a few days later we received the first submission.  By the end of the deadline, roughly a dozen Tufts undergraduates had submitted proposals.  On November 4th, ten of them will present their research in front of their peers and Fletcher students in three panels chaired by Fletcher PhD candidates Megan Rounseville and Rebecca Tapscott, and MALD candidate Rachel Porter.  Fletcher’s Professor of International Humanitarian Studies Kimberly Theidon will deliver the welcoming remarks.

After months of planning, coordinating, and advertising, we are thrilled that our event is around the corner.  We hope that this first research symposium will spark continued exchange between Fletcher and Tufts students on academic research, that it will be further institutionalized, and that the conference will become an annual highlight on the Tufts and Fletcher calendars.

You can see the full Symposium schedule here.

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Back to the Student Stories feature!  In this year’s second post from a returning writer, Tatsuo reports on a summer when he barely stayed still.  Tatsuo is currently pursuing an exchange semester at Sciences Po in Paris.

Last summer, I visited two different types of developing nations: four former Soviet countries in Central Asia and a newly independent country in Southeast Asia.  My experiences in these countries moved me in a lot of ways.

After completing last spring semester, I first traveled to Alaska to visit the Arctic Circle and enjoy the beautiful summer.  Alaska’s natural scenery completely refreshed me.  Then, at the end of May, I joined the Central Asian Leadership Trek organized by the Center for Asia Leadership.  The trekkers were mainly from Harvard schools, but also from other prominent schools including Stanford, Columbia, Sciences Po, and, of course, Fletcher.

During the nearly three-week trek, we traveled through four countries — Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  Compared with the Israel Trek I joined last spring, this trip had fewer participants, and participants also had to do some workshops or TED-style talks based on their backgrounds and expertise.  Therefore, the participation was more active and we connected with the politicians, entrepreneurs, and students in this region more deeply.

Before traveling to Central Asia, I had some knowledge about the counties I would visit.  All four of the countries became independent from the former Soviet Union 25 years ago.  They also inherited many Soviet remains, including infrastructure and bureaucratic schemes.  Most of them rely on natural resources for economic development, and their economies and societies are under the strong control of and regulation by the public sector.

On the trekI was surprised, though, to find a lot of diversity among the societies and economies, and their problems and possibilities.

In Tajikistan, I felt the Soviet atmosphere most, but also felt the economic struggle of the country since its independence.  Kyrgyzstan was the most democratic country in the region.  We enjoyed a lot of free discussions with central and local politicians, entrepreneurs, and young students; however, we also saw and heard about the problems related to the unstable, sometimes chaotic political and economic situation.  We found that democracy and freedom of speech might not contribute to economic growth well.  On the other hand, in Kazakhstan, we were surprised by the great infrastructure, well-maintained public services, and developed and modern cities under the authoritarian but stable regime, while we were also afraid that the further growth of the country — which the regime plans and promotes based on an opportunistic estimate a decade ago — might be uncertain in the current global market situation.  Finally, in Uzbekistan, we were impressed by the beautiful historical remains, although we found an ironic contrast between such great tourist places and poor economic conditions, based on primitive agriculture and the chaotic national currency caused by the closed regime.

Talking with people — ranging from the higher levels of the public sector to the local youth — was very meaningful for learning about the realities of these countries that I, like most Japanese, was not so familiar with.  Additionally, as I work on infrastructure and transport policy, learning about the regional infrastructure was greatly useful.  For example, these countries largely rely on the old infrastructure that the former Soviet Union built and maintained.  These plans and networks were not appropriate for the current economic strategies of each country, and some infrastructure, in particular road infrastructure that needs frequent maintenance, was severely deteriorated.  Such a finding will contribute to my future research and policymaking regarding how Japan and the international community can support the region.

As a public sector official, I also felt that the career tracks of public elites in the region were very unclear, unpredictable, and vulnerable.  I thought the people’s distrust for the public sector might derive from the weak and undeveloped recruiting system for public officers.

Last, but not least, the trekkers traveling with me came from a lot of different backgrounds and with different expertise.  Sharing diverse perspectives on the region and discussing with each other made the trek much more special than just a sightseeing trip.

After the thought-provoking trip, I flew from Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Timor-Leste and started an internship with a global NGO, the Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste.

I had two reasons to pursue the internship.  First, I wanted to have an experience in a least-developed environment, and Timor-Leste is one of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as recognized by the United Nations.  The other reason was that I could contribute, based on my expertise as a policy-officer, because the Asia Foundation is a policy-oriented NGO.

In the marketIn Timor-Leste, I mainly researched the public transport sector, particularly the aviation sector, which was receiving little attention.  I struggled to research without basic statistics, institutional information — including the fundamental laws and regulations — or implementing capacity.  No local officers understood their tasks clearly.  No regulations actually worked.  No one knew who could tell me about something I wanted to know.  However, this chaotic and underdeveloped situation taught me about practical issues and challenges of today’s development studies.

In thinking about what we could do for the economic development and economic diversification of the country under such difficult conditions, I considered very basic questions for a public officer, an elite bureaucrat, and a person from a developed country: What is infrastructure?  What is public transport?  What is bureaucracy?  And, What is a country?

During the two months, the deputy country representative and Fletcher alumnus, Todd Wassel, F06, and other helpful staff allowed me to research my field of interest freely in the very supportive environment of the office.  I also used the resources of the NGO, including government contacts and visits to local districts.  With that support, I was very satisfied with my internship, although two months was still too short to learn about the small but very diverse country.

With ToddIt was also meaningful that I could compare this “least developed country” with other developing nations after visiting Central Asia.  I know that there are many problems in such a struggling country, such as corruption and the lack of capacity in the public sector, the lack of economic and financial policies including a currency, dependence on importing goods, noncompetitive local industries, and even confusion over establishing an official language under great linguistic diversity.  These problems cannot be solved in the short term.  On the other hand, my experience of interviewing and making visits to the field showed me that public sector experts — those who take care of basic bureaucratic work in their developed home countries — must be playing a necessary role.  People who work to regulate an industry, operate an agency, or manage a government should join the field of international development, because how the public sector works and develops can benefit from the advice of experts who actually have experience doing it.  It was very thought-provoking for me, coming from one of the biggest and strongest public sectors in the world and studying international development.

Before the summer, I felt that a three-month break would be very long.  (When I worked in Japan, my summer break was less than a week…)  But last summer, I visited a lot of towns, regions, and countries, met many and varied people, faced a lot of troubles and fun, and learned a lot of things.  Now, the summer has flown, and my fall semester in Paris has begun.  I actually feel this summer was very short.

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In the first of the Student Stories posts for 2016-2017, McKenzie reports on her internship in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer.

Howzit future Fletchies!  It was great to return to town after three months in South Africa this summer (or winter, as it happened to be in the southern hemisphere).

Living in Johannesburg, I worked at Edge Growth to expand the 10X-entrepreneur (10X-e) program for scale-up or growth-stage startups across South Africa.  Through my job, I helped develop materials for 10X-e bootcamps and facilitated one-on-one growth strategy and execution workshops for portfolio companies of Edge’s flagship impact fund, the Vumela Fund.  I also got to support the Vumela Fund directly, helping strategize pipeline development and deal sourcing efforts and contributing to the due diligence of a prospective investment.

Fletcher students use their internship to accomplish a number of different goals.  Some use it to “test out” a new career field or to gain practical skills in a specific area, others to explore a new region of the world, and still others to conduct research for capstones.  Through my internship, I reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in impact investing and gained experience working alongside a fund investing in growth-stage companies in an emerging market setting.

McKenzieBut summer internships aren’t only for professional growth — I took the opportunity to travel and see as much as possible of South Africa over weekends and public holidays.  I attended braais (like barbeques), where I feasted with friends on grilled meats and braaibroodjes (pretty much a grilled cheese sandwich with onions and tomato), while discussing local politics and the municipal elections that were to take place in August.  I attended my first-ever rugby match to watch South Africa’s beloved Springboks take on the Irish (and win!).  I explored food markets in the reviving central business district of Jo’burg.  I visited the sobering apartheid museum to steep myself in the rich yet horrifying past, and did yoga on Constitution Hill (a former prison and now the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court), in honor of Mandela Day.

I was also able to travel to both Cape Town and Durban in the course of my work, and spent time hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head or dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean after facilitating workshops for some of Vumela Fund’s portfolio companies.  Finally, while in Tanzania for a separate project with an Omidyar Network portfolio company, I met up with a classmate working in Arusha to take a short safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed my summer and was able to find the perfect mix of professional experience and personal growth.  While I was sad to leave a country I was only just beginning to know, I’m excited to be back at Fletcher and kicking off my second year.  At the same time, I know that each semester goes by in the blink of an eye and I am trying to savor every day.  For those of you looking to begin grad school this time next year, remember to enjoy the next eight-to-ten months, in between drafting your personal statements and updating your résumé.  The time will be gone before you know it!

The photo is from my favorite hike in South Africa (so far — I hope I’ll get back for more one day…).  It shows me halfway up the India Venster trail on Table Mountain, with a view of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean in the background among the mist and clouds.

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One of the best aspects of my job is working with Fletcher students.  And of the different projects on which I work with students, my favorite is the blog.  I’m very happy to be ready to relaunch the Student Stories blog feature.  Each year since the series was launched in 2012, I’ve invited students to tell their stories throughout their two-year experience in the MALD or MIB program.  Though I provide general suggestions for what they should write (start with an introduction, finish two years later with a farewell), I encourage them to write about whatever seems important to them.  That way, the same series can include Liam’s suggestions of Boston-area must-do activities, Aditi’s account of a stressful semester, Diane’s survey of Blakeley Hall residents, and Mirza’s report on a spring break tour of Europe performing for Arms and Sleepers.

Starting tomorrow and continuing next week, I’ll be sharing the latest updates from second-year writers:  MIB student McKenzie, MALD student Tatsuo, who is pursuing a semester in France this fall, and MALD student Adnan.  Once we have heard from the returning writers, I will let three new writers introduce themselves.  Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a photo of the autumnal Tufts University campus that I took on my way to work this morning.

Fall

 

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Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) always represent a significant group within the Fletcher community.  In recent years, they’ve organized themselves for social and other activities.  And, to that end, they also collected a list of the countries of service for everyone.  Though I can’t be sure this is comprehensive, future RPCVs at Fletcher may be interested in the list.  If the students go ahead with the idea of a “country of service potluck,” I can picture an excellent feast.

Albania
Azerbaijan (two people)
Benin
Bulgaria
Cameroon
China
Ecuador
Ethiopia
Georgia
Guinea
Jordan
Kosovo
Kyrgyzstan
Liberia
Macedonia
Madagascar
Morocco
Namibia
Nepal
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Rwanda
South Africa
Tanzania
Thailand
Zambia

 

While the rest of us enjoy a long weekend in the local area, a group of students, faculty, and staff are in Reykjavik, Iceland for the annual Arctic Circle AssemblyProfessor Rockford Weitz, who heads the Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program describes the Assembly as “the world’s largest gathering of Arctic-oriented policy makers, business people, and other stakeholders.”

This is the second year that Fletcher has participated, and our students, professors, staff members, and alumni represent the largest non-Icelandic academic delegation at the Assembly.

Here are the details, courtesy of Professor Weitz’s email in which he invited students to apply to participate:

The opening Arctic presents a myriad of interdisciplinary challenges and opportunities that demonstrate the unique value of a Fletcher education.  No other graduate school could prepare you to understand the truly interdisciplinary nature of the geopolitical, diplomatic, scientific, environmental, sustainable development, national security, international law, macroeconomic, global trade, technology, shipping, energy, migration, human security, and international business implications of an opening Arctic.  Here’s the Arctic Circle Assembly’s program.

The Fletcher-organized panels are:

♦  Rethinking Shared Interests in Arctic Oil and Gas: Can We Actually Manage More Effectively?, Professor Bill Moomaw
♦  Reimagining the Arctic as the World’s Data Center, Fletcher Institute for Business In the Global Context Research Fellow Caroline Troein, F14
♦  BlueTech Innovation for a Sustainable Arctic, Fletcher Maritime Studies Program
♦  Status of Earth Observations in the Arctic, Professor Paul Berkman
♦  Arctic High Seas: Building Common Interests in the Arctic Ocean, Professor Paul Berkman

As you can see, Fletcher has deep expertise in Arctic topics.  In addition to Fletcher’s contributions at the Arctic Circle Assembly, Fletcher students will be organizing — for the sixth year in a row — the Fletcher Arctic Conference on Saturday, February 18, 2017.  It’s always a great event and conveniently located right here in Medford.  Please mark your calendars!

I meant to publish this post yesterday (Thursday), but my reward for procrastinating is a photo of the Fletcher delegation, courtesy of second-year MALD Angga.

Arctic

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I was recently emailing back and forth with Atanas, a 2015 graduate, and he told me that Fletcher folk (mostly alumni) in New York would be gathering for a picnic last Saturday.  You can be sure that I didn’t let a moment pass before writing back to ask for a photo.  So here are 20-plus Fletcher people and one dog, gathered in New York’s Bryant Park on a beautiful summer evening, after the other 20-plus people had left (or before they arrived).  40 to 50 picnickers in total!  Go Fletcher-in-NY!

NY picnic

 

Given that it’s been almost three months since graduation, I realize that my “farewell” post for the Fletcher Admissions blog is coming a little late.  The past three months seem like a whirlwind, and I haven’t yet had a chance to take a breath and fully process them or reflect on my time at Fletcher as much as I would like.  This is because, in addition to graduation, a lot of other things have changed for me — I got married, started a new job, temporarily moved back home, and am now preparing to move to a new city.

Graduation weekend was a great opportunity to meet everyone’s families and raise a champagne toast (or several!) to the past two years.  The speakers were all incredible, and it was amazing to see some of my classmates stand in front of hundreds of people and deliver inspiring speeches about our time at Fletcher.  As fun as the weekend was, it was also bittersweet: saying goodbye to friends and professors and leaving my home for the past two years wasn’t easy.  At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel very excited for the next phase of my life, and everything I had to look forward to, including a new job, a new city, and a new husband!

After graduation weekend and my wedding, I headed home to Mumbai, where I was fortunate to start my new job at Vera Solutions while I wait for approval of my paperwork to move to Geneva, Switzerland.  Vera Solutions is a consulting company that builds technology solutions for social sector clients.  Given that it has offices in both Mumbai and Geneva, it was a perfect opportunity for me to learn the ropes, with the added bonus of getting to spend time with family and friends at home.  I also had the chance to connect with some Fletcher folk living in Mumbai, as well as to represent Fletcher at a coffee hour for prospective students.

Although I still feel as though the full impact of my time at Fletcher hasn’t sunk in, I’m glad that I was able to find a job using the skill sets — in technology, monitoring and evaluation, public speaking and presentation, and accurate data analysis — that I had wanted to gain from my MALD.  The past two years weren’t easy, and definitely came with their fair share of stress and anxiety, but I feel that my experience at Fletcher was all that I had hoped for in the beginning, giving me solid technical skills, amazing learning opportunities both in the classroom and outside, and a wonderful set of friends all over the world.

Aditi, graduation

Aditi, standing, second from left, and Fletcher classmates.

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