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Though we’re tip-toeing up to their six-year post-graduation mark, I’m happy to introduce another member of the Class of 2011.  Philippa Brown completed the one-year mid-career MA program, and is now a consultant specializing in designing and implementing programs focused on counter-terrorism and stabilization, as well as early recovery work in conflict environments.  Her bio further says that, “She has just completed a three-year posting to the British Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia, where she covered two thematic areas: leading the multi-disciplinary counter-terrorism team, and designing and delivering the UK’s bilateral stabilization program.  Prior to her work in Somalia, she designed and managed the UK’s counter-terrorism program in Pakistan, focused on criminal justice capacity building in Punjab.  Philippa also deployed to Afghanistan as part of the UK’s support to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand 2009-10.”

Pre-Fletcher Experience
As one member of the small group of “mid-career” MA students, I had already been working internationally prior to Fletcher.  After ten years working in London as a UK civil servant, I was heading the Counter Narcotics Team in the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand.  Two weeks later, I found myself at Fletcher Orientation in Medford.  It was a bit of a culture shock.

I had heard about the MA program from a work friend who was based in Khandahar, working with the U.S. military.  I mentioned my interest in going back to school to study international relations.  He said, “You’ve got to go to Fletcher.”  I had anticipated studying in the UK but had a look.  I was really impressed with the courses available, the professors (How many superstar academics is it possible to have in one school?), and the international mix of the student body.  I was further impressed when I met a current Fletcher student visiting Lashkar Gah on his summer internship — everything you hear about the Fletcher community is true!

At Fletcher
On arriving, I sat in the auditorium at Fletcher, with hundreds of other students, and felt a sense of awe.  It was even more international than I had expected.  It was hard to whittle down the list of courses I wanted to take, and I had only one year at Fletcher to complete everything.  I tried to cover a mixture, combining Professor Nasr’s Comparative Politics, Professor Maxwell’s Humanitarian Action, Professor Shultz’s Role of Force, Professor Block’s Agricultural Economics, and Professor Scharbatke-Church’s Design Monitoring and Evaluation, which absolutely changed my perspective on how we can deliver better results in the field.  Even now, I feel some regret about the classes I didn’t manage to squeeze in — Professor Mazurana’s Gender and Conflict and Professor Drezner’s Classics of International Relations.

It was intense.  I found myself working just as hard as I had in Afghanistan, but it was endlessly fascinating.  There was just so much going on that I found it really important to be selective in deciding what to take on: I really enjoyed the Security Studies Program lunches, with their fascinating speakers; SIMULEX was a lot of fun; the ski trip was FREEZING but great.  And the chance to cross-register for a couple of Harvard courses gave me a chance to widen my circle even further.

Post-Fletcher

After leaving Fletcher, I came back to the UK and left the civil service, deciding to make the leap into consultancy that I’d been considering for a few years.  Since then, I have spent almost all my time overseas: first in Pakistan working on criminal justice reform; and then in Somalia, working on counter-terrorism and stabilization.  I am currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, as well as consulting on international security issues.  I have also continued to enjoy the Fletcher family, catching up with a Fletcher crowd for dinners when transiting Nairobi, and now reconnecting with classmates back in London.  I look back on my time in Medford as a bit of a whirlwind: intense, challenging, and a period of real growth.  And I use the skills and knowledge I gained from Fletcher every single day.

In Baidoa, Somalia as British Embassy Stabilization Advisor, arriving with a delegation at the AMISOM headquarters during a visit to assess Quick Impact Projects in April 2015. (AMISOM Photo / Abdikarim Mohamed)

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7:35 this morning found me elbow-to-elbow with my Admissions pal Kristen, registering visiting prospective students who are at Fletcher for the Admitted Student Open House.  We sent them off to the coat racks and to breakfast, and then we heard from Dean Sheehan about his own path to Fletcher.  (Dean Sheehan is the dean for all sorts of things that aren’t academic.)

The next set of comments came from two current students — who both shared tales of internships/jobs already arranged with the support of Fletcher alumni — and then the crowd was divided by degree program for program-specific introductions.  The remainder of the day is a constant challenge in decision making: attend a class; attend a student panel; visit an office; participate in a roundtable.  At 5:00, we hope they’ll remember to swing back to Admissions and grab their bags.

Good idea, pink bag student!  You won’t have trouble recognizing your suitcase.

Even after our formal activities have wrapped up, there’s an open event at 5:30, Fletcher Reads the Newspaper, which gathers a group of interdisciplinary Fletcher experts to discuss a current news topic.  The Fletcher Reads the Newspaper series is, according to the announcement, “a platform for integrating the skills and contextual knowledge that are central to a Fletcher education, where panelists and audience members participate in examining the problem – and the solutions – through multiple disciplinary lenses.”  The subject for this evening’s session is:

Resolved: “The US and international system of checks and balances will contain the extremes of the Trump Administration”

Visitors in the audience will be more than welcome to participate, alongside current students.

I admit, the Admissions staff will not be joining the discussion.  We’ll be on our way home, where I think it’s fair to say, we all look forward to swapping shoes for slippers.  We’ve been on our feet and enjoying meeting people whose applications we remember since 3:30 yesterday.  The Open House is a really fun event, but just crazy enough that we’re also happy to wrap it up at the end of the day.

It’s noon now and I’m going to grab my box lunch before heading off to a few lunchtime discussion sessions, to check in with the faculty leaders.  Then back to Admissions to answer questions, a student panel at 3:20, more questions at 4:30, and farewells at 5:00.  A long but happy day!

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Continuing the fall semester wrap-ups from the first-year Student Stories writers, today we’ll hear from Pulkit, who tells us about his involvement with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School.  It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976.  It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum.  So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal.  I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.

After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process.  The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs.  It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published.  Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations.  The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor.  Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition.  Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum.  Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively.  The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations.  The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total.  In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.

The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations.  The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits.  The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic.  The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow.  The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  The third cycle involves editing the citations.  The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules.  Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review.  The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes.  This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.

ForumThe fall semester was busy.  My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing.  As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy.  There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted.  During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.

And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum.  After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check.  The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.

While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership.  These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.

Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun.  At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff.  For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized.  I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team.  I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.

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I tend to let National Public Radio keep me company in the morning, with the result that a member of the Fletcher community frequently joins me while I eat breakfast or commute to work.  This week, my cup of tea was accompanied by the voices of two graduates.

Yesterday I was visited by Vali Nasr, F84 — a double Jumbo (alumnus of Tufts undergraduate and Fletcher) who happens now to be the dean at Johns Hopkins-SAIS, having previously taught at Fletcher — talking about Saudi Arabia, Iran, and this year’s hajj.

And then today, it was R.D. Sahl, F95, a graduate of the one-year MA program, who will be delivering reports for a new app that makes it easy to follow politics, in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

Whether it’s an alum, a professor, or Dean Stavridis, hearing their stories and analysis over the radio is a welcome reminder that I’m part of a terrifically interesting and knowledgeable community.

 

This has been a very strange and sad week in the Boston area, but I was determined to close out the week on a positive note.  Tomorrow is the deadline for making enrollment decisions for most of our admitted students, which means that we’ll soon welcome a new class to Fletcher (YAY!), but also say goodbye to many applicants who have made the decision to pursue another opportunity.  (We wish you all the best in your future studies!)

But even as we try to answer the last minute questions of applicants making their final decision, our work is interrupted by the events of the week.  Tufts University is closed today while law enforcement officials pursue suspects in Monday’s crime.  Admissions staffers will try to keep up with your questions by email.

I want to revisit the terrific positive spirit that usually surrounds the Boston Marathon.  Our two-year Admissions intern and friend, Hillary, took pictures from the post where she and other Boston-area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers distribute water at each year’s event.  Here’s a photo that another RPCV took of Hillary.

Hillary

And then there’s the spirit that accompanied the unexpected events of the day.  This article features Brennan Mullaney, MALD student.  Maybe Brennan was your interviewer if you visited last fall!

Brennan

In such a strange week, I’m grateful for my long connection to Fletcher and all the fantastic students, such as Brennan and Hillary, who make every day interesting.  As Dean Bosworth wrote to the community earlier this week:

Yesterday’s events remind us, in an all too poignant and tragic fashion, of the important work that lies ahead for all of you (and us) in advancing Fletcher’s mission of understanding and mutual respect, and making our interdependent world more safe and secure.

We look forward to resuming Fletcher’s mission on Monday.

 

I’m writing at about 10:30, the time when Fletcher starts to buzz each day.  There were students in Mugar Café when I grabbed my coffee at 10, and I’ve already met with a visitor.  In other words, Fletcher is back to normal.  But it’s hard for me to have the blog ignore what happened yesterday and carry on as usual.  I think I’ll hold off one more day before returning to more admissions-ish topics.

For now, I’ll acknowledge that yesterday was a sad day indeed.  Patriots’ Day, with the annual running of the Boston Marathon, is generally a happy day.  Whether we know someone running the race or not, we celebrate this long-lived event and its annual demonstration of athleticism, perseverance, and strength of will.

Today, while we keep those wounded by the attack in mind, for most of us it’s a sunny day like many others, at least at the surface.  Our lovely Boston, and its surrounding cities such as Somerville and Medford, is the home of a million people and the temporary home of thousands and thousands of students.  Yesterday we experienced a temporary discontinuity in our easy love of this beautiful city.  Today, we’re back to express our affection for our interesting, historical, international, diverse, intellectual, technological, fun home.  Those of you who live nearby know that Boston is already moving forward.  Those of you who are farther away should know that this is a strong place that will not be defined by a single event, however sad.

Finally, a word about the University’s response.  With a large number of runners in the Tufts Marathon Team, there was an intense effort to ensure the well-being of all students and members of the community.  Two students, not from Fletcher, were injured but are reported to be recovering.  The University arranged transportation from Boston to the Medford campus, and notified us of its availability through the excellent emergency notification system that has been in place for several years.  Fletcher students, many having experienced emergencies in other locations, quickly established a mechanism to account for each other.  An interfaith gathering took place on campus last night, and students and staff have learned of the availability of counseling.  All in all, a quick and thorough response to the events, which makes us proud to be part of Tufts.

Boston viewArial view of the Medford/Somerville campus and Boston skyline, with Fletcher near the bottom right corner, taken by photographer Steve Eliopoulos for Tufts University.

 

What started out as a lovely cool and sunny marathon day has ended with sadness.  Blog readers might want to know that all Fletcher runners have been heard from.  Students established a google doc on which they reported back about themselves or on classmates they have heard from.  The Tufts University Medical Center is attending to many of the wounded, and the University is working to contact all Tufts runners.

Thank you to friends around the world who are thinking of Boston right now.

 

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