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Like that most pivotal of years in U.S. history, 1776 is the number of today’s blog post.  In addition to the usual topics, the previous 1,775 include annual odes to Thanksgiving, my most favorite of holidays.  People who have never lived in the U.S. may find Thanksgiving perplexing.  It’s not a religious holiday.  No gifts are involved.  And yet it’s not a patriotic holiday, like a National Day.  But it’s a nearly universally shared holiday, and tomorrow, Thursday, will feel different from any other day in the year.  You could call it an internally facing holiday, with the highlight being a special meal.

My annual Thanksgiving cooking doesn’t change radically from year to year, but it does evolve.  The basic ingredients always turn up — we’re definitely Team Sweet Potato, and squash (a vegetable I love on the year’s other 364 days) or mashed potatoes don’t make an appearance.  Nonetheless, I read avidly about the holiday, primarily recipes, but also about the meaning of a day dedicated to giving thanks.  And so, I was pleased that my reading led me to an article by Elliot Ackerman, F03, in the food section of The New York Times.

Thanksgiving is our most communal of holidays and I like to check in with folks to be sure they have a meal planned or a destination.  Among Fletcher students, some will travel to their families, others will stay here and host or be hosted, and many will create a short vacation and go somewhere else entirely.  So long as no one is eating alone, I’m happy.

Everything I’ll cook for the meal comes from my list of standards.  The only change will be the green vegetable.  I’m thinking of a salad of shaved Brussels sprouts, but I could still go with roasting.  After many years of hosting, I’m realistic about putting perfectly cooked vegetables on the table amid the frenzy of the final preparations, and yet I haven’t figured out the solution.  Maybe the answer is a cold salad.  Maybe next year I’ll be back to considering other options.

I’m fortunate that I never need to worry about fractiousness around the dinner table.  I’m thankful for that.  But the wider world offers challenges, so I will take Elliot Ackerman’s point as he says, “And we still, even on Thanksgiving, struggle to recognize one another as countrymen across economic, political and racial divides.”  I’m thankful that Fletcher brings together people from across those divides, giving me daily opportunities to learn.

And with that, I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving, whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, or looking forward to spending the holiday in the U.S. next year while a graduate student.

(Note that the Admissions Office will be closed on Thursday and Friday, but the blog will not rest!  Check back on both days for a special feature.)

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Our friend and Admissions Canine Representative, Murray, is all dressed up and looking forward to reading applications for September 2018 enrollment, some of which have already arrived or will arrive today before our Early Notification deadline.  (As usual, Murray reminds you that the ultimate last minute for submitting the application is 11:59 PM EST (UTC-4) today, November 15.)

We have our Admissions Committee — including ten new student members (two for MIB, eight for MALD/MA) — ready to start their reading, and we’ll be meeting early in December.  The turnaround is pretty quick on Early Notification applications.  Everyone with a complete application will hear from us before the end of December.

That speedy process means that, if you’re one of the EN applicants, you should make sure all needed materials reach us very soon.  All the basics (form, essays, transcripts) should be submitted by tonight’s deadline, and you’ll want any lagging items (test scores or recommendations, for example) to reach us within the next week.  Incomplete applications will simply be rolled into the regular application group, which means you’ll have until January 10 to gather those last materials.  (No penalty, and not a big deal, but you also won’t get an early response from us.)

I don’t have a gingham tie of my own but, like Murray, I’m looking forward to reading some applications!

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One of the perks of working (or studying) on a university campus is that there’s all sorts of interesting stuff going on that may have nothing to do with my day-to-day.  An example: One afternoon last week, I walked out of the office and five minutes later was standing in Tisch Library (the main Tufts library), checking out an exhibit of the photography of Robert Frank.  This “pop-up” exhibit, with books, videos, and photographs spread throughout the main level (including in the Tower Café), has gained quite a bit of attention, and was a great way to connect with Frank’s work.  (Apologies for my less-than-artistic photos, taken on my phone.)

From Tisch, I wandered further down the hill and, another five minutes later, I was at the Aidekman Arts Center, where I wanted to check out one exhibit, but ended up visiting four.

The first, which awaited visitors barely inside the door, displayed photographs from the Philippines by one of the university’s staff photographers, Alonso Nichols.  (Nice overlap between art and international concerns.)

The second was a small exhibit of photographs of South Asia connected with a Kashmir Conference.  This photo was taken by Professor Ayesha Jalal.

Next up was a display on either side of a hallway, titled “Pilgrim Father/illegal son,” comparing the experiences of William Bradford, who traveled to what is now Massachusetts aboard the Mayflower, and a recent Chinese immigrant, who like Bradford, arrived without official documentation.  The artist, Wen-Ti Tsen, spent time in residence at Tufts this semester, but the exhibit has traveled.  Here is Wen-Ti Tsen’s description of his work.

Finally, I reached my original destination, Aidekman’s main gallery, where the featured display was a full-room mural by Chinese artist Yuan Yunsheng.  Yuan spent time at Tufts in the 1980s and painted a mural within Wessell Library.  The larger Tisch library was built around Wessell, but the original wall on which the mural was displayed doesn’t exist anymore.  Neither, it turns out, does nearly any other Tufts wall large enough to display the mural.  Segments of the mural have been exhibited in recent years, but the remainder has been kept in storage.  For the new exhibit at Aidekman, the mural was displayed in full on the only wall at the University large enough for it.  Curiously, it has a door cut into it, representing where there would have been a door in its original Wessell Library site.  The articles I’ve linked to have some photos, but here’s a piece of what I saw.

I’m going to try to get back to Aidekman for another visit to the mural.  By the time I had visited Tisch and the other three Aidekman exhibits, I wasn’t left with much time, but I’m glad to be able to give you a sense of the vibrant campus arts scene.  And if you happen to want to know more about Yuan Yunsheng, here’s a video from the Tufts Digital Design Studio.

 

Today is a University holiday, but we’ll be back in the office tomorrow to answer any last-minute questions before the October 15 deadline.

Meanwhile, folks in the local area will want to know that Fletcher will be well represented at HUBweek, a festival of art, science, technology, and big thinking in Boston and surrounding towns.   There are so many great discussions on the agenda that it’s hard to know what to choose.  Start with the Fletcher-connected events and you can’t go wrong!

 

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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