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Although the majority of students start their studies and go straight through the relevant number of semesters on campus, plenty of students opt to pursue a dual degree or exchange program, or even take time away to work. Jessica Meckler, who started the MALD program in September 2013, is doing just that. Here’s her story.
One of Fletcher’s greatest strengths is its often-lauded flexibility. Many other students have talked about the variety of courses and concentrations that allow students to personalize their degree to fit their professional goals, so there isn’t a need to elaborate on that. However, the opportunity to take a leave of absence from Fletcher is another particularly useful aspect to the degree program that I would love to see highlighted more.
There are many reasons to take a leave of absence from your graduate studies: fellowships, scholarships, internships, and job opportunities. Some of my batch mates have taken a semester off. Others, including myself, have taken the entire academic year to pursue additional experiences that expand upon our Fletcher studies.
I am currently living and working in Pune, India as an American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellow. The organization that I have been placed with for my 10-month fellowship is the Akanksha Foundation, an educational NGO that runs schools and after-school centers for children from low-income communities in Pune and Mumbai.
I decided to apply for the fellowship in December 2013. Throughout the course of my first semester, I had become increasingly aware of how my limited experience in the field affected my ability to connect the theories and skills we study at Fletcher with the reality of international development work. I was encouraged by several professors to pursue a field internship for the summer, and with my interest in Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DM&E), Prof. Scharbatke-Church was candid and helpful in explaining ways to supplement my previous experiences. I figured that if a summer was a good idea, why not a full year?
The application process for the AIF Clinton Fellowship was a lengthy endeavor. I submitted my written application in January 2014 and was interviewed at the end of April. I did not learn that I would be joining the 2014-2015 AIF cohort until June, when I was already living in Dhaka, Bangladesh and interning with BRAC for the summer! I was extremely grateful for the ease with which Fletcher students can apply for a leave of absence. It made the process of preparing to move to India while in Bangladesh a little simpler.
One chronic worry that arises often when I talk to people about my time off from school is the idea of falling out of the “student mode.” While in a way this fellowship is a break from the hectic schedule of all Fletcher students, I see the work that I do at the Akanksha Foundation as a crucial aspect to my Fletcher education. In Pune I am assisting with several curriculum and program assessments, curriculum design, system creation and implementation, and teacher training. My work draws upon the skills that I learned during my first year at Fletcher, such as the ideas and principles from the DM&E modular series, and I have greater clarity regarding my goals for my second year at Fletcher. There are specific skills and courses, such as Nancy Hite’s Survey Design in Comparative Political Economy and Jenny Aker’s Econometric Impact Evaluation for Development, that I will focus on when I return to Boston. Additionally, I am using my year away from Fletcher to continue a project – which will hopefully double as a significant portion of my capstone – that I began in Dhaka.
Although only four months have passed since moving to India, I am confident that my work here will have a profound impact on my future studies and career. Taking time off was invaluable for me, and it has given me the time and space necessary to contextualize the onslaught of new ideas that a year at Fletcher brings. While it is very strange to imagine Medford without the familiar faces that I have come to associate with Fletcher, I am equally excited to return to school in September as I am to stay in India for six more months!
Commencement may have passed, but I’m still receiving a few long-promised posts from students and newly-minted alumni. In the category of “Cool Stuff Students Do” comes this description of a new initiative, the Human Rights Practicum.
Hi Admissions Blog readers! We, Amy Tan (MALD 2014) and Luca Urech (MALD 2014), are here to tell you a little bit about human rights activities at Fletcher. For about a year, we have been co-presidents of the Human Rights Project, Fletcher’s student human rights group, and we used our time here at Fletcher to launch a new initiative called the Human Rights Practicum. To provide you with information about the Practicum, we thought to share a short Q&A. If you have follow-up questions, we are happy to continue the conversation in the Blog’s comment section!
What is the Human Rights Practicum?
The Human Rights Practicum is a platform at Fletcher through which students can work with human rights practitioners on substantive, live projects. The Practicum complements the Fletcher student experience with a strong practical component in the field of human rights. The Practicum has grown since its establishment in September 2013, and currently consists of five different projects. In these projects, more than a dozen Fletcher students are working under the supervision of three law professors (Professors Louis Aucoin, John Cerone, and Hurst Hannum) on topics ranging from crafting a policy paper on R2P and Syria for a Geneva-based NGO, to conducting ongoing research on the Universal Periodic Review for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues.
Where did the Human Rights Practicum come from?
We might be biased here, but we believe that Fletcher students offer a wealth of experience, expertise, and enthusiasm to make a human rights impact that we considered to be a source of great untapped potential. With this in mind, during the summer of 2013, while Amy was at The Hague Institute for Global Justice in The Netherlands and Luca was with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunisia, we put together a concept note for an initiative that would leverage Fletcher’s skills and energy for human rights impact. We sent the note to our professors and they were immediately supportive, offering their guidance and their contacts to set up projects with students.
What is the Practicum up to now?
As the spring semester here at Fletcher came to an end, our student teams also finished up their Practicum projects. While polishing reports and doing final research, everyone here was already looking forward to seeing the impact that their work will have. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, for example, will transmit the research to which the Fletcher students contributed to the Member States of the UN Human Rights Council and has found significant state interest in the work. Another project partner will leverage a report analyzing transitional justice issues produced by Fletcher students as a basis to lobby policymakers in Washington D.C. It is satisfying to see our work transcending the world of academia and making a real-impact in politics and diplomacy.
What is the future of the Practicum?
As we have just graduated from Fletcher, we have looked for motivated first-year students who can ensure the continuation of the Practicum. Fortunately, three very dedicated students, Kathryn Joyce, Roxana Mullafiroze, and Sarah Collman (all MALD 2015 and former Practicum participants), have stepped up to the plate to continue providing Fletcher students with exciting opportunities to engage in human rights work. At the same time, we have worked closely with the School’s administration to develop a plan that would allow the Practicum to become an important part of what we do at Fletcher. We hope that by building on the foundation established this year, the Practicum will continue to prosper and become an integral part of the Fletcher experience for students interested in human rights.
What better way to kick off a new week than to learn about students and their fermentation activities. Second-year MALD student, Bob Lynch (who also works for the University’s Office of Sustainability) tells us about the Fermentation 101 club’s activities.
The answer? They’re all the product of fermentation, a process of food preparation and preservation that has been utilized by human populations for over 5,000 years all across the globe.
Fermentation is the process by which microorganisms — usually yeast or bacteria — biochemically break down starches and sugars to produce alcohols or acids. Even though it has only recently been understood with modern science and technology, since its discovery it has been an integral method to prepare and store food for nearly every human culture. Fermentation is what makes bread rise, gives wine its ability to be stored for hundreds of years, and provides many of the positive health benefits of pickled foods. In a sense, one cannot celebrate and understand food and drink without celebrating and understanding fermentation.
At Fletcher, the Fermentation 101 club celebrates this once mysterious process by hosting events ranging from food tastings to brewery tours, giving Fletcher students an opportunity to learn more about one of the most culturally significant pieces of human culinary history. With well over 100 members, it is one of Fletcher’s most popular and celebrated student organizations.
Just this semester, the Fermentation 101 club teamed up with the Fletcher Food Policy Club to offer a tour of Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, participated in the Friedman School’s Slow Food Brew Off (where one Fletcher student’s home-brewed beer won third place among 16 competing beers), and has hosted bread and cheese tastings. One of the club’s more popular undertakings is beer brewing, for which the club hosts students who are excited to learn about the fermentation process while taking a break from their studies. During these brewing events, Fermentation club members meticulously go through beer brewing step-by-step, using the same tools, ingredients, and techniques that have been used since the Renaissance to prepare one of the world’s most popular beverages.
And, yes, when everything is said, done, and fermented, club members get to kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
It’s a rare Fletcher student who pursues only one out-of-class activity, and our student bloggers are no exception. First-year MALD student, Liam, is training with the Tufts Marathon Team to run in Monday’s Boston Marathon. As many readers know, this year’s Marathon will be different from the norm, coming one year after the tragic events of 2013, and giving many runners a sense of mission that goes beyond their personal best times. Here’s Liam’s report.
One of the incredible opportunities available to Fletcher students is the chance to join the Tufts Marathon Team and train for and run the Boston Marathon. Each year, the Tufts Marathon Team gets 100 bib numbers for students, faculty, staff, and alumni from throughout the Tufts community to run the race. With participants ranging from first-time runners to seasoned veterans of multiple marathons, Coach Don Megerle does an amazing job training and selecting the team, and he provides unmatched motivation and advice to ensure that all runners finish. The team supports two long runs each week, as well as a weekly speed workout, and in the winter the team takes part in five long runs that cover the entire Marathon course. By participating in these runs, Fletcher students can meet other graduate students from throughout Tufts, as well as undergrads and some great alumni and staff, helping us make connections to those we may not otherwise meet, outside the walls of Ginn library. All runners raise money towards nutrition, medical, and fitness programs at Tufts University, including research on childhood obesity at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Since the Team’s inception in 2003, runners have raised over $4 million.
This year, obviously, the Marathon takes on even more significance than it normally does in the fabric of Boston. The tragic events of April 15, 2013 united the Boston community, and each runner on the Tufts team is strongly committed to the event. The stories of a few of this year’s 13 Fletcher runners speak to how incredible this year’s race will be. Second-year Fletcher student Alex Nisetich sums up his Marathon story as follows:
I’m a Boston native, and the Marathon has always been a part of my life here. I decided to run after last year’s attack, as a demonstration of solidarity with the runners and with my home city. My own family narrowly missed being caught in the attack, and in a different year we could all have been there at the finish line. I’m running because it feels like the best way I can support my community and commemorate the events of last year.
Training has become an end in itself as well. Getting out on the road, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to overcome any fears you might have of a New England winter. The Fletcher community and Tufts are both very supportive of the runners, which makes it a pleasure to train. The team runs really build camaraderie and make it fun.
Another second-year MALD student, Stéfane Laroche, shares a similar tale:
I have always enjoyed running and flirted with the idea of running a marathon for many years, however I never had the courage and the motivation to train. Last year’s events at the Marathon changed my perspective. The devastation happened so close to home that it touched me, and I decided to run in order to support the Boston Strong campaign. When life knocks you down, you’ve got to be strong, pick yourself up, and continue to live. It’s an honor for me to run with all those other marathoners who will pay tribute to last year’s victims and who will make a statement against intolerance and misunderstandings that fuel hatred and anger around the world.
For me, personally, I had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan when the bombing happened. Growing up in Central Massachusetts, the attack hit home. Although I had always run in the past due to my job as an Army officer, I never contemplated running another marathon after an ill-advised and untrained undergrad endeavor in 2005. Running the 2014 Boston Marathon became an obsession for me, a way to show the world that we would not let this attack change who we are. I trained for months and ran a marathon in October in nearby Lowell and felt ready to take on the world come the Boston race in April. Then I began dealing with lingering knee and hip injuries, so my training has taken on its own personal journey, as I’ve worked to find ways to balance recovery with running and the ever-demanding life as a Fletcher student. For me, the process has been an incredible voyage of learning about myself, what I value, how hard I will work for it, and what it means to stand as one for a community.
Although every runner’s story is different, one commonality is certain — all 37,000 runners who make that 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street on April 21 will do so with some pain in their legs and sweat on their foreheads, but most importantly, with pride in their hearts. With tens of thousands of supporters cheering us along the course, we will show the world what being Boston Strong is about. Being able to be a part of this has truly been one of the more remarkable aspects of my time thus far at Fletcher.
Winners of two different competitions were announced this week, and one Fletcher team was successful in both! This exciting news calls for two Cool Stuff blog entries in two days. Here’s an announcement from Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti:
Please join me in congratulating Andrew Lala, F’14 and Tommy Galloway, F’14 as the winners of the inaugural Fletcher D-Prize: Poverty Solutions Venture Competition. Andrew and Tommy will receive $15,000 (and tens of thousands more in non-monetary advice and networks) to help them pilot their Clair de Lune – Solar Light Distributor Platform, which uses existing bus infrastructure and cultural remittance practices to reach the rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa. This summer, Andrew and Tommy will bring this “poverty solution venture” to 400 families in Burkina Faso. Fletcher D-Prize judges believe that, in two years, Andrew and Tommy will have an impact on the world by proving that you can provide energy to over 100,000 families living on less than a few dollars a day.
We hope that this award, and the competition among a large number of very strong proposals, signals that Fletcher prepares leaders adept not only at crossing borders of all kinds – disciplinary and geographic – but also with the ability to jump across the border of knowledge into entrepreneurial action. We aspire to develop and facilitate international ninjas, if you will. Andrew and Tommy are two terrific examples of such international ninjas. A family that buys a solar lamp saves money on energy expenses and is more productive outside of daylight hours. Household incomes often increase 15-30%. Study hours for children rise by two hours. Solar lamps also erase the far too common dangers that come with kerosene lanterns.
The award will be presented to Andrew and Tommy today, only two days after they received an “audience choice” award at the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition, at which they were finalists (shown in photo above).
This is the 10th anniversary for the Tufts $100K, which prompted a look back. BostInno selected Educate Lanka as one of the top six ventures to come out of the Tufts $100K competition. Congratulations to our good blog friend Manjula!
Today we have a short description of one of the best activities I learned about when I asked students to tell me what they’ve been doing this academic year. Erin provides the details, along with a photo I love. (Doesn’t everyone pack a Fletcher flag when they travel to Europe?)
From March 26-31, eight other Fletcher students and I participated in an International Criminal Court simulation in Krzyzowa, Poland. I first heard about this opportunity from another Fletcher student who had connections with the organization, and she put us all in contact with the program’s organizer. Through this Fletcher connection, we had the opportunity to fly to Poland and join a multinational team of individuals studying international affairs and law from countries all around the world, including Poland, Germany, Serbia, Myanmar, and Georgia. Through the simulation, we worked to prosecute, defend, and judge cases concerning genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The program was organized by the German Kreisau-Initiative and the Polish Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe and it generously provided funding for our accommodations and transportation to Poland. As a first-year MALD student focusing on human rights and international organizations, this opportunity is a perfect complement to my current coursework which includes International Criminal Justice and Understanding Mass Atrocities.
When I put out my call for students to tell me about the cool stuff they’re doing, I learned about several new or fledgling student organizations. Today, Katherine tells us about Fletcher Cares.
Taking it to the Streets: Fletcher’s Newest Student Organization Redefines the Call to Serve
Fletcher students are well known for their commitment to making the world a better place, and many enter their first year with impressive international experiences in public service. Some have served in the Peace Corps or as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, while others have volunteered or worked for the United Nations, Amnesty International, MercyCorps, Médecins Sans Frontières, or other NGOs in the public service sector. While service at the international level is certainly nothing new for the Fletcher community, this spring the School welcomed its first official public service student organization, Fletcher Cares. Created by a motley crew of first-year MALDs, Fletcher Cares aims to connect the Fletcher community to service opportunities in its own backyard, including Somerville, Medford, and the greater Boston area.
Fletcher Cares began last fall as an informal effort by students who sought to galvanize collective action and awareness around the death, displacement, and destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan. Known then as “Fletcher for the Philippines,” this small group of concerned students collaborated with established campus organizations and partnered with local businesses to fundraise for the World Food Programme, which worked with the Philippine government to launch a massive typhoon relief operation. In a matter of days, Fletcher Cares successfully obtained donation commitments from two restaurants in Somerville: Diva Indian Bistro and Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club. These donations, in addition to funds raised on campus, helped ensure that families and children in the Philippines received nutritious food during this tragic emergency.
Fletcher Cares has since received official club status and has plans for service opportunities that will engage the larger student body. In addition to its Fall fundraising efforts, Fletcher Cares has participated in various service projects, including a Somerville music festival dedicated to raising funds for the Philippines, and a holiday clothing drive benefiting homeless veterans in the Boston area. For the remainder of the academic year, Fletcher Cares plans to support runners at the Boston Marathon and to lead literacy, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and citizenship classes for the Haitian Coalition of Somerville.
In hopes of creating a sustainable and long-lasting public service model, Fletcher Cares board members reached out to their counterparts at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Student Public Service Collaborative. The SPSC leaders graciously offered their insights to the Fletcher Cares team, emphasizing the need to coordinate local, achievable projects that make service a regular part of the graduate student experience. After a fruitful discussion, the two groups laid the groundwork for future collaboration on service projects in Cambridge and Boston. Fletcher Cares has also adopted a mission statement: Fletcher Cares provides The Fletcher School with opportunities to connect their academic experiences with volunteerism that promotes a just and sustainable world through service, scholarship, and community partnerships.
As a budding organization, Fletcher Cares has much growing and learning to do. But the exciting first step has been taken, paving the way for The Fletcher School to be known for the good works its students, faculty, and staff do on the local level, in addition to on the international level.
For more information about Fletcher Cares, please contact us.
Information about Cool Stuff that Students Do hasn’t come only through the Social List. Student blogger Roxanne, now within two months of her graduation, has been very involved in promoting awareness of gender issues at Fletcher. Today she writes about her work.
As my time at Fletcher is soon drawing to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on one of the aspects of my experience here that has been most dear to me: my involvement and leadership in the Gender Initiative at Fletcher. In an earlier post, Jessica had asked me to briefly describe my academic and professional interest in the intersection of gender and armed conflict. When I arrived at Fletcher, I was very excited to learn from the many scholars and practitioners in the Boston area who work on issues related to gender and violence. I was further thrilled to discover that many of my classmates shared this interest and that momentum was developing around exploring how a gender perspective affects our understanding of international politics, development, violence, and other topics.
To capture this enthusiasm, and with much support from recent graduates, faculty, and staff, I have collaborated with fellow students to launch the Gender Initiative at Fletcher, whose mission is to enable the study and professional exploration of gender-related issues. The Gender Initiative started with three clusters of activity:
- The “Academic Cluster” compiled a list of gender-related courses in the Boston area to enable Fletcher students to cross-register, as well as to highlight faculty members working on the issue, and to showcase different syllabi with gender as a focus. It also helped crystallize student interest in additional gender-related coursework at Fletcher, culminating in the creation of a new course on Gender and Human Security in States and Societies in Transition for this semester. Students who wanted to self-design a Field of Study with a focus on gender could also receive assistance in doing so.
- The “Speakers and Events Cluster” focused on enhancing the diversity of the guest speakers we heard from at The Fletcher School. Students have compiled lists of men and women in the Boston area who speak on gender issues, as well as women who speak on a variety of topics beyond gender that are related to a Fletcher education. This list is now becoming available for club leaders and event organizers who may be interested in either infusing a gender perspective into their program or ensuring panel diversity at their events.
- Finally, the “Mission and Vision Cluster” has worked to define the objectives of the Gender Initiative, as well as to answer common questions about the value of a gender perspective in an international education.
Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of organizing and attending an array of gender-related events at The Fletcher School, in partnership with student clubs, such as Global Women, as well as the Fletcher administration. Select highlights have included a workshop on gender and negotiations with Hannah Riley Bowles, a gender mainstreaming training with Fletcher alumna Marcia Greenberg, a gender and public speaking keynote and training with renowned media and communications expert Christine Jahnke, a luncheon talk and small-group discussion with NATO’s Gender Advisor Charlotte Isaksson, as well as talks with representatives of UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and more. This semester, we are really excited to have celebrated the inaugural Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award, as well as to welcome renowned feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe, among a few other exciting events.
It has been moving and inspiring to watch the Gender Initiative grow during my time here. I have particularly appreciated the genuine enthusiasm of Fletcher’s first-year students for these topics, and their energy in joining existing efforts to make gender-related learning and professional training accessible to all who are interested in it. While I’m sad to slowly have to leave it behind, I’m excited to see the Gender Initiative continue its important work after our graduation!
I learned about Melinda’s research, the subject of the first post on Cool Stuff Students Do, a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to gather more information about student activities that I never hear about. Now that I’ve collected other stories (many on less academic topics) for future posts, it seems fitting to kick off this new feature with Melinda’s description of her travels for thesis research.
I received support of my MALD thesis research through the Dean’s Research Fund. The funding allowed me to travel over the winter break to Ghana, where I was able to interview key Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Accra, Kumasi, and Ho, three of the country’s main cities in three different regions. This primary data will give depth to my analysis of the role of religious leaders in promoting nonviolence and addressing conflict in society, and of the challenges they face in doing so. The financial support was instrumental in facilitating this opportunity to address such a profound issue in my Fletcher capstone project.
I’ve included a photograph of myself with the National Chief Imam of the Republic of Ghana, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, an amazing and highly respected figure whom I was able to meet during my trip, and whose office hosted me most graciously. I met the colleague who facilitated my work, Alhaji Khuzaima Mohamed Osman, the Executive Secretary for the National Chief Imam, during my internship last summer with The Carter Center. It is only through that relationship that I was able to conduct the research I did in Ghana.
In addition to my research, while in Ghana I was on the English language Islamic television program, IQRA, hosted by Sheikh Imam Muhammad Hussaini Bagnya, who is also a graduate student of governance and leadership at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. I appeared twice, the first time on a program of solidarity for Christmas, and the second on a program discussing coexistence and tolerance with an interfaith panel of guests.
I was also in attendance at the Office of the National Chief Imam’s New Year’s Eve event, where I was invited to address the gathering of community and respected religious scholars and leaders with a solidarity message.
Sitting in the Office of Admissions, I miss out on a lot of what’s happening beyond our walls. I try to keep up but, inevitably, students are pushing forward with interesting group and individual activities that I’ll never know about. What’s a blogger to do? Naturally, I turned to the Social List, asking students what cool stuff they’ve been doing throughout this year. Within minutes I had the kind of answers that made me super happy to have taken a minute to write the note. What’s more, most of the people who responded thanked ME for giving them a chance to write about what they’ve been up to! Tomorrow I’ll start sharing the great information that flowed my way, and I’ll group it all with the Cool Stuff tag. Stay tuned!
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