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We’re rapidly approaching the one-year post-Fletcher mark for the graduates in the Class of 2014. Today we meet Julia Leis, whose path from pre-Fletcher to her current location involved several countries on three continents. Julia used her time at Fletcher to develop her interests and explore new areas, resulting in the perfect job that weaves everything together.
While working at an agricultural school for Burmese youth in northern Thailand in March 2011, I confronted two major decisions: 1) which career/life path to choose; and 2) whether to return to the U.S. that August. I knew I wanted to continue my education and, while my undergraduate studies at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service had prepared me well in international relations, picking the right graduate program was a challenge.
The decision was complicated because I felt I had too many interests. Urban planning, social enterprise, natural resource management, and public policy all fascinated me, as each area incorporated my previous work experience and passions. In addition to these interests, I knew I wanted a graduate school with an international focus on development. Thanks to mentors and supportive family back home in Chicago — and a Fletcher student, who I found through the Fletcher Admissions Blog and who Skyped with me while I was in Thailand — I found the ideal place, where I would have the flexibility and support to pursue multiple avenues of interest: The Fletcher School.
Now, four years after I considered my future plans, I can happily report that enrolling at Fletcher was the best decision I ever could have made. Not only did I find an incredible group of friends and peers at Fletcher, but I was able to pursue all of my interests in various capacities through courses, by organizing conferences, and in research assistant positions.
The sense of community that I found at Fletcher from the first day was unparalleled. The first weeks of school were both exciting and overwhelming, as I struggled to find the right balance between building off my previous background and exploring new subject areas. By the end of my first year, while I knew I wanted to pursue a career abroad, I did not know in what capacity.
In between my first and my second year at Fletcher, I was able to pursue an internship with Millennium Challenge Corporation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, working on agricultural development, M&E, and land tenure reform projects, which allowed me to broaden my development skill set while working in a French-speaking context.
In my second year at Fletcher, I cross-registered for a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, under Visiting Professor David Sanderson, called Design for Urban Disaster. This course, along with Field Studies in Global Consulting with Prof. Rusty Tunnard, reignited my interests in complex urban issues, resilience, and human-centered design, and I considered more seriously pursuing a career in humanitarian response. With the support of Prof. Tunnard, I also self-designed a Field of Study in international urban planning and development. In January 2014, I joined a graduate school field trip with Prof. Sanderson to Léogâne, Haiti, to conduct a participatory evaluation on transitional shelters.
In preparing for life post-Fletcher, I attended an Office of Career Services information session with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the fall semester of my second year, and I decided to apply to their International Development Fellows Program (IDFP). My interest in the IDFP was further solidified by courses such as Essentials of Humanitarian Action and Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies with Prof. Dyan Mazurana and Prof. Elizabeth Stites.
CRS selects approximately 20 IDFP fellows each year, and places them across CRS country programs in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and Central America. I discovered that at least one Fletcher student had done the IDFP each year prior to me in places such as Haiti, Kenya, and Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza. I was able to connect with these talented alumni, who highlighted what an excellent opportunity the IDFP offered to pursue a humanitarian career abroad, as a majority of fellows will, after nine to ten months, transition to program manager positions within CRS. I knew that the IDFP would allow me the chance to work closely with communities and partners at the local level, and with an organization I deeply respected. I was fortunate to be selected and offered a position with the CRS Philippines country program in early May, and my posting was scheduled to begin in September 2014.
As I graduated in May 2014, I needed to find summer employment to get me through to September. Again, Fletcher provided me and other students with an excellent opportunity to conduct field research related to topics that interested us. I joined my phenomenally talented research partner Anisha Baghudana (MIB ’15) in Nairobi, Kenya as Junior Research Fellows with the Institute for Business in the Global Context and MasterCard Worldwide. We completed a qualitative study on how digital innovation is improving urban mobility in Nairobi. Connecting with Nairobi’s tech and start-up community provided an exciting glimpse into how entrepreneurs are creating solutions to solve some of Nairobi’s biggest urban transport challenges, including traffic congestion, poor road quality, and safety and security for passengers and pedestrians.
In my current position as a CRS fellow in the Philippines, where CRS has been working since 1945, I have worked with exceptionally talented Filipino and international colleagues in Manila, Davao, and Tacloban City. In Eastern Leyte and Samar, CRS is responding with Shelter, WASH, and Livelihoods programming after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the area in November 2013. I’ve supported multiple projects, including an urban disaster risk reduction program called SUCCESS (Strengthening Urban Communities Capacity to Endure Severe Shocks) in Metro Manila, and the December 2014 Typhoon Hagupit emergency response in Eastern Samar. My training from the class on Essentials of Humanitarian Action proved extremely useful and applicable, as I helped with shelter and WASH kit distribution in affected communities, wrote situation reports, and attended coordination meetings with local government agencies and UNOCHA.
Like Hanneke, while I dearly miss my family back in Chicago and my Fletcher family, I never cease to be amazed at how close we remain. Despite being in vastly distant locations now, such as South Sudan, Washington, DC, Uganda, Nepal, Guatemala, and Boston, we support each other in any way we can, especially as the transition after grad school is not always a smooth one. They have supported me through countless Skype calls, and even with a month-long visit to the Philippines. It is this unique network of support that so attracted me to Fletcher in the first place, and I know that it will remain with me for years to come.
Time to hear from another Class of 2014 graduate. Yuko Hirose was one of those students who are organized and systematic in their approach to their studies, but who still maintain an open mind toward post-Fletcher opportunities. Here she describes her three-year path from Tokyo, through Medford/Somerville, to Nairobi.
It’s been more than seven months since I graduated from Fletcher, and I find myself writing this from Nairobi, Kenya where I have been living for the past four months. If someone had told me three years ago that I would find myself working as a global development consultant in Nairobi, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it! Life throws you wonderful opportunities when you least expect them, and Fletcher has played a tremendous role in helping me get here.
Three years ago, I was working as a management consultant in Tokyo, knowing that I eventually wanted to transition to working on global development issues. My passion for working in developing countries grew through meeting microfinance clients in the slums of Mumbai and Dhaka and a homestay in a rural village in Thailand during my undergraduate years. A study abroad at UC Berkeley exposed me to the world of social innovation, and I devoured books and other opportunities to learn about harnessing market approaches to improving the lives of marginalized populations. This was also when I first learned about Fletcher; a trusted friend and mentor attending Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy mentioned that her fiancé was attending Fletcher and loved the school’s strong curriculum in international affairs, as well as the warm and passionate community. Going to Fletcher became a dream of mine.
After university, I wanted to quickly build my skills in problem-solving and management, and I decided to join a consulting firm. There I met wonderful mentors and developed business skills that would eventually help me be effective in development projects. Though I had opportunities to work on pro bono projects with Japanese non-profits after the March 2011 earthquake in northern Japan, I still craved the opportunity to more directly apply the skills I had gained to the issues that I cared about. I started taking steps realize this dream, using any time I could carve out to apply to graduate school.
I was ecstatic when I received my admission letter from Fletcher in late 2011. Fletcher provided the perfect blend of development economics and international business courses that could help me transition from a career in the private sector to one in global development. In the end, what finalized my decision to join the MALD program was the warm alumni community I met during a reception hosted for admitted students at the residence of a Fletcher alum, Mark Davidson F86, who was then serving as U.S. Minster-Counsel of Public Affairs to Japan. I remember riding the train home that evening in awe of how humble the Fletcher alums were, despite their countless accomplishments, and touched by how fondly they spoke of their experiences at Fletcher and the friendships they developed there, even after many decades. If I was taking a leap into an uncertain future, I knew I wanted to spend the two years of my master’s program in a warm community of peers who are passionate about changing the world — as cliché as that sounds — and helping each other in the process, and Fletcher turned out to be exactly that.
After two years there, I can honestly say that going to Fletcher was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Not only did the courses help me to better understand development issues and tools such as impact evaluation and development finance, but Fletcher alums were extremely supportive in helping me transition my career. My summer internship was with an inspiring Fletcher alum at the International Finance Corporation, working on how to incorporate a gender lens into IFC’s investments. This internship helped me to work with TechnoServe in Ethiopia over the winter break of my second year, assessing the successes and challenges of a guarantee facility between IFC and a local bank. Seeing I was both nervous and excited about this trip, an Ethiopian Fletcher friend and other Fletcherites who had spent time in the country readily shared advice and introduced friends. My month in Ethiopia and a weekend in Nairobi to visit a close Kenyan Fletcher friend exposed me to the excitement of working in East Africa and supporting private sector development in the region. During the DC Career Trip organized by OCS, I attended a site visit at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, hosted by a Fletcher alum, and found out about an opportunity to work on exactly this topic. I hadn’t considered going back to consulting when I left Deloitte, but each case interview with Dalberg made me more excited about their work and I joined their Nairobi office six months after that visit.
Working as a consultant at Dalberg has been an amazing experience. The firm provides strategic advice to leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to accelerate their impact on issues such as access to finance, health, education, energy, and inclusive business. My most recent project was with the MasterCard Foundation on setting a learning agenda and designing a learning lab to enhance access to finance for smallholder farmers in Africa. My next one will be a project revamping the CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy of a large Kenyan financial company. As one of three Japanese in the firm, I am also helping drive business development in Japan to encourage Japanese businesses to engage with the continent in a way that meets the needs of local marginalized populations.
I am fully using everything I learned at Fletcher and Deloitte on a daily basis, and am grateful to be surrounded by a passionate and capable team that is as diverse and loving as Fletcher was. The Fletcher community in Nairobi has also been a huge source of support, as I navigated my way in a new city. More than ten recent Fletcher grads gathered for lunch during my second weekend in Nairobi, and that is when I realized that it is really true that you can find a Fletcherite anywhere in the world (and they will gladly take you in)! I’ve kept in close contact with Fletcher friends who are now working in places like Kabul, Yangon, Delhi, Juba, and NYC. While we are scattered across the globe, we support each other virtually as we navigate new cities, careers, and life events.
I am grateful to Fletcher for giving me the opportunity to be part of this warm community that inspires me to strive to create positive change. I hope potential applicants with a thirst for engaging deeply with global issues consider joining the Fletcher family — you will find a community of fellow students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to helping you succeed in this quest and who will continue to inspire you for a long time to come!
Next up among our 2014 graduates is Hanneke Van Dyke, an old friend of Admissions, having served on the Admissions Committee for two years. We miss her! Here’s her update on her first year post-Fletcher.
As winter settles in back in the States, I’m sitting in front of a fan in my office in the relative comfort of southern hemisphere summer. “Relative” because it’s not exactly comfortable, but after three winters in New England, I am welcoming the reprieve.
After graduating this past May from both Fletcher and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, I began a Global Health Corps (GHC) fellowship and relocated to Lilongwe, Malawi in July where I work as a Community Nutrition Support Fellow for the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI).
CDI operates as a social enterprise here in Malawi, linking commercial production of groundnuts, soya, and maize to smallholder (generally, farmers operating on small-scale family-run plots producing for both sale and household consumption) outreach programs designed to build technical knowledge around best agronomic practices in order to increase productivity, income, food security and overall well-being. In our role at CDI, my “co-fellow” (more on that later) Hector and I are working to build a community nutrition program that is integrated into this commercial and smallholder approach. These first few months have been dedicated to developing relationships with government counterparts and municipal leaders in the district and traditional authority where we work, building our information base by engaging in community-level discussions, and becoming more familiar with the programming across CDI’s different departments.
GHC itself is a leadership development and placement organization that works with leading health organizations to identify talent gaps, and then competitively recruits young professionals from an array of non-medical sectors to fill those gaps. Those in the GHC community share the common belief that health is a human right and that everyone has a role to play in advancing social justice through the health equity movement. One of my favorite aspects of GHC is that fellows work in pairs at their placement organizations — one national fellow and one international. My co-fellow Hector was born, raised, and educated in Malawi, and working as a pair is giving us the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. It is teaching us both a lot about communication, authentic partnership, and the benefits of a little constructive discord here and there.
Now in its sixth year, 128 GHC fellows (representing 22 countries) are working with 59 partner organizations in the U.S., Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. This diversity, both of origin and of experience and background, is so fundamental to the beauty of the Fletcher community, and it is something that was important to me to seek as I was planning my transition away from Medford. (In fact, applications recently opened for the 2015-2016 fellow class and I encourage anyone who has an interest in global health and social justice to explore the diverse offerings.)
Prior to Fletcher, I worked in rural community health education with the Peace Corps in Morocco and then spent a school year teaching elementary school English in the Marshall Islands with WorldTeach. It was during this time that I began to understand the value of working closely with communities and gained exposure to an array of challenges related to health and nutrition, taking a particular interest in their effects on children.
While at Fletcher, my chosen Fields of Study were Human Security and Public & NGO Management and at Friedman, I focused on International Nutrition Interventions. I had a bit of a unique opportunity in that I did not have to limit my course selection strategy to just one school. While aiming to strike a balance between more theory-based coursework and more hands-on and technical coursework, the approach I took and the perspective I maintain is that Fletcher largely served to further inform the wider context of working within the international system, while Friedman largely served to develop the specific technical knowledge that would inform my day-to-day work in nutrition and food security, though of course, there was some blurring of these lines.
Courses such as Actors in Global Governance with Dean Ian Johnstone and Political Economy of Development with Prof. Katrina Burgess were exceptional in broadening my understanding of the international context. As a Fletcher student, I also had the opportunity to enroll in a university seminar during my first semester called International Perspectives on Children in Exceptionally Difficult Circumstances (maybe the longest name of any course I’ve taken and what some of my friends will remember well as the course that made me cry every week), which served to provide more solid footing for the central purpose of my graduate studies.
Because my program spanned three years, I was able to spend two summers pursuing internships abroad: the first, with a small NGO named Sok Sabay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, whose work is focused on early intervention for child trafficking; and the second, in Kinshasa and Bandundu Province, DR Congo, with Action Against Hunger, doing qualitative research on community-specific causes of malnutrition. Both have proved invaluable (directly and indirectly) in preparing me for the work I am doing now and in helping me to more narrowly define my scope of work as I (attempt to) plan my career.
After all of this, it’s still easy to feel a bit scattered at times, and while I am loving learning about my new home and investing in my new community (and particularly loving mango season!), Fletcher remains solidly at my core. I am beyond grateful for the connectivity granted by Whatsapp and Skype and am not only continually inspired as I watch the work my dear friends and classmates have committed to, both back in the States and further afield, but am regularly reminded (by the delivery of a milk frother to aid in my latte-making efforts, updates about of the goings on of Corgis around the D.C. metro area, and emails marked URGENT detailing a lobster parade in Nova Scotia) just how caring, brilliant, and hilarious they are.
I’m happy to introduce the first member of the Class of 2014 to report on his life after Fletcher. Keith Magnam jumped back into the workforce quickly after graduation, and has settled into his new life in Burkina Faso. Here’s his story on his first year post-Fletcher.
I remember the day that I received my welcome packet from Fletcher Admissions some two and a half years ago. It was a scorching hot, dusty day in the lazy town of Bobo-Dioulasso. Getting myself to the DHL office, which was tucked away on the edge of the city limits, was the first of many experiences that would show me just how unique a Fletcher education would be. It’s fitting that I received my packet while living as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. It was in the Peace Corps that I witnessed some of the deepest and most stagnant poverty that I had ever seen in my life. It was in the Peace Corps where I realized that international development would be the focus of the rest of my career. Being at the grassroots level, seeing the day-to-day lives of these amazing people and the struggles they encountered, I knew that I needed to go back to school in order to serve them in the ways they needed. Fletcher’s values, amazing professors, and tireless network of passionate and supportive alumni called to me across the globe. And so, in September of 2012, I had the immense pleasure of joining the Fletcher Class of 2014!
I spent my two years learning everything I could about development economics, the history and progress of international development, and the skills and techniques that would allow me to better design, monitor, and evaluate development interventions around the world. My last semester at Fletcher really made it clear to me where I wanted to be and what role I wanted to play in the field of international development. I took Econometric Impact Evaluation and Development Economics Micro Perspectives with Prof. Jenny Aker, and these two classes taught me how to approach developmental problems from a more efficient and multifaceted perspective. Professor Aker is so passionate about her work and has an unmatched ability to make these lofty theoretical ideas easily accessible and increasingly enjoyable to learn. I spent hours doing STATA work and reading econometric papers because I honestly wanted to. How often does that happen? Well, at Fletcher, all the time. The environment at Fletcher makes students want to excel and strive to be a leader in their field of expertise. It is a great combination of rigorous academics and a collaborative, convivial student body that creates the perfect little bubble in Medford/Somerville, MA where our world’s next leaders are created.
The summer between my first and second years was spent working with FINCA International in Kinshasa, helping them implement a nationwide household survey. My time as their summer fellow taught me a great deal about managing the implementation of a household survey, training and supervising teams of enumerators, and managing data collection in infrastructure-poor areas. This experience was made possible thanks to the generous financial and warmhearted support of the Blakeley Foundation, which sponsors Fletcher summer internships. Without that support, I could have never made the trip to the DRC, nor would I have been exposed to what it’s like to work in a fragile country setting. The experience had its fair share of challenges and security incidents, but Fletcher and the Blakeley Foundation provided me with overwhelming support and advice that helped make the trip a success overall.
Immediately after my time in Kinshasa, I took advantage of the flexibility within Fletcher’s curriculum to spend a semester abroad in Paris. This experience was priceless in that it helped me broaden my perspectives on international collaboration and different developmental paradigms, and of course, to continue to perfect my French while eating the best bread and cheese you’ll ever taste. It was a great opportunity to interact with some of the most influential actors in the development world and begin the work I needed to construct my thesis. I believe it is the combination of my coursework and my practical field experience that helped me get to where I am today.
I currently work for the World Bank Group as an Impact Evaluation Field Coordinator, working on their governance-related impact evaluations in Burkina Faso. I sit within a research group called the Development Impact Evaluation Initiative, whose goal is to increase the use of evidence-based policy-making through rigorous experimentation and evaluation. On a daily basis, I am holding meetings with local NGO coordinators, managing our data collection team, and liaising with national ministries. It is a never-ending whirlwind of project management and critical thinking that has allowed me to grow professionally much more quickly than I had anticipated. As my position sits at the crossroads between the research team, operations, human resources, and finances, I am forced to manage a diverse set of work streams simultaneously. I’m able to do so efficiently thanks to the breadth of skills I was able to acquire while at Fletcher.
In this role, I have had to adapt to a complicated political situation as tensions rose over the past several months related to the ex-President’s attempts to extend his rule past the constitutional limits. After 27 years, the people of Burkina Faso had had enough and took a stand, demanding that Blaise Compaoré step down and allow a new era to be ushered in. Living through this chaotic situation, as it went from lazy streets to blackened skies and burning buildings, I have been reminded about the importance of the work that we, as Fletcher graduates, are doing every day. I have experienced first-hand a people’s frustration with the stagnation of their economy and the disparity that exists between the world’s richest and poorest populations, and their desire for change. If I took away one lesson from Fletcher, above anything else, it is that we are all in this together. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to attend such a prestigious institution need to do our part to help the world move towards a better future. Whether that be through domestic policies targeting the racial inequalities of our own country, through the concerted efforts of the international community to put an end to extremism and violence, or by helping women create income so that they can feed their children, Fletcher was there to teach me and my fellow classmates. Fletcher will be there to continue teaching generations of bright, passionate leaders who will help drive our world to a better future.
I had an idea last year but didn’t quite succeed in implementing it. One major tweak later, I’m happy to write that I will soon start an occasional series of reports from members of the Class of 2014 on their life after Fletcher. Unlike my (lack of) strategy for the Class of 2013, which resulted in only three posts, last April I snagged volunteer writers before they could leave campus. Most have given me a date by which I can expect to hear from them, and I look forward to sharing these stories from our newest graduates about their move back into the working world and how they have applied their Fletcher educations.
The first report from First-Year Alumni will appear in the Blog tomorrow.
I recently heard from Justin, a 2013 grad, who offered to share his reflections on his first months since graduating. I love volunteers! And here is Justin’s report.
As I reflect on my experience at Fletcher, I can hardly believe it’s been three years since I made the decision to attend graduate school. In early 2011, I was living in New York and working as a manager at a Big 4 consulting firm. Though I was making a good living, I felt that my career had plateaued, and I wanted to burnish my credentials to pursue the international business career I had always dreamed of. Fletcher’s MIB program offered exactly what I was looking for — core business training within the context of a school famous for its international affairs curriculum. So I went for it. And three years later, I can happily say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I entered Fletcher with a clear mission: to position myself for a great job when I graduated. While I certainly worked hard in the classroom, I also made networking one of my top priorities from the start. By constantly speaking with alumni and attending events, I developed a clear sense of the path I wanted to take by the end of my first year, and my efforts generated three internship offers, all through alumni connections. I ultimately chose to work in Latin America strategy at Converse Inc. (a Nike subsidiary).
Converse opened many new doors for me. A successful summer led to an offer to continue working part-time during my second year (Converse is based in Boston), and I used that time to develop my capstone — a three-year commercial strategy for the brand in Brazil. Working part-time on top of studying full-time was certainly a major commitment, but it enabled me to apply context to all of the new skills I was learning in the classroom. The Fletcher alumnus I worked for, Dave Calderone (F’87), was an excellent mentor who exposed me to many facets of the global footwear industry. He played an instrumental role in my education. And the day after graduation, I started working full-time for Dave as a Strategic Planning Manager for Latin America at Converse.
After a few months, I made a personal decision to move to San Francisco. I’m now working as a Senior Manager of Business Development for the Old Navy brand at Gap, Inc., where I’m responsible for adding new markets to Old Navy’s international franchise portfolio. In the coming year, I’ll be traveling extensively around the world to visit retail markets and meet with potential new franchise partners. I’ll be negotiating contracts, examining import/trade implications, constructing financial models, and truly building a global business. It’s a job I could only have dreamed of before Fletcher.
My life has changed significantly over the last three years. I now have lifelong friends all over the world. I’ve been to 10 new countries on three continents. I think about global business issues in an entirely new way. And I got the international career I had hoped for. Deciding on graduate school is a major life decision indeed, but it works if you work it. So be deliberate, be decisive, have an open mind, and go for it.
Oh, and one last thing. Support Los Fletcheros!
More and more Class of 2013 alumni are feeling settled in their new lives, opening (I hope) the door for me to feature more of their stories. For now, I’m happy to introduce Margot Shorey. Margot, a two-year veteran of the Admissions Committee, visited the office a month ago, and I asked if I could persuade her to write for the blog. Happily, I could. So here’s her story.
Before Fletcher, I was living and working in Washington, DC — a city I have always been drawn to — with some medium-term stints in Africa. While at Fletcher, I struggled to figure out if I wanted to take a position in the field, finding a way to implement projects related to my interest in African security, or to return to DC to focus on U.S. policy in Africa. This decision was not easy for me, as some of the best experiences in my short pre-Fletcher career occurred while working with project teams in Chad and Senegal. On the other hand, I was sometimes very lonely abroad, missing my friends and community back in DC. I had learned a lot about the challenges of implementing USAID projects, but wanted a broader perspective to ask why the U.S. was even running such programs in Africa. Particularly with everything I learned at Fletcher, I sought an active role in shaping U.S. policy in such a critical region. I really wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.
Whew! These were hard questions that stressed me out even more than a three-hour, all-you-can-write, grade-determining Role of Force exam. (In December 2011 I didn’t think anything could stress me out more than that.) Luckily, all my classmates and friends were struggling with the same decisions and were there to talk them out with me. From conversations in the Hall of Flags, to advice from our senior military fellows, to Togo-New York-Cambodia gchats during summer internships, I aired my anxieties and listened to how my friends were thinking about their post-Fletcher lives.
For now, I’ve decided to return to DC, where I’m working for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), one of five regional centers of the Department of Defense. I support academic outreach programs with members of the African security sector on civil-military relations, respect of democratic values, and other U.S. security priorities on the continent. Recently, for example, we held a three-week program in DC for 60 rising African security sector leaders. I conducted research and prepared background materials for the participants on ethical leadership, served as the point of contact for over 30 guest speakers, and got to interact with some amazing participants. Recently, while discussing guest speakers with colleagues for an upcoming program, I kept saying, “Oh, I know her, she went to Fletcher and is awesome,” or “She went to Fletcher. I don’t know her personally, but I’ve heard Professor Shultz rave endlessly about her, so she must be great.” After hearing quite a bit of this, my coworker turned to me and asked if we could populate the guest speaker list exclusively with the Fletcher network. Yep — I’m pretty sure we could.
Through my job, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of the security challenges in Africa, as well as the U.S. policy structure, and I’ve started to build a network within the Africa security community here in DC. But I’ve also learned a lot about what it means to work for the U.S. government, which has been at times a bit frustrating. Although I certainly enjoyed my time with Netflix during my brief paid vacation in early October, the government shutdown presented a serious planning challenge and threatened to cancel our program altogether.
Living in DC is not all about work, of course. Fortunately, many of my friends from before Fletcher are still here, but there is also a large Fletcher crowd from my class, who I see often. The best part is that everyone is always up for a new adventure, even if it doesn’t involve leaving DC. We’ve splurged on an après-ski event at a fancy hotel bar, just because it seemed fun, tried some of the hundreds of new restaurants in the city, hosted birthday/holiday/just-because parties, and will be delivering holiday meals to seniors together. I run into Fletcher people on the Metro, at work programs, at networking events, and at social gatherings where I didn’t know anyone from Fletcher would be. It’s true — Fletcher is everywhere in DC.
So, I know I made the right post-Fletcher decision for me. But do I get a tinge of envy when I hear about my friends who are currently traveling the world? Of course I do — I wouldn’t be a Fletcher grad if I didn’t.
Last month I needed to contact our volunteer interviewers and I used an email list that included recent grads. Though I apologized for including them in the email, I also invited them to write about their post-Fletcher lives for the blog. Instant success! In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing reports from several of our newest alumni. The first report comes from Ana Garcia, who reflects on her current work and provides some thoughts for our new students or applicants.
My first memory of Fletcher goes back to the day I entered the Hall of Flags. I walked in, looked up, and there it was, the Fletcher flag! I had finally made it: after all the effort, the paper work, and…a “suggestion” to take an English language course during the summer. Two years and two months later, I find myself here, writing about my activities, now as a Fletcher graduate.
I belong to the amazing Class of 2013 MALD group, which included many like me who wondered how we were going to make it all the way to graduation day. And like many of my classmates, I thought that I would fly out into the world right after getting my diploma. Instead, Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston are still my home. I currently work at Conflict Dynamics International, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on preventing and resolving violent conflicts. My work here is linked to two extremely interesting projects: one that aims to identify the main constraints for humanitarian access in countries in conflict; the other one focused on violations of children’s rights in conflict and post-conflict settings. It sounds like a Fletcher type of job and it is! (Given, also, that most of my coworkers are former classmates. Yep, the Fletcher alumni community starts close to campus.)
Staying in Boston, while many of my friends have left the city for Washington, DC, New York, or their home countries, was the first surprise of my life as a Fletcher grad. The second surprise of my postgraduate life was realizing how intense being a Fletcher student was. Suddenly, I have found myself with TIME: time to be by myself or with my friends, to walk, to watch endless t.v. shows. Despite those feelings, I would never have missed all the all-nighters with my study groups (yes, you will have those), all those coffee refills, cultural nights, and house parties. Fletcher is a place to learn, but also to live, to fail, and to challenge yourself.
Fletcher gave me the chance to do things and meet some of the most important people in my life, often not in class. Organizing cultural nights, dancing the waltz, participating in debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or painting the cannon in pj’s are all things I encourage current students to do. You may not know it yet, but you gain skills from those experiences that are as valuable in a work environment as any class you can take.
My summer has been extraordinarily fun, but also professionally rewarding. I had the opportunity to collaborate in different interesting projects on negotiations and humanitarian aid while I also brushed up on my Arabic skills. Boston has been, and currently is, the place where I will continue the transition toward that job for which I came to Fletcher, and this will happen during this Fall. In the meantime, I have learned the most important lesson of all: Don’t rush, take your time, don’t be hard on yourself. At Fletcher, we are all overachievers, smart and creative people. We will do great things. For now, I’ll be ready and open to the uncertainty, the world of opportunities and options that is out there.
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