Currently viewing the tag: "First-Year Alumni"
Returning to the Class of 2017, we’ll hear today from Karla Schiaffino Pérez, who completed the MALD program. Karla’s trek to her current position wandered geographically through three countries, but reflected a relatively straight-line career path.
I cannot believe it’s been a year since I graduated from Fletcher! Choosing a school for graduate studies took a lot of thinking and a good amount of luck. Today, I can confidently say that I made the best decision for my personal and professional growth.
After college, I joined the London-based security consultancy Control Risks as a Research Analyst in their corporate investigations department. Working for Control Risks provided me with a comprehensive overview of the security situation in Mexico, which made me realize the importance of gaining more knowledge and analytical tools in that area. I received my acceptance letter from Fletcher and, as I looked into the depth and breadth requirements, I realized that the MALD program was a unique opportunity to obtain a comprehensive and inclusive education in security and human security.
During my time at Fletcher I chose classes that allowed me to look at my Fields of Study from a holistic perspective. I gained solid knowledge of traditional security theories and complemented it with studies on negotiations and conflict resolution. Fletcher also enabled me to learn how to apply a gender perspective to the issues I was analyzing in all my classes, which was something new for me. I enhanced my quantitative skills by taking classes like Econometrics and Microeconomics, which made for a well-rounded and comprehensive program.
Fletcher has an incomparable faculty — truly committed to the development of students as professionals and human beings. However, many of the most important lessons I took with me after graduation were those I received from my classmates. Soon after starting the program I realized I was surrounded by an incredible group of committed and accomplished people from all over the world. Apart from their impressive academic and professional achievements, what distinguished the Fletcher students I was privileged enough to meet was their passion and unwavering commitment to serving others. Today, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to call some of these amazing human beings my lifelong friends.
I graduated from Fletcher in a year of political turmoil, not only in the United States, but also back home in Mexico. Many people I consulted after returning home advised me to be prepared to wait until the July 2018 presidential elections at home to start a job that would appeal to my academic and professional interests. Nevertheless, I knew my qualifications at Fletcher would help me navigate this difficult time and find the right organization to work for. Soon after returning to Mexico, I started to work at a U.S.-based compliance company. I saw this as a good opportunity to go back to an area I had experience in and to learn more about the anti-corruption and anti-money laundering framework in Latin America.
After a few months of working for this company, I realized I wanted to explore more opportunities that would allow me to better use the knowledge and analytical tools I had gained at Fletcher. Two of my Fletcher classmates sent me a posting for a Politics Analyst position at a political risk consultancy and I decided to apply. I recently joined the Americas team of Verisk Maplecroft and I am certain my Fletcher education will allow me to develop my career in this organization in a meaningful way.
Today’s alumni update also serves as a conclusion to the story shared from 2015-17 by McKenzie Smith, who completed the MIB program. While still in her final semester, about a year ago, McKenzie hadn’t nailed down her post-Fletcher job securely enough to write about it and her story remained unfinished on the blog. Today’s post wraps it all up!
In March 2017, just two months before graduating, I signed an offer to join Omidyar Network upon graduating from Fletcher. At the time, it was a huge relief. Like many of my classmates, I’d made a bet on Fletcher and the MIB program — a relatively new, non-traditional business program — and up until that moment, I wasn’t 100% positive it would pay off. Thankfully, it certainly did!
Today, as a member of Omidyar Network’s impact investment team, I spend much of my time addressing the biggest opportunities and barriers to accelerating the growth of impact investing. What this means in practice is that my work is spread across a diverse array of influence projects; research initiatives; and sourcing, due diligence, and evaluation of investments in organizations helping the impact market function more efficiently. I’ve just passed my one-year mark, and already it’s been an exhilarating experience.
On the personal side, I’ve had the flexibility to travel back and forth between my new home in San Francisco and Washington, DC, where in addition to working with Omidyar Network teams there, I get to catch up with many friends from Fletcher who moved to DC after graduation. Back in California, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to be outside year-round and see much of the natural beauty that the Bay Area has to offer.
Looking back, I’m convinced that none of this would have been possible had I chosen not to take a chance on Fletcher. As I mentioned in my annotated curriculum, I pursued courses and activities that complemented my pre-Fletcher background and ultimately positioned me to join an amazing team. I walked the Fletcher halls and sat in classes alongside aid workers, bankers, veterans, entrepreneurs, consultants, and development practitioners, whose diverse experiences armed them with insights and opinions that pushed my thinking. I seized opportunities and built relationships with professors who wouldn’t have been as accessible at a large, traditional MBA program. In fact, it was a relationship with a professor that I forged through my role leading the Fletcher Social Investment Group that ultimately helped me land the job at Omidyar Network.
Since joining, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with pioneers in the impact investing field. And increasingly, those helping drive the industry forward are not only people I know from industry events and partnerships, but more and more, they’re also my Fletcher classmates! Which brings me to my last reflection: Fletcher alumni working in impact investing are a small but slowly growing group. Each of us took a chance on Fletcher and leaned in to make the most of our time there — and like any grad student, at some point or another, each of us probably wondered whether that chance would be worth it. For me, Fletcher’s unique blend of business and international affairs, the opportunities to lead student teams and organizations, and the flexibility of the curriculum helped me make my degree work for me. There’s a saying that Fletcher helps you get your dream job…five jobs in. If this is what my first job out of school is like, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!
Back in the spring, I shared a few updates from the Class of 2017 — from Sydney, Ammar, and Dan. This week I’ll return to the 2017s with additional updates. It’s hard to believe that a full year has now passed since their graduation and that members of the Class of 2018 have joined them as alumni!
With the newly minted Class of 2018 graduates now out in the world, I’d like to turn back to the Class of 2017 and their reflections on their first year post-Fletcher. We’ve already heard from Ammar and Sydney; today we’ll hear from Dan, who describes his long path to and through Fletcher. As a reminder, Map Your Future applicants apply roughly two years before they will officially start Fletcher classes.
My Fletcher journey started several years before I actually enrolled in my first class and will continue for many years to come. As part of Fletcher’s Map Your Future Program, I was originally admitted to Fletcher in May 2012, shortly before I finished my undergraduate degree. With the knowledge that I would eventually join the Fletcher Class of 2016, I then worked for several international development firms in Washington, DC, before spending a year working with cocoa farmers in rural Ghana as a Princeton in Africa Fellow.
My time in Ghana also introduced me to just how far the Fletcher alumni network reaches, as, while there, by pure chance, I met one of a small number of Fletcher graduates who had participated in the dual degree program with Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy. After learning about the exciting opportunity to combine my Fletcher education in development economics with a second master’s program focused on international food policy, I decided to apply to Friedman from abroad. Upon my acceptance to Friedman, I deferred my official matriculation at Fletcher by an additional year and joined the three-year dual degree program as a member of the Class of 2017.
My three years as a Fletcher/Friedman student were exciting and eye-opening. Thanks to Fletcher’s interdisciplinary curriculum, I took courses on topics ranging from negotiation theory to humanitarian assistance, many of which have been helpful to me since I graduated. In addition to working with remarkable professors both in and out of the classroom, my Tufts education offered me the chance to build lasting friendships with classmates from around the world and, eventually, to travel myself as well.
During the two summers between my years at Tufts, I first worked on Feed the Future programs with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then worked on nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs with Abt Associates in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, during my third and final year of graduate school, I had a unique opportunity to conduct research for my capstone project in Bhubaneswar, India, thanks to funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC). (For more information about my capstone research through IBGC, check out my blog post.)
Following my graduation last May, I began a two-year position with ACDI/VOCA as part of the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program. As a Leland Fellow, I have been living in Iringa, Tanzania since October, working on the USAID Tanzania NAFAKA Cereals Market System Development Project. NAFAKA is a maize and rice value chain project focused on increasing smallholder farmers’ incomes, improving nutritional outcomes, and ensuring market access for vulnerable groups.
While working in Iringa, I have used the skills I gained at Fletcher and Friedman on a daily basis. In particular, I have directly put tools from courses on market approaches to development, survey research, and econometric impact evaluation into action during the past few months while designing and implementing an impact assessment. The study is intended to measure the extent to which demonstration plots showcasing improved seeds and fertilizers influence smallholder farmers’ decisions to invest in those improved inputs, and the initial results have been promising.
Throughout the six years since I first decided to join the Fletcher community, I’ve met Fletcher students and alumni all over the world. I’ve already crossed paths with two fellow Fletcher alumni in 2018 as part of my work here in Tanzania, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to find unexpected and rewarding Fletcher connections wherever my career in international development takes me.
Way back in the fall, an email snaked along to me and I reached out to the writer, Ammar Karimjee, a 2017 MIB graduate, to ask if I could publish it in the blog. He agreed right away, so the delay in sharing it is all on me. And yet with students entering in September 2018 still considering what this all means for them, and with the Class of 2018 searching for their own post-Fletcher jobs, I think Ammar’s post is instructive. Note that the original recipients were staff and faculty associated with the MIB program and the Office of Career Services. And, again, when Ammar refers to “a month ago,” he was reflecting on summer 2017, but I have confirmed with him that his work situation hasn’t changed.
About a month ago, I moved to Tanzania to begin work with One Acre Fund Tanzania (OAF) as an “Impact Ventures Associate.” As many of you may know, OAF’s core model provides a range of products: better seeds and fertilizer, along with training — all provided as part of a reasonably sized loan to farmers across East Africa. On average, farmers who work with One Acre Fund have yields that are 50-100% higher than similar farmers who do not. In Tanzania, OAF works with about 30,000 farmers.
While the model has significant impact for farmers, growth is relatively slow because the work is very hands-on. Each new community we enter has to understand the product, be trained, and see results only after a full growing season (or one full year). To tackle that problem, my team is trying to understand other ways of approaching and impacting farmers that may be faster to scale than the model OAF uses traditionally.
My team is running a trial where we sell very small solar panels that provide off-grid electricity to farmers in the region. Farmers see the result immediately, and over time, save significant money that they were previously using for other fuel sources. More importantly, the product is much easier to roll out and does not require significant training. The hope is that once we have achieved initial impact through this solar product, we can then use the relationships we have with farmers to offer them other products in the agricultural space — such as seed, fertilizer, etc. We think that this may be a faster way (as compared to the core model) to create a bigger impact for a large group of farmers.
My specific role has two components: managing operations and managing impact. I’ll be heading up all the logistics around our input distribution (warehouse management, quality control, distribution) for our 5000 farmers spread out over 50 villages. Our two products at this stage are the solar systems as well as tree seedlings. At the same time, I’ll be running a survey of about 900 treatment and control farmers observing the impact of both our products. I’m currently managing a team of six people with two direct reports. By April, those numbers will have grown to a team of around 20 and three direct reports. I could not have imagined having this much responsibility — especially in terms of direct people management — just out of graduate school, but I am so excited and am already learning so much. The best part is that my role will involve both impact evaluation and business planning/financial modeling, putting together both of my fields of study at Fletcher.
I also wanted to share a reflection with you all. For the bulk of my two years at Fletcher, I thought I wanted my next job to be something that would serve as a stamp on my resume. That’s why, as many of you know, I was looking at big consulting firms. As you all probably gathered, I was never truly passionate about that work and I always knew it was a short-term stop on the road to doing something much different.
While I prepped for consulting and finance interviews and saw limited success, I continued to apply to positions I was more interested in, just to keep my options open. I grew frustrated that I was consistently being unsuccessful in consulting/finance interviews, when I believed I was performing well. I’ll never truly know why I didn’t get those jobs; however, looking back on the process, I have to believe that a large part of the reason is that it was obvious those roles were simply not a culture fit for me, and that came out in the interviews.
This summer, when my One Acre Fund offer came in, I was still waiting to hear back from a consulting firm about whether I would receive an offer for their Dubai office. After lots of deliberation, I decided to take the OAF job without knowing the outcome of the other decision. It meant a lot to me that I took the OAF offer not knowing about the other firm. Perhaps I had this realization about culture fit a little too late, but I’m happy that I’ve had it now.
What makes Fletcher so unique is how many different interests and passions are represented at our school. I think sometimes, especially with the MIB program, the need to do what we think is the “right career thing” overpowers the need to do what we truly want. But there are too many people in the world who just go through the motions and try to check the boxes. I find it incredible that Fletcher students, by and large, are not part of that thinking — and I’m very happy and proud not to have done that on an individual level either.
I know I’m rambling, but I hope that all of us can do more to help people fight for their true desires in their post-Fletcher jobs. If any of you ever have a student struggling through the same dynamic I went through, please always feel free to put me in touch.
The first year after graduating can involve lots of movement for Fletcher alumni — leaving the comfort of campus, trying new jobs and cities, and even reevaluating career goals when job markets change suddenly. Today, we’ll hear from the first of several members of the Class of 2017 who are just wrapping up their first year post-Fletcher. Sydney-Johanna Stevns was a two-year friend of Admissions while she pursued her MALD. When we were corresponding about this blog post, I told her how clearly I could picture her sitting in the Admissions Office entryway, waiting for an interviewee or a visitor she would take for coffee. When not helping out Admissions, Sydney was active with the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy.
Like many of my classmates, I came to Fletcher planning to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. At the time I entered, I viewed the field of international environment and development work as being on the upswing, but just in time for me to graduate in 2017, the landscape changed. I decided to take a month after graduation to mentally regroup and think about a new career path while intensively studying Spanish in Xela, Guatemala. In this mountain town, I still wasn’t far from Fletcher. Nearby was a Fletcher friend who started a socially responsible shoe company in Antigua and another who was beginning her first tour as a political Foreign Service Officer in Guatemala City.
After my sunny month in Central America ended, I moved to Washington, DC to begin searching for work. I reached out to Fletcher alumni and other friends I’d made during my time at Fletcher to learn about their work and to understand opportunities within their fields. In the end, it was a Fletcher friend who saw a job posting on the Fletcher alumni job listserv, thought it would be a perfect fit, and forwarded it my way. After responding to the post, I got a call from my soon-to-be boss asking if I could come in on Monday. What started as a ten-day contract is now my full-time gig.
My role is Country Engagement Specialist with the NDC Partnership Support Unit (SU), hosted within World Resources Institute, focused on supporting Latin American countries while they amp up their action against climate change. In many ways, the work I am doing as a Specialist is what I hoped I would do someday as an Economic Foreign Service Officer and still very much feels like public service. On missions to Colombia, Honduras, and Peru, I have met with Ministries of Environment, Finance, Planning, Agriculture, Mines, and Energy, among others; representatives from the World Bank, UNDP, Inter-American Development Bank, GIZ, and other government embassies. In these meetings we identify areas to collaborate across ministries and across international cooperation actors. This is a central part of the NDC Partnership’s work to support developing countries in their efforts to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — promises countries made as part of the Paris Agreement to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
As I’m writing this, I am sitting in Bonn, Germany, still jetlagged from my mission to Lima. While our team is headquartered in Washington, DC, I’m working with our team in Bonn on a temporary assignment to get to know them and our German cooperation partners better. We also have regional specialists based across the world. Together, our team of thirty people comes from over fifteen different countries, making it feel very similar to Fletcher.
No two weeks at work are the same. By nature of being effectively a “start-up” initiative, the NDC Partnership SU is constantly growing and improving its strategy. At a week’s notice I might have an in-country mission scheduled to provide support for the local government, or be writing our work program and budget, or drafting an agenda for a meeting with our implementing partners. Through this work I’m reminded of my time at Fletcher: my ability to convey a message convincingly gained from The Fletcher Forum; team management I learned working with FSIG; and ability to tell a compelling story out of a jumble of numbers that resulted from Impact Evaluation and Economic Policy Analysis classes.
As exciting and interesting as this job is, I’ve also learned that the jet-setting lifestyle is not the beauty I thought it would be. There are some airports that I know far too well and half the time I cannot justify unpacking my suitcase. But it provides insight into a world of international diplomacy outside of the Foreign Service and is always eased by the run-ins with Fletcher alumni and by the chance to learn about new cultures.
Although, during my time at Fletcher I was very focused on working for the federal government, in hindsight I see now that Fletcher’s flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum gave me the skills I needed to adapt when the job market changed. It’s also clear how the relationships I built during Fletcher were the ones that made finding work and building a new career path possible. The generosity of Fletcher students and alums, which I have continued to receive since graduating, makes me so grateful to have chosen Fletcher.
David Tykvart was an Admissions staff favorite during the two years when he worked in the office. With his post, I’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2016 on their first year post-Fletcher. David’s early career is a good example of how an international career can be based in one’s home country.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was standing in the Hall of Flags one April, jet-lagged from having flown in the night before from the Czech Republic and taking a quick break from my Fulbright teaching duties to try to make the decision on what graduate program to attend. The few hours I spent seeing Fletcher firsthand during the Admitted Student Open House solidified for me that Fletcher was more than an academic program with famous professors at the forefront of research on topics from international law to the role of gender in post-conflict reconstruction, who were drivers of important policy decisions as practitioners; or big name administrators like the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. That day was the beginning of a lifelong journey.
Fletcher was the perfect fit for me. I arrived thinking that I would join the U.S. Foreign Service. Most of my international experience was in South America and Eastern Europe. I had studied international relations, Spanish, and Russian as a college student, and spent most of my summers in South America leading service immersion projects in Quito and working with indigenous communities. I also studied the West African education system in Ghana, worked at the U.S. Embassy in Peru, spent a year in the Czech Republic as a Fulbright Scholar, and even dabbled in the NGO world working at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. I always loved exploring the world and getting to know the people and diverse cultures along the way.
I can say that the majority of my classmates’ accomplishments and experiences outnumbered mine. For example, in my class there were: leaders in the armed forces; diplomats from all over the world; an individual who trained local journalists in Iraq to help build the nascent press corps; UN and OSCE employees; educators; medics who worked for Doctors without Borders; conflict resolution experts who worked with the Rohinga. It was these individuals who became my Fletcher family. And they very much are today, a year after having left.
As I said, Fletcher is more than an academic program. It’s a community full of people from all around the globe who are very similar in their passion for the world and making it a better place, but also different in the sense that they bring their views, passions, cultures, and experiences to Medford, Massachusetts.
Besides the incredible student body, the curriculum at Fletcher is designed to give you the flexibility to pursue your interests, while giving you an opportunity to explore new fields of study and to build new skill sets. For example my two areas of study were Human Security and Democracy & Good Governance. I was always interested in democratic strengthening and the democratic backsliding we are witnessing throughout the world today, and I was able to create my own Field of Study that aligned with my interests and career aspirations. I also was able to take a wide variety of classes that mixed theory with practice. I learned how to write memos and give brief oral briefings working with the former German Ambassador to the United States. I wanted to strengthen my quantitative skills so I took Econometrics and Corporate Finance. I learned how to look at global events on a macro and micro level, and learned how to apply the lessons of history into decision making today. I took classes such as Gender, Culture, and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, Rule of Law in Post Conflict Societies, Law and Development, and Migration and Governance in the Global South. I was even able to squeeze in some classes that were fun and fascinating like Maritime History and Globalization. One of the hardest parts about being a Fletcher student is trying to narrow the variety of fascinating classes to four per semester.
But much of the learning and Fletcher experience takes place outside of the classroom. There is a multitude of ways to be involved and there is a club for literally every interest. Personally, I was a co-president of the European Club, a researcher on the Fletcher-ICRC joint research study on conflict migration in the Sahel, and I worked in the Admissions Office. We had culture nights that would bring everyone together; social hours every Thursday in the Hall of Flags; a ski trip to Maine; group hikes; and performances by the Los Fletcheros — the immortal Fletcher cover band. Not to mention the countless impromptu group outings that led to the inevitable bar crawl with friends. I even was part of a 12-person Fletcher Ragnar team (FletcherRunEmployed) running a 200 mile team relay that took us to the tip of Cape Cod. I have friends who have told me they are jealous of my Fletcher crew and how close we are.
While most Fletcher graduates end up somewhere abroad or on the U.S. East Coast, my path took me to Chicago. During my second year at Fletcher, I was named a Presidential Management Fellow and accepted a position with the Chicago Asylum Office with the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, I am detailed to the Southwest Border where I work with families from around the world seeking humanitarian protection. I never imagined that I would be interviewing asylum seekers, coordinating logistics, serving as the on the ground liaison with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and would work with various stakeholders throughout DHS, the private sector, and the advocacy community all at the same time. Throughout my job search, the Fletcher community never failed me as I spoke and met with Fletcher alums throughout my agency who helped provide me with the insight and advice I needed to get to where I am today. And no doubt I was able to get to places I never dreamed of today because of my Fletcher experience.
In addition to working in asylum, back at home in Chicago, I also began serving as a board member on the Chicago Sister Cities Prague Committee to keep me connected to the Czech Republic, even as my Fulbright days have long passed, which has allowed me to continue dabbling in what I consider to be public diplomacy.
It has been a little over a year since I graduated and I miss Fletcher. I had to skip my Fletcher graduation because my sister graduated from college on the same day. When I returned, my Fletcher family threw me my own graduation: they pulled out the champagne, had me put on a robe, and marched me to campus, through the Hall of Flags and straight to the Registrar’s Office where my diploma was waiting for me.
Now, my former classmates, who are now my lifelong friends, are all over the world and not a day goes by that I don’t hear from one of them. And when we are all reunited, it feels like we were never apart. One recent day, at 6:00 a.m. in the lobby of my hotel at the Southern Border, I ran into a good friend from Fletcher. We used to be in the same study group for our Gender and Conflict class, and she was also sent to the Southern Border as a refugee officer. When we saw each other at the coffee bar, I was reminded that inevitably our many paths will cross, and whether it is in DC, abroad, or at the Southern Border, we will always be there to support each other. Because we are forever part of the Fletcher family.
I have two more posts to share from the Class of 2016 before I move on to last May’s graduating class. Today, Nathalie Hudson tells us about her experience since completing the MIB program 15 months ago, much of her time apparently having been spent on an airplane.
My year since Fletcher can mostly be described as an international one — I’ve accumulated over 50,000 airmiles (yes, I realize my carbon footprint it terrible…) and visited 16 countries. The year started with an MIB wedding in Japan, and my one-year milestone since moving to Addis Ababa with Dalberg Global Development Advisors is going to be marked with a training in Bangkok and a music festival in Uganda. In between I’ve danced to Bollywood music at Dalberg’s global retreat in India, had tea with pineapple farmers in Guinea, hiked up mountains and celebrated a wedding with some Fletcher favorites in Argentina, and helped organize a 100-person Iftar dinner in Tanzania. All this while adjusting to life in Ethiopia, and contributing to growing our Dalberg Addis office from three people to 10 people. It’s been an exciting and challenging year, with a new city, a new job and a lot of new responsibilities.
The mobility of this year has not just been linked to my location, it’s also in the nature of the work, with no two weeks ever being the same. My first project was in Conakry, Guinea, establishing the strategy for the Prime Minister’s new Delivery Unit, specifically its agriculture project. We were tasked with choosing which sector to work in, and then developing a plan for how to grow the sector in the coming two years. Our interviews with the Ministry of Agriculture and data analysis of agricultural production led us to discover the once large but now dwindling pineapple industry of Guinea. We then went out to the fields of Kindia to speak with pineapple farmers, and even visited the Prime Minister’s office to discuss our project. Having spoken to distinguished guests and officials at Fletcher certainly helped in my preparation, but nothing quite prepares you for having to answer a Prime Minister’s questions directly!
After six weeks in Guinea I went back to Addis, moving from agriculture supply chain strategies to developing a business plan for an infant nutrition and women’s empowerment program in Ethiopia. As this project ended, I packed my bag again to go to Denmark, creating an emerging market strategy for a large corporate client. My most recent project was based in Kenya, working with a large pan-African bank to review some of its strategies and partnerships through expert interviews with new and innovate start-ups, and data analysis to understand the biggest opportunities. In between projects I’ve attended conferences, organized a private-sector business development week in Tanzania, relaunched Dalberg’s inclusive business practice area, and helped set up our Ethiopian office. The learning curve starts over again after every project, so the pace of change is challenging, but it’s certainly never boring.
These different projects and experiences are informed by either the classes I took or the people I met at Fletcher. When I first arrived in Guinea I was reading a paper on Guinean agriculture that I realized had been written by a classmate. When I kicked off our work on emerging market strategy for the Danish company and looked through their annual report, I pulled out my accounting class notes. And as I do all of these projects while reading through the news coming out of Europe and the U.S. on a daily basis, I go back to my Historian’s Art class memories to ensure my reactions are informed and measured.
My past year has not only been informed by Fletcher, but was also made possible by Fletcher. My path into Dalberg, after applying four times previously, was through a Fletcher alum who generously gave me his time for an informational interview 18 months ago, and has now become my boss. My adjustment to Dalberg was made, and continues to be made, much easier with two Fletcher alums becoming buddies/advisors and answering all of my questions and concerns.
And while packing a suitcase and traveling constantly may sound glamorous, life on a plane (especially when traveling through African airports) is not always fun. My travels around the world have been made all the more enjoyable because I often have a Fletcher person to have coffee with or host me. And of course, Fletcher weddings have been a great excuse for adventures and reunions. Being located next to a hub airport in Addis has also meant I’ve had a few Fletcher visitors myself.
My faith in humanity also continues thanks to ongoing conversations with my classmates, over coffee or on social media. With the world going a bit mad these days, the presence of Fletcher folks in my Twitter feed continues to give me hope that we’re not doomed just yet. Professor Khan also gave his time this year, in between writing his latest book, to help me and other alums organize a Historian’s Art Alumni Discussion where we discussed The Trump Presidency as Contemporary History. It was an incredible way to reconnect with former classmates, and feel the Fletcher vibe again, albeit this time via WebEx while sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu with a dodgy internet connection!
Fletcher prepared me for my new career as a consultant by encouraging me to think critically and with empathy. It equipped me with lessons in corporate finance, business strategy, financial inclusion, and history, that I use daily (although I still wish I’d paid more attention in Corporate Finance). It has also given me a network of friends and classmates around the world who are generous with their time and inspiring with their stories. Last week I made Gold Status on Ethiopian Airlines, a fitting one-year milestone that shows how far I’ve traveled both literally and figuratively in my year since Fletcher.
Returning to the Class of 2016, sometimes an update on a Fletcher graduate also captures information on one of our programs. Although it’s a tiny percentage of graduates who find a post-student life here, some do. And one of those is Matthew Merighi, F16, who for the past year has been the Assistant Director of Maritime Studies at Fletcher.
I never expected to end up working with Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program (MSP). My original plan was to attend Fletcher and use my degree to go back into the U.S. federal government. But obviously, Fletcher had an effect on me.
Before coming to Fletcher, I was a civilian employee in the U.S. Air Force’s International Affairs Office. I worked as a liaison with other air forces, as an executive officer for a one-star general, and a tradeshow director for a member of the Senior Executive Service. I came to Fletcher planning to study security studies to deepen my knowledge of the field before going back into public service.
The breakthrough came when taking Professor (now Emeritus) John Perry’s Maritime History and Globalization course in the fall of 2014. No one who took a course with Professor Perry has ever forgotten it. He was a fantastic lecturer and he presented the maritime domain in such a compelling way that I was hooked. I worked for him as a research assistant and continued to take courses under Professor Rocky Weitz, F02, F08, MSP’s current director, when he came back to Fletcher in 2015.
MSP’s real strength is its interdisciplinary approach, linking security, business, environment, and law. It added a salt-water perspective to how I view the world and forced me to think about international issues in a holistic way. As an example, the introductory course in the field, Global Maritime Affairs, touches on a broad array of topics ranging from military buildups in the South China Sea to the ecological threats facing global fisheries and the economics of the shipping industry. To be an effective maritime policy expert, you need to be literate in all of the dimensions of those challenges, rather than narrowly focused on a single specialty.
For my part, I feel very fortunate to be where I am. Maritime studies as a field is quickly going from a niche topic to a cornerstone of policy and business. Whether it is understanding the Arctic, climate change, or global trade patterns, having a maritime perspective is a key distinguisher for would-be practitioners. MSP is also working on original research into cutting-edge maritime security issues, expanding its offerings of both academic and professional events, and supporting student projects in all maritime fields. Outside of Fletcher, I also am building a nonprofit startup, Blue Water Metrics, to crowdsource data-gathering on ocean health as part of a Fletcher co-founding team. Being a part of a new venture, alongside my work with MSP’s efforts to train the next generation of maritime leaders, is truly an honor.
(The video below is Matthew’s talk from the Fletcher Ideas Exchange.)
I’m a little late in sharing updates from the Class of 2016, but there’s no time like the present to run the first of the posts from alumni who have completed one year post-Fletcher. We’ll hear today from Miranda Bogen, and it doesn’t surprise me that Miranda was the first to answer my call for updates. Our first interaction was when she contacted me, only weeks after arriving at Fletcher, to ask if I’d be interested in a post that she wrote with her new classmate Aditi (who then went on to write for the blog for two years). And Miranda didn’t just start her Fletcher experience busy — she stayed busy throughout her two years. So let’s let her tell us what she’s doing now.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I spell-checked my capstone for the seventeenth time, powered through my last final, and bid farewell to Medford to join the flock of migratory Fletcherites making our way southward to the other epicenter of the Fletcher Community — Washington, DC!
I came to Fletcher to study how technology impacts international affairs; I was inspired by the waves of digital activism bubbling up across the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and curious how online platforms like Google and Facebook were navigating constraints and demands of oppressive governments while simultaneously rooting for the protesters, who were exercising exactly the sort of free expression that these companies endorsed. Like many “career-switchers” who come to Fletcher for a professional pivot, I was nervous about the prospect of trying to break into a new field without directly relevant work experience.
Luckily, Fletcher provided exactly the springboard I needed. The interdisciplinary curriculum let me take courses ranging from cybersecurity to international business law, and together with a group of fellow students interested in technology, I launched the Tech@Fletcher student group to explore technology in the realms of diplomacy, development, innovation, and business. I was thrilled to be selected as a Google Policy Fellow during the summer between my first and second years, an internship that brought me to DC to coordinate educational programs on Capitol Hill for Congressional staff to learn about such topics as Internet governance and drone policy (and simultaneously exposed me to the range of organizations and companies engaged in technology policy conversations, a huge help during my job search!).
Aided by a connection I’d forged during my first semester with a Fletcher alum (who I found via LinkedIn and who responded to my initial cold email within 15 minutes with an offer to help), I was lucky to secure a job several months before graduating as the fifth member of a small public interest consulting firm that focuses on the intersection of technology and civil rights. The hybrid consulting/policy job seemed to require the exact set of skills I learned at Fletcher through course like Field Studies in Global Consulting and Writing to Influence Policy and the Global Debate, and while I was initially hesitant to join such a young organization (coming from a scrappy nonprofit, I thought working for a larger company would be a valuable next step), several people I admire recommended I give it a chance — and the decision to take that leap has turned out even better than I could have imagined.
In my job, I get to work on cutting edge issues like algorithmic decisions, big data ethics, and online hate speech with some of the leading civil rights organizations and foundations in the country. We work with advocacy groups like the ACLU and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as well as companies like Google, Facebook, and AirBnB, to address issues of discrimination in online platforms. Plus, I frequently find myself in meetings with the very same people who I studied while I was at Fletcher. No pressure!
The advice I always give prospective students is that starting graduate studies with a solid idea of the career you want will help immensely in choosing courses, prioritizing extracurriculars, and picking a capstone topic, and I stand by that advice. But on the other hand, you never know when something you do for fun or to fulfill a requirement will come in handy: It turns out the the Environmental Economics class I squeezed into my final semester has been surprisingly relevant to Internet policy issues. Who’d have thought?
Other work I did at Fletcher has also popped up in unexpected and gratifying ways. A few months after graduating, I converted part of my capstone (which explored how technology companies make foreign policy decisions) into a longform article about the geopolitical quagmires of Google Maps. Mostly, I wanted at least some of what I’d spent months working on to see the light of day — and then, out of the blue, my piece was picked up by Newsweek! Perhaps even better, the history of corporate social responsibility that I researched and the analytical framework that I developed for my capstone have helped me on a daily basis as I interface with the tech companies that I analyzed.
I couldn’t be happier to be pursuing my dream career and living in Washington. For those choosing between graduate programs in DC and Fletcher, I wholeheartedly endorse studying in the Boston area: From the speakers and opportunities at Fletcher, Harvard, and MIT to the independent coffee shops in Davis Square where I wrote all of my papers, to the bonds I formed while holed up in Blakeley Hall during the epic winter of ‘15, Fletcher gave me so much more than just a degree. I constantly look back on my two years in Medford and know with absolute certainty that I would not have gotten so far so quickly after graduate school had I studied anywhere else.
One of my favorite parts of my Fletcher experience was procrastinating on my reading in order to weave all of my classmates’ international adventures into the yearly video tradition, “Where the Hell is Fletcher.” While we had a blast watching this and other videos together in ASEAN as we closed out our final semester with the infamous Fletcher Follies, my brilliant Fletcher friends are again scattered all over the world as development economists, diplomats, bankers, and business strategists — and I can’t wait to follow their adventures!
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