Currently viewing the tag: "Roxanne"

With each of the utterly optional summer reading lists I’ve posted so far, another has emerged.  Last week, Roxanne (who wrote for the blog from 2012-14, while she was in the MALD program, and is now a PhD candidate) asked me if I would like an additional list, this time focused on writers who are less often represented by traditional curricula.  I was delighted to receive her offer and I’m even more delighted to share her suggestions with you.  I’ll let Roxanne take it from here.

When we founded the Gender Analysis in International Studies Field of Study at Fletcher, a key tenet was that gender is not merely about identities or social relationships.  Rather, it is also about institutions, notions of credibility and authority, and — at its heart — about power.  Because gender does not exist in a vacuum, we considered how it intersects with race, social class, ethnicity, and other vectors, to affect conceptions and experiences of agency, vulnerability, power, or justice.

As we looked at syllabi, we asked ourselves: Who is considered an authority on international studies and why?  Which texts count as “the canon” — and which voices and opinions are left out of that imagination?  These are questions I have taken to asking about my leisure reading as well.  How are my notions of what is worth reading colored by gendered, ethnicized, and racialized expectations surrounding credibility and authority?  With that in mind, and with a commitment to interrupting the white-American-male streak on my own bookshelves, I am delighted to share a few of my favorite reads from the past year.

A common theme in the books I have read this year has been that of how people negotiate their relationship to solitude and their yearning for community.  I discovered Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone on the end-of-year round-up of favorite books in the Brainpickings newsletter.  Laing’s words at the conclusion of a tour through solitude, art, and urban alienation felt particularly timely: “Loneliness is personal, and it is also political.  Loneliness is a collective; it is a city.  As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each another.”

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing tackles the ways in which legacies of power, oppression, and loss layer atop each other from generation to generation.  It is the kind of book that lodges itself in your mind, and it reminded me of a mix between Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism and Hanya Yanagihara’s punching descriptions of life-long hardship.

Part of my professional work in the past year has centered on understanding the journeys of refugees, through a study I have co-managed with Professor Kim Wilson in Greece, Jordan, Turkey, and Denmark.  During the research methods summer seminar I participated in last year, one instructor had pointed out that academic writing is anemic when it only draws on scholarly texts.  A number of literary works on the experience of displacement have since been piled on my desk alongside our own footnotes.

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s short story collection The Refugees stirred me on many snowy February nights and Roberto Bolaño’s words in its epigraph still travel with me: “I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they’re outside of time, are the only ones with time.”  Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, a long-form essay on immigration to the United States, also rang close to home.  Luiselli weaves her own insights as a new immigrant — a “resident alien,” in the words of Luiselli, the law, and my own experience — with her observations of the experience of Central American children seeking to avoid deportation from the United States.  Luiselli’s articulation of “the great theater of belonging” that immigration and nationhood invite and require has accompanied me as we work on the final report of our own refugee study.

One of the losses of displacement (even chosen displacement) is the ease of one’s own language.  I was born and raised in Greece, but, by virtue of where I live and my current research on Colombia, my life now unfolds primarily in English and in Spanish.  Until recently, I used to interact with Greek predominantly in the context of bureaucracy.  When my friend Niki introduced me to Titos PatrikiosThe Temptation of Nostalgia, the title felt like a phrase in which I have lived.  The book itself did not disappoint, and it prompted a return to Greek literature and a reacquaintance with the Greek language of joy, dreaming, and lightness.

I am new to short stories and have discovered two of my favorite collections in the past year.  Kathleen Collins’ Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? came into my life through an excerpt in literary magazine Granta’s “Legacies of Love” issue.  Collins writes injustice and structural violence with such subtlety that a sense of activating grief lingered long after I finished the book.  My other favorite short story collection was Randa Jarrar’s Him, Me, Muhammad Ali.  Jarrar writes about foreignness, youth, queerness, desire, and loss with a lightness that leaves her readers dizzy and that has me wanting to read much more of her work.

Finally, what is on my summer to-read list?  Besides a lot of research-oriented reading on the Colombian peace process in preparation for my upcoming fieldwork, I am looking forward to Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (furthering the refugee theme), Hisham Matar’s The Return (a memoir of, among other issues, fatherlessness), and Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me, a novel tracing a Nigerian couple’s parallel accounts of a marriage.  Happy reading!

Tagged with:
 

Today I’m excited to share the last of this semester’s posts by our Student Stories writers.  Excited, especially, because I’m welcoming back Roxanne, who was one of our first student bloggers back in 2012, when she was starting at Fletcher in the MALD program.  Since then, she completed her MALD in 2014, with a focus on human security, gender in international studies, and transitional justice.  After graduating, she accepted a position as the Program Manager of the Humanitarian Evidence Program at the Feinstein International Center, right here at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  In September, Roxanne also became a Fletcher PhD student, researching the politics of victimhood in armed conflict.  I’m super happy that she has agreed to rejoin the blogger crew, and also that we now have a writer who will reflect on the PhD program.  Today, a timely post about a conference coming up on Saturday.

Roxanne 2015When Jessica asked me to return to the Admissions Blog, I accepted with delight.  The secret is that I have not left the Fletcher community since my graduation with my MALD in 2014 — and I will gladly tell that story in an upcoming blog post.  Today, however, I have stopped in to share some exciting news regarding Fletcher’s first Conference on Gender and International Affairs.

Long-time blog readers may remember that there has been growing momentum surrounding the incorporation of gender analysis into Fletcher’s international curriculum.  One of the causes dearest to my heart while I was a MALD student was the Gender Initiative, which I co-chaired and wrote about in this past post.  The goal of the student-run Gender Initiative is to create and support academic and professional opportunities related to gender analysis in international studies for interested students and faculty at Fletcher.  In the past four years alone, and following the strong legacy of past gender-related activities in the Fletcher community, the Initiative has seen the creation of new courses with an explicit focus of gender analysis, the gathering of data regarding the gender (and other aspects of identity) of the guest speakers invited to Fletcher, the organization of professional seminars and panels on gender-related careers, and a proposal to create a Gender in International Studies Field of Study, which was just approved last month by the Fletcher faculty!

This year’s excellent Gender Initiative leadership, accompanied by the phenomenal leadership of Fletcher’s Global Women organization, has worked hard to organize Fletcher’s first ever conference on Gender and International Affairs: Avenues for Change. Panel topics span sectors and interests, and they include gendered perspectives on inclusion through technology; a discussion of reproductive health, justice, and rights; and gendered aspects of urban displacement in crises.  The keynote of the conference will be Dr. Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost feminist scholars on gender, conflict, and militarism.  Fletcher Professors Kimberly Theidon, Dyan Mazurana, Kimberly Wilson, and Rusty Tunnard all have places in the program, and we expect many more faculty will participate in the sessions.

This is an exciting moment for researchers, practitioners, and advocates of gender analysis at Fletcher.  Even more exciting is the fact that you can join us: attendance is not limited to members of the Fletcher community, so if you are in the area or have colleagues who may be interested, please feel free to share the information and register to attend!  If you do come, please say hello — and stay tuned for a conference recap, as well as an update on my path since graduating from the MALD program, in my next Admissions Blog post.

Tagged with:
 

After two lovely years of working with Roxanne, an amazing writer, I’m sad that her student blogger role is coming to an end.  Though I’m hopeful to include her thoughts in the Admissions Blog in the future, the focus will shift to her post-Fletcher activities.  Today, Roxanne shares her reflections on two years at Fletcher.

Roxanne graduationI remember reading the Admissions Blog from across the world and wanting to experience the buzz in Fletcher’s Hall of Flags that Jessica so frequently described.  It, therefore, feels surreal to sit at my desk at home — the same desk where I have typed so many words and formatted so many footnotes — to write my closing reflections on this chapter of my Fletcher education.  On May 18, I marched in Fletcher’s Commencement ceremonies and was once again moved by the love and care that run so deep in this community.  When I look back on two years at Fletcher, I will, indeed, remember compassion, kindness, and care — for the world and for each other. As I had promised Jessica, I would also like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the other major themes and lessons that have punctuated my time at Fletcher.

  • Prepare to be humbled by your peers.  Professors, university leaders, staff, and guest speakers are all incredibly inspiring and will give you much to reflect on, but prepare for an immense amount of your learning to come from your peers.  Some of my fondest memories of learning and community alike at Fletcher have taken place in the company of what a friend has affectionately dubbed “the Ladies who Law.”  Choose your study groups well — those are the individuals who will help you make sense of econometrics or piece together the complex concepts of international law, and who will be entrusted with much of your collective learning.  Know that there will be times when you understand concepts less than your peers, and times when you will have to shoulder more of the work or be better prepared.  Treat your group work seriously and your peers with respect, and you will find yourself referencing their thoughts and insights just as much as you do those of your professors.
  • Advocate for what you care about.  I have always been drawn to the intersection of identities: conflict and humanitarian practitioner, scholar and activist.  Inhabiting the intersections can be challenging, and clarifying my role in conflict-affected settings requires demarcating how these different identities interact.  However, as a student, I was not prepared to cast any of the identities aside.  I came to Fletcher to study and learn, but when I noticed that there was an opportunity to think more creatively as an institution about inclusive security, diversity, and analysis of gender and power, I leaped at the chance to facilitate these conversations.  Looking back, I cherish the formation, advocacy, and momentum of the Gender Initiative at Fletcher and cannot imagine my time here without channeling my energy towards it.  Advocating for what I (and many others!) cared about was not required for my courses.  It was not an extra-curricular activity, per se.  At the same time, it felt essential to me and it aligned my personal values, professional experience, and sense of what I wanted to give to this community.  When you see opportunities to reflect on Fletcher as an institution, and to do so collaboratively and constructively, don’t shy away from them.
  • Say yes. In an earlier post with advice to incoming students, I had suggested that you think about what you hope to accomplish at Fletcher prior to arriving.  In this post, I suggest carving out some room for surprise.  Try a class that is outside your field of expertise — just because it’s interesting, or because you want to learn from that particular professor, or just because you’re curious.  Attend a talk that you don’t think is for you.  Sign up to learn to dance salsa for the Culture Nights — even if you’ve never danced before.  Some of the best learning takes place when you say yes and open yourself up to vulnerability, surprise, and the opportunity to be a novice again.

I am not quite ready to leave Fletcher — but perhaps that is a testament to the community itself: Fletcher inspires in all of us a constant desire to learn, challenge ourselves, and strive — and, at the same time, it sparks such an investment in our shared bonds that we are reluctant to leave the place and its people behind.  Graduation has, however, catapulted us into the world and I am looking forward to watching these relationships evolve and reconfigure and to being part of our continued, shared learning.  I promise to come visit on the Admissions Blog as an alumna from time to time — until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful summer!

The "Ladies who Law," ready to graduate.

Some of the “Ladies who Law,” ready to graduate.

Tagged with:
 

With exams in their rear-view mirrors, our student bloggers (even those about to graduate) are finding a little time to write.  Today, Roxanne thinks back two years to the summer before she enrolled at Fletcher.

I am typing this blog post in the midst of celebrations and errands.  In yards and fields around campus, faculty, staff, and classmates alike are celebrating our impending graduation and the memories we have made in our time at Fletcher.  In the meantime, books find their way back to the library, a cap and gown are awaiting my pick-up at the campus bookstore, and stacks of paperwork require review.  As I am almost across the finish line of my time as a Fletcher graduate student, I wanted to look back and share some advice with incoming students.

Rest and reflect: Spend the summer before Fletcher relaxing and asking yourself questions about how you wish to spend your graduate school years.  You do not need to reach precise answers — in fact, these answers will change when you arrive on campus, and multiple times after that, too.  Rather, I encourage asking yourself what you seek to accomplish at Fletcher.  Are you trying to build particular technical skills?  If so, what are these skills and to what end are you hoping to hone them?  Are you hoping to develop a close relationship with particular professors who could be your mentors?  Are you interested in conducting original research?  Do you hope to write publishable work?  Again — you do not need the answers immediately, but asking these questions early (and often) will ensure that you approach your time at Fletcher with a consciousness that helps shape your path here.  And rest.  Rest rest rest rest rest.  You will need it.

Read for pleasure: I have loved most everything I have read at Fletcher, but I have also missed selecting my own leisure reading and having the time to do it.  Make a pleasure reading list for the summer before starting at Fletcher and carve out the time to dive into it.  Keep adding to the list while at Fletcher, as your professors and classmates will have great recommendations.  You will soon graduate and “read for fun” will be at the top of your wish list again!

Browse with an open mind:
I have received a few emails from prospective students asking questions like, “Should I take this class or that in my third semester?”  While planning ahead is always a good idea, it may be more useful to browse without trying to make concrete plans for all four semesters here.  By that, I mean that you should go through the Fletcher website and learn about the different offerings on campus.  What classes are available?  How do students spend their time?  What are the research centers and what do they do?  Which faculty bios resonate most with your interests and why?  What are the various publications?  Knowing about your options will broaden your view of Fletcher, and may be more useful than trying to create a plan before even arriving.  Soliciting second-year students’ advice once you arrive is a great way to vet prospective classes, and everyone is accessible and eager to answer your questions!

Spend time with friends and family:
Fletcher can be all-consuming in the best of ways, particularly in the first few weeks here.  As such, it may be good to use the time before Fletcher to reconnect with your friends and family, discuss your graduate school plans, and also reflect on the experience you are wrapping up.  How do you feel about leaving your current job or endeavor?  What have been the highlights of the past couple of years?  Transitions can be a whirlwind, and making time to process this one, especially with your loved ones, will allow you to invest in your new community with a clearer head and more energy.

Take care of outstanding responsibilities:
Similarly, if at all possible, leave some time between your arrival in the Boston area and the start of Orientation.  This will allow you to settle into your new place, get your bearings in the neighborhood, and develop a bit of a routine.  That is also a good time to buy anything you may need for the semester (check out the Tufts-specific discounts that are part of the summer mailings you will receive), and to take care of errands before the studying kicks in.  Doctors’ appointments, finishing up your previous job, external scholarship applications — all of these are easier to take care of before school begins!

Brush up on skills — but do not stress:
Some of you will need to brush up on quantitative skills or your knowledge of economics or a language.  If you have the energy and interest, it is not a bad idea to do that over the summer, particularly if you wish to sit for one of the qualifying exams in the fall.  Think of which gaps you may wish or need to fill and be creative about how to do so before you arrive.  However, do not let this ruin your summer or be a cause of stress — there are quite a few opportunities to take these tests.  It’s just easiest to take them early — particularly with languages, if you have been keeping up with language practice — which is why Fletcher advises you to take the tests as soon as possible after you arrive.

Cast the “shoulds” aside:
There are infinite ways to prepare for a new experience and lots of lists you could browse that would tell you a myriad of things you should do before graduate school.  Ultimately, though, you know what you need more than anyone — and there are aspects of the Fletcher experience that will catch you by surprise or for which you couldn’t prepare even if you wanted to.  This is part of the learning and the fulfillment here, so spend the summer in all the ways that resonate with you, take the advice that is useful for you, cast aside the rest, and arrive at Fletcher with an open mind for learning and an open heart for the new community of which you will soon be a part!

Tagged with:
 

Some lovely news for Roxanne, our second-year student blogger and a rock star in the Fletcher community.  In a ceremony yesterday, Roxanne was given the University’s Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service.  Lucky for me, another student, Kate, grabbed a photo:

Roxanne awardKate also recorded a short video of Dean Sheehan introducing Roxanne.

In his introduction, Dean Sheehan refers to Roxanne’s TED talk, which you may also want to watch.

Congratulations to Roxanne!!

Tagged with:
 

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!

Tagged with:
 

Our Admissions Committee meeting will start in 45 minutes, but I’m going to try to sneak in a blog post before I head over to the meeting room.  I wanted to update you on news from some of our blog friends.

First, our student bloggers.  They’re back on campus and I’ve been giving them a little time to settle into classes before I start cajoling them for posts.  Meanwhile, if you weren’t in Guatemala City to hear it yourself, you might like to check out Roxanne’s latest TEDx talk.

Also making news — our friend Manjula.  Trying to follow his comings and goings via Facebook, I see that he has spent an extended time in Sri Lanka generating support for Educate Lanka.  At least one of the goals of his trip was to organize a charity “Walk for a Cause,” which took place last weekend.  Along the way, he was interviewed in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, and also by Young Asia Television.  (No translation available, but you’ll get the idea.)

Finally, and closer to where I’m sitting right now, our own Christine has made Fletcher news, in that she has been promoted to Admissions Coordinator.  At the moment, she is wearing two different hats (her old one and her new one — both stylish, of course), but that leaves little time for writing Consult Christine posts.  Once she settles into only one job at a time, she can start up writing again.

So that’s the round-up!  And I’m off to the Admissions Committee meeting.

Tagged with:
 

I still haven’t run into Roxanne, our student blogger, now in her second year, but just before classes began she was kind to send me a report on her summer in Colombia.  In a busy week, there’s nothing like being able to draw on unexpected blog contributions!  Here’s Roxanne’s report on a fascinating summer.

As I type these words, I sit surrounded by papers full of Fletcher information: 2013-2014 course offerings, capstone project submission forms, registration requirements for international students.  September has always been my favorite time of year because there is a sense of renewal and possibility in the air — not to mention that it is the start of fall!  Anyone who has spent time in New England, as I did as a college student in Boston, can appreciate the crisper air and the first signs of leaves turning red.

Roxanne ColombiaDespite my love of fall, I am not quite ready to part with the lingering memories of the summer.  As Jessica mentioned in an earlier blog post, the majority of my energy this summer was channeled towards a field research project in Colombia.  Under the guidance of Professor Dyan Mazurana, and in affiliation with local organizations, I designed and implemented a study on the gender dimensions of enforced disappearances.  Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity and defines it as:

Enforced disappearance of persons means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.

In Colombia, similarly to other countries with a high reported rate of enforced disappearances, the majority of the missing are men and the majority of the surviving family members who initiate and/or lead the search process for the missing are women.  As part of my research, I interviewed both surviving family members of the missing and “key informants” — government, NGO, and international organization officials who could discuss the topic in their professional capacity.  Through these interviews, I sought to shed more light on a number of questions: How does enforced disappearance impact the surviving family members of the missing person?  Where and how do surviving family members of the missing fit within the victims’ groups and their narratives?  How does the memory of the missing, and the experience of their family members, figure into the creation of collective memory?

The process of creating this summer project provided a glimpse into the rituals of the academic world.  First, I consulted with both Professor Mazurana and the local partners to set the parameters of the research and understand how the local context in Colombia would affect my research design and methods.  Then I sought the approval of the Institutional Review Board, the organization that ensures that all research involving human subjects is ethical.  This involved devising interview questions, drafting consent forms, and thinking of strategies to protect my interviewees’ privacy, confidentiality, and security without subjecting them to unnecessary risks or costs.  Once I arrived in Colombia, the focus shifted to identifying whom to interview, with an eye towards the inclusion of multiple, diverse voices and perspectives.  Journalists, government officials, NGO leaders, victims’ group advocates, academics, jurists, and community leaders are among the groups that helped me with my research.  The fall and winter will consist of processing the data I collected and identifying patterns that emerged from the research. I am looking forward to developing more robust qualitative research skills in order to complete this task.

A few other experiences round up my summer: speaking alongside Professor Mazurana at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Non-Violent Conflict on the topic of gender and non-violent movements, presenting my work on wartime sexual violence at the Women in International Security conference in Toronto, Canada, serving as an international consultant to an organization in Pakistan seeking to conduct a conflict assessment on access to education, and riding a tandem bike across Boston on every beautiful day this summer could muster.  I must admit to feeling fatigued, inspired, grateful, overwhelmed, and lucky all at once.  Free time during the next few days will hold catch-ups with Fletcher friends, sleep, and outdoor adventures, before the air gets too crisp.  Next time you hear from me, I will have fully entered my second year at Fletcher!

Tagged with:
 

When she’s not offering valuable advice to incoming students, Roxanne is still keeping plenty busy.  Last week, along with Prof. Dyan Mazurana, she presented a session at the Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.  Interested?  You can get the details from the storify intro, (I love the way Roxanne is described as “a do-gooder of international proportions”), from the storify write-up, or from the video below.  Watch the whole thing, or fast forward to Roxanne’s presentation, at about 1:07:30.

Roxanne is off to Colombia for the next phase of her summer.  I’ll try to catch up with her a little later, once she has settled in there.

Tagged with:
 

My little survey from a few weeks back yielded some very specific questions from incoming students.  While I work on the answers, Roxanne is here to give you a big-picture view of what you should be doing and thinking about in the summer before you start your graduate studies.  

I am writing these words at 1369 Coffee House, which was one of my favorite spaces when I was a college student in Boston.  One of the indulgences of the early days of summer lies in exactly this moment: savoring a drink at a coffee shop, reading for pleasure, and watching the to-do lists temporarily shrink to include only leisurely items.

Therein lies my first piece of advice for the summer before you enroll at Fletcher: Embrace leisure.  Allow your mind to rest for a while, and engage in the activities that make you happy.  If it is possible, build in a few weeks of relaxation between the time your work commitments end and the time Fletcher obligations kick in.  Arriving at Fletcher with a rested mind can make all the difference.  While I am soon leaving for my summer work and research, the past two weeks have been full of picnics, tandem bike rides, a trip to Walden Pond, and other favorite Boston-area activities.

Use the summer to reflect on the experience you want to have at Fletcher: What do you wish to learn that you had not previously explored?  Which types of skills do you want to build?  Are there particular professors whom you would like to get to know?  What other opportunities in the Boston area appeal to you?  The answers to these questions shift constantly for most of us at Fletcher, and we welcome the evolution of our interests, but arriving here with a sense of goals and learning objectives — however vague and ever-changing — can be helpful in making the most of the experience.  The summer is also a good time to talk to past mentors, whether professional or academic ones, and to solicit their advice about how to make the most of your upcoming graduate school experience.

If you are planning on taking the language exams early in the semester, or the economics and quantitative reasoning placement tests, it may be helpful to brush up on some of those skills — but do not let the process stress you.  When I look back on my own summer before Fletcher, I wish I had worried less.  Yes, it is important to fill out the paperwork Fletcher requires in a timely manner, to set up your email accounts, and to prepare logistically for the semester.  Completing these steps will make your arrival here far less stressful, and it will enable you to delve into the community smoothly in August.  At the same time, the Fletcher staff is incredibly supportive, these processes are fairly easy, and they need not intimidate or worry you.

Some of you will go through the new course catalog as soon as it becomes available to make a list of courses you would like to take; yet others will arrive in Medford without ever having looked at the course catalog.  Let me reassure you that most of us change our minds about our preferred course choices multiple times before the semester begins, so do not feel pressure to make rigid choices.  If you are inspired by browsing the offerings, by all means, go ahead!  If, on the other hand, you’d rather wait until you get here and can solicit the opinions of your classmates or attend the so-called “Shopping Day” to watch the professors in action, know that many Fletcher students will be joining you.

Finally, I’d like to make some room for the pieces of pre-Fletcher advice that do not fit in the above categories, but reflect how I wish I had spent the summer before Fletcher:

  • Read for pleasure. This is what a now-graduated member of the Class of 2013 had advised me, and it was the best piece of advice I received.  It was a treat to spend the summer steeped in the literature of my choice without the pressure to highlight or take notes.
  • Make some time to say goodbye to the place you have called home.  Some of you will be leaving a place far away from your birthplace, while others will be leaving your homeland.  Transitions are easier once you have carved out room for goodbyes and nostalgia.
  • Relatedly, carve out some time to make Boston a home when you arrive.  If you arrive a couple of days before Orientation, take the time to explore your new neighborhood or take the subway to Boston.  Give yourself some time to discover what may soon be your new favorite restaurant or café, develop a new running or cycling route, a new morning routine.  You will be part of this community before you know it, and there are many of us eagerly waiting to welcome you to the Fletcher family!  Until then, have a wonderful summer!
Tagged with:
 

Spam prevention powered by Akismet