Currently viewing the tag: "Social List"

Here’s one of those little things that pass my inbox and warm my heart.  It was a message to the Social List from a first-year student I’ll call Inquiring Mind (IM).  So IM is new to the U.S. and was curious about an aspect of American culture.  What did he do?  He sent the question out to his crack team of cultural interpreters — the Social List.  IM wrote:

Social List!
I recently became aware of a cross-cultural academic nuance that I had to share.  Apparently it is inappropriate to ask fellow students about their grades here in the U.S.  This is in complete contrast to my educational experience in India where, not only is this a very fair question, you almost never had to ask to find out.  That is because a lot of schools would post the results of the entire student body on public notice boards for everyone to see.  I distinctly remember learning about my grades from friends who had a knack of getting to those notice boards before I did.

There are probably deeper social values at play here that define what is appropriate, and I would like to know your thoughts on it, particularly about the “appropriateness'” of this question.

I love the fact that someone can ask a question like this, with confidence that supportive classmates will help him out.  The answers poured in right away.

Cultural Interpreter #1 wrote:

I wish I had an explanation why.  Maybe it’s because we’re over-achievers and either embarrassed by a bad grade or feel like we’re flaunting our good grades, if we tell others.  But whoever gave you that pearl of wisdom, it’s definitely true.  Unless someone offers to tell you his grade, I wouldn’t ask.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and in some instances — maybe among your study group where you all worked really hard together, or if you know someone was particularly worried about an exam — it would not be inappropriate to ask.  But I’ll bet that if you ask people how they did on an exam or paper, the general response will be, “I did fine” (which I would correlate with an A or A-).  “Not my best work, but it will do,” probably equals an A- or B, depending on the person.  But “Damn, that teacher totally has it out for me” points to less than a B. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

An additional curious international student then wrote:

I’d really be interested to hear more about this.  I am in my fifth academic year as a student in this country, and I’ve noticed many thought-provoking aspects of youth in this society, of social norms and customs both inside and outside the classroom.  I’d love to hear what graduate-level, older students have to say, especially as almost everyone here has had international experience and so many Fletcher students are not American.  Is it really a no-no to reveal one’s grades in the U.S.?

Cultural Interpreter #2 jumped in to say:

I have always assumed it had something to do with the Protestant Work Ethic vibe/Puritan roots of the U.S.:  Hard work is a duty; humility is absolute; privacy is supreme.  Many people don’t abide by those same rules in their day-to-day life, of course, but I recall being told early on in my (public) school never to discuss our academic achievements publicly.  It might be similar to how we don’t talk about money (“How much did your condo cost?”  “How much do you make yearly?”), which in some countries is totally o.k.

Cultural Interpreter #3 took the conversation further, and also added a cultural reference:

Although not officially publicized, everyone knew everyone’s grades among my high school friends.  (Less so in college.)  Yet if the information was not offered and you had to ask, it was awkward.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps the aversion to making grades public has to do with the spirit of promoting self-esteem and eternal optimism that is particularly strong in some American circles?  Taken to its extreme, it’s as if we can’t puncture the illusion that “of course we’re all above average!”

Finally, Cultural Interpreter #4 concluded the conversation:

I think part of it, as well, might have to do with the fact that a lot of us were always conscious that families had different expectations re: what was an “acceptable” grade vs. an “achievement” vs. a “failure” — differences that correspond pretty closely with the cultural diversity found in much of America.  Kids learn early that some families celebrate what other families want to see improve, and discussing grades only reinforces that.  No one wants to hear, “Your parents are rewarding you for a B?  Mine would hire a tutor.”  (Not that I ever said that, but my family was definitely in the latter camp.)  Neither is right or wrong, but as a kid it’s difficult to understand, which means that the question often gets circumvented.

Of course, these are only anecdotal responses, and a future thesis on the topic will require more research.  Still, I feel good when I see this type of connection among students, to the benefit of all.

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You may have seen this article in Diplomatic Courier, which features the “Top 99 Most Influential International Professionals Under 33.”   If you didn’t see the original article, you might have seen the Fletcher take on it, listing our nine alumni among the Top 99, including two in the Top 9.

I thought I’d share some of the reaction of my Admissions colleagues.  After students circulated the link to the article via the Social List, Kristen sent me a note saying how proud she was, and that “it also makes me feel like a bit of an old-timer, as I recognized our students’ names without looking them up.”  Then Laurie and I chatted about how clearly we remembered reading many (or, in Laurie’s case, all) of the applications, with Matan’s particularly standing out in my mind.  We always feel that personal connection to students, starting with their applications and continuing as they make their mark on the Fletcher community.

Frankly, it doesn’t take an Admissions genius to have seen the potential in one of these people who, so quickly, have made an impact.  Ultimately, the most gratifying aspect of the story, from the Admissions perspective, is that the nine chose Fletcher as the place where they would hone their skills and broaden their perspectives — giving Fletcher the opportunity to play a role in shaping them before they moved along to the wider world.

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O.K., so this is really old (originally posted last summer, I think), but it just made it’s way to me via the Social List.  New Fletcher alum, Michelle Kwan, hosted an aspiring figure skater at Fletcher.  Check out Michelle as tour guide, and her protegé, starting at about 30:30 into the show.  MTV isn’t Fletcher’s usual medium, and I hope you’ll enjoy (however belatedly) this unique introduction to the School.

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Yesterday I shared emails from students who, in defending the Fletcher Social List, helped to define it.  Today I want to give you examples of things I learned from the Social List.

Example #1:  A student is writing the story of his spring in Egypt.

Dear Fletcher,
As some of you know, I was studying in Egypt during the recent revolution.  I happened to be traveling with a friend of mine who works as a cartoonist, when the events in Tahrir Square began, and we decided to tell the story of our experience through a webcomic.  The first episode of the comic was released today, and it will be updated weekly.  I hope you enjoy it and feel free to comment on the site.
Missing Fletcher,

Example #2:  There are lots of Bollywood fans in the community!  And they put together a list to guide my summer video watching.  Are you also new to Bollywood?  Check out the list.

The Best Bollywood Films According to Fletcher Students (and Their Roommates)

Amar Akhbar Anthony

Bunty Aur Babli

And that’s only the As and Bs!  Time constraints keep me from sharing the entire list.

Example #3:  Even though MALD student Bilal Baloch works in our office, I needed the Social List to tell me he was featured on CNN.

Example #4:  Days before I heard officially, the Social List told me that you can check bicycles out at the library — just like books!

Example #5:  For better or worse, I learned howmany…remixes there are of that ubiquitous and (some might say) annoying Friday song.  (Sorry about the hulu commercial — the blog likes to draw from legal sites.)

As you can see, time spent reading Social List (or Socialist) messages is time well spent.  The List is like a web that holds the community together, while also informing us about its interests and activities.  Incoming students:  Be ready to share with and learn from the List!

Amar Akhbar Anthony







Bunty Aur Babli


Chak De





Devdas (New)

Devdas (Old)

Dil Chahata Hai

Dil Se

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge




Hazaaron Khwashein Aisi

Hum Tum



Jaane Bhi Do Yaron

Jaane Tu Jaane Na

Jab We Met

Jamaai Raja

Jodha Akbar


Kabhi Kabhie

Kal Ho Naa Ho


Koi Mil Gaya


Kuch Kuch Hota Hai


Life In A Metro

Mr. India

Mr. Natwarlal


Munnabhai MBBS

Namak Halal


Om Shanti Om


Pyaar Impossible



Ram Lakhan

Rang De Basanti

Rock On




Satte Pe Satta





Taare Zameen Par


Three Idiots


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Past posts have often referred to the Social List — Fletcher’s email list for non-official purposes.  I can’t remember how long ago the School decided we would have two elists — one for official news (carefully monitored) and one for, well, more free-wheeling unmonitored conversation — but it’s hard to imagine Fletcher without the Social List.  (How did students communicate with each other back in the day?)  Last October, there was a discussion (on the Social List, of course) about what belongs there, starting with one student’s suggestion that “Foodie” emails might not be proper Social List content, and should be relegated to their own thematic list.  Prisca Benelli (soon to graduate from the MALD program and then return for the PhD program) jumped in with her defense of multi-faceted discussion.  I filed the emails away for future blog use, and here’s what Prisca said to make her case:

I like the Social List because it brings me a lot of unrelated, funny, sometimes interesting — sometimes not — topics.  I like it because I can find everything on it, and I like the freedom of posting a totally random request.

I like to read — and sometimes respond — to the questions and emails I see, as a way to procrastinate.  I like it because it’s unpredictable and chaotic, which is how communication is in real life.  I like to discover more — both fun facts and serious opinions — about people I know, based on the requests they send.

So, I don’t feel bothered by foodie requests.  Nonetheless, I would never sign up for a list for food, and I don’t want to be inundated with food discussions.  The SL, I believe, works as a moderator because people restrain themselves from sending too many emails, fearing they will annoy others.

I like the Social List the way it is:  a potpourri of ideas, pictures of dogs, announcements of conferences, and occasional debates.  It feels messy, but it feels like community.

So, thank you for your efforts to make the list a better place, but please, don’t spare me from foodie mails.


Picking up the conversation and, in true Social List style, taking it further, Jonathan Perry (also, soon-to-graduate) joins in defending the Social List (or, as he prefers, The Socialist):

Like Prisca, I’m writing in support of this madness we call The Socialist.

To second my colleague, I like The Socialist because it’s ridiculous, informative, provocative, random, and surprising.  Today’s headlines alone taught me a lot about my fellow students:

1) Sam, the poor guy, is looking to get his hair cut and will offer baked goods in return.  Is there anyone out there for him?  I would offer myself but I’m afraid he’d need to wear a paper bag on his head for a couple of weeks.

2) There’s an interesting documentary on maternal health in Nigeria coming up soon.  You should check it out, if you want to.

3) Elena’s cat is missing!!!   This is seriously stressful.  Elena, I hope you find Minky soon — AND I hope that your message to The Socialist helps you to that end.

4) Alexis is looking to road-trip New England…awesome!  May I suggest a jaunt down Route 2 West and up to southern Vermont?  You won’t be disappointed.

My point is the following:  The Socialist is an online community (yours, mine, and our community) that brings together the immensely wide range of interests present at Fletcher.  It’s an incredible resource for anyone trying to tap into the human capital that 500 impressively experienced, intelligent, and motivated students combined bring to the table.

Yes, it’s messy, and of course postings can be trivial.  Book-swapping season alone can lead to many, many irrelevant emails to you and me both, BUT have you tried selling a Stats Book on it during the first week of September?  That’s money in the bank my friend!

Like Prisca, I’ve enjoyed the foodie discussion, but would probably not sign up for a foodie-only site.  I am also — like most of us — an IR nut who enjoys discussions on all sorts of international issues, especially if they come with the opinions of my classmates.  I would argue that putting your ideas on The Socialist is a direct line to a 500-person audience, with the added bonus of a critical peer review of equal size.  Be bold, post your IR analysis for everyone to see.  (I hear Prof. Drezner subscribes to The Socialist.)

So, just like my classmate, I commend you for trying to bring order to the chaos, but please don’t forget that, within the chaos, there is a benefit that sub-sites and topic-specific discussions miss out on.


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