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In the last weeks of the semester, our Student Stories bloggers started wrapping up their posts for the year.  Akshobh traveled to Israel and Palestine with a group of students over the March Spring Break, and he sent me this report.  (Further spring semester posts will be appearing throughout the rest of May and June.)

When it comes to travel, let me facetiously say that I can classify people in two distinct categories.  There are those who travel and then there are those who stay at home, watching the travel channel.

I was definitely in the former bucket.  Since 2010, I had made myself a promise — every year I would visit one place that I hadn’t seen before.  And sure enough, my itchy feet and desire to see the world ensured that promise stayed on course.

Taking a hiatus from the working world and investing your time and money in graduate school creates a lot of challenges, one of them being limited ability to pamper yourself with a fancy holiday.  Fortunately, one of the many alluring aspects of coming to Fletcher are student-led treks.  This past spring break, one had an eclectic mix to choose from: traveling to Russia (on an official Fletcher trip), or on student-led treks to Mexico, or to the Middle East, to visit Israel and Palestine.

The Israel and Palestine trek is the longest running student-led trek at Fletcher, and visiting these regions epitomized why I came to Fletcher in the first place — to get an in-depth understanding of the protracted saga and try and comprehend the viable diplomatic solutions that may exist.  But equally important, it was a treat for history aficionados to tour sites of mythological and archaeological importance.  Visiting Israel was definitely an item to check off the bucket list and, with all needed caveats regarding visas and immigration queries, we found ourselves driving to the holy city of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv airport.  Our tour leaders featured two second-year and two first-year students, a Fletcher PhD graduate now working with the Israeli Government, and our British tour guide, Samuel, who has spent the last seven years in Israel and had hosted three previous Fletcher groups.

Our tour of Israel began in the old city of Jerusalem, a revered place with some of the holiest sites for the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  Jerusalem has been one of history’s greatest players and it attracts devotees and tourists alike.

In addition to the sacred sites, there are also the souks (traditional Arabic market places) adorned with handicrafts and souvenirs and selling spices that will satiate both your palate and your tourism appetite.

A visit to the holy city would have been incomplete without going to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Remembrance Center) and hearing first-hand from a Holocaust survivor gave us goosebumps.

You wouldn’t get a fair perspective on relations between Israel and Palestine if you visited only Israel and heard only the Israeli perspective.  On the second day of our visit, we crossed East Jerusalem (the predominantly Arab part of the city) to Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

Amal Jadou, F09, speaking to us about Israel-Palestine issues.

Our first stop was the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where we met Amal Jadou, who is currently the Assistant Minister on European Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To add to her impressive credentials and role, she is also a 2009 Fletcher PhD graduate.  After briefing us on geopolitical affairs pertaining to Israel and Palestine, she fondly reminisced about her Fletcher classmates and her time at Blakeley Hall, and even asked us to pass on her regards to Professor Babbitt and Professor Schultz.

Geopolitics of the region were an important part of our visit to Palestine, but we were especially impressed later in the day when we met social entrepreneurs who, despite the hardships in the region, had created dynamic startups leveraging technology and employing local youth.  Their goal was to add a new chapter to the Palestine story.

During our weeklong excursion, we traversed the Israeli countryside so much that we saw the borders with three of Israel’s four neighbors, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (but not Egypt).  My personal favorite was being on the banks of the Jordan river, so nonchalantly separating Israel and Jordan.

On the banks of the Jordan River. The people behind me in Jordan, while I remain on the Israeli side of the border.

Our trek was far from being only about serious discourse on Middle Eastern issues.  While we heard from a range of speakers — from the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli parliamentarians to Palestinian entrepreneurs and government officials to humanitarian aid workers — our trip included the quintessential tourist experience as well.

From floating in the saline waters of the Dead Sea, to driving all-terrain vehicles in the Golan Heights, having a desert party on the Israel-Jordan border, gorging on the various renditions of Israeli hummus, savoring shakshuka, sipping from one of Israel’s finest vineyards, experiencing Tel Aviv nightlife, or just dancing to Israeli music on the bus while driving through the countryside, it’s fair to say that nearly fifty of us “broke bread” (sometimes literally, with hummus) in the finest fashion.

Apart from satiating my appetite with gastronomic delights, this trip also greatly satisfied my intellectual curiosity to travel to a region I had read so much about but never had the chance to experience.

A beautiful windy day with the Tel Aviv skyline behind me.

Even Fletcher’s finest courses on the Middle East couldn’t provide the same holistic perspective without a visit to the region.  As a former journalist, I can say that sometimes the political headlines and op-eds don’t tell you the complete story.  It’s having conversations with the people, experiencing the history, witnessing the culture, and gorging on the smorgasbord of Middle Eastern delicacies that paints a much clearer picture.

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Although only three of this year’s Student Stories writers are second-year students, a total of four will graduate on Sunday.  Prianka has completed the requirements for the one-year LLM program and will join Adi, Mariya, and Pulkit at Commencement.  Here is Prianka’s Annotated Curriculum for her year at Fletcher.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys, New Delhi, India
Consultant, Ernst & Young LLP, New Delhi, India

Capstone Topic
Enforceability of Transparency Requriements Relating to Trade Remedy Measures

Curriculum Overview

LLM students are required to complete five credits within the International Law and Organization (ILO) division, one from Diplomacy, History and Politics (DHP), and one from Economics and International Business (EIB).  The course requirements are definitely a lot more straightforward than they are for the MALD or MIB program, but it is a rigorous nine months completing eight classes and a capstone.

Semester One

Public International Law
Actors in Global Governance
Legal and Institutional Aspects of International Trade
Process of International Negotiation
Microeconomics (audit)

A challenge in selecting your courses as an LLM student is being fairly certain in the first semester of the courses that you will take in the next semester, too.  Particularly for EIB and ILO, a number of the courses require an introductory course as a prerequisite, meaning that you either take the introductory course in the fall semester with the aim of taking the higher-level course in the spring semester, or you won’t be able to take the higher-level course at all.  With that in mind, I audited an introductory course in economics to be able to take a higher-level course in the spring semester.  Auditing the class also helped me understand whether I would be able to handle the higher-level course.

International law and international trade were two areas of law that I was keen on studying coming into Fletcher.  The course on global governance was a good mix of international relations and law, which was important for me as I had not taken an international relations course during my undergraduate degree.  Looking back, the first semester was definitely a good initiation to being back in school.  I was also involved with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs as their Legal Staff Editor.

Semester Two

International Treaty Behavior: A Perspective on Globalization
International Investment Law
International Trade and Investment
International Intellectual Property (January term at Harvard Law School)

The second semester was definitely a lot more challenging than my first.  Added to the academic rigor, the fact that the temperature dipped to -18 degrees Celsius (converting it to Fahrenheit makes it seem warmer in my head) made it hard to get out of bed on most mornings!

My second semester started a bit early as I took a January term course on intellectual property at the Harvard Law School.  Two main reasons for taking the course were, first, to reduce my course load during the rest of semester, as the January term starts and ends before the spring semester begins.  Second, the professor who taught the course at Harvard was a well-renowned expert in the field.

International Trade and Investment was my first economics class in over six years, but I’m happy to report that I have officially gotten over my phobia of economics!  Just as my law classes at Fletcher have brought in aspects from other fields, International Trade and Investment was a course on economics against the backdrop of law and policy.

An interesting aspect of the other two law courses that I took in the second semester, was that simulations were part of the curriculum.  In the course on International Investment Law, the class was divided into teams to negotiate an investment treaty.  Similarly, in the course on International Treaty Behavior, we had a simulation in which students were given roles as various countries and organizations with the aim of negotiating a treaty.  This definitely brought an interesting perspective to both classes.

In addition to continuing my role as an editor at The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, I was the team leader for a project with the Harvard Law and International Development Society.  With completing the capstone and coming to terms with the fact that I would soon be done with grad school, it was definitely a jam-packed semester.

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Continuing to shine a light on the academic experiences of our graduating Student Stories writers, today we’ll look at Mariya‘s Annotated Curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I worked as business analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston (two years) and taught English in Antalya, Turkey through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (one year).

Fields of Study
International Security Studies
International Business Relations
Global Maritime Affairs (self-designed)

Capstone Topic
Destruction of Cultural Property During Armed Conflict in Bosnia & Armenia

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
U.S. Foreign Service

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

The Role of Force in International Politics
International Organizations
Petroleum in the Global Economy
The Arts of Communication
EPIIC Colloquium

Activities:
Fletcher Islamic Society; Fletcher Students of Color & Allies; Fletcher Arctic; Improv Group

Directly before coming to Fletcher, I was teaching English at a Turkish University.  Being in a school setting made my transition to graduate school easier, but I grossly underestimated the rigor of the Fletcher curriculum.  In fact, I was not sure what to expect and I certainly did not know what to study, given my wide interests.  My conversation with Mary Dulatre, F12, the friendly Fletcher Registrar and alumna, gave me comfort.  She helped me decide on two of Fletcher’s most popular classes, the Role of Force (RoF) taught by Professor Richard Shultz and International Organizations (IO) taught by Professor Ian Johnstone, which gave me a foundational introduction to international relations and international law, respectively.  As the core requirement for International Security Studies, RoF piqued my interest in the security field and pushed me to seek Professor Shultz as my thesis advisor.  Petroleum in the Global Economy helped me understand the important role of oil in world affairs while the Arts of Communication sharpened my public speaking skills.  As an ambitious first-year, I also decided to take the EPIIC Colloquium course offered by the Institute of Global Leadership, bringing my course load to 4.5 credits.

Semester Two

Global Maritime Affairs
Maritime Security (1/2 credit)
Selected Issues in Law of the Sea (1/2 credit)
Civil Resistance: Global Implications of Nonviolent Struggles for Rights & Accountability (1/2 credit)
Leadership and Ethics in American Foreign Policy (at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS))
Democracy, the Incomplete Experiment (at Harvard Law School)
Economic Problems of Latin America (Certified Audit)
Current Topics in International Relations (1/2 credit, Unofficial Audit)

Activities:
Fletcher Islamic Society; Fletcher Students of Color & Allies; Fletcher Arctic Conference VI; Tufts Energy Conference; TA, “Law of the Sea” at Fletcher (Professor John Burgess)

My second semester was by far my busiest and most enjoyable.  I took four modules (half-credit courses), two regular classes, a certified audit, and — believe it or not — an unofficial audit.  After attending the Arctic Circle Conference in Iceland in October 2016 with the Fletcher Maritime Program, I became extremely interested in water studies.  Under the supervision of Professor Rockford Weitz, I decided to self-design a field of study in Global Maritime Affairs.  I have enjoyed learning about the role of water in international trade, security, law, human rights, and communication; water essentially touches everything.  I also enjoyed my classes at Harvard.  At the Kennedy School, I took Leadership and Ethics in American Foreign Policy, taught by Professor Joseph Nye.  A paper I wrote for his class examining the role of morality in three presidential legacies was published in the newly-launched student section of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.  Similarly, I loved taking a course on American democracy at the Harvard Law School, where we explored topics such as immigration, religion, media, and elections.  The timing of the course was impeccable, given the American political climate at the time. Inspired by the topic of religion in American politics, my classmate and I wrote an opinion piece criticizing the Muslim Ban” that was later published in the Kennedy School Review.

Lastly, when I learned that Professor Monica Toft, the head of the Center for Strategic Studies, would be teaching a course on current topics in IR, I simply could not resist.  Luckily for me, the timing worked out and I was able to squeeze the module in my schedule.  Although I did not receive credit for the course, I thoroughly enjoyed completing all readings and assignments for the seminar.  In fact, the memo on Turkey’s relationship with NATO I wrote as a final exam was published in the Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy, where I am now a regional editor and regular contributor.  Although this semester was the most rigorous, it really gave me the opportunity to explore a wide range of academic interests.  My coursework this semester exemplifies the flexibility of a Fletcher curriculum.

Summer Internship
Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship (two weeks)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Public Affairs Section (10 weeks)

Semester Three

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Global Investment Management
National Security Decision-Making: Theory and Practice
Contemporary Issues in U.S.-Russian Relations
Processes of International Negotiation (Certified Audit)

Activities:
CFA Challenge; Women in International Security; Editor, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs; Editor, Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy; TA,“Peace Through Entrepreneurship” at Tufts University (Professor Steven Koltai, F78)

Whereas semester two kept me happily busy, semester three challenged me in more ways than one.  My course load was quite hefty and I experienced some personal life setbacks.  Corporate Finance, the core requirement for the International Business Relations field, is perhaps the hardest class I have taken at Fletcher.  In addition to class time, we were required to attend review sessions, complete individual problem sets, and prepare case studies in groups.  Professor Laurent Jacque has taught this course to generations of Fletcher students and, looking back, it’s among the classes from which I gained the most practical knowledge.  Although I do not plan to become a private equity analyst anytime soon, it was also useful to learn about strategic investments and product portfolio management in the Global Investment Management course.  In contrast, National Security Decision-Making and U.S.-Russia Relations classes were very relevant to my anticipated diplomatic career.  Both courses gave me a better understanding of history, lessons learned, and techniques to move forward given contemporary challenges.  Another useful course for my career was International Negotiation, which allowed us to practice our negotiation skills during in-class simulations.

Semester Four

Lobbying: Theory, Practice, and Simulations (1/2 credit, January term at HKS)
Econometrics
International Financial Management
Innovation Field Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities (at HKS)
U.S.-European Relations Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall
International Criminal Justice (Certified Audit)
Power in World Politics (Unofficial Audit)

Activities:
CFA Challenge (Americas Regionals); Women in International Security; Fletcher Arctic Conference VII; Editor, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs; Editor, Harvard Journal for Middle Eastern Politics & Policy; TA, “Public Opinion & Foreign Policy” at Tufts University (Richard Eichenberg)

Selecting courses for my final semester was one of the hardest things I have done at Fletcher.  I went back and forth on a number of classes; in fact, curating my schedule was such a conundrum that I did not finalize it until the add/drop deadline.  My econometrics course, which I am taking to fulfill my EIB requirement, is a very practical one, as it teaches us how to build good research models and be critical of quantitative methodologies; but I wish I had taken it in my first year so that I could have applied those skills in research for my capstone.  Advice to prospective students and first years: do NOT save your core requirements until the last semester!

I decided to take International Financial Management to top off my International Business Relations field of study and also because I think it will be useful for my future career in understanding world markets.  To switch up my quantitative course load, I decided to take Innovation Field Lab at HKS, co-taught by the mayor of Somerville Joe Curtatone.  It’s a unique course in that students act as consultants for city governments to help them solve public challenges.  My team, for example, is working with the City of Lawrence to help the government manage and resolve distressed properties through discovery, design, and delivery.  Last but not least, the U.S.-EU Relations course, as well as my two audits, directly contribute to my professional training at Fletcher.

Looking back, it’s been an exciting yet humbling journey.  I never imagined I would be able to accomplish this much when I first arrived in Medford.  But it’s true what they say: never say never.  I guess the journey continues…

In addition to Adi, three more Student Stories writers will graduate on May 20, and I plan (hope) to share Annotated Curricula for all in these next two weeks.  I’ll start today with Pulkit, who is wrapping up exams for his MALD degree.  Note that while MALD and MIB students are required to complete two Fields of Study, Pulkit has chosen to complete three.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
B.E., Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, Punjab Engineering College, India
Research Analyst, McKinsey & Company, Gurgaon, Haryana, India
Executive Director, Phoenix Hospital, Panchkula, Haryana, India
Global Shaper, World Economic Forum

Fields of Study
International Security Studies
Humanitarian Studies
International Organizations

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I hope to work in the humanitarian sector or in community development – especially in education or public health.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Design and Monitoring for Peacebuilding and Development (½ credit)
The Role of Force in International Relations
International Organizations
Sustainable Development Diplomacy
Health, Human Security and Emerging Pathogens (½ credit)
Varieties of Corruption (½ credit, Certified Audit)
Elementary French I (Audit)

Before coming to Fletcher, I knew I wanted to take a mix of skills-based and academic courses — and to focus on security studies and international organizations law.  I hit the ground running by starting with a pre-session module on Design and Monitoring with Professor Scharbatke-Church.  This module set the tone for me in terms of the rigor and effort professors would expect from their students.  It also helped me set foot in a new academic environment.  During orientation, I passed the economics equivalency exam, so that I could take an advanced economics course in the future.  I took required courses in the International Security Studies and International Organizations Fields of Study, which were basically foundational courses in political science and international law.  I was very motivated in my first semester, and I ended up taking a heavy courseload — with four credits, including two modules, and two audits.  I audited Elementary French at the Olin Center for Language and Cultural Studies, which is a great resource for Fletcher students.  I was also involved in a pro-bono consulting project with Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS).  In hindsight, overall, my first semester was very rewarding.

Semester Two

Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors (January-term, ½ credit)
International Humanitarian Response
Nuclear Dossiers: U.S. Priorities, Dilemmas and Challenges in a Time of Nuclear Disorder
Non-Proliferation Law and Institutions
Peace Operations
Elementary French II (Audit)

I took a short break of about a week after finishing my first semester requirements, and was back in the classroom for the January module on Evaluation.  In the spring semester, two courses were being offered on nuclear security and policy, and I thought it was a great opportunity for me to study that subject area.  The Non-Proliferation Law and Institutions course was outside my comfort zone, but I still enjoyed learning about international treaties and law on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.  I also decided to take Peace Operations with Professor Ian Johnstone to learn about international efforts in peacekeeping.  To try something new and different, I took International Humanitarian Response, a course that opened an interest area in humanitarian studies and response.  This course also included a three-day field simulation in Andover, MA.  I continued to audit French at the Olin Center.  By the end of the semester I had finished my field requirements for International Security Studies and International Organizations.

Summer

Teaching Assistant/Research Assistant to Professor Ian Johnstone
Non-resident Research Assistant, Pacific Forum CSIS
International Summer Academy at the Institute for Peace and Dialogue in Baar, Switzerland
Graduate Assistant, Office of Development and Alumni Relations (ODAR), The Fletcher School

My summer was made up many different opportunities and experiences — from being a teaching and research assistant (TA/RA) to Professor Ian Johnstone to traveling to Austria and Switzerland to spending time in Boston.  It was a little unstructured, but very rewarding again.  You can read more about my summer experience here.

Semester Three

Gender, Culture and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Development Economics: Policy Analysis
International Humanitarian Law
Education in Armed Conflict (at Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Politics of the Korean Peninsula: Foreign & Inter-Korean Relations (Certified Audit)

This semester was probably one of my busiest.  I have detailed my responsibilities for the Fall 2017 semester in this blog post.  Since I had already completed my two field requirements, I decided to explore and pursue the Humanitarian Studies Field of Study.  Before beginning the semester I passed the equivalency exam for the quantitative reasoning requirement.  With an engineering background, I decided that I didn’t want to take a quant course, and wanted to use that saved credit to take something different.  For the economics breadth requirement, Policy Analysis with Professor Julie Schaffner was very rigorous and challenging.

The Gender, Culture, and Conflict and Humanitarian Law courses were exceptional — and gave a theoretical and legal perspective to human security and humanitarian response.  I personally think every student who studies security studies as a field of study should be required to take the Gender class.  Using a gender lens makes one understand and realize the consequences of war — on people, their livelihoods, as well as the political economy of a state.

For my class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I worked on a narrative project of a refugee whose education had been disrupted because of conflict.  In addition to the course work, I was a TA for the International Organizations class, managing editor for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, and on the Student Council.

Semester Four

GIS for International Applications
Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization
U.S. Policy in South Asia
Negotiation Workshop (at Harvard Law School)
Forced Migration (½ credit, Audit)

I stayed in Boston over the winter break and it was a particularly cold winter.  At the end of my third semester, I had finished all my field and breadth requirements.  During the fall semester, I had also been accepted for the spring into the Negotiation Workshop at the Harvard Law School — which was a nine-hour class every week.  Including the travel time back and forth to Harvard and the preparation for the class, it was a big time commitment.  After speaking to my peers who had taken this class in the past, I decided to commit to it and build my class schedule around it.  The class was my first foray into the field of negotiation — and the class itself was structured so that we were expected to practice the science of negotiation by means of simulation exercises.  The class was exceptional because it helped me reflect on my own behavior and to learn from others.

I took Corporate Social Responsibility with Professor Jette Knudsen, basically to expand my worldview and take a case-study-based class in the Economics and International Business Division.  The class helped me understand the complex relationship between the private sector and government regulation, and the social responsibilities of privately owned businesses.  I took the U.S. Policy in South Asia class as a supplement to my capstone thesis on non-proliferation law in the context of U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement.  Over this semester I also finished a non-resident consulting project with the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

With a heavy courseload, the extra-curricular activities, and my part-time work responsibilities, I knew I would be stretching myself to finish my capstone.  I was also enjoying my classes and final semester at Fletcher — so, I decided to extend my program and work on my thesis over the summer, while I look for work.  It is amazing to think that we are two weeks away from graduation.  It has been a remarkable and astounding journey of learning.  The diversity of classes and the opportunities I have had at Fletcher have truly exposed me to the field of international relations.  As I prepare to wrap up my assignments, graduate, and transition into the summer, I can honestly say that it has been a blast.

 

With no advance planning on my part, it looks like this will be Student Stories week!  Today we’ll hear about Mariya’s Spring Semester. 

Green grass, colorful flowers, and trees in bloom — spring is finally here!  As I sit on the third floor of Ginn Library staring out at our beautiful campus, I can’t help but smile and feel grateful for spring.  Although I still have a few finals left before I officially fulfill all my graduation requirements, I thought I’d take a break from studying and reflect on some of the highlights of my spring semester.

Russia Trek — From March 15-25, I participated with 15 peers in the first-ever spring break study trip to Russia.  Organized and sponsored by the newly launched Russia and Eurasia Program, the trip felt like an experiential sequel to the U.S-Russia Relations course I took last semester.  Whereas the course gave me an academic foundation to understand the U.S.-Russia relationship, the trip provided a hands-on opportunity to negotiate and learn from colleagues at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, experience Russian culture, and nurture friendships that will last a lifetime.  We spent a weekend in St. Petersburg and a week in Moscow, where our trip culminated in presenting our negotiated memos on cybersecurity and the North Korean crisis to the Russian Foreign Ministry and U.S. Embassy Moscow.  In addition to these milestones, I enjoyed roaming the Red Square at night, eating eclectic cuisines from post-Soviet countries, indulging in modern art at the Hermitage Museum and Tretyakov Gallery, shopping for matryoshka dolls and ushanka fur hats, and touring the many Orthodox churches including the famous, onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral.  And, of course, I ran into the Fletcher family in Moscow: Maria and Nikita, who were exchange students at Fletcher during my first semester.  Overall, it was an incredible trip and I’m very humbled for having had the chance to experience Russia.  Who knows, maybe I will be posted there one day!

Capstone — I am relieved to say that my capstone is written and submitted!  Although I had been doing research all year long, including original interviews, I did not begin writing until after returning from Russia.  The topic for my thesis — destruction of cultural property during armed conflict — was inspired by my travels, particularly in Turkey where I saw a lot ruined sites and landmarks.  Using Bosnia and Armenia as case studies, I delved deeper into ethnic warfare, protection of cultural property under international law, and memory politics.  It was stressful and hectic to complete my master’s thesis in four weeks, but I disciplined myself to take advantage of every bit of free time I had.  I would like to recognize my capstone advisor, Professor Richard Shultz, who was instrumental not only in my thesis-writing, but also my entire Fletcher career.  My classmates and I created a tribute video for him as a token of our appreciation, highlighting memories from his famed Role of Force course in the International Security Studies field.

Innovation Field Lab — Given my desire for a career in public service, I decided to take “Harvard Innovation Field Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities.”  Co-taught by Professor Jorrit de Jong and Mayor of Somerville Joe Curtatone, the course expanded my knowledge, thinking, and approach to public sector problem solving.  The class not only gave us tools and expertise but also an opportunity to apply them to the problem of distressed properties in six Massachusetts cities.  My colleagues Adam, Carlos, Kysie and I worked with the City of Lawrence by conducting field visits, interviews with officials, and meetings with key stakeholders.  After semester-long research, we pitched three innovative and actionable solutions in a presentation to Mayor Dan Rivera on our last class.  I feel empowered having taken this course and I am excited to apply the framework of “discovery, design, and delivery” to international problem solving.

DC Career Trip — It feels like ages ago, but in mid-February, a month after returning from Beirut, I participated in the DC Career Trip organized by the hardworking staff in the Office of Career Services (OCS).  The two-day trip is an opportunity for career exploration, information-gathering about specific organizations, and networking with practitioners across career fields through site visits, lunch panel discussions, and evening alumni networking receptions.  Many students in the past were able to secure internships or jobs from this exclusive opportunity.

Although I feel blessed to already know what I will be doing after Fletcher, I decided to participate in the DC trip to familiarize myself with the Fletcher alumni community in Washington, which is home to me.  In my actual home in Alexandria, my parents hosted a Fletcher Feast for my friends and we enjoyed a traditional, home-cooked Pakistani meal and a “Fletcher cake” to top off the weekend.

Alrighty, back to studying for international financial management and econometrics!

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I just sent off the Student Stories blogger crew for 2017-18, following our annual gathering.  Back to studying and paper-writing they went, following the only hour of the year when we all come together.  Six of this year’s seven bloggers were able to attend.  Here’s the group:  Pulkit, Adi, Mariya, Prianka, Akshobh, and Gary.

I had hoped we had picked a time when everyone could come, but schedules are very unpredictable this time of year and Kaitlyn was unable to join us.

It is truly a joy to work with these writers.  They have all volunteered their time for at least one year and whether they blow right past a deadline or submit a post on time, I never take for granted their generosity!  I’ll miss working with Pulkit, Adi, and Mariya, who are graduating after two years of blogging, as well as Prianka who will complete the one-year LLM (and her blogging commitment) this month.  I hope (expect) to welcome Akshobh, Gary, and Kaitlyn back for another year of writing in September.

One additional note.  I’m not the only one who appreciates these folks.  They’ve all been busy with multiple commitments throughout the year.  I’d like to highlight, though, that Pulkit recently received the Presidential Award for Civic Life, one of the University’s highest honors for students.  I’ll let Pulkit tell you more via a tweet.

Congratulations, Pulkit, and fellow graduates Mariya, Adi and Prianka!  Thank you to all the student bloggers for your help all year!

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Alongside the last day of classes today, the blog’s Student Stories writers are wrapping up their commitments for the year.  Gary, our writer from the PhD program, is naturally looking ahead to the writing of his dissertation and some pre-research research was involved.

You may have heard the rumor before.  A student puts hundreds or even thousands of hours of work into formulating, researching, analyzing, writing and finally defending their doctoral dissertation…only for it never to be read by anyone outside the dissertation committee.  To put lie to that falsehood, I plumbed the depths of the Fletcher dissertation archive held at Ginn Library.  I selected from the hundreds of available dissertations by picking those written by people with whom I now have or previously have had a connection.  For some writers, I have been their student somewhere along the line or they are fellow military officers (active or retired); and for others, I used their research as a resource to prepare for military operations I have personally participated in.

Fenway Park doesn’t have the only Green Monster in the Boston area…here is Ginn Library’s own “green monster” of Fletcher dissertations.

Just to be clear, I didn’t read the dissertations I picked out from cover to cover — after all, some of them exceed 500 pages in length.  I mainly read the abstracts and the front matter to get a sense of where the writers, some now notable members of the commentariat, government, think tanks, and so forth, were in their personal journeys while writing their Fletcher dissertations.  It was an intriguing experience that I may repeat in the future because I felt like there was a lot more to discover.

A 341-page dissertation on left (from 1993), and on the right a 360-page dissertation from 2012.

With those introductory remarks out of the way, I’d like to provide some general macro-level comments about the nine dissertations I examined for this post.  The first notable feature of many of the dissertations was the inclusion of a curriculum vitae or CV.  Invariably, these are interesting time capsules of a sort.  Looking at where the writers were long ago in their personal journeys makes it easier to imagine a similar path forward for those of us studying at Fletcher today.

Some dissertations include an acknowledgments page, from which it is notable to see the personal connections and broad support required to complete any such project.  Often, the authors list out their closest colleagues from among their PhD cohort, and I can imagine those groups of former students studying, debating, and analyzing together in the same spaces in the Fares PhD Research Center under Blakeley Hall where our current crop of PhD candidates does the same thing.

Finally, it’s easy to notice that the physical bulk of dissertations has changed over time.  In years past, dissertations were printed only on the fronts of each leaf of paper, leaving the backs blank.  This made for some massive tomes, the shelves groaning under their weight.  More recently, as the available shelf space for Ginn’s green monster has dwindled, dissertations are now printed on the front and back of each page, making for far more slender volumes.

The cover of Dean Stavridis’ 1984 dissertation. Don’t try to check this one out!

Moving on to the three dissertations I want to examine in greater detail today, the unifying theme is that they were all written by current members of the Fletcher faculty or staff.  I am compelled to start with Dean Stavridis’s 1984 work, not only because he is the head honcho of the school, but also because of the unique marking on its front cover.  I would wager that it is one of the only, if not the only, Fletcher dissertation whose demand might warrant such a marking.

Dean Stavridis’s 1984 dissertation was entitled “Marine Technology Transfer and the Law of the Sea,” and it tipped the scales at an impressive 529 pages.  I’d say he was ahead of his time in seeing the intrinsic value of the Law of the Sea treaty and suggesting ways in which it could be improved to increase the chances of full Western (read U.S.) buy-in/ratification, but that wouldn’t be a surprise.  Our dean is characteristically ahead of his time on many issues, which I think we will eventually see in cyberspace and the idea of a new triad consisting of cybercapabilities, special operations forces, and unmanned platforms, among other topics.  Like me, Dean Stavridis attended Fletcher as an active duty military officer.

Next of the reviewed dissertations is Professor of Practice Michele Malvesti’s 2002 work, “Risk-Taking in Countering Terrorism: A Study of U.S. Presidential Decisions to Use Special Operations and Covert Action.”  Her dissertation is an examination of prospect theory as applied to decisions to conduct counterterrorism missions during the Carter and Reagan administrations.  An interesting note: Professor Malvesti went directly from completing this PhD to working on counterterrorism issues on the National Security Council Staff for five years and, as a result, she is an example of a great resource who has “been there, done that” at very high levels of the U.S. government.  I was fortunate to take her National Security Decision Making course last semester, and I found it to be very engaging.  Bridging the gap between the policy world and academia, the course is loaded with top-notch guest speakers, contacts of Professor Malvesti from her time in government.  Last semester we heard from the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the Assistant Washington Editor for The New York Times, and many more.  For those reading who will someday attend Fletcher, I highly recommend the course.

Last for today, a look at the 1998 dissertation of Professor Sung-yoon Lee, “The Antinomy of Divine Right and the Right to Resistance: Tianming, Dei Gratia, and Vox Populi in Syngman Rhee’s Korea, 1945-1960.”  It is an examination of the seemingly opposing forces of Confucianism and democracy in Korea during this period.  I am currently a student in two courses with Professor Lee and last semester I took another one of his courses.  (One of my concentration areas at Fletcher is Pacific Asia, and my dissertation research is related to China-North Korea relations, so it makes sense that I would take many of his courses, as he is one of American academia’s premier Korea experts.)  With the shifting relationship between the U.S. and North Korea throughout this academic year, it is not surprising that Professor Lee has been in great demand as a live commentator on numerous television and radio programs.  He records many of these from Fletcher’s world-class television studio, part of the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World.

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I’m having trouble believing it, but this is the last full week of classes for the spring semester, which wraps up on Monday.  Tuesday and Wednesday will be study days before exams start on Wednesday.  With that in mind, it’s a good time to recap the academic pathways of our graduating student bloggers.  Today we’ll look at Adi‘s “annotated curriculum”  for his two years in the MIB program.  As you’ll see, an annotated curriculum is what it sounds like — a useful device we’ve developed for students to describe how they combined their courses and out-of-class activities during their studies at Fletcher.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I managed external partnerships and public relations for CISDI, a social startup working on healthcare development in Indonesia.

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Strategic Positioning of Indonesia’s National Holding Company

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I would like to merge my newly developed financial skills with my social development background.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Global Investment Management
The Arts of Communication
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management
Managerial Economics

Activities:
FSIG advisory project

A little more than two years since undergraduate does not sound like a long time, but in my first semester, I definitely needed an adjustment period to revive my schooling and student habits.  That is why I really enjoyed the Strategic Management course, which was a two-week Monday-to-Friday session before the fall semester actually started.  Corporate Finance was the highlight of my semester.  While there was no way for me to avoid taking it, since it’s a required MIB course, I truly enjoyed this first exposure to finance and it inspired my interest to learn everything about the topic.  Taking this course in the same semester as Investment Management and Financial Statement Management was not easy, but the courses complemented each other in deepening my financial knowledge.  Managerial Economics was a good refresher on my economics knowledge from undergraduate.  I also really enjoyed Arts of Communication.  I took it knowing that enhancing my public speaking skills could only do good for my personal and professional development, but I must say that the whole experience surprised me in how practical and hands-on the projects were.

Semester Two

International Financial Management
Global Financial Services
The Political Economy and Business Environments of Greater China
Marketing Management
Macroeconomics
International Financial and Fiscal Law

Activities:
FSIG due diligence project
Management of the Fletcher Finance Club, 2017-2018

My second semester was still filled with a lot of required courses for the MIB program, including International Financial and Fiscal Law, Macroeconomics, and Marketing Management.  I also had to pick a regional course, for which I decided to learn about China because of all the talk about China being a global superpower.  As it turned out, I did learn a little bit of everything about China, including its history, its relations with neighboring countries and regions such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, its industrial development, political set-up, and cultural matters.  Completing my course list for this semester were two classes with Professor Jacque, whom I had for Corporate Finance.  In International Financial Management, I learned about derivative usage, including hedging, speculating, and risk management.  For Global Financial Services, I explored different cases of financial disasters throughout history.  I decided to really double down on my finance training, to ensure that I could pivot into a career in the financial industry, either for my summer internship or after Fletcher, and thus these two classes were the highlight of my semester.

Summer Internship
Citibank in Jakarta, Indonesia

Semester Three

Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Processes of International Negotiation
Art and Science of Statecraft

Activities:
CFA Challenge
FSIG advisory team lead

After a first year full of required courses, I finally had some flexibility in choosing classes in my third semester.  My class on Petroleum was interesting because it discussed a topic that is connected to most issues, but which I have little exposure to or knowledge of.  Negotiation has always been one of the most recommended classes at Fletcher, and it definitely equipped me with practical knowledge that I can bring in future engagements, in both my personal and professional life.  Art and Science of Statecraft was the outlier of the semester, in that it was not business related, although its common theme on power can easily be implemented in a business setting.  Finally, I really enjoyed my Project Finance course.  The cases discussed were fascinating, ranging from talking about an aluminum mine in Mozambique all the way to building a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.  It was a class that brought everything together, from financial modeling to political risk and cultural awareness.

Semester Four

Political Economy of Development
Global Private Equity
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
Managing NGOs and Social Enterprises
Building Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure (HBS Cross-Registration)

Activities:
CFA Challenge (Regionals level)
TA, Public Finance – Tavitian Scholarship Program

And yes, here we are, the final semester.  Back when I was a first-year, it seemed strange when alumni and second-year students kept talking about how time flies, and yet it is true.  With most of my required courses out of the way, I took one final “required” course in Political Economy of Development to complete my International Political Economy Field of Study.  I managed to cross-register at Harvard Business School, taking a class on Building Sustainable Cities, which built a lot on the knowledge that I described in my Project Finance course the previous semester.  I registered for two half-semester module classes in Private Equity and Latin America, with Private Equity providing me with practical experience in managing a fund, and Latin America fulfilling my curiosity about a region that many at Fletcher are focused on, and yet I know little about.  Nonetheless, I would say that Managing NGOs and Social Enterprises is my favorite class at Fletcher so far, which is funny because at the beginning of the semester, this was the only class I did not plan to take.  The cases and concepts discussed in this class brought me back to my work prior to Fletcher, and generated ideas I hope I can implement someday.

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Students returned yesterday from their Spring Break week and I think we all share a common shock that we can see the end of the semester ahead of us.  On the other hand, January seems so long ago.  Today, Student Stories writer Kaitlyn reports on her second semester in the MALD program, one in which she has tested her organizational abilities.

It is spring semester at Fletcher, and I am the equivalent of a “sophomore” in my MALD degree, with a quarter of the program behind me.  Naturally, I did the exact same thing with my class schedule that I did as an actual sophomore in undergraduate.

I thought too many classes were interesting and decided: Heck, I’ll just take them all.

Fletcher allows you to do two cool things: take an extra half-credit class once in your MALD program, and audit language classes next door at Tufts’ Olin Center.  I wanted to do an extra half credit now, so I could have an easier schedule next year when I do my capstone project.  And I wanted to audit a French class so I could have a bit more practice before my internship this summer.

When I scheduled my classes, I ended up finding three half-credit courses that looked interesting.  Those, plus French, left me with a schedule of seven classes for the semester: three full-semester classes at Fletcher, French, and three half-semester modules.  (Most people take only four or five classes each semester.)  All of my friends who saw my schedule looked at me like I had three heads.  I admit: it did become somewhat of a juggling act during midterms, but it was not half as bad as people assumed.  And a major reason I was able to manage that course load was organization.  I made two big decisions that made my semester go much smoother: I optimized my study space, and I planned each week so I could balance studying and free time.

My Study Space

During my first semester, I had my desk in my room, which wasn’t the best place to study.  I felt too comfortable to do work.  And then in my free time I was constantly looking at my desk, thinking about work.  So I was less productive and more stressed.  This semester, I decided I needed to change it up a bit.

Bless my roommate.  She was very accommodating and let me move my desk into the corner of our common room.  And she let me put up two calendars up on the bigger wall out there.  I had a dry-erase calendar for the month, and a huge weekly schedule of sticky-notes over the desk.  This helped me develop a really organized study routine.  Every Sunday I wrote down the new weekly schedule, and each morning I could check both calendars as I walked out the door.  It was much more efficient for me than leafing through a weekly planner that often got lost in my backpack.  Having a clear separation of my work and my study space also meant I was more productive when I studied.  And it meant I got to leave my school work — even my laptop — in a different room at the end of the day.  That helped me feel more relaxed in my free time.

A Balanced Week

Every week, I had an average of three classes a day, Monday to Thursday.  And starting in March I had one class on Fridays, too.  It meant that generally, I had readings to do every night.  That was a long week by anyone’s standards and I knew I needed to make sure I didn’t get burned out.  So I had one goal: plan one night off in the middle of the week.  I found that it made me more productive when I had something to look forward to, and it was a great way to make sure I could go to extracurricular events: Social Hour on Thursdays; 101 discussions on historical issues that the Student Council organized; and parties hosted by other Fletcher folks.  The best one was the celebration of China’s Spring Festival that my roommate helped organize in February.  I planned my week around that party, and had time to bake a cake for it, too.

I also had to get creative about my study time.  Mondays, when I had four classes, even working at my reorganized desk was a struggle.  So I got off campus.  Davis Square is a lovely 20-minute walk from Fletcher and it has great coffee shops, perfect for getting my class readings done after my long Monday schedule.  There is also Mugar Café in the Fletcher building, which became my go-to place to study between classes.  It’s also close to everything, which was excellent for taking study breaks to head to on-campus events.  My favorite event was the Puppy Kissing booth that Ginn Library hosted for Valentine’s day.  (Nothing is better for productivity than spending time with a puppy.  Fact.)

All in all, managing my seven classes is just as much about my study time as it is about my non-study time.  I love all my classes, and though I’ll happily not take so many in future semesters, I don’t regret the packed schedule in the slightest.

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Mariya is one of the busiest students I know, which makes me lucky that she continues to write for the Admissions Blog.  And not only is she busy, but she’s busy in varied international locations.  Today we’ll read about her fall and winter travels.

Hello readers, and belated Happy New Year!  My fall semester ended with reflections, and this semester, too, begins with reflections.  As I think about all the opportunities I have had at Fletcher, I cannot help but be grateful for so many unique experiences.  To give you a sense of the types of opportunities Fletcher students can pursue during their time here, I would like to highlight two international experiences that have broadened my academic horizons.

Presenting a paper in London

In November, I presented my paper titled “Religious Roots of American Democracy” at the “Democracy and Rule of Law” conference at the University of Westminster in London.  My paper explores the role of religion in the founding and shaping of American democracy and politics.  There were about 15 other scholars of different ages who traveled from all over the world (India, Turkey, Serbia, Italy, Canada, Poland, to name a few) to meet in this intellectual forum, share their research, and solicit feedback.  I was impressed by the diversity of topics presented at the conference.  A German scholar, for example, gave a presentation about heavy metal screaming as a form of cultural resistance and freedom of expression.  A practicing lawyer talked about the principle of legality in the EU’s economic crisis management as it related to Greece’s recession.  And a research fellow shared his paper on whether an Italian law was capable of guaranteeing the rights of beggars against the will of the majority.  I was the only American in the group and my presentation on religion in democracy drew numerous questions.

Although intended mainly for the scholars who would later refine their papers for journal publication by the Center for the Study of International Peace and Security, which hosted the conference, the event was open to the public.  In fact, I met a couple from France who approached me afterward to say they enjoyed my presentation and we engaged in a lengthy dialogue contrasting our countries’ religious freedom laws.  My time in London was very short — literally two full days — but it was nice to connect with my Fletcher scholarship donor, Kate Hedges, who kindly showed me pockets of the city a tour bus would have skipped.  I squeezed in a few touristy excursions before catching a flight back.

While my paper will not be published until April, check out my op-ed published in the Kennedy School Review about the role of religion in the public eye.

Learning Middle Eastern politics in Beirut

In January, after completing a half-credit “J-term” (January course) on lobbying at the Harvard Kennedy School, I flew to Lebanon for the weeklong Beirut Exchange Program.  Nadim Shehadi, director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, encouraged me to apply to this opportunity, given my regional interests in Middle Eastern politics.  A group of 12 professionals from around the world engaged with politicians, journalists, and civil society activists to get an in-depth picture of Lebanese politics.  With the upcoming election in May and the changed electoral law, politicians and Lebanese citizens alike wait with anticipation the unfolding future of their country.  It was fascinating to hear different perspectives on sectarian political representation, Palestinian and Syrian refugee crises, and Lebanon’s 2006 war as it relates to regional geopolitics.

The agenda was jam-packed with lectures, workshops, and a day trip to Tripoli, an hour north of the capital.  There was little time for tourism, but a group of us took advantage of our evenings to explore the downtown nightlife, admire the close proximity of mosques and churches, and indulge in delicious Lebanese cuisine.  I fell in love with the creamy hummus, fresh tabbouleh and perfectly seasoned moutabbal (also known as baba ganoush, an eggplant dip mixed with tahini).  And as always happens on all my international trips, I met a Fletcher alum in the program!  A middle-aged media commentator from Pakistan studied under the same capstone advisor as me: Professor Richard Shultz.

Both of these international experiences were incredible, and would not have been possible without generous support from the Fletcher Educational Enrichment Fund, the Graduate Travel Support Program of the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s Fund, and various campus institutes.  I feel incredibly grateful and blessed to be at a place like Fletcher where students are supported in the opportunities that knock their doors.

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