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With less than three days until the Class of 2017 gathers to start their celebration with toasts, speeches, and diploma collecting, let’s take a look at the curriculum that Adnan put together for himself in the past two years.  We often say (with likely complete accuracy) that no two students ever take precisely the same set of classes in the MALD program and I hope these annotated curricula help make that clear.  Note that Adnan pursued three Fields of Study.  Only two are required, but many students will complete a third.  And also note that Adnan audited two classes.  A “certified audit” is noted on the student’s transcript.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I worked as a staff reporter and later an associate editor at Newsweek in Lahore, Pakistan.

Fields of Study
International Information and Communication
International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
International Business Relations

Capstone Topic
Self Determination in the Context of the Kashmir Conflict.

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I would like to pursue a career at the United Nations.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

International Communication
Social Networks and Organizations – Part I
Social Networks and Organizations – Part II
Global Political Economy
International Legal Order

Returning to school after a five-year gap was exciting, but it also required a great deal of readjustment.  With my background in journalism, I knew International Information and Communication was going to be one of my Fields of Study, so I took the core/required class for it and also both halves of Social Networks.  International Communication with Professor Gideon, whom I had also chosen as my faculty advisor, was among my favorite classes because of the wide range of topics it covered that I could relate to my work experience.  Social Networks offered a fascinating new way of discovering hidden connections in data sets.  It also helped me acquire hard skills like using social network analysis software such as UCINET and NodeXL.  Looking back, I think opting to complete my breadth requirements in my first semester with foundational classes like International Legal Order and Global Political Economy was a wise decision because it strengthened my base for future coursework in international relations.

Semester Two

Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
Data Analysis and Statistical Methods
Theories of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
The Arts of Communication
Contemporary South Asia (Certified Audit)

International Business was another interest, and I loved that I had the option of contrasting my IR coursework with such classes.  In Strategy and Innovation we studied real-life cases of some of the world’s leading businesses and came up with creative solutions to actual challenges they faced.  An important lesson I learned here was how complex problems can be tackled by asking the most basic questions about the task at hand.  Statistics offered a great opportunity to sharpen my quantitative skills, and Arts of Communication was a unique experience.  Not only did we learn that public speaking, like any skill, can be improved tremendously through rigorous practice, but we got the chance to hear speeches from our classmates and learn things about them we would not have otherwise.  In my second semester, I also decided that I wanted to learn about conflict resolution — it’s applicable everywhere and the Field of Study is a Fletcher flagship.  The core/required class I took provided a solid base for understanding the roots of a variety of conflicts.  Contemporary South Asia didn’t fulfill any of my requirements, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to study with Professor Ayesha Jalal, a renowned Pakistani historian whose work I had been following long before Fletcher, so I audited it.  I’m glad I was able to do it because it was the first time I looked at South Asia, where I had lived most of my life, through an academic lens, and it provided a fresh perspective on my knowledge of the region.

Summer Internship
UNICEF in New York.

Semester Three

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Processes of International Negotiation
Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights
Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age (cross-registered at Harvard Kennedy School)
Cultural Capital and Development (Certified Audit)

Corporate Finance, the core requirement for the International Business Relations field, was the most challenging class I took in my third semester.  The syllabus was extensive and the workload rather heavy, but looking back it’s also among the classes from which I gained the most practical knowledge.  International Negotiation was also an extremely practical class.  In addition to learning negotiation techniques and practicing them during simulations in class, the assignments that required us to rigorously analyze a conflict of our choice and propose strategies for negotiation taught me a step-by-step method of approaching intractable problems.  I took Nationalism, Self Determination and Minority Rights purely out of an interest in understanding the cause of modern day conflicts and found my Capstone idea here.  Cross-registration at Harvard is a great opportunity we are offered, one I had wanted to pursue since my second semester.  Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age, taught by Nicco Mele who runs the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at HKS, perfectly complemented my International Communication class from my first semester.  Whereas the latter was more academic and theory-based, the former looked at current issues in the digital world and linked them to politics.  After reading the syllabus for Cultural Capital and Development, I was too intrigued to ignore it, so I audited the class.

Semester Four

Peace Operations
The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs
Introduction to Economic Theory
Independent Study with Professor Hurst Hannum for my Capstone Project

It’s hard to believe my final semester is now over.  Time flies at Fletcher, and I’ve hardly had a chance to reflect on the past two years.  This semester I completed my Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Field of Study with Peace Operations.  What I liked most about it is that it brought together elements of international law, conflict resolution, politics, and history.  A guest speaker in one of our classes said, “peace operations really are the arena of international politics.”  I couldn’t agree more and feel it’s a great class to take in one’s final semester.  Leaving my economics requirement hanging till my last semester was probably not the brightest idea, but with everything else I was trying to squeeze in, it never fit into my schedule earlier.  The Historian’s Art and Current Affairs was my favorite class this semester.  It pushed me to think critically and place decision makers in context to understand the policies they pursued.  I left each session with a life lesson, in addition to some very peculiar facts.  Did you know whales are crucial to security?

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Commencement is coming up soon and three of our student bloggers — Tatsuo, McKenzie, and Adnan — will soon be moving on.  Today, let’s look at how McKenzie pieced together her MIB curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Managing Impact: How Impact Funds Can Go Beyond Measuring to Manage Impact Performance Throughout the Fund Lifecycle

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Help build the impact investing field and channel more capital to investments that provide both financial and positive social or environmental returns

Curriculum Overview

Semester One: 5 credits

Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Managerial Economics (½ credit)
Global Investment Management
Emerging Africa in the World Economy

Activities:

The first semester of the MIB program is dominated by core courses that really build the foundational finance, accounting, and strategy skills of a typical business program.  This also means that, as a cohort, we take nearly all our classes together, which is a key driver behind the really strong bonds among MIB students.  Of our core courses, I really enjoyed the economic theories underlying business decisions discussed in our Managerial Economics course.  My favorite course of the semester, however, was Global Investment Management.  I wasn’t sure it was a good decision to take it in my first year, given my business experience to date had focused on strategy, management, and operational efficiency — in short, nothing related to investing or portfolio management.  Perhaps as a result, it is probably the course in which I learned the most at Fletcher in such a short period of time, and it helped me build a strong relationship with Professor Patrick Schena, whose support and mentorship has been an invaluable part of my Fletcher experience.

Finally, I’m a strong believer that the Fletcher “curriculum” is incomplete without mention of the extracurricular activities that abound at this school.  The activities we pursue are more than likely the talking points we use in interviews for summer internships and jobs.  I knew early on that the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) was one student club that I wanted to be actively involved in, so I joined an FSIG advisory project while also competing in the CFA challenge.  Last, these activities wouldn’t be complete without mention of the periodic MIB “family dinners” and other social events like Culture Nights and Los Fletcheros concerts that make Fletcher the unique community that it is.

Semester Two: 4 credits

Marketing Management (½ credit)
Macroeconomics
International Financial Management
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (½ credit)
Political Economy of Development

Activities:

  • FSIG advisory project and transition onto FSIG management team for 2016-2017 school year
  • Two-week off-campus certificate program in impact investing and social enterprise management, through the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

In my second semester, I nearly completed my core MIB requirements, with the exception of International Business Transactions.  My favorite courses of the semester were Global Private Equity and International Financial Management.  The first, because much of the coursework involved practical applications of private equity concepts.  For example, we had to develop and pitch an investment thesis as though we were raising a fund.  And later in the semester, we conducted due diligence on real companies whose management we were able to interview to develop our investment recommendation.  International Financial Management surprised me in the extent to which our conversations went beyond finance to the strategic imperatives at the foundation of corporate financing decisions, which help companies manage many types of risk exposure.  I really got a lot out of the course.

On the student activities front, besides transitioning into the CEO position of FSIG, I also took two weeks “off” during the semester to attend a training in impact investing.  I’m not sure that I’d recommend swapping 10 hours in Fletcher classes for 40 hours a week of training — plus catch-up work for Fletcher in the evenings — but by strategically taking only four credits this semester and choosing project teams that were willing to work around my schedule, I was able to make it work.  Plus, the network I built through the certificate program helped me score an exciting summer internship with Edge Growth in South Africa.

Summer Internship
Edge Growth (Johannesburg, South Africa)

As I wrote in a prior post, my time with Edge Growth was a great learning experience.  My boss, Jason, really pushed my thinking about how companies need to evolve on multiple levels when transitioning from their startup phases to more targeted growth and scale phases.  As mentioned, I used my internship as an opportunity to confirm my interest in impact investing and in working with emerging market companies, which definitely colored how I think about the firms I targeted in my job search.

Semester Three: 5 credits

International Business Transactions
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
Econometrics
Market Approaches to Development
Independent study (capstone)

Activities:

  • FSIG management
  • MIINT team lead (part of FSIG)

By far one of my favorite courses at Fletcher, and one I recommend everyone take, is our new professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s course on leadership, teambuilding, and organizations.  I had managed small teams working as a consultant, and Professor Ebrahim’s course provided the perfect time and space for me to reflect on my own leadership style, while learning from the experiences of others in this 100% case-based course.  Professor Ebrahim has an uncanny knack for facilitating discussion and connecting insights from across cases to bring a classroom and content to life.  I also took Econometrics, which allowed me to hone my technical skills and prepare for a spring course on Econometric Impact Evaluation.

Outside of classes, most of my spare time was spent working with Fletcher’s MIINT team to source and screen potential impact investments.  I really enjoyed this portion of the MIINT competition in particular, as it exposed me to a multitude of innovative business models and entrepreneurs who are using market-based solutions to profitably improve the lives of people in emerging markets.

This semester was also the point at which all my activities, coursework, and summer internship experiences converged.  I reached out to connections I’d made in South Africa who turned into resources for the MIINT competition.  I found myself having business development calls for MIINT that led to partnership opportunities for FSIG advisory projects, or drawing on concepts from my International Business Transactions course to think through the risks associated with a potential MIINT investment.

Finally, at some point in this semester, I realized just how far I’d come since my first day in the August pre-session.  I had taken a leap of faith from a comfortable job and had bet on a non-traditional business program, and I felt it was all worth it.  All I had to do was land a job that fit my long-term career goals and enjoy the rest of my time in school, and I could consider grad school at Fletcher a complete success.

Semester Four: 4 credits (that felt like 8…)

Econometric Impact Evaluation
Global Financial Services
The Arts of Communication
Business at the Base of the Pyramid (Harvard Business School)

Activities:

  • Received funding for January capstone travel and research from the Dean’s Research Fund and the Institute for Business in the Global Context
  • FSIG management (transitioned to new leadership)
  • MIINT team lead (continued from fall)
  • TA, International Financial Management
  • Finished capstone!
  • Found a job!

In retrospect, my fourth semester at Fletcher is about twice as loaded as I had intended it to be.  Business at the Base of the Pyramid at HBS is my favorite class, but I would argue that responsibilities outside of class have dominated my time.  I’ve pretty much been running full speed ahead since January, when I received funding to conduct interviews in Nairobi, Kenya to support my capstone.  February flew by, and included a trip to California on a career trek offered by the organizers of the MIINT competition.  In March, I entered multiple rounds of interviews for a few dream jobs, juggling them with multiple Skype sessions and another trip to the west coast, along with my TA responsibilities, coursework, and futile attempts to create time to finish my capstone.  And then I traveled to Philadelphia with Fletcher’s MIINT team for the official competition.  While the hectic hustle has been well worth the chaos, I’m excited to have officially ended my job search (!), passed FSIG off to an amazing new leadership team after spring break, and wrapped up the MIINT.  This has left some down time to spend with the amazing friends I’ve made, before we graduate and move off to all corners of the globe.

I never quite knew what to expect from grad school, especially given the diversity of paths that Fletcher students take.  As I sit here, with only two weeks until I graduate, I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by or how much I’ve managed to squeeze into just two short years.

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Throughout these past two academic years, you’ve been reading the stories of three students, Tatsuo, Adnan, and McKenzie.  Now it’s time for them to describe their academic pathways for us in their “annotated curriculum” posts.  The first of these is from Tatsuo, who spent three semesters at Fletcher and his fourth semester in an exchange program in Paris.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Administrative (Legal/Policy) Officer, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Tokyo, Japan

Fields of Study
Law and Development
Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy (self-designed Field of Study)

Capstone Topic
“The Needed Technocratic Bureaucracy for Transport Infrastructure Development in LDCs: An Assessment of the Case of Civil Aviation Policies in Timor-Leste” (Advisor: Professor James Fry)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Return to the Ministry as a deputy director to manage Japanese infrastructure policies, including overseas development aid projects.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Law and Development
Development Economics: Policy Analysis
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies

In my first semester, I took two courses on international development studies, which was my top priority for study at Fletcher.  Additionally, I took two courses on finance and security.  These were not the focus of my professional career, but I had heard that the school has a long and deep tradition in the field of security studies and it has also developed resources for business studies.  All of these courses were good for connecting me with Fletcher’s traditional and more recently developed strengths, and it was a good foundation for me as I planned my academic life at Fletcher.

Semester Two

Global Maritime Affairs: International Trade, Security, Energy, and Environmental Issues at Sea
Science Diplomacy: Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean
The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917
International Investment Law
The Islamic World: Political Economy and Business Context (0.5 credit)

Based on my experiences in my first semester, I decided to make my course range broader than what I originally expected.  I had already planned to choose Law and Development as my first Field of Study, and I thought I would also have another development-related second Field.  However, I changed my mind, and decided to design my own Field of Study.  I selected from Fletcher resources linking multiple fields, including security, science, and business to form “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy,” and I included various courses ranging from conventional diplomatic studies to emerging fields in science and business.

Summer Internship
The Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste

A second-year MALD student introduced me to the Timor-Leste office of the Asia Foundation, a global international development NGO.  The vice director of the office was also a Fletcher alumnus and he gave me an interesting opportunity to experience the realities of international development.  As I described in a previous post, I focused on policy development for the Timorese civil aviation market based on my practical experiences in Japan and academic studies at Fletcher.  It was the first time for me to live in a “least developed country” and also a great opportunity to connect practical expertise, academic theory, and the actual needs of the people in the field.

Semester Three

Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present
Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders
Political Speechwriting
African Key Economic Issues
Economics and Globalization
Japanese Politics and International Relations (audit)
French A1 (audit)

In my third semester, I studied at Sciences Po in Paris through a Fletcher exchange program.  I took diplomacy and development courses similar to those that I took at Fletcher, in order to compare different perspectives and approaches.  Additionally, I learned about areas in which France leads the world, such as project management and public relations.  I enjoyed not only great French cuisine and wine, but also unique approaches that were very different from what I studied in the U.S.

Semester Four

The Strategic Dimensions of China’s Rise
Cross-Sector Partnerships
International Humanitarian Response (offered jointly by Tufts Friedman School and Harvard School of Public Health)
U.S.-European Relations Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall  (0.5 credit)
Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies (audit at Harvard Graduate School of Design)

In my fourth and final semester, I am taking courses that I chose based only on my curiosity, because I had already taken all my required courses.  Cross-Sector Partnerships and International Humanitarian Response are practical and case-study-based courses that are good for wrapping up my study and internship experiences in the MALD program.  China’s Rise is also a very realistic security studies course, taught by Professor Yoshihara from the U.S. Naval War Collage, that can test what I learned about diplomacy and security.  I expect to acquire another European perspective from U.S.-European Relations, taught by Professor Scharioth, a former German Ambassador to the U.S.  I also wanted to extend my perspective by auditing a Harvard Graduate School of Design course that introduces the views of designers and architects.

When I am back with the Japanese Government, many and various tasks are waiting for me, from economics to security to East Asian security crises to preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  I am very excited to tackle these issues by using the skills and experiences that I acquired in my two years at Fletcher.  It will be very interesting and exciting.  At the same time, however, I wish I had one more year, or at least one more semester, at Fletcher.

Our student blogger Mariya has inspired a special project at the Ginn Library, and today she tells how the “Wish Tree” came about.

“This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden,” writes Rumi, my favorite poet.  Jalaluddin Rumi — for those of you who don’t know — was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.  I love his poetry because his metaphors are so powerful, and I constantly find ways that his words relate to my own life experiences.

Spring break was quite rejuvenating.  Unfortunately the Fletcher Pakistan Trek did not work out, so instead I went home to Alexandria, VA.  I soaked in the sunshine during the annual Washington, DC cherry blossom festival, drank lots of Pakistani chai and Kashmiri kahwa, and ate a ton of my mom’s delicious homemade foods.  The nourishment was much needed, as it brought back to life my exhausted soul.  My “inward garden” is now full of excitement for the second half of this semester, prayers for my final exams and projects, and well wishes for my peers who are graduating in May.

When I arrived back on campus last Monday, I smiled ear to ear when I noticed — quite literally! — an “inward” tree blossoming near the Ginn Library’s main entrance.  This wasn’t just any tree, however.  Instead of cherry blossoms or flower buds, strips of pure white, pastel green, and soft peach cotton pieces hung from its branches.

I knew what this was: it was a “Wish Tree.”

Let me back up and tell you a little about how this tree came about.  Over winter break, Ginn Library solicited photographs from students, staff, and faculty for their Perspectives Gallery, an exhibit that “highlights world cultures with the hope of promoting understanding and tolerance.”  I submitted a few shots from my time in Turkey, and much to my surprise, two of my photographs were selected for the galleryOne of these photos depicted an unusual tree that, when I first saw it, gave me a weird sense of déjà vu, but moments later, took me down memory lane.

The tree reminded me of driving up the curvy, dirt road towards our home in a mountainous village in northwestern Pakistan, when we would always pass by a tree, outside of a cemetery, draped in colorful scraps of cloth.  When I would wander the road on my own, this tree served as a familiar landmark that I was close to home.  During these excursions, I always wondered why people forgot to pick up their laundry from the tree.

On a visit to Pakistan in summer 2011, I finally asked my father why people tied cloths to this tree and left them there.  He explained that the cloths were a physical representation of prayers or wishes that people were asking God, and because trees are sacred creations and symbols of life, people hoped to connect with God through nature.  Often the prayer or wish is related to health or fertility, but it could also be a request for help, guidance, repentance, strength, or hope.

When I stumbled upon the “Wish Tree” during my travels in Cappadocia, Turkey last year, I was reminded of my father’s words.  But unlike the tree from my childhood, this tree had noticeably more white cloths than colorful strips, and instead of being next to a cemetery, it rested next to a rack of broken pottery.  In Islam, white symbolizes purity and peace, and is the color that is worn at funerals.  I was captivated by the irony of this scene — the colorful pottery hanging by a dried up riverbed, horses roaming in search of grass or water, deserted caves longing for their inhabitants and worshipers; yet the living tree reaching toward heaven in the clear blue skies, its branches heavy with wishes, dreams, and hopes of people from around the world.  I would never have realized at first glance that this abandoned scene was home to such a beautiful spiritual life.

Tying cloths to trees is an ancient tradition that is actually quite common across many cultures around the world.  The ritual is practiced by the Irish, Scottish, Thai, Chinese, Tibetans, and even Native Americans, to name a few.

When I shared this story with library staff members Cynthia Rubino and Anulfo Baez, they were inspired to bring the Wish Tree to Fletcher.  Thanks to their creativity and efforts, anyone who walks through the Ginn Library can now jot down wishes and hang them on the tree.  I invite all visitors to Fletcher this spring to stop by Ginn, grab a black Sharpie and a piece of cloth from the basket, and make a wish.  And because you’ll be in the library, here’s a reminder from Rumi: “Raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

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Most winters in the Boston area include a mix of cold and mild days.  That doesn’t mean that a little adjustment isn’t necessary, especially for folks from tropical climates.  Student blogger Adi made such a climate adjustment this year.

From the moment I received my Fletcher admission letter, people have been warning me about winter in the Northeast region.  Most people like to specifically point out “the winter of 2015,” which apparently was the worst the state had seen in years.  So I started my Fletcher journey curious, trying to understand how bad it could be exactly, but also quite nervous, considering I come from Indonesia, a tropical country.  (The only snow we see is in Hollywood movies.)  Even when I lived in Seattle as an undergraduate, snow was not a big concern.  I remember back in my sophomore year, we had two inches of snow and the university declared a snow day.  That’s how much we didn’t get snow in Seattle.

My wife had already been in Boston for six months when I arrived.  She flew into the city during the winter (January to be exact), so she had quite the shock adjusting from Indonesia’s heat to Boston’s snow.  Thus, she was the one constantly reminding me to buy the right jacket and snow boots to be sure I would survive my daily commute from Boston to Medford.  This semester, Fletcher had two snow days due to storms in the Northeast region.  With this amount of snow, Seattle would have had more than a month worth of snow days.  Now we’re at the end of March, when people say, “Winter is over and spring is arriving.”

The Innovate Tufts: Fletcher Disrupts organizing committee.

I had one conference that was held while a mini blizzard was happening outside.  (Luckily everyone made it to and from the conference safely.)  This was a conference I was organizing with a couple of classmates called “Innovate Tufts: Fletcher Disrupts,” and it involved participants from other schools, including Boston University, MIT, and Harvard, as well as professionals from the Boston, DC, and NY areas.  We had some contingency planning to do as we sweated over the possibility that one of our conference days would have to be rescheduled or cancelled due to the snow storm.  Luckily, everything went according to plan.  I am quite proud that none of the speakers cancelled due to the weather, and all-in-all we executed a successful conference amid the “nor’easter” storm.

There were, of course, other stories about how this weather impacted my daily activities as a Fletcher grad student.  I slipped once on my way to campus from the Davis T (subway) station.  In fact, that whole journey from Davis to Fletcher was made more interesting by the icy roads.  What would usually take me no more than 15 minutes ended up being close to half an hour, as I powered through to get to class (thankful that I decided to leave home early that day).  But all in all, I would say that my first winter in Massachusetts was not as bad as people warned me it would be, and it was actually quite enjoyable.  The snow days gave me extra time to catch up with readings and schoolwork that were starting to pile up.  The air felt fresh on my walk to campus.  And you really had to enjoy the beautiful places around the Fletcher/Tufts campus that emerged after the snow covered the ground.  My wife and I found some great spots to take pictures with all the snow.

In terms of how the climate affected my grad-school flow, I would say it did not affect me as much as I thought it would.  Throughout the winter, classes still happened as scheduled, and professors didn’t let us off the hook for late assignments just because of a little snow.  I did need to adjust to the early sunset, as opposed to during my pre-session course in the summer when I was able to get drinks with classmates after my 5:00 p.m. class and the sun was still there.  But other than that, winter didn’t get in my way.

Though my first winter was quite pleasant, I’m still glad that spring is arriving now, which means fewer layers of jackets.  Next year’s winter could be worse, could be better, or it could be the same.  Either way, I would say I mastered enough of the learning curve to adapt my activities to winter in the Northeast.

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I enjoy hearing stories from students about the moment they learned they were admitted to Fletcher.  Today, student blogger Pulkit tells us his story.

At Fletcher, time flies by very quickly.  I cannot believe that it has been seven months since I moved from India to the United States.  I have learned so much during this time — both academically and generally.  My interests at Fletcher have shaped up, but they also continue to evolve.  I suppose I have become a little wiser and better at managing my time.  But this is only my second semester.  There is still so much to be learned, so much to be discovered, and so much to be explored.

It has also been a year since my admissions decision came out.  I presume some of you might have received yours recently.  I know — it is a time of anxiety and anticipation.  I vividly remember this time last year.  It was a glorious day that changed my life and I would like to share my admissions outcome story with all of you.

In Washington, DC for the annual Career Trip.

I have shared this story with only a few close friends, but it will always be my quintessential Fletcher moment.  It was March 11, and all throughout the day, I was nervously checking the Admissions Blog for any updates regarding the admissions process.  Through Jessica’s previous posts I had known that Fletcher would announce decisions on the 11th of March.  It had been two months since I filed my application, and my nerves were on edge.

That evening, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Indian Standard Time (IST), as often happens in India, the electricity went off.  It was surely going to be an unusual evening for me.  In another part of the world that is nine and a half hours behind IST — in the U.S. — admissions decisions still had not been released.  With a power back-up, I frantically refreshed my internet browser.  In a couple of hours, the power back-up died.  At that point I had limited access to the internet, so my frequency of checking for updates gradually declined.  The night’s electricity blackout lasted for a good eight hours.  At 2:00 a.m., with still no electricity in the neighborhood and no results outcome in sight, I decided to retire for the night.  I was at my parents’ house, and they had already gone to sleep.

A half-hour later, as I restlessly tossed and turned in bed, I saw the street light across my room switch on.  The electricity was back!  I decided to give it another try and check for any updates.  I quietly tiptoed into the living room.  Without making any noise, I switched on my laptop, opened my inbox, and voilà — there was an email that said there was an update to my admissions application.  I quickly logged into my Fletcher application account.

The moment is still very clear in my memory.  Call it dramatic, if you may.  I opened the link and the first word that I noticed on the letter said, “Congratulations!”  Heart pounding, I left my laptop as it was, and without even reading the entire contents of the admissions offer, ran towards my parents’ room.  I turned on the lights and loudly woke them up.  I hugged them and shared the news.  It was such a joyous moment.

Ice skating with a fellow Fletcher student.

From my classes at Fletcher and Harvard, to attending amazing guest lectures and training workshops, to visiting New York and Washington for career trips, to swimming at the Tisch gym, to experiencing and enjoying my first snow storm — a lot has happened since I arrived in August.  The coming few weeks in March and April will be even more exciting.  I am traveling to Israel on the Fletcher Israel Trek and it will be my first travel to the Middle East.  For April, I have five long-form papers and two presentations due for four of my classes.

As the whiteness of this winter turns into yellow and green of the spring, I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.  But it all started with the night I learned my admission outcome.

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Today I’d like to wrap up the fall semester reports from our first-year Student Stories writers.  We’ll hear about Mariya’s semester and, particularly, her experience in the Arts of Communication class.

Mariya on campusAs I boarded my flight to Washington, DC from Boston Logan International Airport on December 17, I breathed a sigh of relief that my first semester was finally over.  But a few moments later, the math major in me realized that a quarter of my entire graduate career was behind me.  With this epiphany, I felt both sad and surprised at how quickly time flies.  I had been so consumed with my classes, activities, campus lectures, and studying in Ginn Library’s “Hogwarts” room, that how September became December?  This I do not remember.

OK, so I know that was kind of corny, but I hope it made for a good sound bite.  As I reflect on my classes from the fall semester, Arts of Communication stands out as particularly special, challenging, and rewarding.  I must admit, however, that I initially had no intention of taking this course after browsing through Fletcher’s course catalog that brimmed with exciting classes across diverse disciplines, regional studies, and practical skills.  I accidentally stumbled upon Arts of Communication during Shopping Day and became intrigued by the syllabus and Professor Mihir Mankad’s pitch.  I went back to the ever-stressful task of finalizing my course schedule and scribbled in Wednesday evenings for a full-semester course on how to become an effective communicator.

In Arts of Communication — or AoC for short — we learned by doing.  We learned to connect with an audience by practicing logos, pathos, and ethos in our presentations.  We recorded ourselves as we learned to face the camera and report from a studio.  We practiced job interviews, debated controversial issues, and held press conferences (where I acted as the recently elected Muslim mayor of Chicago).  Perhaps most important, we learned through active listening and observing, as well as giving and receiving feedback with humility.  We were very fortunate that our class coincided with the U.S. presidential election, which enriched our learning experience.  The campaign cycle provided live debates, speeches, and advertisements for us to dissect and analyze.

What made AoC unique among my fall semester courses, however, was the appeal to different emotions and the closeness of the class.  I did not expect a graduate course to make me laugh and cry; yet, I found myself chuckling as my peers amused the class with wit, and silently sobbing as they shared personal experiences.  Through speeches, debates, videos, and impromptu gigs, AoC continually pushed us out of our comfort zones, yet our common vulnerability and trust in each other bonded us as a community.  By the middle of the course, we had become a family that looked after each other and served as a mutual support system.

Mariya in MurrowThe course itself was time-consuming and challenging.  At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mankad said that becoming a better speaker would require dedication outside of the class.  The video assignment, for example, took me hours to complete: in addition to careful coordination of attire, setting, sound and lighting, I edited my clips into a coherent movie.  Although I felt frustrated during the process, I am grateful to the patience of my classmate Yutaro, who taught me iMovie software so that I could produce a six-minute Snapchat video.  Similarly, the “value speech” was a challenging exercise for me.  Modeled on the “This I Believe” project, the purpose of the exercise was to write and share in four minutes a core value that guides our daily lives.  I reflected deeply upon my life experiences, went through multiple iterations of speechwriting, and spent days rehearsing my value speech with family, friends, and roommates.  I delivered a speech about why one particular conversation with my father made me realize how much I value his support.

Through AoC, we grew as individuals and as a class.  We will share the special bond we forged in this course for the rest of our lives, and for that we are truly grateful to Professor Mankad.  As, in his past career, he had been a television anchor in India, a consultant for top firms, and a director of a foundation, Professor Mankad brought a depth of experience to the classroom.  Moreover, his dedication to all 60 of his students — 30 in the full course, 30 in the module-version of the class — was evident by his accessibility, detailed feedback, and time he spent listening to hundreds of speeches.  It is no surprise the course has attracted the highest numbers of cross-registered students at Fletcher.  In my conversations with Professor Mankad, he told me that his favorite parts of teaching AoC is getting to know each student’s story, and helping them improve in this important area.  To express our gratitude, students organized a flash mob to the tune of a commercial Professor Mankad once performed in, and created a tribute video to surprise him at the semester-end’s celebration.

I am eager to apply the skills I have gained in AoC in all aspects of my life.  My first stab of pushing myself as a public speaker was in early December at a forum organized by the Fletcher International Law Students Association, where I presented on the legal aspects of UN Article 2(4), a topic I had become extremely interested in through my International Organizations course.

This semester, I am eager to take a course at Harvard, switch up my extracurricular activities, and participate in the conferences I have been helping to organize.  However, I am the most excited about co-leading Fletcher’s first-ever spring break trek to Pakistan (which received over 50 applications!) with my peers Ahmad and Seher.  Stay tuned, because my next post will probably be from Islamabad or Lahore, inshallah!

Mariya's AoC class

The AoC class celebrates at the end of the semester.

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Continuing the fall semester wrap-ups from the first-year Student Stories writers, today we’ll hear from Pulkit, who tells us about his involvement with The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School.  It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976.  It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

The first edition of The Fletcher Forum.

I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum.  So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal.  I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.

After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process.  The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs.  It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published.  Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations.  The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor.  Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition.  Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum.  Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively.  The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations.  The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total.  In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.

The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations.  The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits.  The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic.  The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow.  The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  The third cycle involves editing the citations.  The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules.  Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review.  The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes.  This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.

ForumThe fall semester was busy.  My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing.  As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy.  There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted.  During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.

And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum.  After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check.  The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.

While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership.  These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.

Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun.  At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff.  For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized.  I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team.  I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.

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With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher.  Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.

Adi, panel2As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it!  My first semester of graduate school was done.  I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom.  I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life.  I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs.  Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.

Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena.  Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle.  Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it).  Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction.  I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development.  I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting.  This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated.  Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.

A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model.  Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year.  During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing.  A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere.  More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact.  Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing.  Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating.  Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations.  Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.

Adi, batikOrientation came and went, and the fall semester began.  I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation.  Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector.  It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created.  Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia.  Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context.  Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.

Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds.  As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models.  At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds.  Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model.  As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors).  The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society.  This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success.  An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government.  Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia.  Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me.  The way I thought about my career developed again.  This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing.  This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.

Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing.  The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there.  I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation.  Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving.  With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted.  I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester.  Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.

Adi, class

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Students have been sharing their stories on the blog for quite a while now, but this is the first year when one of the writers pursued an exchange semester.  Ever-intrepid Tatsuo spent the fall at Sciences Po in Paris.

In the third semester of my MALD study, I decided to join an exchange program in Paris.  I wanted to study international relations from another viewpoint, though I know that Fletcher and the hills of Medford/Somerville are the best place in the world to study.

Tatsuo, Courtyard_of_SciencesPoI spent my semester at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po.  Sciences Po is one of the best schools for politics and international relations in Europe.  It was founded in 1872 just after Franco-Prussian War.  French elites were shocked by their country’s defeat and also impressed by the power of Prussia, and they faced the need to change their education system.  Sciences Po was the result of the effort to improve French practical education, based on the philosophy of political realism.  The symbol of the school, the fox and lion, originated from Machiavelli’s phrase “be smart as a fox and be strong as a lion,” and shows what the founders felt they needed.

At Sciences Po, I took five courses — Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present; Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders; Political Speechwriting; African Key Economic Issues; and Economics and Globalization — to earn four Fletcher credits, and I audited two more courses, Japanese Politics and International Relations; and French A1 (elementary French).

All the courses I took, except French A1, were taught in English; thus, the basic materials and styles were not so different from what I encountered at Fletcher, but there were still some interesting differences between a French (or European) school and an American school.

For diplomatic issues, I took a grand strategy course, mainly focusing on security strategies, taught by the former minister of foreign affairs of Costa Rica.  In the course, and in other discussions of diplomatic topics, people mainly followed realism — based on basic political realism theory and great figures like Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Bismarck who I “met” in the U.S.  However, the “realism” I studied in Paris was a little different from what I learned in the United States.  In discussions I had at Fletcher and other places in the U.S., people argued the survival of the state must outweigh all other concerns.  Thus, there were many options that could be taken, including unlawful or unethical means.  Additionally, the strategies for security tend to justify unilateral actions.  On the other hand, the discussions in Paris I faced tended to exclude such unlawful, unethical, or unilateral options, intentionally or unintentionally.

Classroom view.

Classroom view.

On development issues, French development studies consider the historic background of developing areas, while American studies mainly focus on the current situation.  Sometimes, French professors’ attitudes looked more emotional than rational.  On the other hand, these attitudes or analyses brought me a deeper understanding of the regions and the people to be developed.  Additionally, these attitudes were understandable and maybe useful for me, a Japanese development officer, because we also have complex historical backgrounds with the Asian countries we once occupied.

One of the most interesting courses in Paris was Political Speechwriting.  In the French school, theoretical studies seemed to be the majority, while American professional schools like case studies.  Even in the practical course for speechwriting, the professor took a lot of time to introduce many theories of Greek and Roman rhetoric.  When I took the course, it was the very interesting time after Brexit.  In that context, the professor analyzed American presidential debates and shared his concerns about the French presidential election coming up next spring.  Through the course, I realized the great advantage of theoretical studies.  At that time, most American (and global) media criticized Trump’s speeches and judged Clinton to be the winner of the debates.  On the other hand, the professor evaluated Trump’s speeches in terms of their technical rhetoric while many people, including me, tended to analyze the speeches based on their content.  The result of the election proved the advantage of objective/unbiased analysis based on theoretical studies.

Generally, my semester was a great opportunity to learn a lot regarding the different perspectives of the U.S. and Europe.  In Japan, we tend to think of “the West” as a single actor and a single set of values.  In the U.S., we tend to think of the American standard as the global standard.  The three months in Paris gave me the background knowledge to avoid such misunderstandings.

It was surely true that everything went well in Paris.  But I missed the family atmosphere at Fletcher, including its flexible and warm administrative offices and the close connections between students and faculty.  I also missed the great academic resources around Boston.   And I also love the comfortable hilltop more than the crowded buildings filled by thousands of students in the small campus in the middle of Paris.

In the end, the three-month exchange program was both long enough and short enough for me, even if it was too short to learn French, to explore Paris and other areas of France and Europe, and to enjoy the great food and drink culture.

Tatsuo, Enjoying_TheHistoricalArtictic_City

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