Commencement 2016




Commencement Students 4Despite cloudy skies and cooler temperatures this weekend in Medford, MA, The Fletcher School’s 83rd commencement weekend exercises featured smiles, passionate cheers and the occasional laugh from all who gathered beneath the “tent of the world,” as Dean Stavridis aptly named the festivities’ location.

The weekend opened with the annual alumni clambake on Friday, May 20, where more than 140 Fletcherites gathered to reconnect and share stories of how they are making a positive impact globally.

Class Day, May 21

Class Day photoThe Class Day Ceremony followed on Saturday, May 21. This tradition is an opportunity to recognize outstanding members of the Fletcher community and pay homage to its diversity. All students attend and are encouraged to wear their national dress, military uniform or other chosen attire to represent their path coming to Fletcher.

As one looked down the many rows of Fletcher students, bursts of color could be found from beautiful kimono dresses to crisply ironed military uniforms to patterned bowties. As Dean Stavridis noted in his opening remarks, the students sitting before him were from more than 70 different countries but united by their passion to make a difference in the world.

The Ambassachords, Fletcher’s premiere co-ed a capella group, kicked off the ceremony with their rendition of the Secret Garden’s “You Raise Me Up.”

Next, “Double Jumbo” Susan Livingston (J’79, F’81) captured the audience’s attention as she recalled her time as both a Tufts undergraduate and Fletcher student. Livingston now serves as a global ambassador and a senior client liaison at Brown Brothers Harriman, but she credits her time at Fletcher for changing her world perspective. “I had protested against the Vietnam War, and we had a bunch of guys from West Point and mid career Navy people [at Fletcher], and it completely opened my mind to think about things in a different way,” she said.

Class Day 2016 6Livingston also noted that a fellow Fletcher alum advised her to recommend Angela Duckworth’s GritThe Power of Passion and Perseverance to the new graduates and left them with her own words as well: “Try to be the best at whatever it is that you choose to do…And if you can find passion in your work, that can be really meaningful.”

After the welcoming words, the ceremony shifted to the awards presentation. The first award announced was an inaugural one, The Fletcher First Ten Award, which recognizes an alum who has remained deeply involved in the Fletcher community since graduating, while simultaneously achieving significant accomplishments. This year’s recipient was Rockford “Rocky” Weitz (F’02, F’08) whose entrepreneurial ventures and work at Fletcher as an entrepreneurship coach have impacted many.

The next awards were for students selected by faculty and include the Robert B. Stewart Prize (to an outstanding first-year student), the Edmund A. Gullion Prize (to an outstanding second-year student), the Leo Gross Prize (to a student who has excelled in law-related courses), and the Peter Ackerman Award (for the outstanding doctoral dissertation).

The first two awards focus on scholarship and citizenship, and past recipients include the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and revered Fletcher professor Jenny Aker. The Robert B. Stewart Prize recipient was awarded to Ashley Doliber, while three students accepted the Edmund A. Gullion Prize: Matthew Cancian, Alexandra Edelstein, and Aditya Sarkar.

Finally, the Leo Gross Prize, which is voted on annually by the Law faculty, was awarded to Fredrik von Bothmer for his capstone on drones and the coming age of autonomous warfare called, “Robots at the Gate.” Additionally, Christof P. Kurz received the Peter Ackerman Award for his thesis dissertation.

After recognizing several individuals, it was time for the Fletcher graduating class to present their own gift to the school. Two members from the Class Gift Committee, Andrew Koch and Clare O’Hare, described the tradition as follows: “Each spring, members of the graduating class commemorate their time spent together and mark their entrance into the Fletcher alumni community by supporting The Fletcher Fund with a class gift.” The representatives presented a $5,045 check to the Dean to support future Fletcher students in areas that include scholarship, aid and faculty development.

Class Day 2016 3For the final portion of the ceremony, Dean Stavridis presented the Dean’s Medal to keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, recognizing her truly extraordinary accomplishments. Huffington joins the ranks of notable past recipients including current Secretary of State John Kerry, President & CEO of CARE USA, Dr. Helene D. Gayle and Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin.

Huffington, best known as the co-founder, editor-in-chief and co-president of the Huffington Post Media Group, took the stage to deliver the graduation address, which spanned a variety of historical and current events, but the main theme throughout her speech addressed the concept of leadership.

“As Fletcher graduates, your opportunity and your responsibility are truly singular as you head into the world. Pay special attention to the building blocks of leadership, which will help you find it and redefine what leadership is,” she said.

Wisdom is an essential building block of leadership, and its fundamental presence is often missing despite having smart world leaders, Huffington noted. She emphasized that wisdom is difficult to achieve in today’s interconnected world of technology, where leaders are constantly distracted and do not take time to reconnect with themselves and reflect.

With a smile, she quoted the airline industry by encouraging everyone to “secure his or her own oxygen mask first before helping others” to drive home her point of having the discipline to take time to recharge oneself in order to successfully lead others. Huffington gave the graduates the following call to action: “The world is, in many ways, always in some kind of emergency. And you, Fletcher graduates, are our diplomatic first responders.”

After a standing ovation, Dean Stavridis closed the ceremony with final remarks and invited all participants to join him in a champagne toast at the Class Day reception.

Read more about Arianna’s speech here


Commencement, May 22

Commencement Students 3The Fletcher School Commencement ceremony started shortly after 11a.m. on Sunday, May 22, 2016 as the tent buzzed with eager anticipation of family members and the clicking of camera shutters. Once again, Dean Stavridis welcomed everyone to the celebration and took a moment to recognize the faculty, calling them the “heart of the school.”

He also recognized the number of graduating students of the following degree programs: Master of Arts in International Law (13), Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (4), Master of Arts (30), Master in International Business (16), Master of Law and Diplomacy (136), and Doctor of Philosophy (4).

These students join the roughly 9,500 Fletcher alumni around the world in 160 countries. “There’s an enormous field of endeavor for all of you today, and what gives me enormous hope is that stack of [diplomas] because I know that we will send [about] 300 of you into the world to address those challenges,” Dean Stavridis said.

Following the Dean’s opening remarks, beloved Professor Alan Henrikson, the Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History, was awarded a Faculty Emeritus Certificate after his 45 years of service to the school. This award was followed by the presentation of the James L. Paddock Teaching Award, which is selected by Fletcher students and given to a faculty member who best exemplifies excellence in teaching.

Kirsten Zeiter (F16) announced Dr. Julie Schaffner as this year’s recipient and noted that Professor Schaffner is the only professor to have received this award twice. Schaffner is a Visiting Associate Professor of Development Economics, and her dedication to her students is unparalleled both inside and outside the classroom, including her yearly open invitations to students for Thanksgiving dinner at her home.  

“Professor Schaffner has a gift of being able to take subjects that are, for many students, at first full of apprehension or anxiety, and teach them in a way that makes every student feel confident in their ability to learn and succeed,” Zeiter said.

In Schaffner’s acceptance speech, she began by concisely tackling the topic on many peoples’ minds, especially the graduates, which is change. While acknowledging that leading change can occur in a variety of different ways, she defined her own personal mission of creating change through her work in Fletcher classrooms.

She then offered the audience six suggestions for leading change true to her teaching form: Define the change you want to lead and be specific; invite participation and partnership; take risks; tear down psychological obstacle to change by paying attention to details; encourage collective change by building trust; and be yourself but always work at being your better self. Perhaps the most impressive part about her 10-minute speech aside from the content was the ardent delivery sans notes. 

Schaffner’s speech was followed by two equally impressive addresses from student speakers, Masa Dikanovic and Leland Lazarus, who were elected by their peers. Dikanovic, a native of Montenegro and MALD graduate, focused on the unique qualities of the “Fletcher family” and how the school has prepared her class for the future: “Each of us has been changed from being here, and if there’s one goal that we all share, it’s that we will use those lessons and our passion to make this world a bit more Fletcher-like,” she announced to resounding cheers. 

Leland Lazarus, a Panamanian-American and MALD graduate who will become a foreign service officer in the fall, contemplated “the tyranny of time” and urged his classmates to slow down from time to time, even as they pursue their professional aspirations. After praising his fellow classmates for “teaching me so much more than I ever could have learned in a classroom,” he asked them to “be mindful of each moment, inject passion into every second and prioritize the personal” in order to live life between the deadlines.

As all Fletcher students know and have studied, it is essential to look to the past to glean insight for the future. The Dean’s closing remarks included a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte on the topic of optimism: “A leader is a dealer in hope.” He encouraged the audience to be “dealers in hope” and expressed his utmost confidence in the Class of 2016. “And I don’t hope, I know you will change the world. Congratulations 2016!”.