Currently viewing the tag: "Community"

Yesterday’s post may have been my last word on Commencement for 2015, but it isn’t the last word on the lead-up to the event.  That will come from Alex who, as a continuing student, would nonetheless have been welcomed for the Dis-Orientation activities organized by the graduating class.  Dis-Orientation originated several years ago as the counter-point to the academic-year-starting Orientation program.

Shortly after the year’s last class was attended, the last final exam taken, and the last term paper handed in, it was time for “Dis-O.”  As any end of term should be celebrated, Fletcher’s time-honored Dis-Orientation is a week of fun activities, great parties, and even some light “vandalism.”

In an impressive feat of organization, students planned dozens of events spread over the week following the end of the semester; this year there were 45 activities over seven days.  These events ranged from movie screenings in Fletcher’s main auditorium, to daylong trips to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard and the battlefields of Lexington and Concord.  Athletic activities were also included, such as a softball game and a MALD vs. MIB cricket match, both of which were guaranteed to be a cultural experience for many of the players.  Of course, a couple of parties were also in order, ranging from traditional celebrations in one of Fletcher’s “color houses” (e.g., the green house, yellow house, or “Casablanca,” that several students share) to a Hawaiian luau (complete with a dunk tank, of course).  Finally, following the Tufts tradition of painting the cannon located in the center of campus, students sneakily painted it a blazing Fletcher-orange in the dark of night.  They were disappointed, however, to find it painted over by other “vandals” within hours.

Not only is Dis-O a great way to celebrate the culmination of a successful year with our friends and classmates, I find it to be a fitting representation of what exactly is special about Fletcher’s culture.  First, due to The Fletcher School’s long history, traditions like Dis-O (and even individual events within it) have turned into institutions, serving to connect Fletcher students across generations.  Second, events like these do not plan themselves, but instead are a product of a student body with impressive leadership capabilities and a tremendous commitment to their fellow classmates.  Additionally, the wide range of events demonstrates the diversity of interests across the student body, which has been a wonderful source of mind-opening experiences throughout the year.  Finally, Dis-O evinces Fletcher students’ ability to balance work and fun: I bet you would have been just as likely to find people at the cricket match discussing India’s clean energy policy as you would to find them asking what exactly a “wicket” is.

Whether traditions such as Dis-O are the cause or the result of the strong community here, I do not know.  Probably a little bit of both.  What I do know, however, is that few other schools are as tightly knit as Fletcher, and that I cannot wait to come back next semester.

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The next deadline that I’ve been hearing about has nothing much to do with the Admissions Office.  This time, it’s students who are racing against the clock.  Second-year MALD and MIB students must submit their theses by tomorrow, February 15.  All Fletcher students write a thesis as a way of wrapping their coursework together and linking to their future careers.  (Those in one-year programs (the MA and the LLM) have a few extra months to complete it.)  The topic and format is up to the student and his or her advisor, and the diversity of student interests ensures there’s a wild range of topics.

In the lead-up to the deadline, Fletcher students behaved as Fletcher students do, and found a way to support each other by creating “Thesis Fridays.”  An invitation went out to the thesis-writing community:

Thesis Fridays are now officially scheduled for the rest of the semester.  Thesis Fridays are when we sit around in a room in Cabot basement and work on our theses (or whatever).  That’s all.  Sometimes we chat about them, and sometimes people get questions answered or make lucrative proofreading deals.  Sometimes we chat about other things, but we try to minimize that.  There’s nothing formal about it, but it’s a great way to get your butt in a chair for dedicated work time. Plus, misery/creativity loves company!  Just keep repeating:  Everything will be fine when I write my Master’s thesis….

I asked one of the co-creators, Rachel, to tell me more.  She said that she and another student who graduated in December came up with the idea last semester.  “We had a core group of about six or seven of us throughout the fall, sometimes up to 10 or 12. There are more this semester, since it’s (past) crunch time. I’ve definitely made a few new friends and practiced my pumpkin-bread-baking skills because of it.  🙂

Pumpkin bread isn’t the only potential caloric result of thesis productivity.  Students who submit their thesis one day early (i.e. today, Valentine’s Day) have been told, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than by submitting your thesis a bit early on Valentine’s Day.  So beat the rush, ahead of those getting it in on the deadline of February 15.  In return, the Registrar’s Office will show a bit of our love with some chocolate treats.”

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All of a sudden, a little Fletcher news.

First (and you may already know about this if you follow The Fletcher School or Fletcher Admissions on facebook), we find out about Dean Bosworth’s week:  he’s meeting with a North Korean government minister in New York.  Nuclear arms and food aid will, according to news reports, be on the agenda.  That will make for an awesome “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay, should anyone ask Dean Bosworth to write one.

Next, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard Fletcher alum Elliot Ackerman (class of 2003) discuss the goal of his organization, Americans Elect, to create a new nominating process that would give candidates outside of the usual two political parties a chance to compete in national elections.  Elliot is Americans Elect’s chief operating officer.

Finally, something of personal interest to me.  This afternoon, Fletcher will host a live broadcast of the BBC’s World Have Your Say.  The show will feature 100 young women, ages 15-19, from around the world.  My daughter, Kayla, is one of those young women!  She’s participating all week in Women2Women, and it was quite a surprise to hear she’d be visiting my workplace (along with 99 new friends and a BBC crew).  The word we’ve received is that all of this is taking place from 1:00 to 3:00 local time (which is GMT-4), and the BBC web site confirms that the show is broadcast at 1700 GMT.  I hope you’ll join me in tuning in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amar Akhbar Anthony

Bunty Aur Babli

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

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

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

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

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

Amar Akhbar Anthony







Bunty Aur Babli


Chak De





Devdas (New)

Devdas (Old)

Dil Chahata Hai

Dil Se

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge




Hazaaron Khwashein Aisi

Hum Tum



Jaane Bhi Do Yaron

Jaane Tu Jaane Na

Jab We Met

Jamaai Raja

Jodha Akbar


Kabhi Kabhie

Kal Ho Naa Ho


Koi Mil Gaya


Kuch Kuch Hota Hai


Life In A Metro

Mr. India

Mr. Natwarlal


Munnabhai MBBS

Namak Halal


Om Shanti Om


Pyaar Impossible



Ram Lakhan

Rang De Basanti

Rock On




Satte Pe Satta





Taare Zameen Par


Three Idiots


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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In the first of this series of posts about student groups, I noted that students often work harder to answer my requests than even I expect.  This is an example:  Fatema, Jessica (another one — not me), and Elise have given me a complete run-down of how student organizations fit into their Fletcher lives.  Here’s what they have to say:

My name is Fatema, and I am an LLM student here at Fletcher.  Alongside school, I have gotten involved with two online journals, Praxis and Al Nakhlah, as an editor and, I hope, future writer!  This fall, students put together Asia Night where I taught two dances, Bhangra and Bollywood.  I am also assisting with the annual New York Career Trip that’s coming up in January.  I was elected as a student representative for the Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee, and I’m a member of the Harvard Law and Development Society, where we are writing up a memo on evaluations of land claims.  I am also a part of the International Law Society, where we are creating an amicus curiae brief we hope to submit to the Inter American Court of Human Rights.  On the side I go to school. 🙂

This fall, I organized a faculty coffee hour with Marc Sommers, an adjunct professor, to let students hear about his professional experiences working in the human security field.  I am currently helping coordinate Global Women career events with alumni during the New York and Washington, DC career trips.  And I am a member of a 10-person team of Harvard and Fletcher students working on a consultancy paper with the International Organization for Migration on Iraqi land restitution claims.

I co-lead several clubs/organizations at Fletcher and, while it’s been a challenge to juggle schoolwork and all other demands on my time, I see this leadership experience as an integral component of my grad school experience.

This year, The Fletcher Forum has become my biggest commitment.  As one of two managing editors, perhaps my key duty is to oversee the solicitations process, which means coordinating with our 20-plus staff editors on their efforts to solicit articles for the journal and maintaining an accurate tracking system.  This role has also given me access to such prominent policymakers as the EU’s Catherine Ashton and João Vale de Almeida (the new EU ambassador to the United States), as well as authors such as Thomas de Waal.  My interviews with these three figures will appear in the Forum’s winter issue, due out in January 2011.

Working closely with the Forum’s chief editor and my co-managing editor, as well with as our other editors and the Fletcher administration, has truly been one of the most rewarding elements of my Fletcher experience.  Although the juggling act gets hectic, if I could do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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I’m coming to the end of the information students sent me about the groups to which they’re connected.  Here are two more entries that show how some groups provide both intellectual and social activities.

Althea and Amy:
Global Women is dedicated to promoting a community among Fletcher women students through activities and events that support and advance the role of women in the field of International Affairs.  Global Women annually runs a program through which Fletcher women mentor Tufts undergraduate students in the departments of International Affairs, Peace and Justice Studies, and Women’s Studies.  In addition, Global Women organizes a Phenomenal Women Speakers Series to highlight the experiences of women working in international affairs; arranges panels with Fletcher Women alumni at the Fletcher Career Trips in New York and Washington, D.C.; and hosts several social events.

This November, Fletcher Global Women and the Fletcher Gender Equality Project partnered with the Harvard Women’s Law Association to put on an excellent panel in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.  Also in November, the Phenomenal Women series hosted Prof. Ayesha Jalal, who both teaches at Fletcher and is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University, and Elizabeth McClintock, a Founder and Managing Partner of CMPartners, and current PhD Candidate.

One of the things Fletcher Students in Security (FSIS) does is to sponsor an annual program we like to call “Military 101.”  In conjunction with the International Security Studies Program’s military fellows — mid-level U.S. Army and Air Force officers spending a year in residence at Fletcher — we organize a series of presentations, with each installment featuring a different aspect of the United States military, from presentations on the four services (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps) to topics like Joint Strategic Planning System and Unified Command.  This series allows Fletcher civilians (most of us) a deeper understanding not only of the U.S. military, but of military organization, culture, objectives, strategy, and tactics.

Additionally, this year FSIS is hosting a series of Thesis Dinner nights, at which students engaged in research related to security studies can present their thoughts and work to a small group of peers and receive feedback — all over a delicious dinner at someone’s house.  Late this term, we arranged a tour of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire for a small group of students interested in nuclear energy.  Finally, to have a little fun and decompress before final exams, FSIS will be squaring off against the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (INCR) group in a friendly yet competitive game of laser tag!

Next term, we will be continuing the Military 101 series and hosting a Social Hour.  We will resume our topical discussion groups, which range from counterterrorism to human security to cybersecurity.  We also hope to arrange a student panel to discuss the resiliency and future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is still the cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime.

Finally, until this year, FSIS was called Fletcher Women in Security, and was the local chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS).  Though the name has been changed to be more inclusive (especially since all FWIS activities were open to the entire Fletcher community anyway), FSIS retains its focus on and commitment to the advancement of women in traditionally male-dominated security fields.

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I’ve learned a lot about student organizations from the descriptions students sent me.  (Fletcher Sportsman’s Club — who knew?)  But each of the descriptions leaves me impressed by how much students pack into each semester.  Here’s the second installment of student group descriptions.

Kate was the first of two students to describe the International Development Group:
The International Development Group provides an avenue for students to explore their broad interests in international development.  The club regularly brings in speakers to discuss their varied experiences in the field, in areas such as the non-profit sector, children’s issues, evaluation, microfinance, and public health.  Additionally, we work with the Office of Career Services to connect students with alumni in this sector through panels and networking mixers in Boston, New York, and D.C.

Jacqui provided extra detail on IDG activities:
The International Development Group just hosted a career panel with Boston-based development professionals who gave great advice to students looking to break into the field of international development.  We also have been organizing networking Happy Hours with the development clubs at nearby schools such as Harvard and MIT.  This month, we’ll host an event with several experts to discuss the upcoming independence referendum in southern Sudan.

Since students are interested in a wide range of topics within the microfinance and development venture space and because the Microfinance and Development Venture Capital Network shares some objectives with other student groups, selecting the events on which to spend our limited funds is a challenge.  This year, my club co-president, Kathleen, and I have agreed on the objectives of outreach to professionals in the microfinance/social enterprise field, timely updates on relevant events, and supplementing students’ learning opportunities at Fletcher.  This semester, we heard from Katleen Felix, a director at Haiti’s largest microfinance institution; hosted a panel in which students who interned in the field gave valuable advice and insights on their experiences; and organized a debate on the question of whether it is fair to make a profit off the poor.  We also sent out weekly emails that let club members know about events related to microfinance and social enterprise locally and nationally.  (You’d be surprised how long it takes to compile a good summary — there are so many events in the Boston area alone!)  Next semester, we are planning to organize a social enterprise panel with local entrepreneurs, to hold a discussion on business plan competition best practices, to play a role in organizing the Fletcher School’s Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion, and to hold happy hours.

I’m a regular participant in Fletcher Green.  We are an organization focused primarily on sustainability on campus and in the surrounding community.  Some of Fletcher Green’s members helped bring a speaker to campus who works on renewable energy in Israel-Palestine.  As a result of another effort, Mugar Café now has composting, and we have also pushed to get better recycling facilities in Blakeley Dorm.  I was involved in a weatherization of one of the fraternities on campus (making it more energy efficient) and am trying to organize a weatherization of a Fletcher student house.  We also organized a community canvass to exchange incandescent light bulbs for high-efficiency compact fluorescents, as well as a light bulb exchange in the Hall of Flags.

The Fletcher Sportsman’s Club is a student organization that promotes best practices for clay target shooting.  Our organization engages new shooters as well as offers the opportunity to experienced participants to mingle and network outside school.  We are part of a network of five schools that include Harvard College, Harvard Law, MIT and Northeastern.  Today, we are one of the largest student-run clubs with over 80 members and one of the largest budgets.

Jeffrey, who provided info on two other groups on Tuesday, backs Laurence and adds:
The Fletcher Sportsman’s Club is a great time to (literally) blow off some steam!  We go trap shooting and many of us have never handled a gun before.  Afterwards, we break for some great BBQ (trust me, I’m from the South) and talk about anything non-school-related.

I’ll be back next week with more on student groups!

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Every so often, I ask students for blog input — sometimes in the form of their own post, but other times I only want a sentence or two.  That’s when I’m most likely to be surprised and impressed at how much energy they’ll put into something that advances my work but, to be honest, doesn’t do as much for them.

A week or so ago, via the Social List, I asked student organization leaders to tell me what their groups have been up to.  An applicant had asked me about student groups, and I felt that what you could find on the web site or the the calendar listings doesn’t do justice to the richness of Fletcher student life.

This is the first of the posts in which I’ll share the responses I received, with credit to the student who sent each update.  They’re in no particular order, but I hope that together they’ll give blog readers an idea of the many activities that enrich the academic and social life of Fletcher students.

The Fletcher Youth Initiative is focused on youth development and education issues both locally, here in Somerville/Boston, and throughout the world.  This Spring we are extremely excited to be hosting our annual youth conference through which we reach out to local high school students and invite them to come to Fletcher, learn about the field of International Relations, and engage with current Fletcherites about how this diverse and dynamic field can impact their lives.

Seth describes two organizations:
This semester, the Social Business Club conducted a workshop on models for social businesses from around the world, and discussed their relative strengths and weaknesses.  We hosted Daniel Fireside from Equal Exchange (oldest and largest Fair Trade company in the United States) at Fletcher for a discussion on financing and operations.  Looking ahead to the Spring, students are organizing to participate in the Tufts Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Contest, with $50,000 available in prize money.

Students in the Fletcher International Law Society are writing an amicus curiae brief for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, focusing on the construction of dialogues in consultation as a means to resolve the conflicting obligations of protection for foreign investment and indigenous peoples.

The Latin America Group has been very active.  First we organized a Symposium on Colombia and Venezuela Affairs with lots of great speakers, including Michael Shifter, the President of the Inter-American Dialogue.  We also had a Latin American wine and cheese night attended by about 40 students.  We hosted a talk by a Colombian labor leader about poor conditions at a mine in northern Colombia, run by a major foreign company, that provides much of the coal that fuels Massachusetts.  Last, we screened the film Oscar’s Cuba, about Cuban prisoner of conscience Oscar Biscet and the human rights situation on the island, which included a live Q&A with the film’s director.  Next semester we organize and host Latin Night!

The Foreign Language Conversation Club coordinates language tables for students who want to practice their conversation skills in English, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese.  The Latin America Group coordinates the Spanish and Portuguese sessions.

Jeffrey also writes about two groups:
The Fletcher Foreign Service Club (AKA Fletcher Diplomacy Club) meets to discuss the Foreign Service Exam process.  Many of the Pickering Fellows and those who have passed the exam make it much less intimidating for us hopefuls.  We even have practice sessions, and share knowledge on the career.

Tufts University Water Polo Club: Yes, it is the U, and not Fletcher-only, but it’s a club sport, so grad students are eligible.  I’m passionate about the sport, and it helps keep me balanced against the academic load.  Plus, the undergrads here love our involvement and it’s a great way to branch out into the greater Tufts community.

That’s all for today’s installment.  More to follow later this week!

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