Advice, Experiences, Learning

Course Reviews: Development at Tufts University’s Fletcher School

Don’t be fooled by its full name: The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy isn’t a law school or a Foreign Service training program. A graduate school at Tufts University, Fletcher’s course offerings cover the full range of topics in international affairs, including business, security, communications – and, of course, development.

Regardless of their specific field of study, all students in the school’s primary program earn a MALD (Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy). However, many graduates refer only to their area of focus – for example, by listing “M.A. in International Development” rather than MALD on their resumes. It’s a two-year, full-time, in-person program, and most students do an internship, often abroad or in D.C., during the summer.

Fletcher differs from many similar schools in the U.S. in that there’s no one track for studying development. So, how do you study development there? The school’s curriculum has two main components. The first is a breadth requirement, which mandates that students take classes from three categories: law, diplomacy and politics, and economics.

What? I thought you said it WASN’T all about “law and diplomacy!”

It’s still really not. The categories are broad, and each one has development-related classes: Law and Development, Political Economy of Development, and Development Economics: Policy Analysis, for example.

To fulfill the second component, the breadth requirement, students complete two fields of study.

But wait, I only want to study development!

Don’t worry, multiple fields of study focus on different aspects of development, like Development Economics, Law and Development, or Public and NGO Management. Some can also be tailored to emphasize development, like Human Security and International Organizations. And others can be complementary to development, like International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution if you’re interested in post-conflict reconstruction.

If none of that sounds quite right, you can also design a field of study to either complement or deepen your development studies. Some recent self-designed fields include gender studies, monitoring and evaluation, education, and social and political development.

The bottom line: as a Fletcher student, you can really study whatever you want, and you can keep your focus as broad or as narrow as you choose. Regardless, you’ll come out of the program with some background in both quantitative and qualitative work.

The perks of Fletcher

Besides the flexible curriculum, I think the school has three big draws.

Diversity

Around 40 percent of Fletcher students are international, and all areas of the world are represented. No matter what region you’re interested in, you’ll almost certainly have a classmate who can tell you what life is really like there. Because the school’s admissions process emphasizes professional experience, most students come into the program after working at least a couple years – and backgrounds run the gamut from finance to non-profit and the military to the UN. Students come in with a range of interesting international experience, and there’s a large population of former Peace Corps Volunteers and Fulbright scholars. Fletcher is a place where you’re guaranteed to be introduced to a host of new perspectives.

“The Fletcher Mafia”

Fletcher’s known for its close community feel – and, equally, its tight-knit alumni network. We’re not called The Fletcher Mafia for nothing! While most schools maintain alumni relations and provide opportunities for students to network with alumni, Fletcher goes further. Fletcher alumni really look out for their own. Students looking for internships and recent grads on the job hunt have access to the entire network of alumni – most of whom are more than willing to help out a fellow Fletcherite. And after graduation, you’ll inevitably find yourself with dozens of people to visit and couches to crash on, in all corners of the globe.

Cross-registration

Even though I doubt you’ll have too much trouble finding the courses you want at Fletcher, the school’s offerings are only the surface of the available classes. Fletcher students can cross-register in classes in nearly any other department at Tufts, as well as at Harvard’s business, public health, education, design, and Kennedy schools (and, unofficially, at a few other universities, including MIT). If like me, you’re interested in impact evaluation, there are hardly better professors to have than those at Fletcher, Kennedy, and the MIT Economics Department.

So, who is Fletcher NOT right for?

If you want to work while in school.

There’s no option for part-time, evening, or online study at Fletcher. If you’re looking to work full-time while in grad school, Fletcher’s not an option.

If you want to sit in a circle for discussion with five other students.

While some classes are very small, and many promote participation, a lot of classes have 30 to 60 students or more. You’ll probably be able to have a small-group discussion feel for a few classes, but it won’t be the norm. Many students, though, find that the sometimes large classes are offset by the fact that, because there’s no cap on class sizes, students can take all their top-choice classes each semester.

If you hate the cold.

The Fletcher School is in Boston, and it gets cold. But hey, that means you’ll get some snow days!

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