“Our time at The Fletcher School has been a great, sumptuous feast, but now we’re full,” Protiti Roy (MALD18) joked to a standing-room-only crowd at a Friday Dec. 8 ceremony celebrating “Januarian” students from The Fletcher School.
Roy’s lighthearted statement matched the overall jovial tone of the ceremony, which took place in ASEAN and celebrated the 25 Januarian students, who started in the spring rather, than the fall semester, two years ago.
From entertaining Masters of Ceremony Ahmad Raza and Emily Gannam, to guest speakers with colorful stories, the ceremony highlighted the sense of comradery among the tight-knit group of Januarian students.
During her opening address, Professor Antonia (“Toni”) Handler Chayes reminded students to take every opportunity they get to travel the world and learn from other cultures. Fletcher alumni span the globe, after all, and are always happy to meet fellow Fletcher graduates, she said.
“There’s hardly a corner of the world where you can’t reach out and find a Fletcher graduate,” Chayes told the group. “Take advantage of the warmth of the Fletcher community. Become an active part of that community and be available to future students who come to you.”
Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School and fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, gave the commencement address and talked in depth about the concept of questions versus answers. “What I’ve learned over time is that questions are more important than answers because the questions determine what answers are even conceivable,” she shared.
In an enlightening, yet entertaining speech, Minow explained that asking the right questions is the key to solving the problems we face today and in the future. Fletcher graduates, she said, are well-equipped to ask these questions and face these issues. “Fletcher is a place that understands global issues don’t come with a convenient label,” she said.
Minow invited Janurians to stand up and applaud the friends and family members who supported them throughout their graduate school journey, then recalled an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that underscored the power of asking the right questions. “The questions you each ask will bring peace or conflict, control or risk,” she reminded graduates.
Executive Associate Dean Jerry Sheehan congratulated the Januarians on their hard work and for gracefully facing the unique challenges that come along with being a Januarian. “The reality is that enrolling in –
and finishing during – the middle of the academic year is a rather anti-climactic conclusion to your Fletcher experience. So, a ceremony like this makes great sense and is well-deserved,” he said.
Januarians face two main challenges, as Sheehan mentioned – integrating at the midyear point and planning out course schedules when many key courses are offered in the fall – but Roy said being a Januarian enabled her to make the most of her Fletcher experience. In fact, she was able to take advantage of not one, but two summer internships. “Having an entire summer each year allowed me to dedicate enough time to each project and learn a whole lot more than I would have, had I only had one summer,” she said.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by the Ambassachords and an address by class speaker Michael Harold (M.A.18), who joked that his fellow students chose him as the class speaker for a somewhat predictable reason. “I was told by my fellow Januarians that they were only using me as a proxy vote for Isla, my adorable two and a half-year-old daughter, and not me directly,” he said.
As his daughter’s laughter echoed in the background, Harold told his fellow Januarians that the work Fletcher prepared them to do has never been more important. “Now more than ever we need institutions like The Fletcher School, and the people they produce, to confront these strange, even dangerous times because you mighty few have a mighty lot on your plates,” he said.
Thanks to his Fletcher experience, Harold said he feels more prepared than ever before to “seize today and change tomorrow.”
“Fletcher, we’re ready," he said. "You were already willing; already on the front lines. Now, your shoulders are just a bit broader, your chin tilted slightly higher, and your head, heart and body are ready to take on more of that heavy load.”