Alison Erlwanger, 2015, Zimbabwe

On the MALD degree: The complex challenges faced by our generation, from development to conflict resolution, are influenced by a myriad of interdependent issues. Addressing these challenges requires practitioners who are able to situate a problem within its historical, social, economic and political context. That's why I was drawn to the inter-disciplinary curriculum at Fletcher. I'm interested in poverty alleviation, particularly among African women, and I understand that addressing this issue, whether through micro-level interventions or macro-level policies, requires an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving. The Fletcher School gives me the opportunity to focus on my interests from different lenses, and to enrich that exploration with conversation from students from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. I have a variety of interests, and if I were left to my own devices I would probably spread myself too thin and not concentrate enough in one field to develop a concrete knowledge-base and skill-set. So while the breadth requirements really drew me in, the depth requirement made me feel grounded and confident that I could broaden my perspectives but still specialize enough to make an impact in my chosen career. It also helped a lot that there is a dedicated Fletcher School Office of Career Services. Coming from academia with the desire to transition into field work, I feel more comfortable knowing that I have a lot of support.

On collaboration and teamwork inside and outside of the classroom:  The first time I was assigned to a group project, I was apprehensive. I know that all of the work I would like to do in my career will require a lot of teamwork and collaboration with different people, but I was concerned about how long it would take to complete our project, particularly if we had very different opinions and work styles. I was worried that differences in opinion would lead to arguments and that the project would take longer than it would have if I had just written it alone. I'm very glad that I was correct on both counts. We argued over differences in opinion, which pushed each of us to clearly articulate our thoughts, challenge our assumptions and, most importantly, change our minds when it became apparent that we were working off of inaccurate information or assumptions. Our arguments were not personal attacks, but rather a way to ensure that we were as critical as we could be and to challenge ourselves to dig deeper. For this reason, the project took longer than if I had just written the first thing that came to my mind, but it was more refined, articulate and in-depth than anything that I ever could have achieved on my own.

Favorite newspaper:

The Nation

Favorite blog:


Favorite book:

The Alchemist

Most memorable international experience:

The trek from Zimbabwe into Zambia (I'm half Zambian) through Victoria Falls during my first visit home from the US.

Global Issue or problem that brought you to Fletcher:

International Development

Fields of Study:

  • Development Economics

  • Human Security

Activities involved in at Fletcher:
  • Africana Club
  • Harvard Law and International Development Society
  • Ralph Bunche Society
  • International Development Group

Education before Fletcher:

  • BA, Anthropology and Chemistry, Mount Holyoke College

Experience before Fletcher:

  • Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications (CEPAC) team, Massachusetts General Hospital, Research Assistant, Boston/MA/United States


  • Shona
  • French (intermediate)
  • Swahili (basic)
  • English