On Friday, September 9, 2016, The Fletcher School held its annual Convocation Ceremony in ASEAN Auditorium to welcome the incoming class of nearly 300 students and recognize a few outstanding individuals in the Fletcher community, including U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson (F86).
Dean James Stavridis opened the ceremony with welcome remarks, highlighting the strong state of the school through the changes on campus and the accomplishments of community members despite the tumultuous times ahead in our world. The new field of study in Gender Analysis, a new two-year, joint-degree program with the College of Europe, numerous faculty publications, 11 presidential management interns and record-breaking fundraising efforts of $17 million all made the list.
“In 1933, there was one dean, five faculty members, twenty-three students,” Dean Stavridis said. “We offered fourteen courses, and we’ve come a long way. I think it is a wonderful testament to the energy of those who have brought this school along over so many decades.”
After the opening remarks, Professor Joel P. Trachtman presented The Alfred P. Rubin Prize in International Law to two second-year students who have both demonstrated through their academic excellence in International Law that is associated with the prize’s namesake. Those recipients were Katrina Braun (F19) and Damian Vogt (F17).
Following the student awards, Dean Stavridis announced the Faculty Research Award, given to a member of the faculty for highest achievement in his or her research field during the preceding year. This year, the faculty elected Professor Antonia Chayes for her book, Borderless Wars: Civil Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty.
While accepting her award, Professor Chayes addressed incoming first-years with some advice on how to make the most of the Fletcher experience: “Take the courses that excite you, not the ones that get the requirements out of the way.”
Second-year student Ammar Karimjee (F17), also spoke to the new class and reflected on the aspects he truly loves about Fletcher after spending the summer interning in Pakistan. He left the audience with a quote from Margaret Meade, which he said encapsulates his beliefs about the Fletcher experience: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Finally, Dean Stavridis presented The Fletcher Class of 1947 Memorial Award to Ambassador Roberta Jacobson (F86) to recognize her service to the school and the advancement of its founding ideals through her life-long work in Latin America and the Caribbean, most recently serving as the lead diplomat negotiating the re-opening of Cuba to the U.S.
Jacobson began her address with congratulating the incoming class on their decision to dedicate themselves to seeking global understanding here at Fletcher, and then described how her perspective changed during her two years as a MALD student.
“I owe a great deal to the school,” said Jacobson. “At Fletcher, I learned how policy generates and shapes progress, how I could use my academic training to develop policies that lift and improve lives, and how to contribute to prosperity both in the US and the Western Hemisphere. I also found it helped me think about the world and put my Latin American studies in a much broader context.”
Jacobson recalled her experience studying and researching for her MALD in Buenos Aires and how that experience has shaped her work as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico: “Perhaps this is one reason why I’ve made educational exchanges one of the top priorities for my time in Mexico. Exchanges are a powerful way to strengthen our cultural and economic bonds and bring increasing prosperity across borders.”
While addressing the current climate of U.S. and Mexican relations, she stressed the importance of tackling issues together: “I believe that the maturity and resilience of our relationship will survive the current tensions,” Jacobson said. “We are stronger when we confront our challenges with that spirit of collaboration.”
Lastly, she closed her remarks by ensuring the incoming class that the work that they will go on to do will inherently be more successful thanks to Fletcher: “I can’t promise that everyone of you will have the opportunity of completing changing a fifty-year-old policy [re-opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015], but I can promise you that using what you gain here at Fletcher gives you a head start on a fascinating and meaningful work life.”