Benjamin Spatz, USA

On the PhD: I wanted to undertake a PhD to build on my professional experience by delving deeply into the academic theories and frameworks surrounding conflict and governance, especially in fragile states. I had worked for seven years after earning my Master degree, mainly in West Africa and most recently as an investigator with the United Nations Security Council. The more work experience I gained, the more I recognized I have yet to learn. However, I wanted to remain connected to the policy world even as I move toward academia, to engage as an active learner. This is why I chose the Fletcher School. Fletcher is the perfect marriage of academic rigor and practical focus that is key to train aspiring scholar practitioners.

On the curriculum:  Fletcher's flexible curriculum has allowed me to tailor my PhD courses to suit my central interests and flow into research around my dissertation topic. This happened in one way that surprised me, even though I came to Fletcher in part because of the program's flexibility. As I was going through the diverse classes offered, it became hard to squeeze everything I wanted and needed into the three semesters of coursework that external PhD candidates take. When I sought advice from my faculty advisors, they suggested creating an independent study that was specifically geared toward my interests and combined aspects of existing classes and other areas of study, rather than forcing me to make trade-offs among classes. Such openness and understanding is remarkable and unique.

Favorite author:

Alan Furst

Favorite movie:

Star Wars (the old ones)

Favorite food:

Anything spicy

Favorite city:


Experience when you felt the farthest from home:

Living in an Ethiopian UN soldiers' camp along the Liberia-Cote d'Ivoire border -- no roads, no power, no reception -- at the end of Liberia's 14-year civil war

Fields of Study:

  • International Security Studies
  • International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Activities involved in at Fletcher:

  • PhD Colloquium
  • UN Club
  • International Development Club

Education before Fletcher:

  • Master of Science in Foreign Service, Conflict Management, Georgetown University
  • BA, International Relations, University of Washington
  • BA, Philosophy, University of Washington

Experience before Fletcher:

  • Consultant to the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia, United Nations Security Council, Liberia
  • Expert West Africa Political Risk Advisor
  • Special Advisor to the Government of Liberia, Liberia


  • Spanish
  • English