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June 11, 2020

Dear students,

Fletcher was founded as America’s first graduate school of international affairs in 1933, as the United States struggled to emerge from the Great Depression and when nationalism, fascism and xenophobia were on the rise.  Our founders were staunchly committed to the pursuit of peace and justice and determined that international cooperation should be deepened to address common challenges around the world.  Fletcher’s establishment was an act of defiance against the isolationist voices of the time. When we convene for the academic year this fall in the midst of a global pandemic, a global economic crisis that it has birthed, populists turning important powers inward, we will prove our resilience once again by studying the world from an unapologetically globalist stance, open to all perspectives, but committed to ensuring that Fletcher students and Fletcher scholarship can support the leadership our world so desperately needs.

Remote to hybrid teaching and learning

When compared with the challenges faced by many in the teeth of the multiple crises besetting the world today, teaching and learning during the pandemic becomes for most of us a small challenge.  It may not be what we originally envisioned, nor how we would like to interact in the future, but we must not let circumstances deter us from our collective mission.

In order to carry out that mission and to best ensure the health and well-being of our community, this fall, all courses will be offered remotely. We currently intend to offer our spring semester in a hybrid form with both residential and remote offerings, recognizing that some students may prefer to stay remote and some may not be able to travel to campus. 

This decision allows us to ensure excellence in instruction and learning and equity across our diverse and global student body. 

Flexibility and global empathy

Fletcher is known for its flexible, interdisciplinary approach, and inimitable community.  Making the most of this hallmark, we will offer a full slate of courses in a more modular format starting in September.  We are creating more choice for students by breaking the semester into two sessions.  In each session, some classes will be offered at twice the pace of a normal semester-long class, so that you can complete two classes per session.  Some classes will also be offered at the traditional semester-long pace.  Thus, you can decide how many classes you take at a time, so long as you complete four classes by the end of the semester.  The new academic calendar and roster of courses are now available online.

The course schedule is also optimized for our global student body.  We are adding new time blocks to make it possible for students from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas to take classes in workable time zones.  A new Saturday time block will give additional flexibility, especially for those who are working part time.  The time blocks are also consistent with Tufts Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, so Fletcher students can seamlessly cross-register into other schools at Tufts, opening up many more curricular options and facilitating our new Cybersecurity and Public Policy joint degree with the School of Engineering.

Excellence and community

As always, our courses will be taught by world-class faculty. Additionally, we are welcoming a new faculty member, Melissa McCracken, as well as new visiting and adjunct faculty who will be announced later this summer.  We are also introducing eight new courses including courses on health security, water security, climate and migration, and pandemics as history.

Remote teaching will be delivered with excellence. While the Fletcher faculty did the best they could to move their courses rapidly online this spring, we have learned from that experience as well as our experience with online and hybrid learning in our mid-career Global Master of Arts program and our online Master of Global Business Administration. Teaching evaluations from the spring have identified key opportunities for incorporating best practices across all courses.  All professors will have dedicated teaching support throughout the year, and every instructor is receiving additional training and support. Classes will be interactive, engaging, and dynamic. Tufts Technology Services (TTS) will help students access all technology resources, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.

While we would all prefer to be together in person, remote teaching and learning brings some unique advantages: the ability to bring global leaders into the virtual classroom who would be unlikely to travel; the ability to integrate simulation-based learning; and the ability to establish international team and client-based projects addressing global challenges in real time. We are excited about the possibilities and our speaker series and book talk schedules are stronger than ever.

You will have direct one-on-one access to faculty. We are establishing a new advising system, effective immediately.  Each incoming student will have a faculty advisor as well as a second-year program mentor. All second-year students will have a capstone advisor from the beginning of the year. New students will be first introduced to their faculty advisors on Zoom over the summer.

Connecting with a global community is at the heart of the Fletcher experience. The Fletcher experience begins with orientation and unfolds from there. Optional orientation programming will commence August 3, including remote events organized by student clubs for various interests; weekly coffee hour chats with faculty; and drop-in hours for clubs, fields of study, centers, and degree programs.  For the mandatory orientation, you will be grouped into cohorts of 12-15 incoming students, with second-year students and faculty mentors. Your physical and emotional well-being are vital to achieving academic and professional success and we will provide the support you need during these extraordinary times.

Our process

The information I’ve just shared took much deliberation, as we remained laser-focused on our unwavering commitment to excellence in education and ensuring the health and safety of our community. In April, I convened a task force to consider all options for the fall semester.  This task force thoroughly considered all pros and cons of a series of scenarios. The Task Force consulted widely within Fletcher, across Tufts and in the broader community.  Working groups of the Task Force drew more expertise within Fletcher into the planning. In all, sixty-two faculty, staff, and student volunteers served on these working groups, and they delivered their recommendations to me on May 31. These recommendations have then been discussed by the School leadership and implemented.

Why now

For those of you considering whether or not to postpone your studies, I can only say that the world needs you now.  We are in a transformative moment. The challenges of pandemics, climate change, poverty-alleviation, migration, terrorism, and inequality are growing more acute.  The world needs the knowledge and skills you will acquire at Fletcher, along with your innate drive, creativity, and commitment to solving such global challenges. These attributes are universal among all Fletcher students and the global community of alumni that binds us together.

I am sure that many of you may have questions about this announcement. We have produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions. I am also looking forward to hosting a Town Hall for returning and new students on June 18.

Come join us to address the big challenges of our time.  We are resilient.  The world needs you now, more than ever, so don’t wait. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Rachel Kyte
Dean, The Fletcher School