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This Is What We Train For

Strategic decision making and action in times of crisis

While classes have ended for the semester and the 2020 commencement celebration is behind us, Fletcher experts remain committed to addressing the global pandemic and the series of compounding crises we can expect to experience over the next decade. 

"This is, at the end of the day, what we train for," says Dean Rachel Kyte. "We are a a school of international affairs; how can one be a leader in complex situations? How we lead when resilience is needed, and how do we lead in order to build more resilience are questions we've had the opportunity to explore in very personal ways in the last few weeks."

To explore these questions and more, Dean Kyte convened a leadership discussion with Lieutenant Colonel Susan M. Gannon, United States Army Reserves and a recent Fletcher military fellow, and Abigail Linnington, professor of practice in Fletcher's international securities studies program.    

A civil affairs officer by trade, Gannon brings practical military experience to the discussion. In early March, she answered a call from Tufts University President Tony Monaco to join the COVID-19 response team supporting both the university and the medical center through the early days of the crisis. Four key areas of exploration helped both institutions move from a consensus-based decision making model to one that is better prepared to respond quickly: decision making, communications, longterm strategic planning, and leadership presence. 

Professor Linnington taught a very popular course this spring entitled Strategy and Grand Strategy: Theory, Art and Practice. Her career in military planning and strategy inform a course that offers a balance between the theory of strategy and the practice of strategy making and statecraft. By establishing guiding principles and frameworks for decision making, her course prepares Fletcher students for leadership positions in any sector.      

When Tufts closed its campus and began serving courses remotely, Linnington redirected the course to assess how different countries approached the COVID-19 crisis. Students explored the impacts on many industries - from manufacturing to healthcare - and how various levels of strategy impacted initial outcomes and prepared countries for an extended crisis that is expected to ebb and flow.

Tune in below to hear the full conversation.