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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Tufts 4+1 degrees, Part 1: The Fletcher MALD degree program

The Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy allows Tufts to offer interdisciplinary education in an expedited format.

The interior of The Fletcher School is pictured on Feb. 28, 2022.

For many Tufts undergraduates, their fourth year of study concludes their academic journey on the hill. Gearing up for graduation, Jumbos prepare to travel to all corners of the world in pursuit of jobs, further academia, self-discovery or social impact work. However, a small few choose to stay another year to complete their master's in one of many 4+1 bachelor’s/master’s degree offerings at Tufts.

One of the more notable graduate schools at Tufts is the Graduate School of Global Affairs, better known as the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Fletcher boasts a list of renowned faculty and a handful of eclectic courses that comprise their interdisciplinary master’s degree programs.

The Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy is the namesake program at Fletcher, but the program is not specifically focused on law or diplomacy.

“It's a very flexible program designed to … meet our students where their interests are. [The program lets] you put together an intersectional curriculum that addresses your interests as they interact with the real world,” said Nick Gleason, the associate director of admissions and financial aid at Fletcher. “[It is,] in short, highly flexible [and] highly interdisciplinary to your Master of Arts in international affairs.”

The MALD degree is Fletcher’s only master’s program that has a 4+1 degree option for Tufts undergraduates. The program requires only one quantitative reasoning course for all MALD students. Additionally, students choose two concentrations from a list of 11, which is where the interdisciplinary aspect of the program factors in. 

“Say you have an interest in climate policy … if you look at climate cause migration, [you could] pair that with the Human Security and Humanitarian Affair field study. Or you pair it with Technology and International Affairs. [Maybe] looking at something [like] the intersection of technology and climate change,” Gleason said. “You get a lot of ability to sub-specialize [and] really take [the program] in the direction that meets your interests.”

As for distribution requirements, the curriculum is broken into three divisions: diplomacy; history and politics; international business and economics; and law and international relations. The program usually has about 5–10 students who hold a Tufts undergraduate degree, not limited to those in the 4+1 degree, that come through the MALD program.

Adam Herman, associate dean of admissions and student affairs at Fletcher, spoke to the advantages of enrolling in the MALD program.

“One of the things that I think is a key benefit of the bachelor’s plus MALD opportunity is to be [at] a world class research university, Tufts, to get a bachelor's degree … and then go into a school that has [a] whole buffet of options in terms of fields of study,” Herman said. “And our Office of Career Services [also] … pairs together really nicely to get you where you want to go in your career.”

Reflecting the wide-ranging concentration option of the program, not all incoming students majored in International Relations during their undergraduate education.

“I think because of the diversity … and the combinatorial possibilities of our curriculum … maybe the typical undergrad is an IR major … but you can come here and…do business. You can come here and do economics. You can come here and do climate resource policy,” said Gleason.

Despite the variety of interests represented in the program and its members, the main goal is to educate students to make the world a better place.

“If you have an interest in making the world a better place and want to approach it through one of the careers that we set you up for, which is a very, pretty wide net. … This is a good landing spot because … the way the curriculum is set up, we're very accommodating of people [from diverse backgrounds],” Gleason said.

The program also offers the option for students to cross-register in other graduate schools at Tufts and in the Boston area.

“Tufts has the amazing UEP program, Urban Environmental Planning and Policy Program, and if you are on the climate change or urban planning side of things, then cross registering for a course [is] going to augment your experience. If you are looking at more ‘businessy,’ private sector type things, cross register at the Harvard Business School,” Gleason said. 

Tufts undergraduate students have the opportunity to enter the degree program having already taken four cross-registered courses at Fletcher during their senior year. In total, the combined degree program usually ends up taking 5 ½ years.

“Choosing to stay at Tufts for an additional year or year and a half to complete the MALD is a big investment. It's a big investment of … energy, of time allocation, of financial resources, and it's really meaningful. And so coming to events here at The Fletcher School, whether they are large guest speaker events, whether they are events that our academic research centers … or other units within the school are putting on, that's a great opportunity effectively to come and test drive the Fletcher environment and ecosystem and learn what we're all about,” Herman said.

Students who are interested in the 4+1 bachelor's or MALD degree should contact Nick Gleason at Fletcher Admissions.

“I hope … that Tufts undergraduates see opportunities to continue at Tufts, particularly at Fletcher, as another way to add to their tool kit, not only of knowledge and skills but of empowerment around their careers,” said Herman. “And we're happy to be one of the destinations for students to do that.”

Beyond all of the credit considerations and administrative information, the MALD program is an experience for students. Emma Bixler, who is currently pursuing a MALD degree at Fletcher, recounted her experience leading up to and in the program.

Bixler attended SUNY Geneseo where she studied International Relations and Communication. After graduating in 2017, she went on to work in proposal writing, but she knew she wanted to work for the Peace Corps. In the Peace Corps, Bixler taught English in Benin, merging her interest in international relations and her desire to work abroad. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bixler returned to the United States, where she worked on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign in Pennsylvania. Bixler then got the opportunity to work for Deloitte, where she was part of the client relations department.

“In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to return to school to pursue what I was truly passionate about, [which] was working in international relations. So after a year and a half [at Deloitte], I had applied to schools and got into Fletcher,” Bixler said.

Bixler’s regional focus is on sub-Saharan Africa, partially inspired by her time in the Peace Corps.

“You don't have to have a regional focus when you're studying international relations, but I think it's helpful to develop expertise in a given area or even domestically if you're thinking about domestic politics,” Bixler said. “Studying Gender and Intersectional Analysis in sub-Saharan Africa was just super appealing to me because I've worked with a number of women's groups while I was there, teaching, and they're the real changemakers … Just the thought of being able to work more with them and studying that type of activism is exciting to me.

Bixler’s studies focus on Gender and Intersectional Analysis as well as Human Security and Humanitarian Affairs. She is a second-year student expecting to graduate this May.

“One thing that I really discovered at Fletcher was my love for research and looking at what's out there and what current practitioners and international relations are studying and where there are gaps. I think it would be my dream to make some type of contribution to a research area where there's still a lot to be explored and uncovered,” Bixler said. “My personal focus area … is looking at the gendered elements of environmental crises. Specifically human-caused environmental crises, which includes climate change … etc. and how that impacts people of different genders or different diverse sexual orientations.”

Bixler spoke highly of both Professor Kimberly Theidon and Professor Dyan Mazurana, who teach on the intersection of gender and climate and gender and conflict in the Gender and Intersectional Analysis Department. Additionally, Bixler called out Professor Abigail Linnington’s civil resistance course as one of her favorite courses she has taken at Fletcher.

“In terms of looking at the intersection of gender, the environment [and] civil resistance movements, I did not figure that out until the end of last year,” said Bixler. “I was influenced by the coursework and the reading and the curriculum that we were doing.”

Fletcher classes are also open to undergraduate students not enrolled in the MALD degree. Bixler recommends that interested students take one of these classes and look at the work being published by Fletcher students and faculty.

“Fletcher stands out as one of the most collaborative [global affairs graduate schools]. It's a competitive field, but I've never felt like I was competing with my peers,” Bixler said. “It really feels like everyone is supporting one another and wants the best for their peers and is actively going out of their way to help enhance the experience of those around them, which I think is unique to Fletcher and very special about Fletcher.”