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The third Fletcher Ideas Exchange featured engaging speeches around the theme of Bridging the Academic-Policy Gap where speakers focused on how to better understand this challenge and how actors on both sides of the divide can overcome it.

The October 25, 2016 Fletcher Ideas Exchange is sponsored by the Henry J. Leir Institute, in collaboration with, the Edward R. Murrow Center. The event was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Faculty Speakers

Mihir Mankad

Master of Ceremonies

Mihir Mankad is a Lecturer in Communications at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, and currently leads communication and media initiatives at the school. His course, The Arts of Communication, has become one of the highest enrolled courses at the school, with over 350 course enrollees in just 3 years. Mihir’s career spans a diverse array of fields, including media, management consulting, and nonprofit leadership. Previously, Mihir served as a national television anchor with top channels in India such as NDTV Business, Zee Sports, and the public broadcaster Doordarshan. In addition to hosting prime-time news bulletins, he was involved in anchoring three of the most viewed television events in Indian history, including the 2008 Olympics, 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, and the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Mihir’s pre-television career includes management stints at McKinsey, Bain, and The Clinton Foundation, where he was in charge of the country operations of the health access initiative. Mihir holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Psychology from Stanford University, where he was on the national championship tennis team, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, and a mid-career MPA as a Mason Fellow from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

 James Stavridis

 Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Admiral James Stavridis is the 12th Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University since its founding in 1933. A retired 4-star officer in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, piracy, and cyber security. He also served as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, with responsibility for all military operations in Latin America from 2006-2009. He holds more than 50 medals, including 28 from foreign nations.
Earlier in his military career he commanded the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet, winning the Battenberg Cup, as well as a squadron of destroyers and a carrier strike group – all in combat. Admiral Stavridis earned a PhD in international relations and has published six books and over two hundred articles in leading journals around the world. His 2012 TED talk has over 700K hits, and he speaks Spanish and French. Admiral Stavridis is a monthly columnist for TIME Magazine and Chief
International Security Analyst for NBC News. His focus is on innovation, strategic communication and
planning, and creating security through international, interagency, and public/private partnerships in
this turbulent 21st century.

Eileen Babbit

Director, Institute for Human Security
Professor of Practice of International Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Eileen F. Babbitt is Professor of Practice of International Conflict Management, Director of the Institute for Human Security, and Co-Director of the Program on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at The Fletcher School. She is also a Faculty Associate of the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard Law School. Her research interests include identity-based conflicts, coexistence and trust-building in the aftermath of civil war, and the interface between human rights concerns and peace building. Her practice as a facilitator and trainer has included work in the Middle East, the Balkans, and with the United Nations, U.S. government agencies, regional inter-governmental organizations, and international and local NGOs. Before joining Fletcher, Professor Babbitt was Director of Education and Training at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. and Deputy Director of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.  Professor Babbitt holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a PhD from MIT.

Dyan Mazurana

Research Director, Feinstein International Center
Associate Research Professor


Dyan Mazurana, PhD, is a Research Director at the Feinstein International Center and an Associate Research Professor at The Fletcher School. Her areas of focus include women’s and children’s rights during armed conflict and post conflict, serious crimes and violations committed during armed conflict and their effects on victims and civilian populations, armed opposition groups, and remedy and reparation. She works with a number of governments, UN agencies and NGOs on these areas. Mazurana has published over 70 scholarly and policy books and articles. Mazurana has carried out research in Afghanistan, the Balkans, several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and Nepal.

Her Talk:

Influencing Policy Through Research

Michael Klein

William L. Clayton Professor of International Economic Affairs

Michael W. Klein is the William L. Clayton Professor of International Economics Affairs at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.  He is also a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution.  He served as Chief Economist in the Office of International Affairs at the United States Treasury from June 2010 to December 2011.  He has been a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund, the Bank of England, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Boston, Dallas, and San Francisco.  His research interests include international macroeconomic policy, international capital markets, the effects of international factors on United States labor markets, exchange rate policy, and foreign direct investment. He has published extensively in scholarly journals, and is the co-author of two scholarly books, Job Creation, Job Destruction and International Competition (2003), and Exchange Rate Regimes in the Modern Era (2010), and is the author of the textbook Mathematical Methods for Economics (2nd edition 2002).  He is also the author of the novel Something for Nothing (2011), an academic satire.  He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University.

His Talk:

Treasury Notes

Guest Speakers

Neil Levine


Neil Levine is the Director of the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG Center) within the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID. In 2014, Neil returned to USAID from an assignment as Assistant Professor of Strategic Leadership at the National Defense University Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, honing his passion for leadership, teaching and unlocking excellence. Neil brings with him a long history and deep knowledge of democracy, human rights and governance programming.  He served as Director of the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation from 2008-2013 and as Chief of the Governance Division in the then Global Bureau Democracy and Governance Center from 2000-2007.

A veteran Latin Americanist, Neil was deputy director for USAID’s Office of Central American Affairs from 1995-2000, and worked on Latin America issues on Capitol Hill for over a decade. He has Masters degrees from the National War College and Columbia University and a B.A. in International Studies from Earlham College.

His Talk:

Thinking and Working Politically: How USAID uses Political Economy Analysis to Bridge the Policy-Implementation Gap

Maria Stephan

Senior Policy Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace

Dr. Maria J. Stephan is a senior policy fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she focuses on civil resistance, nonviolent movements and their relevance to conflict transformation and democratic development. At the Atlantic Council she co-leads the Future of Authoritarianism project. Previously, Stephan was lead foreign affairs officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), where she worked on both policy and operations for Afghanistan and Syria engagements. Earlier, Stephan directed policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), a private foundation dedicated to developing and disseminating knowledge about nonviolent struggle. She simultaneously taught courses on human rights and civil resistance at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and American University’s School of International Service. She is the recipient of Harry S. Truman and J. William Fulbright national scholarships. She holds an MA and PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. Stephan, who is from Vermont, is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Her Talk:

The Power of the Grassroots: Why Movements Matter to Peace and Democratic Development

Deborah Avant

Josef Korbel School of International Studies


Dr. Deborah Avant is the Sié Chéou-Kang Chair for International Security and Diplomacy and Director of the Sié Center. She is also the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the ISA’s newly launched Journal of Global Security Studies. Her research focuses on civil-military relations, the roles of non-state actors in security, the politics of controlling violence, and global governance. Under her leadership the Sié Chéou-Kang Center launched the Private Security Monitor, an annotated guide to regulation, data and analyses of global private military and security services, in 2012. In 2013 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of St. Gallen for her research and contribution toward regulating private military and security companies. Prior to joining the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, she held positions at the University of California, Irvine and George Washington University.

Her Talk:

What really affects violence in conflicts?

Thania Paffenholz

Director of the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative, Graduate Institute Geneva

Dr. Thania Paffenholz is the Director of the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative (IPTI) at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. With over 25 years of experience as both an academic and policy advisor, Dr. Paffenholz is internationally renowned for her work on and in support of peace and political transition processes worldwide, focusing on mediation and peacebuilding, process design, inclusion and participation, as well as the conditions under which these processes produce sustainable outcomes. In recognition of her work, Dr. Paffenholz received the prestigious Wihuri International Prize in 2015. Dr. Paffenholz has roots in Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Her Talk:

How research can successfully influence peace processes: seven conditions.

Matthew Merighi


Matthew Merighi is an Assistant Director in the Maritime Studies Program at the Fletcher School.  He also serves as Executive Director of Blue Water Metrics, a startup non-profit working in the field of ocean health and maritime science.  He is a former civilian employee of the United States Air Force where he served as a Country Director, Tradeshow Director, and Executive Officer.  His talk, titled “The Bureaucrat’s World” addresses how bureaucrats behave in their jobs, how they process new ideas, and how academics can position their work to maximize adoption in government agencies. 

His Talk:

The Bureaucrat's World

Rahul Chandran

Rahul Chandran is a Senior Policy Adviser with the UNU Centre for Policy Research. His previous experience covers the areas of peacekeeping, development and humanitarianism, as well as a focus on UN reform. Before rejoining the United Nations, Mr. Chandran was the Deputy Director of the Center on International Cooperation, where he also helped to run the Afghanistan Reconstruction Program. In 2008, he was the lead author of “From Fragility to Resilience” for the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, as well as “Recovering From War”, a report commissioned by the British government. Mr. Chandran also currently serves on the Consortium Advisory Group for the UK Department for International Development’s Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, and acts as a peer reviewer for a number of journals. Mr. Chandran holds degrees from Yale University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

His Talk:

Stay With Me

Student Speakers

Mariya Ilyas

Fletcher School


Mariya Ilyas is a MALD 2018 student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, focusing on International Security and Global Maritime Studies. As a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow, she will join the U.S. Foreign Service upon graduation. Prior to Fletcher, she worked in both the public and private sectors: serving as a Fulbright Fellow in Turkey, interning at The White House and the U.S. Department of State, and working for a fortune-100 company in Boston. Her talk, titled “The Power of Blogs,” encourages academics to utilize this social platform to create credible online communities that can directly and indirectly impact policymakers. 


Her Talk:

The Power of Blogs