Coming Back to Tufts

Four alumni are now enrolled in the Global Master of Arts Program, the program in international affairs that combines residency sessions and online studies
Tom Gorman, A82; Brian Radliffe; Irshad Mecca, A90; Priscilla Billings Johnson Wong, J87, A16P, A20P
From left, Tom Gorman, A82; Brian Radliffe; Irshad Mecca, A90; Priscilla Billings Johnson Wong, J87, A16P, A20P. Photo: Caitlin Cunningham
October 27, 2017

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If you’re a Tufts graduate, it turns out you can go home again. Four alumni are doing just that this year by returning to the university to earn master’s degrees at the Fletcher School through its low-residency program. The group includes two retired business leaders, a dedicated volunteer seeking a career change, and the managing director of a family shoe-making company.

The Global Master of Arts Program, called GMAP, is tough but “it’s a really great fit,” said Priscilla Billings Johnson Wong, J87, A16P, A20P, who is based in Connecticut and serves as the volunteer president of the nonprofit Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. “It opens your eyes to all kinds of possibilities.” Having worked in fund-raising, she hopes to transition into nonprofit program management, with a focus on education and international antipoverty efforts.

Tom Gorman, A82, enrolled as he prepared to retire from his position as CEO of Brambles, Ltd., after nine years with the global supply-chain logistics company based in Australia. “It’s not so much about the grade like it was as an undergrad. I’m really here to learn at a much deeper level,” he said. “The readings have been great; the professors have been stimulating; the students bring a diverse set of experiences and are incredibly capable.” While Gorman had feared that retirement would lack intellectual excitement, he now finds himself studying about 20 hours a week, often late at night or early in the morning, since he continues to work as a consultant.

GMAP is a hybrid master’s program in international affairs that combines residency sessions and online studies. Students participate in person for three two-week residencies during the twelve months of the program, which makes it possible for many to earn the degree while continuing to work full-time all over the world. 

Two of the residencies are on the Medford campus, which is particularly interesting for those who studied at Tufts as undergraduates. Returning to campus for the August residency this past summer “was both thrilling and a bit scary,” said Brian Radliffe, who studied economics at Tufts in the mid-1970s and went on to a long career at AT&T, retiring as director of global business development. “Back on the Hill, going to classes, and living in a dormitory again. Wow!”

Radliffe, who lives in New Jersey, decided to pursue the GMAP degree after visiting the Fletcher School in connection with a scholarship he helped establish in memory of his brother, journalist Harry A. Radliffe II, A71, F73. “I’ve always admired the Fletcher School and that admiration was kicked up several notches higher when I met the first four Radliffe scholars,” he said. After completing the degree, he hopes to advise global organizations on how to implement or improve their operations in an increasingly complex international environment.

Irshad Mecca, A90, is in the thick of that complex environment every day, as managing director and CEO of Farida Shoes India, a third-generation family leather and footwear manufacturing business that employs 24,450 people in rural south India. He said he and his family have introduced innovative health, safety, and education programs to help their workers, 95 percent of whom are women.

“Since my undergraduate days at Tufts, I always aspired to study at Fletcher and to go out and change the world,” he said. “Today, 27 years later, I am fortunately in a position where I can make a much bigger contribution to society, with my practical knowledge, and by being able to influence government policy. I am confident Fletcher will qualify me to pursue these ideals most effectively.”

For these four GMAP students, who will complete the program in the summer of 2018, returning to Tufts for a second degree is an extension of a life already tied to the university in multiple ways. In addition to Radliffe’s connection to the university, both Gorman and Wong are married to Tufts graduates they met as students: Lisa Gorman, J81, and James Wong, A86. The Wongs’ children include a current Tufts student and a Tufts alumnus. And Mecca’s brother, Ashfaque Mecca, graduated from the university in 1995.

Gorman said that he urges others approaching career transitions to consider how they will take care of their mind, body, and soul. For him, he said, “Fletcher helps with the ‘mind’ part.”

Heather Stephenson can be reached at heather.stephenson@tufts.edu.

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