Finding Their True North

Reeta Roy, F89, CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, tells Fletcher School students that their values should serve as their compass
Reeta Roy at Tufts
“Sometimes you need to operate with a hawk’s mind, even if you have a dove’s heart,” said Reeta Roy. Photo: Anna Miller
September 11, 2017

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In these turbulent and uncertain times, the world needs more of the cross-cultural understanding and ethical leadership that graduates of the Fletcher School can provide, said Reeta Roy, F89, at the school’s convocation on September 8.

A Fletcher education has “never been more relevant and never more needed,” said Roy, who is president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. She urged students to combine intellectual agility with emotional intelligence and let “vision and values serve as your compass.”

In the nine years that Roy has helmed the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, it has committed almost $2.1 billion to education and financial inclusion programs in 30 countries in Africa, reaching more than 23 million people living in poverty. While leading the foundation from startup mode to its current programs, Roy said, she has realized the value of listening to and learning from those who are living with problems such as lack of education and job opportunities, and providing them tools to change their own lives.

She has also discovered the importance of moving beyond simplistic labels. When she lived at Fletcher’s Blakeley Hall, she said, students holding late-night kitchen debates sometimes called each other as hawks or doves, depending on their approaches to resolving international problems. But over time, her understanding and that of her classmates became more nuanced, she said. Through her career, she came to see that “sometimes you need to operate with a hawk’s mind, even if you have a dove’s heart.”

Roy urged students to be more aware of power dynamics as they take on leadership roles. Otherwise, she said, people with less power and resources may defer to the leader’s authority so much that they won’t explain what isn’t working, and well-intentioned programs may fail. She also encouraged students to consider the tone in their communications with colleagues, so they can work together on “tackling a problem, not tackling each other.”

Roy was awarded the Fletcher Class of 1947 Memorial Award, presented by Dean James Stavridis, F83, F84. The Faculty Research Award was presented to Jenny Aker, an associate professor of development economics at Fletcher and in the Department of Economics at Tufts. Student Archibald Henry, F18, received the Alfred P. Rubin Prize in International Law. Molly Haragan, F18, gave the convocation remarks on behalf of students.

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

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