Middlebury Voices

Kathryn Davis Fellow Rosa Charpentier is using her enhanced command of French to work on sustainable development in Haiti.

LIVING THE LANGUAGE

Rosa Charpentier

Grew up in: The Philippines

Master’s degree: In public administration from New York University

Studies supported by: A Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace

Middlebury Language School: Betty Ashbury Jones MA ’86 School of French

Work experience: Before Haiti, Rosa worked for the World Food Program doing crisis response in Senegal. She participated in the WFP’s response to the Sahel Crisis of 2012, in which nine African countries were struck by hunger due to a perfect storm of climate change, low agricultural production, and spiking food prices.

Having lived in five different countries over the past 12 years, Rosa Charpentier needed time away from work to recharge. In her profession—international development and humanitarian aid—burnout can be endemic. She also wanted to take her French to the next level, so a summer at Middlebury made sense. But what she encountered in the Betty Ashbury Jones MA ’86 School of French was not the time-out from intensity she had expected. “I worked harder than ever there,” she says.

“If I can communicate effectively with donor countries and make the case for helping Haiti, that will be my contribution. If I’m working myself out of a job, I’m doing well.”

—Rosa Charpentier    

MAKING THE CASE FOR HAITI

The effort paid off for Rosa, who returned to Haiti with a more advanced command of the language needed for her work on sustainable development with the United Nations Children's Fund. Before coming to Middlebury, in her external affairs consultancy with the World Food Program, she was tasked with helping convince donor countries to invest in relief as well as longer-term capacity-buiding activities in the country. This required a level of formality and nuance she couldn’t fully muster before Middlebury.

“For negotiation and persuasion, I needed a higher level of French,” she says. “Five years after the earthquake, Haiti is no longer making headlines, but the needs there are still great. Money flows when there's a crisis. It’s the long-term, less glamorous work of recovery that is most challenging.”

A KEEN SENSE OF MISSION

After having studied languages as an undergraduate in the Philippines, Rosa immigrated with her family to the U.S. and earned a master’s in public administration from New York University. She was especially drawn to her coursework in international development.

“This field made sense to me—it resonated with my background growing up in a developing country. It was both intellectually engaging and emotionally satisfying.” More than a decade into her career, she has retained this sense of satisfaction—and a keen sense of mission.

In Haiti, the needs of the population are many, and they are great. “If I can communicate effectively with donor countries and make the case for helping Haiti, that will be my contribution," Rosa says. “If I’m working myself out of a job,
I’m doing well.”