Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

ROSA LUGOS | Sense of Mission

Having lived in five different countries over the past 12 years, Rosa Lugos needed time away from work to recharge. In her profession—international development and humanitarian assistance—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 as a Kathryn Davis Fellow was not the time out from intensity she had expected. “I worked harder than ever,” she says. “My fellow students were so accomplished and poised, but every other day someone burst into tears.” 

The demands of the program were heavy, but the effort paid off for Rosa, who returned to Haiti with a more advanced command of the language. 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-building 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 and reconstruction that is most challenging.”

Rosa enjoys her work in Haiti, where she is now at the United Nations Children’s Fund—and she often finds the arduous task of sustainable development to be more rewarding than the crisis response she did in the past. Before Haiti she worked in Senegal, also for the World Food Program. There she participated in the 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. When she arrived in Senegal, she had to hit the ground running in every sense, including with her French, which had lain dormant since college. 

“Money flows when there’s a crisis. It’s the long-term, less glamorous work of recovery and reconstruction that is most challenging.”

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 course work 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, Rosa 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 francophone donors 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.”