Martin Roach '12

Martin Roach ’12 majored in French and Economics. He graduated Cum Laude and was the 2012 recipient of the Shelly Moorman Outstanding Student Award in French. As an undergraduate, he spent a year studying abroad in France and also participated in an international service-learning project focused on the development of a seed-potato industry in Mali. After graduation, Martin went on to pursue an M.A. in Economics and Management of Network Industries (EMIN) through the Erasmus Mundus program in France and Spain.

Below Martin responds to a few questions about his experiences since graduating from St. Thomas.

What have you been doing since graduating from St. Thomas?

Following graduation at St. Thomas where I double majored in International Economics and French, I applied for an Erasmus Mundus Master's program in the European Union. The joint degree - Economics and Management of Network Industries - consisted of a two year full scholarship program in two host countries, Spain and France. This interdisciplinary specialization covered both the regulation of the electric power industry and the impacts of digital technologies on society and business. 

Upon completion of my studies, I returned to the USA to work for an international IT company that builds software solutions for automating and managing electric utility operations. I gained additional experience as a business analyst at Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company. I arrived at Vlerick Business School in Brussels this past fall to lead research on the digital transformation of the electricity network businesses with our chair partner KPMG. 

The transition to a decentralized, decarbonized and digital energy system will be one of the greatest opportunities in the 21st century to eliminate the threats associated with climate change and achieve economic growth. The European Commission released the Clean Energy for All Europeans package in November 2016 which is a set of energy policy proposals and regulations that set the vision on the 2030 horizon for the European Union. I tackle research questions related to the future of the utility business model and how it will evolve to cope with the regulatory and technological changes confronting the sector. 

Why did you decide to major in French?

When I first decided to pursue French as a major, I was motivated by improving my prospects of getting hired by an international company and complementing my other major in international economics. I was also looking forward to studying abroad, and given my prior knowledge of French before college it seemed like a natural fit. In hindsight, I see the greatest gift of language learning is not transactional, it is much beyond the ability to speak, read, or write the language for communication purposes. Instead, I think the way in which your perspective changes when grasping a language and experiencing the richness of the culture can be life changing. 

How has knowing French benefited you personally and professionally?

My French language experience is the bedrock that has given me countless opportunities to have an international career path and most importantly discover who I am. It was a significant help in learning Spanish when I arrived in Spain as well. 

It would be a challenge to list the number of internships, volunteer positions, and jobs where the language and international dimension of my experience was a defining factor for being selected by the organization. Lastly, my exposure to culture and languages has been instrumental in consciously developing a way of understanding how the world functions and in instigating curiosity.  

What advice would you give to incoming or current students who are considering majoring or minoring in French?

There are a number of reasons to minor or major in a language, from international career aspirations to the love of French culture and arts. I would advise completing a study abroad program for at least one semester to get the full immersion experience which is also quite transformational from a life experience perspective. Lastly, I would add that learning how to think critically in a foreign language is a core skill that is not easily replicable by informal online language learning offerings, e.g. Duolingo.  

Bon courage!