UW-Madison alumni discuss importance of languages in careers

Having worked in many countries including France, Morocco, the Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Peru and Brazil, three of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s alumni know firsthand how essential their studies in French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese have been to their international development work.

“Proficiency in the local language is really invaluable to be able to engage directly with local partners, understand what they are thinking and to create trust and confidence with them,” says Malcolm Childress, UW-Madison alumnus and senior land administration specialist with the World Bank. “In some areas, such as Latin America, knowing the language is a basic prerequisite for working in the country.”

On Monday, Oct. 15, UW-Madison’s Language Institute will host Childress and two other UW-Madison alumni for a panel discussion titled “Language for Life: Languages and International Development.” The event will be held at 4 p.m. in 6104 Sewell Social Science Building, 1180 Observatory Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists include:

  • Stephan Boucher, assistant professor in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis. Boucher speaks Portuguese and Spanish and majored in Spanish, Ibero-American studies and economics while at UW-Madison. In his current work, Boucher focuses on how well markets for land, labor and credit perform for the rural poor in Latin America.
  • Malcolm Childress, senior land administration specialist, World Bank. Childress speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Russian and received his Ph.D. in development studies. Childress leads projects and policy dialogues dealing with land policy and rural development for the World Bank in South America. His current work focuses on Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.
  • Nick Magnan, Ph.D. candidate in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis. Magnan speaks French, Portuguese and Spanish and majored in biology while at UW-Madison. Magnan does research on sustainable agricultural practices in developing countries and recently returned from a summer of fieldwork in Morocco.

The panelists will discuss the myriad ways in which proficiency in second languages is essential to their careers in international development.

Language for Life is an ongoing Language Institute program that gives current UW-Madison students the opportunity to meet alumni who studied languages here and are using them in their careers. A program of the UW-Madison Language Institute, Language for Life is made possible by the generous support of the College of Letters and Science Anonymous Fund.

The Language Institute promotes collaboration for research, education and community outreach in languages, literatures and cultures. The Language Institute is an initiative of the College of Letters and Science, with substantial support from the Division of International Studies.