The French Connection
As a freshman, Heidi Phelps planned a career in fashion design, but French studies drew her like a magnet. The Narragansett native now finds herself serving as the assistant to the Cultural Attaché at the French Consulate in Boston, a position she started right after New Year’s Day.
“I am unbelievably excited about the work that I’ll be doing here,” she said. “I have already learned so much.”
Learning has always been her focus. One of her URI mentors, Alain-Philippe Durand, describes Phelps as a devoted student who showed great enthusiasm for French studies. She impressed him enough that he hired her to teach two sections of Introductory French last fall after she completed graduate studies at the University of Kansas. “Although [the consulate job] was a very competitive job application with hundreds of applicants from New England and beyond, I’m not surprised that Ms. Phelps got it,” Durand said.
After taking intermediate French courses to fulfill degree requirements at URI, Phelps took a course on French female authors—which inspired her to change her major—as it incorporated her enjoyment of French with her interests in world literature, history, and women’s studies. “I realized how much I genuinely enjoyed studying French and was struck by how much I learned not only about France and French culture but various cultures throughout the Francophone world,” she recalled.
In her position at the French Consulate she’s writing a bi-monthly newsletter, drafting letters and speeches, and writing French to English translations. She has also worked on a statewide educational program to promote French language and culture in Massachusetts schools.
“I am very grateful for the education that I received at URI,” said Phelps, who occasionally serves as a DJ and hosted an all-French dance party at a coffeehouse in Providence recently. “I sincerely feel it could serve me in a number of different career fields, particularly those that stress the importance of communication, analytical skills, and world knowledge.”
—John Pantalone ’71