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Oak Leaves

November 22, 2019


Chris Francois

Francois hopes one day to become a minister of health for Haiti. 

Photo provided by Chris Francois

Senior Spotlight on Chris Francois: Peace Studies Major, Cofounder of Health Initiative 


Erica Mohr

 

College is about the art of juggling— coursework, sometimes practices and games, all while maintaining a certain GPA. However, Chris Francois is juggling significantly more than an average student. Just a few of their responsibilities include being a resident assistant, running two companies, and being active in several different clubs. Francois is a senior at Manchester University from Haiti and wears many hats for their different roles on campus.

Francois will be graduating this year with a degree in peace studies, and Manchester’s peace studies program is one of the reasons that drew them here. “The peace studies program is just fantastic here.” Francois said. “Just knowing that it was the first program in the world and knowing I could get an education that was tight knit really drew me here.” The peace studies program has been a positive influence on them throughout their four years at Manchester. “I got to present my research at the top undergraduate conference for peace studies at Notre Dame and that was because of the alumni connections that faculty here have,” Francois said.

Francois was the odd one out in their family, choosing to follow a social science instead of a more math-based science. “My family is very traditional, my mom is a doctor and a professor, my dad is a banker and my stepdad is a doctor,” Francois said. “I was going to go into engineering to follow the traditional STEM hard-science kind of route, but my mom has been involved in a lot of charity work. I got an award this year and she actually got the same award quite literally a decade ago. Peace studies was a calling for me; it just fits.”

One of the many responsibilities Francois has is that they are the vice president, cofounder, and director of Marketing and Communications for the Delice Dental Health Initiative. Francois was 16 when they helped to co-fund this project, a nonprofit based on giving inexpensive or free dental health to citizens of Haiti. This whole initiative is a “labor of love” because it is completely entirely volunteer based.

Francois tries to stay connected with Haiti a few ways, although it can be difficult as they are the only Haitian on campus. “I have a ritual where I cook Haitian spaghetti; it’s a special kind of spaghetti, where you eat it for breakfast, and I make it every Saturday,” Francois said. “It’s the easiest dish to make with the ingredients here.” Another way they stay connected to their culture is how they speak Haitian Creole when on the phone with their parents.

In their room, there is a giant Haitian flag hanging on the wall, and there are books scattered on their desk, many with titles concerning racism in the Dominican Republic. “I do a lot of academic work on Haiti to the point where my professors don’t like it because they haven’t done much research work on Haiti,” Francois said.

Francois is currently still looking at graduate schools, with one option being the University of Notre Dame, because of historic connections between Manchester and Notre Dame, and they plan to pursue a degree in evidence-based social intervention and social policy. “I’m really interested in a program that will combine international development, peace studies, public policy and social policy health care,” Francois said. “In 10-20 years I definitely see myself as a minister of health for Haiti, it’s my dream job.”