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Department: French and Italian

Michaels-Berger French and Italian

Elyse Michaels-Berger ’95

Academic Director, MBA Program, École des Hautes Études Commerciales

An international perspective

As a sophomore at Princeton, the choice to major in Romance languages and literatures appeared quite natural to me, given my love for French and Italian language and literature, as well as the inspiration of my French professor, Karen McPherson. I undoubtedly felt an influence from friends, family members, and others to choose a different major that might prove more “marketable” in my future career search; however, I chose to follow my intellectual passion for languages. I would never have known it then, but this decision would also ultimately allow me to explore interests in international politics, education, and business throughout both my education and in my career.

Choosing to major in Romance languages and literature, I was able to spend my junior year abroad in Paris, where I seized the opportunity to study language, literature, political science, and business—all in French. Upon my return to Princeton, I found many of my peers focused on the same world I had left; whereas I returned with a greater real-world perspective on the opportunities that knowledge of other languages would provide. Furthermore, on campus at Princeton, I knew that the study of French would not be limited to language courses; but rather, the tremendous course offerings at Princeton in economics, politics, and language would allow me to build on the learning that I had acquired abroad.

A marketable skill

Later I recognized that my choice of concentration also offered a unique advantage in the workplace; recruiters in the consulting field acknowledged that a language major with the same skills as a “more traditional” major could be equally trained, yet would offer greater diversity to their professional environment. Upon graduation, I returned to France to earn my MBA (in French!), and then entered the field of consulting, working both in Europe and the United States. Without my studies in French and experience studying abroad, I would never have pursued this path.

Currently I am the academic director of the HEC (Hautes Études Commerciales) MBA Program, a bilingual program in France, where one of my main goals is to impress upon our students that intercultural learning and experiences are key elements for success in today’s global society. As a student at Princeton, I was unaware that such a position existed that would so completely combine my interests in education, business, and languages. It was the intuitive decision I made at Princeton to follow my intellectual passion for language studies, though, that opened the doors for me to follow such a rewarding career path. I strongly encourage you to consider doing the same.