Thirty two years, 12 countries and numerous global conflicts later, Marguerite R. Roy, J.D., '82, returned to her alma mater for the 2014 spring semester. She did not enroll as a graduate student, but rather embarked on another career as a visiting professor in the Department of History and Government to develop international programs and internships.
Roy knows firsthand how “you can recreate yourself at any age.'' In her twenties, she established a career in sales before returning to France to perfect the language she studied and developed further while studying abroad in her junior year while attending Misericordia. All along, Roy knew she would have to speak another language in order to realize her ultimate goal of working overseas in developing countries. At the age of 30, she officially began her journey when she signed up with the Peace Corps of the United States as a volunteer and technical advisor in Guinea, West Africa.
Roy remains especially fond of her time in Guinea. It is the place where her journey as an international peacekeeper began in 1990 and it is also where she started doing secondary projects in her free time. In this case, she worked to secure funding and oversaw the completion of lavatory facilities for a primary school that was housed in a ramshackle, half-completed building.
Upon the completion of the project, she witnessed the impact relationship building and good intentions can have on people in any part of the world – no matter their race, nationality or ethnicity. “I accompanied the governor and the mayor of the area to visit the school on the opening day of classes and we walked into a first-grade classroom to say hello to the kids,'' recalls Roy, who shares the anecdote often. “The primary school director pointed first to the governor and asked if the kids knew him, to which they responded in unison, 'no!' He did the same for the mayor and received the same response.
“When it came my turn, the kids all responded emphatically, 'yes, we know her! She's the lady who built our toilets!' Leave it to kids to humble even a governor.''
Before she departed Guinea, Roy managed to complete many more “secondary projects,'' including three classrooms in the Fria area where 180 children can now attend school and a medical post in Fandjeta where, beforehand, women had to be carried on stretchers or walk nearly 10 miles to a medical facility to have a baby.
“These are things that directly impact people – their health and their families,'' she proudly states. “For the most part, though, I get on with the job and do not really think about this aspect, but it is one of the main things that motivates me.''
Since then, she has served as somewhat of a troubleshooter for the Peace Corps, the United Nations and other international programs that aid developing countries, and assist displaced citizens and rebuilding countries due to internal political strife and war, like Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Ivory Coast.
Those short- and long-term assignments also have had Roy in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco and Albania. Each country presented its own unique set of challenges and rewards, as Misericordia's magna cum laude, business administration graduate set out to complete her matter-of-fact assignments, while also working on the human elements of the job.
“When you commit to do the type of work peacekeeping involves, you need to become familiar with a situation in a short period of time,'' Roy explains. “You see what is in front of you and you use your best instincts to do the job you were sent there to do. The main motivation is to assist the innocent people suffering in the midst of the chaos. It pushes you to want it to end – to be able to reach them and help to alleviate their suffering.''
After years of war and ethnic cleansing, the United Nations entered Kosovo with the arduous task of reuniting a country divided largely along ethnic lines and rebuilding its infrastructure. Roy was assigned initially to Elbasan, Albania, working with Kosovan refugees as a community rehabilitation specialist with her responsibilities growing with the U.N. in Kosovo to education and health officer, municipal administrator, deputy regional administrator and regional administrator in Vitina, Kamenica, Peje, and Mitrovica.
The dank weather remains vivid to this day for Roy, as Vitina, Kosovo lacked running water, heat and the comfort of safety. “Within the first month after I arrived there were a number of anti-tank explosions in close proximity to where I was working,'' says Roy, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Misericordia in 2008. “The main reason for these attacks was to intimidate the remaining Serbs to force them to leave.''
Despite the challenging conditions, Roy and her staff worked tirelessly with the Serbs, Romas and Albanians to re-establish access to hospitals, schools, employment and more for all citizens.
“One of the most challenging situations I had to deal with as municipal administrator in Kamenica, Kosovo, was how to convince the Albanians to make one school available for the Serbs so that they too could send their children to school,'' says Roy, who was shot at and a U.S. soldier killed in the municipality in which she worked to re-establish relations among the formerly warring ethnic groups. “If this had not happened, many more Serbs would have been forced to return to Serbia to educate their children.''
Roy spent the better part of three years in Kosovo working to make life better for everyone. By the time she accepted a new assignment in another troubled part of the world, she had established pre-electoral and post-electoral phases in the Municipality of Kamenica, oversaw the transition to self-governance, negotiated with Albanian and Serbian political leaders to form inclusive municipal government structures, ensured implementation of strategic plans with U.N. agencies, NATO forces and law enforcement, and was recognized with the Commander's Award for Public Service Medal from the U.S. Department of the Army, the Medaille Commemorative from the French military, and numerous other citations and awards.
Her peacekeeping role expanded in Afghanistan, as she served as the head of office for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Mazar-e-Sharif (northern Afghanistan) and in Gardez (southeastern Afghanistan) from 2007-10. She coordinated and managed programs that fostered human rights and prevented conflict, and also facilitated dialogue and cooperation between diverse groups. The overall goal of her work was running U.N. operations in both regions and acting as the area security coordinator.
The Cote D'Ivoire or Ivory Coast has been plagued by political crises for generations. For more than three years, she served as the head of the political affairs division and then as principal advisor to the special representative of the secretary general for the United Nations' operations that worked to establish and maintain political dialogue among senior government officials and members of the majority and minority political parties, while also working toward national reconciliation.
Reconciliation or inclusiveness remains the common thread that binds these nations to the United Nations and the specialty work of peacekeepers, like Roy. They work side-by-side with government leaders, citizens and religious groups in these troubled nations, oftentimes in dangerous, unforgiving conditions. Is the United Nations accomplishing is overarching goal in today's challenging world?
Roy says that is a difficult question to answer as deadly civil wars and conflicts erupt seemingly on a daily basis around the globe. The better question to ask, she says, is what is the alternative? “There needs to be a system of international checks and balances,'' she says. “The U.N. appears to be the one organization able to do this so in this regard, it has a duty to at least work toward accomplishing its goals.''
In the meantime, Roy is sharing the experience and knowledge she gained working in international hot zones with Misericordia University students. Leaders from the Ivory Coast, Afghanistan, NATO and the Democratic Republic of Congo have shared their country's unique stories and challenges with interested students.
“I wanted to give back and share my passion for what I do,'' Roy says, explaining why she returned to her alma mater. “I am a proud graduate of Misericordia University and I believe that we need to become more global in our thinking and in what and where our students study. I believe this has an even greater impact coming from someone who has been where they are. I was raised on a farm in upstate New York and I moved to northeastern Pennsylvania when I was 13, so I am also from the area.''
“I would love to be able to inspire a few of them into pursuing an international career,'' she acknowledges. “I would not trade my life. It has been rich and there is still more to come and I want students to understand that you can recreate yourself at any age. Life is a journey and it can be very exciting. It is not easy to say that a person has to move away to have this, but there is a whole other world out there and it is very exciting to see and experience other places and people.'