Alumni Profile: Megan Hall, Ph.D.
Megan Hall was part of the first Middle School graduating class. Now, she’s back at French International as a parent and working with the Oregon viticulture and vineyard community.
Years Attended French International: 1992-2001 (Kindergarten-8th Grade)
Where did life take you after you graduated from Middle School?
It’s been a journey. I went to Lincoln [High School] and I did the full IB Program. I went to the University of Toronto. I started working in community organizing in my neighborhood in Toronto. I did my Masters at York University in Toronto in Sociology and Law. I was interested in that intersection between people and law and organizing. After that, I moved to New York City and I worked in community politics. After a year, I did some soul-searching and thought about what matters to me. I wanted to be around community. I wanted to do something where I could travel and work with people from different parts of the world and use my different languages. I also wanted to be outside. I kind of took a left turn and I decided to go into wine. I enrolled in Chemeketa Community College’s Vineyard Management program. I was taking vineyard management classes and I was outside. After taking some science courses at Portland State, I moved out to Cornell and started my Ph.D. I spent five years in the Finger Lakes and I did my Ph.D. in Grapevine Pathology. The wine industry checked every box for me, in terms of people, and working with growers, and getting to travel. There are so many aspects of it that were what I really wanted and it turns out I really love science. I did my Ph.D. and I met my husband [Alex] at Cornell. We had Maggie [our daughter] right before I defended my dissertation. I had her in August and I defended in December. When [Maggie] was four months, we moved to Columbia, Missouri. I was an assistant professor in plant sciences at the University of Missouri. Alex got his Ph.D., and there were jobs that came up working for Gallo, the world’s largest winery, so we moved to Sonoma County. Then we had Huon, our younger son. We liked Sonoma County, but it wasn’t home. Portland was where we wanted to be for family and things we loved. We made the decision and our first call was to Kate [Director of Admissions] and our second thing was trying to find a house. I run my own business now. I’m an academic science writer and editor. And then, Alex and I run a consulting company based in grape and wine research. I do viticulture research consulting and help growers grow better grapes more sustainably. I still have one foot in that very firmly and I love the grape and wine industry.
How did French International influence who you are today?
It’s hard to overstate what a beautiful environment the school provided. We grew up being exposed to so much culture and that is such a deep part of your learning experience at French International. I would say the idea that art, music, and literature are fundamental components of learning is deeply embedded in me. [French International] instilled in me a complete love of traveling and language and that’s something I’ve never stopped pursuing. I see it emerging in my child. She’s already excited to go to France in fifth grade. She hears people speaking different languages and she’s curious about that language. It’s a way of breaking down all the barriers in the world and I think it really does change your perspective. The school has gotten a lot bigger since I was there, but I feel like the community 26 French International School of Oregon feeling is still there. It was just something I immediately knew I wanted for my kids.
Any favorite or distinct memories about your time at French International?
I have so many memories. I hate to say recess, but we used to play obsessive four square and kickball, especially at the old campus. I loved all my teachers. Some of the most vivid memories are of the fifth-grade and eighth-grade trips. That fifth-grade trip to France was very important to me and I have tons of memories of that experience of being away from my parents for the first time. People would move to Portland from different places in the world. Sometimes they would come to the school for two years or four years or one year and they would go elsewhere in the world afterwards. When I kept in touch with those people, I felt like the world was a little bit smaller. One of my best friends from elementary school was from the south of France. When her family left Portland and moved back to France, I went to see her. I still keep in touch with my fifth-grade French correspondent in Brittany. She has a kid my daughter’s age. It just makes you feel like the world is something you don’t have to be afraid of.
What made you choose this school for your children?
For me, it was a no-brainer. I had a beautiful experience growing up. It was a wonderful community, I made lifelong friends. I want [my kids] to be exposed to as many things as possible within a safe environment. I want them to feel like they can be their complete selves and explore all the different aspects of who they are as people. I feel like they can be the best version of themselves at French International within the supportive community. I think speaking another language from the beginning really makes a huge difference in your perspective and in your life. I want that for my kids. What does your husband think about the school? He never voiced any doubts, but I am very outspoken about how much I love the school. He has fallen for it. We knew this was going to be a big transition moving from another place and [Maggie] starting at a new school in the middle of the year. Of all the things in parenthood that are hard, this has been the least-hard thing. It’s been amazing. It took two days for her to be excited to go to school. Alex said, whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right.