Five Questions with Chantal Donaghy
Chantal Donaghy has lived all around the world, but made Chapel Hill her home.
Name: Chantal Donaghy
Position: Administrative assistant to the director, Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP) and North Carolina Institute of Public Health
Years at Gillings: 15
What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): People always say I’m the glue of the program. I’ve been here for so long that I’ve become a go-to resource for faculty and staff. I support Anna Schenck, the director, by coordinating her calendar – she’s constantly in meetings or traveling. I also support faculty with things like coordinating search committee meetings and ordering books. Over the course of 15 years, I’ve definitely seen the program change. In 2003, I started working full-time for PHLP after being a temporary employee for two years. Since then, our program has grown and we have much larger cohorts than we used to. There was a time when we had about 20 people per group. Now, we have about 200 students each year!
What I love most about my job is working with students. Many of our students are older and have spent 10 or 15 years in the workforce. I also adore that many of our international students come to talk with me because I have so much travel in my background. I also love my colleagues – they are the reason I’ve stayed here so long.
I am originally from: all over! I’m half Belgian and half French. When I was eight, my family moved to a town on the North Sea in Holland. My father was a professor of French, Latin and philosophy, and he taught for the Navy, so our time in Holland was a two-year assignment that somehow morphed into many years. When I was older, I attended an international secretarial school in Amsterdam. I was (and still am) fluent in English, German, French and Dutch, and after school I took a job with the Belgian embassy in South Korea.
When I chose to move to North Carolina, the excellent school system was a big part of why I picked Chapel Hill. I could have gone almost any place in the world, but there were so many opportunities here for wonderful in-state schools. (My daughter did end up attending UNC for her undergraduate studies!) I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for 18 years now, which is longer than I’ve spent in any other place. This is my home. I recently applied for United States citizenship, because more than ever I am feeling a strong need to vote. I hope I’m approved by November 8!
To start a conversation with me, try talking about: places you have visited. I love to know where people have traveled and lived. The Triangle area is very international, which is part of why I feel at home here. I also love to talk about cooking. Southern Season is one of my favorite grocery stores, both because it carries all the ingredients I need to cook international foods and because I hear so many other languages spoken when I shop there.
During the last four years, I’ve also been exploring pockets of America. I’ve been to national parks in Arizona and Utah and traveled northeast all the way to Maine. At this point, I imagine I’ve visited more states than most Americans!
When I’m not at work, I like to: exercise. Seriously! My partner’s work involves a lot of wining and dining, so we work out to make up for all the indulgence. He’s a former college football player and coach, so he keeps me inspired. We go to the Wellness Center in Meadowmont and I see so many of my colleagues there in the mornings – I feel like Gillings School employees fill up half the gym! I especially like to take walks, play tennis, ride my bicycle and do P90X workouts. I’m also a big fan of the Culture of Health at the Gillings School – I love Penny’s classes.
When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be: a veterinarian. I’m a huge animal lover and have two cats at home. Honestly, I cannot even bring myself to kill a fly. If I really had a chance to do things over, though, I think I’d be a nutritionist. I have a deep appreciation for integrative medicine and feel like eating well is central part of a healthy lifestyle.
A related story is that my grandparents used to live on a farm outside Paris. My grandfather was a somewhat famous herbalist with a practice in the city; he treated many writers and actors. He passed his gifts to my mother, who often treated us with home-brewed teas and concoctions. I’m sure that’s part of the reason I care so much about holistic well-being.
Chantal became a U.S. citizen on Oct. 14, 2016. She said, “The ceremony was awesome. I soaked it all in and felt very whole afterward. It may sound ridiculous, but I finally feel like I belong here. My sister flew in from Europe and it was so great to have her with me. After I received my certificate, CBS interviewed me!”