Meet Alumna Erin Connolly ’17, Program Assistant- Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Name: Erin Connolly
Class Year: 2017
Current Title/Employer: Program Assistant/ Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
In one sentence, what does your job entail?
I work to educate the public and policymakers (Congress) on nuclear nonproliferation and fissile materials policy by helping plan and host various events; writing op-eds; and briefing congressional staffers on our issues.
What and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross?
I wrote a paper my sophomore year for a National Security course that argued for a nuclear deal with Iran. While writing this paper, I found myself fascinated by nuclear nonproliferation policy, and it quickly became one of my favorite topics. I left for France, and when it came time to look for an internship I applied to the Center, using that paper as my writing sample. This internship was a vital introduction to the nuclear policy world. It provided me with the foundational knowledge to succeed, but also allowed me to make professional connections while living in Washington, D.C. which is how I learned about the position I currently hold.
How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?
My internship experience solidified my interest in the nuclear nonproliferation field. I was able to explore the various facets, from Iran, and North Korea, to U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. My current position involves much more engagement with Congressional staffers and fissile materials; basically I do a lot of work to answer any questions they may have about highly enriched uranium, plutonium stockpiles, preventing nuclear terrorism and other subjects in this domain. We host dinners for members of Congress, a unique opportunity for engagement and education. I also am able to continue writing, I was fortunate enough to get a piece published in Teen Vogue with a colleague in the field (and former fellow intern!) and it’s great to connect with people my age on these issues.
What were you involved in when you were on campus?
I was involved in the Purple Key Society, which is quite helpful for my event planning now; HEAL, Model UN, SPUD site leader, Manresa, Gateways, Appalachia trips, and I also worked in the History department,
What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?
I was an International Studies major, French minor and Peace and Conflict concentration. I loved engaging with the multidisciplinary major and in some ways I continue to do that. I am always continuing to learn in this job — from policy to science — and that is something I loved at Holy Cross and am grateful I get to bring that into my career.
What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?
The importance of asking questions and networking. It is always better to ask questions and do something correctly then to do it wrong. Everyone would prefer to answer your questions than to have you do it again! And networking is one of those things I did not want to believe was important, but it is. Maintaining relationships and connections is so key, especially when you work in a field that’s small like mine! I knew D.C. had gotten to me when I began bringing cards to every happy hour because you just never know who you will meet — friends of friends are great connections.