ANNE CHANG FOR THE HOYA Erin Conaton (SFS '92) spoke about her experiences abroad to the International Relations Club on Monday.
Erin Conaton (SFS ’92) spoke about her experiences abroad to the International Relations Club on Monday.

The International Relations Club heard from one of its own when Erin Conaton (SFS ’92), undersecretary of the Air Force, discussed everything from the marriage proposal she received from Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s best friend to the value of mentorship at their general membership meeting Monday night in White-Gravenor Hall.

Conaton, a member of the IRC throughout her four years at Georgetown, emphasized the formative role the club played in preparing her for her current profession.

“I feel like I’m still using skills from IRC in my current job today,” she said. “Model U.N. lets you know not only what you want to do, but how you want to do it”.

After experimenting with a career on Wall Street, Conaton pursued her foreign policy leanings in a job with the U.S. Commission of National Security and eventually became the staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services.

“If you’re going to work 18 hours a day you better love what you’re doing, or you’re going to be a really miserable person,” she said.

In her current job, Conaton focuses on the organization of the Air Force’s budget and deficit reduction.

Conaton’s experience and success serve as an inspiration for current IRC members, according to club chair Eitan Paul (SFS ’12).

“It was interesting to see her translate her experiences from the IRC to help develop her career,” he said. “For example, some of the negotiating skills she developed from doing Model U.N. helped her with negotiating on Capitol Hill. It was a useful and unique opportunity for us.”

Conaton stressed that students should find a good mentor while in college and then continue to give back that sense of connection.

“Make sure you pay it back to the people coming behind you,” she said.

After her talk, Conaton opened the room up to questions, some of which were answered by Lieutenant General Christopher Miller, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs for the Air Force, another attendee.

The situation in Libya was also fodder for discussion. Miller and Conaton were quick to stress the reserved role of the military in the conflict.

“We can, and we are, keeping Qaddafi’s planes from taking off from the ground,” Miller said.

At the end of the meeting, Conaton honored the IRC by bestowing her personal challenge coin — which each Air Force member receives one of — upon Paul. The gift, a tradition in the military,  serves as a source of morale, as members are often “challenged” to be sure that they are carrying their coin.

Conaton presented the coin as an award for outstanding service.

“I was humbled and honored,” said Paul. “It’s really inspiring to see alumni, especially of the IRC, still connected to the university, giving back and sharing their experiences with us.”

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