International Law and Community Building

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Courtesy of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

Hoping to help bring positive change and stability to turbulent parts of the world, Melissa Duffy (US’96, C’00) traveled to the Netherlands the summer after graduating from the College to attend a symposium sponsored by the International Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. That experience focused her attention on law as a tool to effect change. She went on to earn a law degree from Georgetown University and then joined the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of General Counsel.

Now a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Duffy specializes in export controls, trade sanctions, and national security, working with large, multinational companies to navigate U.S. government and international sanctions and determine how to comply with them. In particular, her work supports U.S. foreign policy in regions fraught with political conflict, human rights abuses, and concerns about weapons of mass destruction.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Duffy likens the “small town” aspects of working in DC with the close-knit community at Principia. As a result, the lessons she learned on campus are standing her in good stead. “You really have to learn how to be collegial and to build your sense of community . . . and to face people and not run from conflicts or try to bully your way through them,” she explains. “In DC you might have to request cooperation from a party that you have to oppose on another project, so you have to work through personality differences constructively and use really creative problem-solving skills.”

Duffy received mentoring at Principia that has been crucial to her current work as well. She recalls Dr. George Moffett (C’65), then president of Principia College, coaching her to confidently entertain and introduce Secretary of State James Baker at the Public Affairs Conference she directed. “Dr. Moffett very specifically and very supportively empowered me with direct responsibility and leadership,” Duffy comments. “That experience made me much more comfortable functioning in an environment like Washington, DC.”

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of the Principia Purpose, where you may read other alumni stories.

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