Alumni Spotlight

Erin Clancy ’07
Foreign Service Officer
U.S. Department of State

Major: Political Science

Activities: Thalian Society; Model United Nations; Black Student Union; Poet Democrats Club;  Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Allies for Diversity. 

What first attracted you to Whittier College? The small class sizes and opportunity to build relationships with the professors. 

Why did you choose to study Political Science? Have you met professor Fred Bergerson? He skillfully persuaded me on my first day of Freshman Orientation that becoming a Political Science major was not a choice; it was my destiny. 

Where was your favorite place to study? Wardman Hall/Whittier Scholars classrooms.

What was your favorite class? The Economics of War

Who was your favorite professor? I did not have a favorite; I had four. Fred Bergerson, Mike McBride, John Neu, and Deborah Norden.

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I interned on Capitol Hill in the office of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson TX-32; two summers at the Department of Energy Office of Policy and International Affairs for Africa and the Middle East; and one summer at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). 

A generous Whittier college alumna, Adrienne Cisneros, was responsible for the two internships I had at the Department of Energy, which really paved the way for me and gave me tremendous insight into the inter-agency process and government jobs. I remain grateful to Adrienne for her help and the time she spent mentoring me and showing me the ropes of Washington. 

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? After graduating from Whittier, I went on to receive a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. My first job after Whittier and Fletcher was joining the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer. I am currently on my second diplomatic assignment as a Political-Economic Officer in Muscat, Oman.

I draw on my Whittier education every day. The Foreign Service is an interdisciplinary career—perfect for Whittier College students who have been steeped in the liberal arts. Whittier trained me to look for the linkages between different ideas and different disciplines. When I have to give remarks on entrepreneurship and economic development one day, I, then, can easily brief the Ambassador about how the economic situation impacts morale and cohesion of the host country's military and law enforcement officers on the next day. As a Whittier graduate, I think about issues in a broader context and look for how the singular issues affect the macro issues in the country or how they impact U.S. foreign policy and strategy. 

What has been the most memorable moment of your career up to now? The unforgettable two years I spent in Syria from 2010 until we closed our embassy due to the deteriorating security situation in February 2012. 

What advice would you give to future Political Science students when they graduate?  

1. Stay connected to Whittier College by giving back with your time, expertise, and, no matter how small the amount, your money. 

2. Work hard to hone your writing skills in college. Writing is really the coin of the realm for professional success in politics and government. 

3. Network, network, network! But, do so effectively. Build relationships, ask questions, spend time, be thoughtful and sincere in your interactions. 

-Are you a graduate of the Department of Political Science and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at