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Erthum ’10, a Foreign Affairs Officer with U.S. government, returns to speak at Doane

Erthum ’10, a Foreign Affairs Officer with U.S. government, returns to speak at Doane

Kristen Erthum ’10 visiting with students

A go-getter mentality, a curiosity to always be learning, and a passion for international affairs has gotten Kristen Erthum ’10 from the small town of Ainsworth, Nebraska to working for the United States government in the nation’s capital.


As a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of Threat Finance Countermeasures, Erthum spends her days efforting to keep our country safe from terrorism.


Erthum serves as the Lead FATF Action Officer for the State Department, the Lead Action Officer for the USA Patriot Act Section 311, and the Lead Action Officer for the de-risking phenomenon.


The FATF, or Financial Action Task Force, is comprised of 35 member countries and over 190 countries and organizations in the FATF global network. The task force establishes international standards for combating money laundering and terrorism finance.


Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act provides the Secretary of the Treasury with a range of options that can be adapted to target specific money laundering and terrorist financing risks most effectively. This provides the Treasury Department with a regulatory tool to take actions to protect the U.S. financial system from specific threats.


In extremely simple terms, Erthum says she “works to stop bad guys from doing bad things.”


While Erthum’s office is in Washington D.C., she has traveled all across the world. Erthum has been to over two dozen countries and has spent extensive time in the Middle East.


Needing to use some much-deserved PTO, Erthum returned to her hometown of Ainsworth, NE over Thanksgiving, but prior to her visit home, Erthum visited Doane’s Crete campus, allowing her to reconnect with faculty and staff. Erthum also spoke to a group of students, faculty, and staff about her professional experiences.


“It’s great to be back,” Erthum said after her presentation. “When I was at Doane, I was borderline unteachable. If I can do it, all of these incredibly gifted students can do it as well. I can’t wait to see the amazing things they will do.”


Erthum graduated from Doane in 2010 with majors in political science and international studies. She also minored in psychology and sociology and noted she nearly completed a history minor as well, giving her a truly well-rounded liberal arts education.


In 2010, Erthum was a Fulbright scholar, joining an elite group of Doane students to go through the Fulbright program. Since 1952, Doane has 70 Fulbright scholars.


Erthum’s Fulbright experience was unique (and short) for unfortunate circumstances. She was one of 10 English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in the Fulbright program in 2010 that went to Egypt for the program. But because of democratic uprisings and mass protests resulting in Arab Spring, Egypt was deemed unsafe for Erthum and the other Fulbright scholars to stay in.


After graduating from Doane, Erthum applied to a number of law schools but did not receive much luck. UNL was the only school that she wasn’t denied, until she reapplied and was admitted to George Mason in 2011.


“No doesn’t mean no forever,” she said. “That was an important lesson I learned.”


Going off that, Erthum’s advice to students in the presentation was “Be well-rounded and be humble. Be persistent. If you get denied to graduate school or don’t get a job you were hoping for, the first time is not the end all, be all. Keep working at it.”


Tim Hill, professor of political science at Doane, taught Erthum during her undergraduate years and helped coordinate her return visit to Doane.


“On a personal level, it’s always good to see old students again, especially when they’re doing so well,” Hill said. “It’s a reminder that Doane is at its best when those who have been members of the community for a long time work to help those who are newer. I’d like to think that Kristen took something significant from her time at Doane and now she’s giving to the next generation.”

To learn more about Kristen’s role and what the role of the U.S. State Department is, visit their website at