Mary Ellen O'Connell is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution at the Kroc Institute.  

O’Connell’s research focuses on international law, particularly on the use of force and international legal theory. She is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on these subjects, including "The Prohibition of the Use of Force" in the Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law, Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum (N. D. White and C. Henderson eds., Edward Elgar 2013); "Peace and War" in The Handbook of the History of International Law, (B. Fassbender and A. Peters, eds. Oxford, 2012); "Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones, A Case Study of Pakistan 2004-2009" in Shooting to Kill: Socio-Legal Perspectives on the Use of Lethal Force (Simon Bronitt, et al. eds., Hart Publishing, 2012); "Cyber Security Without Cyber War," Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Vol. 17, p. 187 (2012); What is War? An Investigation in the Wake of 9/11 (Martinus Nijhof/Brill, 2012); and The Power and Purpose of International Law: Insights from the Theory and Practice of Enforcement (Oxford 2008, paperback 2011). 

O’Connell was named a Senior Law Fellow at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton for the 2014-2015 academic year. She was a vice president of the American Society of International Law from 2010-2012; she chaired the Use of Force Committee of the International Law Association from 2005 to 2010.

Before joining the faculty at Notre Dame, she was a faculty member at The Ohio State University, the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Bologna Center, and Indiana University. From 1995 to 1998, she was a professional military educator for the U.S. Department of Defense in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Prior to joining the academy, O'Connell practiced law with the Washington, D.C.-based international law firm, Covington & Burling. She earned a B.A, in history with highest honors from Northwestern University. She won a Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the United Kingdom, where she earned a MSc degree in international relations at the London School of Economics and an LLB with first class honors from Cambridge University. She also holds a JD from Columbia Law School, where she won Columbia’s Berger Prize for International Law. 

In July 2013, O’Connell received a Ph.D. under special regulation from Cambridge University. 

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