Alumni Spotlight

Regina O'Connor, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Government Affairs and Regulatory Policy, AXA XL

22 Mar 2019
Regina O'Connor, BCL 1997

Regina O'Connor is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Government Affairs and Regulatory Policy with AXA XL. She previously held senior positions in the European Parliament as a political and legal advisor, the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU (Council) and in the European Commission. She was Special Advisor to Pat Cox during the Ireland for Europe, Lisbon II campaign. Regina trained and practiced law at A&L Goodbody following periods in commercial, criminal and human rights law in Sydney, San Francisco and Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from UCC in 1997 with a Bachelor of Civil Law and holds a Masters degree from the College of Europe, Bruges.

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it; change your attitude”.

REGINA O'CONNOR'S personal and professional mantra dates to her time as a student at UCC, when she campaigned for the establishment of a women’s law soccer tournament. With the support of the Law Society and the Students’ Union, the tournament became a reality, making it even more special when in third year, her class team won the newly established ‘Ladies Law Cup’.

“The team spirit that emerged and the support on the side-lines from the guys was just magic. Some of the girls played soccer for the first time”.

UCC proved to be the ideal environment for Regina to test her maxim that “sometimes doors open easier than one can imagine when advocating for change”. Believing that experience abroad is a unique selling point on a student resume, she initiated an exchange programme between UCC’s School of Law and Saint Louis University. The partnership, aided by Professor Caroline Fennell, Maggie Dagen and Roger Goldman continues to this day and she is justly proud.

“I am so delighted to meet more and more students from that programme and see the impact on their lives”.

This international perspective is mirrored in Regina’s own professional journey, which has seen her practice in cities such as Sydney, San Francisco, Atlanta and Brussels. She credits Declan Walsh for instilling in her a passion for the EU, which ultimately led to a Masters in the College of Europe, a career in the EU and penning a book entitled, ‘The Reasons Why, Ireland at the Heart of Europe’.

She took a holistic approach to her time at UCC, serving as a class representative, member of the Students’ Union and Law Society as well as playing badminton and soccer. When asked what advice she would give to students, she recommends they ‘dive in’ in order to maximise the unique opportunities presented to them.

“Looking back, time in University is truly both precious and a privilege at such a formative time in our development”.

 Evidently, it was the people she met at UCC who left the biggest impact. One of her most abiding memories is the trip to the Aran Islands she arranged for her class.

“As elected class representative I really wanted to organise a treat for our annual excursion; to facilitate a deeper experience for each of us outside of class”.

She recalls the expedition in vivid detail; a bus ride from Cork to Galway, followed by a rough ferry crossing on stormy, January seas. As she says herself, “it was a classic lesson; the journey matters as much as the destination!”.  

The trip proved to be a resounding success. Somewhere between experiencing “the spectacular view from Dún Aonghasa’, frequenting the island’s pubs and walking home to our hostel on a beautiful starry night sky”, something magical happened. “Acquaintances became friends and friendships deepened”.

A sign of success for sure. 

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