Michelle Hughes is the Founder, President, and CEO of VALRAC Innovation, LLC, a company dedicated to preparing the next generation to restore and strengthen the rule of law at home and abroad. She was formerly a Senior Executive in the U.S. Department of Defense, where she was the only designated “Highly Qualified Expert” for Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform (SSR). Ms. Hughes’ work focuses principally on building capacity for multi-national, interagency, civil-military and public-private cooperation to build and strengthen the rule of law, resolve violent conflict, and enable sustainable peace. She has field experience in 12 conflict countries across four continents, and recently completed a year-long deployment as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor to the NATO Police Training Mission in Afghanistan.
In the private sector, Ms. Hughes was the Principal Director, Rule of Law for General Dynamics, providing executive level consultation and assistance on International Law, Rule of Law, and SSR. She participated in SSR-related activities in Ghana, Colombia, Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Albania, and mentored the U.S. Interagency SSR assessment for Joint Task Force-435 (Afghanistan). She worked extensively with leading U.S. government departments and agencies, multinational partners, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and peacekeeping centers around the world.
Ms. Hughes is a former US Army Intelligence Officer and was one of the first women to serve in the elite 82nd Airborne Division and the only woman officer ever assigned to the Army’s Parachute Demonstration Team, “The Golden Knights.” She became a lawyer in 1996 and is an active member of the Bar. As a trial lawyer with Williams Mullen, she practiced complex civil litigation, prosecution, and criminal defense in 14 State and Federal jurisdictions, and developed risk mitigation and corporate governance strategies for businesses operating in high risk environments.