From Liberty To Capitol Hill

By Tobi Walsh Laukaitis, October 11, 2017

From Liberty To Capitol Hill

By Tobi Walsh Laukaitis, October 11, 2017

Each story in this special feature section demonstrates a tenet of the “We The Champions” Declaration, part of a universitywide project that aims to tell the world how Liberty is fulfilling its mission of Training Champions for Christ.

We The Champions: Follow God’s Calling Wherever It May Lead

Alumna puts skills to work on U.S. House committees

After nearly a decade of working on Capitol Hill, Liberty University alumna Sheria Clarke (’03) has clearly left her mark. What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement has become a promising career in the world of public policy.

Clarke majored in psychology at Liberty. She went on to attend law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, from there, worked as a clerk before moving to Washington, D.C., in 2009. She took a job on Capitol Hill as an investigator for the House Ethics Committee, where she met Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

After being impressed by Clarke’s “unfailing moral compass,” Gowdy asked her to work as a counsel on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, where she investigated the military response to the event and how it could have been improved.

“It really gave me the opportunity to grow,” she said of working on the Benghazi committee. “I was seven years out of law school and asking a three-star general about the decisions he made on that night.”

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy poses with Liberty alumnus Jordan Stein, Liberty junior
Tanner Ray, and Sheria Clarke at a reception for students and alumni working in D.C. (Photo by Leah Seavers)

Most recently, she was appointed as the new staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where Gowdy serves as chairman.

Gowdy said Clarke’s position was well-earned, noting that her work ethic and character have proven her worthy of the post.

“Sheria lives an authentically Christian life,” Gowdy said. “If you were to ask any of the Congress members who interact with Sheria, they would say her faith, her humility, and her intelligence are three things you notice about her immediately.”

Others have taken notice, as well. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has worked with Clarke on numerous occasions, called her a “one-of-a-kind individual.”

“She manages a whole committee, and this committee at times takes on the most difficult issues,” McCarthy said. “But when you watch her work, with her demeanor and her intellect, Sheria is able to bring people together — even people from different parties.”

Clarke said that succeeding on the Hill boils down to building relationships with people, no matter which side of the aisle they may be on.

“Even when you’re asking someone in a committee for something they don’t want to give you, if you have a relationship with that person, you can go a lot further than coming in and saying, ‘I have the authority to subpoena you, and you’re just going to give it to me,’” Clarke said.

Clarke sat down with the Liberty Journal to talk about her job on the Hill, her time at Liberty, and how to be a successful career woman and mother.

What made you decide to attend Liberty?

Both of my parents went to Liberty. My mom majored in psychology, while my dad was in seminary. When it came my turn to go to college, they really wanted me to go to Liberty. I wasn’t quite sure, but I came up for College For A Weekend, and I just fell in love with the school.

How did your time at Liberty shape and prepare you for where you are today?

I think that Liberty really taught me objective thinking. A lot of times in your classes you learn everything from a Christian worldview. But that’s not the only worldview presented to you, so you learn how to articulate your Christian worldview. After Liberty, I went to (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) law school. Those are completely opposite environments. I went from classes being opened with prayer to not being quite sure what my professor might say that day. The experience I had at Liberty helped me to articulate my arguments on different issues and helped me to succeed there as well. That further translated into my career.

You’re a mom to two boys, Caleb (5) and Caiden (2.5), and your new baby girl will be born soon. How do you balance family life and career in a fast-paced environment like D.C.?

I couldn’t do it without my husband, Jevon. He’s very supportive. We have two boys and now a little girl on the way, so that’s fun. I couldn’t do it without him just jumping in — whether it’s bathing the boys, or fixing dinner, or doing whatever has to be done at home. But I also think it’s about setting priorities. You can let working on the Hill eat up all your time. At some point, you have to put down the BlackBerry or the iPhone and say, ‘I’m not going to answer emails for the next hour or two,’ or ‘I’m taking Saturday as family day.’ No matter what’s happening, we’re going to focus on family.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone interested in living and working in Washington, D.C.?

Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t let anyone tell you how you have to do things. I fell into my career here on the Hill, and every step has been a door that the Lord opened for me. I didn’t take the traditional path. But I think when a lot of people come to D.C., they think they have to do step one, step two, step three … and that’s not always the case. I think the biggest thing is to do whatever task is set before you to the best of your ability. Your work will speak for itself, and that is what will give you the opportunities you are looking for.

What makes you most proud to be a Liberty alumna?

I’m proud of what Liberty stands for. Training Champions for Christ is the motto, and I really do believe that’s what it does. I’ve come across Liberty students on the Hill, and I’ve never met one that I wasn’t proud to say we went to the same school. I don’t think there are many people who can say that about their school. I think Liberty trains its students in many different ways to be the best they can be, and I think that shines. Every person I have met who has employed a Liberty student wants more interns, more staff assistants — whatever level it is — from Liberty. They really appreciate what that person brings to the job, and that’s a credit to Liberty. I’m just proud of how much the school has grown and the impact it has around the world and in our country.

To be involved in the “We The Champions” project and read more inspiring stories from the Liberty community, visit and follow #WeTheChampions on social media.

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