Playing the Game

USD Professor Mike Williams


From the outside, political life in Washington, D.C. seems as turbulent as it’s ever been. A washing machine filled with fiery rhetoric and partisan brawling set on permanent spin cycle. But for behind-the-scenes insiders like Lauren Crawford Shaver ’06 (BA) it’s still largely business as usual.

“One thing people often don’t realize about D.C. is that the majority working here are centrists,” Shaver says. “You have to work together to get anything done and there are a lot of things that get done every day that don’t make the front page.”

Shaver is one of the thousands who help keep the policy gears moving even while the political spotlight is dominated by headline-grabbing bluster and brinkmanship. In the eye of the storm, there is calm in her sense of purpose.

“We came here to do our jobs, do them really well, and hopefully have a positive impact on the American people,” she says. “There are times your party is in power and times it’s not, but your focus is the same.”

That ability to keep solid footing amid shifting circumstances has served her well from grassroots activism to presidential campaigns.

“There are some really cool things that we get to do because we work here,” Shaver says. “If you find something you’re interested in and interesting people working on it, then you’re hooked.”

That initial spark began soon after she arrived at Alcalá Park.

The very first class Shaver took at USD was a course on American politics taught by Professor and Changemaker Hub Director Mike Williams ’92 (BA).

“He had a Socratic way of teaching that I loved,” Shaver says. “It made me want to do my research and come to class prepared with answers.” It didn’t take long for Williams to take notice, especially after his students gave presentations about the congressional representative from their home districts.

“I remember her project to this day,” Williams says. “She had so much detail, so much energy, she was so passionate about being involved.” Williams saw a natural fit for Shaver in the political science department’s Washington Center Academic Seminar and mentored her passion for politics in class and with long conversations over coffee. It was déjà vu for Williams, who credits his former professor and now colleague Del Dickson for guiding his own career path.

“Without his teaching and his mentorship, I wouldn’t have studied political science,” says Williams. “The impact he and other professors had on me has been my model for working with students.” Shaver initially thought she wanted to teach. Then she turned her attention to international relations, eventually interning at the British Embassy. But when she came to D.C., “I just fell in love with good old-fashioned American politics.”

That passion was cemented after graduation when she worked on voter outreach campaigns for then U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in advance of the 2008 presidential election. “That was the clincher,” she says, for a life in the political sphere.   

Shaver worked as a consultant for different firms on a range of issues, but it was her interest in health care that led to a position as deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I’m a health care nerd,” Shaver says. “I find the policy and the politics about it fascinating. It’s never fully solvable, it changes daily, and that keeps me interested.”

She was back on the campaign trail for Clinton’s presidential bid in 2016, helping lead efforts to strengthen party infrastructure up and down the ballot in 37 states. That experience informs her current role as a partner with Forbes Tate Partners, where she helps oversee the D.C. firm’s public affairs and grassroots engagement.

Along the way, she’s kept in touch with Williams.

“We still send each other Christmas cards every year,” Shaver says with a laugh. “I know that if I send him an email today about something, we’ll have a really great discussion.”

That mentorship and her strong connection to USD has become a regular touchstone for Shaver in her life and work.

“I walk around the Hill and run into alums,” Shaver says. “We have a strong network and it’s really cool to see all of these people from USD thriving in D.C.”

Williams credits Shaver for helping build that network by participating in alumni panels, helping to facilitate internship opportunities and being a go-to resource whenever USD students and faculty members venture to the nation’s capital.

“Lauren is making a difference,” Williams says. “I’m so proud of her. She’s worked hard for her success, and now she’s paying it forward.” — Nathan Dinsdale

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