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From Aspiring Advocate to Impactful Policy Expert

luke phillips featured image copy of congressional spotlight interviewThis week, we spoke to Luke Phillips, Research Assistant for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Can you tell me about your career path that you’ve taken that’s led you to where you are now?

My journey was set in motion by a single course taught by a now-mentor, Marc Truesdale. Under the guidance of Marc, whose zeal for the inner workings of government was infectious, my own interest ignited. Later, I received the opportunity to page for the South Carolina House of Representatives. Throughout my time in the South Carolina House of Representatives, I worked within three main offices: the Office of the Speaker, the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, and the Office of the Chief Amendment Clerk. My time in each office allowed me to gain a wide variety of hands-on experience that ranged throughout the legislative process.

Following my experience in the South Carolina House of Representatives, I then ventured into the realm of political campaigns by working as an intern for Senator Graham’s re-election campaign. Brandon Green, the campaign’s deputy finance director, played a pivotal role in shaping my understanding of both campaign functions and professional development, becoming a great friend and mentor.

My journey expanded as I completed internships in various offices within the South Carolina congressional delegation, including the offices of Senator Tim Scott, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Representative Jeff Duncan. Throughout each of these experiences, I was fortunate to work alongside an accomplished group of professionals who generously invested time in my growth, both personally and professionally.

In my current role, I have the privilege of learning from a highly skilled team that is dedicated to their craft. I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with individuals who share a deep commitment to personal and collective growth. In reflection, my professional journey has been filled with invaluable learning experiences and the guidance of impactful mentors. I am excited to continue this path, and I look forward to the challenges and growth that lie ahead.

What policy issues are you most interested or passionate about?

The spaces that interest me most are veterans’ policy, fiscal policy, and national security policy. Coming from a family that served for three generations, both national security and veterans’ affairs are critical to me. In addition, my background in economics and research for the South Carolina Council on Economic Education has fostered a keen interest in fiscal policy.

Can you describe a particularly challenging or rewarding project that has contributed significantly to your professional growth?

While studying at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, I was tasked with the completion of a capstone research project. However, COVID-19 lockdowns paralyzed in-person research. Fortunately, after a lot of searching, I connected with the South Carolina Council on Economic Education, which allowed me to complete a case study with their team in a remote environment. Through this experience, I learned how to rapidly adapt to a new team while also conforming to a remote workflow. With close guidance from the non-profit’s director, I successfully completed the research capstone and presented the study at the SCGSSM Research Colloquium and the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone interested in working on the Hill, what would it be?

This quote, by Dale Carnegie, has proven valuable to me as I further my development: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” Throughout my career thus far, finding valuable skills in those I collaborate with has greatly influenced my own growth. By observing and learning from those around me, I continue to develop both personally and professionally. As I reflect on my journey, I am invigorated by the knowledge that each experience has prepared me for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. 

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Gabrielle Thomas

Gabi joined Leadership Connect as a Research Analyst and is now the Legislature Outreach Liaison.