Passion, focus, hard work lead alumna to dream career on Capitol Hill
For as long as she can remember, Amirah Salaam ’06 has been fascinated with the political process. Growing up in New Jersey and Virginia, she dreamed of one day working on Capitol Hill. Today, she is living that dream as a lobbyist in D.C.
“I’ve always been interested in the idea of using our voice to influence government, which we, as citizens, should be doing,” she said. “I wanted to represent or advocate on behalf of other people—particularly those who are not able to influence or understand the law.”
Salaam currently works as government relations counsel for federal advocacy and public policy at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), which advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. According to the NSBA’s website, the association “believe[s] education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential.”
Salaam represents the NSBA on Capitol Hill and communicates the association’s federal legislative priorities and initiatives to stakeholders. In other words, she lobbies on behalf of important policy issues related to K-12 education. Her path to this lobbyist position (which she assumed several months ago after working as a senior public advocacy a communications consultant at NSBA for a year) has been relatively swift.
“Someone once told me that it typically takes a long time to go from a staffer on Capitol Hill to a senior lobbyist, but I did that all in the span of five years,” she explained, adding that she accomplished her goals through a combination of passion, focus, and hard work.
After earning an undergraduate degree in government and international politics from George Mason University, in 2002, Salaam decided to apply to law schools, focusing her search on universities that offered strong public interest programs, including Ohio State.
A meeting with Associate Dean for Admissions Kathy Seward Northern, then-Assistant Dean Robert L. Solomon II, and then-Dean Nancy Hardin Rogers sealed the deal.
“They were really warm and welcoming and that’s what made me decide to get my education at Ohio State,” she said. “I am blessed to be working in a profession that I enjoy. The ability to use my law degree to help others advocate on Capitol Hill, is a dream come true! It’s been difficult at times, but I have worked very hard and remained persistent, as I did in law school. I learned a great deal and had a great start during my time at Ohio State Law.”
Throughout her career trajectory, Salaam has worked as a government relations consultant, as a lobbyist for the American Dental Education Association, Association of International Educators, senior advisor and communications director to the late Congressman Donald M. Payne, Sr., legislative counsel for Congressmen Andre Carson and Kendrick B. Meek, and as an information analyst at the U.S. Department of State.
Last year, she started her own advocacy consulting firm, Stratagem Solutions, LLC, through which she advises organizations on policy initiatives, communications and advocacy on Capitol Hill and within the Administration covering a wide-range of domestic and foreign policy issues, including education, healthcare, economic development, and international affairs.
Salaam said she still draws on the lessons she learned in law school—especially in her administrative law and legal writing courses; a summer position at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff in Columbus; and through a leadership role in the Black Law Students Association—in her work today.
“Ohio State was the perfect place for me,” she said. “Being in an environment that was welcoming and inclusive, with professors who were truly invested in their students, I received a high-quality legal education, one that prepared me to move on to work in the halls of Congress, as legislative counsel and as a lobbyist… It also helped prepare me to teach people how to be strong and effective advocates.”