Cheryl L. Smith

Cheryl L. Smith joined UNCF in 2013 as senior vice president, public policy and government affairs. In this role, she develops and drives strategies to influence and mobilize action in the U.S. Congress and executive branch on the public policy priorities of UNCF, its 37 member HBCUs and its 60,000 students.

Cheryl has extensive education policy and advocacy experience in the U.S. Congress, state government, the private sector and nonprofit organizations. Her congressional career spanned 25 years during which she developed and drove enactment of education legislation and appropriations for three highly respected former members of Congress: Rep. Louis Stokes, Sen. Paul Simon and Rep. David Obey. In 2007, she was appointed the first (and only) African American to serve as staff director of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, overseeing three cabinet agencies and approximately 500 domestic programs totaling $160 billion. She previously served as staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment.

Identified by National Journal as a top congressional aide, Cheryl was a key congressional staff negotiator on a wide range of K-12 and postsecondary education and training initiatives. In 2009, she worked with the White House to draft and negotiate the education provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, resulting in an unprecedented $97 billion one-time investment in federal education priorities Smith also served for three years as vice president for government relations at Kaplan, Inc., a leading global provider of educational services. Earlier in her career, she managed the K-12 and postsecondary education budget portfolio for former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

A native of Indianapolis, IN, Cheryl is a graduate of the Averell Harriman College for Policy Analysis and Public Management, State University of New York at Stony Brook. She also attended Miami University in Oxford, OH.