When the new session of the US House of Representatives began earlier this month, a UT alumna made political history with the shift of the House majority to the Democratic Party.
Shuwanza Goff (’06) is the first African American woman to serve as House floor director.
Goff works with US Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who became House majority leader when the House shifted to the Democrats. As majority leader, Hoyer schedules legislation for consideration on the floor and shapes House Democrats’ legislative priorities.
As floor director, Goff keeps tabs on a number of bills being developed in committees and advises Hoyer on which bills should come to the House floor, working with other offices to make sure the votes are there for passage.
“A large part of what I do is coordinate with committees, parliamentarians, the Senate, and to some extent the White House on what our agenda is and what we’re bringing to the floor for consideration,” Goff said. “In addition, I prep Congressman Hoyer for weekly colloquies with [Republican whip] Representative Steve Scalise.”
Goff, who grew up in Mechanicsville, Virginia, first heard about UT during her sophomore year at St. Gertrude High School in Richmond. A former St. Gertrude student came to speak to Goff’s English class and raved about her college alma mater—good ol’ Rocky Top.
“She spoke about UT with such high regard and excitement that it piqued my interest in the university,” Goff said. “From there I went to a visit, fell in love with the orange T, and the rest is history.”
She majored in political science and knew quickly she had found her field.
“The support that I received from all of the department’s faculty and staff truly helped to solidify my desire to pursue politics,” she said, “I’ve always known I was interested in and enjoyed politics, but the support of my political science professors helped to reinforce this.”
Among her favorite memories of UT is her first Florida vs. Tennessee football game.
“I remember being so excited about the game, but there was terrible weather in Knoxville—it rained pretty much the entire game,” she said. “But that deterred no one—including myself. Looking back at it, I’m so glad I stayed at Neyland Stadium until the end of the game, rain and all.”
After graduating from UT in 2006, Goff moved to Washington, DC, to pursue a graduate degree at American University. In 2008, she accepted a position as a staff assistant in Hoyer’s office. She’s seen a lot change in the nation’s capital as she moved up to floor aide, floor assistant, and Hoyer’s deputy director of legislative operations, and she has thrived in the exciting, fast-paced environment.
“Every day is a little bit different. You think you know what the plan for a certain day is going to be, and one event can shift that plan and cause you to have to readjust,” she said. “You have to be able to react quickly and think strategically, which I enjoy doing.”
Karen Dunlap (firstname.lastname@example.org, 865-974-8674)