Category: Georgetown Faces, Spirit of Georgetown

Title: It Started as a Summer Gig. 20 Years Later, This Events Manager Is the ‘Beating Heart’ of McCourt.

This story is part of a Georgetown Faces, a storytelling series that celebrates the beloved figures, unsung heroes and dedicated Hoyas who make our campus special.

By Mariel Jackson

A black woman in a blue short-sleeve shirt smiles.
Cristal Clark is the events manager at the McCourt School of Public Policy.

One morning in the summer of 2003, Cristal Clark’s mother woke her up with a job prospect. Mendy Clark, a longtime employee of Hoya Staffing, knew that the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (now the McCourt School of Public Policy) needed a temporary administrative assistant.

At the time, Clark was 22, a recent graduate of Morris Brown College, and, like many of her peers, still trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. 

“I had just returned home from Atlanta and was not looking for a job yet,” said Clark. “My mom insisted, and I reluctantly agreed.”

Clark got the job, and before she knew it, her career at Georgetown began to grow. 

“When the original administrative assistant returned, they didn’t want me to leave!” she said.

Clark transitioned to a full-time position on GPPI’s admissions team, helping recruit and retain prospective graduate students. This new opportunity was also her first foray into event planning — a role she quickly fell in love with.

“Of all the things I worked on, I loved that work the most,” she said.

Two decades later, Clark has planned and executed more than 600 events at Georgetown. She lovingly refers to her events manager role as the “academic events concierge — the person who ensures that students’ experience at McCourt is fun, collaborative and engaging.”

One colleague called her “the backbone of the McCourt School.” Clark’s longtime friend and manager Lauren Mullins, executive director of communications and marketing at the McCourt School, said she is that and more. 

“Cristal is also the beating heart of our school. She supports events that touch every constituency — from students, faculty, staff and alumni to campus and external partners — and always with warmth and wisdom.” 

Learn more about Clark’s 21-year career at Georgetown, her most memorable experience on the Hilltop, and who inspires her to seize the day (and is responsible for the music she sings along to on her morning commute).

How I felt on my first day of work: I felt an intense amount of anxiety and was very insecure. I hated the suit I was wearing and kept thinking, I’m so uncomfortable and nervous. I didn’t know anyone or the type of job I was walking into, but I felt so welcomed, and everyone was so nice.

My most memorable experience working at Georgetown: Seeing President Obama speak on the steps of Old North was so special. I remember feeling amazed by him and honored, as a Black woman in the presence of the president of the United States, a Black man, speaking on the steps of where I worked. It was a long, hot day, but it was incredibly impactful for me as a person. 

“Professionally, even during a successful event, I always identify things I’d like to change. I have to be intentional about letting things go. I’m a Virgo, and I analyze every aspect of my life. I have to say to myself, ‘Cristal, enough.’ My brain is constantly on overdrive.”

Cristal Clark
Clark has played an instrumental role in planning events that welcome McCourt students, faculty, staff and alumni and community members to its new building on Georgetown’s Capitol Campus.

What keeps me coming back to the McCourt School: Most of my fondest memories revolve around the staff and being able to engage with them in fun ways. I love our annual staff gift exchange and the times we can get together and let our hair down. I love people, I love talking to people and I love the people with whom I work. The friends I have made at work are a gift.

After more than 20 years, one thing has never changed: Throughout the McCourt School’s years of transition and growth, our primary mission to empower the next generation of policymakers has remained the same. No matter who has come and gone, everyone cares about the students and that they are getting the best out of their McCourt experience, so they are prepared to move on and make an impact. 

The one thing I don’t do in my off-hours: When I leave work, I do not want to plan any events. Events are the furthest thing from my mind. I try to maintain a sense of boundaries when it comes to events in my personal life because I devote so much energy and effort to them in my work life. So in my personal life, I like to be a guest rather than a planner. My favorite way to be a part of an event is to sit back and enjoy it with everyone else.

A group of students and staff stand in front of a sign that says "McCourt School of Public Policy."
From left to right: Julie Ito, director of admissions; Delaney Brower (MPP/MBA’26); Cristal Clark, events manager; Lindsey Monson, associate director of admissions; Moritz Ludwig (MPP’25).

How my colleagues supported me during one of the most difficult periods of my life: I was pregnant and had a baby during the pandemic. Having to manage an online work life while expecting my second child and then going on maternity leave during an intense period of isolation was very difficult — as a mother, a professional woman and a Georgetown employee. I think the mental and physical toll that took on new mothers went unnoticed globally. I credit my Georgetown colleagues for their support during that time; they helped me overcome some of the most difficult parts of that experience.

Why Beyoncé inspires me: Her film, Renaissance, left me feeling like there is no excuse for me to give up on anything. She has the same amount of hours in her day as I have in mine. Sure, she has the financial resources and a team behind her, but she has children, a husband and a family too. Beyoncé gets up every day, executing the way she does. There is no reason for me not to execute what I need to in a day or for me to be afraid to try new things. If Beyoncé can do it in her world, I can do it in mine.

What I think about the biggest change in the McCourt School’s history: The naming of the McCourt School was a huge change, but now, we are moving into a new state-of-the-art building on Georgetown’s Capitol Campus, just steps from the U.S. Capitol. I have been involved in many moves across the Hilltop, but I am most excited about our new location downtown and the opportunities and access it will provide. It is a breath of fresh air for the McCourt School!