Deciding what to study in college is a difficult choice for many people, but not for Carleisha Gilliam ’15. Since early childhood, she knew that she wanted to go into law enforcement.
After graduating high school, Gilliam settled on attending Lander University and pursuing a Bachelor of Science in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice. “Alongside the courses, the professors and Lander University Police Department also played a huge role in leading me towards my career,” she said. Gilliam specifically points towards an internship she completed with the City of Abbeville. “It was my first experience seeing the day-to-day work of a law enforcement officer.”
One of her final assignments before obtaining her bachelor’s degree required the creation of a portfolio, part of which included listing both long- and short-term goals. “I still have that portfolio and often pull it out to remind myself of the goals I set in my last days as an undergraduate at Lander.”
Following her graduation and a couple years on the job, Gilliam decided that an advanced degree was next and enrolled at Columbia College. “My experience at Lander University helped me earn my master’s in criminal justice because it showed me that higher education is key to continuing to grow,” said Gilliam, who finished her second degree in 2018.
Her career path after her graduation from Lander began at the City of Newberry Police Department in 2015. Her time in Newberry was followed by a stint in the Lexington Medical Center Public Safety Department.
“In 2019 I found my home as a patrol deputy at Lexington County Sheriff’s Department,” she said. She serves as an investigator in the Special Victims Unit, a post she was promoted to in 2021 after just two years with the department. Gilliam’s co-workers in Lexington noticed her potential, which inspired her even more. “It feels good to have people that back you up, and you just met them,” she said. “It’s like they’re family now.”
Working in this specific unit is “first and foremost an honor,” said Gilliam. She mainly handles cases involving abuse against children and vulnerable adults. “These cases allow us to be the voices for the most innocent group of people we hold dear to our hearts,” she said.
Experiencing these types of cases on a regular basis can be strenuous and present unique challenges for investigators. “We deal with a lot of children who have been abused,” said Gilliam. “That in itself is tough, but to have the team that I have, I really couldn’t ask for any other group to work with.”
She credits her team with always maintaining a strong mental state and finding ways to get through tough situations as a unit, and said, “I just really couldn’t ask for any other guys to work with.”
A tough mindset and determination are not new qualities for Gilliam. Her willingness to tackle challenges head-on dates back to her time as a student, when she was taking on new obstacles and lessons every day in class. “I’ve learned that some things in life you may not accomplish on the first go around,” she said. “Never give up on yourself. Stay in the fight and your time will come.”
That strong mindset and determination have propelled Gilliam towards her lifelong goals. “I am living my career goals,” she said. “There’s nothing more rewarding than to be in the current position I am today.”
This story is featured in the Spring 2023 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.