Sophie Clakley

Stephen F. Austin State University student Sophie Clakley of Carthage will receive her Bachelor of Business Administration in banking at SFA commencement ceremonies Dec. 15, but she’s already launched her career thanks to connections she’s made through the Rusche College of Business banking program.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Sophie Clakley of Carthage, a senior banking major in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Rusche College of Business, was attending the Independent Bankers Association of Texas annual convention in September 2022 when she struck up a conversation with her future boss.

C Welch, a certified fraud examiner and assistant deputy comptroller for midsize and community banks with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in Longview, was impressed with Clakley and offered her a financial internship at the OCC beginning in January 2023. 

“In just one conversation with Sophie, I could tell she’d be a good fit for the OCC,” Welch said. “Knowing that she planned to earn her degree in banking at SFA sealed the deal for me.”

Clakley’s attendance at the conference was sponsored by IBAT through an educational partnership with SFA’s banking program. SFA offers these types of industry immersion extracurricular field trips to banking majors because they are key for banking students deciding how to embark on their careers and for banking professionals looking for new talent, said David Kaiser, director of the banking program.

“One of the main goals of our program is to help students connect with banking professionals who can mentor them and help them advance their careers,” Kaiser said. “We’re one of the few banking programs in the state that regularly takes students to conferences so they can make these important connections.”

By May 2023, Welch was ready to promote Clakley from financial intern to assistant national bank examiner upon her graduation this month.

“She showed determination, grit and work ethic to finish her degree at SFA this fall while continuing to work full time for the OCC,” Welch said. “Sophie is a joy, and we are so glad to offer her a full-time position.”

Clakley’s new job involves “everything from how to calculate capital all the way up to the credit side,” she said. “And I didn’t have to go through the usual job search stress to get it. I can relax, finish my courses and enjoy graduation.”

At this point, Clakley wants to dedicate her career to being a bank examiner.

“Without us, bankers would be able to do whatever they want,” she said. “As regulators, we develop good relationships with banks and guide them in serving their customers. We help protect those individuals.”

Clakley said the OCC helped her balance school and work.

“My job involves a lot of traveling to banks, but they helped me work around my class schedule,” she said. “Ms. C is amazing, and my colleagues make me feel comfortable.”

Clakley also said Kaiser’s career mentorship and connections are a huge benefit to students in the banking program.

“Mr. Kaiser has helped me through all of this and has made a true impact on my whole life and my future,” she said.

For more information on SFA’s banking program, visit


Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at the SFA website.