When Sean Rafferty arrived at Fairmont State University as a freshman in 2011, he knew two things for certain: he was going to major in Political Science and he wanted to join Student Government.
Today the Parkersburg native is a senior double majoring in Political Science and National Security and Intelligence who served as Student Government president in the 2013-2014 academic year and is a member of the Honors Program. After completing the one-week Frasure-Singleton Internship at the West Virginia Legislature in the spring of 2014, this year he was selected as one of 10 students in the state to participate in the semester-long Judith A. Herndon Fellowship at the Legislature.
“Mr. Rafferty has consistently demonstrated his intelligence and ability to perform well in whatever task he has before him. It is a pleasure working with him,” said Dr. William Harrison, Visiting Assistant Professor in Political Science and faculty advisor for the Herndon Fellowship and the Frasure-Singleton Internship.
“Each fellow is assigned to a single state legislator for a semester. Interns must research and perform staff functions for their assigned legislator. People participating in the program get to be introduced to and help develop the politics behind legislation including, legislative research, bill drafting, the role and function of committees and the executive-legislative liaison,”
For his fellowship, Rafferty is working for Delegate Bill Anderson, Speaker Pro Tempore, R-Wood County.
“I have learned so much from being able to watch and participate in the day to day business of government. I am very grateful to have been chosen for the fellowship and for all that Fairmont State did to prepare me for it. I am constantly meeting new leaders, young and older, and I consider myself very lucky to be among them,” Rafferty said.
He is the son of Thomas and Kim Rafferty of Parkersburg and has a sister, Meag, and brother, Pat. Graduating from a 22-member senior class at Parkersburg Catholic High, Rafferty chose Fairmont State because he wanted a college experience with small class sizes.
“Going to a school where I was going to know the first names of my teachers and they were going to know me was very important to me,” he said.
“Fairmont State is the first place that I ever really soared. I had to get a 4.0 my whole senior year of high school to get the PROMISE Scholarship, and I had to get the PROMISE to go to college. Fairmont State is the only place where people really consider me a role model. Just because you weren’t the valedictorian doesn’t mean you can’t go on and be somebody big. You can step in and fill a vital role.”
Rafferty credits FSU faculty for creating an environment that helps students succeed. He said Dr. James Jung, Assistant Professor of National Security and Intelligence, has been giving him advice on how to best position himself for the LSAT and for law school. He lived in Prichard Hall where Dr. Ken Millen-Penn, Professor of History, was faculty-in-residence and would help students proofread papers anytime, at 9 a.m. or 11 p.m.
“That’s rare. You don’t come by that at every school. The teachers really care. There were a lot of times in classes that I could have given up, but the teachers said, ‘Are you sure you get this?’ The Honors Program does a mentor system. They matched me up with a National Security and Intelligence and Political Science double major who was a senior, and he proofread any paper I ever sent him. Then I put myself out there to write for The Nolton (student political commentary publication), for The Columns (student newspaper) and to run for president of Student Government,” he said.
Rafferty said membership in and serving as Student Government has been a positive experience.
“I have met a number of successful people, intelligent people and people that I consider some of my best friends through Student Government,” he said. “I wish that more people would run for Student Government so they would understand what it is like to put yourself out there like that. It was one of the most beneficial things I have ever done.”
Another lesson Rafferty has learned is that success is about more than winning awards.
“No one is going to remember that I was president of Student Government. No one is going to remember that I won the 2014 Political Science Achievement Award,” he said. “The relationships I have built are definitely going to stick with me a lot longer than any of the awards that I have received.”
Rafferty will join the 2015 corps for Teach for America after his graduation. He will be teaching special education in North Carolina.