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UPUA Presidential Candidate Spotlight: Shannon Rafferty

Shannon Rafferty’s road to Penn State is an unorthodox one. When she initially tried to visit the campus as a high school student, the roads were flooded and she had to turn around. The second time she tried to come, there was a family scheduling issue, so she was forced to cancel.

Unfazed by the original postponements, Rafferty finally made it to campus on her third attempt. “It was my first visit on campus” Rafferty said, “and I fell in love.”

Rafferty is currently pursuing the University Park Undergraduate Association’s presidential ticket, with current UPUA Freshman Council Co-Director Gokul Sundar as her running mate. The presidential hopeful is a junior from Red Bank, New Jersey, and is double majoring in History and Political Science. Sundar, a native of Long Island, is pursuing a degree in Economics.

Rafferty met Sundar during her first year on UPUA. Sundar joined the UPUA as a freshman and has been involved with the organization for three years now. As a freshman, he served as a member of YOUSRV and sat on the Academic Affairs, Facilities, and Governmental Affairs committees. During the 8th Assembly, he served as an Off-Campus Representative and sat on the Diversity and Student Life committees before becoming C0-Director of the Freshman Council this year.

Back in high school, Rafferty packed her schedule with classes, the National Honor Society, and cheerleading. “I didn’t have a lot of free time because I overindulged myself,” Rafferty said. “So coming to Penn State, I wanted to be involved in a couple core things that I really, really felt passionate about.”

Upon her arrival at Penn State, Rafferty’s passion led her to the UPUA, after the sitting Governmental Affairs Chair encouraged her to run for a position. At the end of her freshman year, Rafferty was elected for a seat as an On-Campus Representative for the 8th Assembly.

Rafferty sat on the Sexual Violence Prevention Roundtable and was a member on the Student Life and Government Affairs committees during her first year on the assembly. This year, she serves as an At-Large Representative and as Chair of the Student Life committee. Rafferty is working on a wide range of issues that fall under the umbrella of Student Life, continuing her efforts on sexual violence prevention, and working with other committee members toward initiatives that establish more diversity at Penn State.

In addition to her positions in the UPUA, Rafferty is a member of the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council, Liberal Arts Envoys, and is serving as the Panhellenic delegate for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. Though heavily involved in other organizations on campus, Rafferty’s position as the Student Life Chair gave her reason to run for president of the UPUA.

“It was just something that came naturally to me. I really just wanted to keep progressing in the organization,” Rafferty said. “I moved up to a chair position, so this is kind of the next natural progression for me — to run for the executive ticket.”

Rafferty has experience in all realms of Penn State student life, but perhaps what makes her the most qualified for the position is her experience working within the intersection of student life and administration.

“From my role in Student Life, I have built up relationships with different administrators and worked with a lot of different student organizations,” Rafferty explained. “Once elected, [Sundar and I] can go in and we don’t really have to work on meeting new people; we can really hit the ground running.”

Rafferty also actively communicates with students across a diverse group of organizations, providing her with a comprehensive understanding of their needs and how to best reflect them. “My various positions have made me well rounded at Penn State. The Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council is a more academic environment, my sorority is more social, and UPUA is the governing part of it,” Rafferty said. “I’m communicating as much as possible to better understand the overarching wants of Penn State students.”

But her exhaustive understanding of student needs is not good enough for the presidential hopeful. When it comes to problem-solving, Rafferty likes to gain all perspectives on the issue at hand. “I surround myself with people who have a wide range of perspectives and know a little bit more about it than I do.”


Rafferty and Sundar’s platform reflects their breadth of experience and knowledge of student life. “I think that my partner and I have a lot of great initiatives for the students that we really want to see accomplished,” Rafferty said. “We’re going to be able to do great things for students that can make a difference.”

Some highlights from their platform include:

  • The expansion of counseling and psychological facilities
  • Bring the Ten Man (and Woman) Plan to Penn State to train student groups on bystander intervention
  • Establish a diversity roundtable that will create a PSUnity Week in order to address issues of diversity
  • Work with Residence Life to give international students priority break access housing
  • Work with ARHS to create a gender neutral housing option
  • Meet with state legislators on a more regular basis, rather than just once a year on Capital Day, to establish relationships and lobby on behalf of students
  • Work with administrators to determine the best way to implement tuition freezes

Their platform most particularly emphasizes sexual violence reform and diversity. Not listed on their website, but in light of the recent KDR incident, the team plans to “work closely with IFC, Panhel, and the borough to reevaluate the Greek system.”

If elected, Rafferty and Sundar are committed to accountability, setting up a website that will allow students to track the progress they have made on their platform.

Election day is April 1. Vote and have your voice heard in the 10th Assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association.

Photo: Shannon Rafferty

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About the Author

Claire Marchon

Contributor for Onward State, from the San Fransisco, Bay Area. I am probably the biggest Simon & Garfunkel fan you've ever met; I might also be the only Simon & Garfunkel fan under 50 you've ever met. Either way I think it is very important you know I love Simon & Garfunkel.

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