Paula Fogarty of Grosse Ile, Michigan, knows the meaning of a Spartan’s will. As she puts it, “Spartans never say never and will fight until the very end for what they want.”
She worked hard throughout her time at Michigan State University, tending bar at local watering holes in order to save money and pay for her education. She says The Riv became like a second home in her last two years at MSU. She also worked summers in South Haven, and interned at the Ingham County Prosecutors Office, working with victims of domestic violence.
Her hard work allowed her to save enough money to take a risk on an unpaid internship with the White House Internship Program. She was a member of Vice President Biden's Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs team and spent the majority of her time focusing on the Cancer Moonshot initiative and the "It's On Us" campaign to end college sexual assault.
The risk came at a cost – her life savings. Fortunately, a donor-funded scholarship was available which allowed Fogarty to pay for her last semester of school, without which she would not have been able to graduate. Fogarty graduated this summer with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice. She was kind enough to answer some questions for us between busily packing up her East Lansing life to move back to Washington, D.C. to start her new career, working for Facebook, noting that she is “very eager to start and see where my journey takes me next.”
What was your favorite academic experience at MSU?
I took Criminal Procedure with Dr. Smith in the spring of 2015. I still look back on this class because it was taught so well. I have never had a professor that was able to engage a class so well on very detailed material. It was not just reading a book but applying material and using our common sense, something that isn’t taught much anymore. To this day, I believe I learned the most in that class. Dr. Smith was by far the best professor I had during my time at Michigan State University.
Do you have a favorite campus space or memory?
The football stadium will forever be my favorite place on campus and the place where I have the most memories. I will never forget the game against Wisconsin in 2011 (my freshman year) where Cousins threw the Hail Mary pass winning the game with no time left. The silence of the stadium was almost eerie as the refs reviewed the play and the energy at the moment it was confirmed as a touch down is something I have never been able to forget. It was the first moment at MSU that I realized that Spartans never say never and will fight until the very end for what they want.
Tell us about your internship.
I interned in the Office of Vice President Joe Biden from January to May of 2016. I was the Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs intern. I would prepare briefing memos for the Vice President and senior level principals covering background of attendees, event logistics, and other pertinent event details. I would assist in coordinating events for the Vice President, elected officials, and constituent groups including sending invitations, tracking RSVPs, logging participant credentials, and orchestrating logistics the day of the event. I helped to create and organize the database of outside stakeholders and invitations for the Vice President regarding the cancer “Moonshot” initiative and worked with the Digital and Communications Departments to identify cancer survivors for the Vice President to call and subsequently compiled call briefing materials. I would also help coordinate scheduling, assist with logistics, and prepare briefing materials for senior level staff meetings with external stakeholders.
I was able to move to DC due to the MSU DC Study Away Program. They helped me with my internship search and finding one that suited me. When I came across the White House Internship Program, I knew it would be the experience of a lifetime. I took the risk of turning down other internship offers without hearing from WHIP but when I finally did, I knew it was all going to be worth it. I was so lucky to have an internship that provided me with the most amazing mentors out there. We had our “intern” moments but overall they made us feel like a member of the team. I never second-guessed that what I was doing was important for the bigger picture. Everyone was so kind and eager to share their knowledge with the interns. I would not be where I am today without OVP. The hardest thing I have had to do in college was saying goodbye to such an amazing staff. I was so very blessed to have this opportunity.
What is your favorite moment from the internship experience?
My favorite week of my internship was during the It’s On Us Week of Action. It’s on Us is an organization that is raising awareness about the seriousness of college sexual assault. The White House has teamed up with them and during the Week of Action, the Vice President traveled to different universities around the country to raise awareness and ask students to take the It’s On Us Pledge to end sexual assault. It was an amazing thing to be a part of and see how much passion the people around me had for such an important issue.
The Stephen W. Renfer Scholarship allowed you to…
Finish school. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to complete my last two classes. As many know, the cost of living in DC is not cheap. I spent my life savings in DC while I worked for five months with no income. I was out of options for federal aid and could not get a loan because I did not have a job or a co-signer. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to move forward in my career and I would not have the piece of paper confirming that I am indeed a Spartan.
Would you like to say anything to the donors who created your scholarship?
I could never say thank you enough. This scholarship allowed me to say I bleed green for the rest of my life. The overwhelming stress that came along with the possibility of not finishing the degree that I worked extremely hard for five years to complete was taken away thanks to you. You gave me the opportunity to make my footprint on the world and bring the Spartan name along with me.
Any advice for future Spartans?
Take risks! If someone thinks that you can’t do it, prove them wrong. You will not get anywhere you want to go if you do not take some blind leaps of faith. And if you fall, you have an amazing support system to back you up. Spartans are everywhere. Wherever you end up in this world you will find someone excited to follow your “Go Green” with a “Go White.” Being a Spartan is a bigger deal than you can ever imagine. People think that you will leave college behind but it follows you everywhere. I am where I am today because of this school. If you make the decision to become a Spartan, it will stick with you for life and you will have a family wherever life takes you.
This post is part of a series, Not Just A Scholarship, featuring various scholarship recipients at Michigan State University. You can also follow #NotJustAScholarship on our social media channels to learn more about these Spartans throughout the year.