Rafferty wins Tim Russert fellowship

September 10th, 2009

Andrew Rafferty’s murky post-graduate plans became clear at the end of July when he was selected as the first recipient of the NBC/John Carroll University “Meet the PressFellowship.

The fellowship was established last year in honor of JCU alumnus Tim Russert, who served as moderator of “Meet the Press,” a weekly television forum for political discourse, for 17 years. 

Later this month, Rafferty, who graduated with a degree in communication and theater arts and a minor in political science, will begin working on the world’s longest running television show in Washington D.C. 

According to Rafferty, his duties will include researching facts and figures about the show’s weekly guests and issues and learning about the production of the show, an area in which he has limited prior experience. 

“It [“Meet the Press] is definitely one of the most revered forms of journalism, and being able to learn from the people responsible for that is an honor,” Rafferty, former Editor in Chief of The Carroll News, said. 

The fellowship was announced at the beginning of last May and applications were due in early June.

According to Karen Gygli, chair of the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theater Arts, about 10 graduating seniors applied. 

Gygli served on the University’s selection committee for the fellowship. The committee had the task of narrowing the pool to three students. “Meet the Press Executive Producer Betsy Fischer selected Rafferty as the fellow among the three finalists. 

Applicants were to be seniors graduating with a degree in communications or political science with a minimum of a 3.5 grade point average.

“ All three finalists were extremely talented… and had a burning interest in journalism,” Gygli said. She also said she expects a much bigger pool of applicants in the future. 

“I got really lucky,” Rafferty said. “If I had graduated a year earlier, I would not have had this opportunity. Also, I was against a lot of competition. There are a lot of talented people in the class of 2009. This was the first time I competed for a job against good friends. It’s an odd thing.”

Academic Vice President John Day served on the selection committee with Gygli. 

“The fellowship is a wonderful connection with NBC,” Day said. “It is a wonderful opportunity for our students and a unique experience to offer a John Carroll graduate.”

While Gygli and Day knew Rafferty mostly from reading his Carroll News column, Richard Hendrickson, a JCU journalism professor, had Rafferty as a student in several of his classes. 

“Andrew is one of those rare students who is serious about journalism and actually is willing to take the risk of becoming a reporter in this day of media change,” Hendrickson said during a phone interview. “He’s balanced in his approach and attitude to things. He doesn’t take no for an answer, but he also challenges information that does not sound right.

“He’s a good guy and a serious journalist. He’s going to be great,” said Hendrickson.

Carroll News adviser Bob Noll said, “It’s also very appropriate that Andrew – from the Buffalo area like Tim Russert – would receive this honor.

“During the four years here, Andrew showed a real passion for journalism and political science, so it looks like a perfect fit for him next year in Washington.”

The fellowship is nine months in length and is funded by friends of Tim Russert and supporters of the University.