News Ticker

Young Alumni Profile: Stephanie Cummings ’09

Sacred Heart put her on the trail to state House of Representatives

Undergraduate Major: Political Science
Occupation: State Representative, Connecticut House of Representatives (74th District in Waterbury)

You have studied and worked in the law profession since you graduated from law school in 2012. What attracted you to this path?

I always wanted to be a lawyer. I recently found a book from eighth grade in which students wrote about their future ambitions and, even then, I listed that I wanted to be a lawyer. The law is a field that is ever-evolving and always presents new opportunities to learn. The law also offers the opportunity to be creative in your arguments and is much more nuanced than many people might think, especially based on portrayals of lawyers in film and on television.

How did your time at Sacred Heart University prepare you for your current occupation?

I can attribute my entire political career to Dr. Gary Rose and my time at Sacred Heart. I was originally a history major, but when I started taking political science classes with Dr. Rose, I was hooked! He suggested that I explore an internship opportunity at the State Capitol, where I was fortunate to intern for State Rep. Selim Noujaim, who represented the district I lived in and the district I currently represent in my first term as a state legislator. Additionally, Dr. Rose helped me by going line-by-line through my law school applications and even helped me choose what law schools to apply to.

What do you enjoy most about your career, and where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I love the challenges that both my career in the law and my career in politics present. The law is constantly changing, and there are so many facets that you are always learning something new, either from established case law or from colleagues. One of the most important lessons I learned in law school that helps immensely in politics is to focus on the argument at hand rather than taking a counter position as a personal attack. Politically, I enjoy the ability to help people the most. You can do so much for so many with the connections you make politically.

You were just sworn in to the Connecticut House of Representatives. What was your personal motivation behind deciding to run for a seat?

youngalumni_staterepstephaniecummings3My motivation to run was simply a desire to see Connecticut do better. My mentor, Selim Noujaim, decided to retire from his role as state representative, and I was fortunate to be given the chance to represent the people of my neighborhood. As his intern, I learned first-hand how much of an impact he made on my district, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I felt uniquely prepared to take on the challenge of being a state representative after having spent two terms on the local board of aldermen.

Winning the seat in your district is impressive. Tell us a little about your experience running (perhaps a favorite moment from the campaign, etc.).

Running for office is always a very colorful experience. During my campaign for state representative, I knocked on more than 4,000 doors and was able to get to know my neighbors much better than I ever imagined. Being an elected official also presents the opportunity to make small differences in people’s lives. Simple things like getting the pothole in front of someone’s driveway repaired goes a long way toward including more of our citizens in the political process.

youngalumni_staterepstephaniecummingsMy favorite campaign experience, however, stems from my first campaign for board of aldermen when I met Attorney Bill Bumpus, who asked how I thought I could make a difference. During our discussion, I mentioned that I wanted to make our education system better. He told me about a project he volunteered for—collecting books for New Haven Reads—that inspired me to get involved and subsequently mirror the organization in Waterbury. Today, Waterbury Reads has collected more than 40,000 books and will be unveiling our bookmobile next month as another way to get books into the hands of children in targeted communities.

You were involved in many things during your time at SHU. As a young alumna, what are your fondest memories of Sacred Heart?

My favorite memories at SHU were political science classes and getting to attend the first inauguration of President Obama. It was truly an incredible experience to be a part of history, regardless of what side of the aisle you sat!

Do you still keep in touch with fellow alumni, former professors or staff members?

I keep in touch with Dr. Rose and a couple of friends who are involved politically. One of my SHU friends, Mike Johnson, even came to Waterbury to help me knock on doors for the election!

If you were speaking to a current Sacred Heart University senior, what one piece of advice would you give?

Go the extra mile and work hard to set yourself apart. Almost everyone coming out of college will have the basics, but you will be caught in the shuffle if you don’t find ways to separate yourself from the crowd. Do the extra project. Arrive early, stay late and always ask how you can help. You will never regret it.