Sean Rapelyea

Class of 2008

The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is mentoring this young civic leader.

What are you doing now?

I work as an Assistant to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Office of Legislative Council and Government Affairs in Chicago.

What inspired you to enter politics?

A great deal of credit should go to some inspiring history and political science teachers.  All the way back to my eighth grade political science teacher Mr. Cates from Clarksville Middle School, up to Dr. Christine Wade’s Minority Politics class my junior year at Washington College. Dr. Wade’s class really opened my mind and sparked my interest in electoral politics.

How did you end up in Chicago?

A fellow alumnus, Richard Yost ’04, made the connection for me. I began working for Rahm Emanuel’s Mayoral campaign on December 1, 2010. I really enjoy working for such an outstanding leader. He was twice in the White House—first as an aide to Clinton and then as chief of staff for Obama.

What important lessons have you learned on the job?

Nothing happens overnight.  Prioritizing and organization are key. Developing professional relationships is also vital to my job and to my career.

Do you see yourself running for office one day?

I definitely enjoy this field. In the not-too-distant future I see myself working for a government agency in Chicago or back in Washington, DC.

What greatest satisfaction do you find in your work?

I enjoy the ability to work on issues that make people’s lives better, whether it be better and more efficient city services, or opening up or improving new parks across the city.  Seeing any project from start to finish that is going to make people’s experience in the city more enjoyable makes you feel great walking out of the office at the end of the day.

How well did WC prepare you for this role?

I think Washington College prepared me very well; I’d have to attribute some of that preparation to playing lacrosse.  In off-season and during the season Coach Clarke talked a lot about work ethic, staying on top of everything, and asking for help when you need it. 

What college reading changed your life?

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I remember reading that and writing a decent paper on that in Dr. Gillin’s class. English Romanticism was a rite of passage of sorts for an English major. 

What is your favorite college memory?

Beating Lynchburg College 12-9 in the NCAA tournament. Being a part of a team that was able to accomplish that will always be something I treasure.

What makes Washington College deserving of donor support?

Washington College gave me an opportunity to grow, learn, and develop into someone prepared for the challenges of today’s workforce. I was an athlete, a copywriter and sports editor for the Elm, but first and foremost a student. I think the attention given to the student experience at Washington College—from that first picnic in Martha Washington Square to Graduation Day—is unmatched. Giving back is an agreement to the belief that students deserve that attention and commitment from the faculty and staff.