Taylor Schaffer and her mother had an agreement. If Schaffer attended her first year of college at her mother’s alma mater of Indiana State University, then the young woman could take her pick of colleges to finish her degree.
“Instead, I became involved on campus, engaged with my major and absolutely fell in love with Indiana State,” Schaffer said.
What started as a one-year “good economic choice” in 2007 ended up being the college where Schaffer earned her degree in 2011. Indiana State is also where Schaffer decided on her professional career and received the encouragement to pursue it.
“Indiana State, and probably more specifically the people of Indiana State, convinced me I could do anything,” Schaffer said. “Over and over, I can point to instances where they had faith in me, where they told me I was capable, where they provided opportunities to gain experience and learn beyond the classroom.”
Born in Terre Haute, Schaffer’s early childhood ambition was to be a ballerina. “My mom owns a dance studio, so I danced from the time I could walk,” she said. “After that, I wanted to be an artist — I have no artistic abilities — a singer — I cannot carry a tune — and a fashion designer — I read a book.”
In high school, Schaffer became interested in being a journalist. “But I was worried about the changing market, so I decided on communications. I decided to add on the political science minor as a result of having attended Hoosier Girls State.”
During her four years on the Terre Haute campus, Schaffer was a member of student government and the Sparkettes dance team, which performed at athletic events. “My senior year, the basketball team won the Missouri Valley Tournament, and we went to Cleveland — it was a blast.”
Among her cherished memories are times spent on the campus and with college faculty. “I just loved the campus — the fountain, the library, basically living in the Student Union my senior year, walking across the street for a Polar Pop before class, pizza at the Bally on Fridays, walking in the Homecoming parade.”
Although some are no longer at Indiana State, Schaffer named some of the faculty members who greatly influenced her life: “Tara Singer. Vice President Tillery. I adored the Worleys, Deb and David. They were absolutely incredible to me, personally and professionally.”
University President Dan Bradley and his wife, Cheri, “were incredibly supportive,” Schaffer said. “I am sure they are like that with all the students at Indiana State, but anytime I see them, they ask how I’m doing, where I am. It always feels like they genuinely care. They are so kind.”
During her time at State, Schaffer developed the necessary tools to succeed in her chosen profession. “I joined the workforce with a level of maturity and self-assurance that has served me well. I wasn’t afraid to try new things. I wasn’t afraid to take on more responsibility. I wasn’t afraid to push myself, because of my years at Indiana State.”
After college, Schaffer started her professional career at the Bandy Carroll Agency, an advertising agency based in Louisville with an office in Indianapolis. Then she moved to Young & Laramore, another ad agency.
“Late last summer, I joined Joe Hogsett’s mayoral campaign full time, and I’ve been with the team ever since,” said Schaffer who serves as communications director for the city of Indianapolis.
“I do a little bit of everything — internal and external communications, media relations, social media, setting strategy, identifying opportunities and initiatives,” she said. “It’s a roller coaster.”
As an Indianapolis resident, Schaffer said she said she is “constantly in awe of the way Indianapolis is growing and changing and benefitting from redevelopment and truly visionary community leaders. Decades ago, Mayor Lugar and Mayor Hudnut invested in building our downtown. Now, we’re seeing a renewed focus in our neighborhoods and suddenly new residents who might have moved out of Marion County when it was time to buy a house or starting a family, are putting down roots here. The changing fabric of the city is incredible to be part of — even when it’s just riding my bike around town on the weekend.”
What she likes most about her job as communications director is “the sense of accomplishment. In nearly every level of government right now there is almost paralyzing gridlock and partisan bickering. But I’m lucky because at the local level, things just have to get done.”
To paraphrase her boss, Schaffer said, “there are no Republican potholes or Democratic potholes. There are just potholes, and the people who have to drive over them every day want to see them filled. We have the chance to get things done that directly impact the people and neighborhoods of Indianapolis. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.”