Jay Buffum

"Jay is an intelligent young man who has a great deal of perseverance and passion.  I can’t wait to see what change he brings to this world."
- Kristen Pettey, Associate Professor of Business

With just a little imagination it’s easy to see that Jay Buffum might have been a challenge for his grade school teachers. 

“I’ve known since I was a first grader that I was a leader – maybe even in situations where I shouldn’t be,” he says with a grin. “Teachers tended to point this out.” But this leadership has brought him a political position of authority that is unusual for a college junior. 

Jay serves as chair of the Cowley County Republications, an involvement that means he is earning experience as an administrator and has voice in state conventions. The opportunity also led to an internship in Washington, D.C., at the office of Congressman Ron Estes last summer. 

A business administration and marketing major from Winfield, Jay admits that his immersion in the political system began out of ignorance when a high school classmate griped about how much he hated politics. 

“I didn’t even know what ‘politics’ meant so I began digging into it, and I was hooked,” he says. “I was struck by what a big process it is, how many people have to be involved to make the system work.” 

So as a freshman at SC in 2016, he founded the College Republicans. This led to work on the 2016 presidential campaign and local races when he was barely old enough to vote – he was 18 years, five months old when he organized the college group. 

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“Toward the end of the 2016 election, the chair of the Cowley County Republications decided to step down,” he recalls. “They knew they had to find someone and I realized I was that someone.” 

Instead of taking the helm of a defeated and demoralized local organization as many had expected, Jay found himself chair of an energized group that included township and precinct representatives from throughout the county. Even though only about 30 of the approximately 50 available positions are filled, this is twice as many as when Buffum was first elected. 

“They represent their constituencies and I represent them,” he explains. 

And, he admits, this means he comes under fire from those who are unhappy with the actions of his party. 

“It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he says. “I do feel a responsibility to represent the party the best I can, and I understand why people think of me as a target.” Then he grins. “It’s preparing me for a long career of having thick skin.”

That’s because Jay Buffum sees his local leadership as the first step in what he hopes will be a long political career. Southwestern has been the ideal spot to solidify his political aspirations.

“I have friends across the state who were afraid to wear Republican shirts, but I’ve never felt bullied or indoctrinated by left-leaning people on campus,” he says. 

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In his limited spare time Jay sings in A Cappella Choir and until this semester was in SC Singers. A top swimmer on his high school team, he continues to coach youth swimmers.

“Someone told me that you don’t have to make a career out of your passions but you need to make your passions part of your life,” he says. 

His greatest passion, though, remains politics. 

“I want to take every opportunity God puts in front of me,” Jay says, “and when I’m 70 years old I want to be able to kick back in my recliner and be satisfied with what I did to help people.”

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