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Aaron W. Gladd, BA '08, MPA Candidate

Aaron Gladd loves a challenge! Good thing - because he’s come up against them his whole life.   

Born into poverty, Aaron was abandoned by his mother when he was just a little boy.  Sometime around third grade, he remembers hopping on a Greyhound bus in Florida all by himself to head north where he hoped to stay with extended family or friends. As a teenager, he moved out of his step-father’s house and tried to make it on his own because he didn’t want to drain the family’s limited resources. Sometimes he’d live at a friend’s. Other times, his car was his home.  
Eventually, he got a place of his own and earned his high school diploma while working full-time. “I realized very young that I needed to eat. I needed money. I needed a job.  I knew I had to work hard. I had to go to college. If I was in a house where everything was taken care of, I think I would have taken a lot for granted. In many respects, I was luckier than most people,” Gladd reflects. 
Aaron Gladd

Aaron Gladd

Luck, most might observe, had absolutely nothing to do with Aaron Gladd’s success, though when you meet him he’ll tell you he believes wholeheartedly in it. It was hard work - - plain and simple - - that carried the good-natured 23-year-old from Saranac Lake, NY to the halfway point in his MPA studies at Rockefeller College and led to his being named a New York State Senate Fellow, a prestigious title generally reserved for those who’ve already earned their master’s or JD. Hard work - - no question about it!  It’s never been unusual for Aaron to juggle two or three jobs at a time.   

As a full-time Senate Fellow in the office of Deputy Senate Minority Leader Tom Libous (R-C-I, 52nd Senate District), Gladd manages the Senator’s Albany office.  His duties include conducting research on bills, helping to draft legislation, writing sponsor memos, and pitching in with constituency work.  He also spends a lot of time studying parliamentary procedure.  “If you know parliamentary procedure,” he explains, “you can control the agenda.  You can control a bill’s movement.  You can control what gets done.”  Spoken like the real policy pro he’s becoming.  But then again, Aaron’s no stranger to the policymaking arena. He gained valuable experience in the legislative process at both the state and federal level as a UAlbany undergrad working for Senator Libous, who was at the time the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, and Congressman Mike McNulty in Washington, DC. 

Aaron Gladd says he’s grateful to the faculty at Rockefeller College for bringing practical experience to classroom instruction.  That exposure to how the world really works helped prepare him for his current assignment in the Senate. “The interaction with faculty is pretty remarkable. I’ve had some great professors with really impressive credentials like Bob McEvoy and Bob Purtell. They’ve had very accomplished careers.” Aaron believes the relationships he developed with faculty and staff were instrumental in helping him land the Senate Fellowship.  “I picked up the application in (Public Service Professor) Bob McEvoy’s office.  Bob’s recommendation and his picking up the phone and calling were crucial.  I wouldn’t have been able to get the Senate Fellowship without Rockefeller College.  Rockefeller’s a great program. Incredibly affordable. The teachers are great. The curriculum’s tough - - very tough actually!” he adds with a smile.   

Aaron’s not sure where the future will lead; he takes it a day at a time, a philosophy he learned as a youngster and one he credits with making him so productive. He admits to having a passion for government and a special interest in the issues of poverty and welfare reform. He’s thinking about law school, or perhaps pursuing another master’s degree. Aaron’s also considered Officer Candidates School. Whatever he does, he wants to make a difference in people’s lives.   

“He’s always the first one to volunteer. He’s always the first one to help,” says Director of Admissions and Assistant to the Chair of the Public Administration Department, Kara Pangburn.  “He’s going to be so good at whatever job he does. He’s going to be the perfect public servant.  Aaron will always think of other people who need government to intervene on their behalf." 

Like his idol Bobby Kennedy, Aaron Gladd is idealistic about public service. “It just takes one person to make a change,” he says. “It only ever takes one person.” Perhaps Rockefeller College’s Aaron Gladd will be that person.