student Spotlight

May Student Spotlight with Paul Gagliardi, BSPA '18


What’s it like working for a Senator who is a registered Democrat but caucuses with the Republican majority? We speak to BSPA student Paul Gagliardi about his exciting, party-overlapping experience in the NYS Senate in this month’s student spotlight.

Tell us about your experience working for Senator Simcha Felder in the NYS Senate. What were the challenges and what did you learn?
Being able to work with Senator Simcha Felder of the 17th District has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career thus far. The entire NYS Senate Session Assistants Program is one that enabled me to get my foot in the door at the governmental level and made me realize politics and public service is the career path I want to pursue. Senator Felder was interesting to intern for because he is a registered Democrat who caucuses with the Republican majority. Just that fact alone made the entire experience ten times more exciting than what it would have otherwise been.

Daily challenges always arose, whether it was calmly talking with angry constituents on the phone or researching the next best piece of legislation to introduce, every day something new was happening. The fast-paced work setting is something I had to adjust to quickly, but by the end of the program I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was fortunate enough to be elected Majority Leader of the Mock Legislative Senate, which was an additional part of the program. As majority leader, I had the opportunity to create a party platform, review party members’ bills and ensure that my party’s bills would all pass on the Senate floor. I learned a lot from the internship but one of the major takeaways that I'll remember as I begin my career in the government sector is that politics can be a very dirty game. The saying that states it is important too – “keep your friends close but also keep your enemies’ closer.” It’s something I will never forget going forward.

Congratulations on being a Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society inductee. How did you achieve that? What was receiving that honor like?
Thank you! To be inducted into the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society, one must be a BSPA major as well as have a 3.5 GPA in at least 5 upper-level PAF courses, and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 at the time of applying. When I started taking my PAF classes as a sophomore, I made it a goal of mine to put the most emphasis on all of my major classes during my time at Baruch. When I was notified that I would be inducted, it just felt like my hard work had paid off and something great was coming out of it. This honor will always be something I will look back on as reassurance that it was all worth it.

Why did you choose the BSPA? What has your experience in the program been like?
When I first started at Baruch in 2014, I was a Business Administration major with plans to get into the Zicklin School of Business. After my first two semesters at Baruch, I knew that Business Administration was not for me and that I needed to find a different major or I was going to be miserable. Someone who was in the Public Affairs program began to help me make my schedule for the Fall 2015 semester and they suggested I try out two Public Affairs classes to see if I liked them. My first class was PAF3108, Public Campaigns and Advocacy with Professor Don Waisanen. From that first class, I knew Public Affairs was the place for me. I had always had a passion for politics and government relations but never really wanted to get a degree in political science and call it a day.

The Public Affairs program at Baruch offers much more to students than just that. One of my favorite classes that I took was PAF 3343, Building Cities: Markets and Government, taught by Professor Rob Walsh. This class taught me how to economically develop different parts of New York City while also getting out to different Business Improvement Districts (BID’s), where Professor Walsh’s expertise really benefited myself. From this and other required classes, I was able to move on to internships and opportunities I never would have thought possible. If it was not for the Baruch College public affairs program, I would not have gained the experience and drive to achieve my future goals.