Forever Orange: Aaron Partnow ’23

While completing a bachelor’s degree in political science and geography at Syracuse University, Aaron Partnow developed an interest in documentary film. During his senior year, Partnow learned of the Forever Orange Scholarship, which provides half of the tuition for students who enroll full-time in a qualifying graduate degree or certificate program at Syracuse University.

The scholarship is automatically available to all Class of 2024 graduating Syracuse University seniors who are eligible for admission—no separate scholarship application is needed. Graduating seniors who have already been admitted to a qualifying graduate program are also eligible.

Partnow saw the scholarship as an opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in television, radio and film at the Newhouse School, where he would get to work with and learn from the school’s experienced and knowledgeable faculty like Richard Breyer,  a professor and documentary filmmaker.

Aaron Partnow

Undergraduate Program: Political Science and Geography, 2023
Newhouse Master’s Program: Television, Radio and Film, 2024

Aaron Partnow headshot

What drew you to Syracuse University for your undergraduate studies? 

My mom grew up about an hour north of Syracuse in Watertown, and so she always rooted for the Orange. When I was looking for schools, I wanted a place that had a strong sporting environment and good academics, something that was really lacking in Alaska. Syracuse seemed like a place where I could be equally passionate about my academics and rooting for the sports teams. The more time I spend here and learn about it, the more I realize it is truly an “everything” school. There is a way to find passion and purpose, even if you never step foot in the Dome. 

What made you want to pursue a master’s degree?    

I had an unusual undergrad experience. My first semester was dictated by a racial reckoning on campus during the #NotAgainSU movement and later by COVID-19, which made the college experience I wanted impossible. I ended up spending a full semester at home managing a political campaign in my sophomore year, and a semester abroad in London my junior year. I then graduated a semester early as I had enough credits. Had the pandemic not happened, I think it may have been easier to take on a minor or double major at Newhouse, something I always wanted to do. For most of undergrad, my goal was just to focus on political science and getting those requirements done. Now that I’m in the television, radio and film graduate program, I see this as an opportunity to gain new skills and focus more narrowly on documentaries than I ever have, even if I do not go into the entertainment industry in the future. 

How did you first hear about the Forever Orange Scholarship and how did it play a role in your decision to attend graduate school?  

I hadn’t heard of it until late in the fall of my senior year. I was certain I was going to be moving on from school, but I thought it might be good to give myself a one-year buffer before going into the “real world.” It also allowed me to stay close with some of my friends on campus who were younger than me and still enrolled as undergraduates. Towards the end of undergrad, I found myself trending more towards the creative side of political discourse, i.e. documentaries, and I eventually learned that SU was a great place for that as well. It would allow me the flexibility to gain new skills while also avoiding the traditional path of law school or consulting, neither of which seemed as meaningful to me. 

The Forever Orange scholarship made a big difference. Especially as someone with a significant amount of student debt, I didn’t want to further burden my mom who had paid for my undergrad as much as possible. The scholarship made it more accessible to obtain a new degree without taking on additional debt, something I am very proud of. 

What unique features of your graduate program made you want to apply?  

I had always heard about Newhouse’s broadcast and digital journalism program but less so about television, radio and film. As I was doing research, I discovered there was a decent amount of faculty also interested in documentaries. In fact, there used to be a documentary, film and history program, an ideal career path for me. While the program no longer exists, I figured the remnants were still intact and it would be a great opportunity to learn more from seasoned professors I had wanted to work with in undergrad, including Professor Breyer. Because of this program, I was able to take Documentary Production with him, the highlight of my first semester. 

It also made a huge difference that this was only a one-year program. It made it easier to sell to myself that this was not a long commitment but more of a pit stop on my journey towards doing something impactful. 

What moments in graduate school have been the most exciting or defining thus far?  

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed being a TA for COM 107. It was really exciting to get to know the students who are the future leaders in communications. I also appreciated the opportunity to develop a solid working relationship with Professor Faren Karimkhan and better understand that teaching is much more than what happens in the classroom alone. I think education is a great form of public service and the unique opportunity to TA as a grad student made me believe that even more so. 

What advice would you give to students that are in the initial stages of deciding to pursue graduate school? 

Come in with a plan. I think the students who find a one-year program most valuable are those who have an idea that they want to fully flesh out and a plan to use Newhouse resources to get there. In my case, I am learning that to make a documentary in a short period of time, you need to do a lot of research and find story inspiration outside of class time. If you just wing it, you are less likely to come away with something you are proud of, and which makes the grad school investment worthwhile. Overall, having a concrete end goal-and writing it out explicitly when applying-is a great way to determine if grad school or any program at Newhouse is right for you. 

For more information on Newhouse School graduate programs, please email