Student Spotlight: Aidan Hayes

Aidan Hayes is a senior studying public relations at the Newhouse School and international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. In the spring of 2023, Hayes participated in the Newhouse DC study away program. He lived and worked in the nation’s capital for a semester, taking Newhouse classes and interning in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. Though initially nervous for the experience, he felt prepared—by the work completed in his Newhouse classes—to take on Capitol Hill. Hayes walked away from the experience “much more prepared now for life after school than I was before,” he said.

Beverly Kirk, director of Washington programs and a professor of practice in broadcast and digital journalism, taught, advised and got to know Hayes last semester.

student Aidan Hayes stands with Senator Elizabeth Warren
Hayes and Senator Elizabeth Warren. (Photo courtesy of Aidan Hayes)

“Just watching him grow as a student and as a career minded person was one of the things I enjoyed most. From seeing how he was when he arrived in DC, then seeing how he left DC, and the all changes, the great things that he learned and all the great experiences that he had, that was fun for me as a professor to watch the evolution,” she said.

Why did you choose Newhouse?

My path to Newhouse wasn’t exactly linear. I came into Syracuse University as an international relations major in Maxwell but I knew that political communications was something that I was interested in. I always knew I was interested in the legislative aspects of politics and I’ve always been drawn to writing, oral communication and public speaking. When I got into Syracuse and realized that I had this other interest in communication, I felt like everything had fallen into place where I was able to pick up either a minor or another major in Newhouse while continuing my IR studies. I ended up landing on PR and I thought it would be the perfect complement to my first major.

What opportunities have you taken advantage of at Newhouse?

The Newhouse DC program. To study at a Syracuse campus, while doing an internship on Capitol Hill, networking and doing all those different types of experiential learning has been the most impactful on my college experience. And then in general, the networking opportunities with professors at Newhouse have been second to none. I have been able to cultivate these new relationships and find new interests within the realm of public relations that I would have never considered before. I’ve just been exposed to so many different mentors here who have pushed and pulled me along into the best version of myself. I’ve also had the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses, not just in public relations, but in journalism. I’ve been honing in on political journalism and reporting through writing classes and channeling those interests into writing and skills that I have.

a person stands in front of the US capitol building
Aidan Hayes (Photo by Branden Alberts)

Tell me about your Newhouse DC experience and internship.

I was in the inaugural Newhouse DC spring 2023 class, and I didn’t know anyone who had done it before. I was kind of scared and a little bit apprehensive going into it as I was moving to a brand-new city on my own where I didn’t know anyone. But thankfully, I had the opportunity to intern in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office on Capitol Hill. As a legislative intern I was doing policy memos and a lot of interagency research. Then I had the opportunity to transfer to being both a press and legislative intern, which is when I really started to hit my stride. I wrote and drafted sample press releases, did transcripts for interviews and wrote mock pitches and talking points for the senator. That was the best type of experiential learning that I could have gotten, because it prepared me for potential careers in political communication, whether it be on the Hill or Hill-adjacent. Simultaneously, I had a full Newhouse course load. That was great, too. I was learning from all professors of practice who work in the industry in DC, who had different connections and professional insights that were impactful. It was just the best learning experience I could have had.

How was it living and working in DC?

I had been to DC before but this was my first real experience with the city, living there on my own. It was difficult at first, adjusting to a different city, being away from my friends and having to chart my own path, but I really enjoyed it. I think DC is just a wonderful city. It’s got such a vibrant social scene, lot of great restaurants and it’s very walkable, which are things that matter to me. The whole livability aspect of it was awesome. I’m really grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it. It wasn’t what I had originally pictured myself doing at the start of my college experience, but I couldn’t be more thankful that I took that leap of faith and gave it a shot with this brand new program, just because I was able to network so much. Through this opportunity I’m so much more prepared now for life after school than I was before.

How had your PR education prepared you for your internship?

a person stands inside the US capitol building
“Through this opportunity I’m so much more prepared now for life after school than I was before,” Hayes said of Newhouse DC. (Photo by Branden Alberts)

I transferred into the dual major program at the start of my sophomore year so I was able to take two different PR courses that gave me the standard workload of what a public relations practitioner would do, such as doing sample press releases, mock press conferences, talking points, different samples, sending mock pitches to journalists. I had done all of these things in classes, but I had never done it for an agency or a politician or practitioner. I felt really prepared going into my internship, just in terms of the types of activities they were having me do. I mean, I was an intern, but I was able to put forward a lot of meaningful work that they were impressed by and I think that is because of my experience at Newhouse through my different public relations courses, where we ran through all these different mock activities. It prepared me for the real world.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I don’t have any plans set in stone right now, but I am looking to continue cultivating the relationships I made on Capitol Hill, and potentially step into a role in a political office in Washington, doing communications. Whether that be starting as a press assistant or a deputy press secretary, it’ll be working my way up in the communications landscape in Washington. I’m not just interested in working on Capitol Hill, I could definitely see myself ending up at a PR agency in Washington, or even venturing into political consulting or advertising in the campaign space. It’s something that really interests me. I’m not sure specifically what I want to do, but I’m definitely interested in the realm of political communication, and seeing where that can take me.

Samantha Rodino is a sophomore in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.