Journey in Legislation and Government – Liznel Aybar ‘15

Journey in Legislation and Government – Liznel Aybar ‘15

Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ’19

SG:  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Trinity really wants to get a better understanding of where some of our political science alumni are today and what they took with them from Trinity as they embarked into the real world. So, my first question is pretty broad: what have you done since leaving Trinity? This could be something career related, something personal or family related, really however you want to take it.

LA:  Absolutely. So post-graduation I joined the New York State Assembly, performing communications and constituent services for Assembly Member O’Donnell. He represents the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was with him for about two years, wearing all sorts of hats in the office aside from my given roles. I left government work for about a year when I was the Head of Research at an executive search firm — I hired doctors and scientists for biotech companies, but I was wildly unhappy away from government and in an environment that was too money-motivated. So, I ultimately left that job and came right back into government. I work for the New York State Senate now.

SG: Very cool. So what is your current role at the state senate?

LA: I’m currently an External Relations Associate for the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Stewart-Cousins. The New York State Senate over the past 50 years had been controlled primarily by Republicans, but now that Democrats won the majority, an opportunity presented itself for me to return to my passion. And what that looks like is that I am assigned Senators in the NYC area that unseated  incumbents, or that we considered to be in a sort of vulnerable position, and it’s my job to supervise their operations, liaise with their staff, and establish and maintain best practices. I’ll visit anywhere between three or five Senators in New York City a week and talk to their offices about how to not only build their teams, but really how to do their jobs, troubleshoot whatever challenges they might have, etc. So if the workload is overwhelming for any staffer, a Director of Constituent Services, for example, I’ll step in and alleviate their issue. So I work for Senators so to speak, but I’m not necessarily on their staff because I work for the Senate Leader.

SG:  That’s really interesting. Wow.

LA:  Thank you. It’s a great job. I’m infinitely happy here.

SG:  Glad to hear it. You’ve graduated pretty recently. How long have you been in that role?

LA:  I actually started at the beginning of January.

 

SG:  I’m glad that you’re enjoying it so much, so early on. That’s really good to hear. Is there anything in particular that you learned during your time here at Trinity, whether in or outside the classroom, that you’ve really taken with you during your career?

LA:  Plenty. So aside from the Political Science department being wonderful overall, I was lucky to have my advisor be Andrew Flibbert. He really guided me through every single step of my college career. So I think what I take away most from Trinity was the quality of my professors. I can’t think of a single professor that I didn’t like; they were all so helpful and so committed to their subject matter and also to teaching it appropriately to us. I’m forever grateful for the quality of Trinity’s academic rigor. I was also in a lot of clubs, and I had a lot of jobs, I even participated in the Legislative Internship Program… so there was the academic component of Trinity, and the actual experience component of Trinity, that really helped form the way that I am now.

SG:  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think that definitely speaks true to the students here today as well. The professors are just great. So what were you involved in beyond the political science department? I know you mentioned you were in a lot of clubs; which ones were you involved in? Did you have a minor or anything like that?

LA:  I was a Political Science major and a concentration in International Relations and my minor was Hispanic Studies. Aside from the academic component–I did a lot, honestly. As far as jobs go, I used to work at the front desk at Ferris. I was an after-school mentor at the JCM program. I used to work at the Post Office, and I was a PRIDE leader. As far as clubs go, I was a member of the SGA Budget committee and a member of La Voz Latina. One semester I was even the Social Chair for the Caribbean Students Association, when they were organizing their annual fashion show.

SG:  Wow. It sounds like you definitely made the most of your time here.

LA:  Absolutely. And that was all towards the end of my Trinity career. So I organized my college career in such a way that by second semester senior year, I could participate in the Legislative Internship Program. My second semester senior year was outstanding. I participated in that internship full time, while also organizing Trinity’s 10th Annual International Hip-Hop Festival.

SG: That’s a huge event.

LA:  Which was wonderful. I really found a way to put my hands in everything going on at Trinity. I also coordinated Do It Day one year.

SG:  How did the Legislative Internship work? Did you work there full-time as a substitute?

LA:  I had a few classmates that I think were doing the internship part time, but I knew that I wanted to do it full time so by the time I graduated I’d have the skills I need to continue that line of work.

SG:  That makes a lot of sense. What is your proudest accomplishment since graduating Trinity? This could be work or not work related, kind of whatever you’d like to share.

LA:  I think what I’m proudest of was when I worked for the New York State Assembly. I had mentioned earlier that in that office, despite my official title, I had a lot of hats. I’m proud to say that I worked on particular piece of legislation that is still being considered by the legislature – it’s a bill to repeal section 50A of the New York State civil rights law. That section blatantly blocks the public from accessing police conduct records in instances that police officers are taken to court for not having carried out justice appropriately. I’m really proud to have worked on the legislation by connecting with Albany, with community organizations, and with the Assembly Member. I’m still following it closely and hope that it gets through now that Democrats have the majority in Albany.

SG:  That’s definitely something to be proud of. It’s an impressive thing to have accomplished so early on in your career because that was your first job, right?

LA:  That was my first job, and I felt that the assignment was sort of put in my lap. I remember thinking at the time, I was 21 or 22, “are you sure you guys want me to do this?” I thought, “I’ll do it, but are you sure?” So I’m glad it was successful and I hope that it is ultimately successful by way of becoming legislation.

SG:  What are some of the things you’re interested in outside of work? Do you have any hobbies or passions or just something you’d like to share kind of on a more personal basis?

LA:  I am passionate about hiking. None of my friends are, so it’s always an obstacle to drag someone with me. Once the weather is even remotely nice, I pull out a trail map and look at anywhere I can go in the New England area. I’m still wildly passionate about Hip-Hop culture. I mentioned that I organized the festival at Trinity. I’ll always be entrenched in the culture as an Uptown New York City native.

SG:  I’m glad you were able to kind of continue that passion after Trinity as well. Was there anything else that you wanted to share or that you think would be important for Trinity or fellow alumni to know about you?

LA:  I would like to offer some advice to students at Trinity: do not do every single thing I did. I had far too much on my plate to be quite candid. I barely graduated on time. Trinity has so much to offer, so make sure you find an appropriate balance of academia and extracurriculars.

 

SG: That’s definitely a great piece of advice. I feel like when you’re coming in as a first year, the advice is always “Do as much as you possibly can,” but it gets to a certain point where you kind of need to pick some priorities and manage your time.

LA:  I’ll offer an anecdote. I think it was the last or second to last day of my internship program and a final exam paper was due. I assumed it was due at 12:00 PM that day, but it was actually due at 12:00 AM, 12 hours earlier. I remember rushing out of the legislature and running to Trinity to get my essay in. I sat in Mather near tears after the submission – being so grateful that my professors were supportive and mindful of how chaotic my schedule was.