In May 2020, McGeorge alumnus Aaron Brieno, ‘14 joined Professor Cathy Christian as Co-Director of the McGeorge Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. “One of the biggest reasons why I teach is to ensure that students of all backgrounds have access to public policy making tools,” says Brieno, who currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for California State Senator Ben Hueso. “Ideally the Clinic provides students with tools they can bring back to their community as social impact leaders.”
Despite the challenges of COVID, Legislative and Public Policy students are thriving. “I am so proud that all of our students groups were able to either introduce a bill or work on a bill this year,” says Brieno. “No small feat since the California Legislature has limited the introduction of bills during COVID.”
Brieno and Professor Christian have exposed students to a number of legislators and public policy advocates during the course of the year. “We wanted to provide our students with a well-rounded experience and expose them to impactful leaders,” Brieno says. This spring alone, students heard from a panel of women legislators about their experiences in the Capitol and from “Just Mercy” film producer Scott Budnick about his anti-recidivism work in California.
Brieno himself has come full-circle since his days as a student at the Clinic. The grandson of migrant farm workers, Aaron was born and raised in California’s rural San Joaquin Valley. As a McGeorge student, the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic shaped the trajectory of his career. “The Clinic had a tremendously huge impact on my life,” says Brieno, crediting the mentorship of then clinic co-director and founder Rex Frasier,’00 and co-director Anthony Williams,’05.
As part of his mission to pay it forward, in 2016, Aaron founded a community-based organization, Inspire California, which provides free college prep resources, mentorship and college campus tours to high school students of Central Valley migrant farmworkers.
“My advice to McGeorge students interested in legislative and public policy work is to reach out to us,” says Aaron. “We are more than happy to set up a virtual coffee or put you in touch with a current student.”