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Overcoming obstacles

September 21, 2020

Overcoming Obstacles

Broadnax Scholar Aaron Brink-Johnson hopes to connect government and disadvantaged communities.

Broadnax Scholar Aaron Brink-Johnson at Syracuse University’s Bird Library

Aaron Brink-Johnson gained a first-hand understanding of the barriers between government and disadvantaged communities while interning, as an undergraduate, with a Minneapolis city council member. He was part of the Urban Scholars program, which provides students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with professional experience in government and nonprofits.

Brink-Johnson later worked for the Office of Equal Opportunity, helping minority- and women-owned small businesses apply for federally funded contracts. In his outreach to these communities, he found that “a lot of times there’s a disconnect, there’s distrust, and a lot of negative connotations” about government policy. But these obstacles can be overcome, he says.

“My experience,” he says, “is that once you sit down and have these conversations, listen to people, and figure out what they’re bringing to the table, people are very open and can see the potential and benefits of government.”

Brink-Johnson is pursuing a Maxwell MPA to round out his analytical and leadership skills, and is benefiting from financial assistance from the School. This spring, he received the Broadnax scholarship, created by Walter ’75 PhD (PA) and Angel Broadnax. Walter Broadnax is a retired member of the Public Administration and International Affairs faculty.

Once he completes his MPA, Brink-Johnson says, “I want to continue working with communities of color, women, and other disadvantaged communities.” To do so at the federal level, he adds, would be “a dream job.”

By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail

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