September 21, 2016//
Meet Adrian Saenz. He's a UTSA alum who's making his mark in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President of the United States and the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
I learned that balancing the pursuit of a top-tier education and a full-time job, though difficult, could be a foundation for success in complex and demanding career fields.”
– Adrian Saenz
Growing up in Brownsville, Saenz had a strong passion for books, films and music. A creative soul at heart, he originally envisioned a life as a musician or a filmmaker.
"I spent four years of my youth honing my craft as a trumpet and French horn player. I was sure I was destined for symphonic greatness, but ultimately spent only one year in the Homer Hanna High School Golden Eagle Band," he jokingly recalls.
More than anything, Saenz craved adventure and wanted to make a difference. When he graduated from high school, he felt unprepared for his future and uncertain about a career path. He knew that despite the choice he'd make, he needed a top-tier education. And UTSA was always on his radar.
"UTSA proved to be the right choice for me," Saenz said. "I learned that balancing the pursuit of a top-tier education and a full-time job, though difficult, could be a foundation for success in complex and demanding career fields."
The intersection of a UTSA political science class and the 1996 presidential election helped Saenz realize his true passion. That path ultimately became the reason he decided to pursue a degree in political science and later a career in public service.
"Political science was a requirement that I had no background and little interest in at the time, but one class changed the trajectory of my life," said Saenz.
Saenz began his career in government service in the U.S. House of Representatives, first as a legislative aide and communications director for Texas Congressman Charles "Charlie" Gonzalez and later as chief of staff to a couple of members of Congress.
Now in his current role as the Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Director and Senior Advisor for Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, Saenz leads the management of the Obama Administration's relationships with state elected officials. Among his responsibilities is the coordination of the annual meeting at the White House between the President and the nation's governors.
Jaime Castillo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C., is a close friend to Saenz. They met more than a decade ago when Castillo was a political journalist in San Antonio, covering various campaigns that Saenz worked on.
"The special thing about Adrian is that no matter where his political acumen has taken him, he has never forgotten where he came from," Castillo said. "He has the brains of a high-powered political operative but the heart of a public servant."
Saenz considers President Barack Obama a personal hero.
"President Obama is committed to proactively affecting meaningful change and creating a level playing field where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. His vision and leadership on the Affordable Care Act is a great example of his commitment to make the system fair for everyone."
Another political figure Saenz looks up to is former U.S. Representative Charlie Gonzalez from Texas's 20th District.
"His guidance has been invaluable over the years," Saenz said. "I've learned so much by observing his leadership style and from his commitment to being a steadfast advocate for the community he grew up in."
Although life has taken Saenz on a journey he never expected, he says his decision to leave Texas and move to Washington D.C. to work as a legislative aide to then newly-elected Congressman Gonzalez was his greatest challenge and also his most rewarding experience. Saenz' advice to students is to be open-minded about exploring areas beyond their initial interest and desired area of specialization.
"I fully expected I would return home to Texas after just a couple of years. I had never intended to move to Washington D.C. and frankly, I expected that after graduating from UTSA, I would build a career in politics in Texas. However, working in the U.S. House of Representatives convinced me that my work could be more far-reaching and impactful if I focused my energies at the national level, and I have since worked toward that end in both electoral politics and through my service in the federal government."
Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.